Will Dabbs, MD, GUNS Magazine
Photos: Takashi Sato
It was a typical hard day at the office. Battered and exhausted, you and your wife finally get the kids down and claw your way to bed to sleep the sleep of the dead. Three hours later you are dreaming something ethereal only to be forcibly awakened by the sound of glass breaking in the kitchen downstairs.
You are standing in an instant, shivering in your underwear from a toxic combination of chilly nighttime air and adrenaline. You struggle to clear your head as your ears strain to pick up more cues. Your domicile, previously a warm familiar safe space, is now a potential war zone, and the area of operations is liberally populated with the most important people in your universe. You reach for your Fabrique Nationale FNX-45 Tactical…
The question of what exactly is the best home-defense arm has been responsible for rivers of ink. I’ve even argued it from a variety of angles. A tricked-out black rifle is powerful but bulky in tight spaces. A proper shotgun is adequate should your home be violated by rampaging rhinos, but recoil is no small consideration. This leaves handguns, but there are a lot of moving parts to the question of which is best for your circumstance. Fortunately, Uncle Sam put a little effort (and I mean a very little effort) into researching this thorny question.
In the 20th Century, the US military conducted two major competitive handgun selection programs. The first resulted in the adoption of the Colt/Browning 1911. The second gave us the Beretta M9.
There are inevitable contracts for literally hundreds of thousands of new military handguns. Subsequent spinoff sales to Law Enforcement entities as well as geeky guys like me who simply must have what our young warriors are running account for countless more. While the recent adoption of the SIG P320 represents a seismic shift in the current military handgun scene, this most recent competition was not without precedent.
In 2005 Uncle Sam announced his intention to conduct the Joint Combat Pistol Trials to replace the M9 as the standard US military handgun. The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) birthed the program, but Big Army joined in as well, upping the stakes astronomically. The winning .45 ACP handgun was to have a Picatinny rail, day/night sights, and the capacity to accept a suppressor.
Interestingly, the same tactical requirements making a handgun an optimal combat tool also make it a kick-butt home-defense weapon.
The rules in this case stated USSOCOM intended to issue a solicitation to obtain a commercially available non-developmental item (NDI) Joint Combat Pistol (JCP) System Caliber .45 ACP. When translated into real people-speak this was heady stuff indeed.
To give some idea as to the stakes, the maximum potential procurement was 645,000 guns. Put in perspective, the original Beretta M9 contract was for less than half the number. This was to be the contract of a lifetime for the company landing it. The winner takes all. The losers go home sad. Reality TV couldn’t conjure up a more compelling dramatic scenario.
Everybody wanted a shot. Entrants included Beretta’s PX4 Storm, Fabrique Nationale’s FNP45-USG, GLOCK’s 21SF, Heckler and Koch’s HK45C, Para-Ordnance’s LDA 1911, Ruger’s P345, SIG’s P220 Combat, Smith & Wesson’s M&P, Springfield Armory’s XD and the Taurus PT 24/7 OSS. With so much riding on this competition, each of these companies tweaked their guns to the demanded specs then crossed their fingers.
Once everybody had optimized his best handgun on his own dime, Uncle Sam, in his own inimitable fashion, downshifted from 645,000 to 50,000 guns. Soon thereafter the government had a change of heart, declared defeat and called it a day, leaving everybody involved wondering exactly what happened. Instead of One Big Winner and a bunch of losers, everybody seemed to have lost before the competition even got going.
In frustration, USSOCOM ended up buying and bartering for several thousand GLOCK’s to hold them over and everybody took their toys and went home. It’s a wonder our guys aren’t packing slingshots today.
Many prefer the FNX-45’s SA/DA design and external hammer as opposed to striker-fired pistols.
Despite all the sordid subterfuge surrounding the now-infamous JCP project, there were quite a few optimized combat handguns resting in the stables of the 10 jilted manufacturers. With the Dot Gov pipeline definitively dismantled, these companies began peddling their wares to the largest gun market on the planet—which would be us.
