Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Enhanced by Apex Tactical Specialties

by Editor 3. July 2013 10:50
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Terry Burba (LM04739) takes a look at the M&P Shield. After running into some accuracy issues (translation: he couldn't hit squat) at the Smith & Wesson Indoor Nationals, Terry talked to Scott Folk with Apex Tactical Specialties who had just the cure for what ailed him. Here is Terry's review of the Apex-improved M&P Shield.

In February of this year, I was privileged to be asked to be the Chief SO for one of the bays at the Smith & Wesson Indoor Nationals. When Lou Denys called, he asked if we would design a stage to use the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield as a pickup gun. The stage was a lot of fun for us to run and it seemed most of the competitors enjoyed it, as well.

We ran that Shield hard for four days and shot over 3,000 rounds through it. All I did for maintenance each morning was wipe the pistol down and apply a small amount of lubrication. The Shield performed flawlessly without a single failure of any kind. I was impressed with that reliability. I was also impressed how well the Shield handled recoil. One thing the shooters didn’t realize was our ammo sponsor for this stage: CORBON. Yes, we shot 3,000 rounds of CORBON 9mm through the Shield! The dual spring system of the Shield really tamed the recoil.

I came away from the S&W Indoor Nationals very impressed with the M&P Shield. But, I’m a 1911 guy. I have a great pocket sized 9mm 1911 from Springfield: the EMP. I didn’t need another one.

Another wonderful experience of the 2013 Indoor Nationals occurred on SO day. We were fortunate to have Scott Folk of Apex Tactical Specialties assigned to our squad. Unfortunately, Scott got hit by Mr. Murphy and his infamous law. The overnight shipping company did not deliver his shooting gear in time to shoot on Wednesday. Scott, being the great guy he is, came along anyway to keep score and generally help out with our squad however he could. Color me impressed. I was happy to continue building my friendship with Scott throughout the Indoor Nationals.

A few weeks later, I talked to Scott about upgrades to a Shield. He gave me several ideas of Apex products that could be used with the Shield. But then he blew my mind when he stated, “Or you could just send it to me and let me work some magic on it. I’ve got a number of ideas of things we might do."

Hmmmmmmm…..

Now the quest was on to locate a Shield somewhere in the market. A winning bid through an on-line auction and a new M&P Shield was on its way to Apex. Now the waiting began.

Around the middle of May, a box showed up at my FFL. My FFL is a good shooting friend and Sunday morning at a Texas Tactical IDPA match, he showed up with a blue box. We did all the appropriate paperwork and the Shield was now in my hands.

What a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. I totally trashed the match that day. I just could not stay focused over the excitement of shooting the new Shield as soon as the match was finished. Several folks tried a few rounds through it that afternoon. And everyone who went to the safe table with me to look at the pistol was impressed. Kitty had contacted one of our great IDPA Sponsors in Comp-Tac for one of their new Infidel Ultra IWB holsters for the Shield as a birthday present. I had ammo, holsters, magazines and pouches ready to go. What I didn’t have was range time.

Those of you who shot the 3 port bay at S&W saw our test targets next to the “Saving Joyce” stage. You saw what both Kitty and DM Tom Yost were able to do with the stock Shields. What you didn’t see was the abysmal target I shot. I really struggled with the stock Shield. At 7 yards, I simply could not keep 5 rounds in the head.

I was appropriately embarrassed.

On to range time with the new Shield with the Apex carry kit trigger upgrade. Now at 7 yards, I put all 8 rounds in the head with several shots through the same holes! Apex has an outstanding reputation for their trigger kits. And this one test alone proved the reputation is well earned. Kitty was able to use the 7 round magazine with equal success.

A few magazines after a match is hardly a test of a new firearm. I had a couple more work trips which would keep me out of town for a few weeks. As soon as those trips were complete, I had my good friend Col Phil Torres join me for a trip out to the range to put the new Shield through its paces.

To run the Shield as an ESP gun did require this 1911 shooter to adapt my manual of arms a bit. The small size of the grips seemed to let my hands get in the way of a drop free reload. DM Gordon Carrell teaches a slightly different process for reloading his M&P that adapted very well to the Shield. Using Gordon’s technique, I was able to consistently get the 8-round mag to drop free and do a fairly quick slide lock reload. The slide release was easily reachable by my short dominate hand thumb. I could get back on target almost as fast as I can with a full sized M&P Pro.

