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[ED: In response to reader requests, this is part of a series of posts by TTAG writers revealing their choice of carry guns.]

I’ve been writing about guns longer than I’ve been carrying one so most of my “What I Carry” journey has been hashed out here over the last four years. I don’t have a fancy rocking chair, I don’t even own a 1911, and only recently did I buy a new truck. As it goes, my carry gun is utilitarian down to its core. Before I get to what I carry today, I think it might be fun to talk about what I don’t carry and why . . .

1911 (sort of)

Way, way back almost four years ago, I started the process of getting my CHL in the great state of Texas. At the bottom of that article, I remarked that I was going to ask Springfield to send me a 1911 for test and evaluation. That decision was based exclusively on the fact that I had shot a 1911 before. Within a day of that article posting, Farago called me and bemoaned my choice. “The 1911 is no good. No good at all. It requires so much practice and precision and you absolutely can’t mess up. And given how many handguns you’ll be testing for us, you can’t afford to be pinned down to one platform. You’ll learn to draw a GLOCK well, and then go back to the 1911 and you’ll have forgotten everything. No good at all” (at least thats how I remember it…and note that a 1911 is now his primary carry gun).

M&P 45C

So with my hopes of 1911 glory dashed, I trundled off to KR Training for my very first pistol class. That was where Karl loaned me a M&P 9 outfitted with an Apex DCAEK trigger and a nice set of iron sights with a bright fiber optic front. I shot that pistol like a machine and fell thoroughly in love with the M&P series thanks to their svelte ergonomics and pleasantly mild recoil.

Figuring that 9 was good and .45 was better, I called up Smith & Wesson and wrangled a M&P 45C for a review. I had heard that the stock trigger was bad on the guns, but I just wasn’t ready for just how bad. It was awful. Straight up terrible. The worst. I knew then why the KR M&P 9 I’d used had a kit from Apex. But I made do and schlepped the M&P 45C around for a month or two, blissfully content and feeling great about my new CHL.

XD(M) 3.8 Compact – 9mm

On a whim and with a couple hundred extra samolians rattling around in my pockets one day, I bought a Springfield XD(M). Then I went to the range and shot it for the first time against my then-carry piece, the M&P 45C. I promptly returned home and penned a Dear John letter to .45 ACP to let it down easy.

The reason was simple. I shot circles around myself with the XD(M) in 9mm, a gun I’d literally never fired before. So the stage was set. I was a 9mm man, and how. Anybody who would listen would hear tell of my prowess with an XD(M) in parabellum. The accuracy. The trigger. The speed. The lack of recoil. It had it all. The only thing it had that it didn’t need was weight. That pistol was heavy. And getting people to make holsters for it was hard. But I soldiered on, carrying it regularly…with two brief flings.


This was a pistol that Nick had gotten during his time on Team FNS, but given his ties to the team, it presented a conflict of interest for him to write a review. So he handed it over to me with a case of ammo and told me to go nuts. And nuts I went.

In my review, I praised the trigger, the ergos, the stippling, and the accuracy. I loved it so much that when it came time for me to run the Pecos Run ‘n Gun for the first time, I picked the FNS as my go-to gun. But the gun that had reliably run in Nick’s and my hands for literally thousands of rounds failed numerous times during the race. I came home and shot the gun extensively without ever replicating the failure, but my confidence in it as a carry piece was shattered. Back in the safe it went.


Around the same time of my FNS failures and Farago moving to Texas, he called me and said, “You really need a GLOCK.” So after a little horse trading, I picked up a well-worn GLOCK 19. The GLOCK did GLOCK(y) things like eat everything, want for nothing, and make holster makers’ lives easier. It was ubiquitous, bland, boring, square, accurate, and reliable. Translation, it was everything I’d ever wanted in a carry gun.

