Review: FN 509 Tactical — Striker-Fired, Polymer 9mm

Bob Campbell shooting the FN 509 Tactical 9mm handgun with a two-hand grip

The 9mm is America’s caliber — and the default personal defense handgun caliber. There are plenty of .45 ACP fans, some deploy the 10mm in the wild, and a very few cling to the .40 S&W or .357 SIG. But the 9mm outsells them all put together. That is just reality, and sales figures and surveys bear this out.

Today, a major manufacturer must offer a high-capacity, polymer-frame, striker-fired handgun. If it is a special version, it may be called tactical and sport a suppressor-ready barrel — all the better. If the pistol isn’t optics ready, shooters may buy someone else’s pistol.

mid size FN 509 handgun in flat dark earth
A mid-size pistol is also offered.

FN 509 Tactical Features

Among the pistols that are arguably at the top of the heap in performance and respect is the FN 509 Tactical. The FN 509 is reliable, easy to shoot well, and responds nicely to a trained shooter. It isn’t the least expensive polymer-frame gun. That alone limits its popularity, but nothing in its performance should give you pause.

The original FN 509 follows a proven formula. The pistol is a polymer-frame handgun with the option of changing backstraps. It features a light rail for mounting combat lights or lasers, striker-fired action, and rugged finish.

Among the improvements in the latest model is a grip texture with an excellent balance of adhesion and abrasion. You won’t need band-aids after running a combat course, but neither will the pistol slip if your hands are wet, sweating, or cold.

The pistol features a generously sized extractor and ejector. The stainless steel barrel features a dark coating and is well fitted. The slide lock is ambidextrous. A crazy good feature is the fully ambidextrous magazine catch.

The shooter may press the magazine catch from either side to drop the magazine. The slide serrations are improved over original FN 509 pistols in the Tactical version. In modern fashion, the front strap is undercut to lower the bore axis.

FN 509 pistol in FDE with a Vortex Viper red dot sight mounted
This is an ergonomically designed handgun with good features.

The pistol features a positive firing pin/striker lock. The 509 is proven drop safe in harsh testing. Most striker-fired pistols feature a blade-type safety set in the trigger face. The FN 509 Tactical features a bifurcated trigger. The bottom of the trigger is pressed to release the trigger. The design prevents lateral discharge.

The trigger action is heavier than most striker-fired pistols at 6.5 pounds. The trigger breaks cleanly, however. The trigger is controllable. With practice and concentration, the FN 509 may be used as well as any other modern handgun. The 509 Tactical is finished in the popular flat dark earth (FDE) color.

The pistol was entered into the recent U.S. Army service pistol competition. While another maker won the competition, FN’s showing was excellent by any standard.

FN 509 Tactical 9mm semi-automatic handgun with 24-round magazine inserted
The pistol is supplied with two 24-round magazines.

The 509 Tactical 9mm features metal parts finished in a PVD type finish. The pistol is supplied with both 17 and 24-round magazines. These are high-quality magazines with good finish. Unlike many high-capacity magazines, the 24-round unit isn’t difficult to load to full capacity. The barrel is 4.5 inches long.

As delivered, the pistol is fitted with suppressor height tritium sights. The rear sight plate is unusual in that there are a pair of wings that protect the rear sight from hard bumps. Coming from a background in institutional service, I will confirm that pistol sights are commonly banged on door jambs or car doors and get knocked out of alignment. The protecting wings are unusual and a good step.

To mount a red dot sight, simply unscrew the top plate and choose one of the supplied adaptors to fit your choice of optics. When the red dot is mounted you will be able to co-witness the sights through the sight window.

Sight picture of the FN 509 Tactical series pistol
Night sights are essential for an all-around tactical handgun.

If the red dot malfunctions or the battery goes dead, you have backup sights. I like that a lot. Disassembly is easy. A takedown lever is rotated to fieldstrip the pistol. This is a neat system that I prefer to the Glock takedown. The pistol has the big R for reliability and the little M for maintenance.

At the Range

The FN 509 Tactical was fired with a variety of ammunition. Mostly full metal jacketed ammunition in 115- and 124-grain, ZSR, Winchester, Federal, and Remington. The pistol ran well. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. Recoil was modest — as expected in this size and weight pistol.

Acclimating to the trigger takes time. I engaged in dry fire — as everyone should — while mastering a particular trigger. This isn’t a match trigger, but for personal defense and service use, the FN 509 trigger is positive in operation. For concealed carry, I chose the Galco BlakGuard holster.

After some practice, I was able to engage steel plates at 25 yards with a 100% hit rate. The pistol was also test fired from a solid bench rest at 25 yards. Results were good.

Using the Hornady 115-grain XTP and Remington 115-grain FMJ loading, several five-shot groups of 2.5 inches were fired. A few were smaller. The pistol is accurate enough for defense and service use.

Bob Campbell shooting the FN 509 Tactical 9mm pistol with a two-hand grip
Firing offhand, the FN 509 Tactical gave excellent practical accuracy.

Exploring the optics-ready option, I fitted a Vortex Viper red dot to the FN 509 Tactical. The Viper features a red 6 MOA dot and mounts low on the slide. The Viper has a large window with a wide range of adjustment.

