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By ShootingTheBull410

I got a chance to test a borrowed FN Five-seveN pistol, which shoots the controversial 5.7x28mm cartridge. A lot has been written about the Five-seveN and the 5.7x28mm caliber, so I’ll leave the Googling to the reader to find out more. As an introduction, I’ll just say that the 5.7x28mm was introduced as an alternative to the 9mm. It’s a little bullet, about the size and weight of a .22lr or .22 Magnum, but driven to higher velocities, which brings its kinetic energy up closer to that of a 9mm . . .

Debates have raged about the round’s effectiveness, its adoption or lack thereof, its infamy in its use in the Fort Hood shooting, whether or not it’s truly armor-piercing, and — well, hey, this being the internet, you can expect debates over just about any topic. But I wasn’t interested in wading into any of those waters. I just wanted to get an idea of what the ammo does to a block of tissue simulant. Does the high velocity make up for the tiny diameter and light weight of the bullets, and is it a practical alternative to the 9mm?

The ammo I had on hand is FN SS197SR, one of the two commercially-available hollowpoints. It’s a 40-grain bullet that’s said to travel at around 2,000 fps from a P90. From the Five-seveN, velocities of around 1,700 are more typical. That’s still plenty of pace, a lot more than handguns typically deliver, but again, the round is small. Then again, so’s a 5.56 or .223 Remington. I’ve tested a 45-grain .223 from a rifle and found it to deliver phenomenal damage. The bullet in the 5.7×28 is about the same weight and diameter, but travels at about half the velocity (the .223 was flew at around 3200 fps) so I didn’t know exactly what to expect.

I certainly didn’t expect what I got. Five of the six bullets I fired, failed to expand at all. Their noses got smashed upon impact with the gel, so they appear to have started tumbling right away. They made ugly wound channels, and the penetration was excellent (12″ to nearly 16″) but they did this with little bullets, so the resulting wound channel at the all-important deeper end of travel wasn’t very big.

One bullet did expand, and still managed 12″ of penetration. Had they all done that, I would be more optimistic on the ammo overall. Seeing as 5 of 6 failed to perform as designed, I wasn’t overly impressed. Especially when I dredged up the gel block images that I had shot with Speer’s Gold Dot in .22 Magnum, from an NAA Black Widow mini-revolver. Those Gold Dots all managed comparable penetration depths and comparable-looking wound channels, but they all also expanded.

Now, don’t read me wrong — I’m not saying a mini-revolver is a better gun than the Five-seveN. I’d take an FN-made 20-round autoloader over a 5-round mini-revolver any day of the week. I’m just saying that in this particular test, comparing the results, one would be hard-pressed to see where the SS197SR did more damage than the .22 Magnum Gold Dots did.

I really liked the Five-seveN. I was just disappointed in the performance I saw from this particular ammo. I’d like to revisit it someday with different ammo and see if it performs better.

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  1. Anything is armor-piercing at a high enough velocity. Pine needles can pierce rocks during tornadoes.

    • True — but in the perhaps more-important meaning, the BATFE classifies certain types of ammo as armor-piercing, and others as not armor-piercing. With respect to the 5.7×28, according to Wiki, the SS190 and L191 are those that the BATFE has classified as armor-penetrating.

      I haven’t tested this yet, but I suspect Liberty might penetrate at least a Level II vest, given its near-2000 fps velocity.

    • Saw a side by side comparison of 5.7 steel core (only type capable of piercing flexible body armor) and .22 magnum.

      Overall the 22 mag performed as well or better than the 5.7 when both were fired from a pistol. The 5.7 excelled only when fired from a rifle.

    • Myth. Even a round traveling at 3200 fps (approx 2200 mph) won’t “pierce” a rock. Compare that to the highest recorded and confirmed wind speed for a tornado, 318 mph (approx 460 fps) and no, a pine needle will not pierce a rock. Not “everything” becomes AP just because it’s moving fast enough, a steel tip 62gr penetrator round will perform better than a 62gp JHP because weight and shape matter infinitely more than velocity.

      • Well, they use water jets going at very high speed to cut through rock, for example, and it works. But velocity that you need for that kind of thing is measured in miles per second…

        • Generally speaking, the water in a water jet is just a means to carry and accelerate the abrasive material that does the actual “cutting” of the rock. Water by itself is generally only used to cut soft materials such as rubber and wood.

      • I’m sure you’re wrong, I saw it in the movies. Numbers mean nothing. /sarc, if you couldn’t guess.

  2. I saw the video, I think from MAC, about the capabilities of the 5.7 round to go through soft armor.

    If my memory serves me the round failed to do so out of a pistol barrel, but did make it through the armor out of a longer sub-gun barrel.

    I think the 5.7 round is neat, but gimmicky, at best.

