David Mamet, the famed playwright and Hollywood director, said, “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.” This is that sort of comparison—well, minus the treachery. For this “Shootout” I got my hands on the new FNS-9 Compact and did a side-by-side test with that old warhorse the Glock 26 Gen 4.
Why? These two guns share a common design goal. Unlike the new breed of ultra-small 9mm carry handguns, these offer a compact and portable format, while boasting very respectable capacity. Additionally, these two 9mm guns are big enough to shoot comfortably, yet small enough to conceal. Simply put, they are guns that are enjoyable to shoot, not ultra-lightweight and hard kicking super compacts.
These two handguns are nearly identical in exterior dimensions, and both use a double-stack magazine design to maximize cartridge capacity. Where they differ is in the details, and we’ll get to those in a minute.
Glock originally released the Model 26 during the previous millennium—yeah, way back in 1994. That was 15 years before the first airing of “Jersey Shore.” While the G26 shared many design elements of its full- and compact-size predecessors, it required the redesign of components like its locking block and recoil spring, to make it all go bang reliably in the small footprint.
FN is no young upstart. It was FN that produced the first striker-fired guns ever, all the way back in the 1880s. More recently, FN has become the dominant supplier of arms to the U.S. military. It makes most of the M4, M16, M240, and M249 guns. My personal favorite, the MK19 Automatic Grenade Launcher, is an FN product, too. (It’s tough to carry, but actually does have “knockdown power.”)
FNH USA just released the FNS-9 Compact for 2015, so this particular pistol is a brand new design. It does, however, inherit features from the existing full-sized FNS series launched in 2011.
Let’s see how these pistols compare.
For practical purposes, these two compact pistols are nearly identical in size. The Glock 26 is 6.41 inches long, whereas the FNS-9 Compact is 6.7 inches long; The G26 is 4.17 inches high, whereas the FNS-9 Compact 4.38 inches high (my measurement). The G26 weighs in at 21.71 ounces, while the FNS-9 Compact is 23.4 ounces. Given the difference in how measurements are taken, these guns are closer in size than they appear. From a concealed-carry perspective, they’re virtually the same.
In the default configuration (using the most concealable flat magazine bases), the Glock 26 is designed for a two-finger grip. There is no way that my pinky finger would fit anywhere but underneath the magazine base. The FNS-9 Compact has just enough extra height in the grip area to get my third finger partially on; in fact, it would actually be uncomfortable to put it under the magazine. I have large hands, so others could likely get a comfortable three-finger hold.
Both guns have grip inserts to increase the circumference of the grip to fit. Both use a similar “square point” pattern of texturing for a non-slip surface. The Glock 26 (Gen 4) does have finger grooves molded into the frame, which helps its two-finger hold.
The Glock 26 has a reversible magazine catch, so you can easily shift it to the opposite side. Its slide-stop lever, however, is fixed on the left side. The FNS-9 Compact, in comparison, is truly ambidextrous right out of the box. Magazine release buttons are present on both sides. The same goes for the FNS-9 Compact’s slide-stop lever. The only part that is one-side-only on the FNS-9 Compact is the takedown lever, and that’s irrelevant anyway, as it’s an administrative function. (The slide-stop lever is used to separate the slide and barrel from the frame for cleaning, so it isn’t something that needs to be available to either hand while firing.)
The FNS-9 Compact is available in two versions, with or without a manual safety lever. Some shooters prefer to have a safety that must be deliberately disengaged before the gun can be fired. On the FNS-9 series, simply press the frame-mounted lever down with your thumb. This is a personal decision—I like the fact that I can order the gun either way. If you buy the model with safety levers, they’ll be on both sides, so it’s righty and lefty friendly all the time.
If you’re left-handed, or serious about operation with either hand, the FNS-9 Compact is the clear winner in this category.
The FNS-9 Compact shines in the capacity category. Even in its smallest configuration, it offers 12+1 rounds of 9mm. If you pop in the included extended magazine, you’ll increase capacity to a whopping 17+1 rounds while enjoying the benefit of an extended grip length. A sleeve on the 17-round magazine perfectly matches the grip profile, so it shoots like a full-sized FNS in this configuration.
