By Michael Stephenson
Folks, the three-gun craze has been good to us gun owners. After years of everything from “zombie green” revolvers to glow-in-the-dark ammo, it’s nice to see functional improvements being made to new products. FNH USA enters the already competitive “out-of-the-box” competition handgun market with its new(ish) FNS Long Slide line (in this case, the FNS-40L). But with guns like the XDm Competition and M&P Pro already having a strong foothold, and at least three new handguns being released in the category this year (GLOCK 41, FNS-L, and the PPQ Long Slide), does the FNS-40L stand out? The answer is…maybe . . .
Now before the flaming begins, let me say this: I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. I’m grateful to the folks at TTAG for choosing me as the winner of the first FNS-40L they gave away. I’m also grateful to FNH USA for providing such a great prize. However, this website is called The TRUTH About Guns, and I fully intend to present the truth as I see it.
“This is it?”
That was my first impression upon opening the box. That’s not to say that the FNS-40L is lacking in anything. It comes with two backstraps (one arched and one flat), three 14-round magazines, and a very nice lock (no, I’m not being sarcastic). In fact, to the untrained eye it would look exactly like a standard FNS-40. The only external differences indicating that this is indeed a Long Slide model are an extra half inch of barrel/slide and the sticker on the outside of the box. No lightening cuts, fiber optic front sight, adjustable rear sight or slide rollmarks are present to indicate this is anything more than an FNS-40. In fact, that’s what the rollmark says.
In a way, this is refreshing. It’s nice to see a company buck the “Pimp My Race Gun” crowd and deny us what we’ve come to expect as normal. The lines are clean, simple and aren’t interrupted by a billboard of a rollmark. Gun companies, take notice. If the text on your handgun’s slide exceeds the Twitter character limit, you’re doing something wrong.
On the other hand, we’ve come to expect certain things from any polymer-framed gun that comes out in the “long slide”, “competition”, or “target” category. While lightening cuts aren’t necessary to be competitive in the market, upgraded sights are. Something as simple as a fiber optic front sight would have been an inexpensive improvement. On a positive note, the rear is serrated, helping reduce any glare issues that may arise. Trijicon night sights are available from aftermarket providers.
Out of the Box
Right out of the box, the FNS-40L has a good feel. FNH polymer-framed handguns all feature the familiar “Browning style” grip angle that feels natural to most shooters. It comes with an arched and flat backstraps, allowing the user to customize both grip feel and length of pull. I know a lot of people prefer a flat backstrap, but the arched insert felt best in my large paws. It still feels a little on the small side to me, but it should be fine for 90% of the shooters out there.
Like the FNP/FNX/FNS handguns, the grip on the FNS-40L is high, making the bore axis low. Unlike the FNP/FNX line of handguns (at least in the .45 models), the Sharp Pyramids of Doom that have chewed many hands (and sides) have been subdued on the FNS-40L, making it much more comfortable.
Speaking of grip, the FNS-40L’s is only slightly taller than that of a GLOCK 19/23/32. It fits somewhere in between those and the 17/22. The baseplates on the FNS mags compensate for the lack of hand real estate, providing both length and a forward curving lip on the bottom for extra control while firing. Those who would slight the FNS-40L in the capacity department should keep this in mind. Those who are satisfied with 9mm power will be rewarded with the 17-round capacity of the FNS-9L.
The controls on the FNS-L line are fully ambidextrous, and the layout is quite nice. They’re small enough to stay out of the way, but big enough for even the largest hands to engage. It rarely gets cold enough to warrant gloves where I live, but I can’t see them being a problem. Unlike some guns on the market – including their now-discontinued FNP line – the magazine and slide releases are just as easily manipulated on both sides of the frame right out of the box. If you opt for the manual safety, you’ll have the same experience.
Though you only get three-dot sights on the FNS-40L, they are quite nice. The rear has a U-shaped notch for easy sight acquisition. The front dot is noticeably larger than those on the rear, but the elongated radius considerably reduces this perceived advantage. As previously mentioned, a fiber-optic front would aid considerably in easing sight acquisition.
Disassembly is easy, but it led to a bit of a surprise when I looked at the recoil spring assembly.
Nope. I have no idea what’s going on with this extra bit of material at the rear of the captured recoil spring.
It appears to be stainless while the rest of the guide rod appears to be carbon steel. That little extra bit of metal measures one inch in length, but adds some weight to the recoil spring assembly. The assembly is only half an inch longer than the standard FNS assembly, so you have half an inch less spring in the FNS-L than on the FNS. However, the coils seem to be slightly more compressed than the FNS. Perhaps this is why we don’t have lightening cuts?
Fit and Finish
FN went through a good bit of trouble melding the controls into the contours of the frame, and it pays off. By building the material up around the controls in certain areas and removing it in others, they’ve made a sleek gun that’s still easy to control. In my own time with the gun, the material built around the slide release was especially handy. I’ve got larger hands and fingers, but even with the relatively high grip on the gun, the extra material prevented me from riding it.
