New Guns from an Instructor’s Perspective

Every year the major gun manufacturers feel like they have to bring something new and exciting to the market. It’s the same way with the car manufacturers. How are they going to get you to buy a new car unless there is something about it that differentiates it from the one you have now? One of the problems they have when it comes to guns is there are designs that have been with us for 50, 75 or a 100 years that we still like and really find nothing that compels us to replace them. The manufacturers don’t care if we keep our old guns. They just want us to buy new ones, too!

There’s a major difference in how the gun manufacturers work as opposed to those who make cars. Every year in August or September, we get the new models, and they are on the show room floors ready to go. With guns, we get new models typically introduced at the annual SHOT Show in January. We read about them in the gun magazines in the Spring, and we can’t get our hands on them until late in the year. I haven’t quite figured this out yet, but it almost seems they wait to see how much interest has been generated, or maybe wholesale orders, before they crank up the assembly line. I’ve found myself telling potential customers asking about a new gun they just read about in Guns & Ammo or American Handgunner that it will be 8 months to a year before I’ll have any to sell. Sometimes I’m surprised and get them earlier, but not often. Ruger does better than most in this regard. Glock did pretty well with the 42, and the 43 is beginning to trickle into the system. We’ll see.

I’m both retailer and an instructor. As such, my primary focus, but of course not my only focus, is on finding the right gun or guns for new shooters. With that focus in mind, my approach to new offerings is not the razzle dazzle of something new, but how will this gun fit into my recommendations of a gun to consider for new shooters.

Taurus Curve
Taurus Curve

One gun I thought would make a big hit, but didn’t, was the Taurus Curve. It has absolutely no appeal to me, but I figured I wasn’t typical. We put them on order and when the first one arrived, it sat around for three or four weeks before somebody bought it. Since it sold I don’t think we have had a single inquiry that would compel us to stock another one. It’s a pretty radical design and maybe it just hasn’t caught on yet, but there’s one that for me doesn’t hold any excitement.

FNS-9C
FNS-9C

One that does excite me is the FN Herstal FNS-9C. FN is one of the premier manufacturers of military and law enforcement firearms. It’s a Dutch company with manufacturing here in the US as well, in South Carolina actually. FN quality is like Sig Sauer quality. Rugged, reliable, magnificent engineering. The S in this particular model stands for “Striker.” The 9 is of course for 9mm and the C is for “Compact.” FN makes true ambidextrous handguns and they add all the features you might want in a typical handgun. They put it in an attractive package that feels good in your hand, shoots well and will last indefinitely. If you’re looking for a good 9mm for concealed carry or personal defense, this one should be a consideration. Whereas FNs used to be priced too high for many people to consider, they’ve adjusted prices in recent years to be more competitive. I would never hesitate to recommend an FN handgun to a new shooter or an experienced shooter.

I went through a period with Walther when I wasn’t impressed. We saw some feeding issues at the range that shouldn’t have been there with a German-engineered gun. A little research turned up the fact that Walther had farmed out some of their manufacturing. I don’t think that lasted very long, because for the past two to three years Walther has been turning out some excellent products. One of their newer offerings is exactly what I’ve been looking for when trying to find a good 9 mm handgun for some of our clients with hand issues. I’m talking about the new Concealed Carry Pistol, the CCP.

Walther CCP
Walther CCP

The CCP uses a blow-back design that directs a portion of the gas pressure from an ignited cartridge through a tiny port in the barrel in front of the chamber to slow down and delay the rearward motion of the slide. A piston inside a cylinder under the barrel opposes the rearward motion of the slide until the gas pressure has subsided—after the bullet has left the barrel. At this point, the slide slams to its rear-most point, opens the breech, and ejects the empty cartridge case. What this means to the shooter is two things: 1) it doesn’t require a heavy recoil spring that the shooter has to work against when racking the slide and 2) the blowback system helps eliminate barrel flip (less recoil). I haven’t shot it yet, but I can tell you it is much easier to rack the slide on this pistol than on most other 9mms, making it a prime candidate for many of our lady shooters, or guys with hand strength issues. Being a Walther now means good quality. This gun feels a lot like an H & K in the hand.

