The FN 509M: Or How I Stopped Being Scared of Bears and Learned to Love the Compact 9mm

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Fiv3r, Oct 4, 2019.

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  1. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    OK, so the thread title is a bit of a misnomer;) Bears ARE scary. I don't want to run into one. I don't want to face a ticked off Griz with a 9mm. I'm not advocating that, so let's get that out of the way.

    What I have settled on is that, for me, most any place I am going to go hiking a 9mm will be enough. Well, I guess it will be until it's not. However, you have my full permission to give the big pile animal scat that was formally me a giant I-told-you-so. Anyway, back to how i settled on this particular gun for the hiking role and a bit about the gun itself. The FN 509M is the new version of the FN 509 that was released to the public back in 2017 after FN lost the military trials that the 320 ended up snagging. Fine gun. FN quality, stainless throughout, protected crown, steel sights, grippy with a couple of back strap options. However, I just don't dig a gun with a 4" barrel and full size grip. So I passed on the 509. Well the M model dropped this spring. "M" stands for Midsize, btw;) What you are left with is a full on Glock 19 sized gun. 4" barrel, 15 round grip, and a very packable 25-26oz. As a big fan of FN, I knew I needed to add it to my collection. It basically kicked my beloved and very trusted P320 out of rotation.

    A few months back I asked about what hangdun I should take on a hiking trip up in the forests of Michigan. I wasn't expecting much in the way of large animals, but I wondered about the handiness of a 5 shot .45 acp revolver or the firepower of a compact 9mm. Most of you fine folks suggested the 9mm, and I took it with me. Unfortunately it rained the entire time I was there, so the 509m stayed in my pack and a S&W BG380 rode around in my pocket since we didn't go hiking.

    Flashforward to October. The family and I are getting ready to take a hiking trip to the Great Smokey Mountains, and I needed to settle on a pistol to take with me. The hiking is going to be nothing more than established foot trails and will last no more than 3 or 4 hours round trip. Still, I wanted something that would be potent yet easy to pack. I'm not really worried about bears. The black bears there are pretty easy to spook, pretty small, and shouldn't require calling in ordinance to take out. I'm more worried about people we meet than the critters. The 509M seemed more than up for the task. However, I never was able to squeeze as much accuracy out of it as I would have liked. I had second thoughts. I had purchased a bare bones 1911. Did 8+1 of .45 out of a heavier gun make more sense than 15+1 of 9mm? Is the 1911 a more natural shooter or more accurate in my hands? I had never shot them side by side, so a trip to the range was in order.

    On my way to the range I decided to pick up a couple of boxes of ammo from Academy. My 1911 in question is SA "Defender" series. Your basic Milspec 1911 with white dots. It runs jhp fine, but I was thinking that for critter control I would stick with hardball. I also had the idea that I would stoke the 509m with 124gr ball. A bit heavier with a bit more punch maybe? So I bought some Blazer .45 and some Federal 9mm.

    When I got to the range, I decided to run a couple of magazines through each gun to warm up from a standing two handed firing stance. I loaded the 509m with a pre-loaded magazine I had brought from home containing White Box 115gr FMJ. The target I was using had a top and bottom bullseye. I took my aim and emptied my gun at the target at 10 yards. As feared, great group that shot about 2" low. OK, I guess.
    I loaded up the 1911 with 230gr ball and shot at the other bullseye. Certainly not the most accurate 1911 I have ever owned but serviceable. A bit better grouping maybe. Still, heavy gun for that kind of accuracy. Good enough for war-accuracy but I was a bit let down. Still, a group is a group.

    I then colored out two small blue dots about an inch across to shoot each gun at to see what kind of accuracy I could expect now that I was a bit more warmed up. I had a 1911 mag ready to go, so it went first. Once again, not great but certainly "dead" enough, I guess. It was combat accurate again.

