First Impressions: The FN 509

The Army’s XM-17 Modular Handgun System has of course concluded, and the Sig Sauer P-320 has been selected to replace the Beretta M-9 as the Army’s primary handgun, bearing the name “M-17” when it fields. Despite the hotly contested results of the MHS contest (which could be the subject for another article, if not nearly a book), there’s little doubt that the American consumer was probably the one to make out the best in the entire test. As new designs were produced and others modified to attempt to accommodate the MHS, many of these hit the market, including: the M-9A3, M&P 2.0, the Glock Gen 5 (which shared some features of the MHS and FBI Glocks), and a handful of others.


The Gun

Perhaps one of the best handguns to come from the MHS to the commercial market is the FN 509. Let’s take a first impressions look at FN’s evolution from the MHS submission.

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The FN 509 is, on its face, a pretty typical modern service handgun. It’s a polymer framed, magazine fed, tilting barrel design that is controlled using an articulated trigger and ambi slide stops and a “full time” ambi magazine release. It’s fed by steel, 17 round magazines and comes with typical 3-dot sights, either white dot or tritium from the factory. FN claims that “over one milion rounds” of testing were conducted when developing the 509, and also has stated that much of the 509’s lineage comes from the FNS-9C. The latter part of that statement is interesting, as one would have thought that the full size FNS would have more in common with the 509, just due to size alone. Speaking of size, the FN 509 is a full sized handgun. Measured in its critical dimensions, the 509 is roughly Glock 17 in height and 19 in length.

Height: 5.56″ (Glock 17 – 5.43″)

Length: 7.4″ (Glock 19 – 7.28″)

Barrel length: 4.0″ 

Width: 1.35″

Weight: 26.9 oz

The 509 comes packaged in a dope, FN branded, soft case that has just enough room for the handgun and two extra magazines. It also includes a total of three backstraps that are held in place by a roll pin. The small is flat in profile – much like a flat 1911 mainspring housing, the medium is arched, and the large is a massive hump complete with extended beavertail.

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But the measuring a gun by the numbers and packaging only give us an idea of relative size. As they say, the Devil’s in the details! The 509 seems to be an exceptionally accurate handgun, likely the result of FN’s barrel design. The barrel sports a target crown at the muzzle, which is pretty impressive for a service weapon. A barrel crown prevents the end of the actual rifling from becoming damaged, and enhances long term accuracy. The barrel’s locking interface also seems to stay locked into the slide for quite a bit of rearward travel, which usually results in a more accurate handgun (a la VP9). 

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Practical accuracy is also further enhanced by the sight design on the 509, particularly in the notch shape of the rear sight. It’s best described as a “square/U-notch” hybrid that combines the easy reference points of the square cut sights with the quick target acquisition of a wide U-notch.

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The orange follower is another one of the “little touches” that makes the 509 well engineered bullet slinger. Don’t mind my hands…

The handgun is also very controllable, both in administrative functions and actual firing conditions. The fore and aft slide serrations are very well cut, and afford a very positive grip when conducting slide manipulations. Additionally, the grip is textured with mix of checkering on the port and starboard sides, molded stippling up high near the thumb rests, and very thick, “chunky” feeling checkering on the front and backstrap.


Initial Performance 

Here’s where things get a little sticky. Although my 509 certainly hasn’t been subjected to any sort of endurance testing by any means, it also didn’t make it through the first 100 rounds without statistically significant issues. Generally speaking, I expect any modern service pistol to be able to function without issue right out of the box, after a minor cleaning. Before some of you get all worked up, I understand break-in, but don’t personally feel that a handgun marketed for self-defense and duty should require it. A stock Glock or M&P will run right out of the box (generally), but the 509 just didn’t quite swing it.