The problem of course is that the GLOCK is made for normal people hands. I do not have normal people hands. I have small hands. I buy my nitrile gloves in medium because I’m too embarrassed to ask where the smalls are. That’s why I’d loved the M&P, the XD(M), and the FNS so much. They allowed me to get a confidence-inspiring grip on my pistol. The GLOCK? Notsomuch.

I still have it because it shoots well, it’s a great gun for beginners, and EVERYONE makes a holster for it. But my search continued, and in the interim, I went back to the XD(M).

XD(M) 4.5 – 9 mm

Figuring that if a little was good, a lot must be much better, I went whole hog and got the big boy XD(M). And then I carried it. Suddenly, all that weight didn’t matter because I had 20(!!) rounds with me. Enough ammo to stop an onslaught of baddies. Hell, with two spare mags on deck, my only worries were stepping off a dock as I’d surely drown under all that weight.

But then the worst happened. I had a failure under stress. I documented it fully in my review, but suffice to say, the gun was fine. The operator? Notsomuch. Due to a high grip I’d taught myself (idiot!), I’d inadvertently started engaging the slide stop. And badly. During the pistol stage at the Bushnell Brawl where I should have picked up dozens of points, I battled a gun that kept locking open every few shots. That wasn’t necessarily a gun problem, but it destroyed my confidence in my ability to shoot that gun well.

M&P 9 – RDS

Much like my XD(M) and M&P 45 comparison years prior, I took my RDS-equipped M&P 9 to the range and shot it back-to-back with the XD(M) 4.5. Hard as I tried, the XD(M) and I still couldn’t get along. The M&P 9, though, ran like a top. I’d forgotten how much I loved the red dot, and how much I loved the M&P platform. It certainly wasn’t as accurate as the XD(m) from the bench. But it ran great and hit minute of bad guy without fail.

The M&P 9 with the red dot had come equipped with Apex’s Competition Trigger Kit which was a touch light. And when Apex had machined the mount for that slide, they hadn’t done a rear dovetail so it didn’t have backup irons. I dutifully carried that gun for months, but the creeping dread that the RDS wouldn’t work when I needed it to, or that I’d blow through the light trigger under stress kept me awake at night. So I sent the gun back to Apex to address those issues, and that’s where it sits at the time of this writing.


M&P 9

Which brings me to my  EDC today. Its a M&P 9. It’s really similar to the one I shot all those years ago at KR Training. It has three additions to the stock gun. The first, an APEX DCAEK kit which fixed up the trigger real nice like. The stock M&P trigger has gotten better since that M&P 45C all those years ago, but the Apex trigger it still a big step up. I also ditched the stock sights in favor of a set of very bright, very crisp Trijicon night sights. The last mod was more of a personal preference than anything. I swapped out the mag release for one from LF Arms. I liked the stock release, but the LF unit allows me the flexibility to drop a mag with my thumb or with my middle finger, a practice I’ve been trying out more and more.

At the moment, the only other thing I’d possibly change would be a slight undercut on the trigger guard to relieve the pressure that causes some GLOCK knuckle during extended range sessions. I’d also prefer a touch more grippiness which I might fix with some skateboard tape, or by sending it to a professional to stipple.

For me, the M&P 9 is the perfect EDC pistol (for right now). It has taken me four years to come to a conclusion that my very professional and competent instructor Karl Rehn suggested at the beginning of my journey. Some people are really open to ideas like that. Some people are descended from a few hundred years of German and Irish ancestry and can’t possibly deal with the informed opinions of others, preferring to make the long and expensive journey to the same destination on their own.

My M&P 9 isn’t stock, it isn’t pretty, and it wasn’t the first or second gun I ever picked up. I had to learn a lot of lessons the hard way, but after four years, this is the gun I’ve settled on. It runs like a Toyota, eating everything I’ve ever thrown at it. It runs wet, it runs dry, it runs dirty, it runs clean. It shoots accurately enough for my needs. I’ll never win a bar bet by hitting clay disks at 100 yards with it, but it punches holes in torso-sized targets at 7-10 yards no matter how hard I run it or myself.

