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When it comes to weird-looking guns, few can beat FN’s P90 bullpup. Most rifles and personal defense weapons have a fairly traditional layout: magazine up front, grip behind that, with the stock bringing up the rear. The P90 not only departs from that in just about every way possible, but it just looks like something an alien would carry (assuming they can’t shoot lasers out of their eyes or something).

But, the P90 isn’t the only weird gun out there. Plenty of other strange guns, like FN’s F2000, the Chiappa Rhino and the Vektor CP1 have made their way onto the big screen, but none have become the sci-fi hits that the P90 has.

Now, thanks to GateWorld, we know why. (article continues after embedded video)

The P90’s acting career started in 1997, appearing in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. But, its first starring role came when it appeared in Stargate SG-1, a TV show that continued the story of the movie Stargate. The show’s designers had to start with the MP5 and other guns that appeared in the movie, but they wanted to make their own unique mark on the show over time in much the same way Daniel Shanks started acting like James Spader’s Daniel Jackson but personalized the character over time as the show evolved.

But, the show’s armorer, Rob Fournier, knew that the MP5 didn’t make a lot of sense for military units taking a portal to other planets. The MP5 is more of a close-quarters personal defense weapon, and obviously isn’t a fantastic choice for people far from help against powerful enemies with terrifying staff weapons (spear-like sticks that fire blasts of plasma). So, he was pretty eager to get guns on the show that made more sense.

Sadly, it took several seasons to get everyone on board, and it only happened when he brought a cased-up P90 to a production meeting to show it to the rest of the show’s staff. When one of the show’s producers asked him, “What’s in the case?” he brought it out and explained (on top of the gun’s looks) why it was a better fit for the story. Another producer then asked him, “Do they have real ones that we can use?”, not knowing that the P90 was a real firearm.

So, this scene actually makes a lot of sense, because the show’s armorer actually wanted a gun that was a realistic fit for the story:

From then on, it was a big hit. Obviously, the show had many other guns over its 10 season run, plus five seasons of Stargate Atlantis and two seasons of Stargate Universe, along with two more direct-to-DVD movies. The P90 not only made its big mark on the show, but also became popular on many other shows and movies in the following years. Everything from I, Robot to Westworld featured the gun for various reasons.

In reality, it’s not a fantastic gun for most uses. If you asked most knowledgeable people what they’d take with them on a visit to another planet, you’d get all sorts of answers, but you’d probably see a lot of people choosing an AR-15 or AR-10 for more flexibility and power. But, the exotic look alone helps give all sorts of fiction involving aliens, robots and stargates an alien and futuristic look that most guns just can’t bring to the table.

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  1. Would I use a P90 on another planet?

    It would depend on my job. If my primary job was overwatch, a marksman’s rifle. If my primary job was perimeter defense, M16 or M4. If my primary job was technical or scientific, a P90 would make a small, light, and handy defensive weapon for really close encounters.

    Which was the gun’s original intended role.

    I heard at some point only leading cast had the P90s because of a shortage of 5.7mm blanks owing to military operations in the early 2000s.

  2. I’ve been shooting for over 50 years. I’ve been reading Science Fiction for about 50 years. I love both – but I don’t allow Sci-Fi to persuade my choice of weapons, any more than I allow reality to persuade my choice of reading material.

    Oh yeah, space opera is not exactly science fiction. It’s like soap operas, with a space theme. I don’t waste my time on space opera at all.

    • Oh, sweet Jesus. I just realized how freaking old I am. Been shooting and reading Sci-Fi for over 60 years. Dang. Time passes quickly when you’re having fun.

    • My uncle had every issue of Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine. As a teenager, I read them all. Would have been a valuable collection had it not been destroyed in a flood

    • Well, Paul, have you then missed out on the BSG reboot and The Expanse? Two of the best pieces of SciFi ever done on camera.

  3. P90 design is best ever if you jeed to carry it hidden under long jacket under arm. No other fun cam give tou so much firepowr and hide so well. But it is not great semiauto weapon. It was made for burst fire and 5.7 is great for that. Low recoil, large magazine. Love it as original P90. Dont like it in semiauto config for civilian use. Meh.

