If you look at any of the regular gun blog or Youtube channels, you’ll notice the perpetual trend of the, “next best thing,” in carry guns. This week, it is the Hudson H9…next week, who knows? Funny thing though, is THAT marketing strategy works! It’s a psychological ploy that truly fiddles with the casual buyer’s mind, and makes them think that their gun, whichever that might be, is somehow inferior, and upgrading to the, “latest and greatest,” is the right move. So they pony up the bucks, and get the new gun. Then they notice that their performance is either equivalent to the prior platform, or their performance takes a dive. Either way, what’s gained? Money changes hands, and the smart marketeers get more of your ducketts!
I’ve been lucky enough to largely dodge this phenomena, but merely by coincidence. I have been a perpetual student for years, and a good portion of the 90’s and 2000’s cost me about $600,000 in tuition for three undergraduate degrees, my DDS and a residency program and that’s not even including my kid’s private school tuition. UGH. Thus, I could, “want,” the top hardware all I wanted, but the funds were already allocated to getting to the next semester. I was also lucky enough to work for outfits that either required a specific sidearm (or a very narrow choice in sidearms G17 or G19) and thus it didn’t make sense for me to use anything else.
My first big foray off of service revolvers into semiautomatic pistols started with the Glock 19. This was circa 1996, and the Gen 2 guns were the heat. I got one, had a set of Trijicon 3 dot night sights pressed into it, and I hit the road with it. Now, mind you this was 1996, and thus, I had 10 round magazines, thanks to Bill Clinton et al. On the armored truck, I carried four magazines on my belt, one in the gun, for a total of 51 rounds on board, plus a Smith 649 on my ankle, with two speed loaders on my belt for that. I carried the Corbon 115 grain +P+ 9mm loading, which Ed Sanow and Evan Marshall, and Mas Ayoob had spoken highly of.
After carrying that gun for about a year, both on and off work, someone introduced me to the Heckler & Koch series of pistols, specifically the USP in .45 ACP. Since I was strictly saddled with 10 round Crime Bill magazines, I figured that the larger .45 ACP bullet would be, “better,” and thus I changed pistols. The official, “change,” required that I log the make, model and serial number with my employer, and then shoot the state mandated sobriety test, er, I mean, “qualification,” course, which was 30 rounds, on a B27 silhouette from 3 to 25 yards. Not a difficult course, and graded by the numbers. I held the, “TOP GUN,” of my branch every year I was employed there (I actually won a number of belt buckles that stated such, but at the time, I wasn’t sentimental, and had no use for a belt buckle of the size that doubled as an umbrella, so I gifted them to my cowboy friends. In retrospect, I wish I would’ve kept them to give them to my Son. Alas, I digress). So I was in the .45 business, and stayed that way until 2004/2005 when the Assault Weapons Ban ended, and I decided to go to the company issued Glock 22 (with 15 round magazines). The gun worked well with the 180 grain hollow point ammunition (I think it was CCI Speer) but it bobbled with the 165 grain ammunition. That was less than inspiring, compared to the boring reliability of the USP, and the, “Area 51-like,” accuracy the USP was capable of. So, after a short stint, I hung up the Glock 22 and went back to the USP and ran it until I left the armored truck industry and went on to the next big adventure, which was dental school.
While in school, I worked as an instructor and medical program director for Tactical Response, which was strictly (at that time) a Glock 19 organization. That was fine with me, and I ran the Glock 19. In 2008 I purchased the, “Glock Killer,” known as the Smith & Wesson M&P in 9mm. This gun was odd, and it was literally absorbed by the community with aplomb. The guns became ubiquitous in classes and they really caught on. Sure, there were some lemons that TRULY had accuracy problems, but in the several iterations of that pistol that I had, ran like tops, and had no accuracy issues that weren’t directly attributed to the idiot hanging off the end of the beavertail. In short, I was pleased with my M&P, and owned a pair of them…one for carry and one for practice/competition.
Unlike the Glock with it’s severe grip angle, the M&P hugged the belt line a bit closer, which made the draw slightly different, since I had to pry my hand all of the way under the frontstrap to get a full firing grip. The gun was very slick in texture, which made it easy to move my hand into position rapidly before executing the draw. Thus, although the M&P was a bit longer in both nose and butt than the G19, it was just as or if not more concealable. I also like how easily the magazines came apart for cleaning, especially when they filled up with the Tennessee mud and fine, particulate sand. I always felt like my OEM Glock magazines became weaker and weaker every time I took them apart! I don’t know if this is a real worry, or if it just felt that way. Either way, the M&P mags were easily disassembled and they held two more rounds than the G19 to boot.