It carries 17+1 and is easy to get a grip on. When I carry in the appendix position with the right holster, it all but disappears under everything but a light, clingy T-shirt. And if I print a bit, who really cares? Most of the people passing me in the grocery store, the gas station, and the street are so buried in their phones that I doubt they’d notice me waving a pistol in their face. I’ll take my chances with a member of MDA calling the 5-0 on a well-dressed member of the public with a funny bump under his shirt in exchange for a full sized carry gun that runs all the time, presents a great grip, and shoots lights out in my hands. Your mileage and journey might vary. Considerably.

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    • Note that it was not a gun problem, but chasing a mythical larger-than-life CALIBER that sent him on the original wild-goose-chase. A lot of folks could learn from that, if they chose to do so.

  1. Great write-up! You have taken (and well-documented) the same journey that thousands of others have traveled, and even though the M&P would be way down the list as a choice for me, I would never degrade it as an informed choice for a person who has arrived at it from a well-informed and tested standpoint, as you did.

    Congrats, and thanks for the great article; I’ll be recommending it to many folks in the future.

  2. I have been going back and forth between and M&P 9 Pro with the complete Apex (DCAEK) and factory night sights and an FNS 9. I have Talon rubber wraps on both of them because that solves the grip problem.
    (Skateboard tape? Really? That’s so……really old time retro)

    I have been carrying since 1966 and other than my HiPower in Vietnam, that was mostly revolvers (S&W Model 19) until I started with a Model 39. I went to all of the military and police “high speed” gun courses over the years but didn’t really learn to shoot really well until i took a civilian (for want of a better term) tactical school which completely opened my eyes and taught me how little i really knew. I was using a bone stock M&P 9 crappy trigger and all and became a super star shooter. (

    You haven’t felt real joy until you over hear two shooters talking and one says, “who’s the old guy that shoots so well?” and realize he was talking about you)

    The M&P Pro is the perfect full sized concealed carry pistol. I stuff in an Alien Gear IWB and go for ten hour long car trips with absolutely no pain or discomfort.

    I am trying the FNS right now because it is a bucket list gun and it feels really good in my hand. And I shoot it as well as the M&P so I am not sure what I will carry long term.

    • FNS 9 versus M&P 9 … you shoot both of them well and they both feel good in your hand: I don’t see a clear winner as both would be good choices. Maybe run 1,000 rounds through each and see which one is more reliable?

      Or, carry one all the time and keep the other as your backup gun in case you ever lose your primary or your primary ever fails.

  3. Geez, Tyler, you go through pistols like I go through wives. Fortunately for me, I don’t have to stuff my old wives into a safe. I just give them a house or something.

    On second thought . . . .

      • Lewis Grizzard, a favorite humorist in the South, married many times. He said he finally figured out that it was better to find a woman every five years that just hated his guts and then give her half of everything he owned.

  4. M&P with an Apex trigger upgrade is a good way to go. My 9’s are loaded with Federal 124 grain +P HST. They run about 1240 FPS from my 4″ stainless Lone Wolf conversion barrel and 1260 from my Sig 226 Tac Ops.

    The biggest problem I have with 9mm is running out of ammo.

  5. Picking up a 9mm Shield with no external safety this week. Pretty excited about it. It was between that or the 43 but the extra capacity is nice and the 43 just didn’t feel right in my hand

    • I have shot both the Smith and Wesson M&P series and the Ruger 9e (less expensive version of SR9) series. I actually liked the stock trigger in the Ruger 9e better than the stock triggers in M&Ps. Either series seems to be a solid choice.

      • SR9C is half way in size between a Glock 26 and a Glock 19. The SR9 is the same size as a Glock 17. People knock the manual safety, mag block, and expensive magazines ($40-$50). But they are very good shooters.

