You have seen an FN PS90 and recognize it from movies such as The Hunger Games and The Mechanic. This firearm is the futuristic-looking bullpup design from FN Herstal and chambered for the 5.7mm round.
This shoulder-fired weapon features a unique feed system with the magazine mounted on top of the receiver. The distinctive shape and design give the FN PS90 an easily recognizable profile.
The FN PS90 is the semi-automatic version of the FN P90 submachine gun.
While the FN P90 is meant for law enforcement agencies and military organizations, the FN PS90 is aimed squarely at civilian shooters. The PS90 incorporates the same features and extraordinary design innovations as the P90, including the innovative synthetic thumbhole stock.
The FN PS90 is available to the general public in its semi-automatic only form with a barrel length that makes it legal to purchase and possess in the United States without being classed as a National Firearms Act weapon by the ATF and the United States Government. However, these firearms are relatively rare and not easily found in the civilian market.
The FN Herstal and the PS90 Story
NATO called for possible replacements for the 9mm Parabellum round and many of its associated weapons in the early 1980s.
The FN project began the development of the 5.7×28 cartridge and a set of firearms designed specifically for this cartridge. There were several reasons for this choice of cartridge. One of the least-known reasons (but one of the most important to NATO) was that the 5.7×28 cartridge could be produced on ammunition assembly lines that were already producing the 5.56 NATO cartridge.
FN Herstal developed a suite of firearms built around the 5.7×28 cartridge, including the P90 Bullpup-designed rifle and the FN 5.7 pistols.
The P90 was billed as a compact individual battle rifle that would be issued to crew-served weapons teams, support personnel, special forces groups, and counter-terrorists operators. More than 40 nations outfit their military and law enforcement agencies with the FN P90 submachine guns.
The FN PS90 and the Civilian Market
It didn’t take long for this unique firearm to be noticed by civilian shooters who began to inquire about a model that was legal for non-military use.
FN, seeing a potential market, quickly introduced the semi-automatic version of the FN P90 in 2005. This variant retains the unmistakable look of the original FN P90 while meeting all the requirements to be sold legally in the U.S.
The FN PS90 From the Ground Up – Specifications and Features
Before we go any further, it is important to take a good look at the specifications and design features of the FN PS90. This firearm is so unique that even many seasoned shooters find it almost alien in the way it operates, not to mention the way it looks.
The Basic Bullpup Design of the FN PS90
If you aren’t familiar with the Bullpup design, now is the time to get educated.
Contrary to popular belief, the bullpup design is not a recent innovation. The British Thorneycroft carbine was tested in 1901. This British design was ahead of its time, and the technological curve didn’t catch up to the design until the 1960s.
Using a bullpup design puts the firing grip of the weapon in front of the breech rather than behind it. Typically, the trigger mechanism is in front of the magazine as well. This allows the overall length of the firearm to be much shorter and often lighter. A more compact rifle is easier to maneuver in combat, especially if personnel are motorized and moving in and out of vehicles.
The Austrian Army was the first to officially adopt a bullpup design rifle as their standard military issue. The Steyr AUG was the choice.
Several other countries have now joined the bullpup bandwagon. In particular, the Chinese field the QBZ-95, the Israelis issue the IWI Tavor, and the French have adopted the FAMAS.
The FN PS90 Review – Specifications
Understanding the factory specifications for the FN PS90 gives us a good foundation for stepping off into an in-depth review of this rifle.
Since the FN PS90 is radically different than the rifles shooters are accustomed to handling, it is important to become familiar with the basic specifications and design issues of this rifle.
PS90 Factory Specifications
- Caliber – 5.7×28 mm
- Operation – Closed bolt, blowback operation
- Magazine Capacity – 30 or 10 rounds
- Weight (unloaded) – 6.28 pounds
- Barrel Length – 16 inches
- Overall Length – 26.23 inches
- Stock Color – Matte Black
- Barrel Material – Hammer Forged Steel
- Barrel Lining – Chrome
- Muzzle Device – Ported Muzzle Brake
- Receiver Design – Bottom Ejection Port
- Receiver Material – Alloy upper receiver and barrel support
- Stock Material – Reinforced Synthetic Polymer
- Stock Design – Thumbhole Bullpup
- Forend – Molded forward hand stop
- Sling Attachments – Molded-in rear sling attachment point
As you might expect, such a radical design has many features you won’t find on more traditional rifles. Many of these design features result from some design factors Herstal set out to achieve.
