As I posted earlier on Social Media, I’m in Europe because I was offered an opportunity to conduct an evaluation of the FK BRNO 7.5 handgun and ammunition. It started with a Facebook Message a few days ago asking me to give someone a call. That message came from Chad at Bullseye Guns in Jacksonville, FL… a range not far from my Eastern HQ and “home range” in St. Augustine. I didn’t answer right away and a few minutes later a second message came through: “Time Sensitive”. Chad and I had crossed paths at Ancient City Shooting Range in the past and talked a bit on the Interwebs, but I really didn’t know much about him or his business, except that I hadn’t taken him up on his neighborly invite to come check out Bullseye. I actually kind of felt bad about that and was hoping he wasn’t going to repeat the invitation for an event that I wasn’t going to be able to make because of other obligations.
It is very likely that I was the first American without a tie to the company to follow this sign up to the corporate offices in BRNO, CZ.
As it turns out, Chad’s request for a call wasn’t about visiting his range, it was about this very unique opportunity to visit a range in Czech Republic. A 100 Meter Indoor Range… with a complete ballistics laboratory and some of the most advanced diagnostic and measuring equipment available… attached to an advanced manufacturing facility… built by a new gun company with a unique cartridge and handgun combination that no other independent American has had a chance to evaluate and report on. I also found out that “time sensitive” meant that I had to be on a plane within 48hrs. I also had to agree to allow them to film portions of my visit, testing & evaluation and agree to sign an Non-Disclosure Agreement in regard to a variety of manufacturing processes, research & development projects and prototypes I would probably see during my visit. A quick Google search on “FK BRNO” resulted in instant curiosity and interest in taking him up on the offer. The Czech Republic is one of my favorite places to visit, they have a great history as a firearms development & manufacturing center, an active firearms community and this was one of the few weeks of the year I didn’t already have travel, taping or teaching obligations!
Before we booked flights, it was made clear that I wasn’t agreeing to “endorse” the gun, but simply to give them a few days to show me whatever they wanted and then tell them and anyone else willing to listen, my thoughts and opinions on it.
Last year, FK BRNO announced the specifications of their first pistol, a 6″ gun that held 14+1 Rounds. Since then, the magazines have been improved to hold 16 rounds of their 7.5 ammo and they developed a 5″ Short Slide version of their handgun.
After about 20hrs of travel, I arrived in CZ yesterday and jumped right into the project with a meeting at the hotel with the owner of FK BRNO, and the designer of the 7.5, both the cartridge and the handgun(s). Also present at the meeting were members of the BH Defense Team (a sister company to Bullseye and approved importers for the FK BRNO) and the videographer working on projects for the company. Three hours later, I knew far more about FK BRNO, the reason the company was started, the explanation for the unique characteristics of the pistol (and the ammo) than possibly any other American not involved in their project.
Of course, I still had more questions than answers at that point. If you didn’t take the hint in the first paragraph and do a little research of your own to get up to speed, I’d recommend you quickly read This Article by Richard Johnson and then come back. As I researched the pistol before arriving, I found Richard’s piece to be the most thorough, informative and respectfully skeptical article written so far. If that wasn’t enough to get you interested (or you still haven’t left this page), try either of these videos from The Gun Collective or The Yankee Marshall.
In addition the round and the handgun, the FK BRNO 7.5’s designer also developed his own style of ghost ring sights for the pistol. Unlike other supposed “ghost rings” I’ve tried on pistols, the rear circle does practically disappear when you focus on the front sight, but it is still a very busy scene. I am not yet convinced that it is a significant advantage. Especially considering the distances (50-150 meters) and dynamic situations the gun is designed for.
So, now you know what all the fuss is about: A High Capacity Handgun that fires a propriety 100 grain round at over 2000fps and costs over $5000. The round, by the way, is still moving at 1500fps at 100 meters… which is the distance at which the pistol is zeroed with a unique set of sights when it comes from the factory. As others in the above links note, the gun is relatively large, fires a very powerful round and isn’t going to be cheap. FK BRNO also claims that the gun is very controllable and capable of high levels of precision. And, the only guns currently in the USA are there for government evaluation so that importation could be approved. At first glance, some of the claims seem like a bit outlandish and the target market for such a gun, outside of wealthy collectors and affluent hunters who like to use handguns, isn’t very easily identified.
Here is some of what I’ve learned:
1. FK BRNO says that they are an Ammunition Company that also makes a handgun.
In point of fact, they do produce the ammunition as well as the handgun. They form the cases, they machine the bullets, assemble all of the components (including their own powder) and package the rounds. The machines being used are all brand new and state of the art. FK BRNO is well funded and passionate about doing things in a very precise way… and it shows in everything I saw and experienced today, starting with the production of the FK BRNO 7.5 Round.
2. FK BRNO set out to develop a handgun that delivered AK-47 performance in regard to Terminal Ballistics at ranges between 50 and 150 meters. You might want to read that sentence again… because they achieved their goal (more on that soon). Why? Experiences and observations in Combat Environments, particularly involving Protective Services being provided by government personnel and contractors and (exhaustive) research and experimentation with a variety of existing firearm and ammunition combinations lead the FK BRNO 7.5’s designer to the conclusion that such a firearm would provide the optimal balance of what I refer to as carryability, shootability and Combat Efficiency in typical situations when those people are ambushed. Whether you agree with the premise or not becomes irrelevant at this point. FK BRNO is very clear that they are not building a gun for the masses, nor are they open to outside theories in this area.They also believe strongly in the idea that hydrodynamic shock is the best mechanism through which to incapacitate a human adversary efficiently, particularly at the ranges in question. So, if you don’t agree with those things, you probably aren’t going to “get” the FK BRNO pistol or ammunition as much more than a novelty or potential hunting round. That’s okay… they don’t care.