    • Many amazing weapons from WWII and earlier were such. Never designed to be a semi. So ATF just has them butchered by importers because you can find so many articles from the 60s, 70s and 80’s about machine gun deaths……..oh wait, there really weren’t any. Most of the laws stem from the Bonnie and Clyde era.

  4. That thing has more cinematic history than The Duke’s SAA. Even if time portals were real. No thanks.

    • Preventing the escape of a violent armed felon – it’s kosher. I probably wouldn’t have taken the shot, but I praise the man who did. It qualifies as self defense under Texas law, and should qualify anywhere in this country.

      • It’s not “self defense” in TX.
        It’s legal use of deadly force to prevent the commission of a Forcible Felony.

        Still legal, but not self defense.

    • I have all 10 seasons of SG1, all 5 seasons of Atlantis and the movies. all of them. Yeah, I’m a fan. It’s why I bought a PS90 and had it short barreled. I love it. Problem is the ammo is so bloody expensive that I can’t afford to waste what I bought back when it was cheap. The replacement cost for 50 round box is anywhere from $40 and up. Back when I did this, around 2005 or 6 I could buy a case for a couple hundred if I recall correctly.

    • Ditto.

      I have to find the time to watch what amounts to 17 LONG seasons (20+ episodes per season) and several movies.

      It took 4 months to watch the complete Babylon 5 (5 long seasons + 6 movies + a short spinoff season (12 episodes).

  5. At first glance the FN P90 is a thumbs down however a closer look shows it is a functioning well thought design that is no show and all go.

  6. “The MP5 is more of a close-quarters personal defense weapon, and obviously isn’t a fantastic choice for people far from help against powerful enemies with terrifying staff weapons (spear-like sticks that fire blasts of plasma). So, he was pretty eager to get guns on the show that made more sense.”

    But instead he chose the P90.

  7. Got that gun beat. 30 years or so back, I came up with a Calico M-100 with the under folding stock and a scope. Supposedly held 100 rounds of .22 LR in a goofy helical magazine on top. Could barely get over 90 rounds to load and it never ran worth a damn. I alway attributed this to the rim on the cartridge as the 9mm version with similar 50 round mag was much more reliable in my experience. Some Schwarzenegger SCI-Fi movie used them as a futuristic weapon. (That ain’t gonna come true…).

    Still have that thing in a safe somewhere, with box and all the paperwork. Crazy the stuff someone accumulates over 50 years of doing gun shows.

  8. If I were a 5.7 fan I would probably own one of these. It is certainly not like most others and that kind of uniqueness catches my eye. I’ve seen these around at various local stores over the years and actually have considered it from time to time. But that type of low power caliber just doesn’t really do much for me. It’s why I don’t own anything in 32. 22lr is the only thing under .380 I’m willing to put real money to at the end of the day.

    I thoroughly enjoyed Stargate when it was on and kinda do miss it but that’s ok. Kinda miss other shows like The X-files and StarTrek. But life goes on.

    Stargate does NOT make me want a P90. I’m not a fan of Beretta because of Bruce Willis either. I’ve had my fill of owning a Walther in 380. The fact that it was James Bonds PPK does not mean I should waste money on one.

  9. I have one of these. It’s a dichotomy- an awesome little machine with some drawbacks.

    Inherently ambidextrous. Balance is great and near the weapon mid-point. Ejects out the bottom. 50 round mags. Blowback operation is very smooth with nearly zero recoil or muzzle rise. Accuracy is great – it’s an absolute laser. Bullpup design allows tight shooting position and great leverage for retention. Very high quality.

    Conversely, the manual of arms is very different and requires drill work for proficiency. The irons are useless, so a low mount red dot is the preferred method – I have an Aimpoint H1 on it. It doesn’t do anything significantly better than other options in its class, though it’s SBR sized without the hassle. So, you begin to think about SBRing it, which opens up a completely new mess of decisions.

    People compare the 5.7 round to a variety of different calibers to support their love or hate for it, the majority of which are conflating conclusions. Ammo is expensive, and round selection must be appropriate for the intended use. The 5.7 round is effective, it’s just that the internet doesn’t believe you.

