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Double-Action Done Right

by Patrick Sweeney   |  September 24th, 2010 5

With the new FNX-9, FNH USA might just have perfected the traditional DA/SA semiauto.

Things change. Even a crusty old-timer like me has to admit that the advent of polymer in firearms design is not only the future, but is a good thing. However, that does not mean all things we have come to associate with polymer are necessary.

The original high-cap 9mm pistols used a trigger design we have come to call “traditional double action.” There, the first stroke of the trigger cocks the hammer and then fires the pistol. The slide cycling cocks the hammer, and each subsequent shot is single-action. Many high-cap pistols are now made with a striker system, abandoning the “traditional double action” approach. Not so FNH USA.


The changes made to the FNX-9 (top) over the FNP-9 may seem subtle, but they represent a big improvement in both form and function.

The new FNX-9 is the evolutionary result of first offering the FNP-9 and then listening to feedback from shooters. And that last part is very important. You see, while the external appearance is much the same, FNH USA has worked hard to make the FNX a new pistol.

First of all, it changed the trigger mechanism and the safety built into it. I have an FNP-9, and I was able to compare the two side by side. The double-action trigger stroke of the FNX is smoother than the FNP and is the same from start to finish.

The single action is lighter and cleaner and is good enough that were you to experience this trigger pull in a 1911 pistol, you would not be the least bit put off by it. Many associate a 1911 trigger pull with the tuned triggers of competition shooters, where something under three pounds is desired. Well, the FNX-9 is meant to be a carry/duty pistol, and there the clean, five-pound trigger pull of the single action is plenty light enough and very easy to work with.


The safety on the FNX-9 permits you to carry it cocked and locked like a single-action pistol or to lock the hammer in the down position. It also functions as a traditional decocker.

But the big deal is the safety. An ambidextrous lever at the rear of the frame, it works both as a safety and a decocker. Once you’ve chambered a round, you have a whole host of options. First of all, you can flip up the safety to lock the mechanism and leave the hammer cocked. That’s right; you have a 1911-like option for your high-cap 9mm. (The FNX-9 also has a brother, the FNX-40, chambered in .40 S&W.)

If you don’t want that, press the lever down past center, and it safely decocks the hammer. When you let go of the lever, it pops back up to level, and you’re ready to fire as a traditional double-action pistol.

There is one more choice. Once decocked, you can push the lever up to the locked position. You now have a double-action trigger with the safety locked, preventing the trigger from moving or the hammer from cocking. If you want to make an attempted gun grab more difficult or put one more step in the path of an unauthorized use of your pistol, this will certainly do it.

While engineers were attending to the trigger and safety, FNH USA took a look at another subject that had come up from time to time: bore height. Specifically, the height of the bore over the shooter’s hand. Some designs simply allow the axis of the bore to ride lower than others. A lower bore line provides less leverage to the pistol when it recoils and thus lessens muzzle flip. Now, muzzle flip is not recoil, and good shooters can do quite well even with a “flippy” gun. But in this case, less is more. FNH USA attacked this problem from two angles.


The locking block on the FNX (l.) is altered to allow the barrel to ride lower in the frame—decreasing leverage and, hence, muzzle flip compared to the FNP (r.)

First, it resculpted the tang of the frame. The FNX allows your hand to ride higher on the frame (or, if you prefer to look at it this way, it allows the frame to nestle lower in your grip) and thus gives the gun less leverage on recoil. Second, it altered the interior to bring the barrel lower in the slide/frame assembly than it is in the FNP. As a result, the FNX has less flip and bounce than its predecessor.

The magazine system also came in for more attention. The FNP has a reversible magazine release, which requires that you swap the button from one side to the other to get left-handed use out of it. This also requires two mag catch slots to be cut into each magazine tube. The FNX uses the centrally located mag catch FN first developed for the .45 series. Thus, the FNX mag catch is ambidextrous, needing no parts swapping to work for either right- and left-handed shooters.


FNH USA also worked on the magazines themselves. The FNP has this funky design where the steel tube is lopped off at an angle at the bottom, and the polymer baseplate is over-sized to complete the assembly outside the frame. On the FNX, FNH USA simply ran the tube the full length of the interior and put a normal baseplate on it. The change also ups the FNX-9 magazine capacity to 17 rounds.

Now, in all this FNH USA did not change the already excellent features of the FNP series. The barrels are still cold hammer-forged stainless steel—with an integral feed ramp, match chamber and bore—and offer superb accuracy.


The FNX-9 proved exceptionally soft-shooting, thanks in part to the resculpted frame that allows the shooter to get a high grip (r.) on the pistol.

The slides are all made with stainless steel, and on th
e FNX designers have managed to include forward cocking serrations that let you use them but don’t shred holsters or your hands. The sights are three-dot, large and clear without being obtrusive or a hindrance in carry or on the draw.

The extractor protrudes beyond the slide enough when there is a chambered round that you can feel it and use it as a loaded-chamber indicator (which, by the way, is what it is intended to be used for). The frame has an accessory rail out on the dust cover, where you can put a light, laser or combo. If you plan on using the FNX-9 as a house gun, where it will be left on the night table each evening, then yours will be wearing a light all the time.

The FNX also has the interchangeable backstraps with lanyard loop, and the lower rear of the backstrap (the part I call the “lobster tail”) acts as a magazine well funnel on quick reloads. There are four backstraps in the box: a high and low, each with a grooved or checkered surface texture on them.


