I can't really separate the gun from the competition and observations about my personal skill level, so here we go.
The first day I had the M&P, I went out and test-fired it at 10 yards. I shot about 2" low, but grouped well. Then I went to a range in at a friend's house and struggled to hit anything at 25 yards with any kind of consistency. It boiled down to the factory trigger being just awful. I bought Apex springs and the Apex Hard Sear, and things got better, but I still don't like it, and I'm still not as accurate at distance as I am with the PX4. More on that later.
That said, I've shot two matches with the M&P and my hit factor has climbed significantly. For those of you who don't USPSA/IPSC or IDPA, hit factor is how many points you can score per second. You can shoot all "A"s and lose horribly by going too slowly. Likewise, you can blast away and make all C/D hits in nothing flat and lose horribly. The only way to win is to make good hits quickly.
The M&P is extremely pleasant to shoot. It has perhaps some more muzzle flip than the magic Beretta, but significantly less felt recoil. In fact, the Beretta once aggravated an old tendon injury in my right arm during an extremely fast burst directed at a disappearing target (shooting a popper activated a clamshell mechanism which briefly exposed a target, then covered it with a "no-shoot"). I can shoot absurdly fast with the M&P with no ill effects on my old-man tendons. This means that on very close targets, I can get my split times down significantly vs. the PX4 Compact.
|Re: Recoil control- Note brass in air between my head and the gun, also puff of smoke at the muzzle.|
Second, the M&P is very easy to reload. In fact, it almost seems to feed itself. I do a lot of dry practice, and got good with the PX4, but still fumbled once in a while due to the shorter length of the grip and magazine. Also, the M&P's metal bodied magazines drop free, every single time. The magazine height and width is just perfect. I can now reload subconsciously and this shaves whole seconds off my stage times.
All in all, the M&P 9 Pro is a very good "gamer gun". If I could figure out the trigger, I could probably make "A class" this year and try for "Master" next year. Unfortunately, there's a problem with the nut behind the trigger.
The PX4's trigger has a very light, rolling break that just fits with my trigger cadence, and I can shoot very accurately without having to think about my trigger pull. The M&P has a very sharp break in the last 2/3 of the pull (which leads to a weird follow-through), and I swear the pull weight fluctuates wildly, even with the Apex guts. To shoot accurately, I have to concentrate like I'm trying to keep eye contact and hold polite conversation with a topless Kate Upton. I can't do it for very long at all. And thinking conscious and deliberate thoughts while running a stage will make you quite slow.
However, gun mechanics aside, I found I have a serious problem with my on-board targeting computer.
Some years ago, I was young, "Hooah", and tactical. I had earned a spot in US Army Sniper School, having shot Expert long enough and scored highly on several physical fitness tests. I later declined because my wife was leaving for Iraq, and I would be leaving for Afghanistan again about the time she got back. However, before my wife got her mobilization orders, I trained for Sniper like there was no tomorrow. I ran 3-5 miles a day and shot 250rds or more of .22lr through a bolt-action Savage. After that, I would shoot copious amounts through my Ciener conversion 1911. 22LR grew on trees back then, and one task I undertook was teaching myself to point-shoot, or what I thought was point-shooting. I got so I could double tap the chest A-zone on an IPSC silhouette without looking at my sights from out to 15 yards. I got very quick at this, and even had some success competing with this method using my Para LTC. However, this is just reflexive fire. I'm just pointing my arms and ignoring my sights. While this works at short range, it isn't so hot for steel or at distances greater than 10 yards. At the match yesterday (Sunday) I finally realized I wasn't using my sights at all. I started hastily re-programming myself and ended up doing the best I've ever done at this particular USPSA club.
So, tying this up in a nice literary knot, you should start competing with your local USPSA/IPSC or IDPA club. Competition isn't a combat simulation, and I'll be the first to say it. However, shooting against the clock and competing with fellow shootists can only make you better. Additionally, the safety rules make you learn to move quickly and safely with a hot weapon. I often forget that most people weren't in the military, and never trained to do this. Real combat is never static, so learn to shoot and move. Also, you might just learn a little about yourself. I would never have known that I had improperly programmed my targeting system if I hadn't bought the M&P. Be ready and willing to learn and change as you go.
Finally, I'd like to once again sing the praises of the PX4 Compact. If I were once again Sgt. Gunnut, and HAD to take a sidearm, I'd have the PX4 Compact without question. If you're looking to have a "gamer gun" for competition, you're currently spoiled for choice. Springfield, S&W, and Glock all have great options if you're into striker-fired pistols. CZ currently has the market cornered for traditional DA/SA pistols. The P09 may be the bargain of the century. If your wallet is a bit larger, the CZ Shadow is the way to go.
Now get out there and start getting better. I intend to.