Innovation is the hallmark of FN and is clearly represented in cutting-edge designs like the 5.7x28mm FN P90 Personal Defense Weapon, PS90 semi-automatic carbine, and FN Five-seveN pistol. The 5.7x28mm ammo round is taking the country by storm as the fastest-growing craze in shooting sports. Low recoil, lightweight, and very flat shooting. 5.7 ammunition was originally designed as a military replacement for 9mm sub-machine guns favored by many NATO units. The 5.7x28mm round is dimensionally the same bullet as the 5.56mm/.223. Typically most bullets and ammunition will range in the 28-grain to 40-grain weights. While there are many varieties of 5.7 ammunition made (SB193 Subsonic, SS190 Ball, SS191 Tracer, SS192 Training 28-gr JHP, SS195LF Lead-Free, and SS197 V-MAX), only the SS195 and SS197 Hornady Vmax are available as sporting ammunition to the general public.
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How Powerful IS 5.7x28mm Ammo?
A lot of people are interested in 5.7x28mm for home protection and/or for concealed carry. The argument goes that it goes through body armor (which, in fairness, it does; select loadings are known for penetrating up to Level IIIa) and that you get greater capacity, which means you’re MOAR ARMD!!! or something to that effect.
Terminal Performance Of The 5.7x28mm
Ammunition testing by Dr. Martin Fackler that appeared in the Spring 2000 (Vol.4, No.3) of Wound Ballistics Review journal of the International Wound Ballistics Association (a professional society for people who study wound ballistics) found that even when fired from a P90 (the FiveseveN was not in production yet) a 31-gr loading – with an average velocity of 2329 fps – was capable of penetrating soft body armor, but average penetration didn’t exceed 10.6 inches even in bare gelatin, less than 9mm. Permanent wound cavities were roughly one-third the size of 9mm.
The point here is that outside of certain attributes – a definite ability to penetrate body armor, flatter trajectory and greater magazine capacity – it’s not some sort of ballistic wunderkind. It performs pretty well for the size of the projectile, but it’s just not the great leap forward, some say.
But what about in the real world? After all, testing isn’t everything; what proves efficacy in the field is efficacy in the field.
5.7x28mm In Actual Use
It’s in use with plenty of military and police units, albeit with the P90. Apparently, it works well enough for them to keep buying it.
It isn’t pleasant to contemplate, but the Ft. Hood shooter in 2009 used an FNH FiveseveN in the commission of his crimes. Thirty-two people were wounded, and 13 were killed. Lethality…is therefore established, including with center-of-mass hits. It’s alleged – if someone finds the autopsy reports or something else official that confirms it, let us know in the comments – that 5.7mm rounds tumble in tissue, leading to greater blood loss.
I haven’t found anything official about the round’s use in police service or used in defensive shootings. Some people on a number of message boards and forums ’round the interwebs have intimated or repeated second- or third-hand knowledge of agency use of P90s, and the results are said to be a mixed bag. Some found them effective, some not at all.
In short, it appears that the 5.7x28mm round IS effective in the real world, despite the deficiencies compared to traditional cartridges used for personal defense. 5.7mm has a flatter trajectory, meaning you can hit targets more easily at longer range. It is definitely effective against soft body armor, though it doesn’t overpenetrate when used on fleshy targets. You can definitely carry a lot more rounds. That said, 9mm is the default for a bevy of good reasons, and that isn’t likely to change.
But you pay for the privilege. The guns cost more. They aren’t the easiest pistols to conceal. The ammunition costs more and isn’t nearly as widely available. And do those costs totally justify the benefits? Well, that’s up to you.
Look, there’s no perfect cartridge. The question is what deficiencies you are comfortable living with.
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