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FN 502 Tactical .22 LR Pistol: Full Review

The FN 502 .22 LR pistol mimics the company's 509 9mm models and is a ton of fun to shoot. Here is a full review.

FN 502 Tactical .22 LR Pistol: Full Review

(Photo by Michael Anschuetz)

I’ve long admired firearm manufacturers that not only build a great product, but are also willing to expand proven lines to give users a greater degree of choice and variety. In handguns, we often see this as different-­size models within the same family, each distinct for its barrel and slide length, frame size and magazine capacity and upgraded feature sets such as optic-­mount cuts and suppressor-­ready barrels. The approach ensures consistency for consumers; the guns look the same, the controls are in the same place, and they often use the same magazines, albeit in different lengths.

FN 502 02
L2. Externally, the rowel-style ring hammer and bilateral manual safety levers distinguish the FN 502 from the striker-fired 509 series, but the hammer-fired design was necessary to reliably shoot rimfire ammunition. (Photo by Michael Anshuetz)

Today, shooters can choose the right tool for a job without needing to sacrifice familiarity and proficiency. The FN 509 series of 9mm pistols are such an example. The striker-­fired semiautomatics are available in 14 configurations that include two color options, black and flat dark earth (FDE) and four sizes: Standard, Midsize, Compact and the long-­slide (LS) Edge configuration. Further varieties exist as packages, such as the Low-Profile Optics-Mounting System (MRD) plate kit for attaching red-dots optic, and the Tactical models that are both optics-­and suppressor-­ready with a threaded barrel.

With such an array, shooters participating in nearly all handgunning pursuits will find a 509 model that suits their interests. Those with varying needs can also invest in more than one gun while maintaining familiar handling and certain compatibilities. For example, the standard 509 could be a duty or bedside pistol; the Midsize and Compact 509 models reduce the gun’s size to better facilitate concealment or smaller hands, and the LS Edge is a great pistol for defense or for shooting in competitive matches.

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Some .22s require special disassembly procedures. Not so with the FN 502; lock the slide to the rear, rotate the takedown lever and release the slide to access the barrel and recoil spring assemblies. It’s simple and familiar. (Photo by Michael Anshuetz)

FN takes this concept to another level with an all-­new platform developed in partnership with a master of rimfire manufacturers: Umarex. The new 502 mimics the look, feel and functionality of the 509 series, but offers the fun and budget-­friendly benefits of the .22 LR cartridge. 


Rimefire Replicas 

The value of using down-sized calibers has likely been understood for as long as we’ve had metallic cartridges. Examples of “Boys”- and “Drill”-type rifles abound both in the U.S. and with 19th and 20th century European powers. Smallbore firearms offered military instructors a low-recoil, low-cost option for developing marksmanship in recruits and teaching operating procedures. During basic training for the U.S. Army, I remember firing several 9mm tracer rounds out of an AT4 trainer for practice before being allowed to fire one anti-tank rocket from a real launcher. And with handguns, I always think back to the 1930s- and ’40s-era Colt Ace models in .22 LR that were economical stand-ins for the Model 1911 and .45 ACP cartridge. Even recently, we’ve seen new commercial model .22 pistols that replicate the look and feel of popular handguns. There’s the Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact ; Glock G44 ; and Taurus TX22 series. Many were developed by Umarex, too, including several HK rimfire models.


FN 502 04
Except for the takedown lever, all of the 502’s controls are ambidextrous: slide stops, magazine releases and manual safeties. (Photo by Michael Anshuetz)

Still, the FN 502 is special. In my mind it stands out for two reasons. First, the 502 mirrors its centerfire siblings, and the attention to detail with regard to aesthetics and functionality is excellent. Second, the 502 offers a suite of upgrades that you don’t find among many of its rimfire counterparts.

