FN FNS Compact Review
June 24, 2015
Whenever a new handgun model comes on the market, some of the first questions that pop up about it have to do with what accessories are available for it. So let's get that out of the way.
The new FNS Compact pistols have three-slot accessory rails on their frames, so lights and lasers from Crimson Trace, LaserLyte, LaserMax, SureFire, and other companies will fit. In fact, I used a Crimson Trace RailMaster laser during my shooting sessions with the FNS Compacts that I fired for this report.
As for holsters, Galco, Blackhawk, Safariland, and Uncle Mike's, have leather and nylon holsters for these pistols. They also have magazine pouches.
Like its full-size brother (and the Longslide version, too), the FNS Compact is a polymer-framed, striker-fired autoloading pistol. Like other pistols of the ilk, it utilizes replaceable steel slide rails inserted into the polymer frame. The mechanism is recoil-operated and works as follows: When the trigger is pressed fully to the rear, the striker is released and contacts the primer of a loaded cartridge. The recoil force causes the slide to move rearward, extracting and ejecting the fired cartridge case. The slide then returns forward by force of the recoil spring, picking up a fresh cartridge from the magazine and inserting it into the chamber. If the magazine is empty, the slide stays open after the last cartridge has been fired.
The FNS Compact disassembles easily. Simply remove the magazine and clear the chamber. Double- and triple-check to make certain the chamber is clear! Pull the slide all the way back and lock it back with the slide stop. Rotate the takedown lever 90 degrees clockwise. While maintaining a firm hold on the slide, release the slide and dry-fire the pistol. Push the barrel/slide/recoil spring assembly off the front of the frame as one piece. The recoil spring assembly and the barrel can then be separated. That's all there is to it. To reassemble, just slip the barrel/slide/recoil-spring assembly onto the frame and rotate the takedown lever counterclockwise into its original position.
The magazines are just as easy to disassemble. Simply push in the baseplate retainer through the opening on the bottom of the baseplate and slide the baseplate off the magazine body. Remove the baseplate retainer, spring, and follower. It's fast and easy.
Shooting Times received two of the very first FNS Compacts to come off the production line. One is chambered for .40 S&W; the other is 9mm. Both are the two-tone versions, but the model is also offered in all-black finish.
Both FNS Compact pistols that ST received are 6.7 inches in length, 1.35 inches in width, and 5.2 inches in height. They weigh from 23 to 26 ounces with the standard empty magazines inserted, depending on the caliber.
They both came with two standard magazines and one extra magazine with higher capacity. With the higher-capacity magazines fully loaded and inserted, the guns weigh 32 and 35 ounces according to my digital scale. Standard magazine capacity is 12 rounds in 9mm and 10 rounds in .40 S&W. The higher-capacity magazines hold 17 and 14 rounds respectively, and they use grip extension sleeves to provide a full-length gripping surface. If you're wondering what the heights are with the extended magazines inserted, those dimensions are 5.6 inches for both guns.
Both sample FNS Compacts came to us with low-profile white-dot sights dovetailed into the slides. The rear sights have two white dots, and the front sights have one, slightly larger dot on them. The faces of the rear sights are serrated horizontally, and the notches are not your typical square shape. They're actually U-shaped.
I've been shooting other defensive pistols recently that have notches that are not square with only a single dot on the rear sight, and I'm starting to prefer those setups. One in particular that I really like also has a U-shaped rear notch with one tritium dot on the rear and one tritium dot on the front sight, and that gun's front sight mates up really quickly with the U-shaped notch. Stacking the two dots and getting the front dot on the target seems a lot faster than trying to line up three dots horizontally. I haven't timed it, but it sure feels faster. That said, I do like the FNS Compacts' U-shaped rear notches, and their front dots do mate nicely with the U-shaped rear notches, but I'd prefer single dots below the notches instead of the two dots that flank them.
