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11/11/2017 9:42 AM
 

Some of you may need to sit down for this... after a quarter century carrying a 1911, I have transitioned to a 5" barreled M&P in .40. Here's what led me to this emotionally difficult switch.

First was the bear thing. I see a lot of bears (11 this year) and don't generally regard them as dangerous at all. However, the first couple of bears I saw this spring got me to thinking. For the first bear, I hadn't seen one yet and was getting antsy so I started doing a lot of following sign off trail to try to run into one. I finally saw one -- at 15 yards in dark timber. It had been bedded down and I'm pretty sure it didn't have any more idea about me than I did about it until we were right on top of each other. It was a young bear and, true to form, took off in the opposite direction. The second bear was a big for the area boar. Although he was polite, he also let me know that he wasn't at all concerned about my presence and wasn't to be pushed at. I suddenly got to thinking about what if the bear I walked up on in the timber was the boar instead of a young bear? And also the law of big numbers -- black bears aren't a threat in general, but if - like I do - you run across a lot of them, you might eventually run into the circumstance where one *is* a problem. So, I got to thinking about one of the new L-frame .44 magnums that S&W came out with. I reached out to a guy who is quietly one of the most skillful and knowledgeable pistoleros I know, as well as having a very direct access into the world of S&W. My intent was to get a read on how manageable that particular pistol was. Long story short, he talked me out of the idea of a .44 and steered me in the direction of using the right ammo in my 1911. He also made a side comment that had no relevance to me at the time -- "most of the guys I know who truly understand terminal ballistics carry .40 S&W for bear". Just to sanity check things, Scot and I also drug out our .41 magnums including his full weight 4" barreled one and shot them side by side with semi-autos. That reality check quickly vanquished any thought I had of a big bore wheel gun being a good idea. Scot turned around and sold his .41 at a nice profit. So, 1911 it still was.

Fast forward a couple of months, and I'm doing my every couple of years shakedown of my backpacking load which includes weighing everything individually. I realized that my 1911 plus 2 spare mags represented a pretty fair amount of trail weight. Dropping one of the spare mags saved me 8oz. But I realized it was still a lot of weight relative to other options so I started looking at polymer pistols again. I had a brief dalliance with a G19 I've had forever and remembered that, although I shoot them just fine, I don't like Glocks. After 25 years of 1911 grip angle, the G angle will always be wrong for me. And I still like a thumb safety. Plus there was the issue of whatever I carry on the trail needs to be pretty much the same grip and trigger feel as whatever I'm carrying in town. With the 1911, they were one in the same gun which is ideal. I was looking at various ways to have a lighter backcountry gun that would match my 1911 which I still planned to carry in town.

Nearly a decade ago, I almost switched over to an M&P with thumb safety because in a lot of ways it's a modernized 1911. I've always liked the idea of them and found them easier to shoot well (at least in 9mm) than 1911s. But like all polymer guns, they don't have the same history and soul as a 1911. And when I'm training as often as I should I can shoot a 1911 as well as anything and better than most. Due to personal circumstances, I don't have time to train often enough right now and haven't for a year and I knew my pistol skills had slipped a bit. One morning, as a way of checking out the M&P again, I had Scot bring along his 5" barreled M&P in 9mm. First I shot my 1911. My shooting was so far from the accuracy standard that LAV held us to that I was wondering if I should even be carrying right now. Then I tried the M&P which I hadn't shot in probably 8 years. I quickly built a group to accuracy standard (horizontal fist sized at 10 yards) at roughly twice the cadence and round count of my 1911 shooting.

There was no way to argue with that so I strapped on the M&P that morning, knowing I could shoot it well if I needed to. And sadly put my 1911 in the safe. Performance matters.

Then I remembered the comment about terminal performance of the .40 and started looking hard at that caliber for the backcountry. I'd shot a pistol chambered in .40 before and found the recoil harder to manage than .45 acp. Since I'd always thought of .45 as a more "powerful" round than .40, I had never seen any point at all in even considering the gimmicky niche .40. But what the .40 really is is a 10mm short that can be shot out of the compact and light 9mm framed guns. Ironically, the .40 "bear load" (doubletap 200 grain hardcast) shot out of a 5" barrel is fairly close to the .41 magnum standard loadings (although not close at all to the .41 bear loads). I looked at weights and realized that I could save an additional 8oz off of my backcountry carry pistol by carrying an M&P in .40. That represented a full pound of weight savings from where I'd started (part of which was reducing the amount of ammo I was carrying by 8 rounds).

I purchased one of the M&P 5" thumb safety guns in .40 with the idea that I'd carry and train with 9mm M&P and then carry an identical .40 in the backcountry. When I started shaking it out, I was astonished to find it had much more manageable recoil than .45 acp 1911. Closer in recoil to 147grn 9mm than it is to 230grn .45 acp. So manageable (and so consistently accurate for me) that there wasn't much downside to carrying the .40 in the backcountry AND in town. My pistolero friend verified that the M&P particularly is one of the softest shooting .40s made. Scot has tried a couple of others in .40 and not found anything else that doesn't have a sharp and difficult recoil impulse.

So, I'm back to one pistol for everything.  I did put one of the solid apex triggers in (although none of the apex internals -- the 2.0 has a very nice trigger pull out of the box). My 1911s are in the safe and I miss carrying one very much. I keep trying to invent reasons to carry the 1911 again, perhaps in some different variant (like 9mm CCO because it is very concealable). But I keep coming back to the practicality and performance of what I'm doing now. My heart isn't in it, but my head sure is. To satisfy my heart a bit and try to balance things out, I drastically upgraded my daily carry knife to something with a great history and soul to it. But that's the subject of a different post...