Fully Equipped

The look of the FN 502 is a dead ringer for the FN 509 Tactical. While it doesn’t fit in exactly the same box as any specific 509 model, it is dimensionally closest to the 509 Midsize. The same holds true for its weight. Typically, rimfires are lighter than comparable centerfire pistols because they have small, lightweight barrels and aluminum slides. The pressures and recoil generated by .22 LR cartridges are far less than 9mm. (SAAMI’s max for .22 LR is 24,000 psi, while most rounds fire at closer to 11,000 psi; this compared to SAAMI’s max pressure for 9mm of 35,000 psi and 38,500 psi for +P rounds.) Because the .22 doesn’t deliver much kick, engineers are able to use lighter materials and less rugged designs to mass produce rimfire replicas. Wisely, though, FN didn’t opt for the lightest trainer possible; instead they designed the FN 502 to possess nearly the same heft as the 509 models, much of which comes from a 4.6-inch, cold-hammer-forged steel barrel.

Invite Only

I got my first look at the 502 during a media event at the JL Bar Ranch in Sonora, Texas. The focus was on testing FN’s updated SCAR rifles (with non-­reciprocating charging handles). At the end of that event, FN representatives pulled me away for a sneak peek at the 502. I was in awe; it looked and felt exactly right. At the time I noted the three-­pattern full-­diameter texturing on the grip, a distinctive feature on the 509. It was perfectly replicated on the 502. The takedown lever, bilateral slide stops and magazine release are all where they’re supposed to be — and they are the same size and design as the 509’s! The same can be said for the markings, slide serrations, dustcover’s rail and suppressor-­height sights. These all-mimic parts common to most 509 pistols.

FN 502 05
FN 509 pistols introduced an effective, full-diameter, three-pattern texture design for its molded polymer frames. The blocks, pyramids and stippling are just as functional on the 502. (Photo by Michael Anshuetz)

Only three details give the 502 away as not being a 509 centerfire. First, the designators “502” on the left side of the slide and the Umarex (UX) and German (DE) markings on the right side of the slide and frame. Next, the 502 has an ambidextrous manual safety lever. It is well-­sited, easy to use and offers a positive click when manipulated between safe (up) and fire (down). Finally, is the knurled, rowel-­style hammer. Still akin to another FN pistol — the hammer-fired FNX series — the hammer is the gun’s greatest departure from the striker-­fired 509 series.




FN 502 06
The first FN 502 earns its “Tactical” designation for its threaded barrel. The 4.6-inch, cold-hammer forged tube is threaded 1/2-28 and includes a knurled thread-protecting cap. (Photo by Michael Anshuetz)

Although we all tend to love made-­in-­America products — and we may wish that all FN products would come lock, stock and barrel out of the company’s Columbia, South Carolina, plant — I applaud FN for partnering with Umarex for the FN 502 project. Rimfires are tough to get right, especially pistols. The operational tolerances of the blowback mechanism tend to be tighter and more finnicky than recoil-operated centerfires. Rather than a mechanical lockup between the slide and barrels, blowback guns require a specific amount of slide mass to seal the chamber for firing while still helping to fully cycle during recoil. Making a semi­automatic pistol work reliably given the market’s wide variety of .22 LR ammunition is no mean feat. We know that Umarex is one of the best at getting it done right. 

FN 502 07
The FN 502 is a hammer-fired, blowback-operated semiautomatic. Unlike the striker-fired, recoil-operated 509, the 502’s barrel does not tilt during recoil or lock up with the slide. (Photo by Michael Anshuetz)

Adding functionality, FN ensured the 502 was optic-­and suppressor-ready. Regarding the latter, the barrel is threaded ½-­28 to accept most direct-­thread suppressors. In my case, it was a great fit for Silencer Central’s Banish 22. The 502 also mimics the 509’s sighting arrangement with a series of interchangeable mounting plates to support most popular red-­dot sights. Rather than metal plates though, the 502 uses polymer components.

FN 502 08
Borrowing FN’s Low-Profile Optics Mounting System, the 502 comes with adapter plates to facilitate mounting popular red dots sights. Footprints for the Trijicon RMR, Vortex Venom and Shield RMS are included. (Photo by Michael Anshuetz)

The optic-ready feature is especially noteworthy. Remember how rimfires are tough to get right due to a slide’s reciprocating mass? Prior to the 502, no one had figured out how to get a .22 pistol with a slide-­mounted optic to run well. Believe it or not, a few ounces added to the top of a slide can severely diminish its ability to cycle due to the relatively low power provided by a .22 LR cartridge. There is not a lot of wiggle room in the math of momentum, but somehow the 502 reliably functions with a spectrum of ammunition types, with or without an optic mounted. Brilliant.

