Two Guns in One? FN's FNS
The FNS will hit the mark with value-conscious shooters who demand a quality service pistol.
For more than a century, the Belgian firm of Fabrique Nationale de Armes de Guerre (FN) has been an iconic institution in the world of armsmaking. In the early days, some of those guns came from the genius of American designer John Browning, who made frequent Atlantic crossings to conduct his European business. Browning forever owns the loyalty of America for his many military models, some of which are still in active service with U.S. forces. As a matter of fact, some U.S. service firearms come from an FN facility in South Carolina.
The association of FN and the American market—military, police and sporting—remains strong. The pistol at hand is a perfect example of FN’s willingness to build guns that are specifically designed for American use. Made in the United States by an FN subsidiary called FNH USA, the pistol is known as the FNS.
It is a gun that reflects American preferences in full-size service pistols, appropriate for both police holster carry and civilian personal defense. The FNS is the latest in a modern series of FN pistols designed to compete with other major brands. After earlier unsuccessful efforts to modernize the aging classic Hi-Power and several unsuccessful polymer guns, FNH came out with a series of pistols in the popular American chamberings. Called the FNP series, these pistols lasted several years until updated into the current hammer-fired FNX line. Interestingly enough, the FNPs included a .357 SIG version, but the FNX line does not. At this point, the striker-fired FNS lineup is either 9 mm Luger or .40 S&W, but a .45 ACP is on the way. The relative size of the various cartridges means that one frame will do for 9 mm/.40 S&W, but a slightly larger one will be required to build a .45 ACP gun.
This is a preview of a completely new version of the FNS pistol, which is so new that a final suggested retail price was not available at press time—the price shown in the accompanying table is an estimate from FN. It is called the Combo Kit and our sample 9 mm Luger Combo Kit gun came in an elaborate black nylon case with designated pockets for the two extra magazines, lock, manual, etc. along with a pocket that holds a complete top half in .40 S&W. The receiver is the same for both chamberings, so you can shoot either of the popular pistol chamberings in the same gun. Just swap the uppers. You will need a different magazine, but two clearly marked .40 S&W magazines are included. In a sense, this FNS is a gun-and-a-half if you count the parts, but it is in effect two pistols—a 9 mm Luger with three magazines and a .40 S&W with two.
The implications of this approach are huge. Shooters who want to shoot a lot in practice can buy the less-expensive bulk 9 mm, then change back to .40 S&W when there’s a need for better terminal effect. A quick telephone survey of local
gun shops indicated the savings in my area would run around 25 to 35 percent. You could amortize the additional top half pretty quickly at that rate.
The second so-called “top half” consists of a complete slide, barrel and recoil spring with guide. The spring is calibrated for the barrel and slide—do not mix them up. Swapping calibers takes only seconds, and it can be done in less time than it takes to describe it. Unload the pistol, lock the slide to the rear and pivot the takedown lever down 90 degrees. Depress the slide lock and ease the slide assembly off the receiver. Replace the slide with the alternate one, rack it to the rear, and lock it in place. Pivot the takedown lever up 90 degrees, and you’re ready to go in another caliber.
Whether it’s a 9 mm Luger upper installed on your gun or the .40 S&W, the gun behaves the same. The operating controls are on the receiver and are ambidextrous. Up-to-safe, down-to-fire thumb safeties are at the top rear edges of the receiver and a slide lock lever is about an inch forward of that. Magazine release buttons are near the lower rear corner of the trigger guard. Push in and the magazine will drop free of the pistol.