by David Crane
The highlight for me at FN’s booth was getting to handle the P90 PDW (Personal Defense Weapon) and FiveseveN Pistol. Please notice that I did not say “submachinegun”, when speaking of the P90. That’s because the FN P90 PDW fires a proprietary 5.7x28mm projectile that is really closer to a small rifle round, than a pistol round—what I like to call a “semi-rifle” round. It is designed specifically to penetrate modern CRISAT body armor.
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The FN P90 PDW, though now roughly 13 years old and having been put to considerable use in Europe, still holds a lot of mystique here in the United States, where it is seldom seen. That will probably change very soon, as more and more agencies get a chance to fire this weapon(which I will go into in further detail later in this article). The only real publicity the P90 has received to date is the 1998 Japanese Embassy raid in Lima Peru, where it was put to very effective use, from all accounts. The P90 is surprisingly ergonomic considering it’s unconventional appearance by American standards. It’s also fairly lightweight, even with a full magazine of 50 rounds. Anthony Giorgio of SPA Tactical, told me over the phone, that the P90 is “the best CQB/special operations weapon ever invented, period”. Based on my experience with this gun at the range(more on this later), I’m not inclined to argue with him.
The FN P90 PDW might have a chance of becoming the “next MP-5” if FN can solve it’s ammunition restriction/classification and supply/availability problems. If they can do this, the P90 could indeed become the premiere tactical assault weapon used by American and foreign counterterrorism and SWAT teams.
Currently, due to FN’s inexperience in importing ammunition, the 5.7x28mm got classified as "armor-piercing", which is a huge problem from both a marketing and distribution standpoint. Basically, FN did not go the correct route with initial ammunition importation, and now they’re in sort of a pickle over this issue. There may be a way to solve the problem, but I don’t know if FN has the willingness to do what it takes, and/or devote the amount of money that it would require to do so.
All that said, the P90’s got great ergonomics, it’s extremely controllable on full-auto(more so than 5.56 assault rifles), it’s reliable, it’s chambered for a round that pierces body armor and has seemingly impressive terminal effect for a .22 caliber round(although many claim it to have no more terminal effect than the .22 Magnum), it’s quieter than 5.56 assault rifles, and it utilizes a top mounted, protected magazine that gives the operator 50 rounds at his immediate disposal to boot! A final point of interest is that RBCD ammunition is currently developing specialized rounds with enhanced hard armor penetration and lethality aspects in the 5.7x28mm round, specifically for this weapon.
Click here for more information on the P90 at FN Manufacturing’s site.
To visit FN Herstal’s website, click on this link.