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 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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 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