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Hard Duty: FNX-40 Review

by Patrick Sweeney   |  January 24th, 2011 11

The other was the good old cocked-and-locked, known in the 1911 and Browning P-35 pistols. With a few exceptions (the CZ 75 being one), you had to choose between those two or, in the last few decades, the striker-fired designs. Police departments had to choose something, and having chosen, their officers were locked out of other options. Non-sworn CPL holders had more choices, but often opted for what the local PD used.

A good idea never goes away, and in this instance we have FNH-USA to thank. The FNX-40 is not just a traditional double action, it combines that with a cocked-and-locked option, capacity, polymer and the highest of high-tech manufacture. An upgrade of, and derived from, the FNP series, it takes advantage of the extra work FNH-USA did on its .45 pistols for the U.S. Army.

First up, the trigger system. The FNX-40 has a TDA trigger system in which when you press the trigger, the hammer cocks and at the end releases the exposed hammer on the first shot, with the cycling slide cocking it for subsequent shots. If you wish to load it and leave it cocked, simply push the safety lever upward, just as you would on a 1911-type pistol. If you prefer not to have the hammer back, press the safety lever down and it decocks the hammer, and the lever pops up when you let go. You now have a double-action trigger pull ahead of you, the TDA.

But wait, it gets better. If, having decocked the hammer, you then press the lever up, the pistol is now double action and locked on Safe. If that is what you want, the option is yours. I can see that as a viable option for on-duty uniform carry and, once you train yourself to swipe the safety lever down, the best of both worlds. And as a DA-stroke trigger, it is smooth, clean and not a problem to deal with. Sure, it is longer and heavier than a single-action or striker-fired pistol, but not everyone is comfortable with SA or strikers.

The issue is important enough to repeat for those considering the FNX-40 as a carry gun: You can have a TDA, a locked TDA or a 1911-type cocked-and-locked action—all in one and without changing parts. Whatever your preference, pick one, learn it and live it. And as a boon to southpaws, both the safety and slide release are ambidextrous.

The frame of the FNX-40 is polymer, and the replaceable backstraps come both in flat and arched, as well as serrated and grooved. Four options await you. With four backstraps in the box, you can even experiment with applied epoxy, a soldering iron and some epoxy dye to modify a backstrap to your own design. The backstraps also incorporate a lanyard loop, the latest must-have item. (Those of us in the know have had lanyard loops on our handguns for decades.)

As an upgrade from the FNP-40 (with which magazines are not compatible), the FNX-40 frame has a new, ambidextrous set of buttons to release the mags. No need to swap a button from one side to the other for you left-handed shooters. The frame is also sculpted higher in the tang than it was on the FNP-40 to allow your hand a higher hold in order to deal with recoil more ably than with the FNP-40.

And finally, the locking block and barrel seat in the frame of the FNX-40 is lower to the slide rails than it was on the FNP, getting the axis of the bore lower and closer to your hand.

So before we even get to capacity, we have a midsize pistol that gives you almost too many options in size and trigger control. (Is it possible to have too many options? I think not.)

The magazines are stout and capacious. They hold 14 rounds of .40 S&W, with another in the chamber. The baseplates are big and easy to grab out of a mag pouch, and that makes the tubes easy to disassemble and clean. The slide and barrel are stainless steel, with the FNH logo and caliber laser-burned on the exterior. I recently used the FNX-9 to compete in the FNH-USA 3-Gun match in Missouri and found it accurate, reliable and soft-shooting.

However, for the .40 I was tasked not with competing, but with abusing. The plan was simple: to stack up as much ammo as possible and blast it through the FNX-40 in a short a period of time to see how it stood up.

To that end, I put out a call for ammo, and Black Hills came through. Even a short time ago it was possible to acquire many thousands of rounds for such a test, but these days it isn’t so easy. Every time it looks like the ammo companies will catch up with demand, interest in buying ammo surges and the shelves are stripped clean.