I quickly grew to love the Infidel Ultra holster from Comp-Tac. Mine is a belt clip inside the waistband holster. It is a combination leather and kydex holster from their Minotaur line. It’s super comfortable. And is very easy to put on and take off. The Ultra version of the Infidel is made in a way that it can be worn both on the strong side hip as well as appendix carry. I have worn this holster for 8 to 10 hours a day and honestly do forget I have it on at times. I have since purchased another Infidel Ultra for my 1911s.

I wrote earlier on the reliability of the Shield at the S&W Indoor Nationals. I did run a number of different rounds through the Shield and it seemed to eat anything I tried to feed it, including several different reloads I had been testing for my 1911. I never did experience a failure to feed during the 300-350 rounds of testing.

I will admit I do like Dawson Precision fiber optic sights. I have their narrow.090 width front sight on all my IDPA 5 inch 1911s. The .125 width sight Apex installed on this Shield is a bit wider than I have on the other guns. But I really didn’t notice any issues using it with the stock rear sight that comes on the Shield.

Let’s face it: what Apex is most known for is their trigger work. And that really shows up on this Shield. Scott explained to me Apex didn’t feel it was good practice to put a competition trigger on a carry firearm. The “Carry Kit” is the only drop in kit Apex offers for the Shield. However, Scott also did what Apex refers to as “Level 2 action work”. They installed a fully machined sear, USB kit and DC spring kit. As I mentioned, this work made all the difference to me. The more comfortable I got with the Shield, the better the groups I was able to produce. The trigger came to me with just a small amount of creep. As Scott explained, this pistol had never been fired when it arrived at Apex. It needed to be broken in by putting a few hundred rounds through it. The more I fired the gun, the better the trigger got. I was extremely happy with the trigger by the end of my testing.

Of course, that is just my opinion. One of the fun parts of getting any new toy is showing it off to your friends. I have a number of friends who jumped on the shield band wagon at release. Col Phil, who gets the photo credits for this article, “lost” his Shield very quickly after purchase. That’s what happens when you let your daughter test fire your Shield and she refuses to give it back. The Col was very impressed by the action work done by Apex. Every Shield owner I let try this trigger came away commenting on what a nice improvement to an already good trigger system.

One question I do get asked is about the RAM reset from Apex. Apex does not offer the RAM option for the Shield. Some people really rely on the sound and feel of a trigger resetting. The last several coaches I have trained with have encouraged me to move away from listening and feeling the reset point. They teach pulling the finger back off the trigger and then taking out the slack once again. Some call it Slack Out. Others call it Prep The Trigger. I now do that with all my firearms, so I don’t use the “click” of the trigger reset. Thus I don’t have the RAM on my M&P 9 Pro.

That said, there is a definite “click” sound and feel with the Shield right out of the box. Most of my friends who do utilize this method of trigger reset feel the stock Shield click is adequate for their needs. Honestly, I really never even noticed the click in my testing.

As you look at the pictures of the work Apex did on this Shield, you will notice some cosmetic enhancements as well. Scott did some serrations along the top of the slide and he also did some light milling along the sides of the slide. The amount of material removed was less than doing a Browning Hi-Power cut or a tri-top melt which are both already allowed in ESP. Under the new rules, engraving has been defined as being no deeper than the original OEM lettering. In this case, the Smith & Wesson logo can still clearly be seen on the slide. If you look closely, even the Springfield MA is still visible. That lettering is even lighter than the full Smith & Wesson logo. These modifications are within the rules and do not constitute slide lightening. This pistol could be used in ESP in addition to the BUG division. I may use it in a few local matches just so I can remain comfortable shooting what I carry. I will be able to shoot it in ESP or the new Not For Competition division.

The bottom line question is …“Are the improvements worth the effort?”

I feel they are. The Apex drop-in Shield carry kit is no more difficult to install than the kits for the regular line of M&P pistols. And for many shooters, that may be enough of an improvement for them. As primarily a 1911 shooter, I am use to a significantly different type of trigger. The additional Level 2 action work was an extremely nice upgrade for me. It made the Shield feel more like one of my 1911s. The front sight was a requirement for me as I like seeing the same sight picture regardless of which of my guns I pick up.

The highlights and serrations? Yeah… the bling is cool. It makes the pistol “mine”. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

This then begs the ultimate question…. What am I going to shoot at the S&W BUG Nationals? I really do love the 1911 platform. It’s what I shoot in 98% of the sanctioned and local matches around the country. Thanks to the great platform from S&W in the Shield and the excellent gunsmithing by Apex Tactical Specialties, I will be sporting this Shield in Springfield this November. I’m not giving up anything from my 1911s. And with the recoil system of the Shield, I am probably better prepared to shoot well.

Hope to see you there.

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