Last weekend I was teaching a class at TDI and I noticed that John Benner (TDI’s Owner) was packing a new gun. It was FN’s new S-Model Striker Fired pistol. John has carried a gun professionally longer than I’ve been alive, so when he gives something his endorsement, I pay attention.
John purchased several of these pistols and has been using them as rental range guns for beginning students. He told me he has yet to see any of the pistols malfunction. The students like them. John thinks they are just as reliable as a Glock with a better grip angle and ambidextrous controls. I had to shoot it.
Fortunately, John let me run some rounds through his pistol that very night. While I don’t have quite the enthusiasm for the weapon that he does, it seems like a pretty good gun.
Here is the description of the gun from FN’s website:
The FNS™-9 is the latest handgun innovation by FN Herstal.
The FNS™-9 pistol features a pre-loaded striker mechanism together with an optional manual safety, hence combining fast and accurate shooting and optimal safety.
Additionally, the well thought out design of the FNS™-9 results in a stable, highly ergonomic and ambidextrous pistol that is easy to operate.
The pre-loaded striker mechanism of the pistol means that energy has been pre-loaded partially. This ensures a short and light trigger pull identical for all shots allowing fast and accurate shooting.
The FNS™-9 has a low bore axis providing minimized perceived recoil and reducing muzzle rise for a perfect weapon controllability.
The handgun features a newly designed three-dot combat sights with deep rear sight notch which improved significantly the accuracy.
The FNS™-9 pistol comes standard with a large number of ergonomic features such as:
– Ultra nonslip checkered grips for better prehension
– Front serrations for easy press check
– Three interchangeable backstrap inserts quickly adapt to the pistol to the shooter’s hand size.
All operating controls are fully ambidextrous:
– Slide stop
– Magazine catch
– Manual safety
The pistol features a 4” hammer-forged stainless steel barrel and ultra-hard coating on stainless steel slide and barrel.
The high quality material is fully tested and fired under severe conditions prior to dispatch.
The pistol accepts all military and law enforcement duty ammunition.
John had removed the interchangeable backstraps to create the smallest grip diameter possible. It made the gun feel like a 1911 with a flat backstrap, only a little thicker. It wasn’t bad, but being a Glock shooter, I wasn’t used to the grip angle and had a little trouble with the gun’s pointability.
Sights were good (Novak- style) and recoil felt comparable to a Glock 19. The barrel is the same length as a Glock 19, but the grip has the length of a Glock 17 and holds 17 rounds. The gun was perfectly reliable for every round I shot.
I didn’t really care for the trigger. While not bad, it was both longer and grittier than either the Glock or the Smith and Wesson M&P. I could probably get used to it in time, but it really doesn’t compare with the Glock.
As I said, I’m not quite as impressed with the gun as others are. I have no need for a flat backstrap, different grip angle, or ambidextrous controls. You may.
I think this would be a good gun for the following people:
– 1911 shooters who want to transition to a striker fired pistol
– Someone who doesn’t feel “safe” with the Glock’s trigger
– Someone who wants a polymer pistol with truly ambidextrous controls
– Someone who wants a polymer striker-fired pistol that isn’t a Glock.
– If you have large hands and appreciate a beavertail on the grip of your pistol
I think anyone else would be better served with an M&P or a Glock pistol.
I spent the weekend teaching down at TDI and talked to some of the guys about how the FN has continued to perform as a hard use range gun. The instructors carrying them noted a very serious problem with the gun which had gone unrecognized until recently.
There are a couple of situations where the slide will lock up cannot be racked. When this happens, the slide can only be released by pulling the trigger. This can be disasterous in a defensive situation (especially during a malfunction if you can’t clear a bad round) and dangerous even for more casual shooting if an inexperienced person is unfamiliar with the problem.
According to the instructors with whom I spoke, the slide locking problem happens most often if the muzzle is struck (which could occur during a struggle over the gun or if the gun is dropped in a fight). It doesn’t seem to take much force to cause the slide to freeze.
Slide lockup also occurs when the butt of the gun is struck while the muzzle is pointed in any direction below horizontal (from parallel with the ground downward). This could happen when aggressively seating a magazine or when performing a malfunction clearance drill.
The TDI webmaster posted a couple of short videos on YouTube to demonstrate the problems.
TDI Instructor David Bowie first identified the problem and has been in contact with the factory about the cause and potential solution. The weak trigger spring is one issue, but there is another as well. With hope, the factory will take implement David’s solution and fix the problem.
I spoke with John Benner today. He stated that FN has fixed the issue on their new weapons and replaced all of the school’s guns free of charge. John says that he has been unable to duplicate the malfunction with the new guns.
Furthermore, John told me that he thinks the pistols are the best out of the box polymer handguns currently manufactured today. He prefers the FNS over both the Glock and the M&P. That’s a hearty endorsement!