Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Project M&P Take 2

Smith&Wesson's M&P pistol is certainly shootable right out of the box.  With that said, it does have some shortcomings that can be addressed by an ever expanding aftermarket.  I've spent enough time with the M&P to know what I like about it and what I don't.  So, if you can make a good thing better, why not?

At right is my M&P9 compact.  Like most factory guns, the trigger leaves a little to be desired.  It is in the 6.5 pound range, has a good deal of over travel, and a fairly indistinct reset.  All of these problems have been remedied by the good people at Apex Tactical.  Their DCAEK (Duty/Carry Action Enhancement Kit) which uses their Hard Sear, a stronger sear spring, a stronger trigger return spring, and a USB (Ultimate Striker Block) kit, will drop the trigger weight by approximately one pound and reduce over travel dramatically.

As a former 1911 and Glock shooter, I have come to appreciate a distinct trigger reset, this is another area where I find the M&P lacking.  Apex's RAM (Reset Assist Mechanism) does a good job at both increasing the tactile (which I care about) and the audible (which I don't) reset of the M&P trigger.

DCAEK and RAM Installation

Like any firearm modification, it should be preformed by a trained gunsmith (which I am not) and may void your firearm's warranty.  With the necessary warnings behind us, let's get down to business.

Apex Tactical was kind enough to provide us with several Youtube videos to help us with the installation of their products.  Naturally, they are for informational purposes only.  Since Randy (of Apex Tactical) has done a better job than I ever will at showing us how to install their products, I will only add where I think necessary.

We will need a few tools for this; a selection of punches and a small hammer or mallet to knock the two coil pins out of the frame, an armorers' block or roll of masking tape to support the frame while driving out those pins, the smallest, sharpest tweezers you can find for handling the remarkably tiny sear plunger and its equally tiny spring, a set of hex keys for removing the rear sight's set screw, a sight pusher or soft punch and vise for removing the rear sight, and coffee.  If you intend on changing the sights at this time, a set of calipers would also be helpful.  In retrospect, you may want to hold off on the coffee until the sear plunger is back in place.

Start with the Hard Sear and sear spring.  Watch part one of the DCAEK installation video here.  This part is pretty straightforward.  There are two sear plunger springs included with the kit.  Mass compliant guns use the larger spring.  The only difficult part is getting the sear plunger back in position.  Use the tweezers.


This is where Randy and I part ways.  Don't put the sear housing back in the frame yet.  Unless you just want to test for function.  I think the next step of installing the trigger return spring is easier with the sear housing out of the frame.

Installing the the trigger return spring is the most difficult part of this job as far as I am concerned.  Watch part two of the DCAEK video here.  There has been an improvement to the trigger return spring since the last time I installed one of these kits.  The two eyes are now aligned.  This makes what can be a tough job quite a bit easier.  My only piece of advice is to make sure that the slave pin is pointing to the right.  Take your time, making sure that the frame, slide stop levers, trigger and trigger return spring are all aligned can be difficult.

We are just about done with the frame.  All that is left is to install the RAM and put the sear housing and ejector back in.  The RAM goes in pretty easily.  The spring goes over the shaft and goes into the sear housing with the milled flat facing up.  There is a video on this installation as well, you can see it here.  Put the sear housing and ejector back in the frame, while being careful not to dislodge the safety/internal lock plug.  Replace the coil pin and we are done with the frame.

This would be a good time to put the whole gun back together and test for function.

USB Kit and Sights

The USB kit is easy, it is even easier if you have a sight pusher.  It is just a matter of removing the rear sight, while not launching the striker block spring and disc into orbit.  See the video here.

As you can see in the picture, the Apex striker block (left) is much more rounded than the factory one (right).  This allows the striker block a much smoother ride on the striker block cam on the trigger bar.

The M&P comes with what look to be Novak three dot sights.  My personal preference is for a single dot up front and a plain rear sight.  I also like Warren Tactical two dot sights or possibly Heinie Straight-Eights, but the Warren's were out of stock and the Heinie's don't have as pronounced white ring as I would like.  

Since we already have the rear sight off, this would be a good time to change it.  I choose a 10-8 U-notch rear sight.  It would be a good idea to give the new sight a test fit before installing it with the USB kit underneath.

The stock sight is the top picture.  The 10-8 sight is below.  As you can see they left plenty of meet for fitting.  The factory sight was a good tight fit in it's dovetail, so I just fit the new sight to those dimensions.  A good thing to remember when fitting dovetails is to set the height first.  This is assuming that you have material in both height and length, which this one does.  Filling down the bottom of the sight will reduce the amount necessary to file off the front edge.

With the new sight fit to its dovetail, install the USB kit and tighten the set screw.  Don't loctite the set screw yet, as some adjustment may be necessary for zeroing.

About this time the big brown truck that brings all mail ordered things arrived.  On it was the front sight I had purchased.

I like a front sight that draws the eye to it.  I also like night sights.  A class I took at the Sig Sauer Academy cemented the value of night sights.  Ameriglo in conjunction with Ken Hackathorn designed a sight that is highly visible in both day and night.  It used to be called the Hack sight, but Ameriglo seems to now be calling it the Pro Glo.

Unlike the front sight I fit, which was a Warren fiber optic, this one went in with no fitting required.  I should note that I did not have the sight pusher at that time.

It is worth mentioning that the 10-8 sight has a .140" wide notch.  The new Ameriglo front sight is also .140".  There is light on either side of the front sight post, but I think I might want more.  I intend to shoot the gun and see how I like it, but I may mill the notch out to .150".

After any serious modifications, particularly those that may affect point of impact, I will take the gun to the range for testing and zeroing before carrying it.

The finish product.

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