H&K VP-9
H&K VP-9

Speaking of H & K have I mentioned the VP-9? If you’re a fan of good German engineering and price of the gun isn’t a deterrent that will keep you from getting what you want, the H&K VP-9 might be worth a look. It’s a striker-fired gun, something H&K hasn’t had in recent years. Personally, hammers are fine with me, but some folks feel not having an external hammer makes for an easier to conceal gun. It does mean a consistent trigger pull on every shot, from first to last.

One other gun I’ll mention is the Sig Sauer P320. I’m a big fan of the SP2022. When Sig announced the P250 a few years back their rumored intent was for it to replace the SP2022. That didn’t happen because SP2022 owners were happy with what they had and new purchasers were still buying them. The P250 was kind of gimmicky with all of its modular components, multiple frame sizes, barrel lengths, etc.

Sig Sauer P320
Sig Sauer P320

When the P320 came along it was basically a striker-fired version of the P250, which was beginning to gain widespread acceptance. I was still kind of ho-hum about modular concept until I took a really good look at the pistol, then another look at all of the optional configurations. Featuring a modular grip frame and removable fire control assembly, the P320 is customizable to any hand size or handgun need requirement. The P320 can quickly be converted from a Full-size to a Carry pistol. Slide and barrel conversions allow the P320 to change between calibers and barrel lengths as well. The serial number is on the fire-control module. All of the other parts fit around it and fit well, they do. I’m now at the point where I feel this gun merits a serious look whether your looking for a home protection gun, a concealed carry gun, a console gun, or a law enforcement duty gun. You can have them all with one serial number and with Sig Sauer’s quality. Not only that, Sig is pricing their polymer guns in line with other manufacturers these days. We try to keep them in stock and whenever I walk by and pick one up, I’m really impressed with how it feels in my hand. I haven’t shot one, but we’ve sold enough of the to have gotten a lot of positive feedback and absolutely no negative feedback.

The Smith & Wesson M&P Family and Why I Like Them

Let’s say Glocks are like Toyotas. They are good, dependable firearms with features you want, that hold their value and you can count on them to not let you down if you’ve cared for them properly. Using this same type of comparison, I’d say Smith & Wesson M&Ps are like Hondas, or Nissans. They’re equal in quality in every way to the Glocks, but maybe some folks like one brand better than the other. For some reason, I’ve never been that attracted to Glocks.

I compared different guns on the market in the self-defense category and talked to a bunch of people and bought a Springfield. It’s like a Glock on steroids. It has all of the Glock features, it, too, is made in Eastern Europe, but it has an added feature Glocks don’t have–a grip safety, like on a 1911.

In the process of becoming a firearms instructor I took a lot of classes. In these classes I took note of what other people were shooting. I was shooting my Springfield and getting along fine, but I noticed a lot of my classmates were shooting M&Ps. When I asked them what they liked about the M&P the most common comment was “lower felt recoil than most other guns of this size and caliber.” Interesting. I asked why that was and was told it was because of the grip angle and some dynamics about the barrel to slide fit. M&P, by the way, stands for Military & Police.

Smith & Wesson M&P 45
Smith & Wesson M&P .45 ACP

My Springfield was a 45, so the first S&W M&P I remember buying was a .45. It carried 11 rounds–ten in the magazine and one in the chamber–and was thinner than the Springfield XDm by a small margin. It fit in the same holster, so carrying it was not a problem. This became my .45 carry gun. I carried it in a Crossbreed SuperTuck Inside the Waistband (IWB) holster.

VTAC M&P 9mm
VTAC S&W M&P 9mm

Some sale came along and I got a .40, which was promptly placed into the home defense mode, complete with a Streamlight light and laser combo. I’m not sure how this all happened, but before I knew it I had a plain Jane 9mm M&P and then a VTAC model that’s FDE coloring with a really cool Viking Tactical sight. The Viking Tactical Sights consist of a set of Trijicon night sights on the bottom with fiber optic sights above. So the sights are visible night or day and regardless of which set you use, target alignment is easy and sure. If you don’t like the two sets of sights that are inlaid, use them as if they’re a black notch and post. These sights present the best for whatever type of sights you prefer.

