Back in 2005, Smith & Wesson launched its line of M&P pistols. The M&P represented Smith’s third attempt at creating a polymer-frame, centerfire pistol, and unlike its predecessors, it has done very well in both the law enforcement and commercial markets. Although it shares some elements with the earlier Sigma and SW99 designs, it is an entirely different breed of pistol and superior in every way.

By any measure, the M&P is a pretty slick package. Endearing qualities include a light weight, interchangeable backstraps, an accessory rail and a consistent trigger pull throughout the entire firing cycle. Both full-size and compact versions are offered, and available chamberings include 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG and .45 ACP.

A short while ago, I picked up a service-size M&P chambered for the .40 S&W cartridge. Throughout the initial shakedown, my M&P proved to be a very solid pistol, but I felt a need to incorporate a few upgrades.

Bowie Tactical Concepts of West Union, Ohio, has built a solid reputation for turning bread-and-butter polymer-frame pistols into highly functional works of art. I have had the opportunity to test Bowie’s work on both the M&P and Glocks in the past, and was very impressed. When it came time to have a few personal touches added to my Springfield Armory XP, I naturally turned to Bowie Tactical Concepts and was very pleased with the end result. My new Smith & Wesson M&P .40 would be the perfect canvas for David Bowie to once again work his magic. And the results proved this to be 100-percent true.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

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Bowie offers the long (shown) or short trigger job for the M&P.

Out of the box, the M&P is a very capable pistol, boasting superior engineering, accessible controls and three interchangeable backstraps to ensure optimum hand fit. Striker-fired pistols such as the M&P now dominate the law enforcement market and for a very good reason. Their simplified manual of arms and consistent trigger action speeds up the learning curve, and shooters of every aptitude and skill level tend to do just a little bit better than with the double-action/single-action (DA/SA) and double-action-only (DAO) pistols that came before.

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While the stock trigger is quite serviceable, I felt we could do just a little bit better. On my Lyman digital trigger scale, the striker tripped at 6 pounds. In re-working the trigger, David Bowie went with his “S” package, which shortens up overtravel and provides a shorter, more definitive reset.

The trigger now breaks at 4.5 pounds, and when combined with the shorter reset, helps me get to the top of my game. Fast, accurate hits now come more easily.

The slide of my M&P has been given a slight radius for a somewhat sleeker look. Like many M&P pistols, my copy was rendered in basic black. The factory Melonite finish on the M&P is indeed hard-wearing, but aesthetically normal. The slide of my M&P now wears a Flat Dark Earth finish that has proven extremely durable.

The polymer grip frame, inserts, triggerguard, slide cover and magazine release have been stippled for non-slip contact. As an added bonus, Bowie cut a relief shelf and stippled the area where the support-hand thumb lies against the frame. This allows for even greater control of the pistol during rapid-fire strings. The triggerguard has also been undercut to achieve the highest possible grip.

Beyond Good Looks

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Polishing of the feed ramp and chamber make the M&P truly beyond reliable.

As with any self-defense handgun, the bottom line is reliability. Bowie’s reliability package included a polishing of the chamber, feed ramp and extractor. Both the angle of the feed ramp and extractor have also been changed. In my experience, the truncated-core .40 S&W hollowpoints are not as feed-friendly as 9mms, and so Bowie’s alterations are a nice touch.

RELATED: Smith & Wesson Now Offering M&P Shield Without Thumb Safety

My M&P sports the optional ambidextrous, frame-mounted safety, which can serve as a barrier to an unintentional discharge during a moment of carelessness. Manual safeties have also been lifesavers in instances in which the user has been in a life-or-death struggle during a disarm attempt. I’ve used 1911 pistols with a similar safety for years and do not consider it any sort of handicap on the M&P. Unlike my 1911s, operation of the safety lever was not quite as positive. David took care of all that, reworking the safety to provide a more positive click when disengaging and re-engaging.

Like some shooters with more than a few miles on their odometers, I have an issue with most of the popular three-dot sight systems. If I really bear down, I can make them work, despite the fact that the dots may appear a bit fuzzy. The answer for my M&P was a set of Bowie Tactical Concepts/AmeriGlo Operator Sights. The three tritium dots for visibility in low light are maintained, however the front is coated with a high-visibility neon yellow for quick pickup.

Range Report

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The author will take these “combat course” groups any fight of the week.

As soon as time allowed, I ran the Bowie M&P through my usual test protocol. Five different types of .40 S&W ammunition were gathered up for accuracy testing. Five-shot groups were fired from a stable rest at a target 25 yards away. Three groups were fired with each load’s clusters measured and averaged to the nearest eighth of an inch. These same rounds were fired through a chronograph to measure muzzle velocity.

RELATED: Gun Review – The Timeless Smith & Wesson M&P Revolver

My best overall results were achieved with Speer Gold Dot 165-grain JHP (jacketed hollowpoint), which averaged 2.875 inches. Oddly enough, this load also posted a higher muzzle velocity than the 155-grain loads tested. Other groups posted slightly wider groups, but spreads were very consistent. Quite frankly, I’ve never been able to achieve the same level of accuracy with a .40 S&W pistol as with a similar pistol chambered for 9mm. Perhaps that is just the nature of the beast, but, in any event, accuracy potential for the Bowie M&P is more than adequate for self-defense.

The Bowie M&P really began to shine when we began shooting at speed. Running the state-mandated qualifications course at double speed yielded a perfect score. Firing controlled pairs on a steel target placed 10 yards away was also especially gratifying.

To my thinking, pistols are indeed tools. I often regard polymer-framed self-loaders in the same light as my lawn mower, and they are often run hard and put away wet. The Bowie S&W M&P breaks that mold and does indeed have personality. This utilitarian design not only looks great, but does everything I require from a pistol.

Parting Shots

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To say the least, I am very much pleased as punch with the Bowie Tactical Concepts Smith & Wesson M&P. Make no mistake about it, the production-model M&P is a fine pistol, and many people will be entirely satisfied with the way it comes from the factory. But, for the discriminating user, the Bowie upgrades the M&P from a pretty good pistol to world-class status.

In addition to the M&P reviewed herein, Bowie Tactical Concepts can perform similar enhancements on Glock and Springfield XD pistols as well. I would categorize the work done on my pistol as a pretty straightforward street package, and other upgrades, such as different trigger options and slide cutouts for reflex sights (such as the Trijicon RMR or Leupold DeltaPoint), can also be had.

If you are considering an upgrade to your polymer-frame pistol, consider the fine work performed by Bowie Tactical Concepts. Optimum fit, good sights and a user-friendly trigger in an ultra-reliable pistol add up to an unbeatable combo.

 

For More Information

Bowie Tactical Concepts
http://www.bowietacticalconcepts.com; 937-544-4606

Smith & Wesson
http://www.smith-wesson.com; 800-331-0852

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