The latest “Devil’s Gun”

This column appeared in Shotgun News and elsewhere nearly five years ago.  I dredged it up when media reports surfaced that the Ft. Hood killer used a Five-seveN.  It should be noted that had he used the second gun he reportedly had during the rampage, a .357 Magnum, the death toll would very likely have been higher, but with fewer wounded.

–Chris Knox

Knox Report

The latest “Devil’s Gun”

By Chris Knox


(March 1, 2005) With the introduction to the civilian market of its “Five-seveN” pistol, FN Herstal has set the anti-gun world in a tizzy not seen since Gaston Glock’s polymer-framed pistol burst on the scene twenty years ago.  At that time the buzz was all about the “undetectable” plastic gun.  In similar fashion, the Brady Campaign (formerly Handgun Control Inc.) is circulating breathless reports that  “It [the Five-seveN] has the power of an assault rifle, yet it fits right in your pocket.”


If that isn’t enough humor, the Brady site ( also features an unintentionally comical video clip of a couple of individuals, both in serious need of remedial gun safety counseling, shooting up some body armor with the pistol using the AP round.  FN says the AP ammo is only sold to law enforcement.  In the video, the pistol does indeed penetrate the vest, as will any AP 9mm or .357 round, and as will any other fully jacketed, .22 caliber (or near it) round zipping along at 2,300 fps.  But that’s too much technical detail to expect from the anti’s.  Here’s a bit about the Five-seveN.

The FN Herstal Five-seveN is a compact mate to the Buck Rogers-styled FN P90 submachine gun.  Both fire a bottle-necked 5.7x28mm cartridge, which is only a bit longer in overall length than a .22 WMR round and with a bullet diameter that is for practical purposes .224 inches.  According to FN data, muzzle velocity of the standard round is 715 meters per second, a bit over 2300 fps.  At 31 grains, the projectile can only be described as puny – the standard .22 Long Rifle bullet is 40 grains.

Penetration is a function of bullet weight, shape, hardness, and velocity.  Hard, pointy bullets driven at high velocity will punch holes in dang near anything.  The Five-seveN demonstrates that increasing velocity allows subtraction from the weight side of the equation. 

The bottom line is that the Five-seveN is an interesting pistol in a somewhat interesting caliber.  It might be useful for defensive purposes owing to its compact size, low recoil, and flat trajectory, not to mention its twenty-round magazine.  But the fat magazine might be a necessary feature since the target is likely to keep coming even after being hit.

But the purpose here is not to evaluate the Five-seveN.  I’ve researched some of the technical details in order to de-mystify the pistol and the round.  The lesson to be learned here is what the anti’s are up to with their campaign to ban this gun. 

In the context of the history of firearms development over most of the past century, this is a typical stage.  This is not the first time that a new development in firearms technology prompted calls banning the new “super-weapon.”  The calculated hysteria that greeted the introduction of the “undetectable” Glock some twenty years ago was only one of the more recent incidents.  The granddaddy example was a call to ban private sale of a handgun so powerful and morbidly dangerous that one writer termed it a “‘freak’ class of weapon.” 

The freak weapon?  The .357 Magnum.  The writer and magazine?  NRA Secretary-Treasurer C. B. Lister in the January 1937 issue of The American Rifleman. NRA leaders feared that the buzz in the press over the Magnum’s “armor-piercing” ballistics and its “long-range accuracy” would cause all handguns to be classified the same as machine guns under the National Firearms Act. 

That’s not NRA bashing, it’s history – history that the modern gun rights movement, including the NRA’s current leadership, can learn from.  We’ve seen it before.  It has worked before.  It’s a reasonable assumption that we will see it again. 

I wrote only a few weeks ago in this space about a gun that was being banned because it was too big – the .50 BMG rifle.  Now I’m writing about a call for banning a gun that is too small. 

Once more, guns and ammunition are being bracketed.  One gun shoots a bullet that is too big and heavy, another is too little and light.  Once the two prongs have defined what is “too much” on either side, the anti-gunners have only to ratchet the definitions upward and downward.  Thus, the danger of accepting a ban – any ban – on any class of firearm or ammunition.  Twenty years ago this principle was violated with the armor-piercing ammunition ban and the full-auto “freeze”.  Calls to ban both the Five-seveN and the .50 BMG are the fallout from those errors that continues to this day.