The Rebirth of the 5.7x28mm Cartridge

Lots of shooters love the little 5.7x28mm cartridge, and gun companies are catering to them.

The Rebirth of the 5.7x28mm Cartridge

The 5.7x28mm cartridge is one that came about because of a NATO search and has ebbed and flowed in popularity ever since. Now a resurgence in companies producing both pistols and carbines in that caliber has interest growing and savvy retailers seeking to keep some 5.7s in their inventory. 

First, however, a little history lesson.


Looking Back

The 5.7x28mm was the result of a NATO search. In the late 1980s, NATO began looking for a replacement for the ubiquitous 9mm cartridge. What they were seeking was a cartridge that had both greater range and accuracy than the 9mm, with the added bonus of better terminal performance, with the ability to penetrate body armor also in the specifications. 

FN Herstal took an interest and not only designed a brand new cartridge, but a platform that would shoot it. The result was the FN 5.7x28mm cartridge, also called the 5.7x28 or FN 5.7x28mm NATO. The cartridge featured a 1.138-inch-long case with a rebated rim and a 35-degree shoulder designed for a .22-caliber bullet weighing anywhere from 23 to 31 grains, obviously far smaller than the typical 9mm projectile. Shot through a long barrel, the cartridge drives a 26-grain slug at a velocity of nearly 2,400 feet per second, about 2.5-times faster than typical 9mm loads. 

The platforms to shoot the cartridge were the FN P90 PDW (Personal Defense Weapon), along with the FN Five-seveN pistol. The Five-seveN became an immediate hit with some militaries, law enforcement agencies and sport shooters, but over the next 30-odd years gradually waned in popularity, although still having a number of stalwart fans. 

Then, a few years back something remarkable happened. Firearm companies began to design new guns around the 5.7 cartridge, causing somewhat of a rebirth in interest among shooters, which led to more companies giving the cartridge a try. 

Let’s take a look at some of the new 5.7x28mm firearms on the market that retailers would do well to look into over the coming months.

Ruger 5.7

Ruger was at least somewhat responsible for the recent resurgence of the 5.7 cartridge with its 2019 introduction of the Ruger 5.7. In fact, the introduction took many by surprise, since new guns in that chambering had been few and far between over the years. 

Featuring a 4.9-inch, alloy steel barrel with a nitride coating for wear resistance, the full-size pistol has a lot going for it. Impressive ergonomics include an easy trigger reach, robust slide release and reversible magazine release latch. The hardened, billet steel slide with lightening cuts is drilled and tapped for easy mounting of optics with separately available optic adapter plates.  

Safety features of the gun include an integrated trigger safety, light-weight firing pin, neutrally balanced sear with significant engagement and strong spring tension, and a hammer catch to help prevent the hammer from contacting the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled. Other notable features include a textured, ergonomic grip frame, windage and elevation adjustable serrated rear sight and rapid acquisition fiber-optic front sight, and an Inspection port that allows for visual confirmation of a loaded or empty chamber. 

The Ruger 5.7 ships with two 20-round steel magazines and carries a manufacturer suggested retail price of $899.

Diamondback DBX

Diamondback Firearms is known for its innovation, beginning life as a company that made parts for other manufacturers. Now, however, Diamondback makes a number of its own firearms, including the DBX. A 5.7 with a different look and feel, the Diamondback DBX debuted in 2020 to much enthusiasm. 

The DBX series of pistols is a short-barreled AR-looking gun featuring a locked-breech, dual gas operating system. Barrel length is 8 inches and overall length is only 15.25 inches. The gun features a 7075 aluminum frame that is hardcoat anodized for protection from the elements. The stainless coated barrel is threaded, and the gun comes with the company’s DBX muzzle device. 

Other features include a 6061 aluminum, hardcoat anodized and M-LOK-compatible handguard with a full-length Picatinny rail on top for mounting optics and other accessories, a standard, Mil-Spec AR-15 trigger and a Magpul MOE K grip. 

At 3 pounds unloaded, this is a neat little 5.7 pistol. It ships with a 20-round magazine, and the gun is also compatible with FN 5.7 magazines. MSRP is a little higher than most other 5.7x28mm pistols at $1,352.  

Keltec P50

Introduced in 2021, Keltec’s P50 pistol looks more like something you’d see in a Star Wars movie than at the range. But don’t be fooled — it’s far more accurate than those stormtrooper blasters that never seemed to hit their mark. 

Featuring a 9.6-inch barrel, the gun’s overall length is 15 inches. Picatinny-style rings and QD mounts offer plenty of real estate for accessories, and the barrel is threaded 1/2-28 TPI so shooters can have their choice of a muzzle device. 

