One of the best things to happen to the pistol and firearms community was the U.S. Army’s XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) competition. The Army announced the competition in 2015 and in January 2017 crowned Sig Sauer P320’s as the winner. Most know that Glock offered the Glock 19x but might not know that Beretta, Smith & Wesson, CZ, FN, and a few others, presented options, as well. The FN 509 was one of those updated modern options.

As a whole, the Army’s more modern requirements to replace the aging Beretta M9 resulted in multiple good options from reputable gun manufacturers. These upgrades benefit the entire firearms community.


FN and the Military

FN is well known in the military world for making reliable and quite capable firearms. From the SCAR to the M249 and M240B, the FN has dominated much of the U.S. and NATO military small arms market. In fact, my M16A2 from Army Basic Combat Training was manufactured by FN. In the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, just about everyone in combat arms touches and trains on FN products. Even support units will likely have FN squad and platoon weapons.

For the Army’s solicitation, FN had entered the FN 509 as an updated version of the FNS-9 Compact. The Compact is a polymer-framed, striker-fired, semi-auto pistol. It has no manual safety nor ambidextrous mag releases.

FN M240B Machine Gun Marines
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Neil Rioja, a hospital corpsman with 3d Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3d Marine Division, fires an FN M240B machine gun at Combined Arms Training Center, Camp Fuji, Japan, February 9, 2021. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Aubuchon/USMC)

FN sought to learn from Beretta M9’s flaws, one of the biggest of which was that the safety functioned backward. This is not intuitive or ergonomically easy to manipulate at all. Especially in high-stress situations. In addition, the M9’s mag release was configured for right-handed shooters only. FN obviously sought to create a better solution. And while the Department of Defense (DoD) is overly obsessive about manual safeties (I suppose, at times, for good reason), the lack of a manual safety probably hurt FN and Glock in the Army competition.

There are multiple versions of the FN 509 currently available on the market, in civilian and Law Enforcement (LE) configurations. Nevertheless, it is only in recent years that FN has started to earn a market share in the civilian firearms community.


The New Prince of LA

On August 10, 2021, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) announced the FN 509 MRD-LE as was the winner of its duty-pistol competition. The LAPD is the third-largest police department in the country behind New York City and Chicago. With around 10,000 officers, standardization is important. Up until now, officers had been carrying a mix of Beretta, Glock, Smith & Wesson, and Kimber pistols.

The LAPD evaluated the FN 509, along with other pistols, in a rigorous 20,000 round-count test. The FN 509 had zero malfunctions. Needless to say, that’s quite the qualifications test.

Chris Cole, Vice President, Sales and Marketing at FN America, said of the evaluation, “Exceeding all of the requirements LAPD sought in their new duty pistol was a high-performance standard to meet.”

FN has also put the 509 through rigorous development and testing of its own. “With over a million rounds fired in development, the FN 509’s reputation for durability is proven here again giving LAPD officers a superior handgun they can depend on in the most demanding policing environments,” Cole added. And these days, with everyone having their sights trained directly on Glock, new products have to reach such high standards.


The Innovative Sights and Micro Red Dots of FN 509

The FN 509®  MRD-LE with Trijicon RMR. (FN America)

One of the things that the LAPD found attractive in the FN 509, in addition to the endurance and reliability tests, was the sights. FN says on its website,

“Superior accuracy of the FN 509 MRD-LE starts with the patented FN Low-Profile Optics-Mounting System™. Adapted from the original development for the U.S. Army’s handgun trials, it gives officers more precision and sighting versatility than all other handguns.”

After the LAPD award announcement, Charles “Bucky” Mills, Sr. Director of Law Enforcement Sales for FN America, explained,

“LAPD needed the ability to quickly and securely mount a variety of duty-rated micro red dots to their service pistols to improve the accuracy potential of their handguns and their officers. FN pioneered the MRD mounting technology the LAPD required, enabling precision shot placement and immediate target engagement no matter the environment.”

This patented design allows the shooter to co-witness the iron sights through various brands of red dots. A three-dot tritium sight comes standard on the gun. The FN Low-Profile Optics-Mounting System™ includes mounting plates for multiple brands and MRD products. These brands include popular options like Leupold, Trijicon, and Vortex.


FN 509 Tech Specs

FN 509 co-witness capability
The FN 509®  MRD-LE co-witness capability. (FN America)

The FN 509 is a good-looking gun full of features a shooter wants in a polymer semi-auto. The FN 509 MRD-LE is chambered in 9mm and has a four-inch barrel with a 1:10″ RH twist. It is a double-action, striker-fired gun, with a “flat-faced, duty-rated” trigger. The trigger pull is a respectable 4.5 – 6.7 lbs. Like the Glock 45, it has a 17-round capacity. Rounding out the basic specs is the weight, at 27 ounces.

FN says “the smooth, drop-safe trigger compliments the perfect sight picture. FN’s precision trigger and high-performance striker, adapted from the FN 509 LS Edge™, has a positive wall before a clean break, improving accuracy for all officers.”

FN’s “new, high-performance conical striker reduces trigger pull weight by [approximately] 1-lbs.”

So, like Glock, FN’s next-gen guns boast a smooth trigger and a system that makes it physically impossible for the striker to contact a chambered round without pulling the trigger. And while I am a fan of both Glocks and the Sig P320, this is something that has allegedly hurt the P320 and works in Glock’s favor. So, FN was wise to take a page out of the Glock playbook on this one.


A Solid Offering in the Modern Polymer-pistol Category

FN 509 Surefire X300 Ultra gun light
The FN 509®  MRD-LE with Surefire X300 Ultra gun light. (FN America)

I have not fired this particular FN 509 model as it is available exclusively to Law Enforcement. I have also not come across it locally yet, either, in my shooting circles.

With that said, I have fired the FN 509 Tactical. I have fired it in standard, simple, flat-range conditions and in dynamic, stress-based defensive scenarios. And, I liked it. I liked its feel and balance in my hands and both the trigger pull and the trigger reset. I also found it accurate right out of the box.

If you are considering a new pistol in this category, I would recommend testing it out yourself. You just might find a new, high-end pistol, for a somewhat affordable price. While the U.S. Army did not select the FN 509 as its new sidearm of choice, it just might become yours.