Among the more innovative features included with the FN PS90, you will find the following:
- The blowback operation, which fires from a closed bolt, is designed to provide optimum accuracy and reliability.
- Completely legal for the civilian market, the 16.04 inches hammer-forged barrel is Mil-Sec and comes with an integrated muzzle brake designed to reduce felt recoil.
- Dual magazine latches offer complete ambidextrous operation when changing magazines.
- Dual cocking handles mean no switching of parts to facilitate right and left-handed shooters.
- The molded synthetic thumb-hole stock is designed to be ergonomic and efficient for all shooters.
- Unique horizontal top-mount magazine and cartridge feed reduces the overall height and profile of the PS90, making it easy to manipulate in tight spaces or while carrying loads.
- The safety switch is completely ambidextrous and is located inside the trigger guard for easy and efficient access.
- The trigger guard is enlarged to facilitate easy use when wearing gloves.
- Magazines are made of translucent polymer to recognize your magazine load status easily.
- The stock is complete with MIL-STD 1913 accessory rails and integrated iron sights.
- The standard factory PS90 includes an integrated reflex sight.
This truly is a unique take on a bullpup rifle. However, there are some things that leave me with a few doubts about the design and its operation.
As we look at the particulars of this rifle, we will delve into what I perceive to be possible problematic factors.
In-depth With the FN Ps90
Getting to know the FN PS90 also includes a closer examination of the individual functioning parts of this innovative design. There is no doubt this is an attention-getting rifle that will turn heads when you take it to the range. The question remains whether it will hold up operationally and accuracy-wise to the visual standard it sets.
The Bullpup Design – A Matter of Taste
I have found that shooters usually have very definitive opinions about bullpup design rifles. Introduce the FN PS90 into the equation, and the two sides typically become quite polarized. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground about how people feel about this rifle.
The two camps fall into those who think the bullpup design is folly and those who think this design is the future wave for battle rifle design.
Most of those who fall in the middle with no real opinion are shooters with little interest in a semi-automatic carbine, caliber, or price range of the rifle.
The Pros of the FN PS90 From a Shooters Point of View
Those who find the FN PS90 one of those guns that they consider a must-have or a must-want in many cases have very definitive ideas of why this is a gun you should own and shoot.
Looking at a few of the pros pointed out by this camp gives you an idea of what motivated shooters to spend the money for an FN PS90.
- It is unique, and you probably won’t run into another one on a visit to your local shooting range. You will attract a lot of attention and get asked lots of questions.
- The size factor is a huge selling point for some people. The overall height, width, and length make the PS90 about as small as possible and still have a legal firearm.
- Many shooters like the concept of the 5.7×28 mm cartridge. You can carry a rifle and a pistol that shoot the same ammunition, which, in theory, can make your life simpler.
- As strange as it looks, the FN PS90 is comfortable and easy to shoot and maintain control.
- Most shooters and supporters of the FN PS90 report that the accuracy is good, especially for a carbine rifle with a 16-inch barrel.
- The small form factor and the ease of maneuvering make this a great choice for a personal protection firearm.
- The 5.7×28 cartridge is small, light, and delivers a lot of muzzle velocity.
Those who own and shoot the FN PS90 make some valid points about the strengths of this bullpup design. I think as much as anything, many of them enjoy the novelty of the rifle and having something unlike anyone else’s firearm on the range.
The Cons of the FN PS90 From the Detractors
Those who take a much more negative view of the FN PS90 tend to make more logical arguments based on functionality, design simplicity, and cost. It is often hard to argue with these kinds of facts.
In general, those who don’t particularly like the FN PS90 point out these things:
- From a civilian standpoint, the PS90 has no real practical value. It is not a good choice for hunting, nor does it lend itself to competitive shooting. Some people purchase the FN PS90 for personal protection, but we aren’t sure it is a good choice for that either.
