Once or twice a season, Top Shot’s producers turn their back on firearms enthusiasts. If you consider all the amazingly awesome firearms that the contestants could be shooting—from the new Heizer Double Tap to the M242 Bushmaster cannon—throwing rocks at window? Bouncing an arrow off a slope? To quote Tatum O’Neil’s ex, you cannot be serious. This week’s non-ballistic WTF: crossbows. Thankfully, that wasn’t the only weapon on the menu . . .

Smith & Wesson M&P 40

The episode description hailed the Smith & Wesson M&P as the “perfect pistol.” Me and my SIG P226 disagree. Massachusetts and New York buyers [attempting to] shoot the M&P with the state-mandated 413 lb. trigger pull are on my debating team. And the owner of Apex Tactical triggers wouldn’t be driving around in a Ferrari 458 Italia if the M&P’s trigger was as easy to control as the Italian sports car’s go-pedal. (Specifically, as Say Uncle pointed out, the M&P’s trigger reset.)

Still, there’s no denying that the striker-fired semi-automatic polymer-framed M&P’s a damn fine handgun. Introduced in 2007 as a belated reaction to Glock-mania, Smith’s M&P (Military & Police) model combines the rugged reliability of a Glock with the ergonomics and styling of a not-a-Glock. Better yet the M&P is not a SIGMA and retails at slightly less than . . . a Glock.

Having fired a number of M&Ps, I can safely say that the 9mm version is The One. A few weeks ago, the M&P nine was in contention as a replacement for my SIG P226. The primary reason I went with a new (well, older, but less used) SIG was the fact that I had eleventy billion magazines for it already. And it’s a nine.

We can debate about the wisdom of the .40 caliber round all day. There are plenty of firearms enthusiasts who snigger at the caliber for not being as fast or easy-to-fire as a nine and not being as slow and making as big a hole as a .45. There are just as many .40 cal fans who tout the fact that it’s easier to shoot and smaller than a .45 (for greater capacity) and makes bigger holes than a nine.

There’s a reason competition shooters fire .22s: they’re not .40s. However you weigh in on the pros and cons of carrying a firearm stocked with .40s, it’s a snappy round. A lot less than ideal for feats and tests of marksmanship. Either it was perfect for Top Shot (more challenging firearms means tougher competition) or Smith’s marketing department called this one.

The M&P fits your hand well. And if it doesn’t there are interchangeable backstraps (a benefit so beneficial even the Perfection guys at Glock felt compelled to copy the system). The M&P’s controls are right where they need to be (on the gun). Despite being a striker fired pistol, the M&P has a surprisingly nice trigger break.

The version shown on Episode 4 didn’t have an external safety. That’s the right choice for self-defense and “real” competition. But I sure would have liked to watch Top Shot‘s competitors have to manipulate an M&P with a frame-mounted safety—if only to show what a truly bad idea it is.

Is it the M&P the “perfect” pistol? Not if Glock’s marketing team has anything to say about it. (One assumes the History Channel got a phone call from Gaston’s mob this morning.) But the Smith is as dependable as the Glock, prettier than the Springfield XD, a lot more ergonomically satisfying than the Glock (if not the XD) and American-made dammit.

Bottom line: the M&P’s a true stalwart that’s best sampled in non-.40-caliber versions, IMHO. The full-size M&P .45 won Shooting Industry’s Handgun of the Year award back in ’07. Just sayin’.

The only problem I have with Top Shot turning to the M&P: it doesn’t really test the shooters’ ability. Safety or no safety, the M&P’s a modern firearm that works like any other modern firearm. It gives a massive advantage to competitors who own a striker fired pistol over, say, the archery guys.

I may be a bit of a masochist, but I like to watch the contestants struggle with their firearms in an attempt to quickly master them rather than simply pitting one person’s shooting skills against another. I know! It’s the History Channel right? How about historical firearms (instead of hysterical competitors)?

If I wanted to see a “normal” shooting competition I’d head out to the local range and watch one there. I watch Top Shot for the interesting firearms and the challenges associated with them. Like the grenade launcher. Now that was a good one. You know, TTAG may have to do a TV pilot to show them how it’s done . . .

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23 Responses to The Gun(s) of Top Shot: Season 4 Episode 4

  1. I gotta agree Nick, I like seeing odd stuff being shot, like cap & ball revolvers, or trap door Springfields, stuff that “Joe Shmoe” competitive shooter has probably never had his hands on before. Makes for a more interesting show. And I also agree the throwing stones, and blow guns is pretty lame for a show supposedly about guns.

