Gun Review: FNH PS90

A few years ago, I was struck with a nervous disorder. I spent most of 2007 and 2008 in excruciating pain, in and out of the hospital, undergoing test after test, trying to determine why my lower back and leg muscles would not stop twitching, spasming and cramping. I spent the better part of three years regaining my strength, teaching my legs and lower back how to work together again. I’ve come a long way since then, but I can no longer physically protect myself, my wife and my four daughters. One thing I’ve learned from this ordeal: buy a firearm that you can use instead of one that “looks cool” or “packs a lot of punch” . . .

Getting to know the FNH PS90

Before buying the PS90, I shot several AR-15 rifles. Some were stock from the factory, some were decked-out with custom uppers and lowers, stocks and accessories. In every case I found myself struggling to support the weight and bulk of the AR-15 for more than a few minutes of shooting. I couldn’t maintain a tight grouping at 50 yards, let alone 100 yards.

After thirty minutes I was tired, sore and bitterly disappointed. A weapon I couldn’t fire accurately for extended periods of time, a rifle that made practice a chore, wouldn’t do me any good at all.

I happened upon the PS90 quite by accident. One afternoon a local range was hosting FNH’s “pistol and rifle rental program.” They were renting a brand new PS90 USG with plenty of 5.7x28mm ammunition behind the counter. The FNH rifle was an ugly duckling to be sure, but I needed a long gun to stave off my personal swan song. So I bellied-up to the ballistic bar.

The instructor showed me how to load the PS90′s 50-round plastic magazine. In thirty years I’ve never encountered a rifle magazine that was so easy to load. The 5.7x28mm rounds feed through a ramp which rotates them 90 degrees and stores them “sideways” in the magazine. It sounds complicated, but the ramp system is a simple and elegant design. In months of testing, it’s never failed to feed properly.

Next, the instructor demoed the weapon’s safety (1 = live, S = safe) and showed me how to insert the magazine correctly. Despite YouTube videos of folks slamming home the PS90′s magazine, it takes surprisingly little effort to insert the mag and seat it correctly. A quick pull on the ambidextrous charging handle and you’re ready to rock and roll.

The first thing I noticed when shooting the PS90: it’s small size and light weight. The FNH PS90 measures 26-1/4″ from end to end. When loaded with a fifty-round magazine, the rifle weighs little more than 7.5 lbs. Whether or not you’re physically challenged, that’s a huge bonus. In close quarters combat in an enclosed space, a tactical shotgunner or AR shooter runs a grave risk of the bad guy stealing the weapon. The bulpup FNH rifle is easier to retain and negotiates tight spaces like an NFL cornerback.

The PS90′s unique shape and ergonomic design fits my smaller hands and shorter arms perfectly. I can operate this weapon for several hours of target practice without fatigue or muscle cramps.

PS90 Triple Rail

Narrowing down my choices., I tried the USG version of the PS90 with its MC-10-80 optic sight. I was disappointed by the reticle’s small size and apparent field of view. One of my key criteria for a personal defense weapon: a wide field of view and both eyes open optics. I contacted my favorite gun shop—Able’s Ammo—-and ordered the PS90 TR (Triple-Rail) in ODG (olive drab green). This optics-free variant includes a long top-mounted M1913 Picatinny rail.

Optics for the FNH PS90

Unlike the AR-15, the PS90 triple rail has no real option for backup iron sights; selecting the right set of optics for this rifle is vital. As you can see in the two images below, the EOTech XPS series of HWS (holographic weapons systems) fits the top rail of the PS90 like Nut’n Fancy at a Soldier of Fortune convention.

For those of you not familiar with EOTech products, they utilize a “heads up, both eyes open” holographic display reticle. The shooter has an unhindered field of view for maximum situational awareness. It took me a while to get accustomed to the “red dot.” But once I did, traditional scope were dead to me.

I chose the EOTech XPS2-2 model for its versatility. It’s good for engagements from a few feet to 50 yards. I added the G23 FTS 3x magnifier to improve my accuracy at 100 yards and 200 yards. With the magnifier’s ARMS throw lever, I can transition from CQB to a medium-range engagement in less than a second.

In my less than expert opinion, it’s the perfect setup for a personal defense weapon. EOTech optics are built for combat conditions. They’re waterproof, fog-proof and shock-proof to a whopping 1600 G’s—far beyond anything my PS90 can throw at it. [see: below] They’re not cheap by any measure, but then neither is my life, so I buy the best that I can afford.

