Until now, there has only been one pistol on the market chambered for the FN 5.7x28mm round, which FN Herstal developed in conjunction with its P90 personal defense weapon and the FN Five-seveN pistol back in the 1990s. (The P90 was introduced in 1990 and the Five-seveN in 1998.)
Now, there’s finally something else out there to eat up that high velocity miniature rifle-round looking pistol ammo—the new Ruger-57. The new handgun has a similar capacity to the FN pistol, with a 20-round magazine, and a 10-rounder available for restricted states.
The slender steel mag is surround by a glass-filled nylon frame featuring an optimized texture, making for a natural and ergonomic grip. Even though the 5.7 cartridges are a longer than most pistol cartridges, Ruger made sure the trigger reach on the 57 is no longer than many common 9mm handguns on the market. The controls include an ambidextrouns 1911-style manual thumb safety, a robust slide release, and a reversible magazine release.
The slide is hardened billet steel with lightening cuts and enhanced front and rear cocking serrations.
On top of the slide is a windage and elevation adjustable, serrated rear sight and a rapid acquisition fiber optic front sight. The frame includes a Picatinny accessory rail and the slide is drilled and tapped for easy mounting of optics with a separately available optic adapter plate available from Ruger.
The steel barrel has a black nitride treatment for wear resistance and the fire control housing is precision CNC-machined from anodized aluminum.
Assumedly the pistol takes advantage of the characteristics of the 5.7 round, flat shooting and soft kicking, which allows a shooter to put multiple rounds on target quickly.
The whole package is 8.65 inches long and weighs in at 24.5 oz., unloaded. It comes in a lockable hard case with two 20-round or 10-round steel magazines.
A Little 5.7x28mm History
The idea of the 5.7 round in a handgun has been proven effective by the Five-seveN, and it’s kind of the same thinking that went into the development of the M16 and the 5.56 for the U.S. military, a lightweight bullet going fast, instead of a bigger .308 or .30-06 going slower. And like the 5.56 was intended as a replacement for those bigger cartridges, the 5.7mm was intended to fill a NATO request for a 9mm replacement. The magazine of the Five-seveN loaded with the little bottlnecked cartridges even looks like an AR mag.
When it comes to terminal performance, you can see how SS197SR 5.7mm ammo topped with Hornady V-Max bullets fired from an FN Five-seveN perform on ballistic gel in this video. Bullet fragments penetrated up to 16 inches with serious damage tracks, though in this test there were some expansion problems with the V-Max bullets. That has more to do with the bullet design than the cartridge, and the 5.7 it was designed with a solid-core FMJ bullet.
Additionally, V-Max bullets rely on the polymer tip being driven into the core on impact to cause it to expand and fragment, so if the gel this Youtuber mixed up for this test was a little on the soft side, that could have caused the expansion problems as well, which would also explain those penetration numbers.
In the gel test below, the Youtuber uses SS198LF lead free ammo with 27 grain bullets from FN. These bullets are designed to tumble, and they do a massive amount of damage, but don’t penetrate the 12 inches that the FBI likes to see from a handgun round. However…that’s not to say every 5.7mm load would perform the same.
So, it seems more testing has to be done. Frankly, since only one rather expensive, foreign-made, and not always easy-to-get handgun was chambered for this cartridge, there doesn’t seem to have been much hardcore self defense testing stateside of the 5.7 through a handgun barrel over the years. The introduction of the Ruger-57 might change that.
Also, if the round is so solid, why didn’t it replace the 9mm? Politics, man. Politics.
Back in 2002 and 2003, NATO conducted a bunch of tests to standardize a 9mm replacement, which included the 5.7mm and the HK 4.6x30mm cartridge developed by Germany’s Heckler & Koch. Experts from the U.S. ,UK, Canada and France evaluated the results and found that the 5.7mm was clearly the better cartridge, plus it was similar enough dimensionally to the 5.56 that it could be manufactured on existing production lines.
Plus, at that time the P90 had been around for a decade and the Five-seveN for about five years while the HK MP7 chambered for the 4.6mm had only been around since 2001 and the accompanying UCP pistol was still in the design phase.
So the 5.7mm should have replaced the 9mm right? Well the German delegation led others to reject the NATO recommendation, halting the standardization process indefinitely. So, FN and HK began making the P90, Five-seveN, and MP7 independently for various NATO countries who, according to preference, have adopted them. The FN firearms are in service with military and police forces in over 40 nations and FN has since began producing a semi-auto version of the P90 for civilians.
While the Five-seveN was restricted to military and LEO sales when it was introduced in 1998, in 2004 FN opened up sales to civilians in 2004 with the Five-seven IOM, which featured several changes from the original pistol, including an accessory rail, magazine safety mechanism, and fully adjustable sights, just like those on the Ruger-57. The Five-seveN USG was introduced in 2004 and approved by the ATF as a sporting firearm. It has additional changes including a square trigger guard and reversible mag release.
In 2013, the Five-seveN MK2 replaced the USG and includes front cocking serrations on the slide, all black controls, and different sights.
The HK UCP pistol in 4.6mm made it to the prototype phase, but no further, and was never put into production.
With most 5.7mm loads you’re talking about a 28- or 31-grain bullet going well over 2,100 fps. Yes the cartridges are quite a bit longer than a 9mm (40.5mm vs. 29.69mm) necessitating a slightly deeper grip, but the smaller diameter (9mm: 9.96mm rim diameter; 5.7mm: 7.8mm rim diameter) allows 20 rounds to fit in a magazine flush with the grip, which can also be narrower.
A couple years ago CMMG introduced an AR pistol chambered in 5.7mm and it is solid and has been reasonably successful. In anything larger than a handgun, most of the recoil of the little round virtually disappears.
Look for a full review and range test of the Ruger-57 in the near future.
Ruger-57 Pistol Specs
- Chambering: FN 5.7x28mm
- Capacity: 20+1
- Grip Frame: High-Performance, Glass-Filled Nylon
- Barrel Length: 4.94″
- Overall Length: 8.65″
- Barrel Material: Alloy Steel
- Barrel Finish: Black Nitride
- Front Sight: Fiber Optic
- Rear Sight: Adjustable
- Slide Material: Alloy Steel
- Slide Finish: Black Oxide
- Weight: 24.5 oz.
- Slide Width: 1.20″
- Height: 5.60″
- Grooves: 8
- Twist: 1:9″ RH
- MSRP: $799