This was the first 100 rounds I fired through my M&P 2.0 Metal when I got it. I noticed that while it shot quite flat, and comfortably, I was sending my shots slightly left at 10 yards. I took the pistol to my smith and sure enough…the sights were slightly off-center in the dovetail, both front and rear! He straightened them out and now they both are centered and the gun shoots exactly to the sights now, with CCI Blazer brass 115 grain ball, or the Hornady CRITICAL DUTY 135 grain +P that I run in it for carry, off of Tom Givens’ recommendation. OH…and the FBI’s.

I tend to think a lot…some might say too much. I credit my philosophy degree with giving me a wider viewfinder on the world, but what I think it really did was make me feel comfortable with my pondering thoughts while doing other things, and giving me a creative outlet (like writing) to express them if I have a particularly good one (SPOILER ALERT…they aren’t all good). So I drive to and from work, often listening to a podcast or an audiobook, all whilst thinking about some of the stuff you read here. I scribble down notes, ideas or outlines and then, if they make the cut from the, “drafts,” folder to the, “published,” folder, you see them. Like I said, not all are published. I’ve got a few that have been swirling around the can for a couple years.

At the 2023 TacCon in Dallas this past March, while making the 11 hour drive from TN, I had a lot of alone time to think. I planned on competing in the annual shooting match, which I have had some limited success in the past, making it into the TOP 16, twice. My problem has always been nerves and competition. Like many of you, my wheels tend to fall off in competitive environments. Which is weird, because I’m a pretty secure person, I don’t have a fear of public speaking like most people do, and I actually enjoy public performance, thanks to my extensive experience in the music and as a college professor. And, in the few self-defense situations or law enforcement actions I’ve been in, I have always stayed cool. So I thought I’d try something a little different for this year’s competition…


First off, don’t try this at home. I decided that I would drink two, 20 ounce, four shot espressos, 30 minutes before my competition time. A mega dose of caffeine CAN make you sick, give you heart palpitations, or push you over the edge of sanity, so like I said, if you try this, proceed with caution. My thought was that if I could get a good enough buzz, I would get my baseline heart rate into the 110’s (my resting HR is usually around 65bpm) then once the competition started, and I got the competition anxiety, I would ramp up into the 150’s. I got into the 140’s, but my sight picture was a steady hum of vibration. Still controlled though. I made all of my shots except the headshot tie breaker, which split the line (with one shot). Aside from that, my shooting was solid and I placed 71 out of a couple hundred shooters. I thought it was an interesting exercise and required further investigation.


I don’t know anyone who has been in a life or death situation that didn’t experience at least some of the effects of epinephrine (AKA adrenaline) on their sympathetic nervous system, and had some kind of sympathetic nervous system activation. Even seasoned gunfight survivors STILL got a FIGHT/FLIGHT/FREEZE response. I’m sure that there have been tests done in the past by actually injecting shooters with epinephrine in controlled doses to illicit a sympathetic nervous system response, but I don’t have the controlled environment to be able to do that. So knowing what I do about humans, anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system, and human physiology, I deduced that a high dose of caffeine would kick me into enough of a sympathetic response that it would heighten my anxiety for competition, and allow me to objectively battle through it, since I was ultimately at the, “helm,” of the experiment, and only worried about competing against myself. It was interesting…those that came to my lecture as short time after, I hope you had a good time because when I am really energized, my lectures are the best version of my oratory work!


I’ve recently relocated to an area where I have ready access to a very nice indoor shooting range facility. I can now practice weekly, sometimes twice a week, in addition to shooting in a weekly revolver competition league. This allows me to test my skills against drills that guys like Greg Ellifritz and Tom Givens publish in their writing. I thought that it would be interesting to replicate a similar experience to the TacCon competition, but in a faster format. So I elected to do a similar test on Tom’s ARMADA STANDARDS. From Tom’s newsletter, the ARMADA STANDARDS are as follows:

I drive a Toyota Tacoma, and my vehicle is 19.5’ long, but the concept stands! Both are big vehicles, and like Tom wrote, it is quite plausible that a self defense shooting would take place within that 6-6.5 yard range. This set of standards has everything…shooting from the draw, offhand shooting, strong hand only shooting, and shooting to empty and reloading. I also thought it was most useful to shoot this drill cold, to get the best idea of what it was actually measuring. Of course, since I was trying to shoot it in a very heightened and agitated state, I consumed a 5-shot espresso, 30 minutes before executing the standards!

Tom set the PAR score for this set of standards at 8. A 10.5 is decent and gives me some room to tighten up too. I’d like to get all twenty into the black, in the future.


This was an interesting test for me to set ground work to get over the feelings of anxiety I have when shooting competitions. I’m getting better, but I still get agitated when that BEEP hits! I also am quite happy with my ability to press the trigger smoothly while aligning the sights, and also being able to manipulate loading process and run the slide. LOTS of people won’t be walking into their next gunfight in a completely sober state…hear me out. They will be under the influence of whatever they have on-board AND THEN THEY will also be under the effects of adrenaline on top of that. Whether that’s antidepressants, beta-blockers, anxiolytics, you name it. I’ve seen students in classes that take all of those things and more! Yet, while they are used to training and working while taking those medications, they aren’t used to fighting for their life while taking them! And that is difficult to replicate. Yes…you get a certain kind of buzz from Force on Force and competition, but that doesn’t happen to everyone. But a real fight…that’s a difficult stimulus to replicate.


THIS is ten rounds of the non +P Critical Duty fired at 10 rounds, quickly (in terms of Tom’s reference to QUICKLY, CAREFULLY or PRECISELY). I fired these after the Armada Standards. This particular gun shoots these to the same POI, whether +P or not. The sights are stock, and they have been modified by blacking out the rear sight dots with black paint, and painting the face of the front post orange. I use Walgreen’s house brand nail polish for the front and the rear sights, with a base coat of flat white underneath. As an experienced M&P user for 15 years now, I really love the M&P METAL. The recoil impulse (which was already minimal) is even less in the metal frame. It is very easy to shoot the gun fast, and not have it get away from you. The trigger has a stop which prevents overtravel, and although it’s probably not necessary, it eliminates that nasty, “SNAP,” and wobble that is endemic to some polymer frame service pistols. It breaks cleanly and predictably. It fits all of the M&P holsters I have for my polymer guns.
60 rounds of CCI Blazer Brass 115 grain 9mm, using the BASELINE PERFORMANCE STANDARDS I adapted from Claude Werner a few years back. This is a good way to objectively evaluate how proficient you are with a particular gun, at 3, 5, 7, 10, 15 and 20 yards. I recently started wearing progressive lenses, and it’s been a challenge finding what phase of the lense to look through to see the front sight best. I have thought about wearing clear shooting glasses with non-prescription lenses, since I really only need glasses for reading or doing close up work with my hands, I have them on most of the time, so it makes sense to practice with them and get good with wearing them. If you’re on the fence about the M&P METAL, don’t be. It is a winner and Smith has really put out a good product with it. I have a pair…this one I use for training, and the one I use for carry. The training gun is denoted by the FDE grip back strap, and the carry gun has the OEM black back strap. I’ve got 300 flawless rounds through the carry gun and about 1400 through the training gun. They work well with new or older vintage (READ, GEN 1) M&P magazines, whether in standard capacity or in ban state neutered 10 rounds versions. If I was purchasing this gun in a ban state, unlike some neutered magazines of the past, I would feel good about using the factory 10 rounders if that’s all I had available.

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