    Next I loaded up the 509 with the 124gr fmj. I aimed at the blue dot, lined up my sights and squeezed off my shot. I didn't see a hole under the dot 2" like I expected. I didn't see a hole at all. What he heck!? How did I miss a 2' piece of paper at 10 yards? I looked a little closer and noticed my blue dot was basically gone:eek:. A fluke for sure. I fired two more times and was rewarded with a cloverleaf. A steady fire 15 round magazine neatly shot out a baby's fist sized grouping. The heavens opened up, and I had figured what my problem was. The 509M likes a chunkier bullet, it seemed. However, as Reagan said, trust but verify. I ran a magazine of 115 through the gun...low 2". I could certainly hold the gun high and get the same grouping, but the accuracy I was getting just lining up the sights with the 124gr just made more sense.

    In short, it seems that I have settled on the FN for my hiking sidearm next week. The combination of weight, dependability, rugged build, and accuracy simply won out over the 1911 I just don't shoot as well. The heavy weight of that gun, lower round count in a mag, and the fact that I did have one random stoppage (I'm sure due to the mag being a cheapie...but still) just didn't make me feel warm and fuzzy. So, good job FN USA. You've retained fan...I'm just happy I figured out your guns like heavy bullets:thumbup:

    OK, so a few random range thoughts:

    The NAA Black Widow is a pocket monster. I love this little demon. I put some smaller grips on it so that it would be more pocket friendly, and it just disappears in a little soft holster I made for it. I spent time shooting it left handed with both the .22 mag and .22 lr cylinders. The .22 lr felt like a cap gun out of the more substantial (for an NAA) gun. .22 mag didn't really have much more recoil and just had a good deal more bark, as expected. This is my second NAA revolver and won't be my last. At the ranges I expect to shoot this gun, sub 7 yards, I was keeping SD groupings on the target. With a bit of luck and holding my mouth just right, the decent sights on the gun allowed me to hit slow aimed shots well enough that you could most likely use this gun to bag small game if you could get close enough to it. I bought it to keep in my vest pocket on the trail. The 509 rides back on my hip under my vest. I like the idea that as we come across other folks my hand can rest on the BW in my left vest pocket without looking threatening.

    FN 509M.jpg
    The little Black Widow next to the 509M. Trail buddies.

    For those who carry .38 special Charter Arms revolvers, check out the Ruger ARX ammo. Mine LOVES it. I brought my Undercover DAO with me to range on a whim. I brought a box of semi jacketed hollowpoints to run through a couple cylinders. I knew the gun was loaded when I brought it to shoot, but I didn't remember what I had in it. So I just decided to try hitting a quarter-size marker dot on the paper at 7-ish yard. 5 shots, low recoil, and we under an inch in spread:eek: The lightweight Ruger stuff is no joke. I'm NOT a good shot. Not at all. Something about THAT gun with THAT ammo, and it turns into a laser beam. I tried some of the heavy 158gr stuff with expected minute of barn accuracy. Only ARX for my Charter from here on out. I was impressed enough that the Undercover is coming stashed away in my bag while on our trip. That light of a gun with that much accuracy and a good bit of power simply deserves to be brought...just in case.
     
  2. SharpDog

    SharpDog Member

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    I too have moved down to a 9mm for my trail carry. I previously carried 629's for decades.

    1. I'm in the east so we have blackies and the very rare cougar. The problems will mostly come from dogs and people.

    2. 'It ain't the meat it's the motion' ... A lighter gun you use for EDC and can get out in a hurry is much more effective than a heavier slower one that you only shoot occasionally

    btw my pocket rocket is also a 9mm (my EDC):

    20190731_222538.jpg
     
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  3. IdaD

    IdaD Member

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    A properly loaded 9mm with a decent barrel length is fine for almost anything you'll run into in the woods in the lower 48. It isn't what I'd take if I expected to run into a grizzly bear but if I thought that was a realistic possibility I'd be bringing a rifle along with me, not a handgun. Honestly animal attacks are really a pretty rare occurrence, especially bear attacks. In the northwest the only thing that would worry me much is a cougar and even that's really unlikely, even though there are quite a few of them running around.
     
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  4. Jeb Stuart

    Jeb Stuart member

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    I have run into may black bears over the years. I have alway's carried a small 9mm. And never for the Bears or any wildlife. Only for two legged humans I might run across.
     