PS90 5.7x28mm Round

The PS90n fires the 5.7x28mm round, a cartridge with a short and controversial history. It was originally intended as a body armor-piercing replacement for the NATO 9x19mm parabellum. FNH’s SS190 cartridge met that criteria. Civilians got a slower version. Even so, when the PS90 and FiveSeven pistol were first released to the commercial market, the “gun control” lobby labeled 5.7x28mm ”cop killer” ammo.

Ironically, the 5.7x28mm round also faced opposition for its lack of stopping power. Many ballistic experts condemned the 5.7x28mm round as “under powered”—compared to the 5.56x45mm NATO round used in the M-16/AR-15 rifles. And no wonder. The 5.7x28mm provides about two-thirds less “impact energy” (velocity x mass) as the NATO round.

But comparing the PS90 to the AR-15 is like comparing an M&P 9m pistol to a .45 caliber 1911. Head-to-head against 9mm, however, the 5.7x28mm round offers 50 percent more ”impact energy”—thanks to increased velocity (2300 fps vs. 1200 fps). Yes but—thanks to 5.7x28mm round’s lower mass, penetration is an “issue.” Or not, if you’re looking for a round that won’t over-penetrate in, say, a domestic environment. Anyway, the 5.7x28mm round is designed to tumble upon impact, creating a larger wound channel.

Generally speaking, it’s best to deploy the largest round you can comfortably carry and fire. For myself and others who can no longer handle the big bang theory, the 5.7x28mm round’s minimal recoil is more important than “stopping power,” the price of the gun or ammo availability issues. With such little recoil, I can hit a target accurately at 50 yards with the PS90 when standing or kneeling (I can’t shoot from the prone position anymore). I can create very tight groups at 50 yards with rapid-fire multiple shots.

On the negative side, the FNH PS90′s 50-round magazine is one long son of a gun. Carrying a couple of spare magazines for the bulpup rifle is a logistical problem worthy of a prospective buyer’s consideration. There are tactical vests for the PS90, but if you’re not girding for battle, keep in mind that you can’t just throw a FNH PS90 magazine in your pocket.

Accuracy

It’s worth highlighting again: the most effective personal defense weapon is onewith which you can hit the target quickly, accurately and repeatably. With the PS90 and the EOTech optics I can achieve a level of speed and accuracy far beyond what I could with an AR-15. The lightweight, low-recoil PS90 is perfect for short-statured people, the elderly and other physically challenged shooters.

There are, of course, downsides. You can run through three or four 50-round PS90 magazines in less than fifteen minutes—provided you pause between strings. Even with a one-second count (my local range prohibits rapid firing) I filled the center of this bullseye target at 50 yards (free hand) in a little under five minutes.

As you can from my 100 yard target below, I’m no marksman when it comes to defensive shooting from a standing position. Due to its unique design and light weight, it’s very easy to get a good cheek weld with the PS90 and with the right sling attached, most shooters will have no trouble achieving good accuracy at 100 yards.

5.7x28mm Ammunition Choices

When the 5.7x28mm round was first released to the civilian market ammo choices were strictly limited. All were hard to come by and extremely expensive. Today, FNH offers two unrestricted cartridges for the civilian market: the SS197SR sporting round (2100 fps / 381 ft-lbs) and the SS195LF lead-free (2500 fps / 384 ft-lbs). Federal distributes the ammo stateside; you’ll find them in stock at most online suppliers like Able’s Ammo and Midway USA for about $25 per box of fifty.

While either of these two rounds are a good choice for target practice, neither was designed for personal defense. Luckily, Elite Ammunition sells ten different 5.7x28mm rounds for law enforcement and personal protection use. My favorite: the ProtecTOR II (2400 fps / 680 ft-lbs) round.

It’s a fifty-grain, fragmenting, ballistic silvertip bullet. This round [above] is perfect for CQB situations like a home invasion, where you want enough “firepower” to stop the bad guys without stray bullets penetrating into other rooms of the house.

Reliability

I’ve put over two thousands rounds downrange with this rifle in the past few months. No problammo. I’ve fired over two thousand SS197SR and SS195LF rounds without any failures of any kind No jams, no failures to feed, nothing.

The FNH PS90′s four-piece design is one of its most unique features.  You can field strip this rifle faster than a 1911. In fact, you can disassemble the PS90 into its four parts groups—polymer stock, barrel/optics group, moving parts group and hammer group—in less time than it takes to read this paragraph.

