FRIDAY, MAY 17, 2024

Editor’s Note: Recently the Outdoor Wire Digital Network took part in an event called the “5.7 Fest.” Held at Range Ready/GunTalk Media facilities near New Orleans, Louisiana, the event was billed as a “celebration of all things 5.7.” The event was designed to give invited media time on the 5.7x28 platform in three manufacturers’ decidedly configurations. While participating, we took the opportunity to talk with Ruger’s Tabor Bright about the round irrespective of manufacturer. Bright knows the 5.7x28 cartridge, having worked with it at FN -the company that originated the round for their Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) - and Ruger.  If you have been intrigued by the 5.7x28, the conversation between OWDN Publisher Jim Shepherd and Bright might be helpful in deciding whether it’s a round you’re interested in exploring. We all know no single caliber is perfect for everyone. But the little 5.7x28 does raise some intriguing possibilities.

Jim Shepherd  
The 5.7x28…when I arrived, I told everyone I had a simple goal: to figure out if there was a practical application for the 5.7x28 cartridge. You quickly informed me there are a lot of factors that that are limiting for the cartridge today. Give readers the quick primer on why:  why the guns today have to be the size they are and why it’s not likely they’re going to get a lot smaller anytime soon and why it’s not the right round for everyone.

Tabor Bright
First, the the 5.7 by 28 needs to be in a lacquered case for the gun to function.

You also need so much mass in order for the gun to cycle and then eject that round.

Your mag well needs to be certain dimensions.

Your slides need to be certain dimensions.

In a perfect world you could put that cartridge in a Ruger 365 or Ruger Max 9 size package.

But the 5.7x28 cartridge just won't work in them.

Today, 5.7x28 handguns have to be full-sized - that’s 1911 sized - guns That's why when you look at our gun and compare it to some of our competitors guns, our gun has a bit more of a 1911 feel to it.

Look at our competitors’ guns and some are a little wider, some are a little this or a little that.

Whichever gun you look at, it's that company's interpretation of how to best make the 5.7x28 work in their fashion.

Remember, it was never designed to be in a handgun. It was designed to be in a small carbine for close quarter combat.

Jim Shepherd  
And it's pretty good for that. In that configuration it’s very good.  But a 5.7x28 handgun actually has been used in a personal defensive situation, and recently, right?

Tabor Bright
There was just an incident and I believe Louisville - where you're from. Somebody was, I don't know specific details, at a concert of some sort and there was a disagreement. One guy was being attacked and was running away. He turned and fired two shots from a 5.7x28 pistol, center mass. Guy attacking him dropped, crawled four feet and…the rest is history. Yeah.

Jim Shepherd
Okay, there are at least three different approaches to building the gun we've seen here.

There's the Ruger approach, with three different configurations.

There's Smith and Wesson with their interlocking two piece barrel they call the TEMPO system.

Then there’s Tisas which is a straight pistol approach to the gun.

Why the differences?

Tabor Bright
It's everybody's own answer to trying to get it to eject and work reliably in their configuration.

The real hang up, for all of us, is the is the lacquer finish you put on the ammo. It's why nobody has messed with it, until about the last 36 months, for years.

Before then it was just you know, FN. The 5.7x28 was their idea. Their ammo was produced under FN’s licensing by Fiocchi.

They don’t share their “secret sauce”-the lacquer coating.

Finally, companies, Ruger being one of the first, said, “Well, we're going to try it - based on what ammunition’s available.”

Because of the ammo that's available, everybody has struggled thus far.

That’s because the ammo and the gun from FM were designed in coordination with each other.

The ammo works really well in their guns.

But they don’t share the secret sauce on the lacquer, or their chamber dimensions and barrel coatings or rifling and twist rate and other things like that.

Other manufacturers, like Smith & Wesson, Tisas, and Ruger, have had to figure it out on their own.

Jim Shepherd
What about “smalling down” the gun, you know, reducing the dimensions on it?

Explain to me why you need the barrel length and action size everyone has today.

