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Jul
18

The M&P Project – the Apex Tactical USB

What’s that old phrase? If something works, you can always make it better? In terms of first steps with the M&P Project, one of the products on the market I wanted to evaluate were the drop in parts offered by Apex Tactical. On the various forums, and in word of mouth, I’d heard a lot of good things about them, and I wanted to see for myself what kind of difference they would really make, especially when starting with a stock gun as my comparison point. In this third installment of the M&P Project series, I’ll introduce you to the Apex Tactical Ultimate Striker Block!

Apex Tactical offers a number of small parts for the M&P. You can purchase them a la carte, or as one of a few kits, based against your needs. I wanted to try to test out various different configurations of their parts, and see what worked for me, and what didn’t, and basically have the greatest amount of flexibility in configuring the gun with their parts that I could have. I like to tinker a bit, so, hey, why not, right? So, I ordered their Competition Action Enhancement Kit (CAEK) and the Duty Spring Kit. Between these two, I had almost all of the individual parts that Apex Tactical makes for the M&P, minus the Reset Assist Mechanism (RAM) and the newer Failure Resistant Extractor. A number of parts are duplicated between the kits, with the biggest difference (other than the spring rates between their associated spring) being that the CAEK included a competition weight striker spring. Both include Apex’s hardened sear, new sear and trigger return springs, and the Ultimate Striker Block (USB).

The striker block performs an important safety function in these guns, preventing the striker from traveling forward and striker the primer of the chambered round if the trigger isn’t actively being pulled (say, if the gun is dropped). The act of pulling the trigger deactivates the striker block, thus allowing the gun to go off. The way this works is that there’s a protrusion (I know, I know… big words…) on top of the trigger bar that rides in a channel in the slide. As the trigger bar is moved rearward by the trigger when it’s pulled, this projection meets the striker block where it extends downward from it’s hole in the slide, and pushes upward on the striker block, moving it upward and out of the way of the striker, and holding it there until the trigger is released.

If you take the slide off of a stock M&P and take a look at the stock striker block, you’ll notice that it has a fairly wide flat spot with a fairly steep angle and sharp edges where the protrusion on the trigger bar contacts it. The stock part isn’t exactly rough in finish, but it’s not super smooth, either. Both of these things could potentially lead to rough or “gritty” feeling action when you pull the trigger, as they contribute the friction required to pull the trigger bar rearward and ultimately trip the sear out of the way of the striker. You can see the stock striker block on the left side in the accompanying pictures.

Now, you might recall from the first installment in this series that I mentioned the stock trigger pull is kind of gritty. It also has a sort “false reset” feel when releasing the trigger after firing, before the trigger resets. Hmmm…. Well, logic would suggest that those things could both be improved by smoothing up some of the internal parts, and the striker block presents a pretty obvious place to start. If you’re handy with a Dremel tool, you could polish up the stock striker block pretty easily, and that would no doubt make things smoother. You might also round off those sharp-ish edges, while you’re at it, and make the transition on the striker block from first contact to full compression smoother and more gradual (of course, you have to be careful, because if you encroach too much on the flat of the part, you might actually not have enough compression of the striker block, and end up with a condition where the striker block no longer gets disengaged. Then, you also have to make sure you have a way to hold the striker block securely while you work on it, and that you apply your modifications evenly around the whole part.

Or… you can spend $20 and buy the Apex Tactical USB… I like tinkering as much as the next guy, but given all the caveats, this is just an easier move, for sure. Check out the USB to the right of the stock part. Nice, smooth, clean lines, and nicely polished already. The USB also comes with a new, lighter spring, and a Talon Tactical rear sight tool. There are no instructions included, but Apex Tactical has a number of well done installation tutorials on their YouTube channel that make installation of all of these parts pretty straightforward for folks who are mechanically inclined. In fact, I found the installation to be exactly as described in the video. I’ll run through it real quickly here for you, too.