Despite that, Black Hills was able to send me nearly 2,000 rounds. I dove into my own stash and bumped that up with more Black Hills, as well as a mixture of other brands and loads.

I rounded up the count to 2,500 rounds by cleaning out some of the odds and ends from my reloading in the years past. I figured that once I got the FNX-40 hot and dirty, I would really test it by tossing in some powderpuff lead-bullet reloads and the like. Alas, my efforts were for naught, as even those failed to bring the test to an end.

The main constituent of the ammo Black Hills sent was a new load, the 140-grain Barnes TAC-XP. The bullets are all-copper hollowpoints with a huge opening. At 140 grains they might seem on the light side, and the velocity isn’t hypersonic, but they fed with complete reliability and shot accurately. A quick ballistic-gelatin test proved that, despite being easy-recoiling on the shooters’ end, they perform brilliantly downrange.

The test was simple. First, check the pistol for point of impact and grouping. To no great surprise, the ammo all struck to the sights, except for the Barnes, which hit just a smidgen low, but not enough to be a problem. Also not surprisingly, the FNX-40 shot accurately.

With the preliminaries out of the way, it came down to blasting through ammo. FNH-USA was kind enough to send me a clutch of spare magazines, so I could load up nearly 150 rounds at a time and crunch through them.

The empties went to the right, not far, and a little bit forward, so they were easy to find. They also were not abused, so when you shoot your FNX-40 your brass will be well suited for reloading.

Sluicing just over 2,000 rounds through a handgun in an afternoon teaches you a few things. For one, if you shoot 150 rounds nonstop, the pistol will get hot. If you promptly load the magazines again and repeat, it doesn’t have time to cool down, and as a result, it gets to the point that you can’t touch the slide. By then you might as well stop, pick up the brass, take a water break and then load the magazines again. Also, if you have 10 magazines to load, you’ll find one for which that last round is tough to get in.

And at the end of the day, your hands will be a bit sore, but not much, as the polymer frame soaks up recoil, but it’s enough to notice. I also had a go at trying accuracy testing every 500 rounds. I’m not sure the results tell us anything, as the work of shooting probably tired me enough to mask any changes in accuracy. What I can say is this: I didn’t notice any changes in the excellent accuracy during the test, nor in shooting the PNX-40 afterward. Again, no great surprise there—2,500 rounds is barely a warm-up, not enough to wear on anything so stoutly made.

Now, in the world of high-cap, striker-fired pistols, does the FNX-40 have a place? I think so. Obviously, it won’t melt under hard use. The trigger offers you different starting options, and once you’ve selected one and spent some time with it in practice, you’ll be set. Given its weight and the corrosion-resistant materials it’s made of, you could carry it a long time without having to worry about your own personal microclimate causing rust. Just clean out the dust bunnies on a more or less regular schedule. With its 14+1 capacity and the vast array of .40 S&W ammo available, you can have your defensive arm stoked from mild to hypersonic. And with a spare magazine (or two) on the other side, you’ve got plenty of ammo on tap.

The four-inch barrel makes it easy to carry concealed, as it is unlikely to “jab and pivot” on you and end up wedged against your kidney. The polymer frame makes it the same weight as any other midsize pistol, so ballast isn’t a problem. The accessory rail on the frame gives you a place to mount a light/laser combo.

I really like the single-action/double-action option. That way, if I want to pack it as if it were a high-cap 1911, I can. But if needed, it can be carried and used as if it were just a TDA-driven pistol. I can see it doing very well as a law enforcement sidearm. Patrol officers could carry it hammer down and safety on, detectives could carry it hammer down, and SWAT could carry it cocked-and-locked.

While the rest of the world seems content to follow the striker-driven design paradigm, FNH-USA has been busy perfecting the traditional double action.

The FNX-40 consumed all the ammo the author had on hand without a stutter and was soft in recoil.

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