Specifications
Manufacturer: FNH-USA
Model: FNX-9
Operation: DA/SA semiauto
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel Length: 4 inches
Overall Length: 7.4 inches
Weight, empty 25 ounces
Sights: Three dot
Stock: molded polymer frame
Capacity: 17+1 rounds
Finish: stainless or black oxide
Trigger: 5 pounds pull, single-action; 10 pounds pull, double-action
Safety: 3-mode; up/on with hammer cocked (cocked and locked), up/on with hammer down, down (decocked)
Price: $703

Also, in all this changing, FNH USA has not changed the FNX from the FNP so much that you can’t use your accessories. Holsters and mag pouches made for the FNP will work just fine for the FNX. Your hand won’t know the difference, although if you’ve spent all your time practicing with a double-action trigger on the first shot, it will take a few practice sessions to get used to cocked and locked.

When it comes to 9mm carry guns, you can’t have too much oomph. Of all the defensive ammo types available, the 9mm Luger benefits the most from +P and +P+ loadings. However, there are a lot of 9mm pistols that are not at all fun to shoot with such loads. The FNX-9 is the softest-shooting 9mm with such loads I have had the chance to use in a long time. And the ones that were softer-shooting were a lot more portly than the FNX-9, which tips the scales in the same range as an aluminum-framed 1911—but one with a lot more bullets.


The FNX magazine (l.) uses a single, central latching point, unlike the FNP-9 mag (r.) This change allows the FNX-9 to have a true ambi mag release.

With regular 9mm ammo, it is a breeze to shoot. I won’t say shooting the FNX-9 with standard 115-grain ball ammo is like shooting a .22 LR—-it isn’t, and I’m not given to such hyperbole.

After doing the accuracy testing and chrono work, I took the FNX-9 to the Midwest 3-Gun Championships at the Fire For Effect range in Fayette, MO. The match was sponsored by FNH USA, so I figured that in the rare event of a problem I’d have plenty of people on hand who could help.

Well, the FNX-9 never stumbled. After almost two inches of rain the day before, the ranges were so muddy they would suck your boots off. None of us so much as hesitated (one reason it’s called “practical shooting”), and when I was done there was mud splashed inside the FNX-9, but it never failed. The crisp trigger and superb accuracy made my task of hosing little steel plates a lot easier.

The magazines started out a little tough to load all the way up, but no high-cap magazine is truly happy accepting that last round. However, after I’d loaded each a few times, getting to the 17th round was easier—although one of the magazines was markedly more difficult even after the break-in period.

I carried the FNX-9 cocked and locked for the match and had no problems on the draw (I was using an FNP-specific holster and mag pouches) nor in getting the safety off.


The FNX is different from its predecessor, the FNP, but not so much that holsters and such for the FNP won’t work.

The pistol worked fine, even after each stage, where dropped mags almost disappeared into the mud. I just wiped off what I could, swished the mag in a convenient puddle (plenty of those) and loaded up for the next stage. Unlike the shooters, who had a lot of good-natured fun grumbling about the mud, the FNX-9 never complained, not once.

As I mentioned, FNX-9 has a brother, the FNX-40, which is the same pistol but chambered in .40 S&W. I’m in the middle of doing an endurance test on it, and I have to tell you that I’m really glad for the low-recoil changes
FNH USA has made. While shooting a ton of ammo through a 9mm is kind of fun, doing the same with a .40 is work. The FNX is making it less so.

If you want the best combination of low recoil with effective defense, in a compact, lightweight and reliable package, you’ll have to search hard to do better than the FNX-9.


Accuracy Results | FNH USA FNX-9
Load Muzzle Velocity (fps) Standard Deviation (fps) 25-yard Accuracy (inches)
Hornady 115-gr. XTP 1,051 4.9 2.0
Hornady 124-gr. XTP 1,015 12.7 2.5
Hornady 147-gr. XTP 961 15.0 2.5
Fiocchi 115-gr. JHP 1,179 13.6 3.0
Speer 115-gr. GDHP 1,086 8.0 3.0

  • Marshall

    I've had my FNX 9 mm just long enough to fire maybe 200 rounds through it. No trouble except the magazine must be canted forward to seat when loaded. This took a couple of mags for me to catch on. I now notice where this issue has been corrected but there was no no mention as to how it was accomplished. Does anyone out there have information about this? I really like this weapon. It has all the features you could possibly want built in. The several ways to safely carry this weapon are a real asset but I note that one must determine the best way for them to carry and be sure to use that method consistently otherwise you may "lose your place" in a stressed situation.

  • James

    Mr. Sweeney, Thanks for your article. I have recently purcahsed a FNX-9 only to find (as is often the case) that there have been issues on various forums reported with the gun failing to fired when hot and with the grips being loose as well. I have contacted FN about my gun and have been told "It should be OK". As it is winter, I suppose I will have to wait some time time to find out, but I wondered if perhaps your had any inkling on this from FN?

  • RICK

    I have put around 3000 rounds thru my fnx-9 with not one malfunction , no problems with loose grips
    or the magizine falling out ,

  • john

    i think james must work for glock… have put 1500+ rounds thru my fnx-9 with no issues hot, cold, or otherwise and definately have not had any grip issues, she's as as tight and true as the day i bought her

  • Philly102105-303

    Just purchased a Fnx 40 after firing many xd's Glocks and Sigs. My hands were at home around the grip of the Fnx. Only issue was 9 or .40. I went with the 40. Comfort of this series is incomparable to other makes and far superior only one remotely close is sig. Ps found slightly used in great condition inside and out for almost 200 less than new. Almost 1000 rounds into this pre-owned relationship and loving it.
    Thanks Gabriel

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