Tabor Bright
As I've been told, it's because the gun’s a blow back design. The way it works is on inertial force. The slide has to travel so far…and not only does it have to travel that minimum distance, it has to have certain weight to it to make the gun work properly. To shoot, extract the fired case and load the next round reliably.

FN’s original design - which is a great design - was a rolled steel, stamped-out metal slide with a plastic cover. Then they went to a forged one piece slide with a plastic rail cover.

But they’ve always stayed within a certain weight and length spec. But I can only assume that, because they've never shared any of that information, so we're speculating.

I can only assume that's part of the science of getting the round to work reliably. The round in a four-inch pistol was an afterthought. It was always designed to be in a seven-to-ten-inch carbine.

Jim Shepherd  
But the four inch pistol isn’t really only four inches long, is it? There’s an extension on the end that actually makes it around five inches. Five inches is apparently the magic number, right?

Tabor Bright
It is - I think - as far as bullet stabilization. And again, we’re back to the ammo.

We could see that barrel length change with bullet technology as more ammo companies get behind it.

Before, it was so niche and so just off the charts bizarre compared to everything else, that nobody was doing it.

Didn't make sense for Ruger to play in that pond. Didn't make sense for Smith and Wesson.

When I came to Ruger, I was given, with the advantage of my experience with FN, the assignment to start looking into the viability of 5.7x28. We looked at sectors that have done really well for us with other calibers for the 5.7x28.

And Smith (S&W) came with their pistol.

We are encouraging every other manufacturer out there to do it too; because we believe in the round.

I think it's here to stay. I actually believe it's my generation’s stamp on the industry.

This is our generation’s answer to the old Walthers, the Makarovs.

Jim Shepherd
5.7x28 is a really hot (fast) cartridge, and it’s accurate. I would think it absolutely would lend itself to a bolt action or a break action single-shot rifle.

Earlier this morning I shot one of the best precision scores I've shot in a very long time with little Ruger carbine. The round is dead nuts accurate.

So why not bolts and single shots?

Tabor Bright
So people have played with some bolt guns.

Savage made a really valid attempt about 10 or 12 years ago. They figured out the extraction problem; because that's always the first hurdle that you run into- getting it to extract and run reliably.

But again, the round was never designed to be shot out of anything over a 14-and-change inch-long barrel. That was the problem their gun didn’t overcome.

FN’s P90 is technically not a 16 inch barrel. It's a 14 and change - with a barrel sleeve that gives it the length. That gun shoots wonderfully.

But none of the ammo has been designed to really shoot out of a barrel length any longer than that.

So with some bullet technology; maybe by going up in weight in a bullet - like maybe in a 55 or 58 grain something with a match grade quality. Maybe like a Sierra Blitz King or Match King type of bullet, it probably could be put in a bolt gun, or a single-shot rifle. But that’s in the future.

The trick is getting the gun to shoot.

A brilliant man that works for Ruger has built a Model 70 Winchester in 5.7. He has gotten the extraction part done. It fires and all that, but it doesn’t “shoot” well.

We all believe we have to figure out what the perfect science is between the barrel length and the ammunition that’s currently available

Either that or work with the ammo companies and get a match grade -style bullet that would perform better out of a bolt gun.

Jim Shepherd  
We shot the round this week at the “5.7 Fest” at all kinds of targets, We shot steel;  we shot gel with it, and penetration wise, it seems sufficient to get any defensive job done. But what would you  say to someone if they’re thinking about a 5.7x28 as a personal defense gun?

Tabor Bright
So the biggest thing that you think about as an instructor with somebody who’s made the choice to carry a gun is, God forbid, they have to use that gun in self-defense.

The last thing you want to do is harm somebody who’s a bystander. Whether it’s from a pass-through or a ricochet, you don’t want anything like that.

The beauty behind the 5.7x28 round is that as soon as it hits a void, it starts to do what they designed it to do.

Many years ago FBI and Brownsville PD - I believe that's the two departments - did some independent studies. They tested hollow core doors, and wall sections from a townhouse and modular homes. They did not get over-penetration from the 5.7 like they did with 9mm, 45, 357 and other rounds.

For a lot of departments that's a big deal.