The first 100 rounds were fired very casually. I didn’t have a prescribed course of fire; and I was really just looking to see if the gun would run correctly. After a quick scrub down and lubrication with Slip 2000 EWL, I grabbed 100 rounds of Freedom Munitions 124gr Reman FMJs and began to hammer away. Quick aside – I’ve never had an issue with Freedom Munitions ammo of any kind. Rounds from the same box and lot work just fine in other guns, so I suspect it’s not an ammunition related failure – although no other brands of ammo have yet been tested. 

The Good – 

The 509 is accurate as hell. Like VP9 meets laser guided Copperhead accurate. I suspect that FN’s legendary barrel quality has a lot to do with this, combined with the long locking time of the slide and barrel in battery.

Additionally, the 509 “tracks” well. I don’t know if I could say that it’s the fastest shooting gun I’ve ever fired, but the sights settle back into proper alignment without any concerted effort from the shooter. I believe that this is a product of the aggressive grip along with the heavy spring weight of the 509. Now, recoil spring weight is a double edged sword, but as far as sight acquisition, I find that the relatively heavy spring helps the slide momentum bring the sights back into proper alignment to the shooter’s eye.

If you know how to grip a gun correctly, the 509 isn’t moving in your hand. In fact, the front and backstraps are so coarsely checkered that it became a bit fatiguing on my hand after awhile. But, when it comes to firing conditions, I’d much prefer a gun that hurts the hand but puts rounds on target than one that forces me to continually shift my grip after recoil.

The Bad – 

The 509 didn’t make it through 100 rounds without a few notable malfunctions. First of all, the 509 failed to lock back on an empty magazine at least three times. Although many might suggest that my thumbs may have been riding the slide stop, that’s just not the case – my hands aren’t big enough to do that. I noted which magazine it was that caused the issue, and it seemed to be the same one each time. For whatever reason, it would seem that one of my 509 magazines isn’t lifting it’s follower up high enough to engage the slide stop.

Additionally, I had at four failure to eject (FTE) malfunctions. Two happened during regular (standing, two-handed) fire, and two happened when shooting from a high pectoral retention position. All four times the spent brass failed to clear the ejection port and then was slammed in between the edge of the slide and the barrel hood. Initially I suspected that I was at fault, be it a limp wrist or other bio mechanical issue, but I couldn’t replicate it when I intentionally tried to induce the issue. For now, I’m chalking the issues up to “break in”, although I suspect this has to do with the weight of the recoil spring. I believe the slide is actually closing too fast for the ejector, causing it to slam into battery before the empty case can clear the ejection port.


So, after the first 100 rounds, I’d have to say this:

I have no idea yet how I feel about the gun. 

It seems to be well engineered and have a lot of promise, but the initial issues are a bit concerning to me. I’m not yet ready to trust my life to it by any stretch of the imagination (don’t trust any gun with only 100 rounds through it), and I plan on putting even more rounds through it that I normally would before I make any sort of substantial opinion. The 509 has a lot of promise and it seems to strike some serious sweet spots when it comes to a duty gun or full sized CCW piece, but the initial issues do give me some pause for hesitation.

Here’s to hoping the issues clear up, the gun breaks in, and Safariland releases a light bearing holster for the 509!

Until Victory.

-TZ

In Defense of the 700 Ultimate Sheep Rifle

Well folks, we’re back. I know it’s been awhile since the last post, but Summer 2017 has been busy and full of guns, gear, training, and some other pretty dope stuff. I’ve got a lot of new material in the works, including some YouTube reviews and AARs.

But enough on us, let’s get down to the good stuff: guns.

USR

Lately I’ve seen Big Green getting a lot of flak over their newly announced Model 700 “Ultimate Sheep Rifle”. In fact, just today I was listening to a podcast that was giving the USR the business – despite none of them having any trigger time behind it or any serious mountain hunting experience. They cited it’s use of a stock, and essentially criticized it for not being a chassis gun. They pointed out that the 6.5 CM is an unusual choice for a hunting cartridge, and even wondered if the gun was “custom” because it was made by Remington, and compared what they thought was the Remington Custom Shop to S&W’s Performance Center. And the biggest complaint of them all: the $5,895 MSRP. So let’s break it down.

