Well, with the many polymer, striker-fired semi-auto pistols on the market today, do we really need another one? Certainly the answer is “yes” if it has something worthwhile to add to the selection. FN America was nice enough to send me their new for 2017 striker-fired pistol in 9mm. Given the huge supply of similar guns now, I was a little hesitant, but knew that FN makes outstanding quality handguns.
I was anxious to shoot and evaluate the new 509. I have reviewed several nice 9mms in depth in the past few years, but was anxious to review this new FN 509 that just came out. Earlier I reviewed the FNS 9-C and gave it very high marks and the new 509 is based on it. In my recent book, “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials,” I ranked the FNS-9 C high among my Top 21 Concealed Carry guns, so I wanted to see how the 509 compared, since it is built on the proven architecture of the FNS compact.
Several readers and students recently asked me to do an in-depth review of the FN 509, so this is it. I thoroughly analyzed the FN 509 against my criteria, was looking for special features, measured the trigger press, and put it to the test on the range for accuracy and reliability. I was very anxious to compare it factor by factor to my other quality Top 15 Compact 9mms on my separate list of “compacts.” (This is different than my list of Top 14 Subcompacts.)
You should know that I am not on the FN America payroll, have not been paid by them for this article nor influenced to say certain things about the gun, and want to be honest and straight-forward with my opinions and ideas the way I see the pistol to sincerely help folks. I wanted to know:
- How accurate it is out of the box, without modifications?
- What about the trigger press?
- Is the trigger smooth and crisp?
- Is it a reliable gun?
- Does it have a short reset distance for follow-up shots?
- Are there any different desirable features for this particular gun, vis-a-vis the FNS-9 C?
- Are there any issues or concerns that would prevent me from carrying this gun?
- Are there holsters available now for the new FN 509?
- Is this a gun I would recommend for concealed carry?
To begin, I want to give you the Specifications and Features for the 509. Then I want to give you my 10 criteria that I use to evaluate all guns. When you are evaluating your carry guns, determine your goal, purpose, and own criteria, being certain to compare apples with apples and not with oranges, so to speak. Finally, I want to give you my analysis for each of my criteria and present my final recommendation to purchase or not. As always, set your own criteria, identify your purpose, do your own research, compare this gun’s attributes against your criteria, and check my data, information, etc. with yours. Try before you buy any gun. Shoot it for yourself.
I wondered if there were available holsters and accessories for the FN 509? I found this well-made Outside-the-Waistband (OWB) kydex and leather hybrid holster, called the Leather Wing, manufactured by Blackpoint Tactical that fits it very well. They offer many color options for the front and back of their holsters, as well as for their leather. The Leather Wing design helps the fit and comfort, since the “wings” of leather on the sides help it curve to the body for better comfort and concealment. It was very comfortable, very concealable. Other 509 holsters are available from Galco and Safariland.
Criteria and Considerations
Here are just 10 of my criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the FNS-9C. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I must admit that ALL gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want ALL of my criteria to be met. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine.
Recognize that there are several features, characteristics, pros and cons, and personal criteria to include and consider and you make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, defined needs, and use.
FN 509 9mm Range Test
Over two days, I fired about 375 9mm rounds of various high-quality Federal American Eagle Syntech 115 grain TSJ (1130 fps Muzzle Velocity, 326 ft lbs Muzzle Energy), Federal Train & Protect 115 grain Versatile HP (1180 fps Muzzle Velocity, 356 ft lbs Muzzle Energy), Sig Sauer V-Crown 115 grain JHP (1185 fps Muzzle Velocity, 359 ft lbs Muzzle Energy), and Sig Sauer Elite Performance 115 grain FMJ (1185 fps Muzzle Velocity, 359 fl lbs Muzzle Energy.) I wanted to see how the 509 handled the different ammo types. I thought firing about 375 rounds would be sufficient to evaluate this gun. Usually I shoot 500 rounds over a couple of days to decide if I want to carry the gun or not, but I had the information I needed after shooting it. Below are my evaluations for each of my 10 criteria for my concealed carry purpose. While this old codger with aging eyesight is not a top expert shooter by any means, I wanted to put the gun through its paces and check it thoroughly for malfunctions and performance with quality JHP and FMJ ammo, and the new polymer-coated bullets. Thanks to Federal and Sig Sauer for providing the rounds to test and evaluate the new FN 509.
