All things being equal, the fit of a handgun is critical to how well a shooter can handle it. That’s not to say some folks can’t manhandle almost any firearm and make it work, but the people who can do this usually aren’t us normal folks.
Ergonomics is a buzzword today, and most handgun builders have taken that to heart by providing interchangeable backstraps, enhanced checkering and texturing, undercut triggers allowing the hand to be closer to the bore line and constantly improving sights. Add to this the pressure of a burgeoning concealed-carry market that wants all of the preceding plus compactness, a light weight, snag-free edges, a minimal amount of effort to get the pistol up and running when things go bad, and, of course, a sweet trigger and you’ve designed everyone’s “dream gun.”
All of these requests are reasonable, even if handgun carriers have successfully defended themselves and others for quite a while with handguns possessing few to none of these traits. But none of us wants to enter a situation unprepared or not using the very best of equipment, when it is available.
In the firearms industry there are quite a few companies with long and respected histories. There are only a few with longer histories than Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal, in the firearm business for the last 125 years and the parent company for today’s FN America. The company has been producing firearms for the U.S. military since 1988 when it won a contract to build M16s, and continues to produce them and a number of other weapons for our military and those of other nations.
Handguns have been in the FN family since John Moses Browning took his idea for the M1899 .32 Auto to the company around the turn of the century, and handgun production has continued since then. In 2012 FN America introduced its first polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols, the FNS-9 and FNS-40. Recently, the company added a compact FNS to its lineup, the FNS-40 Compact, predicting concealed carriers would prefer a smaller version of its well-received full-size pistols.
Excellent in handling and performance, FNS pistols bring more than a pre-loaded striker mechanism and the attendant short, light, reproducible trigger pull to the table. They bring an outstanding package of ergonomics and features. Part of that is the truly ambidextrous nature of the FNS pistol family—manual safety lever, magazine release and low-profile slide release. Only the takedown lever is one-sided (left), which no one could consider a problem. Already trim slide levers are enclosed on three sides by integral fencing.
Hits Keep Coming
Other improvements include molded, highly aggressive checkered grips, front cocking serrations as well as trigger, firing pin and drop safeties. FNS polymer frames have replaceable steel slide rails, in the unlikely event you wear out the originals. The trim manual safety lever (thumb safety) is located in the traditional spot, with down as the “fire” position. Despite its smallish size, I had no problem activating or deactivating the lever. When engaged, the safety lever does not lock the slide, allowing the user to chamber a round while the lever is engaged.
FNS pistols wear a redesigned sight system incorporating a deep V-shaped cut in the bottom of the wide notch of the rear sight. The rear sight is also serrated to reduce glare. These dovetailed sights, in a three-white-dot configuration, are definitely quick into action.
A low bore axis (thanks to the undercut triggerguard), an effectively fashioned high beavertail and a grip angle mirroring the 1911 platform produce less perceived recoil and muzzle flip. Speaking of the grip angle, a pair of replaceable backstraps (flat and curved) is included with the FNS pistol.
The wide, beveled mouth on the magazine well makes slapping a magazine in under stress a snap. Those magazines have polished bodies and polymer bases, and in the Compact version have 10- and 14-round capacities, with a spacer on the body of the latter.
FNS pistols feature articulating triggers. I find their trigger pulls to be consistent and fairly smooth. The trigger has a reset that can actually be heard and felt. Shooting quickly is not a problem.
Matte black and matte silver slides are narrower at the top than the bottom and have been nicely dehorned. Beveling on the slide’s front makes reholstering easier, something I am happy to report. Easier reholstering means less chance of fumbling. The extractor not only extracts, it indicates the chamber’s condition.
FN’s new FNS-40 Compact has all the excellent traits of its larger brother stuffed in a smaller package. These reductions amount to about 4.5 fewer ounces in weight, 0.5 inches in length, 0.5 inches in height, almost 0.5 inches of barrel and four rounds of capacity.
The wide, deep front cocking serrations were retained in the Compact, something many companies don’t do when building a smaller version of a full-size gun. Also, like its older sibling, the FNS-40 Compact uses a steel recoil spring assembly.
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The FNS-40 Compact felt great in the hands, balancing well. With the curved backstrap in place, the Compact had a little too much reach to the trigger for a perfect fit for my medium-sized hands. I swapped the flat backstrap and the FNS-40 Compact fit my hands perfectly, with just the right reach to the trigger for precision and rapid fire.
Before heading to the range, I checked the trigger pull weight. It was a nice 6.5 pounds, which felt lighter with a nice reset working as advertised.
Recoil, regardless of ammo, was very controllable, unlike some smaller .40-caliber pistols I’ve tested. I credit the frame, which allows the pistol to sit lower in my hand, dropping the bore line, for this reduction. Through double-taps, precision shots and even magazine dumps the sights were back on the target quickly, and placed well.
The improved sights on the FNS-40 Compact worked as advertised, as well. They were quick to acquire and reacquire. Everything worked together to provide several good range sessions, handling every challenge I threw at the pistol with all of my usual drills.
I had no holster on hand for the FNS-40 Compact, but there are plenty of holsters available for the full-size pistols. I’d be surprised if there weren’t a number of quality holsters available for the gun by the time you read this, and no doubt more waiting in the wings.
When I moved to the accuracy portion, I confess to already having some preconceived expectations because of the excellent performance until this point. I was not disappointed. I have frequently failed to get accuracy as good from .40 S&W pistols as from their 9mm counterparts. I did not have a FNS-9 Compact on hand to compare its accuracy with that of my test gun, but the results from the FNS-40 Compact were better than most .40s I’ve previously tested.
All groups fired were less than 1.65 inches, with the best groups hovering in the 1.5-inch neighborhood, all at 25 yards from the bench. These results put the FNS-40 Compact easily in the category of defensive or duty weapons. Precision shots, such as a head, should prove no problem for the FNS-40 Compact.
The articulating trigger has something to do with this accuracy, and with practical accuracy in a shooter’s hands. I did not have to struggle shooting from the bench or during practical exercises with the FNS-40 Compact’s nice trigger.
As the gun smoke cleared from my second range trip, I had empty cases strewn all over the range, targets with an abundance of holes in them and hands in good condition despite the fact that I had been shooting a .40 S&W pistol—a lot. I was pleased with my results and pleased with the FNS-40 Compact’s performance.
FN America may have been a little late to the polymer-framed/striker-fired party, but its FNS family of pistols is made up of some strong contenders. All most shooters need to become quite interested in the FNS family of pistols is to have one in their hands and a chance to shoot it.
Is the FNS-40 Compact pistol for everyone? It certainly could be. It’s an excellent-handling pistol with all the accuracy one could want, and should meet everyone’s needs. For concealed carry or home defense, it’s a reliable pistol capable of delivering hits right where they are needed! If a 9mm is more to your liking, take a look at the new FNS-9C that is available, too!
For more information, visit http://www.fnhusa.com or call 703-288-3500.