September 19, 2023
FN America might be a bit on the tardy side when it comes to introducing a micro compact pistol, but I am happy to say that the new FN Reflex ccw pistol is not a retread of competing designs. There are quite a few things about it which surprised me, and in a good way. First, the details—this is a micro compact pistol only available chambered in 9mm. It has a 3.3-inch barrel, and each pistol comes with two magazines. One 11-round magazine that ships with extended finger hook base pad in place (although they provide a flush basepad for it), and one extended 15-round magazine. Yes, they have neutered 10-round magazines for those of you living in low-T states. It has a polymer frame, but hold on—one of the very interesting things about this pistol is that it is not striker-fired. Instead, this pistol has a single-action-only operating system, with an internal hammer. This single-action-only (SAO) trigger system provides for a vastly improved trigger pull, at least when compared to FN’s larger pistols, and tells me that FN was serious about producing a gun that was a shooter.
Seriously, before I veer away into the other details, let me talk about that. The heavy trigger pulls of FN pistols in general, and their 509 in particular, have turned a lot of people away from the design—and also sent a lot of business toward Apex Tactical, whose Action Enhancement Kit brings the 509’s trigger pull down to 5.5-lbs (which, honestly, is where it should be to begin with). When I tested FN’s new 509C (Compact) in 2019 (which is much bigger than the Reflex in every dimension, and heavier, while holding fewer rounds), it officially had a trigger pull of 5.75 pounds, and my sample (as did most of them) had a trigger pull that came in a full pound over the spec, and you feel every ounce. But maybe that’s changing. The FN 509 which won the LAPD contract has a different, lighter trigger pull/system that is starting to find its way to commercial Edge models. FN’s spec for the Reflex’s single-action trigger pull is 4.5–5.5-lbs, and I’m happy to say that’s accurate. The trigger pull weight on my sample clocked in right at 5.0-lbs. It was not as crisp as a traditional SAO trigger pull (1911, etc.) but it was lighter and a bit crisper than the trigger pull of the average striker-fired gun, and much better than the average FN pistol trigger.
A brief aside on the trigger system. Once I removed the slide and pulled the trigger a few times, to get a look at the hammer both forward and back (stopping it with my thumb so it didn’t impact the frame), I realized that the single action trigger system itself had a very crisp break. What added a bit of mushiness was the firing pin safety inside the slide, that the trigger bar had to push up out of the way before the hammer could fall. FYI: this is the exact same reason why Series ‘80 1911 trigger systems (with a firing pin safety) are inferior in pull quality to the original 1911 design. FN says the Reflex has a “Best-in-Class” trigger. I wouldn’t say that, but it is definitely better than most of the sub- and micro-compact trigger pulls on the market. If the “class” only includes FN pistols, then it is definitely true. You have your choice of black or FDE pistols, and ones just with iron sights or MRD models (MRD stands for Mini Red Dot and means the slide is optics ready). My sample was a black MRD model. There is no price difference between colors, but MRD models are $60 more.
As a red-blooded American male, I understand that an owner’s manual is just another man’s opinion, and he’s wrong, but as part of my job I’m required to read them. While perusing the Reflex’s manual I saw several references to models equipped with manual safeties, but FN doesn’t currently offer those. I checked with my contact at FN and learned the Reflex models with manual safeties should be available by the end of the year. From the drawings in the owner’s manual, the safeties appear to resemble that of a 1911 in placement and function, although it was unclear just how big they are. I hope FN actually looked at the size and shape of the thumb safeties on modern 1911s when designing the safety on the Reflex, as a thumb safety that’s not big enough to quickly and easily swipe up and down with your thumb, as with a 1911, would be bad. The safety should also click up and down into position.
With its 3.3-inch barrel, the Reflex is 6.2-inches long. With the 11-round magazine with finger hook base pad in place (as it is shipped) the pistol is 4.6-inches tall. If you swap out the finger hook for the flush basepad, that takes about a third of an inch off the height. FN says the pistol weighs 18.4 ounces with an empty magazine inserted; my digital scale put the weight at 18.0 ounces with the 11-round finger hook magazine inserted. I know why they ship the pistol with the extended finger hook base pad in place—it allows most people to get all their fingers on the gun, although (likely) just barely. The 15-round magazine has a grip extender, and should allow everyone to get a full grip on the gun, but severely compromises its concealability.
What I’d like to see is, instead of a finger hook extension on the shorter magazine, a magazine the same length as the finger hook but with a basepad that actually adds capacity for a 12- or 13-round magazine the same length as the 11-rounder with the finger hook. FYI: these magazines are not cut down 509 magazines, they are proprietary to the Reflex and have a completely different magazine release cutout. This pistol was announced right before the 2023 NRA convention, and in my write-up of that event I did trash its name just a bit, and feel my comments worth repeating: In the modern gun world, “reflex” is associated with reflex sights. When I heard about a product called the “FN Reflex,” I assumed it was an optic. Just sayin’…although the name is growing on me. FN’s marketing for this pistol is spot on—carry a gun, carry a gun every day, train with it, so that if the threat comes, you responding to it is just a “reflex.” Seriously, that’s been my whole philosophy of carry.
