FNH makes a splash in the carry market with its new striker-fired FNS-9 Compact.
In 2011, FNH entered the modern striker-fired pistol market. The FNS fit the mold of the current standard with a polymer frame, two-stage, striker-fired trigger that’s hinged like the Smith & Wesson M&P line. As do most of the duty-style, striker-fired guns, the FNS uses a double stack magazine with a capacity of 17+1 in 9mm and 14+1 in .40 S&W. My friend Chris Cerino, of “Top Shot” fame, used one for a while in 3-Gun matches, and his wife, Michelle Cerino, still does. I recently had a chance to shoot the long slide version with a 5.5-inch barrel and was impressed with how flat shooting it was.
What makes a great duty pistol or competition pistol, however, doesn’t necessarily make a great defensive carry gun—an important fact since the hottest segment of the current firearms market is concealed carry. Carry guns need concealability and comfort in addition to accuracy and reliability. The new compact version utilizes a shorter 3.6-inch barrel and shorter grip frame. It weighs 23.4 ounces. At its thickest point, the ambidextrous slide release is 1.3 inches wide and has a total length of 6.7 inches, making the FNS Compact small and light enough for daily carry.
The shorter grip frame accommodates a 12-round magazine in the 9mm version tested. The .40 S&W version has a capacity of 10+1 with the standard compact magazine. My test gun came in a hard plastic case with three magazines. One is a compact, flat-bottom magazine that provides maximum concealment. The other features an extended base that allows all four fingers on the grip, and the third is a full sized 17-round magazine with an extender sleeve.
The magazine release is ambidextrous, and I found the left side location a bit harder to manipulate than normal. It’s an oval shaped button that’s almost flush; I had to push hard for a magazine drop. I had others try it, and they observed the same. For some reason, I found the right side release easier to access with my right index finger. That’s not a method I normally use, but it was easy with the FNS Compact. Making the release unobtrusive is a good idea for concealment, so I suppose it’s a tradeoff. There are two backstraps to allow for better hand fit. The grip area is covered with little pyramids that provide good grip surface without being obtrusive.
The sights are a three-dot system with both front and rear sights in dovetails, allowing for drift adjustment of the rear for windage. There’s a front rail for lights and lasers and a bit of textured surface on the front of the trigger guard. There are front and rear slide serrations, and the slide is easy to grip and operate. The extractor serves as a tactile and visual loaded chamber indicator.
Every operational feature of the FNS is ambidextrous except the takedown lever, which has no bearing on normal operation. Take down is simple: Remove the magazine and check for clear, lock the slide to the rear, rotate the takedown lever down, release the slide and depress the trigger. The double recoil springs are contained in the guide and easy to remove and replace. It’s one of the easier striker-fired guns to field strip.
Shooting the FNS compact at 10 yards, unsupported, deliberate fire, I managed to put 8 of 10 shots into well under an inch. I called one shot left, and there was another left shot I didn’t call that opened the group up to 1.56 inches, center to center. This is certainly adequate accuracy for a carry gun. I particularly liked the sights, which were bold with a large white front sight dot that almost filled the notch in the two-dot rear. I felt they would be fast and allow precision when needed.
The trigger was on par with other striker-fired compacts, predictable and capable without being too light. My test gun broke at just over 6 pounds—a reasonable pull for a defensive gun. The current belief is that match triggers don’t belong on defensive guns because defensive situations don’t generally require fine motor skills to perform well.
The first stage of the trigger had a bit of a squeaky feel, but the break was positive with only a bit of backlash. Reset was short and positive. Running the plates at 10 yards was easy, with recoil being remarkably comfortable and flat. Magazine changes were fast and easy once I acclimated myself to the magazine release. The slide release is a bit hard to manipulate because it’s rounded at the top and hard to depress.
There are so many excellent guns currently available for the concealed carry citizen. With so many good guns available, the choice comes down to more minor features that the user might prefer. Of course, brand loyalty can also make a difference.
There are major players in the game, but there’s no doubt the FNS-9 Compact is as good as any gun in the category. It has reliability, accuracy and concealability. Whether you choose the mild-mannered 9mm or the more potent .40, the FNS Compact is a great defense pistol choice for the concealed carry citizen.
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Capacity: 12 + 1 and 17 + 1 as tested in 9mm
Magazines: 3 magazines, one for concealment, one with a finger extension, and one full-sized with an extension sleeve.
Barrel: 3.6 in.
Sights: Drift adjustable, three dot
Frame: Polymer with interchangeable backstrap
Length: 6.7 in.
Height: 4.58 in.
Weight: 23.4 oz.
Options: Standard or manual safety
This article appeared in the July 31, 2015 Concealed Carry issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.