By Leroy Thompson
The U.S. Joint Combat Pistol Trials, which began in 2005 under the auspices of USSOCOM, did not really result in the adoption of a new military handgun. However, the R&D carried out by various handgun manufacturers to provide guns that met the JCP bid specs has carried over to some of the more innovative combat handguns introduced over the last few years, especially those in .45 caliber.
I became interested in the JCP Trials fairly early on and tried to test as many of the pistols designed for them as possible. I liked some of them quite a bit, but I kept hearing from my friends in SOCOM that the real players were the HK45 and FNP-45. Only recently did I get a chance to really do a lot of shooting with an FNP-45 Tactical, the version designed for the JCP trials.
I have done a lot of shooting with a standard FNP-45. Now that I have put a few hundred rounds through the FNP-45 Tactical, I understand why it did well in the trials. FNH has a long tradition of producing weapons that garner military contracts, and having used it, I believe the FNP-45 Tactical would have definitely made a good run at the Joint Combat Pistol (later shortened to Combat Pistol) contract.
The FNP-45 Tactical is a big pistol at 7.87 inches overall at 6.33 inches high and 1.58 inches wide, but it doesn’t feel or handle like a big pistol. Especially surprising is that despite its 15-round magazine capacity, the grip feels good in the hand. I don’t like fat-gripped pistols, so I am especially impressed with this design feature. The ability to switch out the backstaps for size, as well as the option of checkered or ribbed, helps a lot, too.
Many larger pistols don’t have good ergonomics, but that is not the case with the FNP-45 Tactical. Not only are the controls’mag release, slide release and safety’”easy to reach, but they are all ambidextrous, as well.
Speaking of the safety/docker, the FNP-45 Tactical is an SA/DA design. It can be safely de-cocked with the de-cocker and carried hammer down for a double action first shot, or it can be carried, cocked and locked by shoving the safety/de-cocker lever up to the safe position. Not only does this offer the basic options of SA or DA carry, but it offers the tactical option of quickly flicking on the safety after one or more rounds have been fired to keep the pistol ready for action while scanning for additional threats. I first became accustomed to using a pistol DA or SA with the CZ75 when I carried one in the 1980s, and I continue to be a fan of the system.
The FNP-45 Tacticalâ€™s 15-round capacity is achieved through adding a grip extension that also acts as a polymer base pad to push the magazine home securely. The low-friction follower allows magazines to be loaded fairly easily, though the last round takes a bit of strength to push home. Because the Tactical comes with three magazines, a user has plenty of ammo capacity.
The hammer-forged 1 in 16 RH-twist barrel on the Tactical model, which projects from the front of the slide, is 5.3 inches long and threaded with .578×28 RH threads for a suppressor. It comes with a thread protector. This is not the standard threading used on the HK SOCOM pistol or the USP Tactical pistols used by the SEALs.
I have been told by a couple of manufacturers that submitted pistols for the JCP Trials that no standard suppressor thread was included in the bid specs. I donâ€™t know if that is correct, but a manufacturer could easily change the threading to meet a military contract. In any case, .578×28 RH is fairly standard for suppressors designed for 1 in 16 RH Twist .45 ACP, so suppressors for the FNP Tactical are available from major sources, such as Gemtech or Elite Iron. I used an Elite Iron suppressor in tan when testing the FNP Tactical.
The FNP-45 Tactical has a MIL-STD rail for illuminatorsâ€”lights or lasers. It also comes in a very useful soft case that has pouches for two spare mags, an illuminator and a suppressor. The suppressor pouch may be used for cleaning equipment or other gear if a suppressor is not used.
RED DOT COMPATIBLE
One of the very contemporary features of the FNP-45 Tactical offers the 21st Century warrior easy mounting of a mini-red dot sight. The Tactical comes with mounting plates for either the Trijicon or Doctor Mini Red Dot sights. The mounts place the red dots in position so that they may be used with the standard sights still in place. Using these mounts, the red dot sights are high enough to use over a mounted suppressor, as well.
I chose Trijiconâ€™s RMR (Ruggedized Miniature Reflex) with dual illumination. A version with an LED is also available. I have tried both, but since I use dual-illuminated ACOGs, I chose to go with this type of RMR.
The dual-illumination system allows the RMRâ€™s amber dot to get brighter in sunlight or fainter in low light without having to operate any controls. I like this capability. As with all Trijicon sights, the RMR is designed to be rugged and weatherproof. Only weighing 1.2 ounces, it does not affect the handling characteristics of the FNP-45 Tactical adversely either. I can still use the standard sights through the RMR if I so choose, so I donâ€™t really see a downside, especially since the tritium in the RMR Dual-Illuminated is rated for 15 years.
Users that mount an optical sight on their Tactical might encounter one drawback: finding a holster. I checked, and although holster makers offer models for the standard FNP-45, I did not find any that offered one for the FNP-45 Tactical with a mini red dot mounted.
A holster maker will have to deal with three issues with the 45 Tactical: the front and rear iron sights stick up further than normal to allow for the use of a suppressor; the threaded barrel extends past the slide; and a mini red dot may be mounted. I talked with custom maker Rusty Sherrick, who does a lot of holsters for law enforcement and military special ops units, and he is working on a couple of designs for the FNP-45 Tactical with red dot. I suspect compatible holsters will be available by the time this article appears.
