The M&P, Third Impressions

The next chapter in my investigation of the Smith & Wesson M&P.

For reference, here’s first, here’s second.

The focus now is accuracy. The factory barrel is pretty bad, with 6-8″ groups at 25 yards. But, it seemed to vary with ammo, such as Gold Dot 124 grain +P was about 3-4″ at 25 yards. I installed my KKM barrel and off to the local indoor range I went. I didn’t want to go to the indoor range (more on it shortly), but it would allow me the easiest means of benchrest shooting at various distances. Plus it’s the closest range to the house and time matters right now.

Also note from the first round of shooting tests, I discovered the rear sight was off in the dovetail. A few days ago I went to my workbench and did my best to center the rear sight, measuring as best I could with calipers (it was difficult to get a flat surface given the cuts in the slide back there). FWIW, the sights seemed to be reasonably “on” during today’s tests. More later.

So given the ammo issue, I took 3 types of ammo with me: my 115 grain plinking handloads, which shoot pretty well (generally better than factory target loads); 124 grain American Eagle target loads; 124 grain +P Gold Dot. I asked at the gun counter if they had any 147 grain ammo but alas they had none. Since both the Gold Dot and the AE seemed to shoot better in the factory barrel, I was just curious what sort of results I’d get with 147 in the KKM.

My general plan was to shoot 5 shot groups from benchrest at 3, 7, 15, and 25 yards. Shoot each type of ammo at the same distance, compare and contrast results, tape the target, go to the next distance.

General results? Everything shot low. Exactly how low varied based upon distance and ammo, with the 124 AE generally shooting lowest of the 3 (makes sense) and the Gold Dot shooting highest of the 3 (makes sense). Still, every ammo at every distance had point of impact (POI) below the point of aim (POA). Interesting was that the Gold Dot tended to shoot towards the middle, the reloads slightly to the left, and the AE slight to the right. For the most part, the reloads and the AE shot to similar behavior in terms of grouping, and the Gold Dot of course shot a bit tighter.

I started having a rough time shooting at 15 and 25 yards. My eyes were blurring. I’m sure part of it is age. I’m sure part is just eyes getting tired from all that squinting. But I also know part of it is range-induced. The lighting there has improved, but it’s still a lot darker than being outdoors. Furthermore, the range was rather busy so there was a lot of smoke and such floating around. I find myself not wanting to breathe when I’m there — totally subconscious, but I realized how shallow my breathing was. A few times I set my gun down on the bench and went into the store area just to take 10 deep breath of clean(er) air. When I went back in, my eyes were a lot happier, but it just delayed the inevitable need to stop because my eyes and lungs couldn’t take it any more. Like I said, I really don’t like going to the indoor range, but sometimes you have to make compromises.

I’m still disappointed with the group sizes. It’s not the KKM itself, but that I have to get a replacement semi-match barrel in order to get similar accuracy that I get out of my factory barrel in my Springfield XD-9. Overall the KKM’s accuracy and grouping was acceptable and I am pleased with its results, but I don’t think it’s right that I should have to get an aftermarket barrel in order to get acceptable accuracy.

I should also caveat that due to my eyes, I just couldn’t shoot very well at 15 and 25 yards, so in my mind the final verdict is still out on performance at those ranges. Even still, the groupings I did get were still better than I got the first time with the factory barrel.

After I did the benchrest shooting, I put up a fresh target at 7 yards and just did some two-hand “freestyle” shooting. Couldn’t do anything fast or fancy due to range restrictions, just put the gun out there and pressed off a shot every second. Drilled a nice hole in the middle of the target, just a little low. Acceptable. I’d say about 150 or so rounds went through the gun today. So the barrel still isn’t broken in, but so far so good. Of those, 45 were Gold Dots (5 GD’s shot at the first range session), so I feel comfortable that this barrel will feed my carry ammo.

So far I’m pleased. Annoyed at the factory barrel. Annoyed about auto-forward. But I’ve been dry-firing the gun every day, it’s feeling more comfortable, and it felt more natural today (need to do some “real” shooting tho). The KKM is certainly a keeper, but if that rumored Apex-designed BarSto happens I’m likely to upgrade to it. From here, I need to find new sights because I have to do something about the low POI vs. the POA.

