THE P90 HAS APPEARED IN JUST ABOUT EVERY VIDEO GAME AND SCIFI MOVIE THIS CENTURY. WE LEVEL UP THE CIVI VERSION.
HOT RODDING A PS90,
VIDEO GAME STYLE
FNH’s iconic P90 has seen a lot of action on television, in movies, and in first-person shooter (FPS) video games, no doubt thanks to its futuristic appearance. It’s probably the most desirable gun in the
Call of Duty franchise and current listings on the Internet Movie Firearms Database website show the P90 has more media appearances than agencies using it. The
Stargate T V series ( SG-1 and Atlantis) didn’t just utilize P90s, they made the gun into a plot point — noting it as being more capable of penetrating alien hides and armor than the MP5s previously used on the series.
In real life, the P90 was designed in the late 1980s as a personal defense weapon for military personnel whose primary duty was something other than carrying a full-size rifle (for example, armored vehicle crews, administrative personnel, cooks, and so forth). There’s no doubt that a small shoulder-fired weapon with an optic is easier to shoot accurately than a handgun, especially by personnel with minimal training.
The 5.7x28mm cartridge offers nearly twice the velocity of 9mm NATO, lighter felt recoil, and far better penetration. Nearly three decades after its introduction, the P90 has been adopted by law enforcement and special operations units in over 40 countries, but has never seen the widespread military use FN hoped for. Instead, it seems to have attained the popularity FN envisioned only in the virtual world.
Following the sunset of the federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004, FN released a semiauto version of the P90 in the American market as the PS90 in 2005.
The PS90 comes with a longer barrel and permanent flash hider to achieve a 16-inch overall length, to remain compliant with the Firearms Act of 1934. This gives it a bit of a goofy appearance, and makes it way longer than it should be. How then, can we make the gun offered over the counter, more like its counterpart in video games?
The first order of business was to convert the PS90 into an SBR, or short-barreled rifle. Here’s where things start getting tedious, as it requires the filing of an ATF Form 1. Once you’ve filled out the form, paid 200 bucks, and submitted your fingerprints, you then wait. And wait. Eventually, the wheels of government bureaucracy grind through their interminable processes and you wind up with an approved form and a tax stamp. Yay! In the meantime, you can spend the intervening months choosing the goodies you’re going to add to your project.
There are several guides for removing the PS90 barrel on the Internet. I initially tried the more difficult option that involves drilling out a pin from the
barrel shroud, which is threaded onto the barrel with a left handed thread pitch. If you attempt this method, great care must be taken to avoid damaging the threads. Since this was my first attempt, of course I damaged the threads, making removal of the barrel pretty difficult. Time to break out the angle grinder!
This is probably the best bet for end users doing this at home — just chop the damned thing off — it’s fastest and causes the least frustration. Installing the new, shorter (10.4”) CMMG barrel into the receiver was a three-handed operation.
You have to make the recoil spring and cocking handle all go back together correctly without letting the spring pop out. CMMG also offers two muzzle devices for their barrel, one being a copy of the FN compensator, the other a ½-28 TPI thread adapter. The compensator didn’t do much (the 5.7 round doesn’t generate a whole lot of gas to work a comp), so most testing was performed with the thread adapter and a Witt Machine and Tool suppressor.
Being cautious about misalignment, I chose a 9mm suppressor just in case there was any deviation in the thread adapter, in order to avoid baffle strikes. Using a high volume can like this has benefits when it comes to sound reduction — without ear-pro, the only noise I heard was the cycling of the action and the sonic crack of the 5.7x28mm projectiles going down range.
With the new shorter barrel installed, it was time to add sights, lights, and lasers. The original optic that came on P90s/ PS90s left a lot to be desired. It had a small field of view and wasn’t easily visible in bright daylight — something conveniently left out of FPS game scenarios. This particular PS90 came with an FNH Picatinny rail mounted at 12 o’clock, with an emergency peep sight system underneath, should your optic fail. The Aimpoint CompM5 was a natural choice for use on the PS90; without a spacer it sits as low as you can go without resorting to the original P90 optic. The M5 features a crisp, 2 MOA dot that runs on a single AAA battery, with an advertised battery life of 50,000 hours.
The height over bore for the Aimpoint is 4.5 inches, 2 inches more than a typical AR-15, so knowing holdovers at close ranges is of paramount importance; otherwise your bullets will strike way lower than expected. Again, this is something that isn’t a factor in the virtual world, but becomes readily apparent when at the range. Hits at 100 yards with the Aimpoint on 12-inch steel targets were achievable, but not consistently because, in typical bullpup fashion, the trigger on the
PS90 isn’t great. It was difficult to tell how much of that was practical versus mechanical accuracy potential, but if this were my gun I’d be looking at a trigger upgrade ASAP. That left two spots on the PS90’s upper receiver vacant, which, in a gamer gun, would never do.
Two rail sections from Damage Industries bolt up to pre-threaded holes in the PS90 receiver to accommodate a light and laser. The SureFire M162 Ultra Scout Light with a healthy output of
600 lumens fulfilled light duties, while a DBAL-I2 served as the laser/illuminator. This is where things got tricky. Due to the PS90’s unusual magazine layout, it took some trial and error to configure the light and laser to avoid interfering with the magazine. Both throw levers need to face upwards; otherwise there’s no way to insert a mag. Pressure switches were run around the grip and located under the firing hand, so they could be activated by squeezing a little tighter. There just isn’t any good way to route them to the forward grip used by the non-firing hand, which would be a better solution.
This setup would have been great for a low-light combatives class; unfortunately, time didn’t allow for it. While the PS90 doesn’t really do anything better than a similarly equipped short-barreled AR, it certainly looks bad ass. If you’re going to have a conversation piece or range toy, it might as well be functional. Movies, TV, and video games are all ways people get interested in real firearms, and having a real gun that sparks people’s enthusiasm is a great way to convert onlookers into active participants in the shooting lifestyle.