FN 509 Tactical Review
October 09, 2018
The FN 509 Tactical was spec'd for Uncle Sam; now it's made for us.
Guns & Ammo reviewed the introduction of the FN 509; just like everyone else, we thought that pistol would be as close as we were going to get to testing FN’s submission to the U.S. Army’s request for a new sidearm.
Many of us read the Modular Handgun System (MHS) solicitation and knew the entry would be colored Flat Dark Earth (FDE), that it would be at least somewhat modular and accept the future adoption of a red dot sight system. However, the FN 509 we tested wore all black and lacked the red dot sight capability. Still, we thought, it was basically the same gun. We had zero expectations that FN would sell anything like its MHS configuration to America’s law-abiding gun owners, but check this out.
Besides the color, the FN 509 Tactical is feature loaded and arrives in an FN-embroidered, zippered, soft-sided nylon case tucked within an FN-marked cardboard box. This is an interesting point because so many of the guns that G&A receives for review and testing arrive in hard-plastic cases. The quality of each case varies. This isn’t a feature that we often discuss when considering a gun to recommend, but FN’s nylon pistol case is worth remembering. It’s practical, well made and doesn’t scream “gun.”
On opening, you see the pistol, as well as the mandatory gun lock tucked in one of five elastic loops sized to hold spare magazines. Then you notice the two huge magazines held inside those loops. You can’t help but to look back at the pistol and see an FDE-colored, 17-round, flush-fit mag already inserted in the 509’s magwell. You think to yourself, “Those two other mags hold more!” And, you’re right. In fact, one of the biggest surprises with this new 509 model is that it comes with two 24-round magazines. When I first loaded up to shoot the 509 Tactical at the range, I lost count and unintentionally stuffed 25 rounds in one. I called FN to inquire. They said that a magazine will sometimes accept an extra but that they were designed to function with 24. Even so, two magazines will hold almost an entire 50-round box of 9mm — 48 to be exact (plus one in the chamber)! To heavy to carry? You still have a 17-round mag.
With the pistol out of its case, the next thing you see is a poly bag containing an extra recoil spring with several coils that are painted yellow. The silver-colored, factory-installed, recoil spring is optimized for duty, self-defense, standard-velocity ammo and low-velocity ammunition commonly used to make suppressors more effective. However, FN provides the yellow recoil spring assembly in case you run into a situation where you’re shooting such low-powered ammo that the slide fails to cycle. The reduced-force spring assembly may also be ideal when shooting frangible or lower-powered target loads.
Now that Uncle Sam is growing tired of increasingly having to pay out disability payments to service members and veterans who have suffered hearing loss, the government is finally considering the standard issue of suppressors. MHS contenders were required to offer the capability. Though the standard 509 didn’t have one, the new 509 Tactical comes with a barrel threaded 1/2 inch by 28. Remove the knurled thread protector and simply screw on an appropriate caliber (or larger) suppressor or adapter to the target-crowned, cold-hammer-forged barrel.
G&A staff verified the 509’s accuracy and reliability at an event in Texas using Gemtech’s GM-9 while shooting both standard-velocity and subsonic loads. Subsonic ammunition was a treat. Each pull of the trigger simply produced the sound of its slide reciprocating, a poof from the muzzle end immediately followed by the resonating ting from a precise strike on steel.
Within a zippered section of the pistol case is a sealed bag of red dot sight adapters and the FN 509 Series owner’s manual. On page 48, there’s a chart that describes which mini red dot (MRD) plate, insert and screw set to use to attach either the slide cap or red dot sight. The engineering of FN’s Low-Profile Optics Mounting System was smart. It cuts room to mount an MRD lower than other pistols such as Glock’s Modular Optic System (MOS) models. If a company doesn’t cut into the slide, the available red dots sit too high for comfortable use and recoil management, which is critical for a shooter wanting to train their grip away from years of shooting iron sights to a using a red dot. In many cases, mounting a red dot on the slide of another red-dot-ready pistol too often makes the iron sights useless as backup.
