All You Need to Know About the P90 - Including P90 Video

P90's are cool, compact guns, meant for use in tight situations where a rifle would simply get in the way, but a pistol wouldn't pack enough punch.


The P90 is a Belgian designed submachine gun. The weapon’s name is an abbreviation of Project 90, which specifies a weapon system of the 1990s. The P90 is considered a Personal Defense Weapon (PDW), and was designed as a compact but powerful firearm for vehicle drivers, operators of crew-served weapons, support personnel, special forces and anti-terrorist units.

Developed between 1986–1987 at Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, the P90 features a compact bullpup design, ambidextrous grip and a polymer and alloy-based construction. The weapon contains several innovative features including the proprietary 5.7x28mm ammunition, designed for greater penetration of body armour than pistol ammunition.

The P90 and variants are in use by military and police forces in over thirty countries worldwide, and sports models are popular among civilian shooters.

Military Factory:

The FN P90 is billed as a 'personal defense weapon' and is thusly classified as a submachine gun and not an assault rifle. The FN P90 was originally intended to arm auxiliary units (drivers, messengers, clerk-type elements) with a potent man-stopping weapon for pure self-defense in their day-to-day battlefield roles. The design of the P90 is of a "bullpup" configuration (generally indicating that the pistol grip is forwards of the ammunition magazine) with an oversized stock, integrated ergonomic pistol grip and distinct layout. The weapon is ideal for secondary and security units thanks to its minimal size.

The FN P90 features a translucent, swiveling ammunition magazine case made of polycarbonate and is mounted over the top of the weapon (the individual cartridges rest at 90 degree angles to the main system receiver - each round is positioned automatically before chambering). Ejection of spent shell casings is downwards out of the pistol grip. The cocking handle is accessible from both sides of the weapon system, allowing for ambidextrous use with no modification. The barrel is of forged steel and features a flash suppressor. The P90 is made up mostly of alloy and polymer material.

The FN P90 is also engineered to fire the specialized 5.7x28mm round, which is held as an acceptably impressive man-stopping round. The pistol grip, optical sight (for low light or daylight) and trigger guard are all built into the base design and the overall system can be field striped into four major components (comparatively, the PS 90 breaks down to about 6 major components). The oversized stock also assists the operator with improved stability when firing from the shoulder. Low recoil is reported.

A silencer is optional and can be coupled with subsonic ammunition. Firing modes consist of single shot and full automatic fire. The TR rail system can be applied for adapting a variety of telescopic configurations. Laser target designators can also be integrated.

The P90 is used in various forms the world over, appearing in military, security and civilian sporting forms. The P90 was designed by Stephane Ferrard in 1986 and entered production in 1993 with Fabrique Nationale de Herstal.

Basic Info:

Place of origin: Belgium
In service:
Fabrique Nationale de Herstal


Weight: 2.54 kg (5.60 lb) empty - 3.0 kg (6.6 lb) loaded
Length 500 mm (19.7 in)
Barrel length 263 mm (10.4 in)
256.5 mm (10.1 in) (new models)
Width 55 mm (2.2 in)
Height 210 mm (8.3 in)
Cartridge 5.7x28mm
Action Straight blowback, closed bolt
Rate of fire 900 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity 715 m/s (2,346 ft/s) (SS190)
850 m/s (2,788.7 ft/s) (SS90)
Effective range Sights fixed for 150 m
Maximum range 200 m
Feed system 50-round detachable box magazine
Sights Tritium-illuminated reflex sight, back-up iron sights

The 5.7x28mm Round:

The 5.7x28mm cartridge is a small caliber cartridge developed by Fabrique Nationale de Herstal.

With a high muzzle velocity and low recoil, the cartridge was designed to be effective against modern body armor when used in pistols, submachine guns or carbines.

The 5.7x28mm rounds are bottlenecked cartridges with 5.7 mm (.224 inch) bullets and come in several versions.

The SS190, the de facto 5.7x28mm standard cartridge for military and law enforcement, was originally designed for the modern battlefield where troops may be wearing body armor and conventional pistol or submachine gun rounds may be ineffective. Currently the only firearms chambered for this cartridge are the Five-seveN pistol, the FN P90 personal defense weapon, the FN PS90 carbine, and the AR-57, which is an upper receiver for M16/AR-15 rifles. ST Kinetics is developing a 40 mm grenade launcher combined with a 5.7x28mm PDW, similar to the FN F2000.

