5.7x28mm was once seen as the round of choice for Central American drug lords–at least as far as most in the US were concerned
But as time has gone and the general population has become more aware of the round, it has developed a solid following here in America.
With that, more and more manufacturers are jumping on the 5.7×28 train and supporting this once-niche round.
While I wouldn’t quite call it mainstream just yet, and it’ll likely never be as popular as 9mm or .45ACP, it certainly has a sizable cult following these days.
If you’re interested in picking up a 5.7×28 gun of your very own, are looking for ammo recommendations for a 5.7 gun you already have, or just want to know more about this awesome round and the guns chambered for it… you’ve come to the right place.
We’re going to go over a little bit of background and history on the 5.7, and then we’ll cover everything you need to know about 5.7 guns and ammo.
Table of Contents
History of the 5.7x28mm Round
The FN 5.7x28mm round was originally created as part of an attempt by NATO to replace the 9x19mm round that was (and is) the standard sidearm round for most of the Western military and police forces.
The goal was to create a round with better range, accuracy, and terminal performance than the 9mm.
In 1990, FN completed development on the first 5.7 round, designated the SS90. It used a 23 grain projectile moving at 2800ft/s when fired out of the 10.4” barrel of the FN P90 (developed at the same time).
Out of the P90 the round was capable of penetrating Level IIIA ballistic armor at 200 meters.
NIJ IIIA armor is rated to stop a .357 magnum, so having a lightweight and lightly-recoiling round that could defeat this type of body armor at range was attractive to many potential adopters from various militaries and police agencies.
Further development led to a round with a slightly shorter, but heavier projectile that still reached speeds of 2350ft/s out of the P90. This SS190 would go on to become the standard 5.7×28 round.
The shorter length allowed the round to feed more reliably in the FN Five-seveN handgun that was also in development at the time.
The P90 was then modified slightly to feed the SS190 reliably, and the two weapons, the SS190 round, and a few other specialty ammo variants such as the L191 tracer and the SB193 subsonic round were submitted to NATO for testing and evaluation.
While Germany backed their own H&K alternative which kept the 5.7 and it’s accompanying PDW/sidearm combo from being adopted as a standard NATO armament.
Many Western militaries decided independently to adopt the round, and thereafter many law enforcement agencies did as well.
Today, the P90, FN Five-seveN, and the 5.7x28mm round are in the hands of military and police forces in over 40 countries, and there is a growing interest in the round and civilian-legal firearms chambered in amongst the general population as well.
5.7x28mm Performance and Why You Want It
The whole goal of the 5.7x28mm was to improve on the 9x19mm, and in some ways it does that.
Logistically, it is smaller and weighs less than 9mm which is great whether you’re a police department trying to store several thousand rounds, or an individual carrying spare ammo and magazines on their person.
It also has a higher velocity, lower recoil, and a flatter trajectory than the 9mm, even though it has a lower maximum range overall because of the lightweight projectile.
This lighter projectile is actually a boon in many respects because overpenetration is less of a concern, and the projectile tends to be very heavy towards the base, meaning it tends to tumble upon striking a soft surface, leaving a larger wound channel than the small bullet would seem capable of.
Finally, the lower diameter gives you a capacity boost over other similar pistol rounds, with the Glock 17-sized FN Five-seveN capable of holding 20 rounds in a standard mag that’s about the size of the 17 rounders in the Glock offering.
Of course, it’s hard to take advantage of all these positive qualities without a gun to fire your 5.7 ammo out of, so let’s take a look at the best guns chambered for it.
Best 5.7x28mm Guns
To tell you the truth, there aren’t a whole lot of civilian 5.7x28m firearms on the market today, but fortunately most of the ones that are available to us average folks happen to be very, very good.
Let’s start with the old classic…
1. FN P90 and PS90
The select-fire FN P90 was first produced in 1990 (hence the name), and quickly became popular with police and counter-terrorist units, as well as with various military personnel such as tankers, military police, support staff, and certain special forces.
In the US alone, over 200 law enforcement agencies use the P90 or its tri-railed brother the P90 TR which has M1913 mounting rails as you’d expect on a modern NATO rifle.
Of course, unless you’re an SOT, and a fairly wealthy one at that, you’ll have to settle for the semi-auto version, the PS90.
All P90 variants use a bullpup design with a lightweight polymer frame making it incredibly maneuverable in tight spaces such as inside of vehicles.
One of the design goals was to keep the gun length around the width of the average man’s shoulders, and at 20” for the P90 26” for the PS90, this is achieved, making it very comfortable to move with in close quarters.
It is available in 16” and 10.4” barrel configurations, the latter of course requiring a $200 SBR stamp, and it uses the same 50-round magazines as the select-fire model.
Also, it looks like a space blaster and is one of the few “futuristic” 90’s-era weapons designs that didn’t grow up to look goofy as hell.