While G&A tested two FN 509 Tactical samples with three MRD sights — Burris FastFire 3 ($287), Leupold DeltaPoint Pro ($520) and Trijicon RMR ($700) — FN also includes adapter plates, screws, inserts and an O-ring to accommodate other red dots including the JP Enterprises’ JPoint ($300), Doctor Optic ($284), Vortex’s Venom ($330), Viper ($230) and Razor ($500), as well as the C-More STS2 ($400). The only criticism we have for FN is that our plates and inserts were not labeled as referenced to the chart in the owner’s manual. Trial and error helped us sort out which plates, inserts and screws worked together, but the experience was like sorting pieces to a puzzle. (It’s frustrating if you don’t like puzzles.)
Regardless of the MRD selected, the tall Trijicon suppressor-height, three-dot night sights — which typically retail for $145 — never have to be removed and work in tandem by offering a co-witness with each red dot. Though the rear sight is stout enough to be used when charging the slide one handed, you don’t need to because the factory-installed slide cap has guards that protect the rear sight. They even have serrations on the front edge for bite during one-hand slide manipulation. Need to adjust the rear sight? It’s easy. Remove two screws that secure the slide cap with a T-10 Torx wrench for access. And it’s not necessary to have the slide cap attached should you want to shoot and verify your sight adjustment before reinstalling it. Even with the lack of markings, this slide cap design is worthy of praise and easier to access than SIG Sauer’s P320-based M17/M18 and X-series pistols.
The FN 509 Tactical shares the same mechanics and touchpoints as the standard FN 509. Though the profile of parts such as the slide lock lever, magazine release button, sights, slide serrations and the slide itself mark differences between models, the internal structure and mechanical design of the 509 series is almost identical to FN’s striker-fired FNS series. The extractor is perhaps the biggest mechanical difference between the 509 and the FNS that we can find, given that the FNS features a shorter, plunger-type extractor assembly and the 509 uses a spring-loaded pivoting lever.
The polymer frame is where we see the most differences, which are ergonomic to improve grip. The 509 features a recessed contour and a shelf for your trigger finger or support hand thumb above the magazine release that provides easier access to the trigger for shooters with smaller hands or shorter fingers. The area is molded with a gritty texture that’s not as aggressive as the cubit patterns molded on the frontstrap, backstrap and both sides of the grip. The FNS only sports the cubit pattern and offers it below the magazine release, and there isn’t the narrow channel for reaching the trigger on the FNS as there is on the 509.
As with the FNS, the 509 comes with only two backstrap options, which is different than almost every other brand that now offers at least a small, medium and large variation. To me, FN’s decision to include a flat and arched backstrap option is fine because most people never experiment and those pieces are wasted. (Not included with G&A’s samples, we understand that FN may also include an arched backstrap with a different beavertail.)
Peculiar to some is FN’s ambidextrous magazine release for the 509. As with the FNS, which has a stubbier profile and serrated magazine release, pressing the button pushes it through the opposite side. The assembly does make it the widest area, but this is a true ambidextrous design. With the 509’s enlarged and checkered button, I’ve heard complaints that pushing it interrupts the grip on the opposite side. I’ve examined this, tested it and can’t see how, since the button is positioned slightly above the middle finger. Regardless, the 509’s magazine release is easier to activate than the FNS’. I see the entire 509 frame as an improvement on the FNS altogether. To add, I noted in testing that appropriate-length 509 and FNS magazines work interchangeably.
Out of the box, ahem case, the FN 509 Tactical trigger measured less than 7 pounds. FN suggests that triggers will fall in a range between 5 1/2 and 7 1/2 pounds. After 1,000 rounds, ours lightened by a half-pound. It’s a trigger that’s hinged in the middle, noticeably lacking the protuding safety lever in the middle that appears on almost every other striker-fired pistol. The 509 features a clean trigger press with a little bit of takeup that hits a wall. It took an average of 1 pound, 10 ounces to overcome the hinged trigger, followed by 3 pounds of takeup. The wall required an extra 2 to 3 pounds of extra pressure to fire, which isn’t bad for a striker-fired pistol. Once fired, there’s little overtravel, and a subsequent shot features a 1/4-inch reset with a consistent pull weight.
For me, adding a 3.5 MOA red dot improved G&A’s already impressive accuracy results by an average of 15 percent. This is why I believe red dots are the future, as are suppressed firearms. It’s time to join the movement, and the 509 series is an option I can stand behind. The 509 Tactical is the best FN pistol since the P.35 Hi Power. OK, maybe since the Five-seven.