- The ammunition is expensive in the civilian market and can often be hard to source. There isn’t a lot of choice in loads or bullet weights, either.
- Some shooters question the reliability of the PS90 under field conditions. The unique feed mechanism with its spiral feed ramp is, by all accounts, reliable. However, those who have suffered a misfeed or other malfunction report that it is almost impossible to remedy in the field.
- While the stock design is ergonomic and efficient when shooting from a standing position, this gun is awkward to handle and aim if you are prone or trying to shoot from a bench in a supported position.
- The choice of caliber is often a source of contention. The PS90 chambered for the 5.7x28mm cartridge doesn’t have the effective range of other rifles. The cartridge delivers a lot of velocity and energy at the muzzle, but that deteriorates rapidly with distance.
- These rifles and ammunition are expensive for what many shooters consider a novelty item. With no real civilian application and based on the current cost, this seems like a poor value unless you just want to have something no one else has.
As a practical firearm, these arguments do hold some water. There may be some advantages for a law enforcement agency, but there doesn’t seem to be much to support putting this kind of money into a rifle that may easily become a safe queen that sees the firing range a few times a year.
What I Like About the FN PS90
I have been fascinated with the FN PS90 since I first saw it at SHOT Show. I was, like the rest of the throng gathered around the FN booth, wide-eyed and anxious just to hold such a radically different rifle.
To this day, I have the FN PS90 on my ultimate wish list. Maybe someday, a benefactor will gift me with one, because I am certainly not going to part with the money to buy one outright.
There are several factors that really catch my attention and give me the impression that this is a rifle I would like to own.
Truly Ambidextrous Design
This semi-automatic variant of the famed FN P90 retains the fully ambidextrous features of the original. From the safety selector to the charging handles, every control on the PS90 is operable from the left or right side. This is a modular firearm that is meant to be ergonomic and efficient for any shooter.
The Size, Weight, and Profile
Take any other carbine length rifle meant to be used as or mimic an assault rifle, and you find that a 30-round magazine is often in the way when you are trying to maneuver.
The top-mounted horizontal magazine on the FN PS90 keeps the overall profile of this rifle narrow and short.
Bottom Ejection Port
Nothing can add some excitement to your day like having a spent 5.56 shell casing ejected from the side port of an AR-15 and go down your collar.
Brass gets hot and is often the cause of the “not brass range dance.” The bottom ejection port puts the spent shell casings on the ground and not up in the air, which I find exceptionally thoughtful.
The 5.7×28 cartridge just doesn’t generate much recoil. The integrated muzzle brake on the FN PS90 helps reduce felt recoil even more, and it is effective at controlling muzzle flip. Even the smallest shooters can become very effective at handling the recoil and returning to their sight picture rapidly with this gun.
The Visual Appeal
I will admit that the thought of showing up at the range with an FN PS90 gives me a kick. I know how people react to the visuals created by this rifle, and it is appealing to get that kind of attention.
This isn’t a real selling point and certainly no reason to justify the cost, but I am human, and I have my vanities.
What Gives Me Pause about the FN PS90
Every firearm I own has its own pros and cons that I have considered before the firearm went into my gun safe.
As attractive and as appealing as I find the FN PS90, it also has things that cause me to hesitate, and thus far refrain, from making such a substantial purchase. Among these restraining factors are the following:
The biggest stumbling block I have with the FN PS90 is the cost both to own and to shoot these rifles. The current street price of an FN PS90 approaches $1,800, which makes this a very expensive plinking rifle. Add to that the ongoing cost of ammunition, and you find that shooting this rifle regularly is less than economical.
Apart from the initial and operational costs, I can’t see a real practical application for this rifle in my life. I guess you could hunt with the FN PS90. However, in practical terms, that really isn’t an option. This rifle isn’t ever going to be a contender in a long-range shooting competition, and I don’t compete in three-gun matches.
The 5.7×28 Cartridge
This is a cartridge that was designed with a specific application in mind. FN Herstal was looking for a replacement for the 9mm parabellum at the request of NATO.