The FNS-40L boasts a black finish on a stainless slide. Though it’s available in satin stainless, you want the black. I have no idea what the actual finish is called, but it’s tough as nails. While I haven’t had time to thoroughly test (read: abuse and/or neglect) the treatment on this sample yet, I had an FNP-45 USG with the same finish. It was my backup gun while hunting whitetail and hogs during a particularly bad infestation (the feral hogs, not the whitetail). Vines, brush, holsters, mud, sand, and hunting stands couldn’t ding it. No, the stainless isn’t easy to scratch, but that extra bit of protection helps in long-term corrosion protection.
The only gripe to be found when it comes to fit and finish concerns the frame. The FNS-40L is available with or without a manual safety, and this gun lacks one. On an FNS handgun, the frame goes through an additional process to remove an area for the manual safety controls. As such, the frame molding and finishing process overlooks this area.
That extra bit of material is a pockmark on an otherwise beautiful gun. It has a somewhat flat finish in the light and is slightly raised above the surface of the rest of the frame. It’s only as thick as the width of a human hair, so it isn’t enough to irritate ones hand while shooting. However, it’s noticeable. This probably sounds like nitpicking – and to some extent it is – but I see it as an easily remedied problem that was overlooked on an otherwise beautiful gun.
Due to its high grip and low bore axis, the FNS-40L is that rarest of birds — a relatively soft shooting .40. I’ve owned a Gen3 GLOCK 22 and 27 in the past, and the .40’s snappy recoil is much more tame in the FNS-40L. As with all guns, recoil is subjective. However, I would put the felt recoil with 165gr JHP ammo as being comparable to 124gr +P in a Gen4 GLOCK 19.
Function was perfect right out of the box. Through 450 rounds of mixed FMJs and JHPs, there was nary a problem with the FNS-40L. Seating fully-loaded mags with the slide in the forward position – a problem with some guns – didn’t present an issue.
Accuracy? Here are the first 14 rounds I fired out of the gun.
What you’re looking at are the holes punched by one magazine of 165gr Winchester white box at 25 feet. It measures just under 6” with the two flyers on the left and right (my fault), or right at 4” without them. Outside of a few dry fires at the gun store, I had no experience with the FNS’s bangswitch prior to this magazine. As you can see, the gun has great accuracy potential.
There’s just one issue, and it’s a big one for some….
The FNS-40L features the same trigger as the FNS. The take-up on the trigger is a little long, but effortless. Reset distance is phenomenal, being clearly tactile and audible to boot (though not as loud as my Gen4 G19, which is probably a good thing). The break is somewhat gritty and heavy.
FN says the trigger pull is between 5.5 and 7.5 pounds, and this sample came in at 6.8 after the first 150 rounds when measured at the very tip of the trigger’s cam-like safety. Further up the pivoting blade brought results as high as 8 pounds. While 6.8 pounds might not sound like much, but there’s a noticeable difference in felt pull weight compared to, say, a GLOCK or XD-style trigger which also ranges in the same 6-7 pound range.
The closest comparison I can draw in the break department would be the comparably designed M&P, and I’m not referring to the APEX unit in the Pro or C.O.R.E. model. Unlike the M&P, GLOCK, or XDm, there aren’t any aftermarket trigger replacements available for the FNS. I realize there’s already a preview of the FNS-9 done by Tyler Kee of Nick’s competition FNS with 4-5k rounds through it in which Tyler praises the trigger, but this sample is newer and not nearly as broken-in.
The local .40 supply was, admittedly, not the best in the world. This review was done using Winchester 165gr FMJ and 180gr JHP (White Box), Remington UMC 180gr MC, Speer Lawman 180gr TMJ, and Winchester 180gr PDX-1 JHP. The FNS-40L returned its best groups with the PDX-1 (1.5-2” at 25 feet), but the WWB and Speer plinking ammo both posted good, consistent groupings. The FNS displayed a clear disdain for the Remington ammo, but I think that had more to do with the batch I purchased than the gun. As always, your mileage may vary.
This is a quality, well-built firearm. It’s built like a tank, balances well in the hand, and has great potential. The only thing I don’t like is the trigger. Though the reset is phenomenal, the break is too rough and heavy for my taste. Outside of that, there isn’t much to slight the gun on.
Caliber: 40 S&W
Weight (Empty): 29.7oz
Finish: Black on Black
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Accuracy: * * * *
The handgun has phenomenal potential, hindered only by a so-so trigger. If you take the time (and ammo) to get used to it, you’ll be pleased. If you have another line of handguns whose trigger you prefer, you might want to look elsewhere.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
Classic Browning grip angle, fully ambidextrous controls and a great balance. What’s not to like?
Ergonomics Firing: * * * ½
It might seem like a harsh score, but it’s hard to take a “competition” style gun seriously when you throw a heavy trigger on it.
Reliability: * * * * *
450+ rounds of FMJ and JHP ammo. No failures to feed, eject or go into battery.
Customization: * * *
There are sight options out there for the FNS-L (the same you can find for the FNS), but no holsters that I’ve found as of this writing. FNS holsters will fit, but leave you with about half an inch of slide exposed. Mags and mag carriers are the same as the FNS. Speaking of mags, they run on the high side. There’s an obligatory 1913 rail up front to adorn with your accessory of choice.
Overall: * * * ½
You’ve got a solid, reliable pistol here. It’s accurate and well-made. But in a world where great polymer handguns are becoming the norm, a couple of small imperfections are all it takes to go from king of the hill to middle of the pack.