3. The 7.5 round delivers high levels precision.
The 100 grain 7.5mm machined rounds were designed to be fired out of a 6 inch barrel with 4 sets of traditional lands & grooves. We shot several 3 and 5 shot groups out of a table-mounted test barrel at 100 Meters (we are in The Europe… that is about 110 Yards) that measured under 2 inches across.
This group (1.77″) wasn’t the best 100 meter 5 shot group I witnessed from the test barrel… it was the WORST. Note that the first three rounds were only 1/2 inch apart.
Once the performance capability was established, it was my turn. They moved the cutting edge electronic target that recorded the location of the test barrel shots and displayed them on a computer screen up in the observation area and rolled in a stand with a 20″ steel circle. It quickly became clear that they expected me to hit it, or at least shoot at it, from 100 meters. Off-hand. With exactly zero “warm up” shots. Having never fired the gun before. In front of the gun’s designer, a half-dozen other potentially skeptical observers and 3 or 4 video cameras running. And, I was feeling like I might have the reputation of all “American Gun Guys” on my shoulders. Honestly, that kind of shooting isn’t really my thing. Where were my buddies Rob Leatham & Jerry Miculek when I needed them?
Shooting about 50 rounds through several different variations of the pistol (5″, 6″, wide grip, narrow grip, traditional sights, their proprietary ghost ring, etc…), I was hitting a 20″ Steel Circle about 30-40% of the time, including a few 3 hit strings and one 5 hits-in-a-row-group that was called at about 6 inches across by my spotter. My spotter? Yeah… Remember: 100 meters, with iron sights, in the typical weight forward, head inside the arms of the triangle, lowered center of gravity, two handed shooting position we teach in the CFS
Program. The FK BRNO 7.5, especially in this setting, particularly with my preferred grip size and sight combo, made it seem like I was supposed to be hitting every time. Don’t worry skeptics, video will be posted at some point. The trigger was great, the balance of the gun (especially the 5″ Short Slide) is surprisingly good and the felt recoil was less than a 1911 firing .45 +P and noticeably less than a 4″ .357 Magnum revolver (both which I also shot today, back to back with the 7.5 for comparison).
4. The Terminal Ballistics are even more impressive than the precision capability
We did several gel tests (using fresh-from-the-fridge FBI Standard
style blocks) with various versions of the 7.5 Ammunition, including the US commercial version Hollow Point, a Hollow Point intended only for military and other armed professional use and a “spoon tip” bullet that is capable of penetrating Level IIIA Body Armor at over 100 Meters. How do I know? We shot through a Czech Military Issue IIIA Vest, in the carrier, on a 25+ kilogram gelatin torso replica with a simulated bone plate 3″ inside the front edge. The round went through front of the carrier and armor, through the body torso and was trapped inside the back armor panel… from 100 Meters out of a 6″ barrel. The most compelling gel test was probably the one we did on an Animal Simulation Block. The block was set up with 2mm of Rubber on the face to simulate animal skin (all of the other blocks had 1mm to simulate human skin and at least one layer of denim to simulate clothing, even the torso protected by the armor) and had 1 Inch of simulated bone set a few inches in from the front edge, with a gelatin only space in the middle to represent a series of smaller bones, or the marrow inside of a larger bone. A 100 grain US Commercial Hollow Point Round was fired at this block from the 6″ Barrel at 100 meters. The bullet passed through both sections of bone and came to a stop after penetrating a total of almost 14 inches. I then fired a 125 gr Magtech .357 Magnum at 10 Meters (not a typo… that’s 1/10th the distance) that stopped dead about 6 inches in without even cracking the second section of bone simulant. In a comparison test with the previously described armor, I fired a 240gr .44 Magnum XTP from 10 meters (also 1/10th the distance of the test shot with the 7.5 BRNO) that barely penetrated half of the layers on the front of the vest. So much for Magnum Force
In the most compelling test of the day in regard to Terminal Ballistics, a comparison was made in a bone & tissue simulant between the FK BRNO 7.5 at 100 Meters and the “mighty” .357 Magnum fired from only 10 meters away. There was no doubt about which round I’d want to be firing. Keep in mind that the FK also holds 17 rounds, compared to the revolver’s 6… and would be far easier for just about anyone to shoot accurately.
So, FK BRNO have done what they set out to do and delivered what they said they would. But there is more to launching a successful firearm, or any business for that matter, than just meeting your design objectives. Is this the Uber Sidearm that every Special Operator or High Risk Contractor should have strapped to his thigh? Is the ultimate low-profile, high-power pistol that should live in a shoulder holster under the trench coat or suit of every sunglass wearing bodyguard? Does its size-to-power ratio make it the perfect vehicle counter ambush firearm for dignitary escort or high security convoy operations? Are these guns destined to be expensive safe queens that only get pulled out to impress friends or go on the occasional extravagant hunting boondoggle?
I’ve got more to share about FK BRNO over the next few days, including more pictures and some video clips. It’s late (or early?) here and we have another day of shooting scheduled for tomorrow at an outdoor facility and I’m going to get more into the details of how the gun works and how it’s made, including some of the manufacturing processes, more specifications as well as the design & function of the lower-than-normal recoil spring assembly. Keep an eye on my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for updates!
PS- I did get two very clear answers when I asked the owner of the company what the weak points of the FK BRNO 7.5 were… I’ll share them in Part II of this series.