First of all, yes, Remington does have a custom shop. Based in Sturgis, SD, the Remington Custom Shop does exactly what you would think it does: build custom guns. Although the USR is one of a few models that are available as pre-selected builds, Remington Custom also lets you have it any way you want. Prices can vary widely, as any custom project can from another. The shop itself is relatively new, having been established in Sturgis in 2015, but is run by a crew of experienced gunsmiths that know how to produce quality products. Hand checkering, hand layed custom stocks, jeweled bolts, and action truing mills would be pretty common sights at RCS.

Now let’s itemize the components. (All are MSRP and rounded to nearest dollar)

  • Action: Remington 700 Titanium Short Action (approx. $1,450)
  • Stock: Manners EH-8 ($632 + Cerakote)
  • Barrel: Proof Research Carbon Wrapped w/ Muzzle Brake (approx. $900)
  • Bolt: Badger Mini Knob w/ Badger M16 Extractor ($70)
  • Trigger: Timney 510 ($146)

Total: $3,198

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Now, there area a few other various parts and accessories that should be accounted for, but are hard to track down solid numbers on. This would include the bipod rail, dual ejectors, and a hand full of aluminum parts to reduce weight. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention the bedding job, Cerakoting by Scalpel Arms, and presumed action truing of a titanium action. And that’s not even mentioning that the 6.5 CM barrel from Proof doesn’t appear to be commercially available yet.

So, if we calculate by the components alone being approximately $3,300 before any sort of gun smithing to actually get the gun running, the advertised MSRP of $5,895 doesn’t begin to seem nearly as unreasonable. I would venture to guess that people shelling out anywhere near this kind of money are probably used to the idea of a high-end, expensive custom rifle that commands a price tag similar to or even higher than the near 6K of the Remington.

Is it all worth it? Well… that’s for you to decided. But a custom rifle is a custom rifle, and if it floats your boat and you don’t need a second mortgage for it, then give it hell.


But with all that being said, if you measure the gun from a performance standard, you might run into more of a quandary. Accuracy and lightweight in bolt guns are easy to do, and you can certainly find cheaper rifles that might fit the performance build of the 700 USR. Certainly there are other rifles that are lightweight and accuracy, but they won’t be custom. And if you’re budget commands that, then a cheaper option is probably the way to go. Hell, the Ruger American is lightweight and accurate, but it feels cheap as hell. Because it’s not custom.

So as far as criticisms go, does the USR deserve all this negative attention? Well… probably not if you evaluate it as a custom rifle. But if you simply look at it from a performance based perspective, then yeah… it’s not worth nearly $6,000.00.

Until Victory.

-TZ

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Army’s “New” Rifle – The Interim Battle Rifle

As early as April of 2017, there have been mutterings across the internet  via some “in-the-know” websites that the US Army was seeking information on a new service rifle cartridge. Although it’s been talked about for years, leaving the 5.56NATO has, until recently, seemed like a very distant prospect. With the Army’s new adaptation of the M855A1 cartridge and the proliferation of the Mk262 SOST bullet, it seemed that rather than adopt an entirely new cartridge, the services were more interested in making the 5.56NATO more efficient.

But fast forward to just a few days ago when Military.com reported that the Army was now officially seeking information on a commercial, off the shelf (COTS) 7.62×51 rifle to be fielded as the “Interim Battle Rifle”. The full article can be found here.

The RFI specifically calls for a 7.62×51 rifle that has either a 16 or 20 inch barrel, collapsible stock, “extended forward rail”, and be magazine fed with at least 20 round magazines. Oh, and by the way, make it less than 12 lbs.

General Milley also very clearly stated that it could not be a “custom” rifle, and had to be readily available. Additionally, he made it known that not every rifle in the Army’s inventory would be replaced with the “IBR”, but rather the 7.62 guns would be issued out to squads and teams as needed, depending on mission, environment, threat level, etc.

