Crimson Trace

May 19, 2017

First Look: FN 509

Bilateral controls were specified on the Modular Handgun System and the FN 509 has them -- the magazine release and slide stop are present on both sides of the pistol.
FN America sought to compete for the US Army's Modular Handgun System solicitation. Their entry was a robust pistol based on the FNS Compact. Design and production changes meant to meet the tough Army standards were made and FN reached out to industry experts for counsel and testing.

After submitting the new gun to Uncle Sam, FN worked with U.S. law enforcement agencies to get their take on the new gun. This led to extensive testing to ensure ammo compatibility across the spectrum of available loads. According to FN, they consumed on the order of a million rounds of ammunition to check ammo compatibility, reliability and durability.

The new gun features bilateral controls – they call them "guarded," apparently meaning to prevent accidental activation. The grip texture gives enough friction for hold without being too aggressive. The barrel features a recessed crown and the slide has aggressive cocking serrations.

The sample received for examination has no external safeties. The safeties are internal and automatic. The gun is a 9mm striker fired auto. Sights are fixed, robust and feature the 3-dot pattern. The dots are luminescent. Night sights will be available on LE guns.

The FN 509 has a four inch stainless steel barrel that's cold hammer forged. It weighs in at just under 27 ounces empty and has a 17 round capacity. A pair of back straps ship with the gun.

The FN 509 quickly dispenses with recoil, as seen here. The empty is just outside the ejection port, the gun's back on target and the trigger reset for the next round.
Handling the gun revealed some interesting issues. First, like another handgun built to meet the MHS solicitation that was released to the commercial market, it's slightly heavier than most earlier striker-fired polymer pistols. Earlier guns of similar capacity were a few ounces less.

First attempts at racking the "easy to rack" slide showed it wasn't – easy to rack. There are potentially a number of reasons for that and during the first range trip, it seemed to take less effort.

Next, the shielded controls – like those on a previous MHS-specifications gun – make it a bit more difficult to lock the slide open. When pressing up on the slide stop, on either side of the gun, and the slide simply goes forward again, check your thumb. You were likely pressing on the frame shield below the slide stop, as I was.

The guarded slide stops do not prevent riding the slide stop and creating a failure to lock open – a problem I didn't have with the FN 509. That's a lesser problem than having the pistol lock open prematurely when needing to shoot, so it's not a real problem.

With any changes in auto pistol design, you need to familiarize yourself with the new paradigm. Going back to autopilot is not a way to succeed.

The trigger was fine. Some commentators thought the trigger was great. I find it workable; better than some and certainly not as bad as others. One way to check the trigger is to do a bit of precision and the way I try to do that periodically is at distance. As this is supposed to be a commercial version of a military handgun, it was appropriate to check it at fifty yards.

The three A-C zone hits are from 50 yards. The single B-zone hit is from 25 yards. These are the first four rounds fired from the gun, 125 grain Hornady Steel Match.
It wasn't particularly prudent to do so with the first rounds fired out of this gun after its arrival. But I did.

Using the CTS "ABC Zone" steel target and Hornady 125 grain Steel Match ammo, I loaded with four rounds and hiked back to fifty yards. I tried for three hits in the C-zone part of the target. Each connected, a pair in what is likely the A-zone and one just outside on the left. I stepped up to 25 yards and tried for a hit in the B-zone. The round struck low and left, but still inside the 6x6 head box.

First four rounds and plenty of success. Shooting off-hand at 20 yards at a B-8 repair center, I was tending left – as I often do. The Hornady Steel Match produced a 4 ½" group with the best three striking inside two inches. Remington Golden Saber 147 grain Brass Jacket Hollow Point put five hits into three inches, the best three crowding into 1 3/8".

I considered this a good start and will be shooting the gun more with various types of ammo. At this point there are no serious conclusions, but the FN 509 seems to be built like a tank.

-- Rich Grassi