In the case of the Fabrique Nationale FNX-45 Tactical, the end result is a truly superlative combat handgun. FN is a seminal name in modern gunmaking. John Browning did some of his best work there, and the firm brought us such foundational designs as the P35 Browning Hi Power and the FN FAL battle rifle. These days FN produces most of our military’s M4 Carbines along with our M240, M249, Mk 46 and Mk 48 belt-fed machineguns. To say these guys know how to make quality weapons is like saying Marilyn Monroe was sort of cute. While conjecture concerning who might have actually won the competition livens up many an Internet gun forum, the FNX-45 would have been mightily tough to beat.
The FNX-45 Tactical is an SA/DA design based on John Browning’s apparently perfect short-recoil operating system. This method of operation drives the vast majority of combat handguns in the world today. The gun includes three 15-round magazines, a 5.3-inch threaded barrel, totally ambidextrous controls and a trigger pull of between 4 and 12 pounds, depending upon the mode of operation.
The frame is polymer while the slide is stainless steel. The external extractor doubles as a loaded-chamber indicator and there are cocking serrations both front and rear. The slide is cut for a red-dot sight if desired and the gun includes a mounting kit to accommodate most red- dot options. The luminescent night sights are rounded but raised to accommodate a suppressor. The gun comes in either black or Flat Dark Earth.
The ambidextrous safety levers also decock the gun and there are four interchangeable backstraps. The threaded cold hammer-forged stainless steel barrel sports a polished chamber and feed ramp. The magazine release and slide-stop are perfectly replicated on both sides. The SA/DA trigger is an issue of personal preference when compared to a striker-fired design. However, the long first-round trigger pull does offer an extra measure of safety while groping about in the dark. I really can’t think of anything a combat handgun could offer the FNX-45 Tactical doesn’t have.
Will did yeoman’s work in test-firing the FNX-45 and has the hands (below) to prove it, although he admits the suppressor made things a lot more pleasant.
A combat handgun of such rarefied awesomeness is simply naked without a proper suppressor. A modern specimen adds minimal weight without adversely affecting reliability. In addition to helping preserve your hearing, a “can” also makes your pistol more controllable. Most importantly, however, a suppressor allows you to communicate in a crisis. The nuances between a plaintive “Help me, daddy!” and “This is the police, drop your weapon!” can be a really big deal after you have discharged your firearm in an enclosed space.
Transferring these delightful devices is indeed a royal pain, but it hasn’t stopped us from buying just shy of a million of the things. Hopefully, the Hearing Protection Act will soon become law and things will get better. To find a proper can for this very proper pistol, we looked no further than SilencerCo.
SilencerCo makes some of the finest, most innovative cans in the industry. The SilencerCo Omega 45K is the smallest, lightest, quietest suppressor in its class. It’s full-auto rated and adaptable to a variety of different platforms via five different mounting pistons. The Omega 45K is an all-welded, zero-maintenance stainless steel design that should literally last forever.
I build suppressors commercially myself and it’s hard to impress me with one these days. But I was gobsmacked the first time I shot this can. I’ve shot a lot of suppressed handguns, but I have never seen a suppressed .45-caliber platform perform this well. The Omega 45K is designed to run dry, yet I shot it comfortably without muffs when out in an open space. Wow!
To cycle a suppressor-equipped short recoil auto reliably, the Omega 45K incorporates a nifty gadget called a Nielsen device. This remarkable contrivance incorporates a piston to capture a smidge of the gun’s muzzle energy and uses it to give the nose of the slide a little tap with each round fired. It may be man’s coolest invention since the flush toilet.
Own The Darkness
No matter your level of fitness or training, you’re helpless in the dark. When precious hearts beat on the other side of the sheetrock, target identification is paramount and accuracy must be surgical. You can fumble with a separate flashlight and pistol if you wish, but there are better solutions.