It actually aged rather well, and still feels like a contemporary design rather than something best left to the time of slap bracelets and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire
2. FN Five-seveN
The FN Five-seveN is the companion sidearm meant to go with the P90.
Developed by FN early on in the life of the cartridge, this handgun actually caused significant changes to be made to the overall design and dimensions of the round, particularly so it would feed reliably in a handgun.
Like the P90, the Five-seveN is a lightweight, polymer-framed gun that has a high capacity for its size with 20 rounds on tap in a Glock 17-sized frame.
The gun is not striker-fired as many would assume, but instead uses an internal pre-cocked hammer design. It’s also deceptively light at just 1.6lbs loaded.
This is in large part due to the fact that the gun is primarily polymer, with even the slide covered in a polymer housing, giving it a fairly uniform appearance, and high levels of corrosion resistance.
Modern models utilize blacked-out controls and a fairly nice trigger. Even the older models are surprisingly accurate, and the flat trajectory of the 5.7x28mm round only helps the gun perform even better.
The one downfall of this gun is the price. For a long time, it was the only quality 5.7x28mm handgun on the market, and FN was content to leave the gun priced at $1400+.
Which in my (and most other people’s) opinion, made the gun a fairly pricey investment for something that was at the end of the day a niche handgun with little aftermarket support.
Check out our full review of the FN Five-seveN.
Now though, there’s new competition in the 5.7 handgun world and at about half the price, which has led to a drop in the price of the original Five-seveN.
What new gun is this? I’m so glad you asked.
Late last year, Ruger announced that they were bringing a new 5.7x28mm handgun to market with the Ruger-57, making them the only major manufacturer besides FN themselves to do so.
The design goal for this pistol seems to be something along the lines of “make the Five-seveN, but without all the weird shit that makes Americans not want to buy it.” A noble goal.
To achieve this, Ruger kept the basic dimensions and operating system of the Five-seveN, and did away with the European-style controls, giving the gun a familiar 1911-style safety.
Ruger also did away with the somewhat goofy polymer shielding around the slide, which rubbed some folks the wrong way.
Beyond that, you have all the same benefits as the Five-seveN… low recoil, high capacity, and a good trigger.
Oh, and it’s half the price of the Five-seveN. Hopefully, this will go a long way towards boosting interest in the 5.7 cartridge in general.
With the gun selling like hotcakes right now, it may very well bring the 5.7 more firmly into the American market.
I for one can’t wait to add one to the collection.
What’s your thoughts on the Ruger-57?
4. CMMG Banshee MK47
Let’s move away from handguns again for a minute and talk about one of the few 5.7x28mm ARs on the market.
CMMG is a powerhouse in the world of pistol caliber carbines, and the Banshee is one of their most popular offerings.
It’s actually available in ten different calibers, with three different barrel length options, and numerous configurations among those choices, so you can pretty much style it how you like.
While it’s not a true AR because it uses a blowback-operated action, it has all the same stylings of the ARs you’re used to, and it takes FN Five-seveN compatible mags to boot which is vastly preferable to CMMG selling some proprietary thing.
If you’re already interested in the idea of a 5.7 PCC but don’t love the P90 (which is fine, you’re allowed to be wrong) then this is your best option by a country mile.
You should also take a look at our complete video review of the Banshee because it’s awesome!
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
Best 5.7x28mm Ammo
Unfortunately, there’s not a huge amount of choice when it comes to 5.7x28mm ammo right now, but I suspect that’s going to change soon.
For now, there’s two main options I want to recommend, one for defensive use (or offensive if you’re buying for a police department or something) and one for training and plinking or varmint removal.
1. Speer Gold Dot
Speer Gold Dots are absolutely legendary in the world of defensive ammo, and are one of the most popular law-enforcement hollow points in North America.
If you’re non-military and you’re looking for a defensive 5.7 round, this is the one you should use, no question.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
2. Federal American Eagle
Another venerable and familiar choice here, Federal American Eagle is one of the most popular budget FMJ ammo choices out there, especially for those looking to just pick up a box of ammo at a local store.
If you’re looking for cheap, reliable, FMJ 5.7 ammo, Federal has got you covered.
That’s about everything you need to know about 5.7x28mm guns and ammo.
This awesome little round has a fun history, and while it is something of a niche caliber, it really is a practical choice for personal defense.
It’s not ideal for plinking given the relative expense of the round compared to 9mm or .22LR, but if you’ve got the cash… send it.
If you are thinking about adding a 5.7x28mm to your collection, you won’t regret it.
As far as ammo, you don’t have many choices, but the fact that FN only licenses production of the round to certain companies and oversees manufacturing of a great deal of the ammo themselves means that while there aren’t a lot of choices, pretty much all the choices are solid.
What do you think of the 5.7x28mm? Thinking of adding one of these guns to your safe? Or were you just here for the ammo recommendations? Let me know in the comments! If you’re intrigued by the PS90, check out the Best Bullpup Rifles and Shotguns–you know you wanna!