The P90 submachine gun was developed in the late 1980s by the Belgian Fabrique Nationale (FN) of Herstal. It was intended as a personal defense weapon for non-frontline troops, vehicle drivers, tank and artillery crews. The FN P90 appeared in the early 1990s. At the time of its introduction it was considered as a new generation weapon. It was the first personal defense weapon and took intermediate position between SMGs and assault rifles. About 20 000 of these submachine guns were sold for military operators and law enforcement forces worldwide. Currently it is in service with Belgium and about 25 export operators.
The FN P90 SMG is a clean sheet design. It is a blowback operated, selective fire weapon with bullpup layout, which fires from closed bolt. This PDW is chambered for a newly-developed 5.7 x 28 mm low-impulse and high-velocity ammunition with sharp nose bullets. This round has enhanced penetration comparing with 9 x 19 mm pistol round and is effective against body armor at ranges of 100 m and beyond. It resembles a scaled-down standard NATO 5.56 x 45 mm round. This weapon penetrates a standard US Army helmet at a range of 150 m.
Typically, I like to compare the gun I’m evaluating to its major competition, but I’m not sure what to do with the P90.FN makes so many different weapon systems—most of them fulfill big government contracts. But for the rest of us? Short barreled AKs? The variants of the AR platform that allow for convenient carry? Even when such guns shoot similar ammo from guns that are similar in size, the comparison list is short. The contrasts seem obvious.
I can see so many logical military and law enforcement applications for the P90. The gun is ideal for the urban environment and versatile in almost any environment. The gun has both close quarter combat potential and surprising open range accuracy. The tiny 5.7×28 round is light and easy to carry. And if there is some governmental agency paying for the ammunition, then my only real hesitation disappears.
The P90 is currently in service with military and police forces in over 40 nations, such as Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, India, Malaysia, Poland, and the United States. In the United States, the P90 is in use with over 200 law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service. While developed and initially marketed as a PDW, it can also be considered a submachine gun or compact assault rifle. The standard selective fire P90 is restricted to military and law enforcement customers, but since 2005, a semi-automatic version has been offered to civilian shooters as the PS90.