By Warren Lauderdale
From the time I began shooting handguns until a few months ago, I was a die-hard 9mm shooter and SIG fan-boy. Being a college student, I don’t have much to spend in terms of ammo money so 9mm and .22 lr was the best way to go for me. Even during the ammo crisis of last year, I never had trouble finding 9mm. But one day, I went to the range and felt a bit splurgy so I rented the prettiest .45 on offer . . .
The gun was a SIG P220 and it shot so smoothly. My only complaint was the price tag and the 8 round magazine. So, I started shopping around for high capacity .45 handguns. The new P227 caught my eye because it was so similar to my own P226 and had 10+1 capacity. The HK45 was also attractive but it shared the capacity of the P227 with a higher price tag. After checking out the GLOCKs and XDms, I was totally unsure of what to buy, but on my next visit to the range I saw someone shooting the FNX-45 Tactical and I knew I had to have it. After saving my pennies and shopping the various websites and local stores, I picked up the black model for just under a grand.
The FNX-45 Tactical has an interesting history. In fact, the US Military almost adopted it’s older brother as the standard service sidearm. In 2005, the US military launched the Joint Combat Pistol program (JCP) to find a replacement for the Beretta M9. The program was searching for a .45ACP caliber pistol with day/night sights, an integrated Picatinny rail and a threaded barrel for accepting suppressors.
Many well-known manufacturers such as H&K, Smith and Wesson, SIG SAUER, Ruger, and GLOCK put forth entries for consideration. FNH entered the program with the FNP45-USG. This gun is externally similar to the FNX-45 but not identical. It was not fully ambidextrous and the FNP magazines are incompatible with the FNX. Sadly, the program was massively scaled back and eventually canned. Afterwards, FNH-USA sold a version of the FNP45 to the public. In 2012, the FNX was released as its successor with a redesigned ambidextrous magazine release, safety, and slide stop among other minor changes.
The gun comes in a nice, zippered, cloth case that has a slot for an ID card and has the FNH logo embroidered on. The interior is lined with Velcro and this allows you to configure the case however you like. Inside the case, there are pouches for the 2 spare 15 round magazines in addition to the one magazine that sits in the gun, a tool kit for mounting optics, a long pouch that held the gun lock but is conveniently the approximate size of common suppressors, and the resting place of the gun itself.
The FNX-45 Tactical is a large gun. This is by no means an every day concealed carry firearm. It weighs just over 33oz empty and has a 5.3 inch long threaded barrel with an overall length of 7.9 inches. Despite my love of SIG SAUER and their full metal handguns the polymer lower receiver of the FNX feels great. It has a steel frame and slide rails, a Picatinny rail for mounting lights and lasers, and a large trigger guard with serrations on the front. The checkered grip has an extremely positive feel to it, perhaps a bit more aggressive than the SIG E2 grip setup and very similar to the GLOCK Gen4 texture. The backstrap can be swapped between the four different textured straps included with the gun.
(Author’s note: FNH does not sell the Tactical variant of the FNX-45 in the two-tone configuration, only in black or FDE. I swapped lower receivers with a friend to achieve the color configuration seen in the pictures.)
The slide is made of stainless steel and has a short external extractor that doubles as a loaded chamber indicator, although it is hard to tell at a glance, unlike the XD style indicator. There are also cocking serrations on the front and rear of the slide and the gun comes with raised night sights for use with suppressors. Lastly, the slide is pre-milled for use with micro red-dot sights, but more on that later. The threaded barrel is just like FNH’s other stellar barrels, cold hammer-forged stainless steel, with a factory polished feed ramp and chamber.
Possibly one of the best features on the FNX-45 are its magazines. They have a polished stainless steel body with a large polymer base plate and hold a whopping 15 rounds of 45ACP. The base plate is large and thick which helps absorb some of the shock when the magazines are dropped while reloading. The downsides to this insane capacity are the sheer size of the magazines, the weight of a fully loaded magazine, and the price. I’ve seen them for as little as $40 and as much as $65. If you decide to buy more magazines, be sure you purchase FNX magazines and not FNP magazines, as they will not work in an FNX. Thankfully, you get three with the gun from the factory and they are very durable so you are not likely to ‘need’ more. Whether or not you want more is the question.
