ROUNDS FIRED: 2201 FAILURES: 4 PARTS BREAKAGES: 0
The long awaited first update on the FNH FNS-9 Longslide (FNS-9L from now on) test gun is at hand, I’ve had the guns for about 7 weeks now, and the weather has finally improved to the point where I can do some shooting. So a bit of quick background on the gun itself, and then I’ll jump right into the meat of the update.
Look, it’s twins!!
The FNS-9L is a polymer frame, striker fired, double action pistol that in it’s 9mm format holds 17 rounds in the magazine 1 in the chamber. I could bore you to death with the “details” but suffice to say it’s FNH’s version of a Glock 34. The pistol comes in a nice plastic case, includes 3 magazines, 2 back-straps, and the ubiquitous cable gun lock. Most of the standard stuff you’d expect to see with a new pistol these days. Out of the box I was immediately struck by the placement of the controls, and the fact that the gun is truly ambidextrous. Everything just felt like it was right where it needed to be to run the gun well. Turns out that there was some truth to that while also being completely inaccurate, all at the same time. If you think that sounds like a contradiction you’d be correct…get ready for more of them. As I dry-fired the pistols for the first time I noticed something interesting, they felt noticeably different from one another in the hand, so much so that I could easily identify either pistol by feel alone. I had several other people try this, and each person noticed the same phenomenon. It wasn’t a bad thing, just…odd. Speaking of feel of the grip, the FNS-9L has what many consider to be a very aggressive grip texture. It is aggressive, just not where I want it to be, though that wasn’t readily apparent.
Anyway, having decided which pistol I was going to be shooting I began to look for some of the things I’m used to having for my carry guns, namely night sights and a holster/mag pouch combo… … … … … For those that couldn’t tell, the periods there are the space where the aftermarket support should be. If I had to pick one major fault in the platform, it would be the lack of support that the aftermarket provides. The best part is that even when a company does support the gun, often times the specific parts for the FNH are backordered…severely. Case in point, Trijicon makes their fine HD night sights for the FNS series of pistols. Score, that’s what I’ve been using for the last couple of years and I love them. Unfortunately nowhere has them in stock. Ah well, the nice thing was that a Holster was a bit easier for me since I’m on a first name basis with several excellent holster makers. A quick drive to Pittsburgh and I had a great Dark Star Gear AIWB holster and several of their mag pouches, including a prototype reverse cant pouch that I will talk about in greater detail another time.
Who knew making a holster looked so much like carving a pumpkin?
The Pistol-Training orange aids in tucking the butt of the gun in close to the body…ok, not really but it is cool to be able to easily look into the mouth of the holster for obstructions…
Finally working with the gun from the holster I noticed a couple of things. First being that the grip while feeling aggressive, was doing very little to actually keep the gun from shifting around in my hands. I blame this on the lack of texture higher up on the grip towards where the base of my support hand thumb ends up as I’m shooting. Something else I noticed, reloads with the FNS-9L are stupid fast/consistent. With very few reps I was hitting times on par with/slightly faster than I was hitting with my Sig 226′s after shooting 30,000 rounds through the platform in the last 6 months. Part of this is due to the size of the magazine well on the gun and part of it is due to the positioning of the magazine release, it’s just so darn easy to hit (more on that later). The gun itself seems accurate, though I’ve not had a chance to shoot it for groups as of yet. Here’s a video of me working from the holster on a reduced size silhouette at 40 or so yards…
An even more telling thing to me however, was my first couple of attempts at Todd Green’s excellent F.A.S.T. Drill. Just as a bit of background, the best time I’ve ever shot this drill clean in, my absolute personal best is, 4.79 seconds. That was with my last test pistol after I had had about 16,000 rounds of practice. Here’s a video of me shooting it clean in 4.82 seconds on only my 4th attempt ever with the FNS-9L. Color me impressed…
So for you sharp eyed readers you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the 4 failures with the gun yet, but I have alluded to them. On 4 separate occasions in the same range session while drawing the gun at speed I managed to bump the right side magazine release just hard enough so that when I fired the first shot the force of the recoil would drop the magazine out the bottom of the gun. Upon closer inspection I discovered that it was IMPOSSIBLE for my hand to not end up resting on top of the magazine release if I established a proper firing grip. When I had been going slower it hadn’t mattered that much because I wasn’t driving to the gun hard enough to trigger the magazine release. At speed however it became an easily repeatable, and a major issue. A quick phone call to FNH had a prototype low-profile magazine release headed my direction, but at that point my confidence in the gun was completely destroyed. The FNS-9L came off of my belt and my Sig P226 rode with me on the drive back home.
The next day brought a fedex package containing the new magazine release as well as some night sights they had been able to find for me. Not my preferred HDs, but, better than nothing. I quickly installed the new magazine release and drove out to the range. A quick 500 rounds, mostly of draws where I was trying to get the pistol to repeat the problem, produced no issues. Additionally a package from Talon Gun Grips with a set of both their skateboard and rubber grip decals showed up. So far I’ve been trying the skateboard texture and enjoying it quite a bit, the gun has zero shift while shooting which is what I was going for. I did have to remove the grip from the back-strap of the FNS-9L because I discovered it was impeding my draw by not allowing my hand to slide up the back of the gun, otherwise I’ve been perfectly pleased.
Prototype magazine release, as well as the Talon Gun Grip.
So where do we stand right now? The lack of aftermarket support is annoying, majorly so, but I can’t really blame that on FNH, or the gun (Well I could, but it wouldn’t be fair). The magazine release issue seems solved, so that’s something, though I’m still bothered that it happened in the first place. I’m concerned that not enough people who depend on this gun have gotten the chance to work with it from the holster. If you’re using one of these, see if the issue is repeatable for you. I will fully admit that I’m more aggressive than most in establishing my grip and driving to the gun, so it may be a problem that most people won’t have. On the sight front I’m hoping to have some new sights on the gun in the next week or two if all goes according to plan, we’ll see.
The FNS-9L is probably the gun I’ve both hated and loved the most at once. There are things that I find difficult to like, namely the lack of aftermarket support as well as the poor from the factory texture placement and magazine release. With all that having been said, I absolutely love this gun as well. The fact that I can perform so well with it while having very few rounds through it speaks to the potential it has. I’m hoping that as the test continues, and I overcome each issue with time, it grows to become my favorite polymer handgun. Only time will tell.
For now, I continue to carry it, and rely on it every day for the personal protection of myself and my loved ones… So I guess at the end of the day it’s doing something right.
Sneaky little Hobbitses…what has it got in it’s pockets…