  5. js8588

    js8588 Member

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    Fyi
     
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  6. Trey Veston

    Trey Veston Member

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    I'm going to Elk camp next week in North Central Idaho where there are a ton of wolves, cougars, and bears.

    Nobody I know packs a 9mm for a hunting sidearm up here.

    I carry a Glock 10mm with hard cast bullets and 180gr XTPs. Or my Ruger SBH in .45 Colt.

    Not saying that 99% of the time you wouldn't be fine with a 9mm, but it's certainly not the norm up here near grizzly country. Especially since there's been an increase in bear attacks the past few years.
     
  7. JeeperCreeper

    JeeperCreeper Member

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    With the right loads, 9mm can be spicy.

    Just reminding everyone of the dude in Alaska who killed the charging Brown Bear with BuffBore Outdoorsman 9mm hardcasts.

    Cuz if I didn't say it, someone would
     
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  8. barnetmill

    barnetmill Member

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    The attacks by grizzly in the NW that I read about were related to hunters butchering elk and the bears were attracted to the kills and butchering sites.
    The alaskan brown bear contacts are frequent about salmon runs where people and bears are fishing. Staying away from such areas and using common sense in the others will help to deal with bears. One must always be careful of the mama bear with clubs. In the south east the 9 or 40 glock is what I carry for 2 and 4-legged critters. If I expected trouble I would want a shotgun. Either slugs or maybe triple ought buckshot. Charging bears are fast.
    Here is clip from india of a sloth bear being killed by police with FAL rifles after it had killed three people.
     
  9. Trey Veston

    Trey Veston Member

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    Long guns are clearly superior ballistically speaking, but are often impractical and, in my case next week, illegal.

    I'm a Washington resident and will be going to Elk camp with my dad and brother in Idaho. I don't have an Idaho hunting license and elk tag. I'm not spending $600.

    So I won't be shooting any elk. I'm just there to help spot and stalk elk. And dress and pack it out. And drink whiskey around the fire.

    If I was to bring my AR in .450 Bushmaster, then I could be cited for hunting without a license.

    The wolf pressure where we are going is so high that the elk no longer bugle due to not wanting to attract wolves. Several bow hunters have reported wolves coming in to their elk calls.
     
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  10. JR24

    JR24 Member

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    I'm perfectly comfortable with 9mm in Black bear country. Odds are much better I'd need to fend off a 2 legged threat anyway. For hiking light is King and that FN seems like a very nice gun, from what I've seen in gunshop fondling (I like a Glock 19, but whatever works)

    When I lived in Western AK I liked a .44 mag with hit hardcasts as my few encounters (peaceful, thankfully) with "furry smart cars" as my wife called 900+ lb coastal browns we met left me wanting a lot of power in my pistol, and a shotgun with 3 1/2 Magnums near as well.

    In the woods in North Central WI I tend to just stick with the 9mm on my hip over something bigger unless I've got dogs in the field, then I'll pack a 10mm, just in case they get into it with something I'd like to get down NOW (to save on vet bills)
     
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  11. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    I checked out my 509m as the news of breaking firing pins made me a bit sick.

    I pulled the striker and everything looks OK. No wear that I can tell and I didnt see any spent casings with an offset primer strike. I didnt have any real way of checking it, but I took a couple of once fired rounds and dis some dry firing on them. None of the primers seemed to be hit at a weird angle.

    I might get an Apex for it, but honestly I think im OK. I have about 400 rounds through the gun and did a bunch of dry firing (maybe 100 times) today to see if I could get the striker to fail.

    I think I'm going to hit the range and put a couple hundred rounds through the 509 Monday and take a good look at the primer strikes. I think I may go ahead and dust off the 320 while I'm at it. If the FN doesnt give me warm and fuzzies, my 320 has never had an issue after the "upgrade".

    Thanks for the input.
     
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  12. js8588

    js8588 Member

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    The FN509 Midsize was (high) on my list, then off it when I read (a lot of) reports of firing pin issues (check the FN Forum). These issues were also present in the FNS series

    Now with the Apex fix, the gun is back on the list.
     