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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11/11/2017 8:59 PM
 

Say it ain’t so, Evan! Geez!  Never thought I’d see the day.

Just kidding.  Roll with what does the work for you.  When I get to move back out west and start traipsing around bear & big cat country more often, I plan to get myself a Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan in .44 Magnum and a Marlin 1895 SBL, and call that done.  Probably get the Marlin before I move.  

Until then, I’m sticking with my 1911 for urban, front, side, & backcountry.   


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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11/12/2017 11:18 AM
 
Makes sense to me. I kind of struggle with having "nice things" to take into the back country with me, versus pure utility. I love 1911's, but I've settled on Glocks as an EDC for both front country and back country. My compromise is that I buy nice things to use as hunting tools.

I also found that my skills were more perishable when I was carrying a 1911.

I think that 5" .40 makes a bunch of sense as a Field Pistol. The 180 grain .40 has pretty much the same sectional density as a 230 grain .45 bullet, and the 200 grain .40 has the same sectional density as a 255 grain .45 bullet. High sectional density is good for shooting through large toothy critters.

If you plan on carrying those 200 grain field loads in your .40, I would suggest you thoroughly vet their reliability. Folks have had trouble with them, particularly when shooting weak handed with a compromised grip, which is not a totally unlikely back country scenario. Wide meplat bullets loaded to high velocities don't always lend them selves to good feeding in auto pistols, particularly those that use double column magazines.

 
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11/12/2017 12:14 PM
 
As a good middle ground, a 5" Springfield XD40 did it for me. And the grip perfectly fit my hand. I did try handling a Glock, but I have small/medium hands and couldn't comfortably fit them around the 2x4 grips that the Glock has.

 
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11/12/2017 1:41 PM
 
Wose wrote:
If you plan on carrying those 200 grain field loads in your .40, I would suggest you thoroughly vet their reliability. Folks have had trouble with them, particularly when shooting weak handed with a compromised grip, which is not a totally unlikely back country scenario. Wide meplat bullets loaded to high velocities don't always lend them selves to good feeding in auto pistols, particularly those that use double column magazines.
 

Good reminder. I've gone through a little over 50 rounds of the doubletap 200 grain with no issues. The final test was a weak hand mag dump as quick as I could go. Actually, haven't had a single bobble of any type with the pistol since I got it. 400 rounds spread across 5 different types of ammo.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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11/18/2017 7:39 PM
 

Sounds like very good logic.   What holster are you using for in town carry?  If it was IWB, did it take much to get used to the extra width?

I wish S&W would come out witha M&P 10mm.  The Glock 20 is a very serviceable gun but the grip is awkward to me

 
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Yesterday @ 7:02 AM
 
cco45acp wrote:

Sounds like very good logic.   What holster are you using for in town carry?  If it was IWB, did it take much to get used to the extra width?

Since being turned onto them, I've been using a Garrett industries IWB. However, they messed up the one I ordered for this pistol (they're making it right) so I had to make my own. I used my 1911 Garrett as a guide to all of my preferred critical dimensions -- cant, depth in pants, relationship of belt loop to trigger guard. The resulting holster is much more comfortable, concealable, and reliable than the Garrett was, which is saying a lot. So my carry situation has actually improved over the 1911 thanks to a better holster.

All that being said, the M&P in general has always felt very close to a 1911 in IWB comfort and concealability for me even with other holsters. Unlike the Glock, which just feels like a damned brick IWB. The big edge that the 1911 has in concealability is the exposed hammer. On both the M&P and Glock, that whole area is a big filled in chunk which prints some. Although it is a little bit better on the M&P than the Glock.

I did have to wear a new callous into my side thanks to the very aggressive stippling that comes stock on the M&P 2.0. That just comes with the territory. Had to do the same thing when I put simonich VZ grips on my 1911.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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Yesterday @ 2:32 PM
 
I doubt you'll see an M&P in 10mm. They don't even recommend +P ammo in their .45s. The .40 sounds like a good way to go given Evan's description of the recoil. In Glocks, I find the .40 to be the most uncomfortable round to shoot. I got rid of my 23 after shooting it side by side with my 20SF, both with full power loads, and finding the 10mm more comfortable and easier to control. Just not as "snappy." Every time I've tried a .40, that recoil has turned me off, but if the package it comes in changes that aspect, the .40 could have a lot of appeal. I know that when it came out, I thought it would be the ultimate pistol round for SD.
 
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Yesterday @ 4:28 PM
 

This thread has really got me thinking.  All my serious auto pistols are either 1911s or Glocks.

I'm still looking for that mythical one pistol does it all gun.   My most comfortable carry gun is my CCO .45 but not a woods gun in bear country.   

I'd be content carrying my all steel 5" 1911 with heavy cast bullets in black bear country but it weighs more than I'd like.   No sure I'd be comfortable with a .45acp for backpacking in grizzly country.

I really like my G20 in a HPG Runners Kit Bag for backpacking...with the caveat that I'd prefer to have something with a more 1911 grip angle and a thumb safety.

I generally EDC the CCO .45 or a medium Glock when not backpacking.   I like Glock's reliability and mag capacity but, like Evan, that square slide is just not the best for IWB.

I may save up and trade for an M&P 2.0 .40 and test it out.   Harder now though because of the amount of gear I have for Glock and Smith does not have a 10mm.   

Still the idea of a S&W M&P .40 2.0 5" with thumb safety as a one gun for even thing outside of deep concealment and griz country seems pretty attractive.

 
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