Once I picked it up from my FFL, I took it to the range for a test shoot. I ran 50 rounds of Federal white box 230 grain FMJ ammunition through it with no issues. The gun is quite heavy, but is well balanced with a full magazine inserted. It has a reasonably steep grip angle, similar to a 1911, which allows the gun to point very naturally. I shoot handgun with a thumbs-forward grip and a problem I commonly have with polymer-framed handguns is the tendency of the gun to escape my support hand thumb leading the excess muzzle rise. While this may be an issue on my part, the grip texturing on the FNX helps keep the gun in the shooter’s hand and I have had no trouble keeping my grip fully on the firearm.
The recoil is very manageable as well. The slide eats up a good portion of the impulse and the rest is largely directed back into the shooter’s hand. I have let many first time shooters try out the FNX and they do not have much issue handling it. But the recoil of the .45 caliber coupled with the aggressive grip texturing can lead to quite a bit of wear on the hand after a few boxes of ammo.
The trigger on the FNX is very reminiscent of the HK DA/SA trigger, which seem to have a stiffer pull than most other DA/SA triggers that I have shot. It clocked in at 10.5 lbs in double action and 4-4.5 lbs on single action. I shoot in double action whenever possible and to me the trigger feels heavier than my P226 trigger which is marked from the factory at 10 lbs. This is likely a result of being more comfortable with my SIG but it does still “irk” me. The trigger has very little over travel but the single action pull has quite a bit of take-up on it. A 1911 trigger this is not.
Field stripping the gun for cleaning and maintenance is identical to the SIG SAUER pistols. After dropping the magazine and clearing the gun, a quarter turn of the takedown lever and sending the slide forward will allow you to remove the slide from the frame and remove the recoil spring and barrel. I use M-Pro 7 cleaner and oil but any gun cleaning solvent will do just fine.
The FNX-45 Tactical is primed to accept add-ons. The milled slide allows the easy mounting of red dot sights, the threaded barrel and suppressor sights means the gun can be shot with a suppressor with ease, and the rail on the lower receiver lets the shooter mount lights, lasers, and so forth. However, because of the unique nature of the gun and the amount of additional accessories that can be added to it, holsters are hard to come by and really must be custom made. I highly doubt that this gun will be popular enough with law enforcement to warrant a company like Safariland to make Level 2 and up retention holsters so keep that in mind if you want this gun for a duty weapon.
The threaded barrel accepts most suppressors with no problems at all. I’m hoping to pick up a Silencerco Osprey-45 but that’s more money I don’t have at the moment. With an AAC Ti-rant 45 can, the report of the firearm is extremely quiet. The fact that the .45ACP is subsonic helps out a lot as well. It is also worth noting that the recoil is somewhat subdued with the addition of the suppressor and the suppressors I tested did not have any impact on the reliability of the gun.
By far my favorite feature on the gun is the ability for it to accept micro red dot sights out of the box. Normally, this would require an expensive procedure as well as giving your precious gun to someone you likely do not know who is about to drill parts off of your firearm. The gun comes with mounting plates for the Trijicon RMR and the Leupold Delta Point. I mounted an RM01 RMR on mine. The red dot sight makes the gun much easier to shoot quickly with.
I can actually shoot the FNX faster and more accurately than I can with my P226 because of the RMR. The contrasting night sights co-witness with the red dot when it is sighted in correctly which is fantastic if the sight has some kind of malfunction and you need to resort to the iron sights. An added bonus is the ability of the shooter to use the RMR for slide manipulation. The RMR is durable enough to withstand impacts on shoes, tables, hands and more to aid you in clearing malfunctions and reloading.