You’re going to need an appropriately sized allen wrench to loosen the screw on the rear sight, a brass or aluminum punch (to drift out the rear sight), and an appropriate hammer (for the same purpose). You start by removing the slide from the gun (see the gun’s manual), and securing it in a padded vise, or something like that. Loosen the allen head screw, and use the punch and hammer to carefully drift the rear sight 2/3 of the way out. Now, be careful – you want to drift it out from left to right as you look down at the slide from the rear. There’s a good reason for this, as you’ll see. You may have to use some force to get the sight moving, but as you get it further out of the dovetail in the slide, the amount of force required will probably get smaller. Be certain you don’t accidentally drive it all the way out by accident!

You’ll start to see a silver colored aluminum disk appear underneath the front sight. Here’s where the rear sight removal tool comes in handy. Slide it in from the left side – the tool help capture the disk and associated parts underneath it while you remove the rear sight. At this point, the rear sight should be movable by hand. So, put pressure from left to right on the removal tool, and then remove the sight in the opposite direction. The tool should move right over and block the disk. Set the rear sight down somewhere safe.

Now you can use a finger to capture the disk as you pull the removal tool out again, and slowly let off the pressure on the disk. Under the disk, you’ll see a spring and the striker block. Remove both, and replace them with the Apex parts, and then reassemble the parts in the opposite order, using the tool to first hold the disk in place in compression, and then push the rear sight back in as far as it will go from the right side of the slide. The tool should be clear of the disk, at this point. You can remove it the rest of the way, and then just drive the rear sight back into center with the punch and hammer. You’ll obviously need to double check zero the next time you’re on the range, and possibly re-adjust it.

The results? WOW!

Installation of this simple part in my stock gun essentially eliminated all the grittiness in the pull, the “false reset”, and took a full pound off the trigger pull. I now have a 5# trigger pull that’s actually very smooth, and extremely acceptable. I expected improvement, but was surprised at the magnitude of it. Very cool stuff. If you have to use an M&P for carry or for duty purposes, this modification makes the gun much easier to shoot while not making the trigger so light as to be dangerous for those purposes. Since you’re probably going to want to install new sights anyway, you can just drop this puppy right in there while you’re at it (or while you have your gunsmith install the sights), and you’ve got a solid $20 trigger job. This is a definite improvement over the stock part, without a doubt, and gets my recommendation.

About the author

DaveRe

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

Permanent link to this article: http://re-gun.com/2011/07/the-mp-project-the-apex-tactical-usb/

2 comments

2 pings

  1. JD says:

    I picked up a M&P 9L several months ago and noticed the same things you mentioned about the trigger and sights.

    Since I’m using the gun for Production division I installed the full Apex CAEK and RAM. WOW what a difference those few parts made, the trigger is awesome.

    Got a non captive guide rod and springs in 20,17 and 15lbs coming. Once I get a decent load worked out that makes PF, I’ll be able to quickly change springs to see which works best.

    Replacing the sights is the next thing on my to do list.

    Can’t wait to see what modifications you make.

    1. DaveRe says:

      JD, FWIW, I understand the stock spring is 16#? I’m not thinking I’d try heavier than that, but would be interested in what you discover when you try them out…

      Sights – I couldn’t agree more. In fact, my M&P is sitting at Dawson Precision right now, waiting for sight installation ;) (.145″ Charger rear, .115″ wide front)

      Blog articles are coming on a number of things I’ve tried, so far, so stay tuned! :)

  1. DR Performance says:

    The M&P Project – let's take a look at the Apex Tactical USB! http://bit.ly/pKVrbO

  2. The M&P Project – Apex Tactical Hard Sear and Competition Sear Spring | Re-Gun says:

    [...] back to the M&P Project! If you recall, the first modification I made to my M&P9 was the Apex Tactical USB. The USB made a huge improvement to the stock trigger pull, but still left me with a relatively [...]

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