Barrel lengths for the FNS Compacts are 3.6 inches, which allow sight radii of 5.6 inches. Generally, a small increase in sight radius will mean significantly better accuracy. The longer the sight radius, the easier it is to see any wobble in your hold. You can't correct a wobble if you can't see it, and with a shorter sight radius you might not be able to see a wobble even though it's there. For comparison's sake, the sight radius of a standard 5-inch-barreled Model 1911 is in the neighborhood of 7.0 inches. As you'll see later on, I was able to shoot the FNS Compacts quite well even with their shorter sight radii, so in this case, it doesn't seem to negatively affect the Compacts' shootability.
Both sample FNS Compacts have textured grips that are integral to the polymer frames. And the FNS Compacts come with interchangeable backstraps in two shapes (flat and arched). Both pistols came from the factory with the arched backstraps installed. Grip circumference for both sample pistols is 6.25 inches (with the arched backstraps), and the distance from the triggers to the backstraps is 2.6 inches.
Both of our FNS Compacts have front and rear slide serrations — nine on each side up front and 12 at the rear. The pistols have ambidextrous slide stops and magazine releases. The takedown levers are located on the left sides. The controls are streamlined so as not to snag when carrying concealed or drawing, but they are not so streamlined as to make them hard to operate.
The pistols utilize what FNH USA calls the Trigger Safety. It's similar to other hinged trigger setups with a lever on the backside of the lower fingerpiece that must engage the upper portion of the trigger in order for the trigger assembly to be squeezed fully to the rear.
The FNS Compacts we received do not have manual thumb safeties; however, pistols will be available with that type of safety. Our samples do not have a magazine safety, either, so they can fire a loaded round in the chamber even with the magazines removed. I know a lot of handgunners who prefer that type of operation. If you're in a life-and-death situation and your magazine somehow gets ejected, being able to fire the round in the chamber while inserting a fresh magazine could be a very good thing.
The FNS Compacts come in hard plastic cases along with operator's manuals, cable-style padlocks, the extra backstraps, and the extra magazines.
During my offhand drills and accuracy shooting from the bench, I found the FNS Compacts to be very comfortable to shoot. Grip, balance, and pointability were superior. I could get a full grip on the pistols even when using the standard magazines because their baseplates have finger extensions.
Trigger pulls were good for this type of trigger. On both pistols, take-up was long, but firm and consistent. Letoff was crisp, averaging 7.5 pounds for both guns, according to my trigger-pull scale.
As for accuracy, the accompanying chart shows the averages for five, five-shot groups fired with five factory loads in each caliber from a sandbag benchrest at 25 yards. Overall average for the five .40 S&W loads was 3.27 inches. Overall average accuracy for the 9mm ammo was 3.74 inches.
The most fun part of my shooting session was shooting both FNS Compacts on my swinging steel target and a couple of highly visible bouncing, tumbling-type targets from Birchwood Casey. Engaging the 4-inch-wide steel plate and the 6-inch-diameter "advanced material" Hex Ball and Jack targets at various distances, from every angle I could think of, was really fun, especially with the 9mm pistol and its 17-round magazine. Double-taps on the steel plate were easy to make with both pistols.
Not long ago, during a friendly informal competition, I learned that I'm a competent shooter when the stage calls for shooting at close-range targets while standing still or kneeling. Where I need a lot more practice is shooting when advancing on a target or backing away from the target. So I practiced a few of those drills with the FNS Compacts, shooting on Birchwood Casey Dirty Bird splatter targets. All I'll say about that is the pistols functioned perfectly, but I still need a lot more practice.
By the way, during the offhand drills, I switched out the arched backstraps and installed the flat ones to see how they felt in live-fire action. I found that I prefer the arched backstraps on these guns. I generally favor a flat mainspring housing on my Model 1911s, but the arched backstraps for these striker-fired pistols definitely fit my hand better.
The 9mm and .40 S&W FNS Compacts are accurate, comfortable to shoot, and point instinctively. If I were going to pick one over the other, I'd take the .40 S&W model just because I've always been a big fan of that cartridge.