5.7×28 Commercial Ammunition Comparison

| August 17, 2023
| 2 Comments
Categories: Guns
Tags: Ammo

While the 5.7×28 cartridge was FN Herstal’s attempt at replacing the 9x19mm cartridge in NATO service, the little Euro round has a cult following here in the States. This high velocity bottlenecked cartridge offers superior ballistic performance with less felt recoil over conventional pistol ammunition. The round is equally at home in a handgun, or a carbine and its smaller diameter allows you to fit more of them in your magazine. The round first came out in 1990 and for the majority of the time since, the 5.7 market was cornered by FN. But over the last several years, ammunition manufacturers like Federal and Fiocchi and gunmakers like Ruger, PSA, and Smith & Wesson have opened the niche 5.7 to a wider audience. With all the new pistols and carbines on the market, one has to ask: how effective is the 5.7?  And given that ammunition selection has become more diverse, the follow-up would be: how do these rounds perform?  Toward that end, we have spent the last six months trolling the shelves for the most common 5.7x28mm commercial loads that could be found. Here is how they compare.

palmetto state armory rock 5.7

There is a growing number of 5.7×28 ammunition on the market. But which is best for you? We tested five common commercial loadings to see how they fare in terms of velocity and ballistic performance when fired out of a typical 5.7 pistol, like this new Palmetto State Armory Rock.

Test Parameters

All ammunition tests should be taken with a grain of salt. There will be variations from one lot of ammunition to the next and different pistols or carbines will shoot them differently. In our case, this is not an exhaustive list of all 5.7 ammunition out there, but five common loads that are readily available at this point in time. Likewise, the results are representative of what can be achieved with a 5.7 handgun. Our test handgun is a PSA Rock. It has a barrel length of 5 1/4 inches.

The test protocol involves a five-shot string over a Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph from a distance of ten feet to arrive at an average velocity for the given round. This is followed by a number of shots through Clear Ballistics 10% ordinance gel blocks fronted by four layers of denim. The gelatin represents muscle tissue and the four layers of denim, as overkill as it is, simulates heavy clothing or shooting through multiple layers of clothing. While it is easy to get hung up on the FBI’s testing benchmark for duty rounds using ballistic gelatin, we invite you to think of these gel tests as a visualization to compare one round to another.

Federal American Eagle 40 grain FMJ

federal american eagle 5.7 ammo

The Federal American Eagle load is a conventional full metal jacket practice round. But it does not poke holes like conventional pistol caliber FMJ.

Until 2014, FN held a monopoly on both practice and defensive 5.7x28mm ammunition. It was not available in quantity and a pretty penny was paid for it. That changed when American ammo maker Federal Premium added the 5.7×28 to its practice-oriented American Eagle line of cartridges. The American Eagle load uses a lead-core 40 grain full metal jacket bullet. The round is marketed for range use it is generally the least expensive 5.7 ammo out there. Out of the PSA Rock’s 5 1/4 inch barrel, the American Eagle load clocks in at an average muzzle velocity of 1647 feet per second.

federal american eagle 5.7 gel test

The damage of five hits from the Federal American Eagle load on target.

You will notice a common trend with the 5.7x28mm round. It does not behave like a conventional pistol round that relies on projectile expansion to do its damage. The longer spitzer profile of the 5.7’s bullet lends itself well to tumbling. So much so that it was difficult in some of the testing to capture enough projectiles. Despite the fact that the American Eagle load uses a nonexpanding full metal jacket bullet, its bullet profile combined with its high velocity led to tremendous tumbling in our gelatin blocks, particularly around the 4-10 inch mark. Out of the five projectiles fired into the gelatin blocks, four exited the blocks between the 13 1/2 to 15 inch mark. One projectile was stopped at eighteen inches.

FN SS197SR 40 grain V-Max

Fiocchi USA produces commercial 5.7x28mm ammunition for the American market on behalf of FN. The SS197SR load is FN’s take on a sporting round. It uses a Hornady V-Max 40 grain round, a lead-core bullet with a polycarbonate tip to aid in expansion. The V-Max is an effective rifle bullet that works well against thin-skinned varmints. The SS197SR load runs out of our pistol at 1798 feet per second, 151 feet per second faster than the American Eagle load. This load is very similar to standard .22 Magnum loads, which drives a 40 grain bullet at about the same speed. The difference is that the .22 Magnum achieves this out of a rifle. The FN load does it out of a pistol.

fn 5.7 v max gel test

The FN V-Max load gives uniform and controlled expansion and good penetration too.

