The M&P, second impressions

Finally got to the range to break in the M&P.

Here’s my first impressions. And here goes my second impressions, tho first with live fire.

Headed early to the Austin Rifle Club. Was joined by fellow KR Training Assistant Instructor Tom Hogel and longtime friend foo.c (here’s his entry about the range time).

What I shot was an M&P 9 (the “standard” model), Apex DCAEK and RAM trigger parts, Comp-Tac MTAC holster, Comp-Tac mag pouch, and the rear dots on the factory Novak sights are blacked out. I ran various ammo through it: Winchester White Box, some Federal “maroon box”, American Eagle 124 grain, my reloads, and some Speer Gold Dot 124 grain +P. This will be relevant later on.

Shot numerous ways. Started off just blazing away to see how she felt. Did some benchrest shooting at 25 yards. Did some offhand slow group shooting at various distances. Shot the FAST test. Ran some drills out of the DR Performance Practice Deck for iOS. Some one-handed shooting. Just did a lot of things to see how things went. And so… how did it go?

Generally speaking, I’m liking the gun. The ergonomics are just so much better — at least for me. But I was stinking up the joint today; I chalk that up to my brain shooting the XD and my hands shooting the M&P. I just need to get used to the gun, because it’s different enough.

For instance, the feel of where the trigger breaks is earlier on my M&P vs. my XD and so it messed with my timing and handling of things. The distance the trigger travels while shooting, while resetting, there’s both take-up and overtravel on the M&P… and the M&P trigger, tho better than factory, is still that “mush” spongy feeling, whereas my XD’s is rock solid and tight as a drum. Consequently, I was yanking the trigger all over the place. I started to wonder if I’m actually mashing the trigger always, if that’s just how I shoot my XD, but due to the differences in the gun it just became evident on the M&P whereas with the XD it’s such a brick it absorbed all my mashing (or I learned how to compensate for it with grip and other things). I have to use a lighter touch with the M&P. I will also have to relearn my grip because the recoil feels different and recovers different.

I also need to work on the present/press-out with the M&P. I don’t know for sure what it was, but I just went slow. Could be I was trying to do too much mental compensation for POI vs. POA I don’t know, was thinking too much instead of “just shut up and shoot”. Could be my eyes weren’t used to picking up a white dot vs. a red dot. Can’t say. Just need more work on it. Very evident during the FAST test.

Bottom line: I need a lot more trigger time with the gun to learn it.

But here’s the bigger deal… the gun performance itself.

Shot probably 400 rounds through it, various ammo (as noted above). No hiccups nor problems. That’s good. What wasn’t good was the accuracy. Using any 115 grain ammo (my reloads, WWB, Federal), the grouping was horrible — 6-8″ out at 25 yards. Unacceptable. But, shooting Gold Dot at 25 yards? 3-4″ group. Acceptable. Shooting the AE 124 grain? Also grouped just fine. Apparently the M&P 9’s were designed for 124 grain ammo (makes some sense, given most self-defense ammo is 124 grain), and will most of the great unwashed ever realize their 115 plinking isn’t that hot because many will never shoot beyond 7 or 10 yards?  So, the KKM barrel is going to be used. Will have to do a lot more testing with that to see how it fares. But the factory barrel just won’t cut it in my book. I took the various ammos on the advice of Dave Re, and IIRC he too found heavier bullets to work better (Dave, correct me if I am wrong).

The factory Novak sights? Gee if they aren’t horrible. I wouldn’t mind the front post being just a hair thinner, but really they aren’t bad. Tom had Dawson’s and one of foo.c’s had the M&P Pro’s sights, and being able to compare all 3 side-by-side I really don’t think the factory Novak’s are all that bad, just a wee fat on the front sight post. But…. I was consistently shooting left. I figured it was me, given the slapping plus how with the XD I always had that slight shoot-left problem due to how my index/trigger finger rubbed the frame. Well, part of the reason I wanted the M&P is because it alleviates the frame rub problem, but I still chalked up the slight left shooting to me. After a little more slow group shooting and some specific adjustments of my own shooting to look deeper into it, well… I ended up thinking maybe it was the sights, looked down at the slide, and I saw the rear sight was off-center (slightly left). And so, there we go. Factory sights were not set right. Had no allen wrench of size at the range, so I’ll see about doing a slight adjustment myself later on.

You know how the M&P is famous for auto-forwarding the slide? I hate it. First, it doesn’t happen all the time, most of the time, but not all. It messed with my head a lot because I’d see the slide go down and want to just keep going (GREAT! IT’S DOWN. SHOOT!) but I would want to rack the slide again, but I had already set up the gun for the drill with exactly the number of rounds and if I racked it would throw off the drill, and so I’d lose too much time thinking about all of this. Ugh. And then, a few times it didn’t work right. One time the slide dropped and it failed to load the chamber so the gun just went “click”. Another time it failed to fully strip the round and made quite a nice malfunction. I don’t need that shit in a gun that I wish to entrust my life to. I can see it being nice in a gaming situation, but for a carry gun? Well, it either needs to happen 100% of the time or not happen 100% of the time. To happen 92% of the time, 3% of the time it happens but something goes wrong, and 5% it doesn’t happen at all, that’s unacceptable. I found this as a possible mod to fix it, but I’ve only just started to look into things.