  13. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    FN remains a frustrating company. I cant seem to quit them, but they have a habit of releasing really well built guns with some sort of lottery failure that breaks the firearm. Then they release a new pistol with little crossover to other models. The 509 is a beefed up fns. I get that there are different components and its not going to be a Lego pistol that marries up to the fns, but why go with yet another $50 style of magazine (besides the obvious profit). They already changed out the magazines enough that the fnx line didnt work with the fns line. On top of that, they don't return emails sent to their CS department. Why have a CS account and not reply to it....three times.

    I dunno. The more i think about it, the more irritated I get. I do think thr 509 series is a very well built gun. It may go to the chopping block.
     
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  14. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    As a trail gun the 9mm has a lot going for it. Even in bear country 2 legged predators are the most likely threat and just like in an urban area having a gun is more important than the cartridge it is chambered in. If carrying a smaller gun means you are more likely to actually carry it than a more powerful gun, then carry the smaller gun. And with the right ammo 9mm can be more effective than a lot of guys think. Scroll all the way down to read the details of how this 9mm ammo was used to stop an attacking Alaskan Bear.

    https://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=388

    And even with regular handgun ammo seems to work better than a lot of internet experts claim. In this study they profile 37 incidents where handguns were used in bear attacks and they only found 1 incident where the attack wasn't stopped. That was a 357 mag where they suspect all shots missed. In every other case they person using a handgun stopped the bear. If you read the study 44 mag was the most commonly used handgun, but 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP combined were the most used, and were 100% successful.

    https://www.ammoland.com/2018/02/defense-against-bears-with-pistols-97-success-rate-37-incidents-by-caliber/#axzz61ZjbaQKx

    There is a followup article by the same people where they found another 30-40 incidents and compiled the results. The stopping percentages are about the same. I didn't take the time to search for the 2nd article, but this sort of data will challenge the old thoughts that you had to have at least a 44 mag to stop a bear.

    I used to carry a G29 in the woods, but after seeing these articles, and buying some of the better heavy hardcast bullets now carry one of my more compact 9mm pistols loaded heavy. I haven't sold the G29. If I'm staying in grizzly country then I'd probably sleep better with it than 9mm.
     
  15. Jeb Stuart

    Jeb Stuart member

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    I do not have any Grizz in my neck of the woods, have ran into many black bears and as I mentioned earlier, I carry a 9mm for bad humans I may meet, which are more dangerous than any bear. I like to travel light, Kahr CM9, sometimes LCR9mm, sometimes Smith Ultra light 38, Beretta Pico.. Light weight shotgun 20" OV or single shot 18" when deer hunting. Machete and compass a must.
     
  16. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    Jeb Stuart

    Like you I would probably go with a micro 9mm., like my CM9, if I wanted to travel extremely light. If a bit more firepower was desired then I would go with my Ruger SR9c or CZ P07.

    8vX25iP.jpg

    6qvaE77.jpg

    gohYGKh.jpg
     
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  17. Jeb Stuart

    Jeb Stuart member

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    Man, I love your guns, love your pics.
    Which reminds me. When I deer hunt, I like to do a lot of walking, go into the woods right before sunup come out a little after the sun goes down. A lot of rugged swampy, harsh terrain. I like to travel light as possible. My shotgun I use now is only4 1/2 lbs and groups just fine and up to 30 yds. The OU on days I do not travel as much. I aways carry a Camo net and Poncho for times of rest and good spots near trails. This year I am investing in a nice camera. To be honest I do not care about even taking a down a deer. Have let more go by in the last few years and seems to be a new thing for me now. I think the only reason I even carry the shotgun anymore is because if I come across a Game Warden he might think I have been hunting with the the little gun. (Actually I know him, but who knows when he will get a replacement),
    PS As you know, I have the SR9C and so fond of that gun. It will be the gun of choice with the 17rd magazine when the Zombies come. And they will Come!

    PS I always pack a few fine Cigars. Nothing more peaceful in the world, than just sitting back, away from people, Surrounded by Mother Nature. A place where you can actually hear a light wind.

