Awesome customer service for the S&W M&P

20170311_122431-crop

I went shopping for a replacement M&P Pro and found a reasonable price on a used gun over at Triangle Shooting Academy (TSA). I’d been watching both Armslist & the Carolina Shooters Club forum for a used Pro since my last one was liberated from my house. I wasn’t seeing any used guns posted for sale unless they had been liberally modified and the seller wanted over $1000 for the firearm. Since I mostly shoot IDPA the excessive modifications would make the gun illegal to shoot. I looked at these “For Sale” ads and  thought “Good luck with that!” and waited. And waited. I finally decided I was tired of waiting and started calling every gun store in driving distance. TSA  had what I was looking for.

Of note, I paid $75 more than I paid for my 1st used M&P Pro. I bought the first in November 2015 and the second in February 2017 – 15 months apart. They are much more scarce than when I originally shopped for this gun.

In the photo above, you can see the used gun I bought up top and a friend’s CORE below. They are basically the same gun but the CORE has the option of a removable cut out on the slide to place in red dot optics. Also the front and back sites are higher so they can co-witness with the optics, if mounted.

There are two other differences visible in the photo above:

  • The CORE had an aftermarket trigger. The Pro does not (in this photo, stay tuned).
  • The CORE has the upgraded / stippled small back strap and the Pro  has a regular, un-stippled small M&P 9mm back strap.

It appears the previous owner either swapped out the small back strap with another M&P non-Pro owner or S&W ran short and shipped it this way.

I resorted to eBay to purchase the proper back strap. I found none for sale. I looked at a few forums and found some posts leading me to believe S&W was restricting the resale to verified Pro or CORE owners.

So I called S&W and hit “3” for M&P Customer Service. I explained what I had and what I wanted. The gentleman at S&W M&P customer service dropped a small Pro back strap in the mail to me. No charge.

That was a lovely experience. Thanks S&W!

I will be watching my mailbox for it’s arrival.

UPDATE: Here’s a bit more information from the packing slip included with the shipment. The part number for the Small M&P Pro back strap is: 424300000 with a description
“SM M&PGRIPINST W/HEAVY TEXPANELS”

Shooting a BUG match with a Snub-nosed Revolver

GirlGoesBang hat

I’ve written about the BUG (Back Up Gun) matches at The Range in Oxford, NC that are offered on months with a 5th Sunday. The one I’m writing about in this post was on January 30, 2016.

I’ve made a habit of shooting these matches with my smallest guns, which are the guns I carry. In the past I’ve shot my Springfield XDS in 9mm and the Ruger LC9s Pro I picked up last year. Note the caliber. I stockpile 9mm as I made a decision a few years back to only buy 9mm handguns. I did purchase a .22lr prior to my first 9mm handgun and it’s great for new shooters. The only other exception was the first gun I ever bought, a snub-nosed .38 Special revolver. A previous post mentioned the steps I’d taken to get it back into reliable shape.

The BUG Match at The Range in Oxford is still using 5 rounds as the maximum round count for BUG guns, so I bought a box of .38 special ammo on sale at Walmart (Perfecta at just under $15/box) and brought along the M&P Pro with a couple of boxes of 9mm ammo. I had the exact number of rounds needed for the BUG gun: a box of 50. That wasn’t good planning, it was dumb luck. I’d recommend at least 60 rounds for your BUG Gun in case you need to do a reshoot on any stage.

If you plan to shoot a BUG match, you don’t need holsters. You can use a gun rug or gun case to transport the gun from stage to stage. Just DO NOT take the gun out of the case until it’s your turn to shoot and the Safety Officer asks you to load and make ready.

Shooters were placed in 3 squads and started on alternate stages (1, 2 and 5). My squad started on Stage 5. That turned out to be fortunate for me as the shoot house, the stage with the most movement, was Stage 4 and my last stage of the day. I learned a few things about the revolver on the other stages that were helpful to know before shooting that stage.

Stage 5 was two strings of 5 shots with the BUG only. Reloads are off the clock. So the first “aha!” moment was at “Load and Make Ready”. A speed loader would sure come in handy for this. I picked up 2 of these a few weeks later.

I put 5 rounds of .38 Special in on pocket and 5 rounds in another pocket so I had the exact number of rounds and could load as fast as possible even if I was loading one by one.

My next “aha!” moment was when I pulled the trigger and there was no BANG! As hard as it is to hear with ear protection, I clearly heard my RO say “Pull it again!” (Thanks Frank!)  I had 5 shots for 5 targets. The next 4 trigger pulls did go bang so I put the sites on the 5th target and pulled a 6th time. This time it went bang. I had experienced my first malfunction drill with a revolver.

It’s amazing how many thoughts can go through your head in a short period of time while you are engaged in a serious activity. But I did have a conversation with myself. “That’s what you get for buying cheap ammo and never shooting it. So what’s the harm in trying to shoot that first round again? None. Wow, since it was the first round, I know exactly where the malfunction was. I wonder what I’d do if it was a different round? Figure that out if you have to. Now pull the trigger!