Four rounds of the SS195SR were fired into the gelatin blocks. Three projectiles were captured.  The wound tracts were relatively straight. Each round dumped its energy into one-inch stretch cavities along a patch from 3-7 inches, leaving small copper and lead fragments behind along with blue plastic tips. The projectiles landed between the 12-15 inch mark, beautifully expanded. The recovered rounds retained their jackets to the lead core. The largest diameter of these recovered projectiles was .341 inch. The round’s consistent performance and fair penetration lends itself well for tasks beyond hunting smaller game.

fn 5.7 v max bullets

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FN SS197LF 27 grain Lead Free Open Tip

The FN SS197LF was designed by FN to be a nontoxic lead-free round intended for practice. The projectile is a 27-grain open-tip full metal jacket with an aluminum core. While the LF round looks like a jacketed hollow point with its open tip, the round is not expressly designed to expand. The LF is the hottest of the commercial loads out there. It’s lighter 27 grain bullet is traveling at an average velocity of 2168 feet per second.

fn 5.7 lead free gel test

The FN LF load should be called the flipper round for short.

The LF round was another one of those 5.7 rounds that was hard to capture. The open tip and rifle-like velocity of this round contributed to dramatic tumbling of the projectiles after hitting the denim. Four rounds were fired and two were captured. One stopped partially out of the block, base forwards at  8 1/2 inches. Another tumbled down, finishing at 10 inches. The other rounds tumbled out of the block near that point. Neither of the recovered LF rounds expanded, but it’s tumbling more than made up for it in terms of damage. The SS197LF might have been intended for target work, but its wound dynamics show us that it will probably be useful on light-skinned varmint.

Speer Gold Dot 40 grain Hollow Point

When it comes to personal defense, handgun ammunition revolves around the jacketed hollow point. That is not to say that other kinds of rounds are not useful, but the JHP is likely the first that comes to mind. These rounds should not only expand but achieve adequate penetration. CCI debuted the 5.7×28 40 grain Gold Dot load during SHOT Show 2020 and it represented the round’s first commercial JHP loading. Based on the other tests we have conducted, the 5.7 does not need a bullet configuration like that to be effective. It is in the light and fast power class that does its damage through speed. But familiarity has led us to the Speer Gold Dot. The Gold Dot is a conventional lead-core jacketed bullet, but it has a spitzer profile and has an open tip little bigger than the FN LF load. It clocks in at a respectable 1807 feet per second, making it the highest velocity 40 grain load on the list.

speer gold dot 5.7 gel test

The Speer Gold Dot load imparts straight wounds tracts and expands well, like a good pistol round.

The Speer Gold Dot does not tumble like some of the other rounds out there. It delivers a respectable and sizable stretch cavity that runs between the 1-7 inch mark in our gelatin blocks. There were some jacket fragments that splintered from these cavities, but the lion’s share of each projectile carried on a straight path. Two projectiles came to a stop at seventeen inches. One came to a stop at twenty inches. All three projectiles retained most of their weight and achieved moderate expansion. The expanded diameter of these projectiles ranged from .292 to .308 inch.

speer gold dot 5.7x28 bullets

Fiocchi 62 grain Subsonic

Fiocchi markets a few 5.7×28 loads under their own name, but one of the most common is the 62 grain subsonic load that was launched in 2022. Outwardly, it looks like any other 5.7 load, but it is downloaded and paired with a heavier 62 grain full metal jacket bullet so that the round does not have the sonic crack of higher velocity rounds. This feature is a must if you shoot a 5.7 with a suppressor. But on the face of it, reducing the 5.7’s velocity might cause some concern, given that the round’s speed is what sets it apart from all the others. Wouldn’t a subsonic 5.7×28 round be a rough equivalent to the lowly .22 LR? The Fiocchi load has noticeably less recoil than the other 5.7 loads and it is a bit quieter. The round comes in at 1052 feet per second over the chronograph.

fiocchi 62 grain subsonic 5.7x28 gel test

Although the Fiocchi subsonic load is traveling at .22 LR velocities, its longer 62 grain spitzer is still prone to tumble and cause outsized damage. Out of three rounds fired into gelatin, only one was captured. The other two exited the blocks at nine and eleven inches. The captured projectile landed base first at 11 1/2 inches. The wound tracts were more pronounced than a .22 LR, but overall penetration is similar.

Parting Shots

Some cartridges have more poor-performing loads than good. Other rounds are good to excellent performers in most platforms. Although the 5.7×28 is a late bloomer in the market, the commercial offerings tested here demonstrates that it would be difficult to produce a 5.7 round that is downright useless. Whether you have a 5.7 carbine or pistol for close-end hunting or personal defense, there is a round out there for you and, if the past is any indication, the best of 5.7 guns and ammo has yet to come.

For more information on the history of the 5.7x28mm round, see the article at Firearm News. 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. TomC

    5.7×28 Subsonic might as well be called 5.56 Short & Slow — which is not necessarily a bad thing at all.

    Reply
  2. GomeznSA

    “wound tracts” – does that mean that round is proselyting?
    Other than that a pretty good run down of the available ammo. Now if the manufacturers will just adjust their production rates. Since there are now at least three major gun makers with pistols that might happen.

    Reply

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