Probably one of the features I liked best about this gun was that it felt solid and great in my hands. This FN 509 compact 9mm has great ergonomics. It was very comfortable in my hand and had 3 different textures on the (1) front and rear straps, (2) side panels, and (3) where the strong-hand finger rests above the mag release lever. All three of the areas had just the right amount of aggressive texturing, not too heavy and not too light. The stippling was just right and I could easily reach all the controls. But, the mag release button was difficult to release, even though it was large, and I had to precisely press down hard a certain way on the release. Probably, after some more break-in time and my training time, it will be easier and more efficient to operate the mag release. This gun did NOT feel like a brick in my hand and its grip angle was just right, unlike another similar gun on the market. Once I was able to actuate the mag release, all mags did drop freely for me and my medium-sized hands. The mag release button does requires just the right straight down deep pressure, but with practice this should not be a problem. The slide was solid and stiff but easy enough for me to rack and the felt recoil and muzzle rise were very manageable. After more break-in, it should be just fine. I was glad the gun did not have a magazine disconnect and it fired even when the mag was out. Be careful– Safety First Always! Below, I will present my ideas for each of my criteria after my range testing of the 509.
Overall after my two range live-fire sessions, the FN 509 Double Action Only (DAO) striker gun was for me an accurate and reliable (with only 375 rounds fired by me) defense gun, with a very nice comfortable grip and fine ergonomics. I had no malfunctions or stoppages with any of the FMJ or JHP ammo fired and the gun was reliable for me. All of the FMJ and the JHP ammo shot fine. The feed ramp is polished, the recoil spring is not worn, and I saw no apparent burrs which helped the JHP to load. I have also used these high-quality JHP and FMJ rounds with many other 9mm guns without a single failure to load or jam. The 509 grip was a little long, but I could handle it and might consider it for concealed carry. Some may not like the long grip for concealed carry, but it helped me control the gun and felt great.
My first 17 rounds fired rapid fire at 7 yards at the range all hit in the black (see below.) I found that focusing on holding this particular gun very firmly and locking my wrist helped. The hits were certainly acceptable for this guy with aging eyesight. But, my wife would not let me put an apple on her head. I learned after a few rounds that I had to use the cover-up or dead-on sight picture, rather than the center-mass hold I prefer. My subsequent slow-fire shots at longer 10 and 15 yards were all easily in the 8 to 10 rings, but just a little low. I need more practice with this specific gun and more shooting using the cover-up sight picture. At the longer distances and not being accustomed to the cover-up sight picture, accuracy overall was acceptable (but not great) for me and my abilities, but shoot it for yourself to make your own decisions, based on your abilities and proficiency. Below are my first 17 rapid-fire hits on my target at 7 yards with the FN 509, using the inappropriate-for-me cover-up hold for this gun. I must learn to adapt quicker to the various manufactured-in sight pictures of different guns.
Range Test Results for each of my 10 Criteria:
1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 10
The Accuracy of the FN 509 was acceptable for me at distances of 7, 10, and 15 yards, given my mediocre skills and aging eyesight. My groups at each of the distances averaged about 2.5-2.75 inches, after getting use to the different (for me) cover-up sight picture. The 6-6.5# trigger press, the nice, just-right aggressive grip texturing, nice trigger, and the high luminescent sights all helped. Its reliability was there each time I shot the FMJ and JHP ammo. I could count on this gun to perform. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, & the cover-up sight picture. I shot mostly Federal Syntech, Federal Train & Protect, and Sig Sauer V-Crown JHP and FMJ ammo. The gun had a very tight fit and it was stiff to operate the slide, but it is common to usually take a few mag cycles to loosen up. I had to grip the gun very tightly with a high on the backstrap, positive grip to ensure acceptable hits. All the ammo shot functioned well, especially the Federal Train & Protect rounds.
2. Trigger Press – Score: 9
The Trigger Press averaged almost 6.5 pounds with 8 readings from my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. This was within my acceptable press range for my carry guns. It will improve after break-in and shooting it more. I prefer that my carry guns have a max. of 6.5 pounds press or less, so this is close but good. This is personal preference and a training issue, but I know some of my recommended and actual 9mm carry guns have lighter presses, e.g. 1911 SAOs. The trigger press was crisp, short, light for me, and easily identifiable.
3. Trigger – Score: 10
The Trigger had a tactile and very identifiable click and consistent very short reset. I liked the real short and positive reset and very crisp excellent trigger. The trigger was similar to the fine FNS-9C one. At first though the trigger was a little gritty, but that cleared up after about 200 rounds. My shots were consistent each time and I could easily recognize the reset point. It felt very solid in my hands and I could tell it was a well-made gun with a great tight fit and finish. It has a hinged trigger without any problems. I like the striker-fired trigger on this gun. It had a large trigger guard to help when wearing gloves.
