After the recent purchase of 2 S&W M&P Shields in 9mm for back up and as student loaner guns, my descent into the world of the M&P began. Being a long time fan of the .45 ACP cartridge, there was only one choice, an M&P in .45. I decided on the M&P 45c SKU 109108. This is a 4in. barrel, 8 shot magazine M&P with ambidextrous thumb safety. The pistol is supplied with 2 eight round magazines, one flush fit and one with an extension. The pistol has the standard 3 dot sights and interchangeable backstraps of the M&P line. I’m currently using the small backstrap insert as that gives me the best fit to my hands. As Hilton Yam has noted before, the M&P with the thumb safety is very natural for a 1911 shooter who uses a high thumb grip to shoot. The pistol is available with or without the safety.
Testing of the pistol began on the way home from the dealer. Without cleaning or lubrication I fired 50 rounds of 230 gr. ball and my preferred carry load of Corbon DPX without an issue. I then switched to my favorite reload, a 200 gr. LSWC. 100 rounds later there had been no issues. The accuracy potential of the pistol was there, but as has been noted here on MSW before, the trigger was gritty with an indistinct reset and over travel. (Who’d have thought that old 1911 shooters would be wishing for a trigger like a Glock).
Knowing a fix for those issues exists, a quick order to Brownell’s for an Apex Tactical .45 DCAEK Duty Kit, as well as a Warren Tritium White Outline Front Sight and a 10-8 Performance M&P Rear Sight rounded out the package. This sight combination is my go to setup for all my pistols and one that I recommend to others.
M&P’s are known for the stock sights being tight in the dovetails and taking some force to remove. Use heat on the Red Locktite on the rear sight before trying to remove the set screw, then tap out the sight, the front sight may take a bit of force. Be careful and go slow. Fitting the new sights involves filing the bottom of the sights gradually until the desired fit is achieved. Go slow and check your work frequently. When you tap out the rear sight of the M&P take note that the safety plunger spring is underneath the sight. You’ll need to remove the rear sight to install the safety plunger from the Apex DCAEK Kit and they include a plastic tool which fits the dovetail and retains the safety plunger spring during removal and installation of the rear sight. Apex goes the extra mile with installation videos on line as well as including items such as a trigger pin slave pin, different size sear springs etc. with their kits. Take your time and follow the instructions. Having the proper tools and knowledge is a plus however. When in doubt seek out a qualified gunsmith or armorer.
Once the Apex Kit was installed I measured the trigger pull with my Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge. The trigger pull prior to modification was 7.6 lbs. After installation of the DCAEK the trigger averaged 6.2 lbs. The gritty feel was gone and reset and overtravel were as they should be. I used the supplied Apex trigger return spring, which is stronger than the stock spring. The supplied instructions indicate that the stock spring will yield a 5.5 lb. trigger.
With the trigger issues solved and my preferred sight setup installed, it was time to hit the range again. The first group fired after the sight installation proved spot on for elevation, but an inch left. A couple taps and the sights were spot on POA/POI. The DCADK Kit made all the difference in the world, gone was the gritty feel and excessive take up and indistinct reset. I will polish the bearing surfaces to see what changes that makes. The 165×125 Warren White Outline Tritium Front Sight and 10-8 140 Rear Sight work perfectly together. I fired another 150 200 gr. LSWC reloads again with no malfunctions. This is straight out of the box without cleaning or lubrication.
I concentrated on slide lock reload drills and presentations from the holster. I found that while stiff the slide release can be pressed with either my strong or support hand thumb. However when using a hand over technique to grasp the rear of the slide with the support hand to tug the slide and release it, I consistently activate the safety back up into the on safe position. This also occurs when grasping the slide in the same manner to chamber a round or during a malfunction drill. While I like the idea of a thumb safety, the design on the M&P just does not work for me.
I found that the grip angle and ergonomics of the pistol made acquiring the front sight during press outs fast. The controls fall very naturally under my thumbs for fast manipulations, and the magazines insert and drop free cleanly. The pistol is free of sharp edges, and the front and rear grasping groves provide a good purchase. I would prefer a bit more aggressive pattern to the grips and backstrap inserts, but that is easily addressed through the aftermarket, or with the careful use of a soldering iron. (See Hilton”s previous article on his work on his M&P).
On my third range session I shot another 200 rounds, 100 of which were 200gr. LSWC reloads, and 100 230gr. ball. The pistol preformed flawlessly. I worked on shoot 1 slide lock reload, shoot 1 drills from the holster with concealment. The sights are quick to pick up and the Apex parts made all the difference in the trigger. I did find the issues with the thumb safety a problem. While the idea of a thumb safety is a great idea, I found the design just did not work for me and my technique. I removed the thumb safety before the end of the session and had no further issues, again not the guns fault. A call to Smith & Wesson to explain my problem, and they were good enough to supply me with frame plugs to fill the gaps in the frame left by the removal of the thumb safety.
After 500 rounds with no malfunctions out of the box, I had to break down and clean the pistol. Quite frankly the pistol wasn’t having an issue with the lack of cleaning, but I was. During the cleaning I polished the contact points in the firing components and lubed them with Tetra Grease. A quick check with the trigger pull gauge showed that the trigger pull is now a consistent 5 lbs.11oz. For me a smooth usable trigger for a defensive pistol.
Now that the pistol has been set up to my liking and proven reliable, it has become my off duty carry and competition pistol. It carries well IWB in a Milt Sparks Summer Special 2 or OWB in an Alessi DOJ-S. Adding one of the companion Shields as a back up has me well armed.