Putting Down The Man Gun



pat1Why I Switched To 9mm

Change is constant. We get older, wiser, slower, grayer and hurt more easily. All of these add up to experience, which may be defined as what we get when we don’t get what we want. Carrying a handgun is something that is very personal, in that it is with you almost every day of your adult life. Which pistol one carries may be mandated or a matter of choice. The decision-making process that leads up to the acquisition may be nothing more than a picture in a magazine, word of mouth or hopefully, some conscious thought.

For agency users, the selection process may take strange turns that lead to unintended consequences. An example of this is when police administrators opt for a double-action pistol, believing that it will be somehow “safer,” when it is in fact no more nor less safe than any other pistol—just a lot more difficult to manage the trigger properly.

BACKGROUND

At nine years old, Rogers shot his Uncle Ed’s service revolver—an S&W M&P—for the first time. We didn’t know about Rule #3 then....

At nine years old, Rogers shot his Uncle Ed’s service revolver—an S&W M&P—for the first time. We didn’t know about Rule #3 then….

The first handgun I fired was my Uncle’s service revolver, an S&W M&P. He was a cop in NYPD, a path I took 18 years later. I was nine years old at the time and didn’t shoot another handgun until I was 17 and in the Marine Corps. Since then, I have been issued or chose to carry 1911A1s, S&W M19, S&W M10, S&W M36, a Ruger Speed Six, Glock 19, Browning Hi-Power, Government Models, as well as Commanders and various models of the S&W M&P semi-autos.

The single gun that I carried the most, enjoyed shooting the most, and shot the best was the 1911 type. Subjectively, it carried very well. Objectively, I shot the 1911 better than any other handgun I have ever fired. The Man Gun was an absolute pleasure in almost every respect. And contrary to the hype, I never had much in the way of problems with the 20+ 1911s I have used over the years.

WHY THE CHANGE?

There were two reasons why I decided to make a change. First was the fact that as I moved along in years, shooting .45 ammo became painful. Years of shooting as well as accumulated injuries had left me with tendonitis in both elbows and arthritis in my hands. The second was simpler. The Government Model has a magazine capacity of seven rounds (and of course one in the chamber). Yes, I am cognizant that eight-round magazines exist, but they also are generally not as reliable as the seven-round magazines.

Back in the day, I was taught (and bought into) the nonsense that you only need a high-cap gun if you intend to miss a lot. This was analogous to the reason why some cops only carried an S&W J frame with no reloads—the “If I can’t solve it with five rounds, I need to find another job” syndrome.

Boresight Solutions modified gun (top) is contoured and stippled to provide a more positive grip and control over the stock M&P (bottom).

Boresight Solutions modified gun (top) is contoured and stippled to provide a more positive grip and control over the stock M&P (bottom).

Both types of comments are stupid and reflect a lack of common sense and experience. We have known for a long time that pistol-caliber cartridges are poor performers. And while many parrot the “One Shot, One Kill” mantra, one single shot fired from anything you can reasonably hold in your two paws cannot be guaranteed to stop an opponent.

We have to understand that multiple shots into your opponent will be the reality, not the exception. If we take it a step further and introduce one or more additional opponents into the fray, you can see the need for additional ammunition carried within the gun. If you think for a minute that you will only ever face a single bad guy, you may want to re-consider your mortality.

Consider getting fuel at a service station adjacent to an interstate and having a car occupied by four ne’er-do-wells slowly pull up at the pump opposite you. No one gets out, but their heads are on swivels, looking, gauging, trying to work up to it. Think that’s unusual? It’s not, but as 90% of average earth people are in Condition White and wouldn’t know if an asteroid were on its way to have mankind join the dinosaurs, why would they be aware of a car full of mutts looking for an easy payday?

TRIGGERS

1911 has had a long and illustrious career in the U.S. Military. This is MCSOCOM ICQB pistol, serial number 001. Like all 1911s, it was a great gun.

1911 has had a long and illustrious career in the U.S. Military. This is MCSOCOM ICQB pistol, serial number 001. Like all 1911s, it was a great gun.

The need for a pistol having a sufficient magazine capacity was a major consideration in my selection process. I will avoid conflict if possible, but if not, I’d like to have the tools to handle the situation. Understanding that a good trigger, properly managed, is conducive to good hits, the 1911 type is the king of the hill. As I wanted a manageable trigger, this excluded single-action/double-action or double-action-only pistols.

