The 509 was born out of FN’s multi-million dollar bid for the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System contract. FN is coy about the MHS testing protocols and the results generated by the new gun. But the Belgian gunmaker claims their striker-fired pistol exceeded DOD, NATO and their own even more rigorous requirements for drop, dust, temperature and salt spray tests. And that FN’s ballistic boffins shot over a million rounds to ensure the firearm’s accuracy, reliability and durability.

The result looks like a gun designed by and for a government committee.

Unlike the handsome Ruger SR9 or minimalist GLOCK 19, FN’s 509 is a riot of textures, patterns and angles. The handgun’s grip boasts no less than four stippling solutions: large cut-outs on the front, small ridges in the back, tiny dots on the side and something not unlike skateboard tape at the top. The 509’s satin-finish, case-hardened slide (thank you ferritic nitrocarburation) is an atonal agglomeration of serrations and graphics.

More charitably, the FN 509’s design represents a form-follows-function aesthetic. The enlarged cut outs on the 509’s slide enable quick and positive racking. The farrago of textures make for a secure grip in all weather conditions, gloved or ungloved — or when your mitt’s covered in blood (not currently part of TTAG’s testing procedure). But the 509’s design doesn’t necessarily afford an ideal grip.

Shooters with medium-sized hands who place their thumb in the 509’s indent can’t create a normal shooting grip (thumbs stacked on top of each other resting on the frame, parallel to the barrel). So they ignore the thumb indent and place their strong hand thumb on, somewhat on, or just under the slide stop. Dan, Jeremy, Jon and I never experienced a failure to lock back, through hundreds of rounds. Two experienced women shooters with medium-sized hands did. Multiple times.

The no-hold-open curse is directly related to the 509’s blessing: its low bore axis (enabled by its relatively thin frame).

All things being equal, the lower a handgun’s bore axis, the less felt recoil it generates. The easier it is to control muzzle rise and quickly recover a suitable sight picture. Copy that. A shooter [with better skills than your author] can exploit the 509’s gentle nature and natural point-of-aim to establish one-ragged-hole bragging rights at combat distance (seven yards). That said . . .

The best accuracy we could get out of the gun was a 2″ group at 25 yards shot off bags using 124 grain +P Remington Golden Saber rounds. Sinterfire lead-free frangible ammo delivered a 2.5″ group at the same distance.

When it’s time to stop an imminent credible threat of grievous bodily harm or death, you may need to forgo slow fire to put more than one round on target quickly. And not in the same hole (when it comes to lead projectile-based human incapacitation, the more holes in the target the better). That’s where the 17+1 full-sized FN 509 comes into its own.

The 509’s clean-breaking trigger and short tactile reset enables extremely rapid, minute-of-bad-guy strings of fire. To the point where double-tap point shooting, or shooting from a flash sight picture, are perfectly viable options (depending on the battlespace and distance).

The 509 also embodies FN’s combat credo in its smaller details. The new rear sight design (above left) makes the 509 rackable against a belt, shoe or solid surface. The ambidextrous mag release has a grippier texture and stands out further from the frame than its firearms forebearer.

The 509 practically spits out spent mags, which now boast a hi-viz orange follower. (Note: 509 mags fit in an FNS series pistol, but not the other way around.) And the 509’s cold-hammer forged barrel sports a recessed crown for bullet stabilization.

The bottom of the 509’s magwell is indented and de-stippled for lightning fast magazine changes. (The gun ships with two magazines.) According to FN, the new floor plate design makes it easier to remove a mag from a 509 buried in sand. So there’s that.

Speaking of things you can’t see, FN’s optimized the donor gun’s slide and barrel geometry to increase reliability and reduce recoil, and added an external rotating extractor for more reliable cartridge extraction.

Disassembly is a doddle. Simply safety check the pistol, pull the 509’s slide back to the appropriate position, throw the big-ass takedown lever, pull the trigger and remove the slide.

At which point you’ll discover that FN opted for a captive double-nested recoil spring to reduce stress on the spring. In fact the gunmaker reckons 509 owners won’t have to replace any part of their gun “during the expected service life for many of our customers.” I wonder how long FN customers’ service life lasts . . .

