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With the recent release of the FN 510 Tactical, Fabrique Nationale has placed another brick in the wall of the contemporary 10mm pistol market. I first heard, or read, about the 10mm Auto as a kid—in the Tom Clancy book Rainbow Six. It was used by the fictional elite anti-terrorist unit because of its wide margin of power over the 9mm. The 10mm was nearly relegated to the pages of fiction itself after falling out of favor with the FBI but has leapt out of obscurity in recent years. It’s proven to be not just a high-powered option for two-legged attackers, but a balanced and effective cartridge for bear defense.
Based on the FN 509 chambered in 9mm, the FN 510 Tactical is an up-sized version that both new and seasoned FN shooters can appreciate. It’s a full-size, polymer-frame 10mm that comes standard with some versatility-adding attributes that most similar 10mm pistols don’t have. It doesn’t only give FN fans a pistol that they already know well; the FN 510 is a generally relevant and viable gun in an increasingly competitive field.
FN 510 Tactical Specs
- Caliber: 10mm Auto
- Magazine Capacity: 15+1, 22+1
- Magazine Material: Nickel-coated steel, polymer baseplate
- Dimensions: 6 inches (H) x 8.3 inches (L) x 1.45 inches (W)
- Weight: 32 ounces (measured)
- Frame: FDE Polymer, 4-slot accessory rail
- Slide: Steel, flat dark earth finish
- Barrel: 4.71-inch, hammer-forged, threaded muzzle (.578 in. x 28)
- Sights: Tritium three-dot, steel, suppressor height
- Optic: Slide cut and optics adapters for multiple red dot optics
- Trigger: double-action, 5 pounds, 13 ounces (measured)
- Safety: No external safety
- MSRP Price: $1,139
The Advantage of Familiar Pistols
The resurgence in popularity of the 10mm, specifically as a backcountry defense cartridge, is due in large part to its shootability. It’s a cartridge that is generally much easier to become proficient with than some of the old barrel-chested wheel-gun rounds. It also has an ever-increasing track record as an effective bear defense option. We ran some drills at our 2022 gun test to get a feel for the shootability of the 10mm vs a packable .44 Mag. Results were clear. A person is more likely to carry, practice, and hit what they’re aiming at with a 10mm.
Until a few years ago, options for 10mm pistols were effectively limited to one: the Glock G20. There were, of course, the Glock G29 and G40, but Glock had the market cornered. The 10mm does very well in double-stack pistols, and gun makers have caught on. Many manufacturers have released their own 10mm pistols, and we’ve covered guns from Glock, Springfield Armory, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Lone Wolf Arms, and more. New models have brought competition, innovation, and variety to the 10mm space—something every shooter should be happy about.
Different makes and models of pistols feel and shoot differently, and most shooters develop preferences about what specific styles and guns we like and shoot well. When the G20 or a 1911 were the only feasible 10mm options, that’s what everyone had to use. Now, someone who shoots or carries a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm can get a 10mm in the same platform they’re already comfortable with. With their 9mm pistols carrying a strong following already, the 10mm FN 510 Tactical is an excellent addition that many shooters will be able to shoot well right out of the box.
Breakdown of the FN 510 Tactical
The FN 510 Tactical is a somewhat bulky, full-sized pistol. It’s a polymer-framed, striker-fired gun that is like many other striker-fired pistols in several ways. It comes in black or flat dark earth (fde) color schemes and has front and rear cocking serrations on the slide. The frame has a four-slot accessory rail for mounting a light—something of critical importance for a bear defense gun—and the grip features a mix of checkered and stipple texturing that provides some solid traction.
Sights and Optics
The FN 510 Tactical comes standard with suppressor-height three-dot tritium night sights installed. The rear sight is blacked out except for the small tritium capsules that glow in the dark, and the front sight’s capsule is surrounded by a small white dot. The sights offer a good balance of visibility and precision. The rear sight is protected by wings that extend from the optics cut cover plate—like what you’d see on older service rifles like the M1 Garand.
Another standard feature of this 10mm pistol is its optics cut. The FN 510 comes with several optic adapters for popular pistol red dots. Mounting red dot sights like the Leupold Delta Point Pro is simple and easy. The base of the Delta Point is too thick to co-witness the iron sights, but some other sights with thinner bases will allow the sights to be seen through the window.
Innards of the FN 510
The FN 510 field strips easily, via a rotating takedown lever that’s above the trigger guard. With the slide locked to the rear, rotate the lever about 100 degrees clockwise, then slowly let the slide down. You’ll need to pull the trigger, like with a Glock, to allow the slide to move freely off the front of the frame.
This 10mm has relatively thin slide rails, and the front slide rails are part of a steel insert into which the takedown lever is installed. This style of takedown lever is conducive to being swapped with a GoGun Gas Pedal. They make one for the FN 509, but I’m waiting on my order to see if the levers are the same in both models. If, or when, they make a compatible Gas Pedal, it will be an excellent addition; it’s something that makes a huge difference in countering the 10mm’s recoil.
The FN 510 Tactical uses a dual-spring telescoping guide rod and a 4.71-inch threaded barrel. It can be used with a suppressor, but many shooters will choose to use a compensator to reduce the spicy muzzle flip. Because of the 10mm’s recoil, it’s important to note that the frame of the 510 has a steel insert where the slide contacts the frame at the back end of the recoil cycle. I’ve seen 10mm pistols with polymer as the contact surface fail because of the constant pounding against the front of the slide.