Also played around with Tom’s Raven Phantom holster with the Magpul cut. I cannot deny that it’s a great holster and you will draw much faster from it. But I just can’t wear it because of how it sits on my body. It just will NOT allow concealment, but it does on Tom’s. Differences in our body shapes and clothing. However, we fiddled around a bit and reset his holster from having no cant to a slight forward cant. Not sure the angle, but we just moved the rear loop to the “lower” holes. The cant was slight, but it was just enough that it worked better with my body. Plus there’s no question that while the holster is the “same” holster, the XD just did not ride as well as the M&P. So, when/if I get back on the OWB front, I think I’ll reconsider getting a Raven and see how it goes but wearing at that slight cant.

So in sum:

  • In general, I like it. Ergonomics work better, and yes I think the medium backstrap is what I want.
  • Rear sight needs to be adjusted.
  • Auto-forwarding sucks, IMHO.
  • Factory barrel is questionable, at least with 115 grain ammo. 124 seemed to shoot better. Would be curious how 147’s shoot. Am going to switch to the KKM and see how it does.
  • And I need a lot more time/experience with it to unlearn my XD habits and learn how to shoot this gun well.

And, it was a good day at the range.

13 thoughts on “The M&P, second impressions

  1. Mine didn’t really like anything with the first barrel, but it liked heavier stuff better, yes. With the new barrel, definitely likes 124 and 147gr stuff best, and the hotter the better. Mine shoots the 124gr +P Gold Dot load to POA at 25y, but the AE 124gr stuff is about 3″ high, and the 147gr AE stuff is something like 6″ high at the same distance – and both the AE loads group around 3-4″ at those ranges, where the Gold Dot load is at 2″.

    The conjecture I’ve heard is that S&W picked a bad twist rate (too slow) and may have also picked bad dimensions for the interior of the barrel – akin to what they use for .38 Special and .357 Magnum (which uses a bullet that’s 1-2 thousandths larger…

    It will be very interesting to see how the KKM barrel changes things for you – if the improvements are worth it, I might go the same route myself rather than waiting for the BarSto…

    • Interesting data… and kinda bothersome too.

      But you know, if S&W knows this… if it can be fixed with an updated barrel, why in the world isn’t S&W fixing it? They cannot be ignorant of all the talk going on online.

      As for the KKM, a couple KRT instructors report going to 3″-ish groups at 25 yards (not sure what ammo, tho I’m sure at least one was with Gold Dot 124 gr +P), which is acceptable. I’ll have to run to the store to get some other ammo flavors/weights, tho not sure if I really need different brands, just different bullet weights and I have my 115 gr reloads, AE 124gr, and Gold Dot 124 +P… so what more do I really need? maybe one box of 147 gr could be purchased. Anyways… try it out, see what shakes. I’m expecting the KKM will be generally better. My hope is acceptable group size out to 25 yards, acceptable accuracy, and consistency across the board akin to what I see with my XD (feed it whatever, runs generally the same… sure some slight variance with different ammo but not as wide a spread as I’m seeing here).

      And yeah… hopefully someday the BarSto will come out and will live up to the hype. If it will do 2″ @ 25 yards, will work drop-in in any M&P, will consume and be reasonably good with any ammo (and really good with serious ammo be it match ammo or self-defense ammo or whatever), then heck… I will plunk down my money for it.

  2. Pingback: Barrel treated « Stuff From Hsoi

  3. A lot of what I’ve read about the M&P is that the accuracy issue relates to the speed at which the barrel unlocks from the slide. Improved performance with 124’s vs 115s is commonly reported – and I’ve seen that happen as well. One of my M&Ps (the one I carry) gave me a 2″ group at 25 yards with Federal 124 gr JRN. The other gun with the same loads consistently had 3″-4″ groups with one “flyer” out of the group every time. I am convinced that gun needs a new barrel, but the carry gun barrel appears to be OK. You need the RAM reset part in your M&P to fix the trigger feel to make it more XD-esque.

    • I have the RAM. The trigger is just squishy compared to my XD (with the Springer-installed trigger). I just have to shoot it more and get used to it (the trigger, the overall way the gun shoots… it just feels different and my brain was still locked in XD mode while the gun behaved differently).

      I did some more reading on the accuracy issues and it seems it’s both what you mention (the lockup and unlocking speed) and what Dave mentioned, the twist rate. So Randy Lee’s prototypes apparently could be the solution. Only hope is that BarSto realizes they’re going to get slammed with orders, so hopefully they’ll plan accordingly with production.

  4. The auto-forward seems to work 100% after a couple thousand rounds. My Pro had a few times when it was new when it did not do it, but I can’t think of a time since then.

    Seems like my M&P is shaping up the same. It didn’t go a couple of times on those FAST drills, but I think once was because I fumbled a bit inserting the mag.

    • I did wonder how much of the auto-forward issues might just be because it’s new. But still, I hate it. I wonder if S&W has ever officially commented on the behavior and if so if it’s considered a feature or a bug.

      Either way, I’m just going to have to practice ignoring it and always racking. Gotta rewire my brain to do so.

  5. Pingback: The M&P, Third Impressions « Stuff From Hsoi

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