I fed the 509 well over a thousand rounds of various grain 9mm ammo, including CapArms, Federal Premium, Blazer Brass, Hornady Critical Defense and the aforementioned Sinterfire lead-free frangible pills. No cleaning, no babying, no problems. As you’d expect from a gun developed by FN. What I didn’t expect: how much more smooth and controllable the full-sized firearm is compared to the identically triggered FNS-9 Compact, which is as smooth and controllable as a Braun razor.

Schlepping the 509 in a figure-hugging Raven Concealment Kydex holster, I knew I was carrying a gun that wouldn’t let me down if bad guy push came to ballistic shove. I was confident in my ability to shoot what I might be aiming at, more than once, quickly and accurately. And swap mags in a flash. Using a gun that will function reliability for tens of thousands of rounds.

What more could one ask of a striker-fired polymer pistol? I dunno. Ask the U.S. Army. For some reason, the FN 509 wasn’t their cup of tea. It is mine.

SPECIFICATIONS: FN 509 

Caliber: 9mm
Safety: Non-manual; internal, passive safeties
Sights: Fixed 3-dot luminescent sights
Operation: Striker DAO
Trigger pull: 5.5 – 7.5 pounds
Weight unloaded: 26.9 ounces
Capacity: 10 or 17 rounds
Barrel length: 4 inches
Overall length: 7.4 inches
Width: 1.35 inches
MSRP: $649

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Style: * * *
Not entirely ugly. Not even close to beautiful. Business-like and busy.

Ergonomics Firing: * * * *
There’s a whole lot of stippling going on — which creates a griptastic gun. The 509’s indented thumb rest is ideal for one-handed shooting but forces some two-handed shooters to cozy-up to the slide stop. Some — but not most — testers induced repeated slide failure to hold open after the last round fired.

Ergonomics Carry: * * * *
With a grip the size of the Florida panhandle, concealment is something of a challenge. FN partnered with Raven Concealment to create a [yes-you-can-buy-it-today] body-hugging Kydex holster that’s as slim as Keira Knightly. Works well both IWB and OWB (the gun not the girl).

Reliability: * * * * *
No issues firing over a thousand rounds of mixed ammo — FMJ and JHP.

Overall: * * * * 
Thanks to its low bore axis and natural point of aim, the FN 509 is a reliable, durable, relatively soft shooting firearm that does everything an everyday carry or home defense handgun should, and does it well. Final star withheld for the aesthetic affront and a hold-open problem that most shooters will never encounter, but none should.

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56 Responses to Gun Review: FN 509 Striker-Fired 9mm Semi-Automatic Pistol

  1. Another fugly brick pistol! Ruger American, Remington RP9, Beretta APX, and now this!

    Methinks the procurement order for the pistol specified all of these ugly design features. Seems like the gun buying public are being used to help these gun companies absorb the cost of their R&D. 🙂

  2. Great review. Now I want one, but I would really be interested in seeing a comparison pic of the width to something like a g17. The fn has the appearance that it may be thinner than the glock, at least from your pictures. I love the rear sight. I’m not sure why more manufacturers don’t do such an aggressive step on the rear sight like that. I’m not worried about a potential snag on the sight when the gun goes into the holster.

    • Just another compact slide on a full size grip…..worst of both worlds……..FN should stick with long guns. They haven’t made a worthwhile pistol since the hi power….

      • Evidently you don’t consider the Five-SeveN to be a good gun?

        Even though it’s easily the most accurate handgun on the market over 100 yards, even for an amateur?

        I don’t get it.

        • Mark . . . maybe because that’s all they have at hand and they’re being shot at by someone a hundred yards out? Just a thought.

      • Well J,
        Too each his own.
        Most of us FN owners would consider your comment tasteless, clueless, and ignorant.

        My FNS is one of the best handguns I own. I used to carry it but it got to be to heavy especially with all 17 rounds loaded. Switched over to carry something else BUT I still prefer both my FN’s (one 9 and one 40 and one 357 sig) the firearms I would prefer to bring to use at the range.

        • I think is point was that a compact slide on a full size frame isn’t ideal.

          A compact slide on a compact frame, or a full size slide on a compact frame, would both be much better.

