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
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 (about a hundred bucks less via Brownells)
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.