In the world of polymer pistols, none are so ubiquitous as the Glock. People often forget that before the Glock ever came into existence, Heckler and Koch had been building polymer-frame pistols since the 1950s.
Today, Glock is hardly the only game in town, with perhaps the most stunningly diverse range of manufacturers and options available that utilize the same basic technologies. The polymer-framed handgun has truly become a class of pistols, and like any product class, some fit shooters better than others.
The M&P: True To Its Name
The M&P Line of pistols, which date back to the early 1900s, have always been designed and marketed for the Military and Police markets, offering features requested or required by law enforcement.
The current line of M&P polymer frame pistols is no exception.
Designed as an entrant to Military’s ill-fated Joint Service Pistol program, the M&P set the bar with the concept of removable backstraps to allow ergonomic customization, accuracy, and the option for a manual thumb safety in a striker fired pistol. Competing against the more expensive HK45, the M&P came in to the market offering all of the features at a much lower price point, which made it a hit with anyone looking for an alternative to the Glock while on a budget.
Also, while initially designed for the .45 ACP cartridge, the M&P covers a wide range of popular cartridges, including 9mm, .40 Smith and Wesson, and .357 Sig. Variations are available in the full size, compact, and sub-compact models.
The M&P is fairly unique in that it is one of the few polymer-style pistols that is available from the manufacturer in a competition configuration, which includes a reduced-weight, crisp competition trigger. Thanks to Apex Tactical, fire control mechanisms can be had that bring the M&P close to the 1911’s single-action trigger pull. These are recommended only for competition purposes, however I do run one in my M&P for carry use since my M&P has a thumb safety as well.
Experience On The Range
On first shooting this pistol I made sure to try it with all three variations of backstrap, finding that the slim width was the most comfortable in my hand, and I really liked the fact that the gun came with a takedown tool that also served as the pin holding the backstrap in place.
Compared to the HK’s use of a roll pin, this made changing these out in the field far simpler, and reduced the number of tools I needed to carry. The tool is also absolutely essential for reassembly in cases where the magazine disconnect (if your pistol has one, some don’t have this feature) needs to be repositioned.
After getting the feel for the gun as it came from the factory, I very quickly decided that the trigger group just had to change. Rapid fire with this pistol, or action pistol shooting, is no problem stock, however if you’re a student of proper trigger squeeze, the six-plus-pound trigger pull makes true precision shooting a real challenge.
I found myself repeatedly checking the safety to verify that I hadn’t accidentally engaged it when I had trouble breaking the shot without a lot of pressure. A quick call to Apex Tactical and I received both their Competition and Duty kit, and the Forward Set Sear and Trigger kit, and I now had my choice of a light trigger pull, or a 1911-style trigger pull.
We’ll talk about the Apex kits in a later interview, but for now, I’ll simply say that when they recommend the Competition and Duty kit for carry, it’s a good idea to stick to that (although I did replace the trigger along with the other components with one of Apex’s solid triggers, the two piece felt flimsy and was an annoyance for me).
Once I had the trigger issues sorted out, I felt I could really put the pistol through its paces accuracy-wise. While the gun’s accuracy is acceptable for duty, carry, and competition use, it is not one I’d use if precision shooting was necessary or desired.
The stock barrel is certainly capable of 2-2.5″ accuracy out to about 20 yards if you’re really trying, but for my personal taste, I felt it was a bit sloppy. Thankfully, Storm Lake offers semi-drop-in barrels that tighten up the fit of the barrel when in lockup, and this brought overall accuracy down to an acceptable 1.5-2″ range with only minor fitting required.
Durability-wise, the M&P is up there with the Glock. While the pistol had reliability issues early on, I experienced no failures, whether induced or due to manufacturer fault. I performed no cleanings and only basic lubrication, and even had the temerity to give it the sand-dirt-mud-water treatment with outstanding results.
The M&P is a fine pistol, and a worthy alternative to the Glock. It shoots well, it’s durable, and out of the box is an excellent choice. The ergonomics are excellent, featuring a 1911 grip angle and a fairly narrow grip that, in conjunction with the replaceable backstraps, will fit the vast majority of shooters hands well.
I did find that the slightly egg-shape profile of the grip, with the narrowest part forward, presented the greatest challenge for me when combined with the length of the .45 ACP’s grip, as the gun tended to skew in my hand, requiring more frequent grip adjustments when shooting one-handed.
Beyond that, my other biggest gripes were the trigger pull, which I found was easily correctable either through a kit, or a trip to a gunsmith for some polishing and reshaping, and the thumb safety’s fairly loose engagement (though a little shaping of the thumb safety’s detent took care of that). Once those issues were resolved, the gun performed excellently even without a replacement barrel, and I couldn’t find any reason not to consider this pistol a good, reliable carry gun.
I’d give this gun a solid A-/B+ rating, knocking points off for the grip shape and length, as well as the fairly poor accuracy out of the box. The gun’s reliable, comfortable to shoot for most, and works well. I would advise anyone with fairly large hands to test-drive it a bit or pay attention to the grip before buying as after a lot of time on the trigger, I’ve found I prefer a fatter grip (or, altneratively, a grip wider at the front than the rear).
Stay Safe and Shoot Straight.