What does it mean for the future? Well, that’s hard to say. I think it signals the Army’s belief that a “more potent” cartridge is needed, but going back to the 7.62 wholesale just brings back problems that created the 5.56NATO and M16 in the first place: weight, magazine capacity, and load carrying ability. I think what’s more likely, based on the “INTERIM” label, is that a new “intermediate plus” cartridge will be more closely examined: something between the 5.56 and the 7.62. Will it ever actually happen? I’m a little doubtful. Price alone and conversion would be a pretty hard sell, but who knows.

My personal thought is that the Army is basically saying in this RFI is this:

HK417

Nice G28, Bundeswehr. We’ll take some of those.

The US Military has hit some home runs with H&K in recent history, and I suspect they’ll be looking hard at the 417 as a COTS rifle to fill their immediate needs. But that’s just me.

Until Victory.

TZ

 

Springfield Armory – What The Hell Are You Thinking?!

The XD-E? Really? I mean, on the one hand, I’m pretty pumped that my YouTube screen shot skills paid off and I nearly called the “secret” product release a few days in advance, but I’ve got to say, I’m probably even less impressed that I thought I would be.

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It’s not that the design of the gun is necessarily bad, but I just don’t think it’s what the market is looking for – although this one is somewhat unique to the segment. It’s essentially a single-stack 9mm that’s has a hammer fired, DA/SA fire control group. It also has a manual safety/decocker, and can be carried either “cocked and locked” (a la 1911), DA with out safety, or DA with a safety, similar to Heckler and Koch’s multipurpose safety-decocker. The safety-decocker is what makes this particular gun a little different than it’s competition. Some will be glad the grip safety from the other X D series of guns is deleted, but personally I’m a take it or leave it kind of guy.

My prediction of a Springfield branded “Walther PPS” type gun was pretty close! But my biggest question is: why? Nobody asked for this. If you prefer small carrier guns that are hammer fired you can carry any number of revolvers or DA subcompacts, not to mention that SA essentially created a competitive product for their own XDS. This was Springfield’s “best kept secret”, and what they’ve been working on the past two years (according to Rob Leatham)? Bad call. Probably an even worse call than the Saint – which was also a huge market disappointment.

It’s not that Springfield is making bad products in a design or engineering sense, but they’re releasing the wrong products into an already flooded market. The Saint had a TERRIBLE marketing campaign – and still does, and nobody asked SA for the XD-E. 2017 demands new things, and the manufacturers need to figure that out: we want revolvers without internal locks, better optics ready pistols, rifles that aren’t just another lightened or “enhanced” AR, and more 10mm’s! ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY 10!


In other news, Springfield Armory and Rock River Arms both sold out their fellow 2A Americans in their home State of Illinois.

Illinois SB-1657 is essentially a bill that would create a State level gun licensing program that would be in addition to federal FFLs and BATFE regulations. It would also demand that anyone who sells more than nine firearms per year get a dealer’s license. In short – it would be a huge pain in the ass for a lot of lawful gun owners.

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Instead of supporting their customer base and fighting the bill, Springfield Armory and Rock River Arms took the path of least resistance and offered a “neutral” stance if manufacturers of firearms in Illinois were provided an exemption to the proposed law. This was obviously immediately accommodated for two reasons: even Democrats can’t deny the tax base that firearms manufactures represent, and it’s easier to repress lawful gun owners if the manufacturers won’t back them with their own money.

Shame on you, Springfield and RRA. Law abiding, armed citizens are an awfully loyal bunch, and they won’t be quick to forgive you. Hell, people are still mad at Smith-Wesson and Ruger for their Clinton area deals, so I can’t imagine that either company is going to fair very well for this. Sucks to be you guys.

Until Victory.

-Z

Monday 4/17 – FN Announces the 509

This morning, fans of FN Herstal (FN/FN America) announced the newest addition to their pistol lineup: the FN 509.