          A full size frame is best for duty, home, or vehicle defense IMHO. In those cases, a full size slide would be better too.

          By the way, why don’t you carry the FNS compact? I’ve shot them, they aren’t bad. Just not my cup of tea.

  3. Still sticking with the SIG 226 for now.
    Really want to go with the 320 because of 8 oz. less weight, but i have the reverse effect of slide lock – slide stays back after each shot – damn thumbs.
    Glocks shoot the ceiling for me past 15 yards.

  4. Seems OK. I don’t think it’s particularly unattractive either. Pedestrian maybe. Kinda’ surprised to see a gun review late on Sunday night . You forget width. Real important to a multitude of folks. Were your “experienced ” gals limpwristing? It can happen to the fairer sex…

    • Yes, that’s what looked for also – width.
      Contrary to NRA stating width is the most important about concealed carry, I have to disagree – height is the most important – the magwell is what is the concealment problem, not the width of the gun. Guess everyone at NRA is not the same build as I am.

      • The NRA is correct. Width is the most important variable which is why a 1911 is easy to conceal. It is the blockyness of polymer pistols that make the grip a problem. Right angles prevent clothing from smoothly laying over the pistol which causes them to print.

        • Yeah, but I’m guessing that’s the width of the take-down lever or slide release. What is the width of the slide and grip?

        • The 509’s width of 1.35″ is 34.3mm, but the slide appears flush with the fame.
          The G19’s width of 1.18″ is 30.0mm at the the slide, but the slide is narrower than the frame.
          Take a look a ruler with a metric scale and you notice that 4.3mm is not much, but that around 2mm is even less.

  5. Habitually holding down the slide-lock is a common problem with SIGs. The long grip and short slide remind me of a Kahr. I don’t know about all those textures. Here’s hoping for some new grip modules and a .45/10mm/.38 Super version.

  6. FN’s are great pistols. Until you need parts or maintenance for high round pistols. And in my case, God forbid if they find out you replaced parts on your own. With OEM parts no less!!! Bye bye warranty. Uncommon pistols are uncommon for a reason. Stick with Glocks, M&Ps, Sigs, etc.

    One example of FN dropping the ball, and there are many other documented instances but this one goes into quite a bit of detail: https://pistol-forum.com/showthread.php?24700-So-I-broke-my-FNS-9L

    • Dang, now there’s a story. I’ve sent off several guns with excellent CS. I didn’t realize humidity required more oil to prevent corrosion (I grew up in the dry SW); I asked ruger CS if they suggested a particular lube, and they offered to strip and reblue my LCP! Wow.

      OTOH, Walter slapped a CND on my CCP that stovepipe at least once a Mag. I sold that paperweight and strictly avoid umatex junk now.

      • My experiences with ruger’s customer service has led me to purchase many Ruger guns and recommend them wholeheartedly to others. They are the absolute gold standard in the industry.

        • I like Ruger’s and have several, however after I bought their LCP and they made like 4 more with design changes to make the trigger at least reasonable, I think they suck. I asked them why not fix the first ones with triggers so crappy, you can barely use them. They said sorry. So I went ahead and purchased the next version where they improved the trigger but didn’t advertise it. I found out because my neighbor bought the 2012 version. I bought it because I already had a laser, extra mags and a holster. They then made a couple other ones with different (Better triggers) and now the LCP II. Hell, S&W sold their bottom of the line SIgma’s with bad triggers and they made them right if you asked them to (And paid shipping both ways).
          I have FNs, Glocks, SIg, S&W, Ruger, Springfield and a bunch of others. I’m wishing at this point that I had stuck primarily with Glock and S&W. Then I could get into the I.O. Inc issue. Don’t even get me started!

        • They came out with a better model and you’re ticked they wouldn’t upgrade it? “Excuse me dodge, I see your 2018 Ram has 0.2L more displacement. I’d like the new engine in my 2017 model.” Nothing’s wrong with the old one. I’ve owned 4 LCPs, including the two you mention: a 2008 era model with a terrible trigger, and a 2012 model with a much improved trigger. I sold the 2008 model. “Problem” solved. That’s no fault of Ruger.