At only 3.2 pounds, the P50 is plenty easy to tote around, and at a mere 2 inches wide it makes a great truck gun. Plus, the gun’s 5-pound trigger pull helps make hitting the mark an easier proposition. 

What’s the best part about the P50? It comes with two 50-round magazines! Retailers selling this pistol to customers should also find themselves selling a lot of ammo, as you can burn through 50 rounds of 5.7 pretty quickly with this little jewel. 

Shooters who pull a P50 out of their bag at the range are sure to draw comments and some requests to shoot a few rounds through it. MSRP is a very reasonable $795.

FN Five-seveN MRD

Not to be outdone concerning its own proprietary cartridge, FN jumped back into the 5.7 game in June of 2022. The new offering is the FN Five-seveN MRD, a greatly enhanced version of the original FN Five-seveN.   

After decades of trusted service with global militaries, law enforcement and civilian sport shooters, the FN Five-seveN received a complete design update with a factory-milled slide to accept most micro red-dot optics, including the Leupold DeltaPoint Pro, Trijicon RMR, Vortex Optics, Burris FastFire series, Docter Optics and more. FN’s 4.8-inch cold-hammer-forged barrel combined with the inherent benefits of the design and high velocity bottleneck cartridge produces a flat-shooting pistol with extremely low felt-recoil. 

With newly enhanced slide serrations and extended cocking ridges at the rear of the slide, the MRD’s overall operability and user manipulations are vastly improved over the original model. The standard three-dot photo luminescent sights glow in low-light conditions, are adjustable for elevation and windage and co-witness with certain optics. 

Available in matte black and Flat Dark Earth, the gun ships with two 20-round magazines. The updated Five-seveN MRD carries an MSRP of $1,409 for black and $1,509 for FDE.

Ruger LC Carbine

Following up on its success with the Ruger 5.7 model, in 2022 the folks from Connecticut decided to jump into the long-gun game. The result is the Ruger LC Carbine, a gun sure to excite sport shooters looking for more speed and more fun at the range. 

Billed by the company as the “ultimate range companion,” the Ruger LC’s unique bolt-over-barrel design with the magazine in the grip allows for excellent balance. Plus, the guns’ folding stock and collapsible sights are ideal for compact storage. 

The LC Carbine features a 16.25-inch fluted, nitride-treated steel barrel threaded 1/2-28 TPI so the user can choose his or her favorite muzzle device. Made for the masses, the carbine features an ambidextrous manual safety, reversible charging handle, ergonomic bolt release and extended magazine release latch. Other notable features include folding sights that are adjustable for windage and elevation, and a full-length Picatinny rail for mounting optics. 

The carbine’s magazine holds 20 rounds of 5.7 ammo, and models with 10-round mags are offered for states magazine restrictions. One magazine is included with the gun. MSRP is $1,099.

Smith & Wesson M&P 5.7

In January 2023 at the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, historic gunmaker Smith & Wesson announced it was jumping into the 5.7 game. The company’s wildly popular M&P line now includes the M&P 5.7, and it is sure to get a lot of attention from those already familiar with the platform and who have embraced it in a variety of other calibers from 9mm to .45 ACP. 

The M&P 5.7 uses a newly designed internal hammer-fired, gas-operated, locked-breech barrel system in which the barrel doesn’t cam open until the bullet passes the gas port for what the company calls “worry-free consistency.” The polymer-framed, full-size pistol features a 5-inch barrel to utilize as much of the cartridge’s potency as possible. It comes optics ready, and with a threaded barrel for use with a suppressor if desired. 

Capacity is 22+1, giving it a bigger ammo payload than similar-size 9mm pistols. The grips are slim and textured, and the M&P 5.7 also boasts an ambidextrous slide stop, manual thumb safety (S&W also offers a model without the safety) and white, three-dot sights. 

Other features include a reversible magazine release, a flat-faced trigger for consistent finger placement, a crisp single-action trigger break, a Picatinny-style rail for a light or other accessories and forward slide serrations for easy manipulation. 

The new pistol comes with two 22-round magazines and has an MSRP of $699.


Wrapping It Up

With all the new offerings over the last few years, the debate over the fate of the 5.7x28mm cartridge should come to an end. Lots of shooters love the little cartridge, and gun companies are certainly catering to their wants and needs. 

Firearms retailers who aren’t currently stocking 5.7 guns or ammo would do well to consider keeping a couple of offerings on hand. It might just pay off big in the long run.


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