To my way of thinking, those SA/DA pistols are abominations. Building in a bad trigger only takes away our ability to hit, and while they can be managed, they also require a lot more training as well as more ammunition to bring people up to a level of acceptable competence.

Raven Concealment Systems Van Guard 1 is a minimalist holster that lends itself to appendix carry. This and a similar holster were all the rage in the 1970s, but they lost favor. Now the Van Guard 1 is back again, proving there is nothing new under the sun.

Raven Concealment Systems Van Guard 1 is a minimalist holster that lends itself to appendix carry. This and a similar holster were all the rage in the 1970s, but they lost favor. Now the Van Guard 1 is back again, proving there is nothing new under the sun.

This left me with only striker-fired guns to choose from, and there are few enough of those available. I had previously carried the self-proclaimed plastic fantastic, and while one was among the better pistols I have owned, another was the absolute worst gun I ever owned. And truthfully, I was tired of the company’s line of “You’re limp-wristing the gun,” “It’s the ammunition,” or the ever-popular “You’re from New York, you don’t know anything about shooting.” Plus the gun never felt good in my hand.

When Ernie Langdon offered me an M&P .45 to T&E four years ago, I accepted and wound up using it exclusively in class until the last quarter of 2011. The gun ran like the proverbial sewing machine, and the accuracy of the platform was equal to or exceeded my expectations.

And the gun felt good in my hand. The replaceable backstrap permitted me an opportunity to modify the grip to better fit my paw. As with everything else, life is a compromise. I have small hands and the smallest backstrap fits best. However, I run Crimson Trace LaserGrips on all my working/carry guns, and they come in medium only. Ergo, I run the medium on all my guns, and without a problem.

BORESIGHT SOLUTIONS

Two other changes were in the making. I initially wanted to keep the M&P bone stock in order to have a “pure” pistol to evaluate. Once I exceeded 7,000 rounds, I figured I needed to enhance the feel of the pistol—especially the trigger.

M&P 9C is compact version of the line. It has a capacity of 12+1 rounds of 9x19mm and comes in a small, easily controllable and very accurate package.

M&P 9C is compact version of the line. It has a capacity of 12+1 rounds of 9x19mm and comes in a small, easily controllable and very accurate package.

At a carbine class at Southern Exposure Training Center in Lakeland, Florida, I noted that 75% of the students had polymer guns modified by one of the other students, Ben Simonsen of Boresight Solutions. Several good friends, including Kyle Lamb of Viking Tactics, Randy Cain, Steve Fisher of Magpul Dynamics, and my evil twin, Bill Jeans of Morrigan Consulting, have guns modified by Ben, and I took all of this as a clue.

Since then, Ben has taken all my M&P pistols and worked his magic on them. He textures and contours them, and subjectively changes the way the gun feels in my hands. That subjective feeling means that I run the gun better. Ben also installed Apex trigger kits in all my guns, and for obvious reasons. If you cannot manage the trigger properly, the ability to actually hit what you are aiming at is reduced. Stock triggers are acceptable, but having an eight-pound trigger in a two-pound, four-ounce gun means that any issue with that trigger is a surefire path to a poor shot downrange.

This is especially true for me. After having fired a lot of rounds through the 1911, which has the best service trigger of any gun I have shot, the triggers on every plastic gun were sub-par. Substituting the excellent Apex trigger for the OEM unit made the gun much easier to shoot.

SIGHTS

As with the 1911, I experimented with sights. The Man Gun had, as issued, miniscule sights, and almost everyone replaced them with something more visible. The OEM sights on the M&P were the opposite—large and clunky. I like the idea of tritium sights, although I prefer them on the front only. They are useful within a small time frame, and employing a weapon-mounted white light makes them somewhat limited. I played with a few and finally settled on Trijicon HD sights. They feel right, and I am satisfied with them. The rear sight has trit inserts, but they are very dim.

AMMO

The bigger issue in my recent revelations concerns the cartridge used. For a long time I used the .45 exclusively for both training and carry. Like many before me, my confidence in the pistol/caliber is based on experience, and a large, heavy bullet inspired confidence.

