As mentioned already, one of the noticeable differences is the threaded muzzle. The 509 Tactical ships with a 4.5-inch threaded barrel, cold hammer-forged from stainless steel and featuring a target crown and 1/2-28 TPI threads that are compatible with most 9 mm and larger sound suppressors on the market. One subtle feature to appreciate is the inclusion of an embedded O-ring into the included screw-on thread protector, which prevents the cap from loosening under fire. Also, for those who will undoubtedly ask, the FDE finish on the frame and slide is the only color option available for the Tactical model at launch time, while the standard FN 509 remains available in black only.
However, more-astute enthusiasts might be looking at the rear of the slide and wondering what's up with that large, winged rear sight. The suppressor-height irons are part of FN's all-new Low-Profile Optics Mounting System, a patent-pending design that's compatible with more than 10 different slide-mounted reflex sights currently on the market, covering optic options from Leupold, Trijicon, JP Rifles, Docter, Vortex, C-More and Burris.
To install an optic, users can simply remove the slide cap by loosening two Torx screws located directly on the top of the plate. Once the plate is removed, the milled mounting point located just forward of the rear sight is revealed. When the slide plate is in use, the protective wings feature serrated surfaces on the leading edge, allowing the sight to bite the edge of a belt or boot for one-handed racking. Most ledge-style rear sights rely on a flat surface for racking, so the serrations are a new feature. Attempts to actuate the slide off the edge of a gun belt were successful, as the serrations bit into the leather securely. The wings also prevent any accidental "adjustment" of the rear sight if the pistol happens to be dropped.
Each FN 509 Tactical ships with three magazines, where another enhancement reveals itself. While one of the included mags is a 17-round, flush-fit option, the other two are beefy extensions that pack in an impressive 24 rounds. Certainly, the magazines don't offer any advantage in the way of concealment, unless people are used to seeing you out and about with strange protuberances jutting out from your body, but the added rounds are a benefit in other situations, such as home-defense or range use.
Should one want to use the FN 509 Tactical as a carry option, the 24-rounders would be a comforting backup option to have handy, I suppose. However, one thing to consider is the added weight of 24 extra rounds. In fact, a 24-round magazine loaded with 147-grain 9 mm rounds weighs just under a pound, a significant addition to a tactical gun that weighs just 27.9 ounces unloaded. For those in capacity-restricted states, the Tactical ships with three 10-round magazines.
In addition to the included extras for enhanced capacity and optical versatility, the 509 Tactical also includes two separate recoil-spring assemblies. The "silver" assembly that comes installed in the gun straight from the factory is designed for use with most ammo options on the market, while the "yellow" assembly included in the soft-sided, FDE gun case is designed for use with lower-powered ammo options and frangible rounds.
In anticipation of the launch, Shooting Illustrated staff took the FN 509 Tactical to the range for a quick, 160-round range session. Using the factory-installed, silver recoil-spring assembly, the gun chugged along, trouble-free, with 147-grain Winchester Super Suppressed, 124-grain Remington Golden Saber Black Belt and Federal Premium 115-grain Train & Defend loads. Shooters noticed that the added momentum of the heavy 24-round extended magazines seating into place easily sent the slide forward into battery automatically. When coming up onto the target, the front sight features a thick, white ring that promotes front-sight focus and enables shooters to get on target quickly. In low-light conditions, the sights provides an easy-to-use three-dot arrangement with one green lamp in the front-sight post and two green lamps on either side of the rear sight.
A full-size grip complete with a number of different textures helps to anchor the gun in a shooter's hand, and each 509 Tactical ships with two interchangeable backstraps. The one on the pistol offers a bit of a swell in the palm to fill out a larger hand, while the other option provides a slimmer grip for smaller hands. The backstraps are held into place with a roll pin that must be driven out to swap options, and the pistol does not ship with a compatible tool to perform this function.
Trigger-pull weight on the sample sent for testing at NRA HQ featured a pull weight averaging 7 pounds, 1.5 ounces across 10 pulls. The trigger features a built-in hinged safety that prevents the gun from firing without a deliberate trigger pull. Like many tactical-style handguns on the market, the trigger isn't going to win any awards. At first, the pull is gritty until it hits a wall. At that point, there's a clean but lengthy break, at least as compared to a Glock-style trigger. The reset point is tactile, but isn't as crisp as other options on the market. Overall, it's an acceptable trigger. Not exactly enjoyable but not awful, either.
Southpaws will appreciate the mirrored controls, with an ambidextrous slide-stop lever and magazine release easily accessible on both sides of the frame. A takedown lever located on the left-hand side of the frame allows for field-stripping. A trigger pull is required for field-stripping, so conscious clearing and muzzle awareness are essential elements of the process. The suggested retail price on the FN America FN 509 Tactical is $1,049.