Gun Review: FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

As you’re undoubtedly aware, FN America did not win the military’s Modular Handgun System trials. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all benefit from the development, learning, and progress the company made while engineering to Uncle Sam’s requirements. In fact, all you need to take advantage of that is a cool $1,049 to exchange for the FN 509 Tactical.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

And what you’ll get is more than a gun; it’s a system. The 509 Tactical comes in a quality zip-up soft case with two internal pockets and six elastic loops for securing mags and other items. You’re well on your way to filling those loops, too, with the 509 Tactical’s one included 17-round magazine and two 24-round mags. Yes, that’s right, 24-round magazines.

A flat backstrap is tossed in there for shooters who prefer it over the pre-installed, curved version, a second recoil spring assembly is included for use with lower-powered range ammo, and there’s also the typical stuff like an owner’s manual, warranty card, and gun lock.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

What isn’t typical is the package full of various optics mounting components and a separate manual just for that system. FN has made a huge leap in pistol optics mounting with the 509 Tactical, and, frankly, it puts everyone else to shame. Not only is their Low-Profile Optics Mounting System™ compatible with nearly any micro red dot sight (MRDS) on the market, it’s physically and functionally better.

In the video above I put some rounds down range both with and without optics and with and without a suppressor. There’s also a little overview of how the 509 Tactical’s optics mounting plate system works and I try my hand at hitting a 50% IPSC silhouette at 100 yards.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

Before we get to that innovative optics mounting stuff here, let’s hit some smaller features that also stand out. Threaded barrel? Check. But FN ups the game by incorporating a rubber o-ring inside the front of the thread protector.

Unlike [almost] every other damn thread protector on Earth, this one won’t walk off on you during your range time. That o-ring squeezes onto the non-threaded section of the cold hammer-forged stainless steel barrel and provides some stiction. But let’s be real: you’re going to shoot the 509 Tactical suppressed.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

When you do, you’ll enjoy suppressor-height sights. A serrated front with a bright white dot around a tritium lamp…

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

And a partially-serrated, mostly blacked-out rear with two little tritium vials of its own. Those steel wings on either side of the rear sight prevent it from being accidentally drifted left or right should it suffer an impact. It’s definitely a different look, but for some reason I really liked it when I took a sight picture.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

The wings are actually part of the blanking plate that can be used when running the 509 Tactical without an optic. The plate is nicely sculpted to the slide and finished to match. It looks good. Plus, its protective wings can also be used to cock the slide against an object or just to add purchase when doing it by hand, again reducing the likelihood of damaging or moving the rear sight.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

All of which suddenly makes me feel like my front sight is naked. It’s a mountain of steel unto itself. Where are its bodyguards? Clearly this is sightism.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

Then again, who needs sights? I got this gun to run with an optic.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

And a suppressor! And a big ol’ extended mag.

The 509 Tactical is definitely ready to rock right out of the case. Home defense, self-defense, combat…it’s a serious contender. No changes needed. You’re good to go with a threaded barrel, tritium suppressor sights, extended mags, optics mounting options galore, ambi controls, fantastic slide serrations, desert badass color scheme, and more.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

While the trigger is heavy and a little rough for the fun-on-the-range and competition types, it’s appropriate — quite refined, actually — for duty and combat use. My sample broke just north of 7 lbs with some grit when new, but broke in during the first couple hundreds rounds fired and is now a bit lighter and noticeably smoother. I give it a “pass.”

It took me a while to get used to the center-pivoting design of the 509’s trigger safety. This is often more comfortable than the little safety blade dingus design that dominates the market, but it feels weird to have the trigger lever shape change and flex while shooting. If I were to change anything on this gun, it would be swapping in an aftermarket flat trigger. But that’s literally the only thing I’d so much as consider swapping.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

Other controls are fantastic. The fully ambidextrous magazine release and slide stop are upgraded versions of what we’ve seen on previous 509s. Mag releases are larger and taller, yet still appropriate for carry or duty use, and slide stop levers have significantly better texturing and stand just prouder of the frame. They’re far easier to use as both a slide lock and a release.

Grip texture and ergonomics are great. I think FN nailed this setup, balancing control and comfort perfectly.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

Retained from previous 509 variants are the great slide serrations. The skinny raised lines separated by wider recesses, all with crisp edges, is a good recipe. Though I admit that when I have an optic I tend to karate chop it to rack the slide and otherwise use it as a giant wall for other slide manipulation.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

Oddly enough, much like that thread protector, a little rubber o-ring brings huge value to the optics mounting system, too. Prior to the 509 Tactical there were two ways to mount an optic to a pistol (exclusive of handguns with an accessory rail up top):

• Machine the slide for the specific mounting pattern of one brand and model of optic. This is functionally the best solution, but it locks the user into a single optics choice.
• Use a swappable plate system, most familiar on the GLOCK MOS pistols despite the fact that FN came up with the idea and made it first. The bottom of the plate matches the slide, and the top of the plate matches your optic of choice. Different optic, different plate.

