Tom McHale 06.03.15
New this year from FNH USA are compact models of their FNS series of guns. Available in both 9x19mm and .40 S&W, the Compact models share the same basic design features as their bigger siblings but are sized for carry.
I recently received an FNS-9 Compact model to run through the wringer. Let’s take a look.
The walking tour
The FNS-9 Compact is a striker-fired (hammerless) gun consisting of a stainless steel slide and polymer frame, coming in at 6.7 inches long. Of course, the important guts like slide rails and the fire control assembly are made of steel. The 3.6-inch barrel is cold hammer-forged.
The frame includes a MIL-STD 1913 accessory mounting rail with three slots and enough space to mount any of the lights and lasers I had on hand. The extractor is exterior and doubles as a loaded chamber indicator. You can see the bump just behind the chamber when something is in there, or feel it with your fingers.
One thing I noticed right off the bat is the useful sight configuration. You can order the FNS Compact models with either standard dot or tritium night sights. My sample gun arrived with the standard three-dot setup. What’s cool is that the front dot is noticeably larger than the two dots on the rear sight. It jumps out at you. It seems like such a simple improvement, but it really makes a difference with ease of acquiring a sight picture.
While I’m talking about sights, both front and rear are installed with dovetails and can easily be swapped if you like. The rear sight base is a low-profile, ramped design so it won’t snag on clothing.
The FNS-9 Compact is truly ambidextrous. Magazine release buttons are already present on both sides of the grip, so if you have to shoot offhand, the button is there and ready to go. An additional nod to true neutrality is demonstrated by the fact that there are slide lock levers already installed on both sides of the gun. They’re low-profile, so the opposite-side lever doesn’t get in the way. It’s just a nice touch that costs just a couple bucks more during manufacturing but makes a big difference for those who shoot left-handed. The takedown lever is on the right side, but this is not an “operational” feature, so I doubt anyone really cares where it’s located, as long as it’s out of the way.
The whole package comes in a hard plastic case with an interior molded to fit the gun and all three magazines. The case not only clamps shut, but has a padlock hole, so it’s ready to go for air travel.
Magazines and more magazines
The FNS-9 Compact comes with three different magazines, each with different capacities and configurations, so I want to take the time to go over that here. All three magazines are steel with polymer bases and followers.
Two of the magazines offer 12-round capacity. One has a flat base for maximum concealability, while the other 12-rounder has an extended finger shelf that angles down and forward. It doesn’t have room for another cartridge; it just gives you extra grip space for your pinkie finger. Using this I could get a full and proper grip on the gun with my (size large) hands.
The third magazine is great for spare magazine carry. It holds a whopping 17 rounds and, as a result, it extends below the base of the normal grip. You can use that as is, as you might if carrying concealed to keep it as small as possible. FN also includes a sleeve that covers the exposed part of this long magazine. It’s shaped exactly like the grip on the handgun, so when you use the extended magazine with the sleeve, it’s like holding a full-size FNS-40.
I did have one minor problem with the flat-base magazine. The extended one and the one with the finger extension worked perfectly and easily dropped free when I used the magazine release button. The flat-base magazine had some kind of bend or burr that caused it to hang up in the gun. If I had purchased this gun at retail, a quick call to FN would have gotten me a functional replacement I’m sure.
The FNS-9 Compact includes two backstrap panels so you can change the overall circumference of the grip area. I used it with the larger strap that provides a small bump on the rear of the grip. Speaking of the grip, the sides and back are moderately textured with a pattern of raised bumps. The front of the grip has very subtle horizontal ridges only and feels much smoother than the sides and rear.
I don’t have gorilla hands, but I do wear a size-large glove. Using the flat-base magazine, I easily fit my middle and ring fingers on the grip, with pinkie underneath. Using either of the other two magazines, I easily fit all fingers on the grip. As a comparison, although the guns are almost identical in size, I have trouble fitting two fingers on a Glock 26 standard grip. The overall height is about the same between the two guns, but the FNS-9 Compact has just a bit more length on the grip.
The trigger has a wide and comfortable face, with the lower section hinged as a trigger safety. Without drawing the hinged portion fully back, the trigger will not release. I measured trigger pull from the lower third of the trigger face, where my finger rests, at six pounds. The pull is slightly rough at the start and offers about three pounds of resistance during the quarter-inch take-up stage. From there, an additional eighth-inch of steady pressure breaks the shot. It’s solid and manageable for a carry gun and for that purpose, I like the extra take-up pressure weight.
The FNS-9 Compact is a very comfortable gun to shoot, much more so than the Glock 26 in my opinion. The frame fills your hand, and the wide and curved trigger behaves during recoil.
Accuracy and velocity
With most guns I test, accuracy is far better than the ability of most shooters, so the real test is to see what particular ammo a gun likes. To remove my eyesight as an accuracy-killing variable, I like to mount a Bushnell Elite 3500 Handgun Scope to rail-equipped pistols like the FNS-9 Compact. Yeah, it looks a little silly on a compact carry gun, but it sure does give me a perfect sight picture.
As this is a compact gun with a shorter sight radius (when used in the normal configuration without the scope), I chose to shoot groups at 15 yards. I also set up a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph 15 yards downrange to see what kind of velocity I got from different loads with the 3.6-inch barrel.
Check out the results from the American Eagle 147-grain flat point ammo. This is inexpensive practice stuff, but the FNS-9 Compact sure liked it. Thinking the five-shot group shown here was a fluke, I shot a number of others and they consistently came in at less than an inch.
Thoughts and epiphanies
If I had to sum up my feelings about this gun, I would classify it as a luxury model of something like a Glock 26. Although almost identical in exterior dimensions (I didn’t compare the written specs, I simply held them on top of each other), the FNS-9 Compact carries an extra two rounds in the magazine (12 versus 10). It also offers a number of nice touches like the true ambidextrous features and magazine assortment. It’s slightly heavier, and I’m sure that helps with the lower felt recoil. I’ve been shooting a full-size FNS-40 consistently for over a year, and the compact version doesn’t disappoint.
I’ve reviewed a number of FN America guns over the past couple of years and have always been impressed with the workmanship, fit, and attention to detail. You’ll find small features that aren’t obvious at first that make a big difference overall.
Only having fired several hundred rounds through this gun, I have to base the reliability vote on its core construction. When you look at how components are put together, the gun speaks quality and longevity. Slide fit is tight with no wobble and the polymer frame is beautifully finished. I have no reason to believe that this gun won’t provide a lifetime of reliable service.
The MSRP of the FNS-9 Compact is $599, less than other guns in the same size and weight category like the Glock 26 Gen 4. Considering the extras you get, overall quality of the gun and handling, it’s a great deal.
You get a lot for your money with the FNS-9 Compact and it’s a well-built gun. I’d recommend it.
Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.