By Ted Yost
My parents didn’t screw too many things up. Except my brothers — neither of whom are shooters. Fortunately, their wives are shooters, so they’re redeemed by proxy. Although the ladies shoot, their choice of pistols does not mirror mine, and I suppose that’s fine — that’s why they make different kinds. When my older brother’s wife asked me what could be done to help her M&P 9mm, I’ll admit I didn’t have a lot of answers. After a little research I came up with some suggestions for her.
The S&W M&P line is a pretty well sorted system, not necessarily needing a lot of work. It works well, it’s reasonably accurate, and it looks to be well enough made to prove very durable. It’s a service pistol, and is in my view entirely serviceable.
Asking Teresa what her concerns were resulted in only one major area she felt needed a little help with. She was having trouble mastering the trigger, and requested something more manageable. She was a little put off by the long, spongey take-up and the lack of a clean-feeling break. She was interested in the possibility of night sights, and maybe some work in the accuracy department. All these requests were to be tempered by the requirement the finished gun had to look cooler too! The things I get myself into.
“Better” comes in familiar packages!
As usual, my first stop when shopping for pretty much anything relating to my trade is the latest Brownells catalog. I’ve seen a few of the Apex Tactical forward set trigger kits installed on the M&P pistols, but I hadn’t yet done one myself. So I figured hey — how hard can it be?
With several trigger modification choices available, I fell back on my old mantra — I’m rarely disappointed by the best. I chose the aluminum trigger forward set kit, and got to work. The first thing I noticed was the kit did not come with written instructions. I resist the plague of modernity with every fiber of my being, but in this case I was stymied. I had to use technology, so I watched the video referenced in the packaging.
To my surprise, the YouTube video was nicely done, with the information presented clearly and in sequence. The presenter was articulate and had obviously done the job many times. Many of the inevitable questions were answered before I had a chance to goof anything up. A few suggestions based on my experience with the job would be to have a set of roll-pin punches, and a couple of tapered assembly/alignment pins handy. These will help make the job easier and prevent damage to the roll pins. As you watch the video, keep in mind the sequence of events. As everything starts to come together and you feel smart enough to go off script, you’ll quickly find you’ve hit a wall and must back up and try again. Go ahead, ask me how I know that.
I chose the lighter of the two supplied trigger springs, resulting in a 4.5-lb. pull. The heavier of the springs is regulated for a 5.5-lb. pull. My final result, after a few minutes of dry cycling and dry firing, was a trigger with noticeably less take-up, a much cleaner and lighter break and a shorter-feeling reset. All in all, a worthwhile improvement that I’m confident will benefit the owner.
The work left the M&P more accurate and shootable. Oh … and
just a bit cooler too, according to Teresa. Which was a good thing.
A Drop-In Barrel?
Brownells also stocks a complete selection of Storm Lake Machine barrels for the M&P. I chose the slightly extended barrel, threaded and supplied with a thread protector. I’ve used Storm Lake barrels in the past, with good results, so I expected an upgrade in the accuracy department. The extra length and thread protector should help in the coolness department, I hoped.
The barrel proved to be a simple drop-in installation — not at all what I’m used to — and I wondered if it was going to be an improvement, or just a part-for-part swap? As it turns out, in this case, the improvement in accuracy was well worth the cost. With several different brands, in both 115- and 124-gr. loadings, group sizes were noticeably improved over the stock barrel. A couple of loadings were nothing short of exceptional — the Fiocchi 124 FMJ and the HPR 124-gr. JHP’s were especially impressive.
Obviously, the barrel alone can’t be credited for the entire improvement. An improved trigger and better set of sights are also an important factor in the equation. For the sight upgrade, I chose Trijicon’s standard three dot set for M&P’s. They are a direct replacement for the factory sights with no modifications to slide or sights necessary. Once mechanically centered on the slide, the sights regulated to a point of aim right on top of the front sight.
I’m still not ready to scrap 1911’s or Hi-Powers in favor of “modern” service pistols, but I’m gratified to know quality upgrades available are not overly difficult for the average owner — like you, maybe? — to install.