        • They came out with a better model and you’re ticked they wouldn’t upgrade it? You handled and dry-fired the first LCP before you bought it, so if it was so terrible you could have voted with your wallet. “Excuse me dodge, I see your 2018 Ram has 0.2L more displacement. I’d like the new engine in my 2017 model.” Nothing’s wrong with the old one. I’ve owned 4 LCPs, including the two you mention: a 2008 era model with a terrible trigger, and a 2012 model with a much improved trigger. I sold the 2008 model. “Problem” solved. That’s no fault of Ruger.

    • I feel for the guy, but seriously … 12k rounds, was it, with no service?

      Granted, FN doesn’t publish routine intervals for things like doing spring changes, but the note to get the pistol serviced every 2k rounds at least gives a hint when to think about it.

      • The catch is FN wants you to send them the pistol on your dime every 2000 rounds. That is, a lack of a better word, *retarded*. Aside from that thread, there was another thread at the FN Forums where it was documented that a guy bought *factory* replacement parts for his gun and they voided his warranty because a FN gunsmith didnt install them. That was the reason I also dumped them, all because I bought OEM parts to replace worn ones. Garbage.

        It seems to me that they have decent marketing (400,000 and counting, etc) but they did not expect people to shoot high round counts. I suppose its a case of take the money and run. To paraphrase someone from the PF thread, “Build a pistol that shoots 5,000 rounds (total lifespan), you just fulfilled 99% of your buyers.” I didnt get to document my personal experience with FN but treating your customers like shit doesnt do you any favors for business.

  7. Is this built in Columbia, SC, and can Jeb Bush get his name engraved on the slide on his campaign swing in 2019?

  8. I think it looks kinda like the Sig 320. Funny, the article seems to bash it but then come around at the end?

    I didn’t realize the Ruger sr9 was a handsome pistol. I didn’t think there was anything special about the sr9. So much so that Ruger released the American pistol to basically compete against it and the other striker perfections. I haven’t heard anyone else speak lovingly of it. Weird reference. Would be like saying “this pistol is ok, but certainly not a work of art like the S&w sigma. Now that is a beauty!”

    • You’d be wrong about the SR9…I belong to several Ruger groups on FB. LOTS of love. And Robert Farago called it a “seriously sexy gun” in a TTAG review.

  9. I am constantly amazed that people continue to use a high thumbs grip on a combat pistol. If your thumbs aren’t up you can’t accidentally activate the slide lock/release. The miniscule edge in supposedly better accuracy that a thumbs up grip provides is negated just by that in my book. Not to mention the less recoil control and less retention capability. What other object does anyone grasp with their thumbs up? Bueller? And, in case anyone thinks I’m just making this up, refer to Massad Ayoob’s books. Thumbs down until you actually need them to work the controls.

    • Thumb down can also be an issue, as I found out with my Walther PPQ. The problem for me was being unable to get through an entire magazine without accidently dropping the magazine! The only fix I found was to move the mag release to the right side of the pistol.

    • I fully admit to having a hard time recalling, but the instructions I remember from Mr. Ayoob were for gripping a revolver. Even so, that particular grip, strong hand thumb down with the support hand thumb on top of it, would bring a lot of your support hand off the gun for many modern automatics. For this gun, I can work with both thumbs down to get a lot of my hand on the gun, because the grip is still a good length, but I have to train myself into it.
      That method does not, by any means, reduce recoil. I tried both with this pistol, and the thumbs up/ two hands high grip certainly reduces the recoil better. It has less to do with the position of the thumb and more to do with getting your hand as high up on the gun as possible and getting as much of the gun in contact with both of your hands as possible. You can only grip the parts of the gun that are in your hands.

      • THIS! ^^^^ I agree 100%. I take a lot of pistol courses at Firearms Academy of Seattle. They teach the thumbs down grip (but allow you to choose your own if that doesn’t work for you). I’ve tried and tried, but the thumbs down approach is slow and unnatural for me and I feel like my ability to control the pistol suffers greatly. The thumbs forward approach feels extremely natural and allows for very quick draws. Just my 2 cents. To each his own.

      • I did that for a while, until the top of my support hand thumb got into the slide movement area. I now have a 3/4″ permanent scar where the slide sliced me. Slide bite is not worth it–bad habit!

