FNH 40: a double-stack pistol that can fit smaller hands
By John C. Krull
Gun Week Production Manager
A couple of years ago, I read about a tactical shotgun that I really wanted to give a try. It was made by some company known by the initials FNH. I talked with the people at FNH and in a very timely manner I was sent the shotgun to evaluate and to do an article on for Gun Week. I was very impressed by the quality of the shotgun and its performance. That was back in August 2007, if I remember correctly.
Since that time I have learned a lot about FNH, which by the way stands for Fabrique Nationale Herstal. They primarily manufacture arms produced for police and the military, but many of their guns are available to the civilian population and do serve civilian purposes.
FNH’s website starts out the Q&A section with this statement. “In the field of defense, the name Fabrique Nationale Herstal (FNH) has been synonymous with innovation, quality and dependability for more than 100 years. FN was instrumental in the design and standardization of NATO’s 7.62x51mm and 5.56x45mm ammunition. The acceptance of military weapon designs like the M249, M240, various .50 caliber machine guns, and FAL (Light Assault Rifle) by more than 90 nations demonstrates our commitment to excellence. Today FN also manufactures the M16 assault rifle under license for the US Military.” So they are not exactly the new kid on the block.
They do have a US division that is referred to as FNH USA (PO Box 697, Dept. GWK, McLean, VA 22101; phone: 706-288-1292; online: fnhusa.com) and is the company we will be referring to as FNH for the rest of this article. They have a complete line of handguns, shotguns, less lethal systems, which I have shot, long-range precision rifles, which I’m going to shoot again, semi-auto carbines, and machine guns. Unfortunately for me, a good share of their guns and/or magazines are banned in the state of New York.
So while they are primarily a company with their direction aimed towards the military they do have a lot of stuff that is of interest to civilians. They do produce some really quality bolt-actions rifles, one of which I am awaiting and will report on when I get it, but here we are going to talk about one of their pistols, the FNH 40.
The FNH 40 is a double-stack .40 S&W caliber semi-automatic double-action pistol. I’m not usually the kid on the block who has the newest gear either in electronics, or ammunition when it first comes out. I’m usually quite happy with what I have been using for years and don’t always see the need for a new technogadget or a new caliber in ammunition. The good old .22 LR, .45 ACP, .38 Spl., .30-06 and the .22-250 are really all that I feel you need, but over the years I have grown fond of .22 Mag, .357 Mag, .308 Win and even the .223, along with other calibers. So I have held off on committing myself to any .40 S&W guns in any really heavy way. But two guns, the S&W M&P and now the FHN 40, have converted me to a .40 S&W person.
Now not only is this a changeover in a caliber of ammunition but it is also a great change in the type of gun. Both are DAO pistols with high-capacity capabilities.
One thing that has kept me away from pistols that have double-stack magazines is the fact that I have small hands; nothing I can do about that, so I have stuck with guns that fit my hands, usually 1911s. Several manufacturers have been offering interchangeable back straps with so that we small handed people can handle the guns safely and accurately. The FHN comes with two back straps. I have changed the original one for the flatter one which allows me to handle the pistol much easier. It is simple enough to remove. You have to take out only one screw and slip off the blackstrap that you don’t want and slide on the one you do want, replace the screw and you are all set. I’m much more comfortable with the thinner blackstrap.
The grip and frame of the FNH 40 is some kind of plastic composite material, like so many guns today. The slide, barrel, magazines and the internal parts are mostly steel, but I’m sure we will still hear the antis complaining about plastic guns that can defeat the metal detectors. BS!
The FNH 40 is not what can be called a DAO, double-action-only, pistol, which means that it works double-action on each and every pull of the trigger. The first pull of the trigger of an FNH 40 will initially cock the hammer and release the hammer, but each shot after that will be single-action and require less trigger pull than the first shot. The FHN 40 does have an exposed hammer. This is a feature of the FNH 40 that I really do like. I like to be able to see the hammer and to verify by my own sight as to whether the gun is cocked or uncocked. It is not safe to carry this gun with the hammer cocked because it does not have a safety as we know it on most semi-auto pistols. What may look like a safety to most is really a decocker. The decocker on the FNH 40 is ambidextrous, working from the left or the right side.
Just like you would have to put the safety back on before holstering a 1911-type firearm, you will have to remember to use the decocker that this gun has before reholstering.
The FNH does lock open on the last shot fired or, if you pull the slide to the rear while there is no magazine present in the magazine well, and you activate the slide stop. The slide stop is situated on the left side of the gun just in front of the decocker, similar to one on a 1911 type pistol.
In front of the slide stop is the takedown lever. It is right above the trigger and the gun must be cocked for it to be activated. Be careful, the first time I did this I got bit and received a nice blood blister for my trouble. When in doubt, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. Duh!
In the instruction manual they do recommend that you do not carry this gun with a cartridge in the chamber but wait until you are ready or need to shoot to chamber a round. For the police and military, they suggest that you refer to the procedures put out by your department.
This pistol is very different from what I am used to carrying and I have had to really think when using it rather then relying on the muscle memory that I have developed over the years on other types of guns. I not sure that this would be the best gun for a novice to learn on; it would depend on the novice and the instructor. I know that after having had to have shot the gun I wouldn’t want to have to drop the magazine to eject the round from the chamber before reinserting the magazine and reholstering.
The FNH 40 comes with three magazines; well, at least mine did. Magazines are available in both 14 rounds or 10 rounds, for those living in dictatorial states like New York that think we are going to be safer if we have fewer rounds. I still don’t understand that. I guess it’s to limit the mass murderers on how many people they can shoot before reloading. So, 14 + 1 is good and 10 + 1 still isn’t bad. If you need all 15 rounds you are probably in deep doo-doo anyway.
