FNX-45 Tactical: A Fighting Pistol Worthy of America’s Favorite Caliber

FNX 45 in the home defense mode.

9mm has completely dominated recent pistol development, like some kind of European supervillain. Not only are most new CCW guns 9mm with the option of 9mm, shockingly so are most full-size guns. The pendulum may swing back the other way, or we may one day see another rash of new calibers. (Looking at you 357 SIG. And maybe you 327 Federal Magnum.) But what about that most American of calibers, good ole 45 ACP? Good enough for two World Wars, the ashtray, the classic “they don’t make a .46”? This week, we got our hands on a modern wonder in 45 ACP, the FNX-45 Tactical.

The spiritual successor to the HK Mk23? I say yes.

The FNX-45 Tactical has a rather odd origin story, as the first Fabrique Nationale handgun in quite some time. While FNH is historically present with absolutely amazing designs such as the Browning High Power, they are notably absent for handguns across most of the modern era. Perhaps they were winning so hard on rifles and machine guns, pistols got forgotten. (Not only has FNH dominated the production of the M240 and M249 family of machine guns, but quite a few of the famous M2 50 BMG are also from them as well. Not to mention the US military M-16 production contract since the late ’80s, and the M-4 production contract since 2013.)

Shipped in a 007 case, a nice touch.

This changed in 2005. With the Global War on Terror kicking into high gear, deficiencies in equipment that had been ignored for decades began to come to the forefront. USSOCOM asked for a new pistol, with a unique set of requirements. This would become known as the Joint Combat Pistol Program or JCP. FNH realized the opportunity and put the engineering team to work creating something that would fit the bill.

An excellent tool to add to the collection.

The JCP, as many government solicitations often do, ended abruptly with no resolution. The Pentagon decided to buy 25 variations of camouflage uniforms and Kuerig coffee makers for every office instead. But, the list of requirements for the JCP were taken seriously by the contenders, and in the case of the FNH entry, passed on to the civilian consumer.

Zipped case, as shipped.

So while the FNX-45 Tactical never became the new USSOCOM sidearm, it did find an audience. Quite ironically, I know dozens of SOCOM or ex-SOCOM dudes that bought one as a suppressor host. It was pretty much the defacto operator weapon of choice for personal use, from its inception to the present.

45 ACP, the way God and John Moses Browning intended.

To understand why the FNX 45 is built the way it is, we must first look at that JCP list of requirements. First, the gun had to be chambered in 45 ACP. While no capacity was stipulated, the pistol was seen as a battlefield sidearm. Which pretty much meant, it better hold some bullets. FN created a double stack pistol, with a capacity of 15 rounds.

DA/SA action, with an external safety.

You have probably shot a double stack 45 in your life and would agree with me that the ergonomics are often most akin to a 4×4. Or they have a capacity of 10, in which case you might as well just get a 1911. FNH apparently applied some fairy dust, because the 45 Tactical doesn’t feel like that at all. The grip is not much if any bigger than a competitor’s 9mm. It also features interchangeable backstraps, with what I would call the industry’s best system. With a simple press of a punch in one hole, the back strap slides right off. No hammers, no internal disassembly. The gun comes with 4 options, to fit the texture and size you like.

The second JCP requirement was for a number of guns with an external safety, and a number without. This could be a bit of a head scratcher, if you are trying to build a safe gun. FNH solved it in a way that would be familiar to most of us that ever carried an M-9, and I would also dare say improved on the H&K Mk23 system. (I carried an Mk23 as a sidearm for one tour, I can speak from experience to that end.)

Threaded barrel, suppressor ready.

The FNH solution was to make a DA/SA action firearm, which basically negates the safety issue by having a long, heavy, DA pull. The double-action pull is smooth and better than many I’ve seen. But, it is heavy. This is less of an issue on the civilian models though since FNH put the external safety on all of them. Much like the Mk23, the weapon can be carried SA, with the safety on. Unlike the Mk23 though, the safety on the FNH is actually big enough to be useful. Marginally smaller than a 1911 safety, I had no trouble hitting it every time I shot the FNX Tactical. It is ambidextrous out of the box, and also functions as a decocker. The slide can also be manipulated fully with the safety engaged.