I was learning about Apex trigger conversions about the time I got the VTAC M&P so I ordered a trigger set and installed it. This set cleans up any dragging or creeping in the trigger and makes for a nice crisp and clean break. The VTAC is a very nice defensive firearm.

Once I had M&Ps in the three most popular defensive calibers, it was time to add a .22 for fun shooting and practicing. The S&W M&P .22 is the same size as it’s bigger brothers, but you can shoot it with no recoil. It’s a great gun to help introduce people to pistol shooting.

Smith & Wesson makes compact version of the 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP M&Ps. So it made sense for them to make a compact version of the .22 as well. The advertising slogan that came along with that little gun was, “22s are fun! Ours is funner!” It is a great plinking or target practice pistol. My wife, my granddaughters and I all really enjoy shooting the M&P .22 Compact.

Colorado Springs PD M&P Trade-in
Colorado Springs PD Engraving

Sometime back I got an email announcing some Colorado Springs Police Department trade-ins that were like new. Funny story about those trade-ins. The Colorado Springs Police Department powers that be (probably the lawyers) discerned that it would be safer for their police officers to have handguns with a magazine disconnect safety so that if a bad guy tried to take their gun away from them they could drop the magazine and the bad guy wouldn’t be able to shoot the officer. But the police officers didn’t like that feature much. Smith & Wesson offered to trade the original guns out for ones without the magazine disconnect safety, using Bud’s Gun Shop in Kentucky as the go between. Bud’s wound up with all the trade-ins, which they offered at a very attractive price. I got one for the historical value – not that’s it’s much value, but the story is interesting. When I got the gun I found it had CSPD and a special number engraved on it in white.

Atlanta Police M&P 40
Atlanta Police M&P 40

Sometime later, I came across a .40 caliber Atlanta Police Department trade-in. I sold the .40 I had and got one of the ones from Atlanta. It appears I’ve started a police department M&P trade-in collection. The Colorado Springs PD 9mm has become Joyce’s home defense firearm, the one she keeps by the bed and the Atlanta PD 40 caliber has become my by-the-bed home defense firearm.

I carry the 9mm VTAC is sometimes when my arthritis is acting up and sometimes I carry it just for fun. It’s a really cool gun!

Glock used to be king among police, but the Smith & Wesson M&P now has a hefty share of that market. Smith & Wesson did something to help the decision makers. When you disassemble a Glock for cleaning, part of the process involves pulling the trigger. Of course a gun is supposed to be unloaded when you get ready to clean it, but unfortunately there have been incidences when police officers have shot themselves in the leg when trying to disassemble their Glocks for cleaning. Smith and Wesson added a little lever that must be pushed down to allow the slide to come off and provided a tool to work that little lever so you can disassemble the M&P for cleaning without having to pull the trigger. Frankly, I find the little lever and tool just a little aggravating to use, so I make sure my M&Ps are unloaded and go ahead and pull the trigger when removing the slide and that works just as well.

The M&P family incudes rifles and revolvers as well as the semi-automatics. The semi-automatic line includes the single-stack and very concealable Shields, which have been really big sellers at our gun store and at others across the country. Smith & Wesson, long an American icon in the gun business, has put together a line of firearms everyone of which is a real winner. I really like these guns. They’re not fancy. They are utility guns that will work when you need them to. As far as shooting them goes, I, too, find that the felt recoil is less than with other guns of the same basic size and caliber. I never hesitate to recommend an M&P for anyone want a good, solid, basic handgun. And if you want something with more pizzazz, they have Pro and Competition models, too.

UPDATE MAY 2016:

Would you believe I now have a Vermont State Police M&P .40 and a “never issued” Detroit Police M&P .40. These police trade-ins all come with night sights and 3 magazines for well under $400. So I’m stashing them here and there as defensive guns. I load them with Ruger or Polycase ARX defensive ammo, which is a very powerful defensive round with reduced recoil because it shoots lighter than normal weight bullets.