The M&P Project – first range report

This is the second in a series of posts evaluating the S&W M&P for use as a carry and competition gun. You might want to read my First Blush impressions first. There’s a blog category that captures the whole series, too.

Of course, what’s the first thing anyone really wants to do with a new gun? Shoot it! I had a chance to get out to the range with the new toy shortly after receiving it and put about 150 rounds through it. Here’s the results….

All I did in this first trip out was basic function testing. I have 6 mags for it, so I made sure to run at least one full mag of ammo through each one, just to insure I didn’t receive an obviously problematic magazine. No issues there. The M&P scarfed up the Federal 115gr FMJ and asked for more.

Aside from the previously mentioned grittiness in the stock trigger, the M&P makes a very nice range gun. The stock recoil spring is reportedly a seemingly heavy 16 pounds, but the gun doesn’t flip exceedingly, and the push from factory 9mm 115gr ammo is pretty mild. The gun moves fairly snappily. I had a couple of other folks out with me who are not competition shooters, including my brother-in-law (who’s primarily a Glock shooter, currently) and my wife (who’s petite, and recoil sensitive due to an elbow injury), and both of them found the M&P pleasant and easy to shoot and handle when using proper techniques. The slide is hard for my wife to rack if she tries to use a sling shot technique, but no problem if she uses the stronger “push-push” technique (I need a better term for that one, I guess… there’s probably a name for it…).

It’s always good to know the accuracy potential of a new gun, so that you can set expectations in your other practice appropriately. I don’t expect as much out of a duty gun as do out of my competition race guns, but I still like a gun to be able to shoot reasonably good groups at 25 yards. And here’s where I found some wrinkles. I couldn’t shoot a group with this gun to save my life. What the heck? Yeah, like I could barely manage 5″ at 15 yards, and when I went back to 25 yards, I couldn’t keep all the hits on a 9″ paper plate. The photo to the right is a 15 shot group at 25 yards. That’s right, there’s only 12 holes in the paper plate. Ouch.

It was at this point that I started questioning whether I could still shoot or not…. Hrmmmm…

Luckily, I had some other ammo with me. I didn’t expect much out of it – it was WInchester White Box (or, WWB) 115gr FMJ ammo, a load that is famously bad in most guns that I’ve ever shot it in. I loaded up 10, and shot a group at 25 yards. See that picture at the top of the post? Yeah. 5″ at 25 yards. That’s a lot better. Whew… The sigh of relief was huge, let me tell you! I’ll grant you – 5″ at 25 is nothing to get all excited about, but given that WWB has historically been the worst ammo I’ve shot as far as accuracy goes, and it is capable of 5″ at 25 yards out of this gun, I have some confidence that different ammo will perform even better. I’m starting to accumulate several different factory loads to test out in the near future.

How accurate is accurate enough? Ignore this silly talk about “acceptable combat accuracy” – that seems to be a term that states “the gun shoots as poorly as I do, therefore it’s OK”. There are a number of documented cases where a good guy has had to engage a bad guy at 25 yards, and the vital zone is maybe a 6″ circle in the chest, and an even smaller area in the head? A gun that can only manage 5″ at 25 yards is on the ragged edge – and that was a well controlled, bench rested group, not a freestyle group shot under pressure and stress. From a competition standpoint, a gun that can only manage 5″ at 25 yards can’t really reliably hold a head shot upper A/B zone or upper -0 at 25 yards, either. I’d prefer to be able to shoot 2-3″ at 25 yards with this gun off a rest. So, I’d say what I’ve got right now, with the gun as it came from the factory paired with WWB is acceptable, but not great. Like I said, though, I expect this to improve with higher quality ammo.

Just for reference, my Brazos Custom Gunworks Pro Sx series race gun is capable of groups under an inch at 50 yards (so, half an inch at 25 yards).

Lessons to learn:

  • Don’t Panic!
  • If the gun won’t group, benchrest it and/or find someone else to shoot a group with it.
  • Especially when trying a new gun and shooting factory ammo, don’t make any assumptions – the problem could really be anything, including an ammo/gun mismatch, as I had in this case…
  • Cheap ammo is, well… cheap… You get what you pay for….
  • Federal branded 115gr FMJ makes my M&P unhappy… I expected more out of you, Federal branded ammo….

I’ve been told that Federal’s American Eagle brand 124gr FMJ ammo is a good one to try, so I’m attempting to locate a couple hundred rounds of that stuff to try out. I also have some CCI Lawman 147gr TMJ stuff on hand, and CCI’s 124gr offering probably wouldn’t be bad to try out, either. We’ll find something this gun likes to shoot, no doubt!

About the author


USPSA Grand Master, NRA Instructor, http://re-gun.com/about/

Permanent link to this article: http://re-gun.com/2011/07/the-mp-project-first-range-report/


2 pings

  1. Tim says:

    I generally had good luck with the Federal ammo in the past. I’m surprised that there was such a difference in the group with the change in ammo.

    1. DaveRe says:

      Tim, I was a little surprised the Federal stuff was that bad in the gun. For whatever reason, my gun just doesn’t like that load, it seems. I’ll have to shoot a variety of different stuff before I can put my finger on what it likes and what it doesn’t like – then we’ll see if this gun is picky about ammo, or if perhaps that Federal load just isn’t one to use… I mean, it’s cheaper than WWB, so I guess I shouldn’t expect a whole lot out of it…

      1. Tim says:

        Karl shot some USA Ammo and some of my reloads (9mm MG 124GR JHP, 4.2 TG) at 20 yards and there as a difference but the USA Ammo rounds I have low expectations for.

  2. ken hebert says:

    WWB and Federal both shoot just about the same in my 9pro. in fact i’ve used them in conjunction when i ran out of WWB at a match.

  1. DR Performance says:

    Part 2 of the M&P Project – first trip to the range! http://t.co/zFQ85hL

  2. xre says:

    Part 2 of the M&P Project – first trip to the range! http://t.co/zFQ85hL

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