Some military and police personnel view the 5.7x28mm SS190 skeptically, although it is touted as a solution to defeating modern body armor. Many regard the SS190 as having insufficient "stopping power" for law enforcement use and this topic has seen much debate. Brief controversy ensued in the United States in 2004 when the Brady Campaign claimed that civilian-legal SS192 cartridges were able to pierce Level IIA body armor when fired from the Five-seveN pistol. Most civilian-legal game hunting cartridges, and even several pistol cartridges, are capable of such penetration. The ability of SS192 to pierce body armor as claimed by the Brady Campaign was not confirmed with facts or data by any authoritative agencies or sources, although the British SAS claims that the SS192 pierces body armor and Warsaw vests. The SS192 is still used by the special forces in the fully automatic P90. The SS192 was not restricted for civilian sales, since it is not legally recognized as armor piercing by the ATF. Nonetheless, FN chose to withdraw the SS192 from the market and replace it with the SS196SR, but the SS192 is not banned and is still available in the open market. The SS196SR's performance against armor is diminished due to a heavier varmint bullet (leading to lower muzzle velocity) and a polycarbonate tip that promotes expansion and fragmentation upon impact. The 5.7X28 has comparable power to 9mm handgun loads ranging from 350 foot pounds to nearly 470 foot pounds of energy. The terminal ballistic capability of the 5.7X28 has not effectively been evaluated in comparison to more prevalent cartridges.

FN's 5.7x28mm brass cases are covered with a special polymer coating for easier extraction on the PS90 carbine due to the high chamber pressures and lack of case tapering. In addition, the coating ensures proper feeding and function in the P90 magazines. Handloaders have noted that the Five Seven pistol does not suffer from the absence of the polymer coating.

Who uses the P90 (Besides Members of Stargate)?:

Austria: Austrian Army, Jagdkommando.
Argentina: Buzos Tácticos and Amphibious Commandos Group.
Bangladesh: Bangladeshi anti-terrorism agency RAB and special forces.
Belgium: Belgian Directorate of Special Units and Special Forces Group.
Canada: Used by police in the Halifax Regional Municipality in Nova Scotia, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, and Joint Task Force 2.
Chile: Chilean Army, Chilean Marines.
Cyprus: The Cypriot National Guard purchased 350 P90s in 2000 for use by their special forces. The order included suppressors, laser target designators and tactical flashlights.
France: Used by some specialized units within the French Army, such as the Troupes de marine naval infantry regiment and 1st Marine Infantry Airborne Regiment (1er Régiment Parachutiste d'Infanterie de Marine). Also used by the French Gendarmerie GIGN and National Police RAID.
Germany: BKA VIP protection.
Greece: Coast Guard and EKAM.
Guatemala: Secretaría de Asuntos Administrativos de Seguridad de la Presidencia (SAAS).
India: Special Protection Group.
Republic of Ireland: Irish Army Rangers.
Italy: Procured in small quantities by GIS, NOCS and COMSUBIN.
Lebanon: Used by the Republican Guard Brigade and armed personnel of the General Security Directorate and State Security Directorate.
Malaysia: Navy PASKAL counter-terrorist force.
Morocco: GISGR (Groupement d'Intervention et de Sécurité de la Gendarmerie Royale).
Netherlands: Bijzondere Bijstands Eenheid and Korps Commandotroepen counter-terrorism units.
Pakistan: Pakistan Army, Special Service Group and VIP protection squads.
Panama: Institutional Protective Service.
Peru: Peruvian Navy and special forces.
Poland: The P90 TR is in limited use by the special operations formation GROM.
Portugal: DAE Naval Special Forces and GOE Special Operations Group.
Saudi Arabia: Special Emergency Force.
Singapore: Singapore Armed Forces Commando Formation.
Spain: Spanish police GEO unit[15] and Guardia Civil. Also used by the Spanish Armed Forces for special operation units such as the Escuadron de Apoyo al Despliegue Aereo (EADA) and the Escuadron de Zapadores Paracaidistas (EZAPAC).
Thailand: Royal Thai Army special forces.
United Kingdom: Used by the West Midlands Police at Birmingham Airport, and other constabularies at regional airports.
United States: Used by the United States Secret Service, the United States Federal Protective Service, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and numerous law enforcement agencies, many of them for their SWAT units. The first U.S. team to adopt the weapon was the Richland County Sheriff's Department in South Carolina. It is also used by SWAT teams in Washington D.C., Houston, and Indianapolis. In California, the San Francisco Police Department SWAT team uses the P90. In Missouri, the Columbia and Hallsville police departments are among those whose special-duty units have them, while the Creve Coeur, Missouri, Police Department uses the P90 as their patrol duty rifle, making it one of the few agencies to give it widespread usage.



James R. Rummel said...

Good post!


chris said...

You might add that Thompson barrels are available for the 5.7 round as well...

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