Off to Dawson Precision’s website I go!

34 thoughts on “The M&P, Third Impressions

  1. When I first got my M&P I was CERTAIN that it didn’t shoot well. I thought I’d made quite a mistake in choosing it over the then-new XD-M.

    As I shot it more I just came to realize that I needed to adjust from my 1911-only shooting history. The Smith is a lot lighter, the trigger is comparatively total crap, ok fine. So I gripped it tighter and worked REALLY hard on isolating my trigger pull, and it helped a whole lot. As you put it so well, my brain was shooting a 1911 and my hands held an M&P.

    That is NOT to say that “you’re doing it wrong” but just to give it some time, you’ll settle into the pistol more than you think. At least, I did, and I’m not half the shooter you are.

    I recently got a new (to me) M&P .45 with Warren Tactical sights. Do yourself a favor and take a look at a set before you make a final decision. I love the way the Warren rear has cut out shoulders – better to know my target and what’s behind it, shall we say…

    My 2 gripes about the M&P are that the takedown lever gets hot as hell in rapid fire, and that’s where my left thumb rides… and that the trigger face is slick and my trigger finger invariably slides over it to the left – would love some vertical grooves there. My 9’s factory sights seem to be fine and accuracy isn’t so horrible that I can’t hit a man sized target at 50 yards, which is juuust fine with me.

    Also, Santa got me a RAM and that fancy metal trigger for the M&P 9 from Apex – looking forward to installing those! Maybe that trigger will not be as slidey… and it can’t possibly be as mushy.

    • I experienced that some on the first range trip. My brain was still locked into shooting my XD-9, which I’ve shot for a few years and thousands upon thousands of rounds through under varying circumstance and situation. So trying to shoot the M&P was horrible! Brain and muscles were shooting XD still. That’s why I’ve been dry firing the M&P EVERY day, and while today was mostly about just checking out the KKM barrel, I also did some free shooting at the end and felt a LOT better about how it went. The dry work is paying off. I just have to keep shooting it — a lot — to get my muscles and brain to switch over.

      That said, there’s certainly mechanical/production issues. I think once I get new sights I’ll be happier. And yes, I actually was considering the Warren’s but the Warren website is pretty bad. But I just found this site: http://www.cpwsa.com/warren_sevigny_sights.htm and it has a lot more info. I’ll look at it.

      Curious: is there enough “hook” on the Warren’s rear sight that you can do one-handed manipulations? That’s one big reason I was going to get the Dawson Charger rear.

      You should like the RAM. I have the DCAEK and RAM and while it’s not as tight and wonderful as my XD’s Springer Precision trigger, it’s still quite nice and a HUGE improvement over the stock M&P trigger. You should like.

      • I grabbed the M&P .45 to check… not only is there no “hook” but the front of the rear sight is shaped like a half-pipe (if you want to call the classic Novak a “ramp”) but I was still able to rack the slide off the end of my long suffering computer table, at a bit of an angle (pitched the pistol nose over greater than 90 degrees.) Honestly I felt better about using the back of the ejection port, even taking a non-trivial slice of wood off the desk 🙂

        I don’t think the Sevigny versions have the shoulders cut, btw. More like a bevel.

        You’re familiar with http://www.speedshooterspecialties.com/catalog/index.php right? The 10-8 rear might appeal to you.

        Now that I have the replacement Craftsman bench put back together, I can work on the pistol without screwing up the dining room table! Oh, how I missed that bench…

        • Ah, sacrificing your desk in the name of science! 🙂

          The 10-8, at least from that picture, looks akin to the Novak’s that came on the gun. And those work well enough for one-handed stuff.

          I shall see. I have some researching to do on the sights. Biggest of which is figuring out the right measurements in the first place.

          • The Dawson’s are the “most badass” I’ve played with for manipulating the slide with one hand… I had Warren’s on my XD sub-compact – had the same experience J. Dock describes. Had to be careful about angle, and such, but it would work… The Dawsons have serrations on that front surface, and it’s a flat wall. They seem to grab onto stuff nicely from most angles….