After using the M&P in numerous classes to include Tactical Response, Rangemaster and Larry Vickers courses, I put tens of thousands of rounds through the guns, and probably five times that in dry-practice repetitions. I felt really good about the M&P. So much so, that I stopped thinking about it completely. I knew, on a visceral level that there were other guns out there, that probably had better QC, mechanical accuracy and easier detail disassembly, but I didn’t care. I felt confident in my skills with my pistol and I had amassed a collection of duplicate guns, holsters, magazines, and magazine carriers. It was safe to say that I was fully invested in the platform. Sure, carrying in cargo shorts and a t shirt in the summer required a bit baggier t-shirt to pull off, but it was no great feat.
Enter the S&W Shield 9mm. FINALLY, Smith had done what Glock (remember, the 43 was just a pipe dream back then in 2012) refused to do for years. Pull off a subcompact 9mm pistol, that was small enough to conceal easily, but just large enough to allow a skilled user to run the gun just like its larger brethren. The Shield was just similar enough in grip angle, trigger geometry and feel to allow the full size pistol user to transition nearly seamlessly (with the exception of recoil control and front sight tracking…short guns are always snappier) which was cool! So the niche had been filled, for a small pistol that could be carried when normally a J frame would have to suffice. I’ve tried to carry my Shield on my ankle, and I have yet to find an ankle holster that works with it (although I have heard good things about the Wilderness Renegade and I just found out that Galco now fits the excellent Ankle Glove for the Shield). So I still rock my 442 on my ankle.
In 2017, the M&P 2.0 entered the scene, and I bought one of the first ones to arrive in Nashville. I’ve had nothing but success out of it. The accuracy issue, that folks have talked about, hasn’t been a problem for me. The function has been good, and with the exception of a Comptac paddle rig, holster compatability hasn’t been an issue. I’m very happy with it.
The biggest question I get asked about M&P’s, and conversely, “WHY DON’T YOU JUST CARRY A GLOCK?” my answer is multifaceted. First, Glocks cut my hands. I use a high grip with the web of my hand wedged into the backstrap, as deeply and highly as I can, and after about 20 rounds, the slide reciprocating draws blood. Not a big deal, but in terms of comfort, it isn’t fun after the 750th round fired in a high volume, two day class. I also get the, “Glock knuckle,” pretty severely, which I understand can now be ameliorated with modifications or the Generation 5 guns, but I have yet to experience that first hand. I know that there are beavertail additions that allow the user to keep the slide from eating them up, but I have yet to find one that stays in place with heavy use, AND doesn’t make the pistol grip appreciably thicker. I have big hands and long fingers, but I don’t wish to make an already NOT thin gun thicker. As I mentioned earlier, I also don’t like how Glock magazines seem to weaken after repeated disassembly. So, for as much as I like to/require myself to shoot in practice and training, the M&P family is more conducive to comfort and reliability for me. Your ideas may vary.
Striker-fired guns seem to be the gun of choice among the cognoscenti, as well as professional gun-handlers. But don’t let that guide your decision making! I always tell people, “Carry what works for you!” The first rule of gunfighting is, “HAVE A GUN!” And as I’ve talked about in other articles, nearly any gun will do, if you will do! It really doesn’t matter, that much. What DOES matter is that you carry a gun that works reliably, and allows you to accurately deliver shots on target, when you need to. Most modern service and carry pistols are accurate…far more accurate than 99% of their users. And don’t buy, carry or justify your decisions based on what, “ORGANIZATION X,” carries…if it’s governmental, there may be political pressure involved, or their organization may simply buy guns/issues guns that are complete garbage! And who knows if the folks carrying those guns in that organization even like them…they may not! There is a local PD here that requires their officers to carry a variant of the Springfield XD, in .45 ACP. If you live in that town, don’t rush out and buy an XD because that’s what the cops there carry. As John Correia from ASP has said, “XD’s are the McRib of carry pistols.” Don’t invest any ego into your carry pistol. It’s a machine…they fall apart and break, at some point. Some, quicker than others. You’re a civilian…you have a choice in what you use. Just be smart about it, and make wise decisions like:
- Does the gun work? If it is magazine or ammo related, that happens. But your gun should be inherently reliable.
- Get a number of spare magazines. I recommend eight (because that’s what my pistol rug carries, but the more the merrier). Magazines are expendable. They get beat up, dented, stepped on, and they wear out. Plan accordingly.
- Make sure that your gun, sights and ammo shoot to the point of aim. That means that your point of aim and point of impact should be the same! Many folks walk around with a gun that doesn’t shoot to the sights, and that can be a really bad thing. You want to hit what the gun is pointed at…not 6 inches below what the gun is pointing at.
- Your capabilities in MARKSMANSHIP and GUN HANDLING are far more important than your choice in carry guns. Buy quality, buy once.
To quote my buddy Kirk, “Until they come out with a Star Trek type phaser, I’ll carry a Glock.” I feel the same way…except I’ll carry an M&P.
Thanks for reading!