By Jay Grazio, Shooting Illustrated
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name of the company FN America? Well, for some, it’s the FN FAL. Others might think of the M249 SAW. Perhaps you’re a science-fiction fan and the futuristic P90 is what jumps out at you, with its top-mounted, sideways-loading magazine. For handguns, purists will point out that Fabrique Nationale is engraved on the slides of countless Hi Powers, but for the bulk of folks, that will indelibly be linked to Browning, for obvious, albeit not entirely correct reasons. Point is, when it comes to handguns, FN is probably not the first company that comes to mind.
FN’s 509 LS Edge offers something for pretty much everyone in the shooting community.
And that’s a shame, because the company makes a number of really excellent handguns. The FN 509 series, reviewed by our Handgun Editor, Tamara Keel, when it debuted in 2017 after consideration in the U.S. Army’s XM17 Modular Handgun System solicitation, was lauded for its thoughtful upgrades from the already-pretty-excellent FNS series of handguns. Walking back even further, the FNX line offered a polymer-frame, hammer-fired pistol in either 9 mm or .45 ACP. A relative newcomer to the line is the FN 503, a super-small, subcompact, single-stack 9 mm clearly aimed directly at the concealed-carry market rather than military or law enforcement, a decidedly new venue for FN. And, there’s the Five-seveN in, of course, 5.7×28 mm, which until recently had been overlooked owing to the scarcity of ammunition, but was enjoying a renaissance of sorts thanks to firearms in that caliber offered by CMMG and Ruger. Of course, 5.7 ammo, like all ammo, is scarce these days, but I digress.
A quick glance at the FN website page for pistols clearly shows which line the company is investing its R&D dollars in, however. A lone FN 503 exists. Two Five-seveNs are there, but they’re identical save for the color of the polymer. Four FNX variants can be found, three of which are in .45 ACP. And then, there’s the FN 509 series. Counting different frame-color variants, there are 14 different flavors of FN 509 including the new LS Edge. Everything from subcompact to long-slide sizes are available, covering diverse uses from concealed carry to duty, and now competitive shooting. With more and more manufacturers introducing striker-fired, optics-ready pistols geared for the competitive-shooting market, it’s a pretty savvy move for FN to be offering the 509 LS Edge at this time.
I’ll admit something here. Aside from friendly bowling-pin shoots, club-level steel challenge shoots and intermittent writer-based events, I’ve not had a lot of chances to shoot competitively. Part of this stems from, well, my handgun shooting, which ranges from mediocre on a good day to what has been described as “minute-of-berm” on a bad one. Mostly, though, it’s been a time-and-resources thing—it takes a lot of both to truly excel in competitive shooting. Now, I’m friends with a number of people who actually do compete, some rather seriously, and from what I’ve seen and heard, there are some universal components for a competitive pistol. FN’s 509 LS Edge hits a great many of these points, and offers something for near-everyone in the shooting world.
Starting at the muzzle, the first indication this isn’t a standard duty gun is the 5-inch barrel. Sure, Government model 1911s have had a 5-inch barrel for more than a century, but in the realm of polymer-frame, striker fired guns, even full-size offerings don’t run that long. The Glock G17 has a 4.5-inch barrel, the Smith & Wesson M&P is 4.25 inches and SIG Sauer’s P320 comes in at 4.7 inches. However, all three of these manufacturers offer a specialty version intended for competitive shooting—all of which have barrel lengths at or in excess of 5 inches. Lightening cuts? Oh, the FN 509 LS Edge has those aplenty, with dramatic angled cuts that showcase the target-crowned barrel.
When asked about the challenges that needed to be overcome in designing a competitive pistol, with a longer barrel, FN’s pistol product manager, Tom Victa, had this to say: “Everything is a balance in handgun design. We wanted to make a gun that still had the reliability and durability of the 509s but with the longer length and better visual ‘counter appeal.’ The slide, barrel and recoil spring had to be balanced in weight and geometry to optimize for the naturally longer, and thus heavier, barrel so we could still get great performance through all duty and training ammo.”
On the frame, FN has opted for a multi-textured grip surface for best purchase in a wide variety of conditions. Fine texturing on the sides is aggressive, while the frontstrap and backstrap wear geometric designs engineered to anchor the pistol firmly, reducing split times and limiting shot-to-shot variability. Controls are generously sized, with the slide-stop ambidextrous and the takedown lever on the left side only (sorry, southpaws, the FN509 LS Edge is decidedly right-handed), and the magazine well is flared to facilitate rapid reloading. The magazine-release button is oversize and darn near impossible to miss, and while it protrudes a fair amount from the grip, it requires a good deal of pressure to drop the magazine. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s difficult, just that you’ll need to press with authority rather than a brushing glance. Lastly, there’s plenty of real estate for both mitts with room to spare, and enough room so you don’t find yourself inadvertently activating things.