While that sounds good on paper, it’s problematic in practice. Without going too deely into it, it’s almost impossible to keep the bolts tight unless you physically stake them. The materials sandwich adds height, weight, and complexity while reducing strength and contributing to that loosening bolts problem.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

With the 509 Tactical, FN has effectively created a hybrid of the two methods mentioned above. Four threaded holes in the slide provide a direct connection between optic and gun. FN includes a bunch of bolts to work with any optic while also being cut precisely to perfectly mesh with the slide threads. This is both more solid than mounting to a separate (and thin) plate and it reduces the likelihood of rattled-loose bolts.

But under the front of the optic is a plate. A uniquely small one. Choose the correct plate to match the recoil lug pattern of your optic. This is the sole duty of the front plate, and it’s also where that aforementioned o-ring comes into play. You’ll find that guy underneath the plate, providing constant upwards pressure on it. This pressure in turn maintains pressure on the mounting bolts — some secret sauce helping them stay snug.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

By choosing the correct combination of plate and bolts and using one of two spacers (or no spacers at all), the FN 509 Tactical will accept basically any MRDS on the market and allow you to tune its height relative to the iron sights and ensure it’s aligned with the pistol’s bore.

It’s the best pistol optics mounting system on the market.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

And the rest of the gun ain’t so bad, either. I hit the range, loaded up all three magazines, and took a step back. That’s 65 rounds, loaded and ready to rock! In factory magazines. That were included with the gun. Hot damn.

The grip extensions on the 24-rounders (24+1 = half a box of ammo!) prevent over-insertion of the extended mags. They also thoughtfully include witness holes so you know when you’re full. Even with the mag in the gun.

Worth noting: if you don’t already own an UpLULA magazine loader, it’s time. I mean it. You don’t want to be loading these things by hand; they have stiff springs and lots of capacity.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

Best feature on the 509 Tactical? Its extended mags are almost exactly the same length as the slide.

Okay, I don’t know why that’s a feature, but it’s specifically mentioned in the owner’s manual as an item of particular note. Is it a way of saying that even the extended mags will fit in the same case as the pistol? Some sort of feng shui thing? The world may never know.

Okay, okay, I’m pretty sure it’s related to carrying the 509 in a holster; especially one that also holds a spare magazine. While it’s common for folks to carry a backup mag(s) of higher capacity than the carry mag in the gun (shorter grip being easier to conceal), they’re rarely optimized by being the same length as the slide. If they’re shorter, you’re giving up capacity for no reason. If they’re longer, you’re sacrificing comfort and concealment beyond what’s dictated by the firearm’s size.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

Anyway, back on the range I finished ripping the 509 out of its case, slapping on a new Nikon P-TACTICAL Spur MRDS and my CGS Kraken SK suppressor, got over the sight of those 65 rounds loaded into three factory-included pistol magazines, and started sending lead down range.

FN’s 509 Tactical eats anything. Over the course of 500 rounds I fired seven brands of hollowpoints and three types of ball ammo, both suppressed and unsuppressed, and didn’t suffer a hitch. As I was firing predominately self-defense ammo (300 rounds of IWI 115 grain HP plus a box each of six other brands) I left the stiffer of the two included recoil springs installed in the pistol.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

The gun shoots relatively flat and is highly controllable. The iron sights are excellent and the ergos are great — it fits the hand, points naturally, and stays put. Overall the 509 Tactical is a ton of fun to shoot and I found myself very confident with it.

Again, the only improvement I’d ask for — at least for shooting range use — is a lighter, smoother, crisper trigger. It’s fine for duty and combat, but I wasn’t doing either. In fact, I plopped down at 25 yards with the 509 on a makeshift rest and shot a few groups:

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

That seven-pound trigger didn’t do the 509 any favors, but it turned in solid groups with both 115 grain and 147 grain ammo regardless.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm Pistol Review

FN’s 509 Tactical is, put simply, a badass pistol. It looks good, it feels good, it shoots good well. It’s amazingly equipped right out of the carrying case and it’s ready to go to work. It ain’t inexpensive, but it’s a heck of a lot of gun that’s fully kitted-out right from the factory.