Once disassembled, it’s a simple matter to run a Bore-Snake through the barrel, brush off any carbon dust on the moving-part group (I use pipe-cleaners to remove any dirt from the springs) and the hammer group and lubricate the nine recommended spots. Ten minutes later you’re done. Cleaning the PS90 is so quick I do it at the range after target practice. Once a month or so, I’ll also disassemble and clean each magazine.

Summary

The FNH PS90 semiautomatic carbine is NOT an AR-15 replacement. It’s a small, lightweight rifle that’s perfect for shooters who are more concerned about weight and accuracy than out-and-out stopping power. 

FNH PS90 TR Specifications

Caliber: 5.7x28mm
Barrel: 16″ long / 1 in 9″ rifling. Crome-linded
Size: 26.23″ overall length x 6.9″ height.
Weight: 6.39 lbs. empty / 7.23 lbs. fully loaded
Operation: Semi-automatic only. Blowback operated. Closed bolt system.
Finish: Molded polymer stock. Black oxide coated alloy steel upper receiver.
Capacity: 10, 30 & 50 (P90) Round Magazines.
Accessories: Three MIL-STD 1913 Rails.
Price: $1300 – $1800 depending upon model.

Ratings (Out of Five Stars)

Accuracy: * * * *
Great accuracy from both standard (FNH) and custom (Elite) ammunition.

Ergonomics: * * * * *
Completely ambidextrous controls and bottom ejection port. Small and light weight. What more could you ask for?

Ergonomics Firing: * * * * *
Small and lightweight. All the (ambidextrous) control are right where they should be. Minimal recoil. A joy to shoot.

Reliability: * * * * *
Zero failures in 2000 rounds.

Customization: * *
This is not an AR-15. The only customizations possible are different optics, lasers, lights that fit on standard rails.

Overall Rating: * * * *
A great personal defense weapon for the average citizen shooter—NOT an AR-15 replacement. Final star withheld for the price of the gun and ammo, but for those whom the gun suits, it’s a bargain.

About the Author

Jeff Lynch is a commercial, landscape & nature photographer, blogger and author based in Sugar Land, Texas. Jeff’s passion for photography extends to his love of teaching and he can be found leading groups of serious amateurs each spring and fall during the Texas Landscape Safari workshop.

 

33 Responses to Gun Review: FNH PS90

  1. avatarScott says:

    Good article, who makes the sling shown in the photos?

  2. avatarTTACer says:

    What brand sling do you have on it?

    re: Weight. I noticed when holding the AUG clone that it was more comfortable for me despite not being any lighter than your average AR, because the weight is up in your shoulder, but I haven’t shot one. The knock on bullpups firing rifle cartridges is muzzle climb (among other things) but it sounds like that isn’t a problem here. I might have to look into one of these.

  3. avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

    Mr. Lynch (or Jeff, if I may), I want to give you a big “Bravo” for overcoming and “driving onward”! I struggled for some time following a stroke, and thought my life was over at age 39. I never forget how lucky I am to have recovered my strength and only have the burden of screwed up memory and daily migraines. Your article is outstanding! Surely you have considered the possibility of having the FNH Five Seven pistol as an accompanying piece to the PS90-I like the use of frangibles for home defense-although I like to mix some in the magazine for other rounds with enhanced penetration. I think you are a prime candidate for using laser sighting as well-the green lasers are excellent. I love the Crimson Trace pistol grip unit I have for picatinny rails-it has illumination and a green laser. A less expensive unit has the red laser. From personal experience I can attest, the bad guys throw up their hands when they see the laser dot on their center mass! I always set my lasers for zero at 15 yards-as I am unlikely to shoot further in a real-life scenario. Again, I give all my respect to you-a testament to striving and survival of the human will! Mike

  4. avatarChris Dumm says:

    Mr. Lynch,

    Thank you for your comprehensive introduction to the PS90, and for bringing a physically challenged shooter’s perspective to our readers. My dearest and wisest friend was a lifelong shooter whose 30-year battles with nerve damage and limited mobility would not keep him from being a capably armed citizen.

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      And a completely unrelated comment about the suppressed P90 in the video: my 1300 fps .22 air rifle has as about much kinetic energy as a *subsonic* 30-grain 5.7mm slug. The 5.7 is good at what it’s good at, but it’s not a Swiss Army Gun for all tasks.

  5. I never understood the “everything is a nail” approach to gun owning. The AR is a nice rifle, but it is a rifle. It fulfills a different solution set than a carbine like a PS90 or pistol carbines like the Sub-2000 (which I want), Hi-Point, etc.