Another feature that I really like on the FNH 40 is that it has a molded in rail below the barrel to accept a light or a laser type sighting device. These lights have become very popular and are great if you get into a situation at night or during low light circumstances. I carry my light on a light carrier, made by BlackHawk (6160 Commander Pkwy, Dept. GWK, Norfolk, VA 23502; phone: 800-694-5263; online: blackhawk.com). It retails for $15.99. This carrier is designed for Picatinny rail mounted weapon lights. The belt clip allows use with any standard width pants belt. The M-3 Carrier is designed to lock the switch in the off position, preventing it from accidentally turning on while you are wearing it. Or, you can carry the light in the lens down position and it will protect the lens from damage. The high-strength Carbon-Fiber Composite ensures years of service.
A problem that I have had is getting a holster for the FNH 40 that I’m happy with. At first I couldn’t find any holster for the gun at all. Then after talking to FHN they sent me a molded holster and double mag pouch for the gun, but these both fit on the belt and not in the pants, which is easier for concealed carry.
The FN Shooter’s Pack came with a holster, a double mag pouch and a training barrel. This holster is meant to either slip onto your belt or to be used with the supplied molded paddle. For concealed carry I have always preferred an in-the-pants holster. Reholstering is easily done with just one hand and without having to look to see what you are doing, something that I consider important in a good holster. This holster is made by Bladetech USA (2506 104th St. Court South, Ste A, Lakewood, WA 98499; phone: 253-581-4347; online: blade-tech.com) and can be gotten right from FNH.
We were sent a second holster made by Cross Breed Holsters, which is an in-the-pants variation. This holster is also a molded one and allows for easy reholstering without looking with just one hand. I did have some problems with it that are maybe unique to me. This holster has a very large base and is quite wide. I was having a problem getting holster in place correctly while still being able to use the belt loops on my pants. Personally this holster I think I would like better as one that goes on the belt rather than one that goes in the pants.
The light that we mounted on the FNH is the TLR-2 by Streamlight (30 Eagleville Rd, Dept. GWK, Eagleville, PA 19403; phone: 800-523-7488; online: streamlight.com). I have worked with this light very often and have come to find it very functional and to my liking. This light not only is a light, but also a laser sighting device. There is a toggle switch on the rear of the light below the activator switch from which you select left, right or center. Left will turn on the laser only, which further has to be activated by the light/laser rocker switch. In the center position, the unit is turned off so as to not activate it when you don’t want to and to save the batteries. In the right hand position, the light and the laser both function in unison. When you think about it, it is really a nice way to go. The retail price of the TLR-2 is $483, but if you feel that you only need a light and not the laser capability then you can go with the TRL-1, which will cost you only $194.
We shot using four types of ammo from three different manufacturers. It is very difficult to say any thing here other than that they all functioned flawlessly without a jam or misfire and all grouped in the targets in 2 inches or less from a distance of 7 yards with a two-handed grip. When we moved back to 12 yards groups opened up to 4 to 6 inches but not with any great irregularity. Any of the flyers I’m sure were my fault and not of the gun or of the ammo.
The Black Hills Ammunition (PO Box 3090, Dept. GWK, Rapid City, SD 57709; phone: 605-348-9827; online: black-hills.com) we used first was some of their new ammo (red box) with a 155-grain JHP bullet. The other Black Hills load was their reloaded ammo (blue box) with a 180-grain JHP bullet. Personally I could tell no difference when shooting them. Also by looking at the cartridges you can’t tell the difference except by the head stamp on the brass.
Winchester Ammunition (Div. Olin Corp., 427 N Shamrock St, Dept. GWK, East Alton, IL 62024; phone: 618-258-3340; online: winchester.com) used was 165-grain Bonded Personal Protection rounds. They didn’t send as much test ammo as I would have liked, but what we shot performed equally as well as the others makes.
CCI/Speer (2299 Snake River Ave., Dept. GWK, Lewiston, ID 83601; phone: 800-256-8685; online: cci-ammunition.com) sent a couple of boxes of their Blazer Brass ammo. The rounds held a 165-grain FMJ bullet with a flat rather than rounded nose. I was very tempted to try these on my indoor range but really didn’t want to do any damage so I decided against it.
I do need to get some lead .40 S&W ammo so that I can practice at home. My house range will only stop lead bullets without sustaining damage. At the last gun show there was a small ammo manufacturer from the Syracuse area of New YorkTug Hill Cartridge, Inc. (Camden, NY; phone: 315-245-4649; online: tughillcartridge.com) who I’m going to have to get in contact with for some lead bulleted cartridges.
The last thing I want to mention about a .40 S&W is that a 50-round box of this ammo weighs 1-7/8 pounds and that a 50-round box of .45 ACP weighs 2 pounds and 9 ounces. When TEOTWAWKI comes, which are you going to want to carry in quantity with you? That’s an extra 11 rounds.
I just got an interesting phone call from an older friend, who is just about deaf without his hearing aids and can’t use them in conjunction with the modern hearing muffs with the electronics. I told him I’d ask around at the SHOT Show about a solution to this problem, but thought that I’d ask our Gun Week readers: “Any of you who have hearing aids, what do you do to hear, or how do you hear the range commands or the students you may be instructing?” So if any of you have an answer, please let us know here at Gun Week. I’m sure Don will appreciate it if we can come up with something.
So to finish this off all I can think of to say is that the FNH 40 is a good gun and .40 S&W seems to be a good caliber, but going from one type of gun either revolver or 1911 type autoloader will be a learning experience.
When contacting any of these manufacturers be sure to tell them that John at Gun Week sent you.
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