Without a doubt, this is a cartridge that was meant from the get-go to be an anti-personnel round intended for military and law enforcement agency use. Other than the fun of shooting it, in my world, it has no practical advantage.
Shooting the FN PS90
I must confess at the beginning that I don’t own an FN PS90. The rifle I used for this FN PS90 review was borrowed from a friend who graciously let me take it to the range and provided some of the ammunition. He prefers to remain anonymous, but without his assistance, this part of the article wouldn’t have been possible.
Readers should also note that the pictures in this part of the article are actual photos of the rifle I used and me shooting the FN PS90. For clarification, the rifle is a PS90 and not a P90. The owner of the gun converted the rifle to an SBR and added a suppressor. Both are legal with the required BATF tax stamps.
At The Range
We spent some time discussing the FN PS90. I was anxious to hear the owner’s comments about the firearm. He was adamant that he was more than happy with the performance of both the rifle and the caliber. His experience in law enforcement provided some unique insights.
We shot about 100 rounds at the range. This FN PS90 was equipped with a 50-round magazine, and we shot 2 magazines as I evaluated the rifle. My first impression was that this is a fun gun to shoot. It is quiet (the suppressor is much appreciated), and it is easy to control.
Function and Operation
I know 100 rounds is not a good test of the function and operation of a sophisticated rifle like the FN PS90. However, the owner of the rifle has a lot of history in this area and reports that he has never suffered a failure to feed or a stoppage in the rifle.
I can attest to the smooth operation during my testing of this gun. While the feed mechanism is a bit complicated, the engineering seems to be flawless.
The magazines are unique in the shooting world. To load a magazine, you slide the forward end under the optics mounts. A quick firm tap on the rear portion of the magazine will seat it securely, after which you can charge the rifle with the forward-mounted charging handle.
The magazines are robust and reliable. They are fully enclosed, which goes a long way to preventing problems with dust and debris entering the magazine or the feed mechanism. I know some people have concerns about the complicated feed operation, but it works.
The Lexan mags are clear, so it is easy to see when a magazine is nearing the empty point. The size of the 5.7 round makes the magazines light and easy to carry. Carrying three fully-loaded mags is no problem and comes in at about half the weight of a comparable load of 5.56 cartridges loaded in 30-round magazines.
Shooting the FN PS90
This gun is surprisingly easy and comfortable to shoot. I know many people will criticize the fact that I am not wearing hearing protection in the photos. Actually, I am since my in-the-ear hearing aids have that feature built-in. On the other hand, with the suppressor, this gun makes less noise than my Ruger 10/22.
There is virtually no recoil or muzzle jump. Keeping this rifle on target is a matter of controlling your own reactions more than the rifle. Even firing multiple rapid shots, I was able to consistently hit my target with the last few shots in the string.
Even out to distances of 300-yards, this short barrel rifle is amazingly accurate. The 5.7 cartridge is fast and flat at these ranges. However, after 300-yards, gravity and wind resistance begins to take their toll on the relatively light bullet. If you need to go out beyond 300 yards on a regular basis, you won’t find the 5.7 round adequate.
The picatinny rail mounted Vortex red dot performed well, as did the back up iron sights on the PS90.
The Feel on the Range
When I first saw the FN PS90 at SHOT Show, I thought it looked awkward. After standing in line for a while to get the opportunity to handle the PS90, I was surprised at how natural this differently designed configuration came to my shoulder and on target.
There are a few quirks to deal with when you get to shoot the PS90. You need to shoulder the butt of the rifle high, and it is more of a chin weld than a cheek weld to get yourself in the proper position to use the sights.
The gun I shot for this FN PS90 review was outfitted with a Vortex red dot on the upper rail mount which looks very high at first glance. However, once I learned the position, the sight picture was great and provided an excellent sight reference for shooting.
My Final Thoughts on the PS90
Obviously, this isn’t a rifle for everyone. The PS90 is a specialized firearm for a specialized mission.
However, it performs its designed role very well and, in the right hands, is a formidable weapon. If you can afford the price, this is an attention-getting rifle that can add a new dimension to your shooting.