  2. why do they insist on forcing this on every season? Also, what is with that little john weirdo and his nasty bandana. so stupid, where did they find that guy?

  3. I agree with you on the M&P, I don’t generally like striker fired pistols, but I do like this one. I was very impressed with it when I got to try it and at some point I will pick one up for myself.

  4. Hey, the crossbow was the high powered rifle of its day! The crossbow could consistently pierce chain and plate armor, and even penetrate more than a single target. Its down side was weight and slow reloading compared to a long bow.

    • my buddy has an mp 9mm. i really like the trigger compared to a glock, but i agree with the maddawg j on the striker fired pistols.

      i am not a fan of the take down on this gun however.

  5. I LOVE this blog. I really do. I love Nick’s posts too, especially Q&A. He is really an impressive resource. And I think I love both of them even more during Top Shot’s off season.

  6. Considering the whole idea behind the show was to profile weapons from throughout history be it throwing stones or using firearms that span time it seems “Top Shot” is keeping to its format.

    You are of course free to not watch the show and not stress over what you want to see vs. what is shown.

  7. I thought it was funny that the producers labeled the M&P as the “perfect pistol”. Colby said it and they even included it in the show description on my on screen guide. I don’t agree with them at all, in fact I am not an M&P fan at all. But it is funny given that S&W’s direct competitor in the perfect polymer pistol market uses the tagline “Perfection”. Gotta love a direct shot across the bow on national TV. I hope they let Herr Gaston fire back.

  8. I know many folks poo poo on Top Shot. But, the components to the show, be they over hyped by the producers, completely fake, or irritating to the shooting regulars, I care not. The combination of this show, and a few of the others on the boob tube have my wife getting more interested in firearms. My son is now shooting competitively with his JROTC team at school. Shows like this actually get my wife interested enough to pull a trigger at the range? OK, then I am going to be a fan.

    • +1 This show may be sort of hokey but it does get shooting and marksmanship into a primetime slot which gives the sport I love more exposure. The more people shooting, the tougher to enact silly laws.

      • Not to mention it tries to do a semi-responsible job of it, I’m on the fence about Sons of Guns but they act a little immature for my tastes. On Top Shot you have folk letting the next teammate in line know whether the safety is on or off, and even jumping back losing valuable challenge time to put it back on, even though that didn’t seem to be a rule of the competition. It seemed from the beginning that the contests couldn’t be filmed in a linear manner (slomo, etc) but at least these guys set a more safe example than some other gun shows out there right now.

        Honestly just being able to talk about which “gun shows” I prefer over others at all is kind of refreshing.

    • You have a good point there. Any show that portrays guns as being fun, and enjoyable when used in competition, is a good thing. If it sparks an interest in John & Jane Homeowner to maybe check out the shooting sports and then invest in it, then further down the line get involved on our side of the politics of firearms ownership, has to be a plus for the rest of us gun owners.

  9. I think the archery weapons are interesting. I am a gun guy but I have friends who hunt and compete with bows and crossbows. There is a market for them. Don’t forget in a SHTF scenario a near silent weapon could be very useful. Bows have a place on the show. I’m waiting for the episode with an atl atl. That would be a task to master.

    I like the M&P. I own a .45 and it shoots great. Point shooting it with a suppressor is very natural for me.

  10. It amazes me that shows like this stay on the air. MSNBC has about 1000 viewers and they stay on the air. Top shot has about 50 viewers and they stay on the air. What’s really said is that I’m guessing that the 1000 and the 50 viewers also vote.

  11. I like crossbows, the first great equaliser that allowed an untrained peasant to slaughter European nobility, to a state where Popes tried to ban them. Still legal to own in the UK too, as long as the pull is less than 120 ft/lbs. I just wish I knew what that meant.

  12. My EDC is an M&P40c. Once I replaced the Massachusetts boat-anchor trigger with an Apex kit, the gun became a thing of beauty. I also bought a Storm Lake 9mm barrel and OE mags for the gun so I could shoot cheaper 9mm ammo from time to time. The gun is accurate, concealable, foolproof and versatile.

    But the perfect pistol? Preposterous. While I really enjoy my M&P, there ain’t no such thing as perfection in a pistol. Glock, take note.

  13. Good luck finding one now. The SW M&P is being used across seas as the side weapon of choice for militaries. The local gun store has a 1 year wait. Springfield XDm is a far better combat weapon across the board. Hands Down.

    • Welcome to the forum Gabby! I picked you as potential winner on this show before the first episode aired based on your Olympic experience. I look forward to watching you compete in future episodes.

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