The Streamlight TLR-1 HL puts out 800 lumens of brilliant white light and runs 1.75 hours on a pair of included CR123 batteries. In addition to a robust aluminum chassis, the TLR-1 mount allows the light to be mounted and dismounted without passing your hand across the muzzle. Military and LE folks around the world use the TLR-1. You can find much cheaper lights on the Internet, but this is the one to stake your life on.
The Last Word
The suppressed FNX-45 was utterly reliable throughout our extensive testing. As you can see from the attached table, this combo shoots plenty straight. The rear sight is intentionally designed to be the same width as a man’s shoulders at 25 meters.
The ongoing discourse over defensive calibers is vigorous and rife with vitriol. However, the .45 ACP—particularly with state-of-the-art defensive bullets—is a reliable manstopper. I have seen a lot of guys shot and I have never seen anybody hit solidly with a .45 ACP who seemed the least bit happy.
With all the cool-guy stuff in place and a full 15-round magazine, this gun is heavy. You won’t want to hump it underneath shorts and a T-shirt. However, this is not its mission. This is the gun you grab when you have to defend your castle. For this application it’s perfect.
More compact than a long gun, as reliable as a tire iron, immensely powerful and unbelievably quiet, the holy melding of the FNX-45 Tactical with the Omega 45K and TLR-1 gives you a technological edge in the event of a home invasion. I’ll cut corners when it comes to dishwashing detergent, decorative window treatments or mustard. However, when the safety of my family is on the line, I want the best there is. This is it.
The Befuddling Science Of Sound Measurement
Measuring sound isn’t quite so simple as assessing temperature, altitude, or speed. Sound perception can be subjective and there is also a time component not present in most other physical measurements. Sound is a form of energy transmitted as pressure propagated waves through a transport medium, most typically air. Modest noise over long periods can damage your hearing permanently. Sharp, intense noise can yield permanent hearing loss even in tiny spurts.
We measure sound via a logarithmic scale in units of decibels. A logarithm is the inverse operation to exponentiation. Its intent is to allow you to perform complex multiplication tasks by means of simpler addition. I had my mathematician bride explain it to me and was still confused.
Practically speaking, however, this means these measurements are exponential rather than linear. A 10-decibel increase results in a 10-fold increase in sound intensity. A 20-dB increase equals a 100-fold rise. We perceive every 10-dB increase in sound as roughly doubling the noise intensity.
An unsuppressed .45 ACP handgun produces around 157 dB. The same gun sporting a SilencerCo Omega K produces 135.9 dB. OSHA considers 140 dB to be hearing safe, though you still wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time there. While the odd 140-dB gunshot might be tolerable, Twisted Sister at 140 dB through a pair of Bose headphones would undoubtedly be deleterious, for reasons both physiological and aesthetic.
Because of the exponential nature of the decibel scale, a modest numerical sound reduction can be profound. Where cutting a foot-long hotdog in half means you only have half a hotdog, cutting a .45 ACP handgun’s audible report in decibels by 1/10 means the perceived sound is hugely ameliorated. The effectiveness of a firearm sound suppressor is a function of can design, the speed of the bullet, the size of the hole in the end, the shooter’s comportment, and scads of lesser variables like weather, temperature and humidity. However, a quality sound suppressor inevitably makes shooting noisy guns much more pleasant.
Maker: FN USA
Action type: Double/single action short recoil
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel length: 5.3 inches
Overall length: 7.9 inches
Weight: 33.3 ounces (unloaded)
Finish: Flat Dark Earth
Sights: 3-dot night sights (raised for suppressor)
Grips: Polymer integral, 4 interchangeable backstraps
5511 South 6055 West
Caliber: .45 ACP (tested), 9mm, .300 AAC
Suppression level average: 135.9 dB (157dB unsuppressed)
Weight: 10.7 ounces
Length: 6.36 inches
Diameter: 1.48 inches
Materials: Stellite and stainless steel
Pistons: $86 (.578×28 sold separately)