Brownsville I think originally adopted it because some of the situations that they get into. They based the choice on dealing with van loads of people coming across the border or squat houses filled with people - the last thing they want is to be in the news for over-penetration and hurting an innocent bystander.

5.7 does not over-penetrate. We saw that today in the gel. The nine millimeter rounds, regardless of the style bullet, went through the first gel block. The 5.7x28 did not. That’s exactly what it’s supposed to do. It’s why I like it for a carry round.

I've carried the 5.7x28 every day for almost 10 years. It's the everyday handgun in my truck.

I stayed with the FN while I worked at Ruger. As soon as the Ruger became available, I switched to that gun immediately.

That's how much I believe in the round. I carry it every day.

Jim Shepherd  
OK, Tabor, it’s more than capable of putting down vermin, but is it big enough for any sort of game?

Tabor Bright
Again, you and I both know this that's all subjective. It depends on the skill of the shooter and the conditions.

I've had it on plenty of hog hunts and cull deer hunts. We’ve experimented with it.

As long as we knew it was ethical and we could get a good, clean, humane shot, it worked.

But again, there’s no margin for error because the bullet is so light.

You only have, you know, a maximum of 150 yard for a good ethical dispatch of an animal.

5.56 and other rounds give you more forgiveness. The 5.7 does not.

It’s a shooter’s round. You can be accurate with it. You can be faster with it. It’s a great self defense round. In my opinion, it’s a good all-round cartridge. But you have to be accurate with it.

Jim Shepherd  
You can also carry 20 or so rounds in the gun. 

Tabor Bright
That's the other reason I carry it. I probably carry more than I need, but in the very small space in my vehicle I can have up to 100 rounds and not take up much space at all.

Jim Shepherd
If you're one of those guys built like me, you quit carrying because you got tired of having to hitch your pants up all the time. No matter what you did, your body said “that gun’s going to move” - there was just no way to carry concealed.

But a 5,7x28, even with that five inch barrel and 20+ rounds in the magazine, is a very light weight gun. It seems logical that I could carry that thing in a vertical shoulder holster, no worries. Is there one out there?

Tabor Bright
A lot of companies make different style holsters.

None of them are perfect for every application because some guys like lights and optics and all those things. There are good choices out there from maybe five or six manufacturers today. Hopefully, more will catch up.

Jim Shepherd  
What have I missed?

Tabor Bright
One of the nice thing that's come from other companies coming on board with the round is we’re seeing more ammunition; we’re seeing more accessories. We’re seeing guns with optic cuts.

5.7x28 is never going to be normal like a 9mm, but I wouldn’t want it to be. It’s always going to be a little edgy - like the crazy guy who puts the 800 horsepower engine in his truck he drives to work. He does it because he can- I like it because I can.

Jim Shepherd  
Adding optics is a challenge isn’t it? Slide weight is important on this gun. Every time you change the weight, do you screw around with the gun’s geometry?

Tabor Bright
You change the science in the gun. We played with that window and learned you need to stay in the two to two-and-a-half ounce area as far as overall optic weight.

That's why there are some great optics we would love to be able to run on the pistol. But we can't, because they take the reliability out of the gun.

Jim Shepherd  
So…what’s it going to take for the 5.7x28 to “break through” with consumers?

Tabor Bright
Ammo prices need to keep coming down. Fiocchi has put their own SKUs out now. They still make FN’s product, but they're putting their own SKUs out.

You've got Hornady aboard. They ship two different loads now. There's a company called AAC America's ammo company, they have ammo coming. We heard some rumors that some of the “bigs” like Federal, Magtech, PMC; somebody in that realm is working on it.

Again, the “secret sauce” is still the lacquer they use to coat their rounds. When somebody figures theirs out, nobody shares it.

I understand that, but as a passionate industry guy, I’d rather see them share the information and get more stuff out there. That would bring the prices down.

Don’t think 5.7x28 will ever get to 9mm prices, but we’ll get close; we’ve already seen a drop. In the last 90 days we’ve seen it come down quite a bit.

It’s around 62-65 cents per round right now. Still expensive, but coming down. That’s good for all of us.

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