The JCP contract also called for suppressor-ready, and this has become the defining characteristic of the FNX-45 Tactical. The barrel is threaded .578-28, and ships with a nice knurled thread protector in place. But it takes more than a threaded barrel to make a good suppressor host. The FNX also features suppressor height tritium day/night sights, the absolute first factory gun I remember offering this option. And if you want to go red dot, the slide is pre-cut for that too.

Tested with SIG SRD45.

Again, none of that matters if the gun won’t run suppressed. Even with a good can, and evolving booster technology, some guns just don’t like suppressors. However, this is where the FNX -45 truly shines. It runs like a dream suppressed. I shot a couple of hundred rounds in this configuration and had zero malfunctions. While the gun shoots great without the can, it really feels correct with it. Like its just…. natural.

The backstrap options.

The FNX-45 Tactical is an absolutely unique sidearm, complete down to the “Jason Bourne” grade case it ships in. With 3 high capacity magazines, military-grade design, and all the suppressor factors built-in, this one has it all. I haven’t had this much fun reviewing a gun in some time, and that says a lot in its self. If the Rona has you thinking about upgrading your tactical pistol game, this one is hard to beat. I suggest you grab one while your stimulus check will still cover it. MSRP $1349.00

Unique backstrap swap system.
Hornady XTP in 185 grain, the gold standard in accuracy.
Suppressor height tritiums, and red dot ready.
An older plate system, but robust.
Front sight.
Ships with 3 high capacity magazines.
Uniquely shaped extractor, but functional.

For more information visit FN America website.

Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE!

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Grant Stevens July 3, 2020, 2:54 pm

    Another foreign plastic fantastic trying to re-invent the Yankee Fist. The form, function and feel of JMB’s 1911 can be imitated, but never replaced. Just buy a Made-in-USA 1911 and be done with it.

  • Doug Tally July 3, 2020, 11:25 am

    I love the description and talk but the grip looks like a 2×4.

    I carry an XD-S .45 and cannot imagine the fit/feel, I’m 5-8 190.

    Without having gripped one, I would prefer a right sized (for me) single stack. As EDC that many rounds has no value to me. For folks that don’t know, panic may invite spraying rounds… never an option.

  • Tim Hecht July 3, 2020, 7:20 am

    The FNX-45? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I started working as a CBP Officer in the spring of 2004.

    I purchased an FNH/FNP-9; and then changed it for an FNP-45, two tone. Stainless slide, black polymer frame, 15 round magazines, SA/DA trigger; ergonomics similar to the Sig pistols.

    From a discussion thread on an FN fires arms discussion in 6/2012: “The FNX-45 will look and feel very similar to the FNP-45. Most of the design enhancements were mechanical for improved reliability and endurance. The FNX-45 will come with 3 magazines (new design and not compatible with the FNP), all 3 will be 15 round like the current Tactical and Competition. The pricing should be similar to the FNP-45.”

    So methinks the FNP-45 was around well before the FNX-45 became available on the open market.

  • guido July 3, 2020, 7:18 am

    Dude, ‘yer gonna get me divorced.
    I keep telling myself, “I can’t buy every weapon Clay recommends” and then what do I do? Yup.

    I finally found a Trij in stock to mount-up to it, and it appears the Blade-Tech OWB is gonna work for it (hopefully)

    Don’t know how to make this statement without negative implications, but you may be the best weapon salesman since obama.

    Tanks for another great review, and if I may play reviewer for a moment, “READ CLAY’S BOOKS!” You won’t regret it!

    (“Now, what would she prefer, earrings or another pendant?”…..)

  • Give Me Freedom June 30, 2020, 7:27 pm

    This is a good review on a full size .45 Auto pistol. But please do not call “standard capacity” magazines “high capacity” magazines. This was a term invented by tyrants who wish to push citizen magazine bans on firearm magazines that hold more than ten rounds.

