FNH FNX-45 — A Shooting Review

Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal (FNH) FNX-45 — As reliable as it is intimidating

In July of last year I blogged about my search for a home defense weapon to replace a rather disappointing Taurus PT 24/7 Pro DS I had acquired specifically for that role (see:  Replacing a Home Defense Weapon).  The problem with the Taurus?  Reliability.  The PT 24/7 Pro DS was quite simply one of only two handguns I have ever purchased over several decades that flat out failed to properly cycle ammunition.  And even though I sent it in for warranty work, by the time it returned I had irretrievably lost all faith in the weapon for its assigned role.  Without any post-warranty test firing on my part it immediately went on consignment at my local gun store.  May Taurus have fixed its problems, and may the next owner have better luck with it.  As for me, Taurus is no longer a consideration for any future firearm acquisition.  There’s simply too much at stake when it comes to such matters.

The New Kid on the High-Capacity .45 Block

The considerations for the Taurus’ replacement were fairly basic:  The new weapon would have to be .45 ACP; it would have to at least match the 12+1 capacity of the handgun it would replace; for safety it would require either a double-action first pull or an external, manually operated safety; it would need an accessory rail for mounting a laser targeting system; and this time it would have to be a quality product from a known, reliable manufacturer.  This time around price was not a consideration — the Taurus proved to me that an “affordable” price is a false economy if you wind up having to replace the weapon and sell it at a loss.

A well-appointed kit — hard case; extra, thicker back strap; and a very generous three 15-round magazines

A visit to my favorite local gun store (Collector’s Gun Exchange owned and operated by the ever-friendly and helpful Mr. Paul Lee) helped me to narrow my search to two weapons — The Heckler & Koch (H&K) USP-45 which matches the Taurus’ 12+1 rounds, and FNH’s new FNX-45 which, at 15+1 rounds, far surpasses it.  In the end it wasn’t even close.  In addition to the higher capacity the FNX-45 was fully ambidextrous (a minor consideration, but possibly important if you ever have to engage left handed), a much better trigger in both double- and single-action, and it cost several hundred dollars less for a weapon from a manufacturer with a comparable reputation to H&K’s.

FNX-45 Cocked and Locked

So how does the FNX-45 perform?  In a word:  Masterfully.  But first the basics.  As previously mentioned the FNX-45 is fully ambidextrous save for the take-down lever.  Controls for magazine release, slide release, and manual thumb safety (which doubles as a decocker when pressed downward beyond the firing position) are fully duplicated on both sides of the weapon.  Additionally the manual safety allows for safely carrying the weapon in M1911-style “Cocked-and-Locked” mode, which means that the hammer is fully cocked into single-action mode.  With the safety engaged the fully cocked hammer will not fall even if the trigger is inadvertently operated.  This addresses the concerns of those who for whatever reason do not feel comfortable learning to operate a traditional (and inherently very safe) double-action/single-action trigger system.  As I train that way with nearly all my weapons (save for a Colt M1991A1), this is not really a consideration with me.

FNH FNX-45 with SIG Sauer Targeting Laser Attached

FNH FNX-45 with SIG Sauer Targeting Laser Attached

On the range the first thing you notice about the FNX-45 is the remarkable lack of recoil.  It is without question the softest shooting .45 ACP weapon I have ever personally fired, and I’ve fired many — Colt 1911 Gold Cup; Colt M1991A1; SIG P220; SIG P220 Compact; SW99; and of course the Taurus PT 24/7 Pro DS, the gun that got us to this point.

I attribute this to several factors:  The FNX-45 has a lot of mass — 2 pounds 1 ½ ounces empty and almost 12 ounces more when fully loaded.  But there’s something else going on here, and I believe it has to do with the locked breech mechanism.  There appears to me to be a considerable amount of travel before the barrel unlocks from the slide, much more in my opinion than most other handguns.  Take a look at what I mean:

Slide and Barrel at Rest

Slide and Barrel at Rest

The Point at which the Barrel unlocks from the Slide

Almost at the Point at which the Barrel unlocks from the Slide

Just eyeballing it, it appears that the barrel and slide are locked up for a full 7mm of travel before they disengage.  On many weapons you have to watch closely to see any movement before the barrel unlocks.

