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.