My short review of FNS-40 vs. Caracal, Walther PPQ, Glock 19

Discussion in 'Other Handguns' started by hohenstaufenz, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. hohenstaufenz

    hohenstaufenz New Member

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    Brief background: I was very lucky to win this FNS-40 from a Budsgunshop auction for a good price back in early June 2012, so this new procurement has inadvertently become my very first purchase from FNH. I have owned only striker-fired pistols due to my personal preference, and I am not brand-myopia whatsoever. In this review I will try to give you an objective analysis on what I think of FNH’s new striker design in comparison to Caracal F & C 9mm.

    Ergonomics 4.5/5: Regardless of how the pistol performs, the No.1 factor in a good pistol design should be how well it fits the average users in their hands. The ergonomics of this FNS-40 to me feels extremely comfortable. I am 6ft tall and weigh 180 lbs. The overall size of the grip to me is simply perfect. One thing I do NOT like about the FNS is the type of polymer material they use on this FNS-40. Out of the box it just FEELS CHEAP compared to a Walther PPQ.
    1) Grip angle & contour: This gun points naturally with an angle similar to the 1911s. The larger backstrap really gives you a firm grip on the weapon.
    2) Grip thickness & texture: The texture of the grip is VERY aggressive, as it feels almost like industrial sand paper. I didn’t like it at first, but after a few days I have started appreciating the European’s design philosophy. Living in Wisconsin, I often had to shoot my pistols with winter gloves on, so the rough texture and the oversize trigger guard accommodate northern users very well in colder climate.
    3) Bore axis: FNS-40 has a fairly low bore-axis, and the contour of the grip really allows you to acquire a high grip on the weapon, which is essential for controlling muzzle flip in subsequent shots. It has lower bore axis than Walther PPQ, but significantly higher bore axis compared to the wonderful newcomer Caracal 9mm and the trustworthy Glock 19.
    4) Balance: Having a compact size slide yet a full size grip, this FNS-40 feels extremely balanced in your hand. Unlike the Walther PPQ, the weight of the FNS-40 is MUCH BETTER distributed due to its lighter top weight and heavier frame. As a matter of fact, my FNS-40 shot with MUCH LESS muzzle flip than my Walther PPQ, which I am considering selling.

    Accuracy: here is where MY PISTOL ran into a big problem. Please beware that this problem may not apply to all FNS-40, but only a couple lemons from the manufactures. My pistol arrived at my FFL in sublime shape, but I failed to notice a MAJOR problem with its sight installation. There was a big gap between the bottom of my front sight and the top of the slide. The same gap could be observed with the backsight. At first I thought maybe that’s just a unique part with the FNS design, but when I took the gun to its first range test, my FNS-40 shot 6 inches low CONSISTENTLY at a range of 7 yards using Blazer aluminum 180gr FMJ and PMC 180 gr FMJ. I understand that FNH pistols demand operators to use the European dot-on style instead of the 6-o-clock hold. With this in mind I tried to compensate from the onset, but 6 inches at 7 yards is still way too much for even an European design. Deviation at that short range will translate into 21.4 inch below POA at 25 yards. If we consider the 180gr .40SW having muzzle velocity of 950fps, .164BC, that 21.4" should be somewhat reduced to about 19" below, which is still a lousy figure for a quality handgun made by such a reputable company like FNH. The lateral accuracy had apparently no problems, but the vertical accuracy was completely off that I had to stop the test after 100 rounds. I searched for every available picture online for the FNS, and I couldn't find a single one with such a conspicuous gap, which was about the same thickness of a penny. However, there ARE indeed some FNS owners reporting the existence of a paper-thin gap, as you will find on this very forum. If you are still in doubt, I would recommend FNH’s 2012 product catalog http://www.fnhusa.com/le/downloads/catalog.asp. To confirm my theory, I called the FNH technical service guy on August 14, Mike, about this possible gap, and he told me right away that there should NOT be any gaps in between, because sweat and moisture will soon creep in and weaken the joint. To double-check the validity of his words, I asked him very courteously to get a hold of at least two FNS right away while I was on the phone, and he told me right away that he did NOT see any gaps between the sight and slide on the two demo FNS. His reply confirmed my suspicion, hence I returned my FNS without further delay or waste of effort in trying to adjust my shooting technique beyond reasonable level. My honest advice for my comrade-in-arms is to check with the FNS customer service, instead of simply assuming the gap is part of the FNS novelty design. The group wisdom/ herd mentality in this case might not justify your consistent low shooting with the FNS-9/40, so you can stop blaming your own techniques for a while. Think about it using common sense, why would you ever want to have a gap under your sight? The stainless steel slide and metal component of Trijicon sight will not go through a temperature gradient big enough to cause any material expansion, unless you are shooting on the surface of Mars.

