I was on the lookout for the most powerful .45 ACP platform. I wanted a handgun chambered in the .45 ACP that doubles as a self-defense tool against two-legged threats, i.e. your average everyday psycho, and as a hunting tool for effectively and humanely taking hog and deer. I’d also want to be able to convert it to .460 Rowland should I feel the itch — it can be effective for up to bear-sized game depending on the bullet type. I promise we will get to the FNX 45 Tactical, just bare with me.
I already have a Norinco 1911 in .45 ACP that I can convert to .460 Rowland anytime, yet the prospect of caliber conversion hasn’t had that much of an appeal because as slick and beautiful as it is, like all true 1911s, it has one big problem: low round count. If I would run into a bear and I had a semi-auto in .460 Rowland, I’d feel more secure if I had a double stack.
So then I thought, why not get a 2011 like the ones Staccato/STI is making? Well, those aren’t exactly wallet-friendly and I don’t shoot IPSC anyway. Why not get a Para P14-45 then? There should be some on the used market going for much less than the Staccato 2011s, right? Yes, but as it turned out, they’re not exactly .460 Rowland-friendly, not to mention older models have a lot of feeding issues.
After more deliberations, I decided I wouldn’t want an all-steel double stack 1911 (or a 2011 for that matter) because in general, they can all be a bit on the heavy side. I set out to do more research and finally decided on getting a double-stack polymer frame that can be converted to .460 Rowland in a pinch. And there appears to be a handful of such.
I eventually narrowed down my choices to three handguns: the Glock 21 Gen 4, the H&K USP in .45 ACP, and the FN FNX 45 Tactical. They all seem to fit the bill, but they all differ ever so slightly in a few key areas.
The Glock 21 Gen 4 is 1.34” thick, 5.51” tall, and 8.07” long with a 4.6” barrel. It can fit up to 13 rounds in the mag. The H&K USP 45 is 1.26” thick, 5.61” tall, and 7.81” long with a 4.41” barrel and has a capacity of only 12 rounds. The FN FNX 45 Tactical is the thickest of the three with a 1.58” width, the tallest with a 6.3” height, and the longest with an 8.64” length with a 5.3” barrel.
As far as dimensions, it’s clear that the FN FNX 45 Tactical isn’t winning any beauty contests. It’s chunky, bulky, and depending on the size of your hands, can also be unwieldy. But where it shines so brightly that literally no other handgun comes close is its 15-round magazine capacity. Yes, you read that right! It can hold 15 rounds of full fat .45 ACP in the mag.
So long story short, after months of what seemed like an eternity of pondering, and after endless visits to my LGS, I finally brought home a brand-spanking-new FNX 45 Tactical. If you’re on the fence as to whether this handgun would fit your needs, stick around and maybe this write-up can help you make a decision.
As a kind of obligatory bit with all my reviews that I just can’t avoid writing because some readers find it interesting (if not helpful), I’ll include a wee bit of historical background on the FNX 45 Tactical. Feel free to skip to the next section if you’re not a history type of person.
In August of 2005, the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) launched the Joint Combat Pistol Program (JCP) to find a replacement for the Beretta M9. It was a call to design and build a handgun exclusively for use by the government.
The requirements for this handgun include being chambered in .45 ACP caliber, having a threaded barrel to accept a suppressor, having night sights, having a Picatinny rail integrated into the frame, using a modular grip adjustment system for enhanced ergonomics, and meeting a whole host of accuracy, reliability and durability requirements.
The most popular firearms manufacturers sent entries for the government’s consideration, among which are Smith and Wesson (M&P), Heckler & Koch (HK45C), Ruger (P345), Glock (G21SF), SIG Sauer (P220 Combat), ParaOrdnance (LDA 1911), HS Produkt (HS-45, a.k.a. Springfield Armory XD), and Taurus (PT 24/7 OSS).
FN sent out their FNP45 USG, a model that is externally similar but not identical to the FNX 45 Tactical. The FNP45 USG’s magazines can’t be used with the FNX 45 Tactical, and it wasn’t ambidextrous.