            • Yeah, the Chargers are really the preference.

              The one thing that’s been a bit rough with the Dawson front sights is the side that faces you/breech-end tends to be angled in such that the face and the top of the slide form an acute angle and thus a hook… just ripe for the snagging on things. The Warrens I see angle the other way, making an obtuse angle and no risk of snag. I want the obtuse angle. But the thing is, I’ve seen Dawsons go both ways, plus the pictures on their website vary. So…. who knows. If Dawson has only acute ones, but I can figure the right height/width I need and get that from Warren, maybe go with a Warren front and Dawson Charger rear.

              • Hrmm, Now I’m thinking TFO front and Dawson Charger rear for my 9…

                I’ll thank you to kindly get out of my head and leaving expensive ideas behind as souvenirs. 🙂

                Ain’t it great that we have all these choices? I remember not all that long ago that we really just got what we got, or got really creative with raw metal and flat files.

  2. I commend you on a very thorough review of your M&P. I too have carried an XD9 for quite a while and am very satisfied with it. Given your review though I’d be hard pressed to get an M&P. I won’t rule it out based on one persons experience but given how I’ve had zero problems with my XD right out of the box, it would take a lot to get me to switch. Thanks for the feedback. I hope you get it running just the way you like it soon.

    • I’ll tell you… I’m still not convinced at this point to make the M&P my carry gun. It’s looking positive, but the jury is still out.

      I cannot deny the ergonomics are better — in MY hand — than the XD. I also appreciate the after-market growth of the M&P’s market. And based upon how things all feel? I reckon in time I’ll probably shoot the M&P better than the XD.

      But I am frustrated by some of the manufacturing issues of the M&P. I don’t like auto-forward. I really don’t like the barrel situation… am still VERY curious about the Apex Tactical/Randy Lee designed BarSto manufactured barrel, if it’s ever going to happen (happened to find a thread just this afternoon that said SHOT Show 2012 as a release… but we’ll see). It seems that Apex has enabled the M&P to be an awesome platform and if not for them well… I’d be hard pressed to even consider switching.

      The XD shoots very well for me, especially with the Dawson sights and Springer-ized trigger. It’s a brick, it’s not very sexy, but it sure runs like a top for me. I know lots of people bag on the XD, and there are certainly valid criticisms. I’ve run my hard and it hasn’t failed me (yet). So I too am hard-pressed to switch.

      But the M&P shows promise, and if I can get her running right and it winds up working better for me, then it does. If it doesn’t, then it was a good experiment. I’m not emotionally attached to my choice — I’m emotionally attached to my life, and I want whatever tool will best help me preserve it.

      • Tell you what, if you decide that M&P ain’t the pistol for you, shoot me a line, I’d probably take it off your hands.

        • OK, you’re first in line. 🙂

          We’ll see what happens tho. I get the feeling I’m going to keep it, but the jury is still out.

    • I won’t speak of group sizes at 25 yards due to my eye issues. It isn’t fair to say if those groups are due to my eyes or to the hardware (tho I’m sure my eyes played a fair role). But they still were less (or comparable) than than the 6-8″ groups I got with the factory barrel at 25 yards with the same ammos.

      As for others…

      Note I didn’t have a ruler. I just used the 1″ grid on the range’s paper targets and estimated group sizes from that.

      At 3 yards the groups were less than 1″, any ammo.

      At 7 yards, the reloads shot about 1.5″ group and the AE the same. BUT, the reloads on the whole demonstrated a tighter pattern with say just 1 “flier” that pushed the grouping size out. The AE tended to have a more “evenly spread” pattern within the 1.5″ frame. If you eliminated the flier from the reloads, probably 1″. Gold Dots were under 1″.

      At 15 yards, 2-3″ groups, with the Gold Dot doing about 2″ and the AE does 3″. But again, here my eyes were hating it, so how much of this is affected by my eyes and how much of this is the hardware?

      I don’t think this is a large enough sample size to state anything emphatically. But I do think it’s still useful information that starts to support the notion that the KKM barrel is an improvement over *MY* factory barrel. YMMV. Need more range time.