    There are “standard capacity” magazines and “crippled capacity” magazines.

  • Damon June 29, 2020, 9:33 pm

    Clay’s comment “I know dozens of SOCOM or ex-SOCOM dudes that bought one as a suppressor host” is spot on.

    As a former Special Operations soldier, I have several friends who have this as their EDC. It is my primary “suppressor gun” as it is so reliable with a suppressor and allows a red dot to be mounted rather low – which is preferred (the lower the better).

  • Amado leon June 29, 2020, 7:56 pm

    i got the none tactical one and its a joy to shoot had it for 7 years with no issues the only difference is the threaded barrel and plate ,love the decocker.

  • Hugo June 29, 2020, 4:22 pm

    If it came with a decocker instead of an external safety I would get one.

    • Joe July 3, 2020, 4:40 am

      It does come with a decocker. Now go and get yourself one of these beasts! 😎

  • lefty June 29, 2020, 11:56 am

    how left hand friendly is it??
    In the meanwhile I’ll carry Glocks

    • Ricky B. June 29, 2020, 2:24 pm

      This is 1 out of only 2 complaints I have with my FNX tactical… The “ambidextrous” slide release is basically for decoration only. I mean you can make it work if you push the left handed slide release down and pull the slide back at the same time, but I have never been able to release the slide from the locked position by using the left hand slide release alone. I am right handed so working the left hand slide release isn’t “natural” for me. However, I was so surprised when I realized the left hand slide release was not fully functional that I have tried to get it to work by riding down on it with both thumbs at the same time (holding the pistol so the barrel is pointed to my right and the left hand slide stop is directly in front of my face) more times than I can count… I just tired it again several times before writing this and it is just not possible for me to release the locked slide with the left hand release alone.

      My only other complaint with this gun is I would prefer the slide release lever to be a little more substantial rather than using the exact same, barely there, dinky little release lever that Glocks use. I get why that may be preferable for a compact gun that you are going to carry concealed, but this is not a compact gun so it doesn’t serve any purpose other than make the lever less comfortable to use. A more substantial slide release lever doesn’t even have to increase the width of the gun much at all to be more comfortable to operate than the one FNH includes on this gun. The slide release included on my Springfield XDE is a perfect example of one that is much easier to operate, because it has a more substantial grip surface, without adding any additional bulk to the width of the gun.

      Other than the 2 forgoing issues, I totally agree with everyone else about this bad boy… I love this gun!!!

  • Alex D June 29, 2020, 11:55 am

    Sorry,but the 10mm Springfield XD-M also comes from the factory in a version with threaded barrel, suppressor height sights and red dot ready milled slide.

  • Scott June 29, 2020, 9:31 am

    It left quite an impression when a buddy let me shoot about 100 rounds through his. If I could have only one double column mag pistol in that caliber it would be the FNX. P220/227, Glock 21, 1911, USP are all good in my experience but don’t equal the FNX. The others can and will be tweaked for years to come however building something newer from the ground up like the FN is advantageous. Well written article as usual (357 SIG is silly and never should have been pushed onto the scene).

  • Alex June 29, 2020, 9:08 am

    I picked one up for a little over $800.00 and mounted my can, and an olight on it. It surprisingly shot well with less perceived recoil than my USP. Now my bedside platform.

  • Joseph Couture June 29, 2020, 8:47 am

    I bought this gun as a replacement for a Glock 21. The Glock was extremely fussy about what ammo it would take. The FNX eats whatever I feed it and that includes hundreds of my reloads which it puts down dang and on target. I will never own another finiky Glock but I love my FNX 45 Tactical. I even like it better than my Colt 1911.

  • Bill June 29, 2020, 8:02 am

    No rail? Surprising, for tactical or home use!

    • Nigel Brown June 29, 2020, 9:04 am

      It has a rail.

