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 . . .