      • No range eval is complete without some Z-Max in the mix, don’t you know. 😀

        OK serious question: IF we are to bring the front sight into sharp focus, THEN how much does it matter that your eyes aren’t so hot out to further yardages? Not a troll question, I too have, ahem, “experienced eyes.”

        • They actually had some of that ammo behind the counter. *sigh*

          My problem was that everything was going blurry. So front sight was a blur, then the rear sight was an even worse blur, so trying to line up the tops of everything? FAIL.

          As for your question tho, I’m not sure. I mean, the general approach is the front sight is sharpest, the rear sight will then be slightly blurry, and the target will be rather blurry. I don’t have enough experience with “eye issues” to say here, but my guess is that even under the ideal setup, the target is blurry… so so long as the sights are as they should be and you can see the target well enough to still be as exact as you can about where the hole should be made well, I reckon it works out. But again, when it comes to “experienced eye” issues, this is new ground for me.

  3. For what its worth (and I promise I’ll shut up soon):

    I have only ever (ever!) had 2 failures with my M&P, both times I was being quite a jackass.

    After my first trouble-free few thousand rounds (I shot the M&P 9 exclusively for a couple years) I spotted a crusty old (but complete and unfired) 9mm cartridge half-buried in the red clay soil of a western NC range. And I had a stupid, stupid thought.

    Yes… I did. And it popped off just fine, but with a nice little FTE, probably from the thick crust of case corrosion hampering extraction. The brass didn’t quite make it all the way out. So, failure 1.

    Failure 2 was back in the Lone Star land of milk and honey, after a dear friend’s pistol failed to make 2 9mm cartridges go “bang.” Once again, stupid is as… J. Dock does. One of ’em did indeed go “bang” and the other went “click.” So, failure 2.

    And literally? That’s it. Other than obvious jaskassery on my part, the damned thing just runs. For ME, the M&P is the best tool for the gig. I also consider it a bonus that I’ll treat it like a tool, not as a collector’s piece. It screams utility, not emotional connection. For me that’s very healthy. (Although I’d treat a JG edition with some extra care and “safe queen” status. Because its a special edition!)

    Note also that I have no enmity toward XDs in any way, they shoot just ducky out of the box and the Springer-massaged examples I’ve shot were an absolute joy. However, in the last few years I have mind-melded with the M&P, literally to the point where I sold my USP because I just don’t shoot it as well (and I’ll try to forget about the sad disaster that my time with an FNP was… great gun, but my M&P hands made a low-shooting miss-fest out of an otherwise pleasant range visit. Flash sight pictures and unfamiliar guns DO NOT MIX.)

    It pleases me that the platform is coming into its own (particularly via a growing aftermarket) as I picked mine up before Magpul Dynamics brought them cachet, and when the shadow of the Sigma still loomed large over the Smith line of tupperware offerings. In other words, I took a bit of a risk and I’m glad it paid off.

    • Fret not about verbosity… I’m afflicted with it as well and thus understanding of the condition. 😉

      Fail 1 – can’t blame that on the gun, blame the operator. 🙂 But you know, Apex makes some sort of beefier extractor. I’ve wondered about it. Seems tho the sort of thing where the factory ejector is fine but if it did break, might as well install Apex’s ejector at that time.

      Fail 2 – that sounds more like the ammo.

      So the reliability of the hardware is high, which is great! I fully expect, once I get everything dialed in, that the gun will run well. And once I get adjusted to it, I’ll probably shoot it better than my XD due to little ergonomic differences that add up comparing the gun ergos vs. my body ergo’s. At least, so the theory goes.

      I recall when you bought yours and yes, you were a good early adopter. Me? I wasn’t so sure at the time. It came down to XD or M&P and with that Sigma shadow still lurking and so much unproven I just couldn’t take the risk with the M&P. Of course, looking back I wish I had, but I reckon I wouldn’t appreciate the platform as much as I do now. 🙂

      Of course, now that everyone’s shooting an M&P you need to be a good hipster and move on to something more obscure. *grin*

      • Oh both failures were induced intentionally. I really wanted to see how far I could push this remarkable little pistol. In normal use its about as reliable as a claw hammer. NOTE TO INNOCENT CHILDREN: don’t put ancient random ammo or failed-to-fire cartridges in your pistols and try to fire them please. I’m a foolish, foolish old man. Don’t be like me.

