As some of you already know I had a malfunction of my dearly beloved FN FiveseveN IOM pistol, which I used as a CCW for just over 1 year, that caused my gun to literally explode in my hands.
On Saturday, April 12, 2008, at 1528HRS I was out target shooting and testing some ammunition that I had reloaded. Before anyone says, "It was a reload, he probably double charged it!" let me say this:
I did not double charge this load, everything was well within specifications.
I had loaded 200 rounds of the following:
Bullet: Hornady 55grain FMJ BT
Case: Once (a couple might have been twice) fired 5.7x28mm brass
Primer: Winchester Small Rifle
Powder: Ramshot TrueBlue 5.0grains
Case Length: 1.228in + or - .002in
OAL: 1.580in + or - .003in
I load every single round by hand using a Lee hand press, RCBS 5-0-5 Scale, RCBS calipers, RCBS seating die, etc... Each round is placed in front of me with plenty of lighting while I am measuring powder, then after all powder is measured and placed in the cases I inspect the case for powder, as even 1.0grains more or less is quite easy to see, then placed in the hand press, topped off with a bullet, and then the bullet is seated. If the powder was double charged it would fill up into the base of the case's neck. Like I said, cases are inspected for overcharges.
Back to the accident. I had fired 66 rounds all reloads of various bullets (Hornady 40grain VMAX, pulled 28grain HP from SS195LF, Hornady 55grain FMJ). My 2nd 20round magazine I fired 5 rounds of 40VMAX I had some failure-to-eject (these were loaded with HS-6, I've had problems with that powder causing FTE), then tossed the magazine so I could pull those bullets and reload them with Ramshot TrueBlue. After that I fired 20 rounds of the 28grain bullets, all of which functioned flawlessly with Ramshot TrueBlue powder. The next magazine of 20 rounds was the 55grain FMJ with the load data above. The first magazine fired flawlessly, I even noted in my reloading book that it I might want to try loading to 5.1grains and see how they functioned. The 2nd magazine is when I ran into the malfunction, the first round fired like the previous 20, the it happened.
On the 2nd round I realigned my sights, slowly pulled the trigger, and all hell broke loose. I saw bits and pieces of the top of the slide cover blow. My first reaction was, "Oh crap what just happened." My second reaction was, how are my hands, I released my grip with my left hand and blood was trailing down my palm dripping off my hand. I could see 2 sources of the blood flow, one on my thumb and the other the web of my hand. I tossed down my FiveseveN into the grass in front of me and inspected my right hand. My right hand faired much better than my left, a small spot on the tip of my thumb.
I immediately pulled my cellphone out of my pocket and called my wife who had just arrived at my father's residence where I was at, I was ~1/2mi from the house. I told her to tell my dad to get out here, my gun just exploded, and not 2 seconds later I heard the 4wheeler start up and hightail it down the driveway. I started walking to the gravel road to meet him and he quickly arrived and assessed my injuries. We went back to the house, cleaned my hand up a bit, bandaged it up, and went to the hospital ~40minutes away with my wife and mother-in-law.
Spent about 2 hours at the hospital getting 1 stitch in the web of my hand and 2 xrays. The xrays revealed a chunk of brass in the middle of my hand between my index and middle finger, and two very small peices between my index finger knuckle and the web of my hand. I have gone to a surgeon to see about getting the large piece of brass removed from my hand but he cautioned against it as it would cause more damage taking it out than leaving it in, as it is embedded into the muscle in my hand a probably isn't going to go anywhere so there isn't any worry about it moving around and slicing tendons and such.
I initially lost feeling in over 50% of my index finger and my thumb felt like it had been hit by a hammer and had numbness for about a week. I have gained some feeling back in my finger and am at ~35% numbness now.
My FN FiveseveN IOM is a complete loss, the magazine is still inside the grip, the remaining 18 rounds were forced out of the bottom of the magazine.
