GUN REVIEW: The FNX .45
FNH USA’s big bore packs more wallop than its competition.
By Steve Tracy
Cocked and locked, double-action, and striker-fired semi-automatic pistols all have their advantages and disadvantages. Personal preference, department general orders, intended use, and training all affect the decision-making process when it comes to choosing a law enforcement sidearm. For some, that choice is made for them by department regulation or weapon issuance, but for others the choice is theirs to make.
The FNX from Fabrique Nationale Herstal USA (www.fnhusa.com) is a double-action pistol that is also capable of being carried cocked and locked like a 1911. However, unlike some other pistols with a similar double-functioning trigger system, the FNX’s thumb safety is a dual-action mechanism that also works as a de-cocking lever. It’s really two guns in one with its hammer-fired action.
Big Grip Packs 15 rounds of .45
FN USA’s FNX pistol lineup is available in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. The big bore is exceptional compared to other .45s by way of the FNX’s high-capacity magazine. It packs 15 rounds of ammo, compared to its competition’s maximum of 12 or 13 rounds. One might expect a gargantuan-size grip girth to accommodate all those rounds, but the impressive thing is that the handle doesn’t feel too big at all, even though it measures 1.58 inches in width. FN’s trick is a longer grip, as my big hands still have plenty of room all the way to the bottom of the extended polymer-magazine floor plate. The FNX is 6.3 inches tall compared to a Glock 21’s 5.47 inches in height. Inigo Montoya’s life-long adversary could fit his six fingers around the FNX’s long grip with ease.
The FNX weighs 33.2 ounces empty and it feels a bit top heavy unloaded. That changes fast when its magazine is packed with 230-grain .45 ammunition. The pistol’s balance when loaded is just fine.
Drawing out of a holster and aiming on target, the FNX’s grip angle causes it to point very naturally in my hands. The molded checkering provides an excellent gripping surface under all conditions. The pistol includes both a flat and arched back strap (with integral lanyard hole), but the flat one worked best for me. The circumference of the frame is definitely beefy and may not work well for officers with small hands, but for those with medium to large mitts, the FNX was just fine.
Fully Ambidextrous Controls
The test pistol’s polymer frame was finished in flat dark earth, but black is standard. Its Picatinny rail accommodates lights and lasers and the magazine release, slide release, and safety/decocking lever are mirror imaged on both sides of the pistol for completely ambidextrous use. The slide release does not act solely as a slide stop, but will let the slide go forward easily and chamber a round when pressed downward from either side. The stainless-steel slide is available in your choice of matte black or non-reflective silver. A loaded chamber indicator consists of a red dot painted on the extractor that extends slightly to the right when a round is chambered. It’s not the easiest to see or feel, so the forward slide serrations are there for those who prefer a press check that utilizes them.
The pear-shaped magazine release kicks empty mags out forcibly when the slide is locked back and the button is pressed. Because of the long grip, the meat from large hands does not interfere with the magazine dropping free.
The semi-automatic action is the classic Browning tilt style; however, the slide can still be pulled to the rear with the manual thumb safety on. 1911 pistols lock the slide from moving, which means that to clear the chamber, the safety must be taken off. With the FNX, a round can be ejected while leaving the safety on, which is a desirable safety feature.
Sights are dovetailed into the slide and the snag-free, slanted steel rear sight has horizontal non-glare serrations. Low-light white dots match up to a steel front sight with its own white dot. The front sight is comparatively thin and was found to stand out more than wider versions in the rear sight’s notch. They hit dead on at 15 and 25 yards and a bit low at 7 yards, typical of combat fixed sights.
The round hammer is serrated for thumb cocking and, despite the short grip tang area, the hammer and slide cannot bite your shooting hand because the slide sits high in your grip. However, it’s not too high to the point of being top heavy.
Disassembly is quick and simple. Check to be sure the pistol is unloaded, lock its slide to the rear, and remove its magazine. Once the takedown lever on the left side of the frame is rotated down, the slide may then be released to move slowly forward off the frame. The captive recoil spring and cold hammer-forged, 4.5-inch stainless-steel barrel are lifted out to complete the field stripping process.
Shooting the FNX .45 was a pleasure at the range. No failures of any kind were experienced with Speer and Remington 230-grain ball ammo. Hollowpoint rounds (Hornady 185-grain XTP and Z-Max, Speer Gold Dot 230-grain, Winchester SZX 230-grain JHP, and 185-grain Silvertip) fed right up the FNX’s factory-polished feed ramp and into the polished chamber without a hitch.
Recoil was mild in the big pistol, even with the 230-grain +P Speer cartridges. The double-action pull measured 10 pounds, 9.5 ounces from the hammer’s half-cock notch, but it felt a little heavier than that. The single-action pull was virtually perfect for a combat sidearm at 4 pounds, 11.6 ounces. The bump stop molded into the polymer trigger’s rear causes zero over travel once the gun is fired. Trigger reset is about average; it’s not too long and it’s not super short. The inside of the trigger guard is very generous for cold weather use while wearing gloves. There is a bit of texturing on the front of the guard for those who like to use counter pressure with their offhand index finger. An internal firing pin safety will not let the FNX fire if dropped by accident. There is a small amount of takeup to deactivate this safety, but it’s barely perceptible.
Muscle memory needs to be built up for manipulating the polymer manual thumb safety on the FNX. Sweeping the safety down and off like a 1911’s was natural; however, a little extra pressure can cause the safety to continue the downward, spring-loaded stroke and de-cock the hammer unintentionally. It’s a minor concern and nothing that can’t be cured with a bit of practice.
The FNX .45 struck center mass at 25 yards offhand consistently due to its excellent sights, trigger pull, and ergonomics. A tight group at 7 yards was effortless and other shooters found the pistol easy to shoot well.
The FNX is an improvement over the previous FNP-45 service pistol that competed for the US Joint Combat Pistol Program. A model equipped with a threaded barrel, higher front and rear sights to clear a suppressor, and a sight base toward the slide’s rear for an electronic red dot sight is available as the FNX -45 Tactical.
FNX Levels the Field for Caliber vs. Round Count
For officers who favor the .45 ACP cartridge, the FNX is a “Made in the USA” platform that offers just about every feature one could think of. With a cartridge in the chamber and two extra magazines on your duty belt, the FNX carries 46 rounds. The “Wondernines” from the 1980s touted 15-round magazines as their primary advantage with more 9mm rounds in double-stack magazines compared to less .45 rounds in single-stack magazines.
The FNX was found to fit in Safariland duty holsters made for the Glock 21. Holsters with tactical lights need to be checked to make sure a particular brand of light will fit in conjunction with the FNX.
The FNX levels the playing field by providing a double-stack .45 with a high round count. It’s also an accurate, ergonomic, and reliable sidearm. For those looking for a traditional double-action pistol, the FNX fits the bill and can be safely carried with the safety either on or off. As a high-capacity sidearm that can also carry similarly to a 1911 with its hammer cocked and locked, the FNX is a dual-purpose handgun. Its suggested retail price is $809, but actual selling prices seem to be about $100 less than that.
For those officers who prefer a striker-fired pistol, the FNS (not X) series in 9mm and .40 S&W shares most of the features that the FNX possesses. The FNS is an option for those who desire a trigger pull that is the same from the first to last shot. But if your heart is set on a .45, the FNX is your only FNH-USA choice, but it is a very good choice.PM
For more information visit www.fnhusa.com.
Steve Tracy is a 26-year police veteran with 24 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He is also an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force, less-than-lethal force and scenario-based training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.