    I think the only big advantage it has is great ambidextrous ergonomics if you’re right handed and left eye dominant or vise versa (cross dominant), plus it’s easy to retain for those with limited retention training. It’s in the price range of a high quality AR (equivalent quality), so you probably need to like something about the PS90 to justify the spend. As with everything, it’s “a way”, not “the way”, so your mileage may vary.

  10. SG1 was a decent show but it did get too far away from the original premise in its later years, a common issue for long running shows along with cast turnover. I seen P90s on Doctor Who as well .

    • Marvel’s; Agents of Shield also had FN P90s and FN Five-Sevens as the primary weapons in the earlier seasons. Unfortunately, Disney fixed that little problem.

  11. I couldn’t figure out why the guys mouth was moving and I wasn’t hearing nothing, then I remembered I’d turned the media volume down because I was watching Hillary porn and I didnt want the neighbors to hear me panting.
    That’s a pretty cool gunm.

  12. But, the P90 isn’t the only weird gun out there. Plenty of other strange guns, like FN’s F2000, the Chiappa Rhino and the Vektor CP1 have made their way onto the big screen, but none have become the sci-fi hits that the P90 has.

    The PS90 has been on my wish list a long time. I already have a dozen mags for it, when they were on sale many years ago. The PS90 is now on my “short” wish list.

    I like “weird” guns. I already have a Chiappa Rhino and the FN FS2000. They’re not weird. They’re COOL!

  13. As soon as I saw the title I knew this was a Stargate article.

    The gun made sense for the show not just based on looks but also given that its primary use in the show is essentially as a PDW against lightly armored targets at close to medium range, pretty much exactly what the P90 is for.

    The show’s mostly about exploration, not interstellar war.

    Note that when they actually expect infantry combat the SG teams take backup armed with all manner of other, much heavier duty, toys. They even occasionally take such things along themselves too.

    For being a straight-up Sci-Fi show they actually did reasonably well with weapon selection. Hey, at least no one at SG Command was dumb enough to issue the Lucian Alliance rifle, which is really just a QBZ-95.

    • That show was from a time I was far to busy to watch much TV. Since then I’ve caught a show or 2, but it never inspired me to invest any more time in it… 🙁

  14. Two of the reasons for the P90 on the show I heard from armorer friend was –

    It shows more of the actors face than an M16 variant

    The downward ejection port means the actors can huddle up for photographic purposes and not be hit by empty cases.
    Much more dialogue on TV than real life.

  15. You know, I just happened to finish watching the last few seasons of Stargate SG-1 and I just gotta say that that show was just bad. It was always at best a C tier show with some good ideas. It was pretty obvious that they complete ran out of ideas after the System Lords (the big bad guys) were taken out and they just did multiple seasons of filler episodes. And that last damn episode was nothing but crap that got erased with time travel non-sense in the last few minutes.

    • It was never built to be ‘good’ in a A tier hit-show way, it was simply too (intentionally) ‘niche’ focused for that. It was intended for ‘geeky fantasy fun’. And it was fun too.

  16. A suppressed SBR P90 would be the ultimate zombie apocalypse gun, which is why it can’t ever be used in one of those shows.

  17. Bought a calico m100 back in 85-86 when they first came out. Very futuristic looking at the time. 100 rds of .22lr without reloading was crazy in the 80s. Seen it in a couple movies, the running man is only one I can remember though.

  18. Gun for going to another planet?

    Barret .50BMG!!! There might be dinosaurs or such.

    Alternatively; HK-91 as a more manageable weapon.

    A case of thermonuclear hand grenades.

  19. I’ve cosidered the P90 with 16” barrel for several purposes, including deer hunting. But my state requires at least a 55 grain soft point or hollow point bullet. And most loads for 5.7X28 are 40 gr or lighter. I know the ballistics would be a bit different, but I think the gun would be useful as such. As I get older, I appreciate guns that are smaller and lighter. The short and rounded P90 might not catch on brush as much as other rifles, and would be more packable. I do think it’s time for FN to update the P90, by making the profile even a little smaller, smoothing out the mag-loading issues, lowering the optic mount profile, and perhaps designing a non-spherical suppressor that would be very efficient while matching the style of the gun.

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