    My dad is being advised by some locals to buy a .17 WMR rifle to deal with local feral dogs. The .17 WMR sounds like an interesting plinker, but IMHO it’d be cruel for use against dog-sized targets. Just because it’s the popular round or the fancy gun doesn’t mean that you’re right to use it. (I told him to either buy a .223 bolt-action Stevens or to put a scope on the converted-.308 Enfield that he has and get some accurate HP ammo for it.)

    I also understand picking calibers based on recoil issues. I’m a big fellow who looks like he should have a full-sized 1911 (or more). However, I used old computer terminals in college without caring about posture or ergonomics. Now, I’m at the very fringes of carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s not bad enough to need treatment, but it does make higher powered calibers (.357 in smaller pistols, .40, .44, .45, etc.) very uncomfortable. My Beretta 92FS, OTOH, doesn’t hurt, so I shoot it.

    You have to be able to shoot the gun to be able to use it. Even a “stinker” round like the 5.7x28mm is still lead flying downrange, and has a pistol in the same cartridge. There are real advantages to having one bullet type for both a pistol and a carbine. With your physical issues, the FN 57 pistol might be a good fit too.

    • avatarJeff Lynch says:

      I’ve rented the FiveSeven pistol but the grip is so big that it’s a bit much for a guy with a small hand. I carry a Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Pro or 9 Compact most of the time and it fits my hand much better. I’ll be posting a review with more images in the weeks to come.

      • You’re up on me then; I can’t even remember seeing a 57 anywhere. If I have, it was in a “wow, they actually have one” moment in a gun store.

        I’m disappointed in FN. They’ve been selling the 57 to the home market as a gun for people who don’t like shooting the hot rounds. When they couldn’t displace the 92FS and the Glock 17s for the various services, they should have redesigned the grip to allow smaller people access, ala the 4th gen Glocks and new gen Sig p226s. Of course, 28mm length cartridges may box them into a fat grip.

        As an aside, can you convince the TTAG writer with the Kel-Tec SUB-2000 9mm to let you give it a spin, and then review it? I’d like to hear your opinion of it, given your strength limitations.

  6. avatarBrian Lau says:

    TTACer- That appears to be the Urban ERT Sling on his PS90

    http://www.urbanertslings.com/fnpsurhyslco.html

    I have the same sling and Eotech XPS2 on my 90. Love it.

    • avatarTTACer says:

      Thanks Brian. Scott was wondering the same thing. That sling looks nice.

    • avatarLes says:

      I have the PS90 and the tactical sling that Matt offers from urbanert slings.com. He has also helped me with many other things too. He has slings that you don’t have to wrap around you yourself. You can get a sling that fits on a tactical vest for more comfort. Also you can get PS90 pouches for a vest from him.

      Now on the optics I don’t like EOtech. The are so big even for being small. They tend to get in the way when you are trying to see all around you while you are looking down range. I just don’t like how they limit my field of vision, that is why I run the the Trijicon a cog with the red dot on top. It’s easy to move from one to the other if you need to. But if you are in cqb then you want the red dot and if you are looking down range then use the acog. But they are expensive but worth every penny. On the whole the U.S. military uses Trijicon more than EOTech. They are very rugged and tougher than boot leather. You can also stack Trijicon like EOTech for multiple platforms.

      In the end it comes down to what you like and Matt at urbanertsling.com can help, even if he doesn’t have what you need. He can direct you to a place that can and will.

  7. avatarJeff Lynch says:

    Thanks to everyone (especially Robert) for making an old fart from Texas feel so welcome here. I hope to put my talents to good use here in the future, photographing firearms for TTAG. I’m a commercial photographer and shoot mostly oilfield equipment and facilities here in Texas. Photographing firearms is a bit of a challenge but I’m having a lot of fun learning to light something that is generally black or chrome, two of the toughest colors to light well. If there any particular guns you’d like to see photographed, please let Robert or myself know.

    Thanks again for the Texas style welcome!

  8. avatarRalph says:

    Jeff, this was a fantastic review from an altogether different perspective. Thank you and welcome to the nut hut! And BTW, IMO it’s a very cool looking gun.

  9. avatarTTACer says:

    Brian/Jeff have either of you seen the optic that comes with one version of the P90? I think it’s a rebranded C-More.

