Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse (2016)

HANDGUNS

S&W M&P

Striker-fired guns from America’s pistol maker.

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The Smith & Wesson M&P (Military and Police) is probably the second most popular handgun in the polymer-frame, double-stack, striker-fired pistol category. When you consider that the M&P was introduced in 2005 and that Glock had a twenty-year head start in the market, running a close second to the Austrian wonder pistols is a pretty remarkable achievement.

There are many features on the M&P that I prefer over the Glock. One is the grip angle. There is nothing wrong with the Glock grip angle if all you shoot are Glocks. But I am a hard-core gun guy and I move from pistol to pistol with regularity. Most of those transitions are relatively easy, except when there is a Glock in the mix. It might just be me, but I find that when switching back and forth in either direction, it always takes a while for me to get command of the pistol.

The S&W M&P uses a grip angle that is “normal,” or at least more common with today’s handguns, so I do not encounter this small but important issue when I first pick one up after a lay off from shooting that gun. I also find that the adjustable S&W grip fits my hand very well with the medium grip panel installed. Of course, the Glock Gen 4 handguns offer this same option now as well. I like the feel of the trigger on the M&P. I have seen some amazing aftermarket triggers in these guns. I must admit, I am a bit of a trigger snob and I love a good single-action trigger on a handgun. My single biggest complaint and the source of constant aggravation for me is the striker-fired trigger. I never shoot them as well as I would like and any improvement that does not change reliability is a good thing. Some of the best triggers I have tried in a striker-fired gun have been on worked-over M&P handguns.

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M&P C.O.R.E. with a Trijicon sight.

I also I like that I can install a Crimson Trace Laser Grip easily. I have lasers on all my carry guns and the CT-style of grip laser is one of the most intuitive designs around. (Although I wish they would make a left-handed version as my thumbs sometimes block the laser.) The CT laser for the Glock clamps on the outside of the grip, changing the dimension, while the CT laser grip for the M&P simply replaces the grip panel in the rear. Of course, there are other laser sight options for the Glock, but none that I’ve tried have the on/off switch as well placed as the Crimson Trace design.

I like the metal magazines for the M&P because they drop clear of the gun better when empty. I find that plastic magazines sometimes stick in the gun and require that they be pulled free. This breaks your rhythm and focus if you are expecting the empty magazine to fall free when you push the release button. Obviously, it also extends the time it takes to reload.

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A Crimson Trace Laser Grip on a S&W M&P.

I own and shoot several different M&P handguns, including a C.O.R.E. model which is fitted with a red dot sight. Most are in 9mm, but as you might have guessed, I like a bigger cartridge for serious defense. My preferred carry for the full-size M&P (I do love the scaled-down M&P Shield) is a variation on the M&P40 handgun. It has a few “extra” features from the factory and a few more I added.

The Viking Tactics/Smith & Wesson M&P40 VTAC Pistol

A tested warrior and America’s best known handgun manufacturer team up for the ultimate fighting pistol.

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At the risk of dating myself, I remember all too well the war in Vietnam. It seems like every guy I met who spent time there claimed he was a Green Beret. Today, it seems like everyone I talk to who’s been to the sand box in the early years was a sniper, now everybody is a SEAL.

I wonder how we can fight wars when nobody is driving the trucks, emptying the latrines, or peeling potatoes?

Those posers are also represented well in the recent rise in the number of training schools. As a friend of mine pointed out, there are a lot of guys running schools who have never fired a shot in anger or been shot at themselves.

While they may or may not be able to teach, it’s those who have “been there and done that” who teach it best. Kyle Lamb is one of those guys. He is the real deal and like most who are, he doesn’t need to brag about it. Kyle was one of the elite Special Forces: perhaps the most elite, Delta Force. He has survived years of bad guys all over the world trying to kill him. He is retired now, runs Viking Tactics and is one of the top trainers in the country for those who want to learn how to use their guns to defend themselves.

In a world where more and more guns are hitting the market that are designed by people who don’t even shoot, it might be smart to use the skills and experience of a guy like Kyle to design a fighting pistol. Smith & Wesson thought so and they teamed up with Kyle Lamb and Viking Tactics to create the ultimate fighting handgun, the S&W M&P VTAC.

The S&W M&P is one of the most successful striker-fired handguns on the market and it’s the basis for the VTAC model. The VTAC has a distinctive look as the gun’s polymer frame and bumper pads on the magazines are in Flat Dark Earth color. The slide is finished with PVD coating that is a metallic version of the FDE. It creates a slightly different hue and a pleasing contrast.

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The .40 S&W is a good compromise round between the 9mm and the .45 ACP. The VTAC is offered in 9mm and .40 S&W.

The trigger, slide release, take down lever, and sights are black. So is the slide end cap and the exposed chamber section of the barrel and the extractor. This makes for a very interesting contrast and a striking-looking handgun. It’s the kind of gun that invariably gets an initial “wow” response from anybody I show it to. Same response with the ergonomics. When a shooter picks up the gun, they always comment about how good it feels to them. Like any well-designed firearm it seems “alive” in your hands. It is well proportioned and well balanced. After carrying it many days, weeks, and months I can also say that with a weight of 24.25 ounces (empty) it is comfortable to have on your belt with no sharp edges to rub, gouge, and aggravate you.

The M&P’s hinged trigger breaks at a stiff 6–½ pounds, although smooth and with a well-defined finish. I know that the thought for most combat guns is that they need a stiff trigger pull, but that’s at least two pounds more than I like in a striker-fired pistol. The good news is that the trigger can be improved easily by a competent gunsmith.

As with all M&P Pistols there is a “viewing window” on the top of the gun to see if there is a round in the chamber. It makes the cartridge visible through this small port, so you will see brass or nickel when the gun is loaded. I like this, as it eliminates the need for a “press check,” a practice I have always been wary of because I worry that some pistols may not go back into battery correctly.