Here are some pictures of my hand and the progression of healing:
After removing bandages the next morning:
Here is a picture of my loss of feeling and where the brass is in my hand:
Two days after the accident my hand started swelling, which lasted for about 1-1.5 weeks, here is day two:
One week after the accident, a comparision of my left and right hands:
More pictures of my injured hand at 1 week:
16 days after the accident:
And finally one month:
After looking over my new $1000 paper weight I've concluded that my FiveseveN fired out-of-battery. There is 0 damage to the chamber and barrel that I can see. From what I can figure the round fired (out-of-battery) and the case was able to hold the pressure enough to allow the bullet to clear the barrel and the case wall gave way in the rear because it wasn't being supported by the chamber. The expanding case broke off at the neck while being extracted and as you can see from the photos above the whole back end of the case gave way. One chunk of brass is embedded into the right side of the grip, I almost had a matching chunk of brass in my right hand, but the grip stopped it.
After talking with a few friends and showing them my new paper weight they came to the same conclusion. Ryan from Elite Ammunition (Elite Ammunition, Custom 5.7x28mm Ammunition, both reloaded and virgin brass loads) also concluded that the cause was from it firing out-of-battery. He also stated that he has observed that with the FiveseveN the hammer will drop at up to 1/4inch out-of-battery.
That my friends is where the problem lies. It doesn't matter what load is used in the pistol, reload or factory, it is an inherent design defect that allows the FiveseveN to fire out of battery by up to 1/4"!
Try this for me... if you have a FN FiveseveN clear the weapon, clear it again, insert an empty magazine, make sure the gun is empty, move the slide to the rear and slowly creep it foward and see how far out-of-battery it can be when the hammer drops, I imagine you will see anywhere from 1/8-1/4".
That is completely unacceptable at the pressures that this cartridge operates at. I'm sure FN knows all about this and is just trying to sweep me under the rug and hope that it doesn't happen again. Imagine if it did happen to an officer who carried the FiveseveN as his/her duty weapon. Not only could he/she have damage to their hand, they could lose their life if they were in a situation of life or death.
FN needs to acknowledge this problem and fix it before someone else ends up worse than I did.
Do you want to know how FN has treated me?
I contacted Robert Ailes the Customer Support Manager at FN, 703-288-3500 ext 122, firstname.lastname@example.org, on the 14th of April and told him my situation. He told me that he would talk to his boss about it and contact me the next day. Also told me that since I was shooting reloads that the warranty on my gun is void.
Next day, no phone call, so I called after hours and left a message for him to please return my call and gave him my cellphone number. So around noon on the 16th he called me and told me that "someone" would be contacting me soon. I asked when they might be contacting me and he said he did not know, but they would be in touch. I also asked how much it would be to just get it fixed/replaced and he said he didn't know, I would have to talk to the person who will contact me. I was expecting a call from FN's legal team...
April 28th... I called and left a message for him, asking him what the situatino was and when/if someone was going to contact me. At this point I pretty much felt as if they were just waiting for me to go away so they wouldn't have to deal with the situation.
April 29th... Rober Ailes returned my call and said the best they could do for me was send me a pre-paid packing slip that would be here by Thursday (May 1st) to ship the gun to them so it could be looked at, held for 30 days, then destroyed. I asked if I could get it back after they looked at it, and he said no and that it would be destoryed. He also offered me a "deep discount" on a new gun, but gave no details as to how much it would be.
Today is May 10th, 2008, and I have yet to receive a packing slip from FN. I was told I would get a call from "someone", never got that either. I'm thoroughly disappointed in FN and how they've dealt with this. Their weapon needs to be fixed, period.
I'll probably end up with a couple hundred dollars in medical bills because of their weapon design. Until they make this right, I will never buy another FN product again and will continue to share my experience with what happens when a FiveseveN fires out-of-battery.
I know this was a long post, but I had to get it all out. For those of you with FiveseveN's, please... be careful, you might want to consider wearing some decent shooting gloves.
If you think their weapon has a problem, as I do, give them a call and tell them it is unacceptable.
Customer Support Manager
703-288-3500 ext. 122