Like virtually every other current 10mm pistol, the barrel features what most would call a fully supported chamber. Early generation Glock 10mm pistols got a bad rap for barrels that inadequately encapsulated the case head at the top of the feed ramp. High-pressure 10mm loads would often bulge brass out in the area that wasn’t covered. On the street, you’ll hear this described as the “Glock smile” because the bulge is half-moon shape. Although the FN 510’s chamber doesn’t completely cover the case body, it’s on-par with other production and aftermarket 10mm barrels from companies like Lone Wolf Arms. You will likely see some slight case bulge with some high-pressure ammunition, but you can safely shoot any reputable 10mm ammo in this gun.
Controls and Capacity of the FN 510
Left-handed shooters usually get the shaft with both rifles and pistols, but the FN 510 Tactical is an exception. This 10mm pistol comes standard with functional ambidextrous controls right out of the box; nothing to switch or modify. Both sides of the gun have slide stop releases that are textured-and-rolled steel tabs. They look and function very much like those on the Smith & Wesson M&P 10mm. The levers are easy to reach without breaking grip and don’t require much pressure to release or lock the slide.
The FN 510’s magazine catch buttons are also fully ambidextrous and can be engaged from either side of the grip. The buttons are oblong and knurled for easy use, but the bottom sides are beveled to protect them from accidentally being pushed while shooting.
The 510 comes with two steel-bodied, nickel-plated magazines that function well. One magazine has the standard 15-round capacity and the other holds a whopping 22 rounds. Some will certainly scoff, saying that you’ll never be able to get off that many shots in a defensive situation with wildlife—and you probably won’t. However, I can attest that when things go sideways in the woods, ammo can go fast. I think 15 rounds will usually suffice, but I don’t belittle someone who wants 22. The only other thing I noted about the magazines is that they have good, stiff springs and are very difficult to load when new, especially the 22-rounder. Get yourself a good mag loader.
Shooting the FN 510 Tactical
I put over 600 rounds of various 10mm ammo through the FN 510, including FBI Lite-level ball ammunition, full-power ball, and 180- and 200-grain defensive hollow point and solid ammo. I also fired hand-loaded max-load-level 200-grain lead bullets and 115- and 150-grain Lehigh Defense copper solids. Everything functioned perfectly. The non-jacketed lead bullets did leave lead fouling in the bore, as one would expect with any 10mm pistol, but it’s easily removed with some solvent and a tight-fitting brush wrapped with some strands of copper Chore Boy scrub pad.
Initially, I found the FN 510 to be snappy for its size, but with some adjustment to my grip, the pistol really grew on me. With its grip angle, the 510 feels somewhere between a Glock G20 and the Sig P320 XTen. It’s not as sharply angled as the Glock, but steeper than the Sig. The recoil cycle feels comparable to that of the G20. You’d better hang on to this pistol, but most shooters could realistically learn to manage and shoot the FN 510 well.
How Accurate is the FN 510 Tactical?
When broaching the subject of handgun accuracy, particularly with defensive handguns, we must be specific about what we’re discussing. Generally, handgun accuracy has two major components: the on-paper accuracy potential of the pistol and the practical accuracy or shootability of that pistol. How easy is it to shoot the gun accurately enough for potential self-defense applications?
For an on-paper accuracy aggregate, I fired five five-shot groups each with two types of ammunition: full-power 200-grain Federal HST hollow points, and Winchester USA Ready 180-grain FMJ. I fired from a bag-supported position at 50 feet using a red dot. Average group size was 1.62 inches.
For a practical evaluation, I ran the 510 through lots of drills at both 21 and 50 feet. I can’t shoot it as quickly as a 9mm pistol but keeping my shots inside the A-zone of a USPSA/IPSC silhouette and holding a fast pace wasn’t hard. The more I shot this 10mm, the faster I got.
The double-action trigger wasn’t excessively heavy, but the long trigger pull made precise shooting a challenge. It’s not as difficult to manage as say a revolver fired in double-action mode, but it’s not as precise as single-action triggers. The reach to trigger is longer than on pistols like the Sig XTen and Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 10mm, and many of my stray shots were due in-part to that trigger—at least that’s my excuse.
The suppressor-height iron sights are easy to shoot accurately, but during rapid strings of fire, they can be more difficult to re-align and keep track of than sights that are closer to the bore axis. Whether using iron sights or a red dot, I think that a compensator would subjugate muzzle flip nicely—if you don’t mind the noise.
Each different model of 10mm pistol has its quirks, and once I got used to those of the FN 510, it grew on me and I can shoot it well.
Where the FN 510 Tactical is a Winner
The FN 510 Tactical has great compatibility with various lights, optics, and compensators, and is ambidextrous right out of the box. It’s a good-shooting gun, and some users will really like the option to use with either the 15- or 22-round magazine.
Where the FN 510 Tactical Could Be Better
I’m not a fan of the double-action trigger, but that’s a staple of FN 500-series pistols.
Final Thoughts on the FN 510 Tactical
The FN 510 Tactical is a solid option for anyone in the market for a 10mm pistol. It’s big, but it’s manageable. For anyone who already shoots and loves FN pistols like the 509, the 510 will be a top choice. For everyone else, it’s a rugged, high-quality, dependable gun. If it fits you well, you can’t go wrong with it.