FNH makes a mountain of money milking the military market with firearms in a kaleidoscope of calibers and configurations. Perhaps that’s why the Belgian gunmaker hasn’t been chasing American handgun buyers with the kind of fervor of, well, anyone else. The long wait for FN’s entry into the striker-fired everyday carry handgun market indicates a laissez faire attitude towards the job of winning converts to John Moses Browning’s vieux amis. Then again, some things are worth the wait. Does the new FNS-9 Compact finally knock GLOCK from its perch at atop of the U.S. carry gun sales chart? One thing’s for certain . . .
The FNS-9 Compact comes dressed to kill. Don’t get me wrong. The FNS-9 Compact’s curves have none of the Ruger SR9c’s James Bondian elegance. Nor does the 9C’s stark angularity share anything with the GLOCK 19’s What Me Worry? minimalism. The FNS-9C is all about the base. The military base. You can easily imagine hundreds of tank-like FNS-9 Compacts stacked-up in an Army armory, waiting for deployment. Fredericksburg’s finest is, in short, a brutal looking thing.
Part of that’s down to the FNS-9 Compact’s slide. Indented from the ejection port forward, the funky chunky shape naturally positions your hand for maximum combat-rack grip and efficiency. Combined with the gun’s aggressive forward slide striations, the indentation makes press checks a doddle. Like the Springfield XD and GLOCK 26 (and unlike the Ruger SR9c), the front of the FNS-9C ‘s trigger guard is shaped and stippled to accommodate your support hand’s index finger – a feature bear-pawed owners will no doubt appreciate.
OCD FNS-9C owners will be thankful for the gun’s easy takedown procedure (as demonstrated above by Sportsman’s Finest gunsmith Adam Villegas). The 9C’s controls – slide stop, frame-mounted safety and magazine release – are all ambidextrous, providing lefties with all-areas access to the firearms functionality. Sensitive souls might gripe at the aggressive grip stippling, but I reckon that’s a net positive for a firearm designed for any and all possible environmental conditions. Suffice it to say, it’s not enough to put you off practice or inspire “that’ll leave a mark” sarcastic asides from ballistic BFFs.
Not being a fan of weapons-mounted flashlights, my boat is not floated by the FNS-9C’s accessory mounting rail. That said, the MIL-STD 1913 rail holds a snout-mounted laser, enabling a sighting method should you mod your 9C with a threaded barrel and suppressor. Meanwhile, what the Compact’s jumbo-sized three-dot sights offer in terms of clarity (someone’s been talking to Big Dot) they lack in terms of utility. Snag-free be damned. I reckon all carry guns should come with standard night sights and a claw-style rear sight for emergency one-handed racking.
Hey, what do I know? That stuff costs money and price points count. Luckily, you can upgrade to FN night sights. Even better, the company’s bean counters OK’d the marketing department’s decision to include three magazines – two 12-rounders and one 17-rounder – with the sub-$600 Compact. None of which falls from the gun until and unless you release your pinkie from the mags’ onboard extensions and move your palm out of the way. And maybe even strip the mag. As with all two-finger compact guns, you have to train yourself not to grip the gun like grim death when it’s reload time. Removing the stippled sleeve extension from the FN’s 17-round mag is an ugly but effective answer for a more efficient mag change.
The FNS-9 Compact’s flat, river stone-smooth trigger makes rapid fire as easy as ringing a bell. After minimal grit-free take-up, the C’s trigger hits a great big bloody brick wall. Apply somewhere around six pounds of index finger pressure and your digit smashes through the barrier with Hulk-like conviction. Release the go-pedal and the reset is as positive as a paternity test. Wash, rinse and repeat – only on fast forward. With the possible exception of the Walthar PPQ, the FNS-9 Compact boasts the best out-of-the-box striker-fired firearm trigger money can buy.