  3. So maybe speer gold dot needs to make a five seven round? I enjoy shooting the five seven. It is very close to shooting a Browning buckmark. I had really wanted one but seen a few nasty kabooms in forums.

    • You likely read about one kaboom (singular), which was ultimately found to be due to idiot handloads. FNH graciously replaced the tool’s gun to get him to stop defaming them on all the boards. He had lied about using factory ammunition to achieve the kaboom. I don’t think any pistol is immune to that kind of stupidity.

      • I have seen photos of two different colored pistols, one black and the other fde. I have rented the five- seven at the range a few times I really like it, but if I’m dropping a grand on a peice of hardwear I would prefer some steel allow to be involved. I know kabooms can happen to anything, but a $1000 kaboom is something I can not afford.

    • I’d be curious to see a 5-7 vs. PMR-30 shoot-off… Iffen you can get hands on a Kel-tec :p

  4. All commercially available mass produced 5.7 ammo performs kind of “meh” out of the pistol because it was purpose built to be shot out of a 11″ barrel. Since the good ammo for it is illegal to own in the US, to really get decent performance out of the pistol, you need to roll your own. With a Barnes 36 gr HP over Reloader 7, you can make the pistol sing and turn the ps90 into a choir.

    • Actually, some of the “good” ammo is not illegal to own. FN prefers it not be sold to the commoners, but it can be purchased legally on the secondary market.

  5. Pretty much had the same results at a wound ballistics seminar. They also didn’t hold up too well after going through leather or denim.

  6. I own and carry a 5.7 and the PS-90 suppressed when called for. While it isn’t close to a 45 acp what it does allow me to do is have very tiny groups in confidence, and at longer ranges. I’m quite enamored of the 5.7 and it’s platforms. I know many hate it and I understand why. But if I can have a smaller quicker firing group with 20 rounds on tap with minimal recoil It works for me. Having said that I hope more creative ammo is produced. Flame suit on.

    • No argument from me, if you shoot tighter groups and the pistol works well for you otherwise, it’s a no brainer. I moved my Beretta 92 from my hip to the safe in favor of a GP100 (Wiley Clapp) for the same reason, and I’m giving up 2/3 of my round count for it. But the revolver is definitely more accurate and it’s more comfortable to carry for me anyway. Plus those Double Taps I keep in it make a really, really big boom (and I’m pretty sure they’d make a pretty big hole too). Once you step outside, 50 yards isn’t very far away at all.

  7. Disappointing they tested the SS197SR not the SS195. From what I understood the 197 is the “sporting” round and the 195 is the higher velocity hollow point, no poly tip to muck up the works. As others have said a real carry load would be some of the Elite ammo loads.

    • SS197 is the only thing I could get ahold of at the time.

      I would have liked to have tried the SS195.

      For the record though, the tip in the SS197 isn’t polymer, it’s hard solid plastic. It’s not the typical Hornady mushy polymer tip that they try to promote as having more reliable expansion in Critical Defense/Duty; rather it’s referred to as a “ballistic tip” and it’s there for, near as I can tell, aerodynamic purposes.

      • Ah, didn’t think about round availability, that’s always an issue with 5.7 ammo.

        As to the SS197, that uses the Hornady v-max bullet correct? Per the Hornady site


        1. Polymer Tip – The polymer tip increases the ballistic coefficient and also initiates dramatic expansion upon impact – even at velocities as low as 1600 fps.

        Armchair guess would be that the short pistol barrel isn’t getting the velocity up to the 1600 fps it needed to expand on 4 of the 5 rounds.

      • Hi STB410, thank you for making this video, it was very informative. If you’d like, I’d be happy to send you some SS198 and Elite S4M for testing. They use a different, tumbling projectile at much higher velocities and should make for an interesting test. SS198 does 2000fps+ while the S4M does 2400fps +.

    • FWIW, the SS195 has been discontinued by FNH and replaced with the SS198 which supposedly moves at an even faster velocity than the 195 did but uses the same 28 grain JHP bullet. If true, that would put muzzle velocity a bit north of 2,600 FPS with the P90/PS90. Technically, FNH doesn’t want this sold to consumers, but its easy to find on the ‘net and for reasonable prices.

      • 195 has not been discontinued. 198 is a 75fps faster version on the 195, tip painted green and LEO restricted by FNH.

        ALL of Elite’s self defense rounds will go through a lvl3a panel from the pistol at 20 feet.

        The 5.7.28mm is not biased on any combloc round.

        The 5.7x28mm is not new as most claim It was first manufactured in 1988, same age as the 40 short and weak. An older rimmed varmint round was partial inspiration.

        Cooper talked about rounds like this back in the 70’s. In the 80’s NATO realized that body armor of that era was stopping all the ball rounds being used. There where 3 rounds that came out of this.