    • I carried a SR9C for two years with little complaint. I went to a 4 day shooting course with it and had three significant gun malfunctions. Everyone else was running Glock 19s or m&p 9s and never had to clean their guns during the course; I had to strip mine nightly. I sold the gun two weeks later and bought a 19.

  6. I understand your frustration. Luckily, I only went through 3 guns before I found what worked for me. G26, G30, and then realizing that the 30 was damn near exact same size as the 19, I settled there. I do like the M&Pc though, great fit all around. It would be my pick if glock didn’t exist.

  7. I really like the M&P series with Apex trigger upgrades. It is too bad that Smith and Wesson doesn’t just make those handguns with the improved trigger at the factory. I cannot see how it can be any more significantly expensive to machine the sears one way or another.

  8. Tyler, I could have sworn you and I might have been distantly related right up until you mentioned your Teutonic streak. Alas, I’m half Dutch. But parts of your CCW experience were very much deja vu. I held off on a 1911 for years and years, until I got a Springfield Range Officer, which I love. But I have no plans to carry it. I’ve peddled a Ruger LCP in a DeSantis Nemesis for most of the last couple years. Great gun, easy to carry, all that. But it’s still a mousegun, with all the inherent disadvantages that entails.

    I’ve described my relatively short experiments with other handguns (SIg 229, Walther PPX, Glock 20) in one of the other TTAG staff carry columns. But in the end I think I may have found what works best for me, and that is the M&P40 Compact in a Ken Null horsehide holster/belt combo. Right now it’s bone stock and I’m still working on getting an extra barrel in 9mm and mabye .357 Sig, plus extra magazines as needed. Night sights and maybe the Apex trigger as well. Things like that take time, as you know 😉

    If you ever get back on a bike again, do some writeups on how well your setup works. I’m working on the same.


  9. I don’t get this it’s a great gun once you swap out the trigger. To me a good carry gun has to be good enough out of the box. As far as I can see only Springfield and Walters seem meet this test in terns of user satisfaction. I have never shot an M&P so I can’t judge bit I have shot Glocks and the trigger doesn’t bother me. Maybe it comes from 40+ years on 1911s but most plastic’s triggers seem the same to me.

  10. Another great article in this series. I carry an M&P 9C, sometimes a 9L when wearing a coat or sweatshirt. Before you stipple you might want to give the rubberized Talin grips a shot, they work wonderfully and stay where you put them.

  11. I love my full size M&P 9. I also have a full size M&P .45 as well. I can understand how people get down on the trigger. Never the less in my hand both feel like a natural extension. I own and have had several other polymer pistols from all the top manufacturers and the M&P is my favorite. All the top manufacturers (Save one I wont name) make a fine firearm worthy of defending ones life, family, liberty, dog, and local gas station attendant. Its just about what fits YOU.

  12. The M&P is an exceptionally good gun.
    In our Intro classes, more than half of which are womens’, we settled long ago on the M&P for the 9mm gun the students try out. The simple answer is: The holes in the paper are closer together.
    The ergonomics are just about the most pleasant there are among “modern” handguns.
    I wouldn’t count on an M&P lasting as long as a Glock or even XDm. The (large) dealers we instruct at all tell us they go back for work quite a bit more than the Austrian wondernine, but since it happens at higher round counts than Joe or Jane Average hits, perhaps it’s not a fatal flaw.
    We have one in our gun buffet stock and while it’s not my kind of gun, if I was going abroad with a 9 bigger than a Shield, I’d say the M&P probably would be it. The ergos win me over.
    Meanwhile, the other seven days of the week, there’s an old Commander .45 under my shirt, which is lighter than the M&P (when loaded; who cares what the empty weight is?), thinner and more comfortable to carry more than a few hours, and is vastly easier to get good, fast hits with. Plus it has a manual safety that can disable the gun should it fall into wrongo hands, a desirable device to me.
    Its only deficiency is holding but 9 rounds instead of 17. Since the caliber “war” is over, now that we know the 7mm Nambu is exactly equal as a fight-stopper as the .45ACP, my holding onto the worthless and stupid .45 has more to do with my supply of brass and bullets than Internetical conventional wisdom.
    But if I had to carry a plastic 9, the M&P would go first.

