Reloading saves money (after start-up costs are recouped) and is a fun and addicting hobby! With the right experience and equipment you can load rounds far superior to factory ammunition for less than purchasing a box at your local gun store.
Do not attempt to reload this caliber until you have a fundamental and practical knowledge of reloading. If you are new to reloading, start with simple pistol calibers and become acquainted with more forgiving bottleneck cartridge designs.
Do NOT take any online reloading data at face value. Determine through strict and careful reading what is safe. Often, erronious data may be shared which could be dangerous.
Start with published data at ALL times and only increase in very small increments. Only when you are comfortable with your abilities should you move to data or loads not published by powder companies.
Stop what you are doing at the first signs of overpressure or abnormal operation if you have ANY DOUBTS whatsoever.
Precision is key. This means precise equipment is key. Do not settle for cheap items such as inexpensive powder scales. This can result in unreliable measurements and possibly catastrophic events due to overcharging / overpressure.
You assume full responsibility for the consequences of reloading. If your errors result in a damaged or destroyed gun or personal injury, it is ultimately your fault. By firing reloaded ammunition you void the warranty of both the PS90 and Five seveN pistol.
Contributors: Grantness, Wollychop, f3rr37, Medula Oblongata, gw45acp
It is encouraged that you reload this calibre using single stage presses and accurage powder measuring / metering devices, due to the fickle nature of the cartridge.
Bullets: 35 Grain Hornady V Max 40 Grain Hornady V Max (Note: this is the projectile used in the SS197/SS196) 55 Grain Hornady FMJBT or equivalent round 28 Grain SS195/192 projectile (pulled from factory loads)
Primers: CCI 400 Small Rifle Primer Winchester Small Rifle Primer
Powders: True Blue HS6 Accurate 7 Accurate 5
For a cartridge that’s been around for almost two decades, the FN 5.7x28 has been seriously neglected by the major powder companies and other publishers of load data. To date, Western Powders has been the sole publisher of loads for the 5.7x28 [Edit: since the writing of this article, the Lyman 49th Edition Reloading Manual has been publsihed and several loads for the 5.7x28 included]. Only three powders are used with a mere handful of bullet types and weights to go along with them.
Part of the reason for this dearth of data is the simple fact that there aren’t too many powders that would actually work well with this cartridge. Adding to the problem, rumors abound that state the 5.7x28 is not a practical candidate for reloading. This could not be farther from the truth. With careful attention to detail, proper technique, and the right knowledge, any competent reloader is perfectly capable of taking on the 5.7x28mm cartridge.
Why go to all the trouble? There are many reasons. Chief amongst these are value, versatility, and performance. Since a typical 50 round box of factory ammunition runs about $20, it is easy to see why reloading makes economic sense. Of the factory rounds currently in production, only two (the SS195LF and SS197SR) are available to the general public. If for some reason you are dissatisfied with the lack of variety, reloading offers you the chance to experiment with endless variations in bullet type, weight, and charge. As for performance, the competent reloader can achieve velocities and accuracy far greater than that of the factory ammunition. Believe it or not, most reloaders that I know consider the factory ammunition to be rather anemic. The folks at Elite Ammunition have built an entire business around the shortcomings of FN’s factory ammunition. Their S4 UltraRaptor propels a 28grain bullet to a whopping 2600fps out of the FiveseveN pistol (add 50fps per extra inch of barrel length in the PS90). This is about a 27% increase in velocity over the SS195. Reloading allows the full potential of this cartridge to be realized.
The first thing you will need to look for is a good die set. Fortunately, most of the major reloading companies are producing dies for the 5.7x28mm. I recommend just getting a full-length sizing die and a bullet seating die. Neck sizing dies don’t really offer any extra advantages because the case needs to be fully sized in order to fit into the chamber of the PS90 or FiveseveN. Thus, neck sizing would be a needless extra step. I use a Lee custom two die set. If your die set does not come with shellholders, you can use the Lee #15, RCBS #45, or Hornady #37 . For those of you who prefer to use a progressive press, Elite Ammunition often has custom 5.7x28 shell plates for the Dillon 550B.