Unfortunately, nothing came out of the Joint Combat Pistol program as it was eventually canceled for obscure reasons. Pundits speculate it could be because the military still had serviceable M1911A1 pistols in storage and even unserviceable ones could be refurbished.
Not too long after the cancellation of the Joint Combat Pistol program, FN decided to produce a version of the FNP45 USG for the civilian market. Sometime in 2012, the FNX 45 Tactical was released as its successor with changes such as slide stop, manual safety, and ambidextrous magazine release, among others.
The FNX 45 Tactical was designed from the ground up to handle the .45 ACP, which makes it different from a lot of its more popular high-capacity polymer frame rivals (e.g. Glocks). Being essentially an improved version of its forerunner, the FNX 45 Tactical retains most of the design elements that made the FNP45 USG appealing but with some changes that make it a better platform.
Like most handguns in its class, the FNX 45 Tactical has an integrated Picatinny rail in front of the trigger that lets you mount a flashlight, a laser, or a combination of both. As with all its rivals that have a front rail for attachments, finding a holster can be a pain. If you want one, you’ll need it custom-made for you.
The slide of the FNX 45 Tactical is milled, allowing for most red dot sights on the market to be easily mounted. It was designed out of the box to accept micro red dot sights which typically require drilling and can be an expensive procedure. Mounting plates for red dot sights like the Leupold DeltaPoint and the Trijicon RMR come with the handgun as well.
The tall height of the iron night sights and the depth at which the slide is milled lets you co-witness, which means if you install a red dot sight of any kind on the FNX 45 Tactical, you won’t need to remove the iron sights. With enough training, you can switch aiming between the red dot sight and the iron sights in the event the former malfunctions.
Moreover, taller front and rear night sights give you an unobstructed view of your target when a suppressor is attached to the threaded barrel. This is one other thing that makes the FNX 45 Tactical unique — most of its competitors with a threaded barrel have shorter iron sights out of the box and will require taller aftermarket sights if you use a suppressor.
Speaking of suppressors, the FNX 45 Tactical features a threaded barrel that will accept most suppressors on the market out of the box. I won’t benefit from a suppressor as I intend to convert mine to a dual-caliber platform for self-defense and hunting, i.e. it will chamber both .45 ACP and 460 Rowland, and because the latter is supersonic, a suppressor won’t work. But the feature is there if you would need it.
People who are familiar with the CZ 97B will agree with me when I say the FNX 45 Tactical feels like the CZ 97B on steroids. Having medium-sized hands, I don’t mind the extra thickness of the FNX 45 Tactical. All the controls are easily within my reach despite its relatively large size. I would imagine though that people with smaller hands wouldn’t like this gun if only for that reason.
The FNX 45 Tactical looks like a big mean machine but surprisingly doesn’t feel as such. The grip feels good in the hands and I can reach its trigger just as well as I can reach my Norinco 1911’s. The FNX 45 Tactical may not be a one-size-fits-all, but that’s just how it is with most firearms. Still, you should be able to make use of the modular back straps that come with it.
For safety, the decocker on the FNX 45 Tactical is its safety. You can turn it all the way up for safe, turn it down one position for fire, and turn it all the way down if you want to carry it loaded and decocked.
Whenever I have both hands on any handgun, my right thumb instinctively tends to ride high so I can have a tight purchase with as high a grip as possible for the best possible recoil control I can manage. I initially thought my grip style might decock the gun, but sending a few boxes’ worth of factory .45 ACP +P downrange, I never for once managed to decock it inadvertently, regardless of whether I shoot with my strong hand, my weak hand, or both.
Unloaded, the FNX 45 Tactical weighs in at around 33.2 ounces with the slide contributing to most of the handgun’s weight. This makes it so that even when it weighs a tad bit heavier than the Glock 20 in 10mm, it doesn’t have as much recoil. Granted, the 10mm has greater recoil than the .45 ACP, but shooting any standard pressure .45 ACP out of the FNX 45 Tactical feels like shooting 9mm out of a medium-size handgun.