4. Barrel Length – Score: 10
The 4.0-inch Barrel with its weight helped me control muzzle flip and the felt recoil. The cold hammer-forged steel barrel with its recessed barrel crown looks very nice, was of high quality, and performed well.
5. Sights – Score: 9
The over-sized, high, and luminescent front sight was made of metal and helped my sight acquisition, sight alignment and sight picture. The sights have front and rear dovetail mounts. I put the gun in my dark closet and I could see the front and rear sights glowing, after just a minute of light exposure. These stock sights were certainly acceptable to me and I liked them. I would, however, prefer night sights.
6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 9
The overall 26.9 ounce unloaded weight was acceptable for my criterion and it felt solid in my hand and helped mitigate the recoil and muzzle flip. Just a bit heavier than I prefer for concealed carry.
7. Caliber – Score: 10
It was easy and comfortable to shoot the 9mm Caliber. Felt recoil was relatively low and easy for me to control. It digested the various weights of 9mm ammo easily without a single malfunction or stoppage.
8. Capacity – Score: 9
There were only two magazines included and this is a concern for me. I wanted 3 mags to be included, to save from having additional expenditures. The capacity of 17 was very nice and the mags were high quality and made of metal with witness holes. My medium-sized hands were comfortable with the mags.
9. Ergonomics – Score: 9
Overall, the Ergonomics of the FN 509 were excellent. The grip was very good with its aggressive texturing on three different surfaces. Just right for me because I could get a firm and comfortable grip. I had no abrasions from the texturing after my field testing at the range. Its contours fit my medium-sized hands well and I could nicely reach the trigger, with the factory medium-size backstrap. There was also a smaller one included and a larger one is an optional accessory for a different trigger reach as desired. The longer grip is not the best for concealed carry. Initially, I found the mag release button was hard to operate, having to precisely press down firmly, but after the 375 rounds fired it loosened and I operated it better. So, train to operate the mag release button. All mags did drop freely and quickly. The mags were solidly made, looked good, had a yellow follower for easy identification to aid fast reloading, & had witness holes to indicate if 17 rounds were loaded. Just wish there were 3 mags. The improved larger size of the mag release button over the FNS-9 really helped. The felt recoil by me was manageable, but it did seem to have just slightly more than some recent polymer striker-fired guns I shot.
10. Miscellaneous – Score: 9
As always before shooting any new gun, I disassembled, lubed and cleaned, and re-assembled the FN 509 before I shot it. I did have to press the trigger to disassemble it, but it was very easy and quick to do. BUT, do your SAFETY check to ensure it is empty before disassembly and be careful! The slide release at first was stiff, but after shooting 375 rounds there was not any concern at all. This is due to the very tight fit of this quality gun. The price of the gun is reasonable and includes with it: softside case, owner’s manual, lock, an extra backstrap (small), and one extra mag. While there was no hard case, the included soft case was high quality. It does not include accessories like some have, e.g. a holster, mag pouch, loader or other accessories… or the third mag. But, there are several nice features for this very quality gun. It has 4 passive safeties: striker block, drop safety, trigger disconnect, and trigger safety lever. There is not a magazine disconnect safety. There is a limited lifetime warranty for defects in material & workmanship.
Total Points = 94 out of 100 Possible
I certainly RECOMMEND this handgun for consideration as your home defense gun, your range gun, and possibly for one of your concealed carry guns. I recommend it primarily because of its accuracy, reliability, outstanding grip surfaces, nice trigger with very short reset, smooth and rounded lines to help with concealment and looks, 17-rounds capacity, ambidextrous controls, solid and tight fit, taller sights, and it’s nice luminescent sights. I was very impressed with its accuracy out of the box, excellent mildly-aggressive grip texturing and feel, manageable muzzle flip and recoil, and that it had no malfunctions or stoppages with any of the ammo. I was disappointed that there was not a third mag included. The mags did regularly drop freely and the gun was stiff, but practice time will help break-in. These are just my opinions and ideas, so handle and shoot it for yourself. I hope this review of the FN 509 double action striker-fired DAO compact 9mm has helped you gain some information you did not previously have. Consider that these are just my opinions with limited live-range fire and shooting myself only about 375 rounds of ammo. Like always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what features are important to you and you are willing to pay for ahead of your range time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds. Remember, Safety First Always.
McLean, VA 22102.
Federal American Eagle Syntech & Train & Protect Ammo
Anoka, MN 55303
Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown & Performance JHP-FMJ Ammo
Newington, NH 03801
BlackPoint Tactical Holsters
Alpharetta, GA 30004
Photos by Author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].