Released in early 2020, the new FN America FN503 caused quite the stir, and for many reasons. For the first time in nearly a century, the company has produced a handgun exclusively for the civilian concealed-carry market. FN had been producing full-size handguns more for police and military contracts than for concealed carriers for decades, with the most-recent 509 developed as part of the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System contract solicitation. The FN503 was a welcome addition to FN’s line, particularly as an acknowledgement of the concealed-carry market.
However, detractors are quick to point out that FN came late to the party. Nearly a decade after most major manufacturers had rolled out their polymer-frame, single-stack, subcompact 9 mm handguns, the FN503 was released just as the new wave of micro-double-stack guns like the SIG Sauer P365 and Springfield Armory Hellcat revolutionized the market. Critics pointed out that releasing a 6-round handgun when other manufacturers had 10- and 11-round versions roughly the same size might be a challenge for FN America.
That does bring up a good point. Why would someone opt for a 5.9-inch, 21-ounce, 6-round handgun when SIG’s P365 is 5.8 inches long, weighs 17.8 ounces and carries 10 rounds, or Springfield Armory’s Hellcat is 6 inches long, weighs 18.3 ounces and carries 11 rounds? There’s a few reasons. One is familiarity. There’s a number of folks carrying FN handguns, and staying in the same family keeps a similar manual of arms, something we’ve long advocated. Brand loyalty is a thing, so those that love FN handguns have a small, concealable option now. A more compelling reason, though, is the shootability: In our First Shots video, Joe Kurtenbach raved about how well the FN503 shoots - a combination of a really good trigger, great ergonomics and a smart grip texture make it easy to shoot, despite the size.
In the end, FN America’s FN503 brings a solid, thoughtful choice to the small gun. It’s easy to shoot, easy to conceal and brings FN’s storied pedigree to the concealed-carry market. There’s simply no way this isn’t a win.
Something to consider when looking at a newly released firearm, from a concealed-carry standpoint, is the availability of gear. More times than I’d care to admit, I’ve seen a cool new gun hit the market, something that’s perfect for concealed carry, except that there are precious few holster options. It’s frustrating to have a great gun that shoots awesome that you can’t carry because only a couple manufacturers make holsters for it, and neither are setup for your preferred carry style. In the case of the FN503, though, ANR Design has a wide variety of offerings for inside-the-waistband carry, and appendix carry as well.
For the FN503, we’ve gone with ANR Design’s Appendix holster, which comes with a polymer claw to properly position the holster against the body for perfect concealment. The size of the FN503 makes it a natural for appendix carry, with the short overall length quite suitable for the 1-o'clock position. While we have the basic black holster, there’s a variety of color options available for a modest upgrade fee.
Knife: Bear & Son Cutlery Bear Edge Black and Red Sideliner (MSRP: $63.99)
Given the solid choices of the FN503 and the ANR Design Appendix carry holster, it's natural that the knife chosen to complete this EDC kit be an affordable, no-nonsense type of knife. With a 3 ⅜-inch, 440 stainless steel tanto profile blade that opens with assistance either via thumbstud or a flipper, the Bear & Son Cutlery Bear Edge Black and Red Sideliner uses a standard liner lock. The knife also has a glass-breaker at the end of the handle for emergencies in addition to a lanyard hole. Scales are aluminum, giving an overall weight of 3.9 ounces, and the pocket clip is reversible, although only for tip-up carry.
When it comes to a pocketknife, being able to quickly retrieve it from a pocket and get it into play is critical - although the odds are far greater you’ll need it to open a package than as a defensive tool. For that matter, though, the blade is easy to sharpen, and the knife has ridges along the back of the upper edge of the handle and blade for greater purchase in any condition. All this for an MSRP less than $65, and an “off the shelf” price even lower than that.