The biggest downside to this gun is probably the lack of holsters. I currently have two OWB holsters. One is from Bladetech, and the other is from a Dallas company called Hazmat Holsterworks. They are both simple Kydex retention holsters.
I have not found any level 2 retention holsters, like the Safariland ALS, for open carrying. Personally, I find a simple Kydex holster is not enough for open carrying in everyday life. The risk of someone snatching my gun weighs too heavily on my mind.
Reliability and Accuracy
The gun is also extremely reliable. I have shot 1500 or so rounds through my FNX and the only malfunctions I have had were 5 failure to extract malfunctions from WOLF steel case ammunition that someone gave me for free. After those malfunctions, I have not put any steel cased ammunition through it. The gun has functioned flawlessly with every other type of ammunition I have fed it. Federal, American Eagle, Blazer, HPR, Remington, Winchester, Hornady, Liberty Munitions, Freedom Munitions, you name it.
When it comes to accuracy, this gun excels. I have two pictures below. One is a three shot group from 25 feet with my P226 and a three shot group from 25ft with the FNX-45 Tactical. Both were shot with Federal white box factory ammo. 115 grain 9mm and 230 grain .45ACP. The P226 had a 1.5 inch grouping and the FNX had a .89 inch grouping. If you do your part, this gun will reward you. That 5.3 inch barrel probably helps a bit too!
As I mentioned before, this is certainly not a concealed carry firearm. I’m 6’1 175 lbs. so I conceal the GLOCK 19 and I highly doubt I could do the same with the FNX-45. However, FNH does sell the FNX in 9mm as well as a striker-fired version called the FNS. These both have dimensions somewhat similar to a GLOCK 19 and as such may be more suited to concealed carry.
So what is this gun good for? I haven’t seen any law enforcement with this firearm. The city of Houston, where I live, just started to allow its LEOs to carry .45ACP again but the FNX is not on the approved list. For the everyday shooter, the gun would be a great pistol for USPSA or IPSC but to my knowledge, IDPA would not allow this gun because the slide is milled out for red dot sights. (IDPA guys feel free to correct me on this.) The gun is a great range toy especially once you get the RMR, a good light and a suppressor for it. When I am at the range, other shooters always come ask me what I am shooting and want to give it a go. Additionally, this gun would be ideal for home defense if you don’t mind the DA/SA trigger. If I have the choice between 15 rounds of .45ACP or 15 rounds of 9mm, I know what I’m picking.
Is the FNX-45 Tactical perfect? Damn near in my opinion. Small flaws in cycling low quality ammunition, the relatively high cost and its size are the only real downsides. I am more than satisfied with my purchase, and if you aren’t looking for the latest single stack 9mm pocket wonder pistol, this should be your next purchase.
Weight: 33oz empty
Capacity: 15 (factory)
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
All ratings are relative to the other similar guns and the final score is not calculated from the constituent scores.
Accuracy: * * * * *
This gun is a tack driver if you do your part. End of story.
Ergonomics (handling): * * * *
The gun weighs less than my P226 and points very naturally. It’s just damn big. If you have smaller hands, this might be an issue.
Ergonomics (firing): * * * * *
It is a big .45ACP but the recoil is smooth and controllable.
Reliability: * * * *
The only reason I am not giving this gun five stars here is because I had issues running steel ammo, and with the price of .45 right now, any money you can save on ammo is great.
Customization: * * * * *
Light-ready, laser-ready, red dot sight-ready, suppressor-ready. All right out of the box.
Overall Rating: * * * * *
In my opinion, this is the best double stack .45ACP handgun on the market. No other handgun comes from the factory and offers anything close to what this gun offers out of the box. While it is not ideal for concealed carry, remember what this gun was designed for: a big service pistol for the military, not to be carried in your purse (or man purse). If your state allows open carry and you don’t mind not having a level 2 retention holster, this could be an attractive choice. If you want a handgun for home defense that your range buddies will drool over, this is the gun you want.