Specifications: FN 509 Tactical

Caliber: 9×19
Capacity: One 17- and two 24-round magazines are incuded
Weight: 27.9 ounces
Barrel Length: 4.5 inches
Sight Radius: 5.79 inches
Overall Length: 7.9 inches
Height: 5.75 inches
Maximum Width: 1.35 inches
Trigger: 5.5 to 7.5 lbs
Sights: suppressor-height tritium night sights
Controls: fully ambidextrous magazine release and slide stop. No external safety.
MSRP: $1,049

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability * * * * *
Zero issues and ran strong. The 509 Tactical even includes two recoil spring assemblies for tuning for strong/weak ammo and suppressed/unsuppressed.

Accuracy * * * 1/2
At least average. Great sights help. An optic helps. A heavy, gritty trigger hurts.

Ergonomics * * * * *
From the 509 Tactical’s grip shape and texture to the location, size, and texture of its controls and slide serrations, it earns top marks for ergos.

Customize This * * * * *
Low-Profile Optics Mounting System™, threaded barrel, swappable backstraps, two recoil spring strengths. Need I say more?

On The Range * * * *
Confident. It feels good, shoots straight, and is highly controllable.

Overall * * * * 1/2
The FN 509 Tactical is a fully kitted-out, extremely well done system right from the factory. It’s ready to run for duty, carry, home defense, or range use. Though for the latter, I’d consider some trigger work. Even still, it fits its anticipated role. I sort of wish I hadn’t reviewed it, though, because instead of this gun going back to FN, I’ll probably be sending a check to them and an apology to my wife. The 509 Tactical isn’t inexpensive. But it brings with it a host of upgrades, innovation, and badassery.

comments

  1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    plaastic. stryyker. menh.

    1. avatar Muddygirl says:

      Wake me when it comes in 6.5 Creedmoor.

  2. avatar Greg says:

    Heavy trigger, have heard that gripe from 509 owners. Like you wrote with range time it should lighten up a bit.
    Good review, thanks for writing it.

    1. avatar Bcb says:

      I understand the whole “duty” trigger thing kinda but I could never drop $1000 on something without a nice trigger.

      If it isn’t safe enough with a smooth, doesn’t feel silly heavy trigger then it needs a safety.

      1. avatar Prudiikal says:

        I have the regular fn 509 and the trigger is fine. the shield to me has a heavier trigger pull.

      2. avatar CA ST says:

        It’s a smooth trigger with minimal travel and a fast reset.

      3. avatar Mr. Dusty says:

        I can understand why you’d feel that 1000$ on a pistol without a slick trigger out of the box would be a no-go in a way…but you also have to realize this thing comes out of the box ready for a silencer AND a red-dot. To buy a barrel and have the slide rigged to slap a red-dot on any other pistol is going to cost at least a few hundred dollars or so.

        Also; the biggest issue with a lot of the FNS/509 triggers is that they do tend to be a little gritty/heavy out of the box. This is because their tolerances are so tight that it’s a hair detrimental to the pull weight and feel until you break it in. Mine had a tiny bit of grit to it (as the trigger and it’s recess literally have no room between them and rub ever so slightly) but, after even 20-30 cycles, the weight and feel will reduce dramatically…ESPECIALLY if you oil the sides above the pivot a hair.

        1. avatar PWinKY says:

          If you don’t want to spend $1k but you still want a gun sort of like this, I’d highly recommend the CZ 75b Omega Suppressor Ready. It has the suppressor height night sights, the threaded barrel (minus O-ring, I just leave the thread protector in the case), 17 round magazines (with options for more), and a mostly flat trigger. There’s some slop to the pull but once you get past it the experience is light and smooth and I really like it.

          You’re giving up the optics ready part of the platform but for under $600 it’s a really fun pistol with a trigger you may end up really liking.

  3. avatar former water walker says:

    A thousand bucks?!? Yikes! Lot of choice out there…

  4. avatar Bobby says:

    It costs 2 Glockenspiel 19s. A Glock ready for ops additionally $250. Big ass Glock mags $30 each. Then there’s upgrading Glock sights. Ok. Maybe not too overpriced now.

    1. avatar Bobby says:

      Forgot to add for trigger work and threaded barrel.

    2. avatar Jon in CO says:

      Glock brought their 24rd 9mm mags to market too. So really, for $750 (minus the red dot) is a Glock with optics ready slide, new, better sights, and the same or better mag capacity. I like FN, but for that money, the FNX45 tac is what I’m buying. Those guns are probably the most accurate autos I’ve ever fired. Edit: forgot the Threaded barrel. So add $200. Ok, I’m wrong, I’ll stop.