Onto the trigger, which is a radical departure for both the 509 series and FN in general. Like the new FN 503, it’s a bladed-safety design rather than the traditional hinged trigger we’ve seen so far on the 509 series, but unlike the 503, the trigger on the FN 509 LS Edge is flat-faced, breaking at 90 degrees. There’s a slight—3/8 inch, I measured—take-up, then a clear stop at which the trigger breaks cleanly. I measured 6 pounds, 5 ounces on the Lyman trigger-pull gauge we have in the office, but I would have sworn it was lighter. The trigger guard is generous and followed by the obligatory section of rail as we head toward the muzzle, ideal for mounting a light or laser should this be a home-defense choice.
On top of the slide is FN’s MRD optics setup, which appears complicated at first, but is ingenious once you get into it. Four plates and three inserts offer fits for a wide variety of red-dot sights, with a quick-reference guide to help sort things out. FN also provides the appropriate screws for sights, which is super convenient if you’ve ever gone to mount an optic and found that screws were provided…separately. Screw types are even shown actual size on the printed guide, so you can compare to be certain you’re using the correct set. Knowing you have the right screw with the right thread pitch and correct depth is a huge plus when mounting an optic—all you need to do is properly torque the screws (proper spec is even included on the handy reference chart) and you’re off and running.
All of this is great if you’re a competitive shooter. The FN 509 LS Edge is designed to shoot fast and accurately, and that’s the cornerstone of a winning platform. The longer barrel wrings more velocity out of your ammo, the lightened slide helps cycle quickly, the trigger is consistent and easily managed; all of these factors reward the accomplished competitive shooter. However, what does it mean for the non-competitive shooter? Why would someone who doesn’t compete consider the FN 509 LS Edge? Excellent questions, of course, and ones we’ve covered previously with other firearms that have competitive-shooting origins. In a nutshell, pretty much every upgrade in the LS Edge that makes it a solid choice for competition makes it a good choice for self-defense, too. Run any number of defensive drills, and you’ll find that the ability to get back on target faster will help. Ditto a consistent trigger.
Even if the LS Edge does prove to be just a little too large to carry, it’s still an exceptional option as a home-defense pistol. The ample accessory rail allows a light, laser or both to be attached, and a wide variety of red-dot options can serve well for easier aiming. Don’t automatically assume you can’t carry the LS Edge, though; FN is working with several high-quality holster manufacturers to have models available for competition, duty and concealed carry. Holsters designed specifically for the FN 509 LS Edge are already available from ANR Holsters through FN on the latter company’s website.
On the range, though, is where the LS Edge really shines, as you’d expect. Accuracy was excellent, befitting a pistol with a match-grade barrel and a tuned trigger. However, that’s not even the biggest story here. Because the LS Edge is designed to compete, I ran a handful of drills after performing the standard accuracy and velocity readings, and quite frankly, it was eye-opening. Running Richard Mann’s 45 Drill (five rounds in a 5-inch target in 5 seconds from 5 yards), I routinely cleaned each drill, and shaved nearly a full second off my time by the end of my range session (down to a blistering 3.06 seconds, if I may brag for a moment). Switching things up to the FAST (see our “Handguns” column on page 32), I managed to complete it in slightly less than 7 seconds—although I have to admit to “cheating” per our Handgun Editor because I was running it from low ready rather than concealment (because I don’t yet have a holster for it). The bottom line here, plain and simple, is that if a rank amateur like me can run these drills clean with a new-to-him firearm, it’s spot-on.
Also, and this is a pretty significant note, I ran about 300 rounds through the FN 509 LS Edge in the span of roughly 90 minutes. As I put the LS Edge back into its case, I had a strange realization: My hands felt fine. My trigger finger wasn’t aching. My strong-hand thumb wasn’t rubbed raw. Running the LS Edge hard was easy, and didn’t require gloves, grip tape or any supplemental enhancements. There has clearly been a ton of work into the ergonomics of the LS Edge, and it shows.
So, what’s the final verdict on the new FN 509 LS Edge? If you compete in a discipline that allows striker-fired, red-dot-capable handguns, it is definitely worth checking out. If you’re searching for a home-defense handgun you can practice with frequently, it’ll do that with aplomb, too. Looking for a concealed-carry pistol with which you can regularly train? Yep, you got it, the LS Edge is certainly capable here. What if you want to do all three? Well, as you’ve probably guessed, yes, the new FN 509 LS Edge can excel in competition, home-defense and concealed-carry duties.