    When I was a Kid, I use to hear the Old Timers say that the deer were actually attracted to the smell of the Cigar.Now as a Old Timer, I understand their wisdom.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2019
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  18. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    I'm actually thinking about picking up a micro 9mm this morning. I started laying out my gear, and a full size gun takes up space and weight.

    I like my EC9S, but it has preven to be a rust magnet. Fine for keeping oiled and hidden way back under the truck seat for an emergency, but I'm thinking I might pick up a Shield or PPS. I did like my Nano too, but i may wait to grab the newer version.

    I can get a 9mm PPS for $299 or a Gen 1 9mm Shiled at Rural King or trade in a gun and walk out the lgs with a .45 Shield most likely free and clear.

    Kinda leaning toward a PPS.

    I dunno. I'm going to strap on the p320 today in my hiking holster and see how I feel. Im a big baby when it comes to carry weight. It actually probably weighs about the same as the 509. I keep a small size compact grip module mated to a full size slide. 15 rounds in the magazine with an extra inch of barrel.
     
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  19. Trey Veston

    Trey Veston Member

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    All I know is that when I'm sleeping in a tent in the Idaho wilderness and get woke by a pack of wolves nearby, or a bear sniffing around the camp, I have never thought that 7 rounds of 9mm was as comforting as 15 rounds of 10mm, lol.
     
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  20. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    Oh no doubt that if we were camping in a tent in the mountains I would be packing something larger. Hell, I think I would just forgo the pistol and bring a 20" barrel shotgun. I'm just thinking for a couple of miles on a maintained trail a lighter pistol will do.
     
  21. Shipwreck

    Shipwreck Member

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    Sho nuff!!!!
     
  22. Trey Veston

    Trey Veston Member

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    Totally agree. When I'm floating and fishing, I just throw in a Taurus 9mm in one of the float tube pockets.
     
  23. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    My trail guns vary widely.
    I enjoy holstering up the perfect pistol for the occasion, whatever it may be.
    I completely agree with a compact 9mm as a trail gun. When actually hiking, weight is a big deal. The older I get, the more important it becomes.
    My favorite 9mm would likely be my choice for camping, hiking, fishing trips, even in black bear country. I like its light weight, capacity, shootability, and accessories rail. Another factor is I like to carry iwb, a compact 9 is ideal.
     
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  24. barnetmill

    barnetmill Member

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    I live in an area zoned as residential in NW FL. We have wild life corridors and lot of the acerage is still under single ownership such as myself that live on 8 acres.
    The issue is related to the dogs that you mentioned. I have fenced my place securely enough to keep my white english farm dogs (similar to american bulldogs) inside. The local bears have stayed away so far. I have fruit trees and it is possible some night my dogs will get in a fight with black bears or feral hogs.
    I have not trained to handle such. Recently in new york the NYPD managed to shoot one of their own that was going hand to hand with a bad guy as the two struggled over a gun. fortunately my dogs and the local critters do not carry guns so the only gun fire will be mine. A real problem is to kill the bear or hog and not hit the dogs. At this point I am interested in techniques. Probably needs it own thread and people that run dog packs after bears and mt lion would likely know the most.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2019
  25. Fiv3r

    Fiv3r Member

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    Well the LGS had a deal I couldnt pass up. They had a Shield .45 marked down to $299. Brand new, they were just way overstocked. Traded off another gun I had no use for, and it would cost me about 91 bucks otd.

    This store likes to sell you the gun at full price if you are paying with a card, then pay you your trade in in cash. It keeps the books straight. Well the guy goofed and rang it up at $330 before paying me my trade amount. So he says, "I'll just overpay you the $30 amount on your trade in. So I dont have to ring it up again." I asked about the higher tax I just paid. He looked at the numbers again and frowned, and says "Aw hell, I'm just going to tack on another $13. I dont feel like doing the math and I want you taken care of since this was my mess up and you caught it." So that brought the difference down to only 80 bucks.

    So out the door I got a brand new in box .45 Shield for $80 out of pocket. Not a compact 9, but I'm going to run a couple boxes through it tomorrow. If the accuracy is good and their arent any hiccups, i think i may carry this gun on the trail. I was good with a 9mm Shield, but a .45 that cost less money? Kinda gotta go with that.
     
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