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According the FN, the 509 is very similar to the gun they submitted to the US Army during the most recent MHS trials that resulted in the selection of the Sig P320 to replace the aging stock of Beretta M-9s. FN specifically mentioned that the 509 is essentially a redesign of the FNS, and specifically reference the FNS-9C in some interviews regarding its intent for citizen carry.

At first glance, the 509 is a pretty typical plastic gun affair: striker fired, 5.5-7.5lb trigger, black, 4″ barrel, 17 round magazine, Browning link-less tilting barrel lock up, and coming in at 5.56″ in height and 7.4 OAL. In short, it’s nearly identical in size to the original FNS-9, which can be imagined like this: Glock 19 slide assembly on top of a Glock 17 frame. Although this comparison isn’t exact, it might get you in the right ballpark if you’re more familiar with the Glock series of 9mms.

As far as appearance, it looks like the “FNS-9 2.0”. It’s a refreshed, updated version of the FNS-9, similar to what Smith & Wesson did to the M&P series of handguns. If you look at it long enough from just the right angle, it looks like some sort of XDM/Walther slide on a Ruger American frame that has the M&P 2.0’s abbreviated beavertail. It also reminds me of a classic muscle car, with “509” emblazoned on the side like it’s some sort of advertisement for a V8 hemi.

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Do you see it? Or is it just me?

While I haven’t gotten the chance to fire one yet, I do look forward to the opportunity to give one a shot at a local range. I can’t say I’m chomping at the bit to run out and buy one, since I have a regular FNS-9, but you never know – maybe it’s a game changer. I’ve been throughly impressed with the FNS-9, and I think that the 509 has a lot to offer from a very storied gun maker. I guess only time will tell. FN has historically built some very fine, but perhaps under appreciated, pistols – and I hope the 509 will bring them more into the mainstream American market.

Until Victory.

-Z

This Week in Guns: Lucky Gunner Labs and a New American Battle Rifle?

Yesterday, Lucky Gunner Ammo published additionally test results from their big handgun carry ammo testing that they’ve been doing for awhile for the .38 Spl and .357 Magnum cartridges. Previously they had examined different loads for the .380ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45ACP. The table format that they use to present the information is very clear and easy to read, and it’s easy to find the important figures you’re looking for: penetration depth, expansion measurements, and velocity, all figured as 5 shot averages (except for penetration, those are shown as individual rounds).

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The Lucky Gunner tests are pretty cool, and the complete results can be found here. Of note, the tests were run using both a 2″ barrel and a 4″ barrel, and both tables show those results. The results are interesting and unfortunately, the .357 isn’t the atomic bomb that I’d secretly hoped it would be. There’s no denying that the .357 has been a very successful man-stopper, but in gel it doesn’t look that much different than any other typical service cartridge. But keep in mind, gel is only part of the story. Make sure to check out Lucky Gunner Labs for the whole test protocol and results.


In other news, Soldier Systems Daily reported today that the US Army is apparently considering adopting a “new” battle rifle to extend the range of the average rifleman. Apparently this request stems from units feeling outgunned overseas, with their 5.56NATO carbines not matching the range of some enemy 7.62x54R weapons. The entire writeup can be found here.

An interesting observation is that apparently this is a stop-gap, or “interim” solution, which suggests that the Army might adopt an entirely different cartridge and family of weapons in the future for this stated purpose. I suppose the logical solution is to order some sort of commercial gun that already exists or expand existing orders for weapons chambered in 7.62NATO that are already in service. One thing that’s not entirely clear is the scope of this “proposal”. Is the Army seriously considering issuing a 7.62 rifle to every gunslinger in a line company? If that’s the case, I have to seriously doubt that this is going to happen, not because of practicality, but because of cost.

Until Victory.

-TZ

http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/revolver-ballistics-test/#38spl

http://soldiersystems.net/2017/04/05/us-army-considers-7-62-interim-battle-rifle/

Weird History: The Colt SCAR Type C

Since the invention of black powder, people have been developing better and better ways to launch flaming hot metal at each other: faster, farther, and more efficiently. The history of America could be told in chronological order by firearms development and actually would actually make quite a bit of sense, given the unique cultural importance of firearms in American history.