Speaking of standard pressure, while the original .45 ACP load — a 230-grain bullet with a velocity of 850 feet per second out of a 5-inch barrel — is still respectable by today’s standards, the prospect of shooting 15 rounds of .460 Rowland from a single magazine makes the platform much more appealing than it already is. Only problem is, I don’t have the conversion kit yet so I’ll have to settle for commercial .45 ACP +P ammo.
Now as most of you know, high-quality factory .45 ACP +P ammo has become harder and harder to come by because of the pandemic. For the purposes of this review, I purchased a box of Hornady 220 gr FlexLock® Critical Duty +P, a box of Double Tap 255 gr SWC +P, and a box of Remington Golden Saber 185-Grain +P.
I believe all handguns are, by design, always going to be more accurate than the shooter so to ensure the highest levels of accuracy I could manage and for consistency in all of my shooting results, I used a Caldwell Pistolero handgun rest for all the shots. The distance between the handgun rest and the target was more or less 20 yards.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that all three brands of ammo delivered superb accuracy. DoubleTap’s 255 gr SWC consistently printed 2.5” groups, while Hornady’s FlexLock Critical Duty +P and Remington’s Golden Saber +P consistently gave me sub-3″ groups. And it never had a single hiccup.
As far as triggers go, many people don’t like the FNX 45 Tactical’s trigger. Personally, my only real gripe is the trigger reset.
Being a DA/SA handgun, you can shoot the FNX 45 Tactical in single-action mode, which makes the trigger pull lighter. In most firearms, a lighter single-action trigger pull typically allows for faster target reacquisition which results in faster and more accurate follow-up shots. But this particular handgun’s reset just goes half a stroke forward with significant slack to take out before the trigger breaks again for a follow-up shot. It can slow you down greatly.
But I don’t have anything against the trigger itself, because as FN advertised, the double-action trigger pull weighs in at around 10 lbs. Even with that heavy pull, the trigger is still fairly smooth. As with all other double-action triggers found in its competing models, it will only feel better the more you get used to it. It’s just that damned trigger reset. If only there’s a fix for it.
One other thing that a lot of people don’t like about the FNX 45 Tactical (which I’m kind of okay with) is the price. If you go to FN America’s website, the MSRP for an FNX 45 Tactical is $1,345.00 which is a little too steep. The street price is anywhere from $1,100.00 to $1,200.00. I got mine for $1,200.00 which is definitely a good price.
But if you check the price of its closest rival the Glock 21 Gen 4, those can be purchased anywhere from $500 (used) to $650 (NIB). Granted it can only hold 13 rounds of .45 ACP in the mag. The slide doesn’t come milled, the factory sights are terrible. Oh and it has no barrel threading to attach a suppressor. But it costs less than half the price of tha FNX 45 Tactical. And if you’re like me and you’d like to convert it to .460 Rowland, you can do so too.
So how do you know if the FNX 45 Tactical will be good for you? If you have a legitimate purpose for wanting a handgun that, out of the box, has a threaded barrel, a milled slide that can accommodate a micro red dot sight. Also a suppressor-height night sights that can co-witness, ambidextrous controls, and a 15-round capacity which is THE highest capacity in any standard .45 ACP mag anywhere in the world (i.e. extended mags don’t count), then the FNX 45 Tactical may be good for you.
Of course, the handgun isn’t perfect. You have to consider that it has a relatively high starting price for a polymer handgun in its weight class (the Glock 21 Gen 4 is a more practical choice). You’ll also need a Kydex holster custom-made for you if you want to carry one comfortably on your person. And you’ll probably need to spend time in the range doing shooting drills so you can get yourself acquainted with that trigger reset nobody cares about.
As for me and all the others out there who find the prospect of shooting 15 rounds of .460 Rowland out of a single mag nothing short of irresistible. There is nothing quite like the FNX 45 Tactical. You’d be hard-pressed to find a .45 ACP shooting platform that will fill such a role.