The next problem you will likely run into is how to trim this cartridge. Many commercial trimmers require you to purchase caliber specific shell holders and pilots. Unless you own a universal trimmer (like the Lyman Universal Trimm)er), you will most likely have to choose between the Hornady Trimmer, RCBS TrimPro, and the Lee Cutter/Case Length Gage/Lockstud. The Hornady trimmer utilizes standard Hornady shellholders, so you could use a #37 for trimming 5.7x28. The RCBS TrimPro can be used if you purchase a custom 5.7x28 shellplate from Elite Ammunition. I like this option because the TrimPro can utilize a 3-way cutter head which trims, chamfers, and deburrs all in one operation. There is also an optional attachment which allows you to operate the TrimPro with any electric drill. Lee currently sells a cutter, case length gage, and lock stud which allows you to trim cases by hand, with any electric drill, or on Lee’s Zip Trim. I used to use the Zip Trim because it is simple to operate, fast, and very affordable. However, the main drawback with the Zip Trim is that the case length gage is only calibrated to trim to one length. I have found that with practice, it is possible to vary the trim length by developing a feel for how far to trim. This is basically a guess and check method of trimming, which may not be appealing to many people. I don’t mind having cases that vary in length from 1.127” to 1.135” because I like to sort them into bins and save them for use on future loads. Loads that utilize longer bullets, like the SS195’s projectile benefit from the extra neck length at ~1.135”.
Tumbling the 5.7x28 needs to be done with care. Each case has a special lacquer coating designed to aid with ejection and to protect against galling in the PS90’s magazine. Tumbling with ordinary media and chemical cleaners may result in the degradation of the lacquer coating. Most of the people I know who reload the 5.7x28 use Simple Green to avoid this problem. Tumble with Simple Green for 10-15 minutes and your cases will come out clean and shiny, with minimal wear on the lacquer coating. If you leave the cases in the Simple Green for longer than 30 minutes, you will run the risk of ruining the cases. Do not leave the cases in water for any extended periods of time either. There is also a proprietary case cleaning agent available from Elite Ammunitions that is formulated specifically to avoid tarnishing the 5.7x28mm casings.
Selecting bullets for this cartridge is easy. Despite the 5.7mm moniker, this round will utilize any .224” diameter bullet. That’s right, the same bullets you will find in the .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO cartridges will work for the 5.7x28. This is one of the reasons why the 5.7x28 is such a versatile cartridge. Of course, you will want to limit bullet weight to about 55 grains, because anything much heavier will not stabilize properly. Popular bullets include the Berger 30 grain, Hornady’s 35, 40, and 45 grain VMax, Barnes 36 grain Varmint Grenade, the Barnes 45gr and 55gr TSX, and too many more to mention. Now, a word of caution here. Even though nobody seems to have a problem with their use in T/C Contender type rifle cartridge pistols, some states or localities may be sensitive to the use of non-lead homogenous alloys in pistols. Be sure to check your local laws before loading any of these bullets for your FiveseveN.
Although the SS195s unique 28gr projectile is not commercially available as a reloading component, this does not mean that you cannot use it. However, you are going to need to cannibalize some factory rounds in order to salvage the projectile. The best way to pull this bullet is with a press-mounted collet style bullet puller. Hammer shaped kinetic bullet pullers will not work because the SS195 is actually glued into the case at the factory. Don’t worry, it isn’t necessary for the amateur reloader to use any type of sealant when seating bullets for this cartridge. Your die should size the case neck ~.001” smaller than the bullet ensuring a tight, secure fit.
Here is a basic load I worked up for the SS195 projectile with HS7. All of my loads have been shot out of my FiveseveN USG and chronographed with a Competition Electronics ProChrono. As you can see, it is easily possible to exceed the velocities of the factory rounds.
Bullet: 28gr SS195 projectile Trim: 1.135” OAL: 1.585” Primer: CCI 400
Charge: 8.0 grains HS7 Velocity: 2329fps
The 5.7x28 is a finicky cartridge. Much care and attention must be paid to each step in the reloading process. When working up loads, it is essential that you only move up in .1 grain increments. Believe it or not, .1 grains could mean the difference between a functional load and one that will not eject properly, or a safe maximum load and one where the primer blows out the back. Because of this, I like to throw my charges directly on to the scale before charging each case. Accidentally double charging a round will most likely result in an involuntary spontaneous disassembly of your weapon, and is best to be avoided. I’m not trying to scare you here. I just want to emphasize the fact that this round requires close attention to detail.
The first powders to try are from Western Powders. Ramshot’s True Blue is the most commonly used powder because it is essentially what FN uses in its SS195LF and SS197SR rounds. Here is the data for the “clones” of these two rounds. The performance of these loads are essentially the same even though commercially available small rifle primers have been substituted for the factory primers.
SS195 clone: 28gr SS195 projectile. Trim: 1.135” OAL: 1.585” Primer: CCI 400
Charge: 6.5 grains True Blue Velocity: 2050fps
SS197 clone: 40gr Hornady VMax. Trim: 1.130” OAL: 1.589”
Charge: 5.2 grains True Blue Velocity: 1775fps
Ramshot has also published True Blue data for the 35grain Hornady Vmax, the 40 grain SP Hornet, and 45 grain SP Hornet.