      Disclaimer: I am a die hard Glock fanboi, so that should be noted.

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        And expected street price on this FN is about $925 to $975 probably…Maybe $899 on super sale? Not sure yet and not familiar with FN typical prices actually, but obviously not full MSRP. Considering mags, sights, barrel, optics system, case, dual springs, etc the price makes perfect sense even if it is a lot of money.

        1. avatar CA ST says:

          It’s over twice the price for less than $100 worth of work/enhancements done to the pistol. I’ll bet the cost of manufacturing the non-tactical and the tactical model is close to the same. Especially considering that FN had a rebate program that gave the buyer 3-4 free mags with the purchase of the 509 last year.

      2. avatar Mike says:

        24 round Glock 9mm mags?????
        Have I been asleep, Only seem 17+2 or 33 round mags, or Magpul 21 round mags, with the 27 round mags coming soon!!!!!

        Nice pistol, but too expensive, twice the price of a regular 509

  5. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    “Plenty of room for a fourth, if I grow a sixth”

    Jeremy please. Comedy like that in the morning, makes for a wasted mouthful of coffee.

    Aside from that, I’m really liking that pistol! A lot!

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      😉

  6. avatar GS650G says:

    If a trigger is the heart of a pistol this one could use some work. At 1K you should expect another few hundred for trigger replacement.

  7. avatar Anymouse says:

    It’s not a system — it’s a gun and a few magazines in a case. If it included optics, light/laser, suppressor, holsters, etc, it would be a system.

  8. avatar Anon in Ct says:

    That hinged trigger reminds me of the stock M&P triggers that I rapidly replaced with Apex triggers.

  9. avatar Stereodude says:

    It’s no wonder IMI stopped being the TTAG ammo sponsor when you guys can’t even get the name of the company right. It’s IMI, not IWI.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      For shame!

    2. avatar Jeremy D. says:

      IWI is a division of IMI? At least thats how I understand it

  10. avatar tdiinva says:

    The usual kudos for a comprehensive review
    by Jeremy but it leaves me asking why this pistol? Who is the target audience? Luxembourg SPECOPS? Competitive shooters? Tacticool wannabes? SWAT? Just because? If SiG or Beretta or
    Glock offered this package it would make sence. Actual tactical user use those guns.

    1. avatar Jeremy D. says:

      Someone willing to spend $1000 on a pistol who has a lot of different MRDSs and suppressors and wants to try them all on the same pistol

      1. avatar tdiinva says:

        In other words, a very limited market for a pistol with a slightly less limited market.

        1. avatar Jeremy D. says:

          Nailed it. They also need to recoup some of the cost of competing for a military pistol

  11. avatar Michael S. says:

    Looks like the same gripe about the trigger in my review of the FNS 40 Long Slide. It’s a shame such otherwise good products are still haunted by a horrible trigger. Yeah, they smooth out after 1k+ rounds. The issue is that there are so many options from competitors that are better out of the box, and even better when worn-in, that they still don’t make sense. The optic mounting system may be the best on the market, but that doesn’t forgive the continued use of a known problem.

  12. avatar DW says:

    I have this on order, paid less than 900 for it, and I have seen it for less if you poke around a bit. I have the standard 509, nothing wrong with the trigger in it at all. It was a little gritty but with some dry fire and the first range trip it worked right now and is nice and smooth at this point.

  13. avatar DonF says:

    What plate/screw combination did you use to mount the Nikon P Tactical Spur?

  14. avatar bman940 says:

    It mounts to the picatinny rail so very easy.

  15. avatar Walton says:

    It looks so tacticool you can probably hit bullseye at 500 yards!

    I like FNH, they make excellent products. But their prices hurt the wallet a bit too much.

  16. avatar Mittels says:

    I have a plain old 509. I want desperately to love it, but I can’t. The springs on this thing are unbelievably strong. I’ve been shooting competitively for 30 years and have used quite a few different firearms. The 509 is the first gun I’ve shot whose spring strength frequently PREVENTS me from either holding the slide back to lock it open or pressing the magazine release. Has anyone else had this experience?

  17. avatar WadeJ says:

    There are pictures with the rear sight attached directly to the slide and others with the rear sight attached to the removable plate. Is one the version submitted for MHS competition and the other a commercial version or are they both available to purchase?

    1. avatar WadeJ says:

      Figured it out. The optics plate has ‘wings’ to protect the rear sight but the rear sight is dovetailed directly into the slide.

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