    Needless to say, I am fairly disappointed with the quality control of FNH. All my other pistols arrived with out-of-box 2-4 inch accuracy at a range of 25 yards. After contacting FNH about the problem, their customer service promptly sent me a shipping label, and my pistol has been sent back for repairing since 16 Aug 2012. I will write another detailed range report when/if the problem has been fixed. After doing a thorough search on the Internet, I have only found one other credible user experiencing the same problem. This by no means negates the potential accuracy of the FNS-40, but we’ll have to wait.

    Mechanics:
    1) Trigger: after having owned Walther PPQ and Caracal, I must say the FNS-40 trigger is really nothing impressive. After pulling the trigger for the first time, my first impression was “oh oh, did I waste that $475?” Don’t get me wrong though, FNS-40 still has a way better trigger than my Glock 19 3rd Gen (even with 3.5lb Ghost trigger). It’s just that I have been so desensitized in using the near-perfect Walther PPQ and Caracal trigger that I developed this unrealistic expectation to all striker newcomers on the market. Out-of-the-box the FNS-40 trigger has a slight creep with the initial pull, and it feels springy in both firing and the reset out-of-the-box. The reset is audible and tactile, while the trigger-break is clean. So far so good.
    2) Magazine release: VERY GOOD. I really appreciate how easy it is to access the big magazine release button, yet it is not overtly obtrusive. The magazine literally flies out when you press that smooth looking button.
    3) Safety: VERY GOOD. FNS-40 has a VERY SMALL contoured frame-mounted manual safety that is ideally placed for easy disengagement with both thumbs. As a matter of fact, the location and the torque angle of the manual safety make it much easier to disengage it than engaging it! This is very thoughtful. Not only will an operator have the option of a manual safety, but also he or she may choose to easily ignore (not neglect) it due to its small size. Very thoughtful indeed.
    4) Take-down: The take-down is just like a Sig or XDM with that rotating lever design. Compared to a two-second blindfolded take-down of a Glock/PPQ/Caracal, FNS generally takes me 5 seconds. Not a big deal.

    Comparison with Caracals:

    Although in 9mm, the Caracal C is quickly becoming my favorite carry pistol above my old trustworthy G19 and the elegant Walther PPQ. With a much better trigger and overall ergonomics than Glock, Caracal is what a Glock should have been in a parallel universe. With a width of 1.55 inch, FNS is much wider than the Caracals (1.1 inch!). The trigger on my FNS hasn’t been broken in yet, but stock vs. stock FNS loses the competition in terms of trigger smoothness. However, my Caracal F has experienced 2 FTE with 100 rounds of Lawmen 124gr and 2 FTE with 50 rounds of WWB 115gr; my Caracal C also has 2 FTE already with 50 rounds of WWB 115gr. In contrast, my Glock 19 and Walther PPQ had no malfunctions whatsoever with any types of ammo (including WWB and Blazer) after about 1000 rounds of shooting last year alone. Incredible! One more note, the Caracals also have much lower bore axis than FNS-40, so my two big-eared cats shot with literally NO MUZZLE FLIP in quick double-tap drills.

    Overall conclusion: FNS-40 makes a very good alternative to your primary range/home defense pistol. It comes in with great value at a mid $500 price level. The design is simple and elegant, and at the same time, VERY comfortable in your hand. I especially enjoyed shooting it with such a minimal muzzle flip due to its low bore-axis and high grip frame. At a 28oz (loaded with 14 rounds of 180gr FMJ), this FNS-40 is highly comparable to a Glock 23 and Walther PPQ.40 in terms of carrying weight. But the full size frame and conspicuous magazine lip can leave a noticeable gun print on your tight-fit shirt/polo, if you like to wear them in summer like I do. Without actually shooting at least 1000 rounds through this pistol, I cannot assume anything with its accuracy, reliability and durability. A further range report will be on the way.

    Ranking:
    1) Trigger: Walther PPQ > Caracal = XDM > FNS >> >G19 > M&P9 (wiggles!)
    2) Ergonomics: FNS= M&P9 = Walther PPQ = Caracal > XDM >>>G19 (Block 19)
    3) Accuracy: Glock 19 = Walther PPQ > Caracal ? FNS-40 = XDM 3.8
    4) Reliability: Glock 19 = Walther PPQ > XDM >> Caracal ? FNS-40
    5) Cost-efficiency: Caracal ($399) > FNS-40 ($475 from auction) > G19($610 after modification) > Walther PPQ ($620 with Meprolight night sight)
    6) Aesthetics: Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

    Thanks for reading this short review.

    Marcus Z from Wisconsin