The gun features the unique Viking Tactics sights that are different from any other sight on the market. The Viking Sight has both fiber optics and night sights built into one system, but separate from each other. The front sight is tall and the rear notch is deep, this is to accommodate the dual system. The other benefit is that the long sight is easy to see and fast to acquire. There is a three-dot, green fiber optic system on top. Underneath is a three-dot, tritium night-sight system. The sights are tall and the front sight is tapered. This taper will help draw your eye to the top of the sight. It’s wide at the bottom, but narrow enough at the top for more precise shooting at long range than some other battle sights. The rear sight notch has also been cut lower than normal to enhance speed to allow the use of the tritium vials that have been inserted below the fiber optic. The night sights show up well in the dark and they only change the point of impact slightly, not enough to make a difference in a low-light, close-quarters situation. I tested this at the range and found that the difference in point of impact at ten yards between the fiber optic and the night sights was only 2.5 inches. That is statistically zero in a close range gunfight.

There is a lot of light on both sides of the front blade and I found that I could acquire these sights very quickly, even with my aging eyes. My only complaint with the sights is that I would prefer a contrasting color for the front and rear, both in the fiber optic and the night sights.

In doing some close-range, five yards to twelve yards, multiple-target speed drills I amazed myself at how fast I could acquire and double-tap each target. I also used the pistol to run several other drills, to test the skills needed for defensive situations. One drill uses an MGM Texas star and a speed plate. This tests target transitions as well as tracking and hitting moving targets. It also requires some precision, as the moving plates on the star are only eight inches in diameter. The drill is simple; from fifteen yards, draw from the holster at the buzzer and shoot the Texas star. Sometime between the first and last plate on the star, shoot the speed plate, which is set at twenty yards and is some distance to the side of the star so the shooter has to shift position. My best time is with a 9mm with an optical sight, but with the M&P40 VTAC I was only 0.4-second slower. It was my fastest time with any open-sighted gun I have tried on this drill. That trend held up over the course of many other shooting drills. The gun’s shooter-friendly design and high-visibility sights allowed me to transition targets fast and to track moving targets easily and make precision shots.

I have about five hundred rounds though this handgun. I experienced one failure to fire. But, that was with ammo using hard, “military-grade” primers that have also exhibited problems with several other .40 S&W guns, so I don’t consider it a gun problem. With all other ammo the reliability factor has been 100 percent. (Note: I have well over one thousand rounds through the gun now, with no further issues.)

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The VTAC M&P with Crimson Trace Lightguard rail and the trigger guard and Crimson Trace laser grip.

The frame has a rail in front of the trigger guard. In fact, I tricked out one pistol with a Crimson Trace Lightguard light which attaches to the rail and the trigger guard. I also added a Crimson Trace laser grip. I figure it’s now the ultimate carry and home defense pistol, with three sighting options and the light. Best of all, the three sighting options are all available instantly and do not intrude on each other, so there is no hesitation.

Galco and Columbia Firearm Services both have holsters that fit the gun with the Lightguard installed. Of course, every holster maker on Earth makes holsters for the standard M&P.

The gun is shipped with three different size grip panels so that grips can be adjusted to fit a wide range of hand sizes. I find that with some striker-fired guns the reach is too long for me to properly place my finger on the trigger, which results in low-right impacts on the target. (I am left handed.) The medium grip panel for the M&P VTAC fits me perfectly and places my finger correctly on the trigger. The grips can be easily swapped out by turning the half moon–shaped piece behind the mag well ninety degrees and pulling the “frame tool assembly” locking pin out. Change the grip panel, insert the pin, and turn it back in place to lock everything. It took you as long to read this as it does to make the change.

The VTAC model M&P is, in my never-humble opinion, a sensible, simple design. It does not have a safety or magazine disconnect or any other foolish, lawyer-inspired additions that can get you killed in a fight. The simplicity and safety of a striker-fired trigger system is all you need. The gun can’t fire unless the trigger is pulled—all you need to do to fire the gun is pull the trigger. Simple and safe.

This pistol is extremely left-hand friendly. The slide release is ambidextrous and the magazine release is reversible. Although, after more than four decades of working the magazine release with my left index finger I left it alone on my pistols.

The M&P VTAC comes with two magazines and is offered in 9mm with a seventeen-round magazine capacity and in .40 S&W with a fifteen-round magazine capacity.

Things are changing in the world and today we are not just faced with the possibility of one or two guys trying to rob us at the ATM. With terrorism and the increasing threat of social collapse due to man-made or natural disasters, I don’t think the idea of a higher-capacity magazine is flawed thinking. If nothing else, it adds to the amount of ammo most of us carry. If we carry the loaded gun and two mags, a single stack with eight-round mags will have twenty-five rounds (three mags, one in the pipe). But this VTAC .40 S&W will have forty-six rounds. If you are trying to get out of a shopping mall full of terrorists, that’s an advantage for you.

I think there is one simple test for any gun that a writer reviews. What happens to the gun after the test? I send most of them back because I simply can’t afford to buy every gun I fall in love with and still pay the mortgage, but with this M&P40 VTAC I see one of the best designed and well-thought-out carry guns I have ever reviewed. I added this one to my personal collection. Read into that what you may.

You will note that this gun shows up in other chapters. I actually have two of them. The one with the laser and the light stays beside my bed. The other has a laser and no light. When I am not carrying it, it lives in a tactical vest that stays with my bug-out gear. This is the pistol that will go with me if I have to abandon my home and make a run for safety. The reasons I chose it are covered in the chapter on bug-out guns. But it’s important to note that the M&P in .40 S&W is my choice for the handgun that goes out the door with me when TSHTF.