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The FN PS90 bullpup: It came from the 80’s

Introduction

Perhaps one of the most recognizable firearms of the last half century is the FN PS90. It has appeared in countless films, video games, and other forms of media. The space-gun look of the PS90 sets it apart from most traditional firearms and makes it ideal for futuristic media.

The PS90 is a bullpup rifle, which is enough to differentiate it from most, but its curious design and borderline strange shape give it a uniqueness all its own.

The 5.7×28 cartridge used in the rifle is another anomaly, becoming much more prevalent in the last couple of years. Originally it was an obscure cartridge destined almost exclusively for the top-mounted magazines of the PS90 or the civilian-free model, the P90, which uses a shorter barrel and an auto-sear pack.

For many years, there was nothing like the PS90. It has seen new competition arise in the last couple of years, but for compact high-capacity firepower, only a few could match the little FN.

The industry giant FN Herstal has been a dominant power in firearms since the late 1800s, so it should be no surprise that many firearm developments have come from their factories. Weapons from FN have likely been a part of countless military operations, law enforcement agencies, and of course, civilian shooting activities.

Having grown up with the PS90 constantly before me, I like many others, always dreamed of having one to hold and call my own. So when given the opportunity to spend some time with this diminutive little novelty, I of course, stepped forward.

PS90 Review

The construction of the PS90 is an interesting design, using a polymer clamshell to house the rifle’s metal parts.

The action is a blowback type, typically using strong springs and a heavy bolt carrier. There are two metal shafts that the bolt carrier and spring ride on, anchored at the butt of the rifle.

The front half of the rifle simply slides into the polymer housing and has a spring-loaded button to hold it in place.

One of the more obscure parts of the rifle is the magazine function; the fifty-round magazine sits on top of the receiver underneath the sight bridge. The magazine carries the cartridges perpendicular to the bore axis of the rifle.

As the cartridges are pushed to the rifle’s rear, they are twisted ninety degrees as they come out of the magazine, just in time to be caught by the forward-moving bolt carrier.

Spent cases are expelled through the bottom of the rifle, where a small dust door opens when firing the rifle.
The controls of the PS90 are also, of course, different than most. The small charging handles are located on both sides of the front of the receiver, making the gun perfectly ambidextrous.

The safety is located at the bottom of the trigger and rotates between fire and safe from either side of the trigger guard. The top-side magazine release buttons are pressed in an almost pinching motion as you lift the magazine up and pull it out to the rear.

As I mentioned, this makes the rifle completely suitable to be used by right or left-handed shooters, which is a great thing for service weapons that multiple people use.

The bullpup design of the PS90 makes it very short, and with the short-barreled version, it is even concealable. The fifty-round magazines give you very long strings of fire before needing to reload.

These great features make the PS90 a good option for military and law enforcement professionals. Civilians can and should enjoy these same benefits because this is America, dammit!

TERRESTRIAL RANGE TESTING

I was excited to get the P90 to the range to see how it shot. I was lucky enough to get the restricted model P90 instead of the civilian PS90 (semi-auto). This development would greatly increase the cost of reviewing the gun due to my inability to hold back a full send. The basics of the two rifle models are very similar, so the rest of the review would be relatively the same.

I sourced ammunition boxes from different sources, including American Eagle and FN. With the three fifty-round magazines and several hundred dollars worth of ammunition, I figured I could reasonably determine the function and manual of arms.

I’ve been lucky to shoot several different PWD-type weapons and other short-barreled rifles, so I had a baseline to evaluate the P90.

Short rifles like this are typically used for personal defense, assaulting forces, or something similar. These activities are likely to take place at short distances, so these rifles are usually topped with a reflex or red dot sight to take advantage of the rapid target acquisition they provide. This model came with a small red dot sight already installed, making my selection pretty easy.

After inspecting the rifle, I started the long process of stuffing the magazines with cartridges. The small 5.7 cartridges look similar to a tiny 5.56 cartridge, including a little bottleneck. I snapped one of the loaded magazines into the rifle and started with my shooting regimen.

The snappy blast of the 5.7 was quite evident, mainly when it was only a few inches away from your face. The gun cycled its action rapidly, discharging pretty forcefully the spent cartridges straight down onto the shooting bench below me.

I could feel the short travel of the bolt carrier sliding back and forth in the rifle. Other than that, the recoil was very mild and easy to control. Shooting the rifle at twenty-five yards, it seemed quite easy to keep shots on target.

Transitioning between targets was fast, and the rifle tucked neatly into my shoulder pocket, making it easy to keep on target. The short rifle has almost no room to pivot under recoil, the butt tightly tucked into the shoulder, and the muzzle in front of your support hand doesn’t give it much room to jump around.

The longer barrel of the PS90 might make it even more controllable and provide higher velocity from the same ammunition.

The trigger in the P90 was just as I anticipated. Many bullpups utilize a linkage to operate the sear remotely, and the P90/PS90 is definitely one of those. You can feel the sliding linkage and delayed sensation when pulling the trigger.

To be fair, this isn’t a sniper rifle, so having a flexible trigger pull isn’t a deal breaker for me. For the kind of shooting this rifle was destined for, I think the trigger is perfectly suitable, but it may take some getting used to.

The strange grip design of the rifle also didn’t strike me as ideal. It certainly allows you to control the rifle, though.

I’d like to think there was some kind of “engineer” explanation that would somehow justify why it feels like holding two cups of tea with a trigger in one of them, but I don’t think I’ll ever get that answer. Continue reading here…