  10. I have the FNS 9C and love it, I would be interested in this gun but for one glaring problem. I read that there will be no manual safety option. Sorry I refuse to own a handgun without a manual safety, especially a polymer striker fire pistol.

    BTW if the trigger is the same as the 9C its excellent, I would go so far as to say its the best shooting handgun I have ever owned.

  11. This is the most bas aackwards gun review that I have ever seen. Three paragraphs about the aesthetics of the gun before getting to the functionality. That’s after stating that the gun was designed for the Army’s MHS competition. How many points did that competition award for aesthetics? DUH!

    • That balance is always a challenge. RF and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum there. If I had my way, I’d just take a picture of the score sheet from my range time with the gun, post it, and be done. You’d know how many rounds, malfunctions, how accurate with what round and what magazine, drill times, day and night shooting function, gloved and ungloved function. You’d know if I could conceal it and draw from concealment for pistols.
      But you wouldn’t know what it looks like, and you wouldn’t know how it feels in the hand. There are just so many intangibles that I struggle with writing about are what RF excels at, and it takes all kinds.
      There are a few people that are able to put all of that into a review, but then so many people just put “TLDR” for those reviews that they become unpopular.

  12. The military’s XM17 Modular Handgun System competition has given us some new and interesting firearms, so rather than complain that we have yet another boring polystriker, we should be excited that these arms manufacturers spent their hard-earned R&D budgets to win Uncle Sam’s business, and are now competing to earn ours.

    Perhaps it’s time for TTAG to run its own M9 replacement competition. Round up the contenders: HK, FN, Sig, Beretta, Glock, S&W. Will the P320 win the TTAG shootout, like it did the U.S. military’s? Or will the staff at TTAG come to a different conclusion?

    A second shootout: Take the winning polystriker and put it up against the former military competitors, the hammer fired trio of the 92 FS, CZ 70, and Sig P226.

    Whatever is left standing must then compete against the most enduring and beloved combat pistol of all time: a no frills 1911.

  13. I rarely see this addressed or discussed in gun reviews, and I can’t seem to figure out why, and that is, does this pistol have a magazine disconnect and does it have second strike capability? Those two functionality features seem far more important than arguing over if the gun is or is not ugly. I personally want a firearm that has the features I want, features coupled with good looks is a huge bonus. Say what you want, but I own a Taurus PT111 millenium g2 and it does not have a magazine disconnect AND has second strike capability, both features I really want in a pistol that far to many higher priced pistols do not have.

  14. I find it disconcertingly funny that many knowledgeable firearms enthusiasts will dismiss an obviously well engineered and rugged/reliable firearm because it’s not “aesthetically pleasing”. It simply never occurred to me that the FN 509 is too ugly.

    I find it curious that this review reported poorer accuracy than other reviews of the 509, but there are a lot of factors involved in accuracy. Personally, I’m interested in adding this weapon to my arsenal as my experience with FN has been very positive. Time will tell. Finally, I don’t get the excitement for the P320. I’m not sold on the modular concept in pistols. I’d rather just buy a complete pistol, than have several hundred dollars of useless modular parts sitting around. Nutty if you ask me.

  15. Why is it practically every gun review mentions bore axis? Hickok .45 is obsessive about it. But when it comes to recoil, all wonder 9’s pretty much kick the same if you know how to grip the gun.

    As far as plastic strikers go, the FN doesn’t win any marks for looks but seems reliable. Other than that, don’t see the appeal. Walther’s Q still has the best trigger out there and my SIG P320 runs great, high bore axis notwithstanding. Take that, Hickok! FN’s late to the game and has an uphill climb in this category.

  16. But of course the Schlomo who runs this dogpile would just cream all over this POS then simultaneously bash Glock, who made these cheezewhiz pistols mainstream.

  17. I bought an FN 509. The sight picture is not a six o’clock hold. I put the front sight right on the target and it shot straight. 🙂
    I did measure the gun while I was in the gun store when I bought. Sorry, I cannot tell you the exact dimensions, but I can tell you it is wider than a Glock 19. This handgun fit perfect in my Galico leather holster for the Glock 21.

    There is nothing wrong with the full length hand grip. I happen to like the grip size and I like the angle. Great Gun!!

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