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.
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.
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.
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.
When you do, you’ll enjoy suppressor-height sights. A serrated front with a bright white dot around a tritium lamp…
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.
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.
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.
Then again, who needs sights? I got this gun to run with an optic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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’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
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.
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.