And another brief aside, for semantics, or language. You’ll see me refer to this pistol as a subcompact, but technically FN already has a full-size, a midsize, and a compact 509 (with which the Reflex shares some looks and features), and the Reflex is smaller than any of them, so them calling it a “micro compact” makes sense. But I don’t like using the term “micro” as it’s not that tiny—it’ll only fit in a pocket with the flush basepad in place, and then you’ll still need a big pocket. This pistol is far better suited to a holster, although it will disappear under just about any type of clothing. And I’ll once again make a prediction—in a few years some manufacturer will market their new small carry gun as a “nano” something or other—unless Beretta still has the trademark on that after the ergonomic disaster that was the Beretta Nano. Truthfully, I think this pistol being late to the party is good for a number of reasons. To make it stand out from the crowd, FN has equipped it with features sure to get attention. I already mentioned the better-than-average trigger pull, but just as important are the sights.
It wasn’t so long ago that pistols this size barely had any sights. Small lumps on the slide that were as likely to be plain black as they were to have any markings. Now manufacturers are equipping their micro compacts with sights the equal to those found on their full-size duty-type handguns. The sights on the Reflex are better than those offered on any factory pistol of any size twenty years ago, and that’s not exaggeration. The sights are steel and dovetailed into place. The front sight has a tritium insert that glows in the dark and will for ten years, and it is surrounded by a very bright orange ring that is visible in any kind of lighting conditions. The rear sight has a generous notch that provides a good amount of daylight around the front sight. There are white dots to either side of the notch. And, while personally I feel that a micro compact is the last type of pistol you should be mounting a red dot atop, for those of you who want that, the MRD version makes it quick and simple.
As shipped, the FN Reflex MRD has a steel cover in place atop the slide. Remove the two screws and you can direct mount any red dots with Shield RMSc/Holosun K footprints. The barrel is hammer forged and is slightly flared at the muzzle to better mate with the slide. The ramp is polished, and at the top of the barrel hood you’ll see a cutout that works as a loaded chamber indicator. There are flat-bottomed serrations forward and back on the frame, which sports a PVD finish. The finish is matte, and between the finish and the relatively aggressive serrations you should be able to work this slide even with sweaty hands. The controls on this pistol are relatively flat, which is what you want on a piece designed for concealed carry. The takedown lever is short and rotates upward. The slide stop is a small piece of steel that you might struggle to use as a slide release. The magazine release is steel, teardrop-shaped, and checkered. It is reversible.
Instead of having a safety lever inside the trigger, the trigger itself is the pivoting lever which incorporates a drop safety. The trigger is polymer, gently curving, with a flat face. It breaks at roughly a 90-degree angle, which is the new trend, and what you want. Why? The closer a trigger is to 90-degrees when it breaks, the less side-to-side and up-and-down movement you’ll have, helping to keep your sights on target. The texturing on the frame is just the right amount of aggressive to keep your hand in place. On the front and back of the frame are rows of raised rectangles. The texturing on the sides of the grip is finer, but more aggressive than it looks.
At the front of the frame, you’ll see a single-slot rail for mounting a light/laser. There’s not a lot of room there, but a compact unit meant for small guns likely won’t protrude past the end of the slide much if at all. The serial number is etched into a steel plate embedded on the right side of the frame above the grip. The proportions of this pistol work. While no two people have the same size hands, the ergonomics of this pistol seem to be spot on. It is a far cry from the chunky chopped-down 509C. The Reflex has the standard 1911-style grip angle, so it should point naturally for most people.
Unlike a Glock, if you pull the trigger on this pistol you won’t be able to disassemble it as the hammer will prevent the slide from going forward. For disassembly, lock the slide back, remove the magazine, rotate the takedown lever upward, then lower the slide stop. The slide assembly will then come forward off the frame. You’ll see the Reflex has two recoil springs wrapped around a polymer guide rod. FN advertises that the Reflex has “low slide racking force” and while it isn’t as easy to work as a .380, the slide was easier to work than I was expecting from a subcompact equipped with two recoil springs.
My only concern, while handling the Reflex at home before heading to the range, was the basepad on the 11-round magazine. The right rear corner of it dug into the center of my palm when holding the pistol in a firm firing grip. Experience, however, has taught me that live fire is the only way to shake these things out. That said…everyone’s hand is different, and what pokes me may not bother you, but if you can rub your thumb over the rear of a pistol grip, and feel a nearly sharp corner, to me that seems like somebody made a mistake. In general, I don’t think red dots on carry guns are a good idea, and I think that’s especially true when you’re talking about subcompact pistols meant to be small and concealable. Red dot optics provide more disadvantages, currently, than advantages, but that is changing. And, sometimes, you run into the problem that I did with the Reflex, where red dots absolutely shine.
