FN PS90 PDW, by Pat Cascio

I first read about one back in the early 1990s and then again in 2005, when the civilian-legal version was released. Several years ago, I actually saw one and handled it in my local gun shop. Recently, my local gun shop got another one in. I hesitated because of the cost, and two weeks later a trade was worked out; I got it.

I actually fired this caliber in a converted AR-15, and I liked it, but it offered nothing in an AR-sized gun. Long-time SurvivalBlog reader, Mike C., and good friend in Eugene, OR got one along with the pistol in the same caliber, and he taunted me about getting one. It was unrelenting, until I got one for myself.

What am I talking about? It’s the FN P90 select-fire and the FN PS90 civilian-legal semiauto only carbine. The FN P90 was released in 1990, as a personal defense weapon (PDW) to replace handguns for behind the line military troops. However, it rapidly caught on, and military and law enforcement all over the world were issuing the very compact P90. The P90 is, as mentioned, a select-fire weapon in 5.7x28mm, and the PS90 is the semiauto-only version for us civilians in the USA.

The 5.7x28mm round was meant to be a replacement for 9mm handguns, again for behind the line troops. However, many law enforcement and military units found the 5.7x28mm round perfectly acceptable for offensive applications as well. Many Special Forces military units use the P90 for hostage rescue operations, as does our own U.S. Secret Service. That’s what they are carrying in those briefcases that some agents carry. The P90 was even used in the first Gulf War to great success.

When you look at a 5.7x28mm round, next to a 5.56mm round, it looks like the smaller brother; it is in a way. It fires the same .224 sized caliber bullet, albeit a lighter bullet. The most common bullet is a 40gr version, where the most popular 5.56mm bullet is either a 55-gr or 62-gr round, traveling faster. The 5.7x28mm 40-gr bullet is traveling a little over 2,000 FPS from the PS90, where the 5.56 bullets are moving about 1,000 FPS faster. However, speed isn’t everything, as many believe. There are several factors to make a bullet perform to a desired end. I’ll share more on this later.

The FN PS90 is a bullpup design with the actual firing group behind the trigger. The 16” Bbl doesn’t appear to be that long, because most of it is behind the trigger. The total overall length of the PS90 Carbine is only 26.23 inches. It’s very compact compared to a military M4. The gun only weighs a little more than six pounds empty. It fires from a closed bolt and is blow-back in operation; it’s very reliable. The barrel has a muzzle brake, not a flash suppressor, however it does reduce muzzle flash a little bit. The trigger is a sliding proposition, like that on the grand ol’ 1911. The safety is ambidextrous as well as the magazine release. The trigger guard is enlarged for use with gloves as well as the unique way you have to hold the gun to fire it. The charging handle is also ambidextrous as well, which is a super cool feature!

There have been several iterations of the PS90 over the years. My version came with the holographic sight in the handle that has the very poor white outline cross-hairs, which are very difficult to see in bright light and slow to pick up. I replaced it with a SightMark Ultra Shot Reflex red dot sight. I had to purchase the FN-made M1913 USG rail in order to mount the red dot. FN is a bit crazy on the price– $150.00, but no one else makes it. There is also a built-in sight in the mount. It is just about totally useless, if you ask me. It’s too hard to see and too slow to pick up. The “carry handle”, for lack of a better word, that the M1913 rail fits into actually has very crude but useful “iron” sights built into it. There is one on either side, and they’re good enough for close-in ranges should the optics fail.

At last count, more than 40 countries were issuing the P90 and the PS90 to their police and military units. The gun is very compact in either version and ideal for close combat work, especially inside of buildings, where a larger weapon might slow you down or be cumbersome. I can readily see the outstanding benefits of the P90 or PS90 as a PDW (Personal Defense Weapon), because it is so compact. The gun can take a 10-, 30-, or 50-round magazine that sits on top of the gun just under the sights. The 5.7x28mm round in the 40-gr bullet weight has proven itself as a stopper. It’s much better than the 9mm round is, and there is less chance of ricochet or over-penetration. Extensive testing has been done by military and law enforcement agencies around the world on this. The PS90, with a 50-rd magazine, loaded with the FN 40-gr V-Max bullet might just be the ultimate Zombie-killing weapon in the world in my humble opinion.

There is very little recoil to speak of in the PS90 and very little in the FN Five-seven handgun chambered in 5.7 that my friend, Mike C., allowed me to shoot. Okay, he actually demanded I shoot it and kept loading magazine after magazine for me. I’ve had several people out shooting my PS90, and after they fired a few round every one of them stopped shooting, turned around with the biggest smile on their faces, and said, “I didn’t expect this…”, meaning the low-recoil and the massive fire-power not to mention the absolute fun factor and outstanding accuracy, too.

Federal Ammunition manufactures a 40-gr FMJ found in 5.7x28mm. However, the velocity is much, much lower than that of the FN 40-gr V-Max polymer-tipped round. It’s about 400 FPS slower. I don’t see the benefit of the Federal round. The price is very close to that of the V-Max round, so I prefer to practice with the round I’m going to use– the V-Max. In my gun trade to get the PS90, the gun came with 900 rounds of ammo and two magazines– one 30-rd and one 50-rd magazine. MidwayUSA has the 50-rd genuine FN mags for sale for $21.99, which is a bargain.