TRIAL BY FIRE
I decided to try the FNP-45 Tactical with an array of ammunition, so I took along Fiocchi 230-grain FMJ and 230-grain reloads; Black Hills 230-grain JHP; Cor-Bon 230-grain JHP, 230-grain FMJ and 200-grain JHP. And I threw in a partial box of Cor-Bon 165-grain JHP I had left over from another test.
The first rounds were fired on paper at 25 yards to zero the Trijicon RMR.Â Â Â Once it was on, a friend and I shot it on bullseye targets at 25 yards using the RMR for sighting. My friend shot the best group, getting a 50/2X for five shots using the Fiocchi 230 grain. I had good groups with the Fiocchi and the Black Hills 230-grain JHP, but not that good.
I wanted to try the RMR for quick shots at closer range and used Cor-Bon 230-grain JHPs at 15 yards on a humanoid silhouette. All hits were center of mass and well grouped. I tried the same drill using the FNP Tacticalâ€™s standard sights but found they shot low with 230-grain ammo, which meant that they would shoot even lower with lighter ammo.
I used the rest of the Fiocchi ammo and the reloads to do multiple target-engagement drills on plates and pepper poppers between 15 and 35 yards. I also decided to shoot the partial box of Cor-Bon 165-grain JHP at 50 yards on a humanoid silhouette target. As might be expected with the RMR regulated for 230-grain loads, the 165-grain loads impacted low, at about waist level on the target, but were all within about 8 inches of each other.
I was impressed with how well the FNP-45 Tactical handled despite its size and the optical sight. The most important lesson to be learned when using the RMR on the FNH is to tilt the pistol in the hand properly to acquire the amber dot. For me, at least, that took a bit of practice, but I soon picked up the knack. Pulling the dot onto target as I switched targets was soon as fast as moving the sights onto target.
I expected that the dot would allow faster engagement and it might well with practice, but I did the same drill with the iron sights and found for a full magazineâ€”15 roundsâ€”I could perform it using either sighting system within a couple of seconds of each other. Reacquiring the sights after recoil did seem just a bit faster with the amber dot, since it rides above the front sight. I was dotting the â€œiâ€ and did not have to use the rear notch.
I did some strings firing the Tactical DA for the first round and following up with a SA round, then de-cocking and doing it again. I found the DA pull rather heavy but usable and the SA pull acceptable to good. Nevertheless, I shot well using both DA and SA. I also did some runs using the FNP Tactical in cocked and locked SA modeâ€”which I actually preferâ€”but still, I like the option of using the DA for the first round if I so choose.
I also tried the ambidextrous features, shooting three magazines left handed and trying the de-cocker/safety, mag release and slide release left handed. I found that with either hand, I could work the slide release faster with the support hand, but I could operate it with right or left hand if needed.
The safety and mag release worked fine when shooting left handed, although I noticed I had a tendency to block the right-side mag release button with my left forefinger when operating it left handed.
MAKING THE GRADE
My friend T.J. Mullin, who was shooting with me, is generally a believer in no-frills pistols and would not normally like a pistol with an optical sight. However, he was quite impressed with the FNP-45 Tactical with the RMRâ€”and he shot it very well, too.
I like the FNP-45 Tactical quite a bit myself. With the smaller checkered grip strap, it feels good in the hand, surprisingly so because it is a 15-round .45 semi-auto. Its controls are well designed and it handles well. The ability to quickly add the red dot sight grants extra versatility to the pistol and is, I feel, a bonus. For true tactical use, the threaded barrel and raised sights allow ready use of a suppressor.
Itâ€™s easy to understand why this pistol was considered one of the best by the military evaluators at the Joint Combat Pistol Trials.
COMBAT PISTOL REQUIREMENTS
Discussing all of the bid specs for the JCP would fill an article in itself, but to give just a few of those which are most salient, the pistol was to:
Be chambered for the .45 ACP round
Offer standard and high-capacity magazines, unless standard capacity was 10-rounds or more
Have a threaded barrel designed to take a suppressor as well as sights designed for use with a suppressor attached
Offer one version with an external safety and one without, although many of the pistols that were submitted were actually designs that could be used as SA or DA pistols
Have a trigger pull of 4 to 6 pounds for SA mode and 5 to 8 pounds for DA mode
Have an overall length less than 9.65 inches with standard barrel (i.e., not extended and threaded) and a maximum width of 1.53 inches
Include a modular grip system to fit different-size hands
Have a MIL-STD 1913 rail forward of the trigger guard on the lower portion of the frame
Requires the magazine release to allow the magazine to fall free of the pistol when activated
Is capable of being fired with the magazine removed; that is, no magazine safety
Includes a rigid attachment point for a lanyard
Is capable of being quickly and easily field stripped without tools
There are additional specs relating to accuracy and reliability. Also, pistols submitted for the trials were in FDE (Flat Dark Earth) finish.
FNH FNP-45 TACTICAL SPECIFICATIONS:
Caliber/s: .45 ACP
Capacity: 15 rounds
Barrel Length: 5.30 inches (threaded)
Overall Length: 7.87 inches
Weight: 33.2 ounces
Grips: Checkered polymer
Finish: Polymer w/steel slide
P.O. Box 697
McLean, VA 22101
49385 Shafer Ave.
Wixom, MI 48393-0059
C. Rusty Sherrick
507 Mark Drive
Elizabeth, PA 17022
1345 Thunders Trail
Potomac, Montana 59823 USA