Shooting the FNX9 Pt. II: Defense Considerations
Despite having carried a handgun daily for a quarter-century as a peace officer and now via my concealed carry license, a particular pistol’s capabilities as an implement of protection do not always garner top billing with me. At this point in my life, enjoyment takes first place. Make no mistake; I have a selection of dedicated self-defense sidearms with which to draw blood should deadly, unlawful aggression leave no reasonable alternative, but these days I shoot primarily for entertainment and to maintain shooting ability.
Since my initial report on the FNX9, I have received several emails and PM’s on various gun forums asking whether or not it is a capable defensive arm. Because of this interest, I am approaching this topic a little sooner than anticipated. My preference is to evaluate slowly and objectively as I can only after several trips to the range and if appropriate, carrying the handgun concealed for at least a few weeks. Let me also add that I do not consider myself any sort of “expert”, and am not seeking such designation. I am merely a retired police officer (and police firearm instructor) and state concealed handgun license instructor. I have been an ardent student of the handgun and its use for four decades and nothing more. With that established, I’ll submit my observations and opinions of the FNX9 in the self-defense arena.
The first thing required of the defensive sidearm is as near perfect reliability as can be had. Having been in some tense situations over the years, the handgun you’re literally betting everything on MUST work if called upon. It just does. “Reliability” may not be the only factor that counts, but without it, nothing else matters much. If the pistol cannot be depended upon to fire in an emergency, its accuracy, caliber and other descriptors are moot.
At the conclusion of my initial report, I had fired over 700 rounds through my dark-finished FNX9 with zero failures of any form or fashion and about 300 through the two-tone. For those interested, the report is here:
Today’s shooting session added 320 additional shots through the dark-colored FNX for a total of no less than 1,020 shots of factory ammunition, both FMJ and JHP. Standard-pressure, +P and one brand of +P+ ammunition were tried. All fed with confidence-building “smoothness”.
If the pistol’s built-in mechanical accuracy is not to match-level, keep in mind that it was never intended to be, but it is well above what is commonly referred to as “acceptable service accuracy”. In my opinion, the FNX9 is mechanically capable of better grouping than probably 99.99% of its users, including me! Subjective to be sure, nothing has changed my opinion that the FNX9 is extremely comfortable to shoot both double and single-action.
Magazines were initially tough to load, but substantially improved with use and these magazines have not scratched cartridge cases as has been reported by other shooters.
Both double and single-action trigger-pulls have smoothed up since initial dry-firing before shooting commenced, but the trigger-pull weights remain about the same. (DA measures a hair under 12-lbs on this one with SA remaining at 4.5-lbs.)
In my opinion, the pistol’s relatively light weight for a service arm lends itself well to concealed carry. Empty, it weighs 24.4 ounces with the magazine in place. Since an empty pistol doesn’t mean that much to most of us, adding eighteen 124-gr. cartridges bumps the weight up by a half-pound to just over 32 ounces. Fully-loaded, the 18-shot FNX9 weighs approximately the same as an empty 14-shot all-steel Hi Power and a fully-loaded Hi Power is no “burden” as a “carry gun” in my lengthy experience with them.
The FNX9 may not be as easy to conceal as ever-shrinking 9x19mm subcompacts proliferate, but neither is it a problem. For more than a few years, I carried either an S&W 4” K-Frame, 5” 1911 or Browning Hi Power both openly (as a uniformed officer) or concealed (off-duty or after retirement) with little effort…and still do. (By the way, I live in Texas and know what heat can be, but with minor attention to dressing around the gun, carrying a service-size sidearm emphatically is not “The Impossible Dream”.) What is given up in easier concealment might just be a plus should one have to shoot his way out of “the dark place”. I believe that the smaller handguns be they autoloaders or revolvers can play a relevant role in protecting our collective hides, but also believe that unless one truly practices regularly with them, hit-potential under stress will be greater with a service-size sidearm. Some truly serious people that I know carry nothing smaller than a Glock 19 or Commander-size 1911-style pistol. One fellow routinely carries two XD 5” .45’s concealed as well as an extra magazine. Thus, if a person desires to do so, carrying the FNX9 concealed most likely can be managed.
My opinion on carrying this selective DA pistol in Condition One (“Cocked-and Locked”) has not changed; I do not suggest it. For me, it is not reliable. In my most recent range-session, I continued to inadvertently drop the hammer about half the time when disengaging the thumb safety against the clock. Some folks report not having this problem and attribute it to individual hand shapes. That may very well be the case, but for me, it just doesn’t work, but it may for you…if you prefer this mode of carry. I prefer thumb safeties to act solely as such and not double as decocking levers.
Shooting: For this session, my focus was two-fold. I wanted to examine the FNX9’s DA-characteristics when shooting both at speed and in slow-fire for maximum precision and once again see how it transitions from double to single-action firing controlled pairs. Final shooting would be in single-action from 15 yards. The other drills were shot at 10 yards. All shooting was done using a two-hand hold from a standing position. No shooting was done from a rest as was done in the initial report.