        10mm biased BOZ round. 10mm necked down to .223. This round out performs the other 2 PDW rounds but never went into production. There was a copyrite on the round but it expired when the company who created it went under. I still want to make this round and this round is why I went with the 5.7x28mm.

        The other 2 rounds where the 5.7 and the HK 4.6 PDW rounds.

        This is a very short and abbreviated history but I wanted to get it out there.

        Also some recent third party tests.
        So, here’s my test. I’m used a standard Warrior Helmet by SDS, which is very similar to the German surplus helmet from their test. These type of helmets are rated around IIIA.

        We took the test from 10 feet, and used a water jug to hold the helmet.


        9mm, 124gr – Failed
        SS197SR 40gr V-max – Failed
        American Eagle 40gr TMJ – Failed
        SS195LF 28gr HP – Failed
        SS198LF 28gr HP – Failed
        SB193 55gr FMJ – Failed
        SS190 – Penetrated both times
        Elite Ammunition 28gr Moly Coated HP – Failed
        Elite Ammunition T6 Copper – Penetrated

        • Jay, thanks for the video. As usual you are the expert (you know me, Aegweil/accurizing/sights/broken spring/etc)
          I would put ANY of Jay’s rounds up against any stock rounds ANYTIME, ANYWHERE

  8. I’m not very impressed with the 5.7 cartridge, especially not to abandon the 9mm-.45 ACP class which wi definitely perform given good ammo. Still, the test was interesting, and I’d like to see if different anmo performed better.

    • I haven’t seen any good reasons to buy anything in 5.7. Want a range toy? Get a .22 mag. Want a self-defense gun? There are dozens of better choices in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. 20 rounds of a gimmicky round in a terrifically expensive duty-sized pistol or 17 rounds of old-fashioned 9mm +P in a Glock 17? I don’t know why this is a hard choice for anybody who doesn’t get issued a pistol for their job.

      Any round that is envious of 10mm Auto’s ammo selection and availability is really in tough shape.

    • Between the cost of the ammo and 10 round mag limits here in the PRK I don’t see me getting a 5-7 anytime soon. And being as this is the PRK it’s probably not on our approved list anyway.

    • Around my neck of the woods, 5-7 ammo is about $25 per box of 50. At my local gander mountain/ big box store it is about $30……and its still in pretty decent supply. Whether that’s a good price or not is a matter of opinion I guess but I don’t think its too bad.

  9. I’d be interested to see this test against a PMR-30 loaded with the .22 magnum Gold Dots.

  10. According to the brochure I downloaded from Hornady the V-Max bullet offers ‘explosive expansion, even at velocities as low as 1600 fps’, so it appears that in the Five-Seven the round is at best barely fast enough. I also ran the round through Hornady’s ballistics calculator and found that at 1700fps the round has only 257lb/ft of energy at the muzzle, so it’s definitely a step down from 9mm in raw power. That said, it dumped it’s entire 257lb/ft of energy in 12-16″ of gel, so it’s not a total failure. The tumbling would likely do just as much damage as a properly mushrooming hollow point. It should also be noted that one of the main objectives to the round was to limit over-penetration and potential harm to innocent bystanders in crowds, but then the 28gr. bullets would likely be a better round for that.

    But for a full size handgun it’s still a bit on the weak side and there’s already plenty of (much less expensive) 9mm pistols with 17 round magazines, so I don’t think the extra 3 rounds is a big deal, especially when you consider that out of a 4.5-5″ barrel a good +p 9mm round will crank out well over 400lb/ft of energy.

      • Yes, it can be reloaded, but is not for novices. The cases have to be cleaned carefully otherwise you strip off the lubricated coating (no dry media vibratory cleaners), the brass is hard to come by unless you pick your own up after shooting, it requires trimming after nearly every shooting session as it stretches a lot, and given its small size, is very sensitive to changes in powder weight.

        So, yes, while it can be reloaded, it’s tricky. I also find it interesting that Elite Ammo offers a service to make custom ammo from customer-provided brass, but insists that only virgin brass be provided for loading. No once fired brass is permitted. Given that a company that is an expert in reloading the 5.7 round is not willing to work with once fired brass certainly tells me that most people would be well advised to avoid it.

        • BS we can and have loaded 1x for customers and for sale.

          It takes longer and due to labor charges is not cost effective on a retail basis.

          As long as you take your time and learn about the 5.7 you can reload your brass at least 5 times.

  11. 5.7x28mm seems like it’s rather similar to 7.62x25mm Tokarev. I’d be curious to see tests with that round too. Bullets are still smaller caliber than most pistols, but the weight is probably double of these little Five-seveN’s, with similar velocity.

  12. Love to see this test compared to the SS195, SS198 and the Federal 5728. I have a feeling the FMJ might actually do the best.

  13. Ss197 isn’t really defensive ammo, so why even bother testing it in jello?

    I suppose, a side-by-side with 9mm white box would be “fair” by those standards..