Recommended


FN 502 09
Being a hammer-fired pistol, the FN 502 has a light and crisp single-action trigger. Guns & Ammo’s sample registered an average of 3 pounds, 2 ounces, on Lyman’s Digital Trigger Pull Gauge. (Photo by Michael Anshuetz)

Reliable & Accurate

After seeing (but not shooting) the FN 502, I could not wait to receive G&A’s evaluation sample. When it arrived, my focus was twofold: Let’s confirm its accuracy and reliability. In my opinion, a solid rimfire trainer needs to possess both. While I considered the addition of a red dot to be a boon to accuracy, I needed to be convinced that adding a dot sight would not detract from its reliability. To that end, I set out with two optics and three loads of .22 LR ammunition. I used both a Trijicon RMR and a Crimson Trace CTS1250  to test the mounting system. There were no issues. I also had a varied load selection for accuracy testing: Browning 40-­grain round nose; CCI 40-­ grain segmented hollowpoint, subsonic; and Federal Premium Punch 29-­grain flat nose. Suffice it to say, the FN 502 shot very well.

FN 502 10
The manual safety lever disconnects the trigger when engaged. With a round in the chamber and the hammer back, the mechanism allows for safe cocked-and-locked, condition-one carry. (Photo by Michael Anshuetz)

Several groups fired for accuracy from 25 yards produced three and four bullet-holes touching out of five. And Federal’s defensive round produced the best five-shot group of the day: 1.17 inches! CCI had the best five-group average, which measured 2.12 inches, and the average for all 15 groups was 2.71 inches.

FN 502 11
Two magazines are included with the 502, one holding 10 rounds and one 15-rounder. Both have finger tabs on the left side to assist users in lowering the follower for easy loading. (Photo by Michael Anshuetz)

I did find, as with any .22 pistol, that hand placement is important. If you prefer a high, thumbs-forward shooting grip (as I do), be sure not to touch the slide. The added friction slows the slide cycle enough to cause a stoppage. Be diligent and the 502 will run like a sewing machine.

FN 502 12
FN 502 and its accessories, including two magazines and three sight plates, are packaged in a tan, molded, lockable case. (Photo by Michael Anshuetz)

I upped the ante with a reliability test that can be pretty tough for .22s. The gun comes with two magazines, one 10- and one 15-rounder. I filled them to maximum capacity with a random mix of the three loads on hand. The exercise tests both functionality of the magazines and the pistol’s ability to feed and fire a varied diet of pressures. If one ammo type is anemic, this test would reveals its weakness. There were no stoppages. A couple of times, the 15-round magazine caused a slight hang up when the slide wasn’t vigorously released forward. That issue seemed to work itself out during the course of the day. The 10-round mag presented no issues at all. With both magazines, the 502 ran through the mixed bag of ammo.

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FN ambassador Tim Kennedy joined the author in Texas to introduce the new 502. (Photo courtesy of FN)

Overall, the FN 502 exceeded my expectations for accuracy and reliability. If I’m honest, there is no way that my test sample is going back to the factory. The FN 502 is the high-water mark for rimfire replicas, and it’s a testament to engineering prowess of both the FN and Umarex. Try one and you’ll find that the 502 is a ton of fun to shoot, and worth the price of admission.

FN 502 Tactical

  • Type: Blowback operated, semiautomatic
  • Cartridge: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 10+1 rds. or 15+1 rds.
  • Barrel: 4.6 in., 1:16-in twist
  • Overall Length: 7.6 in.
  • Width: 1.4 in.
  • Height: 5.4 in. (w/ 10-rd. mag)
  • Weight: 1 lb., 5.7 oz.
  • Finish: Anodized (aluminum)
  • Sights: Suppressor-height, black post and notch
  • Trigger: 3 lbs., 2 oz. (tested)
  • MSRP: $499
  • Manufacturer: Umarex (Germany)
  • Importer: FN America, 800-635-1321, fnamerica.com
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