    • FNH USA sells the C-More Systems ARW and CRW red-dot sights as an accessory to the PS90 TR. These are the same optics used on some tactical shotguns. I looked at these in a local gun store on the pS90 TR but liked the EOTech much better.

      http://bit.ly/fN0o2f

  10. avatarJay Wolf says:

    Great article Jeff!

  11. avatarTheDentalWarrior says:

    Nice review. The PS90 is on my short list. Already have the Five-seveN. :)

  12. avatarTravis Duarte says:

    This is one of the best reviews from a regular citizen in a long time. I have owned my PS90 since they came out w/ the origianl halo sight built in. i have beat it,smashed it and over 4,000 rds later it still runs perfect. Of all 4 of my 5.7 firearms it is the most reliable. The only one that gives me any issues is my AR-57 i built for varmits. Still an outstanding review.

  13. avatarCoyote Gray says:

    Great write up, and very balanced. I’ve read 1 too many reviews of the PS90 that was either a love fest, or a skewering. This review was the final push for me to get one for my left handed wife who bruises easily with larger caliber arms. I am waiting on my SBR paperwork to go through and we will be sending rounds down range post haste. I like large rounds, but I have faith in the science behind the 5.7 x 28mm round and in NH, I have access to the post ban rounds; though Elite looks to be making another option for personal defense ammo.

  14. avatarJuan says:

    How did I end here when all I wanted is too look for a FnH 57 dealer ? but I enjoyed the review even if buying this gun is not my idea,best wishes to the author & merry Christmas to all nuts from a nut.

  15. avatarChris says:

    Great review. I am looking into the PS90. My only hesitation is parts availability. Are there parts that wear and a guy should have on hand as spares?
    Compact with 50rds on tap is hard to beat.

  16. avatarJames Grant says:

    Solid review, I keep contemplating picking one of these up, I just wish there were more sources of ammo for them.

  17. avatarJohn OB says:

    Just for anyone reading this review….. I am also a professional photographer, and we’re not all pussies…..

    The AR is a great platform, when I was in the army my 20″ barreled M16 weighed about 8 pounds…. The 16″ newer varients weigh less…..

    And if you know what you’re doing you can carry and shoot the things all day….

    • avatarMax says:

      WTF! The author obviously has physical challenges not of his own doing. I’ve never had a stroke or similar nerve damage, but I’m sure that it would make doing everything much more difficult. If this fellow needs a Ps90 to defend himself and his family then he is no weaker than you or I because of it….

    • avatarAlbert says:

      FLAME DELETED – PERSISTENT FLAMERS WILL BE PERMANENTLY BANNED

  18. avatarWzrd1 says:

    First off, guns are guns. They handle differently, but work the same way.
    Firm and steady grip, good sight picture, squeeze, if you got those right, smile for the picture after.
    Primer ignition, main powder charge deflagration and expulsion of the round is pretty much a given at our current level of technology.
    Full automatic is a challenge unto itself and requires some training and experience.

    That said, as a PDW, this weapon, be it in the 16 inch barrel model or the military short barrel model is an excellent weapon, based upon reports of those who used it.
    What the round lacks in kinetic strength of impact is imparted by additional rounds.
    Let’s face it, wanna crack a Brazil nut, sometimes one has to hit it a few times.
    It does the job.

    For a PDW handgun, I’ll stick with my M1911. Never learned how to miss a target with it.
    But then, I fired a possible for over 27 years in the military with mine. Mine was a “customized” stock version, I did better with it than any race gun around.
    AR for up to 200 meters. Beyond that, I prefer an M14 or sniper system.
    7 meters and closer, it’s time to pull out the knife.

    Or more simply, given a choice between an MP5, MP7 and this, I’ll take this military version in a CQB environment.
    It “felt” better in cold handling.

  19. avatarkefton brown says:

    First off I hapoen to like the 5.7 round and I would love to own the rifle. I commend you for carrying on Mr. Jeff and john ob im still in the army have been for over 8 years and ive handled m16/m4 and I own an ar I have also handled the 5.7 rifle and pistol its a good round and I can and have handled the biggest pistol rounds one handed (though almost got me with the 500). For a in home or enclosed environment the ps90 the way to go anything else ar15 or bigger

  20. avatarjohan says:

    How would one sight in the EOTech for Close Quarter Combat like say 15 yards? thanks!

  21. avatarDan J. says:

    I was just looking at buying one of these. Found a good deal at this site. They have free shipping too with code spring. Is 5.7 becoming more readily available? I know for a while it was hard to come by.

    http://gunsandammosuperstore.com/product/fn-ps90-standard/

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