Stage 6 was also two strings of 5 rounds. Be careful what you ask for as I had another round fail to go bang and I had no idea which round it was. When I counted to 5 I still had one target left so I put the sites on the target, started counting from 1 again and pulled the trigger as fast as I could. If I got to 5 again I was going to stop and unload. It went bang on pull 3 so clearly a second firing pin strike was firing these rounds. I was pleased to see when we scored the targets that with the fast pull I actually hit the cardboard.

This revolver is small and the trigger is long and heavy. The sites barely peak over the top of the gun and I was serious about getting good hits, so except for the last target on stage 6, I pulled slow and steady. I pulled so slow that a friend encouraged me to try it single action. Basically, it hurt him to watch me shoot so slow. Really.

We grabbed our range bags and walked back to Stage 1. That presented a new challenge. Stage instructions: 5 shots at a single target weak hand only, reload off the clock, 5 shots strong hand only while retreating at the same target. Now the approach of shooting single action might not be viable? So I asked our RO Frank. He really didn’t care how I cocked the hammer (use your hands, your toes…) as long as nothing was touching the gun but the designated hand when the trigger was pulled.

One of my shooting buddies said it was possible to cock the hammer with the same hand holding the gun but it was clear to me that trying that for the first time with a loaded gun was a very bad idea. So I cocked the gun with the non-shooting hand and shot single handed with the designated hand.

Here’s what I learned:

  • I’m more accurate with my “weak” hand than my strong hand. But I use that hand for writing so that may be an advantage for me.
  • That gun really kicks. I was really glad to be done after 5 shots single handed and was convinced I’d find bruises in the web between my thumb and index finger later.
  • I can shoot faster (when trying to be accurate) taking the time to cock the hammer and pull the single action trigger.
  • The single action trigger has a lighter break than my 1911. Well, maybe not, but it is much lighter than I expected. My first round did hit the target but the trigger break surprised me. I learned very quickly not to put my finger anywhere on the single action trigger until I had the sites on the target and was ready to shoot.
  • If there is a “no shoot” positioned mid-body of the target, don’t shoot the body. Make the head shot. I hit the no-shoot. Sigh.

Stage 2 was the first stage we shot that brought the primary gun into play. There were two stages total where we basically did a New York Reload.  You load the BUG and place it on a flat surface as directed by the Safety Officer. Ditto for the primary gun. When the buzzer sounds, you pick up the primary gun and shoot the designated course of fire. You keep shooting till you complete the course of fire for the primary gun. You move to the position of the BUG, put the primary gun down, pick up the BUG and shoot the rest of targets. Essentially the BUG is your reload as this all happens on the clock. It’s not a skill you get to use in any other match.

The “aha!” moment came on this stage as soon as the beep went off to start shooting. When I picked up the 9mm M&P Pro, I fumbled the grip after shooting the tiny revolver in all the previous stages.  I wasn’t used to switching back and forth.

On the stage, the course of fire for the primary gun included two poppers and two movers. I missed the first popper and had to take a 2nd shot at it, but got holes in both movers so I was happy with that portion of the stage. I emptied the primary swapped it for the BUG and shot 5 additional targets. All the targets shot with the BUG were down zero, so I was very happy about that. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to aim as well due to the difference in trigger, sights and grip.

Stage 3 was also a New York Reload style stage. We shot large steel targets just like those used for Steel Challenge. This was my first time shooting these type targets. You keep shooting till you hit each piece of steel once or you are out of rounds. It took me all 11 rounds in my primary gun to hit the 6 targets. That was pretty humbling but did inspire me to shoot my first Steel Challenge match in March. After the steel, I again switched from primary to BUG and shot 5 paper targets. This time I had zero points down and missed the non-threat. That was encouraging.

Stage 4 was in the shoot house and required movement down a hallway and shooting targets around walls (we never break the 180 degree line to avoid putting shooters behind us in danger). We shot two BUG strings, so: 5 targets, one shot each, reload off the clock, and again 5 targets, one shot each. The single action trigger on the revolver was super light and I was glad this stage was last so I’d had time to learn to work with that. I didn’t want an accidental discharge into a wall. I think some of these required head shots and this was the only stage where the targets were obscured by walls initially.

We had good weather for January. I finally put the gun to use in a match that got me into shooting a few years back, and as always, learned a few new things.

Buying a Gun from a Stranger on the Internet

Armslist Ad for M&P Pro

Armslist Ad for M&P Pro

For several reasons, I became interested in purchasing an M&P Pro in 9mm. The short version is that it is fairly narrow on the grip up near the tang and I’ve been struggling with keeping my grip consistent when I shoot. I loved my 1911 when I could get it to run. It was very narrow with super slim grips, but I’ve given up that battle. I wanted to find a gun with a narrow grip that has a reputation for being reliable. The M&P Pro fits those requirements.

I have a friend that bought the M&P CORE. It’s almost the same gun except for the option to swap optical site on/off the slide. The fixed sites are higher to ensure they will co-witness if the optic is installed (ie: you can use the fixed sights along with the optical sight), but the frame, trigger, and magazines are identical. He’s been making some upgrades and I really like how the gun handles. So I started doing some research to determine cost and purchase options.

