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Thin Is In: The FN 503 Single-Stack 9mm Is Quality Throughout

If you’re concerned that you can’t conceal a compact handgun, the new FN 503 9mm pistol might be just the gun for you.

This slim, single-stack handgun virtually disappears on your waistband, while still providing great handling qualities. And great handling qualities in an accurate pistol normally translates to greater practical hit probability.

The FN 503 Pistol Continues The Trend

My personal preferences generally lean toward slightly larger handguns. The FN 509 Midsize, for instance, is one of my favorite carry guns. And I adjust my clothing choices accordingly to accommodate it. In a good holster, such a handgun is not uncomfortable to carry.

Now that you know where I stand on the issue, I have to say that this new FN 503 9mm pistol is pretty nice gun. It represents a continuation of the industry trend toward super-slim sub-compact handguns. 

They are the types of guns those who are carrying concealed are demanding. Those are guns that are selling.

It also is a further indication of FN America’s determination to address the defensive handgun needs of free citizens.

FN has long been a major player in military small arms. With their fine 509 series of pistols and now this diminutive 503, it’s evident that they’re bringing their same commitment to quality as they do with their military arms.

The FN 503 features a well-textured grip that's not abrasive.

FN 503 9mm Pistol Easy-To-Reach Controls

The FN 503 is a well-made, polymer-frame semi-auto pistol. It fits in the palm of your hand. It comes with two magazines: one with a six-round capacity and an extended one that holds eight rounds. The extended magazine allows for a full grip on the pistol.

The slide stop release lever is on the left side as is the magazine release button. The position of the mag release button, however, can be changed for left-handed shooters and a right-side button is included if your want to make the switch.

Unlike the controls on some other small pistols I’ve tested, those on the FN 503 are sized large enough and positioned for easy access and operation. The trigger includes a passive safety lever on its face, common on many striker-fired pistols these days. The trigger is all metal, not so common on striker-fired pistols these days. That’s good.

I measured the trigger pull at about five pounds. It’s a nice trigger, with a clean break after a little take-up. There’s very little of the squishiness found on other striker-fired handguns.

The FN 503 has large, well-positioned controls for such a small pistol.

FN 503 9mm Pistol Quality Features

The pistol comes with white three-dot no-snag sights. The sights are fine. But if you opt for night sights or fiber optics, it’s not a problem. The sights are placed in the same size dovetails as FN’s 509 pistols.

Cocking serrations on the slide are at the rear only. That’s okay by me. I’ve always viewed forward serrations as more of a fashion statement than anything else. I can do without them.

A small hole at the top of the chamber serves as a visual loaded chamber indicator.

The 3.1-inch barrel has a recessed target crown. The feed ramp and chamber are polished for enhanced reliability.

The checkering on the front and back straps and the stippling on the grip flats provide for a secure grip on the gun without being abrasive. You won’t need to add any sticky skateboard tape to this gun. The gun is shipped with a soft-sided pistol case.

The FN 503 comes with a 6-round and an 8-round extended magazine as well as a mag release button for placement on the right side of the frame if desired.

This Pistol Is A Good Shooter

I don’t do lots of accuracy testing with small handguns. They’re not designed for target competitions.

But this FN 503 is a good shooter. It will put the shots where you want them if you do your part. It had no malfunctions during my testing.

I did most of my shooting off-hand with this gun. I was concerned at first because my initial impression when handling the gun was that its bore axis didn’t seem to be as low in the hand as with some other pistols. But when putting the pistol through its paces on an array of plates, I had no trouble ringing the steel consistently. Managing recoil with this small pistol was no problem. That helped to make target-to-target transitions easy. You can’t say that about some small pistols.

Despite its small size, the author found the FN 503 easy to shoot well.

Carrying The FN 503 In A Galco Scout

While working with this pistol, I carried it in a Galco Scout 3.0 holster. This is an excellent inside-the-waistband rig. It’s made of rough-out leather with a reinforced top for easier re-holstering.

It has a plastic belt clip that’s widely adjustable for cant. And it’s ambidextrous. By removing one screw, you can switch the belt clip to the opposite side. So, you can use it for strong-side or crossdraw carry whether you’re right- or left-handed.

The Galco Scout 3.0 ambidextrous IWB holster was excellent for carrying the FN 503.

Takedown Not The Easiest

I have to mention one thing I don’t like about the FN 503. Field-stripping the pistol for cleaning is a pain in the neck. It entails removing the slide stop lever.

But to do so, you have to line up a tiny notch in the slide while the slide is under spring pressure with a specific tiny spot on the frame. I had to push the front of the slide against a table top and hold it there, keeping the notch perfectly aligned. At the same time, I used a metal punch to push the slide stop lever out from the other side.

Field-stripping the FN 503 was not the easiest procedure.

Overall Favorable Impression Of This Pistol

Despite the difficult takedown procedure, I found the FN 503 9mm pistol to be a very good handgun. Those who chose this as their EDC handgun will be well-armed for potential defensive conflicts.

If you’re looking for a super-slim handgun that’s easy to shoot well, this would be a good choice.

FN America is the U.S. subsidiary of FN Herstal. The company headquarters is located in McLean, Virginia. All FN handguns, except the FiveseveN, are made in the company’s Columbia, South Carolina manufacturing plant. For more information on the FN 503 9mm pistol, go to

The FN 503 comes with good three-dot sights.

Key Features: FN 503

Type: Striker-fired semi-auto pistol

Cartridge: 9mm Luger

Magazine Capacity: 6 or 8

Barrel: 3.1 inches

Overall Length: 5.9 inches

Weight: 21 ounces

Height: 4.6 inches

Width: 1.1 inches

Construction: Matte black steel slide over polymer frame

Sights: Low-profile, fixed three-dot using same dovetail as 509 pistols

Sight Radius: 5.1 inches

Trigger Pull: 5 pounds

Other: Loaded chamber indicator

MSRP: $549

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