As for hitting things, first you’ve got switch off the FNS-9 Compact’s Chicklet-sized ambidextrous frame-mounted safety. Better yet, Locktite it down or buy the gun without one. (‘Nuff said?) At combat distance, the FNS-9 Compact turns minute-of-bad-guy into second-of-bad-guy. That’s in terms of speed. As for group-size, Jonathan and I both averaged a 6.5″ spread at 25 yards feeding the FN’s cold-hammer forged barrel 115-grain American Eagle pills, shooting from (in my case through) a rest. I achieved the same sort of groups at seven yards rapid-firing every brand of 9mm ammo I could find (including hollow points), freehand.
And man did I feed it ammo; well over 1000 rounds at last count. No lubrication. No cleaning. No love whatsoever. (See: Adam’s hands in the disassembly video above.) While I didn’t experience a single problem slinging lead down range, the FNS-9 Compact’s stainless steel slide failed to lock back a few times for our man Jonathan. Who, it must be said, is something of an anti-Fonzi when it comes to making things mechanical do his bidding. Having visited FN’s South Carolina factory and seen the company’s dedication to quality materials and manufacturing – born of their military service culture – I’d have been surprised at anything less than GLOCK-like reliability.
Speaking of which . . .
If one carry gun stands between the FNS-9 Compact and its long-delayed trek towards the top of the sales chart, it’s the GLOCK 19. Gaston’s compact carry gun is only half an inch longer from nose to tail than FN’s gat, slightly narrower across the beam and identical in total grip length. The GLOCK takes 15-round flush-fit magazines; carry one in the pipe and a spare mag in your pocket and you’ve got 31 rounds on tap. A brace of FN mags adds 12 plus 17 for a total of 30 cartridges. As reliability is a wash – yes, I’d pit the FN against GLOCK for steadfast shooting – I reckon the FNS-9 Compact deserves a place aside (if not atop) GLOCK in the plastic pistol pantheon.
Where the FN loses – the genre-standard mag dump and reload issue – it gains in trigger feel, price and pedigree. Again, you can train yourself to strip out the empty mag and not reload a bit of your hand along with your replacement ammo. Which is why I’m happy carrying either my [GHOST-trigger modified] G19 or the [as-is] FNS-9 Compact. Both guns are great shooters. Both guns can go the distance. But one looks encore macho than the other. Guess which one I prefer.
Operation: Striker-fired, double-action
Sights: Fixed 3-dot or fixed 3-dot night
Safety: Frame-mounted (optional)
Magazines: two 12-round magazines with pinkie extensions and one 17-round magazine
Weight: 23.4 oz. (empty)
Barrel Length: 3.6″
Overall Length: 6.7″
Price: $599 MSRP
RATINGS (out of five)
Style * * * * *
Brutal. (That’s a good thing not a bad thing.)
Ergonomics (carry) * * * *
Finally, a “right-sized” FN for everyday carry. Like all double-stack compacts, it’s a little fat around the hips. But who isn’t? One star withheld for the lack of immediately available holsters.
Ergonomics (firing) * * * * *
Silky smooth take-up, brick wall breaking point and firm, positive, early reset – a trigger to die for. I mean, to make the bad guy die for. She shoots high. Then again, so do people in Colorado. Adapt, improvise, survive.
Reliability * * * *
GLOCK reliability [almost] meets Belgian ballistics. Over a thousand rounds of every kind of 9mm ammo imaginable, no cleaning, no lube, nothing untoward to report in terms of feeding or firing. Star deducted for three failures to lock back the slide on empty.
Customize This * * *
Gizmo gun guys and suppressor Sallys will appreciate the FN-9C’s under-snout MIL-STD 1913 accessory mounting rail, but there’s not a lot else available for customization – especially compared to the customization cornucopia available to owners of Gaston’s gats.
Overall * * * * *
For those who like their carry gun to conform to the brick-you-know-what-house school of self-defense, the FNS-9 Compact is a better looking alternative to the market leader. Just don’t buy one with an external frame-mounted safety.