I started with gunwatcher.com. This site will give you a quick overview of current new prices, auction prices and classified prices. In this case the lowest new price was $551. Assume you’d also pay shipping and FFL fees. I found a used pistol in the “Classified” section that pointed to Armslist.com. The pistol was in a city about 2.5 hours away from me. The price was $475. The seller did mention the gun had a scratch and showed that in a photo. The price was good but not good enough to schedule 5 hours of driving.

A week or two passed. I planned a trip to a beach in South Carolina to visit family. I checked the ad again and the price had been dropped to $425. I checked the map and a detour through Wilmington added no significant driving time to return home. Although I was somewhat hesitant to make the purchase, because I always think twice before spending, this looked like a good opportunity and good timing. I contacted the seller by email.

First I asked for the production date on the gun. I wanted to upgrade the trigger using an Apex trigger kit. After some google-fu I determined that, most likely, pre-September 2010 guns had the older 1/16th inch sear plunger and sear spring in the sear housing block. After that date, they changed the size to 1/8 inch. I needed to buy the newer model to avoid even more cost in upgrading the trigger. The seller said the production date was December 2013.

I emailed back and said, “I’m interested. I have a NC concealed carry permit. I’m in Myrtle Beach today and will be driving back to Raleigh tomorrow. I can route through Wilmington but I’d want to shoot the pistol. I have factory ammo in 115gr. 10 rounds through each magazine is sufficient. Are you available tomorrow and is there a range where we could meet?” I included my cell number.

Part of me was hoping the seller would refuse to let me shoot the gun. Then I could walk away from the deal and still have my cash. I wouldn’t buy a used car without driving it and I didn’t want to buy a used gun without shooting it. He was very reasonable. He offered two options: a local indoor range or his parent’s house. I let him pick. The fact that he offered to meet me at an indoor range made me feel safer, but I didn’t want the additional cost and potential wait time if we met at the indoor range. I agreed to meet him on Sunday afternoon at his parent’s house.

I emailed my friend with the M&P CORE and let him know all the details: the seller’s name, cell #, email address and where we were planning to meet. When I left the beach I told my mom I was stopping on the way home to “see a man about a gun”. I was excited and scared.

I had packed: eyes & ears, my uplula loader, a box of Remington factory ammo, some IPDA targets, and an envelope with $425 in cash. I was wearing a high necked shirt. I punched the address into the GPS and hit the road.

Around 2pm, I turned off the highway at the address listed. It was a dirt road. I figured that might be the case if I was going to shoot. I drove past a building that looked abandoned. It had a sign that said “Upholstery” on it. The dirt road kept going around a corner and into a pine forest. I briefly thought this might not be a good idea, but if it went wrong, at least someone new the details.

I finally came around a corner and saw a house. Unlike the shop I passed, it was in good repair. A tall, lean man was walking through the yard holding a toddler. This was isolated but didn’t look threatening. I got out of the car. I told him who I was looking for and he told me that was his brother. He’d been delayed and was on the way. After a 15 minute wait and some laughs at the antics of the toddler, the seller came driving up the driveway.

Things went very smoothly.

  • I asked if he minded putting on the small backstrap. He did that for me.
  • I asked if he was OK letting me field strip the pistol. He looked a bit surprised but said he was fine with that. I could tell the pistol had been shot but the feed ramp had some shine to it. It came apart and went back together with no issues.
  • I asked where I could shoot the pistol and he pointed me to a huge pile of wood chips. He asked if I wanted to judge the accuracy and I said yes. He said he’d go look for some cardboard but I pulled out an IDPA target. He propped it up in the wood chip pile while I loaded magazines.
  • My friend happened to call to check on me and the seller heard me say, I”m getting ready to shoot the gun now. I’ll call you when I’m done.” I did want him to know I was checking in with someone.
  • The pistol shot flawlessly. I collected the target.
  • I told him I was happy with what I saw and wanted to buy it. He pulled out a form he’d downloaded from the internet. I found it here. He filled out two copies. We each kept one.
  • He asked to see my driver’s license and CCW. I asked to see his and asked to take a photo of each with my cell phone. He wrote in the DL # for the buyer and the seller. I read through the form and signed. He said he never put names on the form. I verified the DL # he listed for himself matched what was on his DL.
  • I gave him the envelop with the cash.

We chatted a bit about IDPA, concealed carry (he showed me his), and what he was now shooting (a Glock). I got in my car and headed home.

I called my friend to let him know I was safe, I’d was on the road driving and that I’d bought the pistol!. We talked about upgrades after I got home.

I called my gunsmith on Monday and told him I’d bought a gun. He replied, “Uh oh, what did you buy?” followed by “How much did you pay?” He told me I’d gotten a really good deal assuming it was in good shape. Time will tell, but I wanted to document the experience. I’m pretty excited about the new gun.

I found magazines under $25 apiece, with free shipping, at Arms Unlimited.I placed the order Monday night and they arrive Thursday evening. They were S&W magazines, not aftermarket knock offs.

Next is a holster and magazine pouches.Then the Apex Trigger Kit. And possibly an extended magazine release. And, of course, much, much more practice.