Here is a link to the Ramshot True Blue load data: http://www.ramshot.com/powders/loadguide/2007/5.7x28FN%20vs%20Ramshot%20only.pdf
Accurate Powders has published loads utilizing these same bullets with their Accurate #5 and Accurate #7. I have heard of people using Accurate #9, but I have not experimented with it personally. You will note that Accurate’s load data warns against the use of boat tail bullets. I have no idea why they would make such an assertion, but I can safely tell you that boat tail bullets are absolutely fine for use in the 5.7x28. In fact, FN’s own factory round, the SS197SR, utilizes a 40gr boat tail Hornady VMax.
Here is a link to Accurate's published load data: http://www.accuratepowder.com/data/5.7x28%20FN%20vs%20Accurate%20only.pdf
This is not the only discrepancy that I have found. My own research has shown that the published Accurate #7 loads are faster than what I was able to achieve with my own reloads. One possible explanation is that the nitroglycerin content was changed from 10/5% to 12% in 2002, after this data was published. It is possible that it may be due to the particular lot of powder that I used, but none-the-less I have come to expect a 10-20% reduction in velocity under the published data.
The other principle powders of note are HS6 and HS7. HS6 is a relatively fast burning powder, which seems to be at its best with heavier bullets in the 45-55gr region. Here is a load I have prepared with HS6:
Bullet: 53gr Sierra MatchKing FB HP Trim: 1.130” OAL: 1.580" Primer: CCI 400
Charge: 5.4gr Velocity: 1353 fps.
HS7, which was recently discontinued by Hodgdon, has a slightly slower burn rate than True Blue, which often times allows it to achieve higher velocities before pressure warning signs show up. Through my experiments, I have found HS7 to be an ideal powder for use with this cartridge. I’ve worked up a nice load for the Barnes TSX bullet using HS7. *Be sure to check your local laws concerning the use of homogenous metal alloy bullets in pistols.*
Bullet: 45gr Barnes TSX Trim: 1.133” OAL: 1.53" Primer: CCI 400 Charge: 7.7 grains HS7 Velocity: 1888 fps
Other powders of note are VVN105, VVN350, VV3N38, Hodgdon Longshot, and Alliant Blue Dot. Visit the www.fivsevenforum.com to find many loads for these and other powders.
Pressure warning signs are tricky, but not impossible to detect. The main difficulty lies in the fact that typical pressure warning signs are present even in the safe factory ammunition. Extruded, flattened, cratered, and even leaking primers are quite common. This picture (see the Estimation of Pressure section under Reloading Problems: http://www.fivesevenforum.com/wiki/Reloading_Problems ) displays the subtle differences in spent primers between normal factory loads, a safe reload, and a hot load that is approaching dangerous levels. As you can see, there is quite a bit of extrusion and flattening even in the factory primers. The hot reloads have deep cratering and leakage. Also, note the extraction marks around the case head. Another pressure warning sign is neck damage. The necks of dangerous loads will start to have deep dents. The more frequent and deeper the dents are, the higher the pressure is likely to be. Finally, look for changes in cartridge ejection. Of course, you cannot really do this with the PS90 because it ejects straight down. However, with the FiveseveN, you will notice that with hotter loads cases will travel farther and more forward than usual. If the cases fail to eject on a regular basis (assuming there are no problems with the lacquer coating), chances are that your load is either too hot or too slow. One more factor to consider as you assess pressure is case head expansion. Spent cases in excess of .3205 inches are probably producing too much pressure. This is based on personal observation and by no means should be taken as the only warning sign to look for. Always use your best judgment. If there is any question about whether the pressure is too high, err on the safe side and back the charge down .1-.2 grains.
With the right knowledge and tools, the amateur home reloader can take full advantage of the unique capabilities of the versatile 5.7x28mm cartridge. Whether loading for self-defense, plinking, varmint, or even medium sized game, you will find that this round is well suited for just about any application you choose. The wide range of .224” diameter bullets available to the consumer makes for an endless number of possible loads. If you already own a FiveseveN or PS90 and have been reluctant to reload this cartridge, I highly recommend that you take the plunge and give it a try. Hand loading the 5.7x28 can take these weapons systems to a whole new level. The difference is night and day, and I promise you it will be mighty hard to wipe the grin off your face once you've tried it.
Included here is an image showing a small variety of projectiles and loaded rounds that are available for the 5.7x28, through factory ammo, handloading, or after market producers such as "Elite Ammunition".