    Fwiw, not a fan of FN, or the five seven, primarily because of their leo butt-kissing (which still hasn’t helped them, they make the ban list every time one is proposed anyway).

  14. I’ve always been interested in getting a five seven handgun, but the lack of quality ammunition has stopped me. I know you can find the ss198 a couple places online, but it’s sort of insulting that FN will not sell it to the public, just like Winchester threatens to stop selling to any vendor that sells Ranger ammo to commoners now. FN is usually very friendly to us peons, making semi-auto versions of many of their military guns. Coupled with the idiotic “AP” ammo ban and I just don’t see the point.

  15. Shoulda tested Elite Ammo. That’s what I carry. I only use SS197SR for practice. Have about 3,000 rounds. Love the Five-seveN.

    • It never seems to be in stock. As Elite says on their website, they are under the same constraints we are procuring reloading supplies, so until that gets better, their ammo is going to be rather scarce. Sure, you can get some on Gunbroker, but when rounds start getting into several dollars apiece, I’d rather spend it reloading my .338 Lapua than on an overdeveloped .22 round.

  16. SS197 is the equivalent of ball ammo for the FiveSeven. It is not the personal defense round for the gun. If you compare a Glock using 9mm ball ammo to a 1911 with hollow points, you will get the same conclusions. In fact, if you compare 22 magnum defense rounds to 9mm ball ammo, you will be disappointed in 9mm.

    If you want valid conclusions, compare 9mm hollow point to SS198. Otherwise, you are just comparing apples to watermelons and wasting gel.

  17. Very interesting, I expected more from it as well. I mean on the gun shows I used to watch it seemed to perform very well but isn’t there one of the rounds for Military/L.E.O. only? That’s the one they claim can defeat body armor. Man I know one thing and that is I love .22 mag and always have and its one of my fave few cartridges and as they (whoever they are) come out with the 5.7’s and that little fried-fart of a round the .17 cal. wich was originally always just used for causing as less damage to things like raccoon pelts as possible and still my beloved .22 mag can keep-up with or even out do them all. And that x 28 little bottle necked round brings back other memories to like the 7.62×28 that my CZ-52’s were chambered in, and isnt the .30 Luger a x28mm rd? Just off the top of my head thoughts, been a long time.

    • I had a TT33 back in the day when the iron curtain was still up. The 7.62×25 round was well nigh impossible to get in the states at that time. I brought a small supply of ammo home with the gun. Turns out the bottle neck round for the 96 mauser (7.62 or 63? Mauser) worked quite well in the Tok.

    • To answer your questions, the standard LEO round is the SS198. It is perfectly legal for civilians. While FN will not sell it directly to civilians, it is easily attainable on and off line. My local funshop even carries it. However, it will not penetrate decent IIIA (but will penetrate most IIA).

      On the other hand, the SS190 is the military round. It WILL penetrate IIIA. It is not available and is restricted as armor penetrating.

      The SS198 is the go-to standard defense round for the FiveSeven for civilians, LEO or otherwise. A few LEOs may be able to get SS190, but they generally use SS198. I will spare you an essay on the Elite Ammunition options.

      • George just to clarify in order of body armor strength I, IIA, II, IIIA, III, IV.

        I don’t know why in MAC’s test, AE TMJ didn’t penetrate level IIA, because when I tested it against II, it did. SS198LF will easily penetrate II. IIIA is inconsistent, so I wouldn’t bet my life on it to perform. SS190 and some of EA’s loads, make swiss cheese out of multiple IIIA panels.

        I’ve offered some rounds to STB should he want to re-test his FSN. I would love to get my hands on a gel block and finally start having something consistent to test ammo with.

  18. WARNING: Myself and others have called on the author to re-test using SS198. But a word of caution is in order.

    If you do re-test with SS198 (or 195), remember that it tumbles and plan accordingly. You need to be prepared for the round to exit the sides of the block. I strongly recommend watching Buffman’s Youtube videos on the the SS198 and note the precautions.

    I would also suggest watching Brass Fetcher’s videos on the SS190 and SS195. Both use the same yawing bullet design as the SS198, and you will see bullets exit the bottom and the top of gel blocks (Buffman has the same experiences with SS198). If the bullet exits the block from the sides or top, you could have a ricochet problem.

    Please be safe. Don’t assume the SS198 behaves the same as the SS197 and don’t get injured just to address some criticisms.

  19. Old article that could use a refresh with all the new players in the 5.7 market today.
    Now anyone can afford one since Smith and Wesson has one for $650 pretty much anywhere guns are sold. (They sell as low as $575) Palmetto State has the 57 Rock that can be bought for as little as $300 on sale. Keltec is also in the game. With all these new options, a retest is about due. The only unfortunate thing is that the available ammo hasn’t changed much.

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