Names like Colt, Smith&Wesson, and John Browning are all household names, and all have a long and storied history in firearms development. Famous guns like the Single Action Army, M&P revolver series, and the 1911 and Auto-5 are known across the world as successful and historically significant weapons. But occasionally you get a flier or two; a gun that just doesn’t make it either due to poor design, bad marketing, or some other external force that prevents its success. Sometimes they’re just downright ugly.  Regardless of what prevented their success, these guns often become historical oddities or simply part of firearms history that never became mainstream. We’ll call these: weird guns in history.

This will be the first weapon in what I hope to be an ongoing series on this blog, examining unusual and/or historically significant guns that for whatever reason just didn’t become big players in history, or aren’t that well known. The first of the series is a very recent design, hailing primarily from the early 2000’s during the SOCOM SCAR rifle trials: the Colt SCAR Type C.

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The Colt SCAR Type C – Note the unusual safety selector and visible pin in the gas block/front sight assembly. The safety is on “SAFE” in this picture.  

The Colt SCAR Type C was one of three primary submissions from Colt Defense during the early 2000’s SOCOM rifle trials. The success of the H&K 416 brought the idea of a short stroke piston AR into the forefront of military ordinance planner’s minds. At the time, the US Army owned the Technical Data Package (TDP) for the M4 series of weapons, and therefore any change to the platform would have to be done with their approval. US SOCOM wanted their own rifle/carbine that they could “own” and modify at their own approval, and therefore launched the SCAR (Special operations forces Combat Assault Rifle) program early during the War on Terror. They had perceived some short comings of the standard DI M4 carbine, and apparently believed that a short stroke piston gun would remedy them.

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A series of Colt bolts coated in UCT (Universal Chem Tech) and standard phosphate finishes.

Because of governmental rules for soliciting contracts, open trials were ordered and several companies submitted their designs for what would eventually become known as the SCAR 16. Among others, Colt submitted three different designs, the Colt SCAR Type A-C (not very creatively named). Perhaps most interesting is the Type 3, which was probably the closest to what the SOCOM trial requested. It’s essentially a short stroke piston gun, with a UCT (Colt proprietary coating) coated BCG and fixed gas block. It also had a unique safety selector, which as you can see from the starboard side picture above, looks to be backward. That picture shows the weapon on “SAFE” not “AUTO”, because the safety moves like a 1911 safety: it pivots from the back, not the front like a traditional AR.

Weird, right? I have no idea what would have prompted Colt to do that, or use a fixed, non-adjustable gags block. It wouldn’t have taken a crystal ball to figure out that SOCOM would want to easily suppress these guns, and an adjustable, more user-servicable gas block would have probably been a better idea. It’s my opinion that had Colt had the LE901-16S or M.A.R.C.901 series of rifles at the time of the trials, they probably would have stood a much better change at winning the contract. Ultimately US SOCOM chose the FN SCAR, to be made in two varieties, the Light and Heavy, in 5.56 NATO and 7.62 NATO, respectively. The Colt 901 from a government standpoint may have actually made more sense in that it can use one receiver and use the magwell block to accommodate both 5.56 and 7.62 magazines, simply requiring the swap of an upper receiver group.

By all accounts the SCAR Type C was a well built rifle, that used several commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts, to include the VLTOR stock. If compared to today’s piston offerings, the Type C would be very competitive if offered at the right price. The UTC coated BCG, FDE color, and Colt roll mark would almost guarantee to sell, if only the gas block was adjusted and a normal safety selector used. But maybe that’s just me wishing I could actually buy one of these for the collection.

If you want loads more information on the Colt SCAR Type A-C and the SOCOM rifle trials in general, check out Small Arms Defense Journal or Chris Bartocci’s YouTube Channel on the subject here.

Remember: if you can’t be safe, be deadly.

Until Victory.

-Z