A relatively new Austrian upstart seems to be taking all the glory lately, but when it comes to self-loading pistols, FN has been at it the longest, starting with the Browning-design Model 1899. Their focus initially was on military customers, but they’re increasingly offering designs for the everyday gun owner. FN’s latest pistol is the 509, a tilting-barrel, polymer-framed, striker-fired 9 mm. It is a spectacular competitor in its niche.
The 509’s slide lacks a bushing—a good thing—and is machined with cocking serrations front and rear, with the front contour of the slide beveled so it feels less like a 2x4 in your holster. The wedge shape of the slide is easy to align with the holster opening, and plenty of holsters are made for it. Tritium three-dot night sights come standard on this gun. (Given the MSRP of the 509, it seems like FN is handing out night sights as freebies.) Also, for those who have trained for it, the rear sight is an upright blade that can be used as a one-handed cocking or slide-manipulation ledge.
The generous ejection port is backed by a sturdy extractor, the better to haul out empties and toss them out of the cold-hammer-forged match barrel. A recessed target crown protects the barrel’s rifling from inadvertent impacts, and the angle is tested to improve accuracy as much as a crown contour can.
The polymer frame has all the details you’d want on a carry or competition pistol. The gripping area is treated to three different patterns of non-slip texturing: The front and rear have raised squarish knob texturing, while the sides have rows of pyramids. On top of the flats, FN has used a pebbly texture where your thumb on one side and trigger finger’s knuckle on the other would rest, so you get some slip resistance, but not so much that you can’t shift your finger. A replaceable backstrap lets you adjust the size and contour of the frame to your hands. You get two backstraps with your 509, and you can easily acquire more.
The front of the frame has an accessory rail for a light or laser. Some polymer frames have the rails permanently bonded to the polymer. The internal chassis of the 509, however, is replaceable, which could save you some money if the rails wear down over time.
The controls on the 509 are fully ambidextrous. The slide stop has tabs on both sides. Similarly, the magazine releases on both sides, so no need to switch the button over for lefties.
The magazines are steel tubes, with the retention tab on the front face (the secret to both-sides-working magazine buttons). They are made with a generous baseplate so snatching a fresh mag out of a belt pouch is a snap. The 17-round magazines offer you a lot of emergency-resolving ammunition, and since the 509 comes with two, you already have a spare. If you want more than that, Taylor Freelance makes extensions to add five rounds. (The 509 uses the same baseplate extension as the HK VP9/P30.) The extensions add length, but they come with the appropriate spring to ensure reliable feeding.
In testing, this pistol smoothly chambered everything, ejected and locked open when empty. Of course, given FN’s envious record, starting with Browning, it would be startling if something had gone wrong.
In use, the hinge-style 509 trigger has the expected take-up, with a bit of parts-moving-on-parts feel. Once the slack is out of the trigger, it is clean until the striker falls. There is a small amount of over-travel, which is needed for any trigger system to have operating clearance. The reset is noticeable, crisp and easy to feel.
The 509’s four-inch barrel offers a suitable length for velocity, and a good-length sight radius, but it is also short enough to be an excellent everyday-carry gun.
The gun’s shape is particularly comfortable. Where some polymer-framed pistols feel distinctly blocky in the hand, the 509 does not, and that comfort dampens felt recoil.
As with all modern, well-made 9 mm pistols, the 509 is up to the task of +P ammunition. Generally, the extra velocity that a +P load generates is not worth the extra recoil, muzzle blast and wear and tear; however, in this instance, the Super Vel load delivered a good boost in velocity without much extra muzzle blast.
In this increasingly uncertain world, it is a good thing to have a solid pistol from a known and respected company at hand. The FN 509 is available in all-black or flat dark earth and in five different sizes.