The Glock 26 comes with 10-round magazines. There are plenty of aftermarket accessories that allow an increase in capacity, but you’ll pay extra. While you can use Glock Model 19, 17, and even 33-round magazines in the Glock 26, it’s a utilitarian solution, not an elegant one. You increase capacity, but there is no out-of-the-box integration that extends the hand space on the grip.
Both pistols come with standard sights in the default configuration, and both have front and rear dovetail mounts, so you can do whatever you want with aftermarket sights.
The Glock 26 uses the front dot and classic Glock rear notch with the “U” shaped outline in the back.
Two things stand out about the FNS-9 Compact sights. First, the front sight dot is noticeably larger than the rear. It really makes a difference in speed of acquisition. Second, you can order the FNS-9 Compact with factory night sights pre-installed as an option, so you’re not throwing away standard sights to upgrade to aftermarket tritium powered versions.
The Glock trigger is a Glock trigger. It’s got a clunky take-up, followed by a 5.75-pound pull weight as measured by my Timney Trigger scale. The resistance stage of the trigger pull is relatively smooth. It’s functional, but nothing to write home about.
The FNS-9 Compact trigger also has a bit of a rough take-up stage, but once you encounter resistance, you see the difference between the two guns. The resistance stage is noticeably shorter and smoother. The trigger on my sample breaks at 5.8 pounds. It feels lighter and is certainly more crisp. The rounded trigger face makes it very comfortable to shoot.
I’ve shot both pistols a lot, and for me, the FNS-9 Compact is a more comfortable volume shooter. While hard to quantify, the overall feel is better and the extra grip size and carved profile really make a difference. It’s shaped and cut in all the right places and just isn’t as blocky.
If you’re the utilitarian type, there’s no doubt the Glock 26 is a great option. It will work when you need it to, but it’s about as basic a pistol design as you’ll find. Glocks have never developed a reputation as beauty contestant winners, but they are known to be reliable, hence the utilitarian appeal. If you appreciate design details like beveling on the side, front cocking serrations, rounded trigger guard and such, you’ll love the FNS-9 Compact.
I shot groups with both pistols, and quite frankly, doing accuracy testing with these two compacts is kind of silly. They’ll both put your shots into a couple of inches 25 yards down range. From a practical perspective, whether one puts ammo brand A or B into a one-tenth of an inch smaller group is irrelevant to their purpose.
While no one except Gaston Glock really knows how many Glock 26 pistols have been made, it’s a big number, so there are lots of goodies on the market like holsters, trigger kits, magazine extensions, Lasergrips and who knows what else. You’ll have little trouble accessorizing to your heart’s content.
The FNS-9 Compact, as the new kid on the block, doesn’t yet have that selection of aftermarket gear. The company negates the need for much of that by including three different magazine types in the box (flat base, pinky extension, and full 17-round) and options for night sights and safeties. You’ll have to look a bit harder for holsters, but there are plenty out there that will do the job.
One other difference to note is the FNS-9 Compact frame includes a Mil-Std 1913 rail up front, while the Glock 26 frame is smooth. If you want to use the FNS-9 Compact as a home defense gun at night, pop on a light, laser, or combo unit and insert the 17-round magazine. You’re good to go.
Price and Value
Manufacturer pricing for the Glock 26 Gen 4 is $649. The FNS-9 Compact is $599 for the standard sight model and $649 for the night-sight configuration. Using an apples to apples comparison, the comparable FN model with standard sights if fifty bucks cheaper. Or, you can spend the same amount, but get tritium night sights if you choose the FN model.
Both guns come with three magazines. However, the Glock includes three of the same 10-round mags, while the FN offers two 12-round models and an extended 17-round version.
The hat tip for value has to go to the FNS-9 Compact. Dollar for dollar, you get more in the box and more features on the gun itself.
The Bottom Line
I admittedly appreciate a gun’s finer design elements, with the proviso that the gun must absolutely work. There’s no argument that the Glock 26 will run. Billions and billions have been served. Well, okay, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands. In any case, there are plenty in use and their track record is proven. You can’t go wrong.
I like the FNS-9 Compact for its refinement. It runs like a champ but offers many extra niceties in terms of pure elegance and additional features.