Arsenal Blog 007: PS90
Arsenal Blog 007: P90
SILENCERCO’S ARSENAL SERIES showcases guns we love for various reasons that reside in our in-house arsenal. We are best-known for making guns quiet in order to do this, we must interact with a great variety of amazing platforms. In these posts we will tell you about each platform we like, why it’s different and relevant, and why we think it belongs in our pantheon of greatness.
The FN P90 aka FN Project 1990 personal defense weapon (PDW) was designed by FN Herstal in Belgium along with unique ammunition in 5.7×28mm. Featuring a compact bullpup design with fully ambidextrous controls, the P90 is an unconventional weapon with a futuristic appearance with a design that incorporates several innovations such as a unique top-mounted magazine. The P90 is a selective fire, straight blowback-operated weapon with a rate of fire of 900 rounds per minute. The charging handle, magazine release, and backup iron sights are symmetrically distributed on both sides of the weapon, and the firing selector is located directly at the foot of the trigger where it can be operated from either side by the shooter’s trigger finger or support-hand thumb. When fired, the P90 ejects spent cartridge casings downward through a chute located behind the grip, so spent cases are kept out of the shooter’s line of sight.
This platform was designed to meet a NATO requirement for a PDW to have greater range, accuracy, and terminal performance than the 9mm cartridge but be smaller and more compact that the M16 series firearms. At that time, NATO was looking for something to give tank crew members and support troops that was more effective than a pistol but smaller than a full-sized rifle and would utilize a round that could penetrate body armor. Other competitors for this requirement include the Heckler and Koch MP7 in 4.6mm. Development of the platform began in 1986, production started in 1990, and the 5.7×28mm ammunition was then redesigned and shortened. A modified version of the P90 with a magazine adapted to use the new ammunition was introduced in 1993, and the companion Five-SeveN pistol was also then introduced using the same 5.7×28mm ammunition.
Despite the original intention, most sales of the P90 have been to special forces and counter-terrorist groups who use it for offensive roles. The P90 first saw operational use in the 1991 Gulf War, where it was used by the Belgian special forces group. In 1997, suppressed P90s were used in combat by the Peruvian special forces group. By 2009, the P90 was in service with military and police forces in over 40 countries. In the United States, the Houston Police Department was the first local law enforcement agency to adopt the P90, acquiring it for their SWAT team in 1999. In 2003, the Houston SWAT team became one of the first agencies in the country to use the weapon in a shootout.
Things We Like
- Brass doesn’t eject into your face. The clear translucent polymer magazine sits directly atop the receiver, in line with the bore. Empty cartridge cases are ejected straight down a port located directly to the rear of the pistol grip area and drop freely to the ground. This eliminates any concern about where to place your face to keep it out of the way of hot, empty brass regardless of whether you are right or left handed.
- Better trigger pull than other bullpups. Let’s face it, bullpups are notorious for having horrendous trigger pulls. While the sliding trigger on the P90 is of the classic bullpup type necessitated by the fact that the trigger sits forward of the action it is smooth and quite reasonable for a carbine with an effective range of 200 yards or so. Rapid fire poses no issue and the P90 locks in solidly on target.
- Small and easily deployable. The P90 is only 26.23 inches long overall with a 16.04 inch long barrel due to its bullpup configuration. This makes it ideal for storage or use in tightly confined spaces. Since the weapon has a fixed stock as opposed to a collapsing or folding stock, it can be quickly deployed when needed. The weapon’s smooth, rounded contours prevent it from snagging on the shooter’s clothing or equipment, and a small vertical protrusion is provided at the front end of the weapon’s frame to prevent the shooter’s hand from accidentally slipping in front of the muzzle while shooting.
- Civilian-friendly – The civilian version – the PS90 – is one of the most compact and reliable carbines one can obtain without a $200 SBR tax stamp.
- Great for use with suppressors – 5.7x28mm is a very versatile caliber for suppressors and can be used with many rimfire suppressors as well as pistol and rifle suppressors. With the same caliber being available in the Five-SeveN pistol, PS90, and P90 you have many options for suppressing all of these firearms. SilencerCo currently offers 17 suppressors that are rated for 5.7x28mm. The Sparrow and Spectre rimfire silencers are the smallest and have sound ratings of 127.7dB and 125.8dB respectively using 40gr FN VMax out of a PS90 with a 10 barrel.
Things We Don’t Like
Loading the magazine is a chore. We accept the tradeoff for 50 round mags, but damn.
NFA lovers beware – There is no factory SBR available for the PS90 and the flash hider is pinned and welded, so you need someone who can cut it down and thread it properly to SBR it and use it with a silencer. You know, the stuff we care about.
Ballistics – Now, before the 5.7x28mm fans lose their minds, realize that the ballistic results of this special family of cartridges from 23-31 grains going 1850-2800 fps are at best inconclusive. Some claim the caliber is too expensive, the AP ammo penetrates too far on bad guys not wearing armor, and the civilian ammunition options are underwhelming in terms of terminal effects. On the other side of the debate, some police and SWAT swear by the P90 due to its lightweight and compact size, controllable full auto, armor piercing capability, and high capacity magazines and feel that these advantages outweigh the tradeoffs.
We like unique designs and the P90 blazed a trail with a new family of special purpose cartridges, a solid trigger for a bullpup, compact size and shape, ambidextrous controls, a new way to feed a high capacity magazine, and its own companion pistol chambered in the same round. The fact that it also lends itself to such a wide variety of suppressors of course makes it even cooler.