    • MB June 29, 2020, 10:38 am

      Like all FN FNX models, it has a 1913 rail with 4 locations

    • Cea June 29, 2020, 3:25 pm

      What kind of rail are you looking for? Something on top, maybe?
      Because there sure is one on the bottom.

    • James June 29, 2020, 5:50 pm

      There is plenty of real estate for pointless gadgets my friend. You could probably fit two tac lights on there if you really wanted.

  • Fred Fagan June 29, 2020, 7:42 am

    Have a number of .45 handguns and enjoy them all. Walked into the FN Pro Shop in Columbia a couple years ago and first weapon seen was this one in FDE. Never got past it and told them to wrap it up. First time firing I noted that this weapon had less recoil than any of my other 45s. Sent a picture to my oldest son and he said WOW!!!. That week I walked back into the Pro shop and bought him one in black. While there I also decided to pick up a SCAR Heavy. FN makes superior firearms. Had to add the FNX 9 to my stable. Same as the 45, great weapon and minimal recoil.

  • Juan Antonio Hutton June 29, 2020, 6:33 am

    I DON’T HAVE THE TACTICAL FNX 45, BUT HAVE REGULAR FNX 45 WHICH ALSO A 15 ROUND CAPACITY PISTOL AND I LOVE IT! IT’S MY FAVORITE PISTOL AND ITS EXTREMELY RELIABLE AND HAS NEVER JAMMED ON ME IT HAS CYCLED ALL TYPES 45 ROUNDS THAT I HAVE FIRED THROUGH IT. I HAVE NO COMPLAINTS OR NEGATIVE THINGS TO SAY ABOUT THIS PISTOL. I ALSO OWN THE FNX 40 CALIBER WHICH IS A 14 ROUND CAPACITY PISTOL AND IT WORKS FINE JUST LIKE 45 PISTOL . THE ONLY THING I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THIS PISTOL IS THAT IT WAS MADE TO HOLD 14 ROUNDS I WISH THAT MADE 15 ROUND, BUT OTHER THEN THAT IT IS GREAT PISTOL!

  • K.E. Bernstein June 29, 2020, 6:16 am

    Not thee most accurate .45 but well within getting the job done.
    The FNX45 is a work horse designed for war, and the most capable
    .45 next to the M1911A1. For gods sake, buy one whilst one still can
    and you will NEVER sell it…..

  • Brad S. June 29, 2020, 5:13 am

    The last pic is an ejector, not an extractor. You sure you were a Bravo? WTF…

    • Tenbones June 29, 2020, 10:04 am

      Copied from fnamerica.com:

      SLIDE

      Stainless steel construction

      External extractor with loaded chamber indicator

      Front and rear cocking serrations

      Matte black finish

      • Cea June 29, 2020, 3:27 pm

        That’s not what Brad was talking about…

        • ANTHONY Dominik June 29, 2020, 7:34 pm

          No comments on the trigger pull? Is is as bad as the 509 Tactical? Not sure if an Apex trigger replacement would be necessary or if it is, as difficult to install.

          • Kevin July 9, 2020, 2:12 pm

            I do not have a trigger gauge but it is nice. DA is smooth, SA is crisp. I just picked up a 509C MRD. The trigger on it absolutly horrible. No comparison between the two. The only other DA/SA I have is a CZ SP01 tactical. The CZ DA is better, but not by much.

  • Mike Moser June 29, 2020, 3:51 am

    Keep up the good work Clay.

  • larru June 29, 2020, 3:04 am

    Do you mean ejector? The extractor will be in the slide. It’s hook will be next to the boltface.

  • Mark N. June 29, 2020, 1:58 am

    I got and FNX-45 for my daughter for Christmas a number of years ago. It is her favorite pistol and she shoots it equally well out of either hand. I’ve only been able to dry fired once when I was visiting. The double action pull is smooth and not overly heavy, probably easier than my Kahr. However I wasn’t too find of the single action mode, as it seemed rather squishy, not at all like the clean click of a 1911,

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