I have used a Smith and Wesson M&P pistol as my carry gun for quite some time. My first such gun was the long-slide Pro Series gun. I bought the 5” barrel option, both to use as my carry gun and for running in 3-Gun.
That pistol should have been awesome; it never quite was. The fiber optic front sight was great, but I could never get it to shoot like I wanted it to. It shot OK, but certainly not better than my stock GLOCK 17.
My slow aimed groups at 10 yards were never less than three inches and often were in the five-inch range. Certainly combat-effective, if the bad guy would sit still and wait. (Admittedly, not a very likely scenario.)
Being a bit hard-headed, and due to the fact that I won an M&P with the 4.25” barrel, I decided to give the M&P line a pass on the Pro and continue carrying the shorter variant. That gun shot wonderfully.
An Upgrade In My Sights
It came as a basic factory gun with stock sights, but it shot groups half the size of my Pro variant. Then I upgraded to an Apex forward-rest trigger with the 3.5# spring set. It took about 100 rounds to get used to the new trigger, but once I did, it was a huge difference.
My split times were better and, more importantly, my group size didn’t get larger with faster follow-up shots.
This has been my carry set up for the last four years or so. In that time, I have gotten older. Being a guy who is almost 50, my eyes are not what they used to be. The gun is not the issue, but darn, that front sight is a lot fuzzier than it used to be.
I finally made the decision to accept that my eyesight is the limiting factor and do something about it. Getting shooting glasses was an option, but that route doesn’t work for carry duty. Conveniently, there are tons of sights that get rid of the need to focus on the front sight.
My choice was a Holosun HS407C Red Dot (which is fairly similar to the HS507C red dot.) That meant I either had to have the slide machined or get a new slide. I debated.
The answer came from the fact that, by the time I upgraded all the things I wanted and got the machining done, it would be more expensive than just going with a package deal from Faxon. So I got one of their complete slide kits (Patriot Package).
Faxon’s Patriot Package
The Patriot package included a complete slide with all parts assembled and very aggressive grip cuts that also slightly lighten the assembly. It also included suppressor-height sights – important for using with a can. It makes for simple co-witness to the red dot.
I also added one of their threaded barrels so I can run it quietly in the future. That means I now have the stock Smith and Wesson barrel, as well as a threaded 4.5” Match black flame fluted, threaded barrel with thread protector and a 4.25” match barrel.
This is great for use when I travel to suppressor-unfriendly states.
The slide is pre-assembled. (Though you can buy Faxon S&W M&P 9mm Complete Slide Parts Kits that are unassembled.) I chose the route that I did for several reasons:
- The first is by choosing to go with the pre-assembled version, I do not have to take apart my old slide and re-use parts.
- Also, when I shoot 3-Gun and don’t want to be in the unlimited class, it is just a simple process of swapping slides.
- It also meant no need to install the sights. No assembling the firing pin bits or even putting the recoil spring in.
Admittedly, I did some disassembly to make sure everything was properly lubed before shooting. The most difficult thing was installing the barrel. In other words, if you know how to clean your gun, you can put it together in less than a minute.
Conversion and Fine-Tuning
The Holosun went on in about two minutes. After a simple bolt-on conversion process, it’s off to the range for tuning of the sight and co-witnessing. In my case, that means heading out to bang steel in the back yard.
My sight came with the factory pre-set, pretty close to where I needed it. Fine-tuning took me about 20 rounds of shooting and checking to get it perfect at 10 yards.
I could have probably done it in 10 rounds, but I was also working on making sure the gun cycled correctly and that the thread protector stayed on. My plan was to send 100 rounds down range to check performance and to be sure of proper cycling.
My first 60 rounds were 115-grain FMJs that I run in 3-Gun, then I ran 20 rounds of 124-grain Hornady JHPs, then 20 rounds of my current defense ammo, 147-grain Federal Premium HST. With one exception (on round four), they all ran flawlessly.
The hangup was a failure to feed and I think the case was slightly out of spec, as it hung on the case edge. After it hung up, the case was definitely bent, but I don’t know if it started that way.
After the initial test, I have over 500 rounds downrange. There have been no other reliability issues with this product from Faxon.
This slide with the Holosun is what I needed to match the awesomeness of the Apex Trigger. Not that there was anything wrong with the factory option. Quite honestly, if I still had my 30-year-old eyes, I never would have upgraded.
However, the need for a red dot made the rest of the setup a natural decision. My choice of the Patriot from Faxon has been great. I have the option of running a can. My accuracy has gotten better and the red dot makes it faster.
The red dot also makes first-shot hits at 60 yards common—something that was nearly impossible with the iron sights, especially with old-guy eyes.
Perhaps one of these days I will see if Faxon will make a long-slide version, so I can upgrade the Pro series to where it should have been from the factory.