What, Exactly, Is a ‘Cop-Killer’ Gun?

News reports on the Fort Hood rampage say that the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan, used an FN Herstal Five-Seven pistol — described in some reports as a “cop killer” gun.

What, exactly, makes the Five-Seven different from other handguns?

The Five-Seven is chambered for the 5.7 x 28mm cartridge, ammunition originally developed by FN Herstal for the FN P90 Personal Defense Weapon. The P90 was conceived as a compact, powerful weapon that could be carried by aircraft crews, vehicle drivers and other troops who needed a weapon that was smaller than a carbine but larger than a pistol.

The P90 — like a competing personal defense weapon design, the 4.6mm Heckler & Koch MP7 — is supposed to pack more punch than submachine guns that fire a standard pistol rounds (9mm, say, or .45). And personal defense weapons are supposed to be capable of penetrating some kinds of body armor. As it happens, the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, has been mulling the requirements for a personal defense weapon for a few years now, although it’s far from clear the Army would procure a weapon built around a new cartridge.


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