FN America recently released a new .22 caliber handgun, the FN 502. It is marketing itself as a fun handgun, and a good trainer. I managed to get my hands on one for a weekend, and wanted to provide the first impressions that the gun left on me. Is it everything and a can of pop, or does it fall flat?
What is the FN 502?
The FN 502 is a new pistol from FN America. It is a .22 caliber midsize handgun, marketed as a fun shooter, and a training tool. The biggest draw of the handgun (at least to me) are the factory threaded barrel, and the built-in optic plate system. The mass majority of .22 pistols that have a slide mechanism have never had the provision for mounting an optic, so this is pretty awesome to see.
Mechanically, the 502 is a single action only, hammer fired pistol. However, in regards to ergonomics, the 502 is made to emulate the size and control surfaces of the FN 509. Aside from the manual safety and hammer, this is basically a .22 caliber 509 in use.
Another "big" feature of the 502 are the magazines. Most .22 pistols tend to be stuck at 10 rounds, however the 502 ships with a 10 and 15 round magazine. The 15 round mag only protrudes slightly, but the extra 5 rounds makes this even more enjoyable to shoot.
The FN 502 has an MSRP of $499, but good luck finding one in stock at or below that. The one that I was able to spend time with cost about $560-ish after taxes and other fees. I've seen some scalpers trying to sell these on TacSwap and GunBroker for nearly $800 too. Regardless of how good this handgun is, please, please do not pay nearly that much for one.
The next sections are going to be about using the 502. This handgun is really quite nice, but it ain't all sunshine and rainbows.
FN 502: The Good
The FN 502 set goals to be a trainer gun, and to be fun. I would say that it achieves those goals fairly well. The most important thing with a .22 caliber gun (to me) is reliability. Unfortunately, .22 is a caliber that inherently has reliability issues, but the guns that shoot it can be made to be more reliable. During the weekend that I was able to shoot with the 502, we fired a little over 300 rounds, with not a single malfunction to report. While that is not many rounds, I was surprised by the reliability. We used a range of ammo, from the generally great CCI Mini Mags, to crappy Remington Golden Bullets, without any issue.
The factory threaded barrel and suppressor height sights are welcome features. We were able to shoot the 502 suppressed for a few magazines, with no issues whatsoever. Point of impact did shift, but that is to be expected. No baffle strikes occurred either, which was also a great sign.
The 502's barrel is fixed, and has recesses to lock into in the frame. This allows for great accuracy, but also reduces the amount of recoil needed for the gun to function. I'd chock this up to part of why our 502 functioned really well.
The control surfaces on the 502 are fantastic. They are completely ambidextrous, and work well. The safety has a light detent to break when flipping between safe and fire, but is positive. With the 502 being a single action only hammer gun, the trigger pull is also fantastic. FN advertises a 5lb break, and I'd say that this example was right there.
Despite the seemingly glowing praise, there were some complaints I had with the gun.
FN 502: The Bad
Well, I broke the 15 round magazine immediately. It didn't "break" break, but rather disassembled itself rapidly.
The baseplate design of the 502's magazines is nothing new. It is basically the same as every other centerfire handgun mag. However, the lighter magazine springs, and the way that the +5 round extension attach means that it is very easy to take the extension off. When doing some dryfire after we purchased the gun, I found out that if you insert the magazine hard enough into the gun, the extension will fly off. 10 Minutes of searching later, and we found the magazine spring and follower. Needless to say, I think that the extension could use some improvements. As a quick fix, two laps of electrical tape around the extension seemed to have remediated the issue.
I'm no pistol magazine designer, but something like the two part extension that XTech does for their VP9 mags might not be a bad idea. Just needs to be a little more secure.
This was the only bad thing I really had to say about the 502. However, there is another category of note...
FN 502: The Ugly
Well, there are some ugly parts of the 502. These are what I would call "concessions to make the gun work".
There are a lot of plastic and cheap alloy components on the 502's slide. I can only imagine that they were done in this manner to reduce weight, to allow the gun to maintain reliability when adding an optic. I was unable to shoot the 502 with an optic due to the timeframe of being able to use it, but the slide feels extremely light. FN states that the slide has "anodized aluminum and steel" as the slide material, but then has a "this handgun cannot be sold anywhere where zinc alloy guns are banned". The slide does not feel cheap, but the materials need to make it reliable are rather cheap.
The iron sights and optic plates are made from plastic. I do not have any inherent issue with that, however the plastic that they used is rather soft. In the above photo, the rear sight got pretty torn up when the owner of the gun tried to loosen the set screw, and drift the rear sight. This is a minor issue, but still, I'd like to see plastic sights that are at least on par with the Glock ones.
The last "ugly" thing is the manufacturer; this gun isn't actually made by FN America. Umarex is the actual manufacturer, and they have a reputation for very hit-or-miss quality. I liked the 502 well enough, but the QC that comes out of Umarex Germany can sometimes worry me.
FN 502: Final First Impressions
I really enjoyed my short time with the FN 502. The gun has a lot of features that I like, and only has some elements that I find lacking. This isn't a review, so I won't be recommending or not recommending anything, but I am personally looking forward to picking up a 502 for myself once the demand dies down a little.
Thanks to Jeremy for allowing me to borrow his 502 for the purposes of this article.