I’m not sure if this composite group consists of 30 or 32 shots, but was fired at 10 yards starting from a low-ready position with the FNX9’s hammer down and the thumb safety engaged. At the timer’s beep, a flash sight picture was obtained, the frame-mounted thumb safety disengaged and a controlled pair fired. Average time was approximately 1.1 second per pair. The ammunition was from CCI/Speer and touted as “lead free” about a decade ago when I bought it. I chose it because it proved accurate in my Hi Powers and because it apparently has harder-than-normal primers. Ammunition from this same lot would not reliably fire from a number of striker-fired pistols. It repeatedly fired flawlessly from the FNX9. Though it may not hold true for all DA/SA autopistols, I just did not find the transition from double to single-action a big deal with the FNX9. Group size is 5 1/8 x 5” inside the 7 ½”-diameter circle. Though I am not sure where all of the double-action shots hit within the circle, I do know that the outer ones from the 6 o’clock to 9 o’clock positions on the left were fired DA. I suggest that the first shot from the DA-autoloader is not necessarily “thrown away” or destined to miss as has been sometimes claimed. This was possibly truer with some of the older designs, but the smoothness and ergonomics of this pistol genre has truly improved in my opinion.
The two separate trigger-pull characteristics inherent with double-action semiautomatics are viewed very differently by different shooters. Some see them as an unnecessary impediment that can limit a shooter’s performance and much prefer a consistent trigger-pull, first shot to last, as is offered by single-action autos, those in DAO (Double-Action-Only) or the striker-fired pistols from Glock and others.
Others opine that hammer-forward-for-the-first-shot makes the traditional double-action automatic safer. Arguments can be made that the DA-auto is an attempt at a mechanical solution to a training issue or that when under stress, it really is safer. Negligent discharges can occur with any type handgun in my observation, but some designs do appear less tolerant of improper handling than others.
So which is the best for you, assuming that you have a choice?
In my opinion, it will be the one that trust yourself with most in the frantic and terrifying event of someone trying to kill you.
These 8 shots were fired double-action with no effort at speed and grouped approximately 1 9/16 x 1 3/8”. In my opinion, the double-action on the FNX9 (and several other DA/SA autoloaders) just is not the seemingly insurmountable problem as frequently described in the past.
Finishing up with single-action shooting from 15 yards using a two-hand hold resulted in this 20-shot group measuring 2 ¾” x 2 ¼”. I suspect that the FNX is more accurate than most of us, especially in a deadly force situation. The spread in this group is certainly due more to my human error than the pistol’s mechanical capability.
These exercises were repeated several times until I ran out of the ammunition at hand.
Conclusion: Is the FNX9 suitable for self-protection? In my opinion, the answer remains a qualified “yes”, though I admit having to assume that the design repeatedly proves itself reliable and durable. At present, the FNX9 does not have the history, scads of “torture tests” nor widespread, long-term use as some other “plastic pistols”, most notably, Glock.
The FNX design does have more internal parts than the Glock and while I do believe that may offer more potential for Mr. Murphy’s havoc, favorable reports on Beretta’s PX4 9mm indicate flawless function for tens of thousands of rounds. Considering FN’s positive reputation as a manufacturer of high-quality firearms, I am not overly concerned that my assumption will be proven incorrect.
At the same time, I absolutely loath that anything requiring more than field-stripping to clean, or replace requires sending the pistol back to the factory. I certainly understand liability concerns, but several shooters I’ve approached on this subject were pretty much turned off by it and wouldn’t purchase an FNX9 solely because of it. I believe that Glocks and other designs such as the 1911 and Hi Power that allow for reasonably easy detail-stripping trounce the FNX in this respect.
Assuming durability, the FNX9's major flaw is that it cannot be detail-stripped for cleaning, etc except by the factory in my opinion. As much as I like this pistol, I find myself considering selling it simply because of that requirement. It is only because of the positive comments I continue to hear of FNH customer support that I don't. What I am saying is that I REALLY want this pistol to be a "keeper".
As previously alluded to, the FNX9 permits cocked-and-locked carry. I find it “iffy” to do so, but suggest that this pistol may offer an advantage of being carried with the hammer forward and the thumb safety engaged. No time is lost in thumbing the safety lever downward and in the event of a gun grab; one’s opponent might not be able to shoot you with your own pistol as readily as with point-and-pull designs having no external safeties. Some will agree with this idea and others won’t; it makes me no difference and is merely offered as an observation.
At the present time, there does not appear to be much of a selection of FNX-specific holsters and accessories. This situation should improve if the pistol catches on.
In my opinion, the FNX9 has very favorable handling characteristics and should make a viable defensive arm. This one has proven absolutely reliable in well over a thousand shots with various bullet configurations and shows no undue wear. It is more than accurate enough for its defensive role. I find it an easy pistol to handle when transitioning from double to single-action.
In short, the FNX9 continues to work just fine. I’ll continue to shoot this one and unless you hear otherwise, it will still be performing well. Should that change, I’ll report it on this site.
The FNX9 is proving itself both reliable and more-than-satisfactorily accurate with a wide range of ammunition and my best guess is that it will prove durable over the long-term as well. If you want one, I think you can probably buy one without concern, assuming that not being able to detail-strip it doesn't outweigh this pistol's many positive features for you.