The trigger is good.  Almost great, even.  This is after all a combat weapon rather than a match-grade pistol.  As is typical of hammer-fired weapons, the double-action is long and moderately heavy (but less so than many double-action pistols).  It also has no tactile feedback just before the trigger breaks and the hammer falls.  In close quarters this doesn’t really matter, and the trigger is not overly heavy to the point where I couldn’t keep on target even at a range of about fifteen yards.  Single-action is better, but not perfect.  Trigger take-up is about half an inch (almost 13mm) before resistance is met.  Beyond that point the trigger mushes along for perhaps another eighth of an inch before the trigger trips.

A word about the trigger reset:  A short reset is not all that important to me as I don’t believe in pushing the envelope in a defensive situation.  Better in my opinion to let the trigger go fully forward and take the followup shot from that position rather than chance missing the reset point.  I realize however that others disagree, so I also checked this aspect of the trigger.  The reset point is about ½ inch with a positive tactile indication and barely audible click, but then you’re back to the previously mentioned mushy, eighth of an inch creep before reaching the trip point.  That’s just a tad on the long side from my experience with semiautomatics, but not dramatically so.

In the final analysis the trigger is certainly not as great as a SIG P22(X) or even a Walther P99 AS, and nowhere near the perfection obtained in the Colt Gold Cup or the crispness of a Walther PP-series pistol in single-action mode, but it’s better than adequate (in my opinion better than H&K and light-years ahead of Glock, the Walther PPS, or the Springfield Armory XD-line) and presents absolutely no problems in holding on target.  Indeed, the soft recoil more than makes up for any trigger slop in allowing for very quick target reacquisition for followup shots.  Accuracy is simply superb.  I would put this pistol up against anything else on the market short of perhaps a SIG P210 or a match-grade 1911.

Disassembled FNH FNX-45

Disassembled FNH FNX-45

Take down is incredibly simple.  Lock the slide back, rotate the take down lever, release the slide, and pull the slide forward off the rails.  It’s just that easy.  After that you remove the guide rod with captive spring and pluck out the barrel.   Reassembly is equally quick and carefree.  While we’re at this point let me mention a feature of the FNX-45 I’ve not seen on other polymer frame pistols, but which makes an incredible amount of sense for a weapon that was designed for the abuse of the military — replaceable frame rails.  I doubt most people would ever fire the weapon to the point where replacing the rails would ever become necessary, but it’s nice to know that the FNX-45 is made for the long haul.

Replaceable Frame Rails

Now for the downside of 15+1 rounds — don’t even think about trying to thumb that many rounds of .45 ACP.  Do yourself a favor and get an UpLULA or similar thumb-saver.  You’ll be glad you did.

There are a lot of options out there for home defense:  Shotguns, carbines, handguns.  Most people underestimate the penetration dangers of a 12-guage shotgun.  Consequently they overload it with buckshot.  That’s a surefire recipe for disaster — you may get the intruder and your next-door neighbor, or one of your own in the room behind.  Carbines offer a lot of firepower, but they’re hard to maneuver inside tight hallways or through doorways when necessary and they, too, are subject to over-penetration dangers.  That leaves handguns.  And as I mentioned in my previous article on choosing the FNX-45 to replace that rather disappointing Taurus, “The .45 ACP with it’s heavy weight and low velocity (for reduced chance of over-penetration and consequent danger to innocents) makes it in my opinion the best home defense option outside of a shotgun or a semiautomatic rifle.

Link to my review of the FNH FNX-9:  FNH FNX-9 — A Shooting Review

Next week I will be giving a review on a carbine that truly is adequate for home defense because it uses pistol-caliber ammunition, but which still suffers from maneuverability issues inherent to the design — The Beretta CX4 Storm chambered in 9mm.  I’ll also be evaluating the EOTech 512 holographic sight I installed on the CX4.  Until then I would have to say that in my opinion the FNH FNX-45 may very well be the perfect home defense weapon.



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