  13. I had much the same journey. Started out with the G26, fell for the caliber FUD on the internets and switched to the M&P40, then went to 10mm for a while with the G20 and G29. I picked up a Keltech 9mm and returned it the same day, and finally went back to the M&P9 and M&P9c.

    The only change I made was some Trijicon HDs. Personally I don’t have any problem with the trigger. >.>

  14. Buy a $25 soldering iron @ Home Depot and stipple it yourself. I followed a DIY article in the first issue of Recoil magazine have stippled all of my polymer handguns including my M&P 9 and even the handguard on my M&P 15 rifle. If you can boil water without creating a catastrophe, you can stipple your M&P 9.

    FYI – I also added the APEX DCAEK and a Trijicon HD night sight with the orange ring to my M&P 9.

  15. I bout an M&P9c after firing a friends and love it. I put in the Apex flatty trigger. What is really nice is the full size mags fit in the 9c. I purchased off brand mags for $19 ea and put x-grips on the base and viola the full sized grip with expanded capacity. So the 9c mag goes in for carry and 2 x-grip full size mags go in mag holsters. Nice set up.

  16. I am a big fan of the M&P 9 series. I briefly switched from long time Glock 26/19 carrier to M&P 9/9C carrier. I shoot M&Ps better than Glocks from an accuracy standpoint. I switched back to Glock simply because of the number of mags, accessories, and comfort level that I had. No fault of the M&P.

    Can’t go wrong with M&P 9/9C in my opinion.

  17. M&P 40 with Apex Duty/Carry trigger kit. Winchester PDX-1 165gr when outside and Federal GuardDog inside the house.

  18. Give credit where credit is do; Tyler did his research. Since most of us do not have the convenience of calling a manufacturer and requesting the use of one of their guns to write a review, other’s reviews of how different weapons feel/shoot/breakdown/carry/etc…always help when trying to make an informed choice on buying a gun. I do my research before making a final determination, mostly by reading others reviews. If your fortunate, your local range may rent one of the guns you are considering. But those options are usually real limited. I personally have an XDs 40 as my primary carry, and a Beretta PX4 9mm as a secondary. No upgrades, just factory basic. I am comfortable with either. No, I do not carry IWB, I carry OWB, covered with a loose shirt, most of the time. Yeah, the XD is a double stack. So does it paint a profile? Sometimes. But all these considerations come down to personal preference. Tyler has settled on something that works really well for him. I wanted just that little more punch. Point is; do your best when it comes to researching your choices. I think Tyler did a really good job of laying out pros and cons. Its a really good outline for anyone trying to figure what they want.

  19. One of the better articles in this series, thanks. The one thing I don’t get is why you gave up on the XDM 3.8 in favor of the M&P.

  20. M&P’s are for people who are scared of 1911’s… Basically anything that’s not a 1911 are for people who are afraid of 1911’s, lol

    • I love my 1911… at the range. It feels great in my hand, and I am pretty accurate with it. Then I can put it back in my safe and continue to carry my XD(m) 3.8 in .45; because I was more accurate at the range with the XD(m), it is lighter, smaller, and it holds more rounds then the 1911 (9+1, with a spare magazine with 13 in it).
      I’ve never understood the people who carry 1911s; they are a great gun, but modern designs can hold more rounds in a smaller package. Yes, it is a all metal gun, but if you are behind modern times and can’t wrap your head around the fact that thousands (tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands? ) of people carry and have used a polymer pistol for self defense with no greater rate of failure then an all metal gun, then carry a CZ or something where you at least have the capacity advantage.


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