Team Erhardt Project: Have Gun, Will Win

May 27, 2011
In order to win the Steel Challenge I'm going to need a gun. Apparently you can't win the match without one - go figure. And yes I did say win, and why not? After last Friday's column, the outpouring of support as evidenced by what I counted to be at least four people on Facebook wishing me luck clearly means I'll have the crowd behind me in Piru. The fact that that crowd's probably standing in line for the port-o-john doesn't diminish the fact that they're there watching me compete. But about that gun... During my earlier, and sadly unsuccessful, runs at the title in 2006 and 2007 when I finished 223rd and 210th overall, I was working for Sig and competed in the Production division with my own DA/SA P226.
Most of Team S&W is using the M&P Pro, so they must want me on the team or they wouldn't have sent me one. Photo: Yamil Sued
This time around I wanted to shoot something else in the Production division and was interested in shooting a striker-fired pistol, which led me to contacting Smith & Wesson about the M&P Pro 9mm. The M&P Pro is the model within the M&P line best suited for competition use and was approved for USPSA Production division in February of 2009. It features a 5" barrel, a green fiber-optic front sight and a Novak® designed reduced glare rear sight. The longer sight radius is the obvious reason for going with the Pro over a standard M&P which has a 4.25" barrel.
The fiber-optic front sight should be easy to spot in the bright sunlight of the Piru ranges. Photo: Yamil Sued
I'm a big fan of the fiber-optic front sight because I find it easier to pick up, though I'm still slow to focus on the sight rather than down range at the target. In the bright California sunlight that fiber-optic will be a big help. But for me it was the ergonomics of the adjustable grip inserts that was the feature I was most interested in. I have big hands and long fingers. I can palm a regulation basketball with ease, and can reach through and hit the mag release with my trigger finger.
At the point my thumb and finger meet the trigger still has 3.5-4mm to travel before breaking.
Using the smallest of the three grip panels I can touch my trigger finger and thumb without the trigger moving. I have to use the largest grip panel, but even then I can still touch both without the trigger breaking... and drop the mag after the break. If S&W made an XL grip panel I'd probably use it. But, thus far I'm pretty happy with the gun's ergonomics. There are two other reasons for my decision to go with the M&P Pro that ultimately had the most influence. The first is - as bizarre as this will sound for those that know me - Team Smith & Wesson itself. Horace and Daniel's squad is the largest of any factory team and almost all of those that aren't shooting revolvers exclusively are shooting the M&P Pro. Production division shooting has long been dominated by Glock due to the formation of GSSF. Besides selling guns, the program has over the years been a huge feeder system for all the pistol shooting sports. And before you tell me it isn't, consider that GSSF is where Dave Sevigny started, and I think we can all agree he's seems to have done OK. A solid design, coupled with a winning factory team, has helped the M&P Pro gobble up market share within the Production division. In fact, I was surprised at how many of the juniors participating at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit's USPSA Juniors Camp last November were enthusiastically using the M&P. Clearly, a stable of top shooters winning with the M&P is having an impact on other competition shooters... including rising stars like yours truly. The second is Apex Tactical Specialties. Not to put too fine a point on this but their drop-in parts for the M&P might as well be crack, because once you try a gun with their trigger parts installed you're going to reach into your pocket for money. The triggers on striker-fired guns are 'spongy' by their nature. That doesn't mean you can't rock one right out of the box. You can and plenty of shooters do. It just means there is plenty of room for improvement. Besides, who doesn't like tricking out their gun?
Scott Conti uses his prototype SPD M&P Tool to remove the trigger pin to install the Apex trigger return spring.
At the Scholastic Steel Challenge Collegiate Spring Championship I heard the name Apex brought up repeatedly to the point that it seemed that if you're talking about competing with the M&P you're talking about one running Apex parts. Being a good lemming, I got the people at Apex - who I know real well - to send me parts. So, with an Apex-tricked out M&P Pro in hand, there's only one thing to say as I move forward in my quest. In the immortal words of Ricky Bobby, I want to go fast. - Paul Erhardt You can also follow the Team Erhardt Project on Twitter at @TheShootingWire, use hashtag #TeamErhardt.