The FN P90


After last week’s look at the Skorpion, its time to jump back over the Iron Curtain and take a look at the NATO SMG of choice for users ranging from police SWAT teams to international counter-terrorism units.  Yes indeed, its the FN P90’s time to shine.

The P90 uses a 50 round magazine, unique in that it is horizontally loaded onto the top of the weapon, which can easily be seen above.  It fires the FN 5.7x28mm round which is small caliber and designed to penetrate Kevlar.  The spent casings are ejected directly out of the bottom of the weapon, preventing any obstruction in the user’s view.  It is symmetrical, meaning that left-handed users are able to use it unmodified.  It fires at an incredible 900 rounds per minute, and if you held the trigger down on a full magazine, it would be depleted in just 3.3 seconds.  An SMG in this respect is thus better suited for semiautomatic fire, and in fact FN later produced a semiautomatic version of the P90.

The P90 was introduced in 1990 (hence the 90 in its name) by the Belgian company FN Herstal.  Their aim was to produce a new SMG that was more than just an automatic pistol, something that could penetrate body armor.  To help achieve the seemingly conflicting goals of obtaining both high penetration like an assault rifle and the mobility and compactness of a small machine gun, FN used a new concept at the time, the bullpup design.  By having the firing mechanism within the stock of the weapon, they were able to greatly shorten the weapon while allowing the barrel length necessary for accuracy and high velocity rounds.  The gun is visually unique in that it has ergonomically designed grips and trigger guards.

I see your taillight's out

The first I had heard of this gun was, you guessed it, in Goldeneye 64.  In this game it was called the RCP90 and was one of the best weapons offered in the multiplayer.  The game designers decided to bump up the magazine capacity to 80 rounds and retained the bullet penetrating and high rate-of-fire characteristics of the weapon.  At times it was also possible to duel wield the guns, though in reality blazing full-auto with two bullpups would be unbelievably difficult.  But to hell with realism, I doubt anyone was worried about it while running through the jungle, RCP90 in the right hand, grenade launcher in the left.  In multiplayer games with power weapons, often times the games would revolve around who could control the RCP90 respawn area, a testament to the gun’s impressive statistics, which, though exaggerated, still remain largely true to life.

Cartridges do not fly out the side of the FN P90, but instead the bottom

The FN P90 is currently used in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series, and is expected to return in Modern Warfare 3.  It has also been featured in games such as Perfect Dark, Metal Gear Solid, Timesplitters, Battlefield, and Fallout.  The bank robbers in Taxi, multiple characters in multiple Bond films, the police in I, Robot, and the fake police officers in Hostage all use the P90, as do countless more.

The P90 makes an appearance in the Fallout series

The FN P90 made its debut in the Gulf War, used by Belgian forces.  It was used later that decade in the successful Peruvian military engagement that ended the Japanese Embassy hostage crisis in Operation Chavin de Huantar.  The hostage takers were equipped with body armor, yet all were killed and 71 hostages rescued, greatly aided by the fact that the P90 is one of the few SMGs that fire armor-penetrating bullets.  More recently that bastion of democracy, Muammar Gaddafi, had his troops use the P90 and other weapons on his own citizens, which worked well when most of his supporters refused to fire on their countrymen and defected.  This gave the impoverished rebel forces a significant cache of weapons that were used in the successful uprising.

We won, but we still live in Libya. A mixed victory, to be sure.

The FN P90 is now twenty-one years old, but continues to see wide use in over forty countries to this day.  The Houston Police Department was the first American department to adopt this weapon, and to keep ahead of the game, were the first to use it in a shootout.  Now it is in use with over 200 organizations in America, including the secret service.  Its originality of design, bullpup configuration, use of small caliber, high velocity ammunition, and wide acceptance among NATO countries has allowed the FN P90 to be an originator of concepts in this next generation of firearms.  I attempted to buy a P90 off the internet to test it out myself, but wound up with something else entirely.

Either way, I got some guns out of it

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4 Comments to “The FN P90”

  1. I like the P90X joke. I think that the p90 should be the number one SMG of all time. Space age and bullpup design. It has one hell of a round. The number one is the kriss gun…. Yes it shots the old skool .45, has reduced recoil and looks that only a mother could love. The P90 is so so sexy. You get turned on looking at it. I wanna buy one myself but i wont not until I have more money to pay for the ammo. The price is kinda high. I here by declare P90 number one SMG!

    • Are you talking about the Kriss Vector? If so, you’re right, that is one ugly gun! Lol. I actually started to write something about that the other day but went with the tommy gun instead. Thinking about what to choose for the next weapon article. I was considering the LeMat revolver?

  2. There is definately a great deal to know about this topic.

    I like all the points you have made.

  3. Not forgeting that the P90 is used by the SG-1 team in the stargate series as their primary personal defence on mission since the later end of series three onwards. One of the iconic aspects of the show and also used in Stargate Atlantis.

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