At the range, using the Reflex’s iron sights, it was hitting more than two inches low left at ten yards with just about every type of ammunition. If it was half an inch I could ignore it, but two to three inches at ten yards means trimming an earlobe instead of making a head shot on a hostage taker. It caused me to miss some mini-Poppers when I was shooting steel. Tapping the rear sight is an easy fix for the windage, but for elevation, unless you want to file on that front sight, you’re SOL (kids, ask your parents what that means). But, if you’ve got a red dot mounted to the slide, all it takes is a few clicks of the windage and elevation adjustments, and you’re on target.
With +P ammunition the Reflex was a bit of a handful, but it was still very easy to quickly pound them into the center of mass of an IDPA target at ten yards. The very visible front sight and good trigger helped with that. I wondered if I could have problems with the slide not locking back on me, as my thumb sat right on it, but the slide stop worked as advertised every single time. In addition to punching paper, I spent a good amount of time knocking down, resetting, and knocking down again my club’s steel. The back corner of the shorter magazine’s base pad did poke me in the palm, but not as badly as I was expecting. If I was buying this gun, I would spend a few minutes with a file just rounding that corner for a simple fix.
A lot of people don’t understand that penetration really isn’t a problem with pistol calibers. A 9mm FMJ bullet will penetrate 20–24-inches of ballistic gel block. The purpose of the hollowpoint is to slow the bullet down and prevent overpenetration, in addition to causing more tissue damage and shock to the bad guy, so they stop doing what they’re doing. So, I don’t feel the need to stuff high power +P ammunition into small guns, especially if that excessive recoil might cause flinching/missing. I tested two very different light-recoiling loads in the Reflex, including Hornady’s 100-grain Critical Defense Lite, and Federal’s 150-grain HST Micro. Both were very controllable. The Hornady load will provide more expansion, the heavier Federal load will provide better barrier penetration.
I fired nine different loads through the Reflex to test reliability, and didn’t have a single problem. The accuracy of my sample was unexceptional, which means it was a more than capable carry gun. I mounted a Holosun 507k to the gun for my testing, and it was just about the same width as the slide. This optic allows you to choose various reticles including a circle/dot. I could just barely see the tops of my iron sights through the window. The smart-aleck part of me, which is honestly about 83% of the whole, wants to label this the FN LTTP, the FN Late to The Party. But Springfield Armory showed up late to the AR-15 party, and now owns a huge chunk of the US market. Who’s to say the FN Reflex won’t become the 9mm micro compact against which all others are judged? On the surface, there’s nothing holding it back. It’s got great sights, a better-than-average trigger pull, and good ergonomics. At least one and possibly two of those three are admittedly unusual for FN pistols, but maybe they’re entering a new era. The pistol they are making for the LAPD was specced with a different, improved trigger pull, so maybe this is going to be the new normal for FN.
Just as the Glock 19 is the compact carry gun against which all others are and should be judged, the SIG P365 now seems to be the subcompact 9mm carry gun against which all others are being judged. Compared to the SIG, FN’s Reflex is a bit larger in every dimension, although flush magazines in the FN hold one more round. The trigger pull weight and quality between the two guns is so similar that neither can be considered superior. The sights on the FN—specifically the front—are superior. While the grip angles are close, the FN’s grip is very slightly less vertical than the SIG, and I prefer that. I don’t know that the new FN Reflex ccw pistol provides enough substantive differences/improvements when compared to the current subcompact gold standard SIG P365 for it to take over the throne, but it is a solid competitor from one of the most storied names in firearms manufacturing in the world.
FN America Reflex CCW Specs
- Type: Sinlge-action-only, internal-hammer-fired, semi-auto
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 11, 15+1 rds.
- Barrel: 3.3 in,
- Length: 6.2 in.
- Height: 4.6 in. (with 11-rd. magazine)
- Width: 1 in.
- Weight: 18 oz.
- Finish: Black or FDE PVD
- Grip/Frame: Polymer
- Sights: Steel, dovetailed, Tritium insert front sight with orange ring; white dot rear
- Trigger Pull: 4.5-5.5 lbs. (5 lbs. tested)
- Safety: Trigger lever, striker block
- MSRP: $599 ($649 MRD Tested)
- Accessories: one 11-rd. magazine with two base pads; one 15-round magazine, screws for optics
- Contact: FN America
About the Author
James Tarr is a longtime contributor to Firearms News and other firearms publications. A former police officer he is a USPSA Production Division Grand Master. He is also the author of several books, including CARNIVORE, which was featured on The O’Reilly Factor. His current best-selling novel, Dogsoldiers, is available now through Amazon.
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