FN sells a tactical thigh magazine pouch that holds two PS90 magazines, but FN is insane. They want $240 for it. You can find similar set-ups on the ‘net for under $50. I took my Blackhawk Products tactical assault vest, which has six pockets on it for 30-rd AR magazines, and had my wife sewed on an added piece of Velcro on the closure flap so that it grabs a little bit more on the matching Velcro on the pocket. Now, the PS90 magazines fit nicely. We are talking six of the 50-rd magazines on-hand and one more in the carbine. That’s serious fire power there. Plus, with the added much lighter weight of the 5.7x28mm ammo, you aren’t carrying all that much weight at all. As I get older, I think I’m getting smarter; I don’t want to carry any more weight than I have to.

FN claims the 5.7x28mm round with 40-gr bullets has an “effective” range of 200 meters. I think that might be a little optimistic. I haven’t done any serious testing for penetration, and you need penetration to stop an attacker, but I’m thinking 150 yards might be more realistic in the stopping department. Much combat takes place at 100 yards or less. This round and gun aren’t designed for long-range work, so don’t get one if you think that. This is a great urban weapon. Again, it is a PDW and would make an outstanding home defense weapon and a great house-clearing weapon as well. Of course, we in the USA can’t get the armor piercing ammo that many military and law enforcement units use on a regular basis, designed to penetrate soft body armor. Still, the 40-gr V-Max bullet will sure get the job done, and it does, according to my research.

The P90 and PS90 also ejects empty brass from under the gun into a nice little pile at your feet. This is great if you reload. There is even an ejection port cover that you can keep closed ala the AR15 to keep dirt out of the action. The trigger pull is a bit different, because it is a bullpup design. The trigger is up front and the hammer is in the back of the stock, so there is a linkage that connects the trigger to the hammer. The trigger pull on my PS90 is about 7-lbs; however, it doesn’t feel that heavy when actually firing the weapon. I love the ambidextrous safety. It is in the bottom of the trigger guard and is easy to put on and disengage as well. The charging handle is located on either side of the gun above the trigger guard, and it doesn’t take much effort to chamber a round; it’s a very short stroke.

Blackhawk Products sells a neat little strap that was designed to go around the stock at the rear of the gun and into a slit. Attach it and you can then snap-on a single-point sling.

I have a few thoughts on the polymer magazines. They are easy to load. Also, you slide the round down and back and then when you slide the next round in the round below, it rotates around 90-degrees and you continue until the magazine is loaded and you can see the loaded rounds in the magazine. I have had zero malfunctions at all. The rounds simply rotate from the magazine into the chamber with ease. That’s nice, very, very nice. The magazine just slides into the gun and snaps in place, very securely. The ambidextrous magazine release is easy to operate as well.

Disassembly of the PS90 takes all of about 10 seconds. Yes, you read that right– 10 seconds. The gun breaks down into several components/sub-assemblies and goes back together just about as fast, too. I like it a lot! Thus far, I’ve put more than 1,000 rds through the PS90 with no malfunctions of any type, and I haven’t cleaned the gun. It is remarkably clean after all that shooting.

When my lovely wife got the chance to fire the PS90, I got “that” smile when she turned around. “That” smile is “I want it”, and she was informed that this was my gun, and we were not “sharing” it, as she often says when she lays claim to one of my firearms. The funny thing is, when she gets one of my guns, I don’t know where the “sharing” part comes it. It is her gun!

Now for the bad news, the FN PS90 retails for $1,449, so it’s not cheap. Then again, it is an FN, which is one of the world’s finest weapons makers, and the PS90, even though it has been out for more than 11 years, is still a bit difficult to find, new or used. When guys or girls buy one, they tend to hold onto them, which is very understandable.

As to accuracy, I’m getting one-inch groups, if I do my part out to 50 yards. It’s a little difficult to get very small groups with a red dot sight on any gun. The FN 40-gr V-Max polymer tipped bullet is super-accurate and very consistent, when it comes to performance. I did a little bit of testing by shooting into water-filled gallon milk jugs, and the spectacular eruption of the bullets when they hit the water-filled jugs is something to see; the milk jugs explode, the bullets expand, and some break apart in the second jug of water. I have no doubts these bullets will get the job done, stopping a violent attack. As mentioned earlier, many police departments in the U.S. and around the world have conducted their own testing and are satisfied with the performance of the little 5.7x28mm round, and that’s what is important. The U.S. Secret Service wouldn’t use this round if it wasn’t effective.

If faced with the Golden Hoard or a Zombie Apocalypse, my PS90 would absolutely be my first choice in a weapon. It’s fast to fire, has very little to no recoil, is accurate, and has 50 rds of ammo on tap. What’s not to like here? My friend, Mike C., said to make sure I let everyone know he goaded me into getting this gun; he shamed me for at least six months until I found one. Okay, Mike, thanks!

A side note: 5.7x28mm ammo is a little difficult to find, and once again Mike C. turned me on to Palmetto State Armory . No one, and I mean no one, comes close to their prices on this ammo. My only complaint is that they are slow to ship, but many places are selling the FN 40-gr V-Max ammo for twice the amount of money that Palmetto is selling it for. Just order well in advance of when you want some ammo from them.

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio