If I were to design the perfect defense or duty gun, my list of requirements would look something like this… It would have to be lightweight, possess plenty of capacity, have the ability to fit a wide range of hand sizes and be as ambidextrous as possible. It should be easy to disassemble and maintain, durable and be as versatile as possible so that it could easily be configured for mission-specific work. That’s a pretty long laundry list of requirements and each of these features presents its own set of problems and design inhibitors. Yet FNH USA seems to have been able to successfully jump each of those hurdles when they introduced the FNP-9 pistol.
The FNP-9 is a polymer framed pistol, weighing just 25 ounces, which possesses a 16 + 1 capacity and comes with two different backstraps to accommodate different hand sizes. It also features an ambidextrous decocking lever and a reversible magazine release. It can be fieldstripped in just seconds and its slide rails can be replaced if worn. My test sample came with the traditional DA/SA (double-action/single-action) configuration though the gun can also be ordered or converted to DAO (double-action-only), SAO (single-action-only) or with a manual safety. It is one of the most duty-ready guns that I have had the chance to evaluate.
The FNH engineers designed the impact resistant polymer frame with hard use in mind. Its frontstrap has grenade style checkering for a secure firing grip. It provides the shooter with enough texture to prevent slipping but does not have the sharp pyramid points of traditional checkering that can snag clothing and tear flesh. The pistol’s backstrap, which also has the same style grenade checkering, is replaceable and my test sample came with the arched strap in place. It felt good in my hand but I loosened the single slotted screw and slid the flat backstrap into place. This part felt better to me, almost 1911’ish, and pointed naturally for me. The flat backstrap might also be a better choice for those with smaller hands, as it will give them better access to the trigger.
The FNP-9 with a DA/SA trigger system has an exposed hammer. Unless the hammer is manually cocked the first shot’s trigger stroke will be DA with a long and heavy (11 pounds) trigger pull. Subsequent shots, unless the decocker is used, will be SA, a light, short and relatively crisp with a pull weight right around 4 pounds.
The design of the FNP-9 allows factory and department armorers to reconfigure the pistol to DAO or SAO by simply replacing the trigger/hammer module. The frame’s rail and barrel cradle module is also easily replaceable in the unlikely event that the gun is shot enough to cause meaningful wear, giving the pistol an unlimited service life.
The FNP-9’s slide is nicely contoured and constructed from stainless steel and finished with a non-reflective black coloring. Its external extractor also pulls double duty as a loaded chamber indicator and can be tactilely or visually confirmed as its top edge is painted red. The FNP-9 is a short recoil operated, locked breech pistol and uses the barrel’s squared chamber block to lock into the slide’s ejection port.
One of the few criticisms that I have of the FNP-9 is that the sights are too small. They are low profile and sit close to the slide top. Getting a clear, sharp sight picture was tough and group sizes suffered somewhat from this. But, even with that, the groups show plenty of promise for a service type weapon.
If I were to carry the FNP-9 for defense I would use either of the CorBon loads or the Hornady 124-grain TAP FPD loads. All three of these loads gave excellent accuracy, good slide velocity and flawless reliability. Greatly aiding in the pistol’s handling characteristics is the wide front and back straps. The FNP-9 spreads recoil over a larger area, and is comfortable and controllable to shoot even with the hottest loads.
The test pistol proved to be completely reliable with all loads tried. The FNP-9 digested an assortment of bullet weights and bullet nose configuration without a bobble. During my range and field-testing I put about 400 rounds through the pistol without taking the opportunity to clean it. Once I had disassembled it I discovered that it really didn’t look that dirty. In fact, I probably could have fired three times as many rounds without having to clean it.
Also contributing to the FNP-9’s reliability are the excellent magazines that come with the pistol. They have a 16 round capacity and three come with each gun. How many manufacturers supply three magazines with each gun? They are stainless in construction and well polished, and have witness holes on the back for round count. It possesses a polymer floorplate that should absorb impact if dumped on concrete yet provide for quick disassembly. A screwdriver can be used to depress the magazine bottom catch and push the floorplate forward off the magazine tube. Ten-round magazines are available for states that have magazine restrictions.
I had trouble finding a holster for my FNP-9 and turned to the internet to search for a suitable candidate. What I found was that I was not the only one searching for a good carry holster for this new pistol. Several sites recommended using a holster built for a different gun and that it “was almost a perfect fit.” That scares me—I don’t want to use a holster, especially a molded plastic or Kydex, which almost fits.
Searching Blade-Tech’s site I found that they indeed make a holster specifically for the FNP-9. I selected a paddle holster that features adjustable cant and retention. The paddle can even be adjusted for various belt widths and features an easy-on and -off convenience. It only took a few moments to get the tension screws adjusted correctly so that it can retain the gun even if inverted and given a shake. Also ordered was a Millennium double magazine pouch with a Tek-Lok attachment. Blade-Tech’s holster and magazine pouch are secure, fast and convenient!
There’s certainly a lot to like about the FNP-9! It was developed for military and law enforcement applications but the design features make it perfect for the ordinary citizen looking for a good defense weapon. Lightweight, accurate and reliable the FNP-9 also possesses generous capacity. It features excellent ergonomics and a great degree of versatility. Perhaps the best feature of the FNP-9 is its suggested retail price-just $629. You might be able to find a suitable defense gun for less money but I doubt it will possess as many desired features as the FNP-9. FNH USA also makes this basic pistol chambered in .40 S&W, .357 Sig and .45 ACP.
If I were to design the perfect defense or duty gun, my list of requirements…
by Richard Nance / Nov 11, 2009