Competition is a good thing. Hell, it is the very basis of our free-market economy. We Americans tend to shy away from monopolies, mostly. But the last 25 years, at least, have seen one pistol dominate the compact 9mm market. There are new guns in the works form a lot of manufacturers, though, that are slowly eating into GLOCK’s market share. And now FN is poised to take a big bite out of the Austrian behemoth. The FNS-9C (compact) is a rocking gun with a lot of features. It’s made in America by a company with a long history, and the retail price should settle in right at $500.
- Striker-fired autoloader
- Double-action operation
- Available in Standard and Manual Safety
- 5.5 to 7.7 lbs. trigger pull
- Stainless steel construction
- External extractor with loaded chamber indicator
- Front and rear cocking serrations
- Available in matte black or matte silver
- Cold hammer-forged stainless steel
- Polished chamber and feed ramp
- Polymer construction with replaceable steel frame/slide rails
- Two interchangeable backstraps with lanyard eyelets
- MIL-STD 1913 accessory mounting rail
- Serrated trigger guard
- Fully-ambidextrous slide stop lever
- Fully-ambidextrous magazine release
- Available with or without an ambidextrous manual safety lever
- Polished body
- Low-friction follower
- Polymer base pad
- Fixed 3-dot or fixed 3-dot night
The 9C feels good. The polymer frame is heavily textured. There subtle lines, knurls, and sharp diamonds. The whole pistol is aggressive in its feel. Even the slide has serrations on the front and rear, which makes it that much easier to clear any potential malfunctions. The overall length of the gun is 6.7″. The barrel is 3.6″. It weighs in at 23.4 ounces, empty.
The ambidextrous controls are all easily accessible. The mag drop has a strong spring to push against, and the button actually moves–all without protruding too far from the frame. It is very easy to use and not at all easy to accidentally press. The slide drop is small, but it works, too. There is no external safety to fuss with-at least not on this model. If you want to fuss with external safeties, you can.
The grip has more body to it than some compact 9s. It is easy to hold, even for people with large hands. The backstraps are interchangeable, and they have a slight tail on them to help with mag drops. Push the button and the mag drops free (thanks in part to the mirror finish on those dudes). If your hands are big, the mags may hit the heel of your hand when you drop them. I was shooting the 9C with a couple of guys with hands like Virginia hams. At first, they couldn’t get the mags to drop free. After three or four attempts, though, they’d both picked up the subtle rotation needed to free up all the paths. This is not the 9C’s fault, really–all compact 9mms have this issue to one degree or another.
The 9C does ship with 3 mags. Two hold 12 rounds, and one holds 17 (and has a grip extension, too). That’s a generous thing FN has done. With 12 in the gun, and 29 to spare, you aren’t likely to run dry when it actually counts.
Another thing that is good about the design is the wide floor plates of the magazines. These protrusions help you manipulate the magazines. Pulling them is easy, getting them to the gun, and into the mag well is easy enough. And there’s a wide platform for you to hammer home. Watch out for that last one, though, as you can pinch a thin roll of skin between the end of the mag well and the floorplate. Still, the magazines are nice, and the extra protrusion allows for a fourth finger on the grip. The extended mag gives more capacity and allows for even more real estate.
Concealing the 9C
It is a compact, so concealment shouldn’t be an issue for most adults. The double-stack magazine means the gun is wider than some of its competition, but it also holds more. And I’ve always contended that only the thinnest, smallest shooters really benefit from the fraction of an inch that a single stack magazine shaves off of the width of a double-stack. The 9C is a great contender for in waist band (IWB) carry. And for those of you who carry out of the waist band (OWB), a decent coat should cover the gun easily. The barrel has been shortened and the grip has, too.
We had no difficulties shooting the 9C. We had no jams or malfunctions. The sights sit up a bit higher than they do on some compact 9’s, so there’s a bit more to see. That makes target acquisition fast. We had good results with the 9C. We banged steel, shot plate racks, punched some cardboard for accuracy, and even stretched it out to 100 yards. At that long distance, we could easily put rounds on a torso plate, and had decent results with a 12″ square. At the end of the review, no one had any complaints about how the FNS was shooting.
There was a slight hitch that we still haven’t completely defined. During some staged trigger pulls, when we were holding out for very accurate shots, the trigger would hold just a bit before it broke. I’d describe it as grit, only it wasn’t there on every trigger pull. Maybe one out of every five. Once we’d discovered it, we dry fired over and over. The feeling was so subtle that it couldn’t be seen–but it was there in your fingertip, just a little snag.
Putting the 9C Back Together
Fair-warning. After we’d reviewed the 9C, I field stripped it on a pickup’s tailgate. It came apart easily enough. We checked the internals, and took some photos, and then I tried to put it back together. When I pulled the slide back onto the frame, I jacked it up good. The guide rod poked out the end of the slide in a way that made me think I’d put it in backwards. As soon as this happened, the whole thing locked up. I couldn’t get it to move forward or backward. I handed it off to someone who is smarter than me, and he couldn’t figure it out. But he managed to loosen it a bit. He didn’t want to break anything, so he gave it back to me. With just a little bit of careful maneuvering, everything lined up and the gun snapped back into alignment. Problem miraculously solved.
The lesson here is this: make sure you line everything up right and take your time. I’d even suggest reading the manual. It isn’t hard to do right, but it wasn’t hard to screw up either.
In the End?
The 9C is great. It shoots exceptionally well. The capacity and controls and concealability all place it high in this class. The price gives it a bit of an edge. If I could make any immediate changes to the gun, it would be the addition of a rear sight that has more of a shelf on its leading edge. This may be riding higher in my mind right now, as I’m typing this review one handed. Not that it has anything to do with the 9C, but I think I’ve broken a bone in my wrist. My right thumb doesn’t work. I’d have an easier time racking the slide on the 9C if I could catch that sight on something. As is, I’ll have to carry something else.
But I will carry this gun. It has almost everything you could ask for. There’s nothing that I’d like to take away. When everything shakes out, the 9C should sell for close to $500, maybe a bit less.