Cranking up the speed with the red dot mounted, and looking through the sight with both eyes open, the FN/Vortex combination delivered real speed. I fired double taps, controlled pairs, and engaged the plates again. The pistol is fast.

FN 509 Tactical Specs

  • Type: Striker-fired semi-auto
  • Caliber: 9mm Parabellum
  • Capacity: 17+1 and 24 +1
  • Barrel: 4.5 inches
  • Overall length: 7.75 inches
  • Width: 1.625 inches
  • Height: 5.75 inches
  • Weight: 28 ounces
  • Construction: Steel slide, polymer frame
  • Finish: PVD on slide and barrel
  • Sights: Three-dot tritium, fixed rear
  • Trigger: 6.75-pound compression

The FN 509’s low felt recoil is a big plus. I find the FN 509 Tactical an outstanding handgun that is reliable, fast to action, and controllable in rapid fire. For those looking for something different, but completely proven, the FN 509 Tactical is an outstanding choice.

As a polymer-frame, striker-fired handgun, how does the FN 509 Tactical compare to the other popular offerings? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • top down view of the FM 509 9mm semi-automatic handgun with the optics mounted plate removed
  • FN 509 pistol with mounting plate and Vortex Viper red dot sight removed
  • FN 509 Tactical 9mm semi-automatic pistol in a Galco BlakGuard holster with Vortex Viper red dot sight
  • FN 509 handgun with a Vortex Viper red dot optic, right, profile
  • HIgh sights to allow use of a red dot sight on the FM 509 pistol
  • FN 509 Tactical 9mm semi-automatic handgun with 24-round magazine inserted
  • FN 509 Tactical 9mm semi-automatic handgun in a Galco BlakGuard holster
  • FN 509 9mm semi-automatic pistol, right, profile
  • FN 509 Tactical handgun, 9mm semi-automatic, left, profile
  • FN 509 pistol in FDE with a Vortex Viper red dot sight mounted
  • mid size FN 509 handgun in flat dark earth
  • Bob Campbell shooting the FN 509 Tactical 9mm handgun with a two-hand grip
  • Bob Campbell shooting the FN 509 Tactical 9mm pistol with a two-hand grip

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (7)

  1. Seems to me you’d have to exclude the 22lr for sake of argument here. We all view this discussion through our own lens. A bit of the argument is generational too. Most under 40-45 would consider the 9mm as most familiar and useful while older guys would lean 45ACp or even 38spl maybe. Statistics say 9mm is most common by far I suppose. If Wild Bill were here, he’d have a different take on “Americas caliber” too.He might scoff at the 45acp. I, for one, wouldn’t argue with him. Lol. I will say 9mm was a heck of an idea no matter the origin…. Some may say pizza is americas food. Far more pizzas eaten than roast beef…. Roast beef is mighty fine though. Alas, now I’m hungry.

  2. TO VC: I know what the LGS stocks; I visit enough of them. I wasn’t commenting on favorite calibers based on sales numbers, but on the *America* part of the comment. European calibers were disregarded by American shooters for many years, sometimes for lack of performance, effectiveness, etc. and sometimes for nationalistic beliefs about innate American superiority. Times have certainly changed. I just think it’s ironic that a European caliber is now *America’s caliber*! BTW…I own and shoot all of them. But I still prefer to carry an old fashioned revolver.

  3. Old Pro
    50.2 percent of all new gun sales are self-loading pistols. The rest are rifles and shotguns and 9.6 percent revolvers — I am without caliber figures, but I would guess your
    .45 Colt, .44 Special at the bottom of the list =

    I would say that probably 90 percent of the self-loading pistols are 9mm.

    So, five self-loading pistols for every revolver- and a whole lot of those revolvers are .22. Those are just the facts.

    Walk in a gun shop— take a look-

  4. Gentlemen

    Thanks for reading.

    By any standard, today, the 9mm is America’s favorite caliber by an overwhelming ratio in sales over any other caliber and also the standard military issue caliber and the caliber used by the vast majority of LEO and agencies.

    Thems the facts.

  5. I agree with Robert. In what universe is 9mm Parabellum *America’s caliber*? I’m old enough to remember when that honor was bestowed on .45 Long Colt, then .44 Special, then .357 magnum. Note that these are all honest-to-goodness American revolver cartridges.

    Even the venerable Colt 1911 in .45acp saw limited acceptance outside of military applications during the 1920’s and 1930’s due to the perception that a semi auto was likely to jam. I think 9mm started to gain some favor after WW2 because returning GI’s brought back souvenirs so chambered. And surplus ammo was very cheap.

    It was in the late ‘60’s or early ‘70’s when the IL State Police surprised everyone by adopting the Smith & Wesson Model 39 DA/SA semi auto chambered in 9mm. Then in the mid ‘70’s Starsky carried a Model 59 with a lot of rounds. Don’t forget that Hutch still carried a .357 magnum Python!

    I don’t know what *America’s caliber* is today. Based on sales figures of firearms, it’s probably either 9mm, 38 special or 380acp. The 38 special (Smith & Wesson) and the 380 (J.M. Browning) were developed by Americans. The 9mm Parabellum was developed by Georg Luger in Germany.

  6. I should have known it was Bob Campbell saying something silly like that. .45 ACP is America’s caliber, even though 10mm is my caliber; in the wilds of Dallas and Houston.

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