        I’ll say that its really gratifying to see shooters that I look up to (you, Karl) trying out the M&P platform, especially knowing how much you have invested in your previous platforms.

        You may also find that no matter who you hand an M&P off to (especially new shooters) that once they shoot it, they turn and look at you with pie-eyes of lust for the pistol. So far no one I’ve handed it to disliked it. For certain purposes, knowing that you can hand a pistol off to damned near anyone is a mighty handy thing.

        • The only reason you should look up to me is because I’m taller than you. I’m no one special.

          I’m not emotionally invested in my equipment. I’m emotionally invested in my life, so I want the best tools. If that means something new is better than what I have now, fine, switch. Brand names (hopefully) don’t define me.

          • Don’t dismiss your skill and acumen so easily there hoss.

            That I bought an M&P after swearing off Smith (after the Boston Agreement – remember that?) says a lot about how much I value “the gun that fits me best.” And yes I was a little sad that I didn’t shoot a USP best. But I didn’t. So I bid the USP adieu. That was the single most practical gun decision I have ever made.

            • Thank you.

              Now if we could just get more people to think like you…. no, not in their evaluation of me. 😉 But rather, to not be emotionally attached to their choices. We see it a lot in classes: someone comes in with their H&K or Sig and just adores it, but they can’t shoot it worth a darn, doesn’t fit their hand (notorious with Sig’s), just trouble. We let them try one of our guns (customized XD’s or M&P’s) and instantly they shoot MUCH better. Many times then we see them in a future class, with a new gun. 🙂

              • A firearm is a tool that, should the day come that I need it, will be the single most important thing I’ve ever owned. In that moment, I’d better have every advantage. I have no beef with fun guns and hobby guns. However, “fear the man with one gun” is true. My “one gun” (or platform) is the M&P – and I know ’cause I’ve given the others a fair shake.

                (OK I’ll admit… never gave Hi-Point or Jennings much of a chance…)

                As far as student choices, behaviors, attitudes, well… even in my short time as an instructor and assistant… I’ve seen plenty. We can save that for another post. (And how nice that we have come so far ourselves. I remember how dumb I used to be.)

                • Never gave Hi-Point a chance? I can’t take you seriously any more….

                  I remember not just being dumb, but flat out ignorant. I wasn’t always a gun guy, and it wasn’t too long ago that I came around. I’m no longer ignorant, but may still be dumb….

      • “Dude I was into M&Ps WAY before anyone else… before they SOLD OUT! Now they SUCK! Now I only shoot Schofields and Iver Johnson breaktops in weird calibers! Totally underground man!”

  4. Pingback: Why am I making this so hard? « Stuff From Hsoi

  5. Pingback: The M&P – starting to carry « Stuff From Hsoi

    • I hadn’t seen that report, but that basically confirmed what I and others have experienced. Some solved it by switching barrels to an aftermarket. Some found that shooting 147 grain ammo worked well. I switched to a KKM barrel and have been pleased — I’ve got tons of 115 grain ammo I reloaded for practice use, and then I carry Gold Dot 124gr +P’s, and the KKM has given acceptable performance for my situation. It’s been LONG rumored that Apex Tactical was working with Bar-Sto to make a barrel, and I recently read something that that isn’t vaporware. Once it hits the market, I am going to check it out because Randy Lee and the crew at Apex does an awesome job, and if it gives better performance than the KKM then awesome.

      I wouldn’t say the Shield has the best stock trigger, tho I would say it’s better than the regular M&P factory trigger. The main gripe people have is the lack of a tactile reset point, which they added in the Shield, and is also why the Apex Tactical “RAM” is a hot seller. But if S&W is finally waking up to all of these issues, then great. Better late than never I guess.

      But what *I* would appreciate is some way to know what version/model you have, because they aren’t apples to apples. Cars have model years. Computers have revision numbers. Heck, Glock has “generations”. It’d be nice, but then I guess it would require S&W to admit they have problems.

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