However, the bleating of the “they all fall to hardball” crowd left me wondering if some ever paid attention to reality. And that reality is any FMJ pistol cartridge in any caliber sucks. My experience in NYPD—having been present at or seen the aftermath of multiple shootings over the years—has colored how I look at what happens in a shooting.

Rogers put over 80,000 rounds of .45 downrange in this gun over a 12-year period. He said, “I will miss it, but at this stage of my life, I am missing a lot of things.”

Rogers put over 80,000 rounds of .45 downrange in this gun over a 12-year period. He said, “I will miss it, but at this stage of my life, I am missing a lot of things.”

I have seen enough people turned into canoes at the City Morgue from ingesting .22, .25, .32, .380s and the like, and have seen several people take near-contact wounds to the body and head from .38, 9x19mm and .45 and survive that I am convinced that, of those things involved in a pistol fight, type of gun, bullet configuration, weight and caliber are all a distant tie for second when compared to technique and mindset.

Projectiles need to go where they will make the guy leak the quickest. Your goal is to depressurize the circulatory system—let air in, let fluid out. Bonus points for any other disruptions, but don’t count on them.

AU REVOIR .45 ACP

I have decided to leave not only the Man Gun, but also the .45 ACP. Instead, I have been using the M&P in 9x19mm. This change does several things for me. First, the gun is easier to shoot. That is, I can shoot it without pain, which makes my shooting much more enjoyable, but also allows me to train at the rate I need to maintain proficiency.

Second, it increases the magazine capacity, and while this is nice in training, there is a real-world benefit here as well. The switch to the M&P .45 provided a net increase of 37.5% in ammunition on board the gun. The change to the M&P 9mm gave me a 125% increase.

Anti-personnel ammunition has improved greatly, and the difference between good 9x19mm ammo and .45 ammo is negligible. And given that any pistol ammunition is of marginal effectiveness, my preference is to have more (good) ammunition available.

MODS AND ADD-ONS

All the M&P 9mms I use while teaching are modified by Boresight Solutions.  They are contoured and textured, and have Apex trigger components installed. They all have HD sights, and I really like them.

I strongly believe in having a weaponmounted white light, and they all have a SureFire X300 with the DG switch. That white light is the key to acquiring, identifying and prosecuting an opponent in low light, and the DG switch is the most intuitive of the options available. Each of the guns also has a Crimson Trace LaserGrip attached. The visible laser is not meant to be a substitute for the primary sights, but rather a supplement to them under certain circumstances. It is also an extremely useful teaching tool.

Too often, we have seen arguments grow into disputes and proceed into acrimonious diatribes concerning the weapons and ammunition choices of an individual, department or agency. It has sometimes been carried to a point that exceeds common sense. We argue back and forth about things like caliber and bullet configuration, operating systems and holsters, finishes and other issues. Maybe what we should be concentrating on is the final resting place of the bullets in the cartridges in the chamber and the magazines you are carrying right now.

At this point, I have no regrets—either in what I have carried in the past or what I carry now.

About Author

Pat Rogers

Pat Rogers is a retired Chief Warrant Officer of Marines and a retired NYPD Sergeant. Pat is the owner of E.A.G. Inc., which provides services to governmental organizations and private citizens. He can be reached at info@eagtactical.com.

16 Comments

  1. skubie@afgimail.com' Stephen Skubinna Reply

    At 59 I am fortunate in so far not developing tendonitis, arthritis or RSI making .45 ACP difficult to shoot, so I still carry a full sized 1911A1. That being said, modern defensive 9mm ammunition can offer stopping power as good as the heavy JMB round, so the choice in most cases can be left to personal preference.

    When the Navy belatedly went to the Beretta M9, after hanging onto the 1911 longer than the other services, I noticed one interesting development. Failures to eject due to limp wristing became more common on the range. In fact I don’t recall ever seeing one with the heavier pistol. I suspect that shooters instinctively gripped the 1911 more firmly than the 9mm.

    As for your point about the 1911 carrying 7+1 rounds, that is valid. However, every time I rewatch Bruce Willis in Last Man Standing I have to fight the urge to order the pieces to build a double shoulder rig for paired guns. That and get a double breasted pin striped suit.

  2. rossww@juno.com' Jeffersonian Reply

    Having just returned from a motorcycle trip through the upper central states into the southeast, I can relate to the assertion that most folk wander thru life in condition white. As a constant firearm carrier and firm believer in my right to survive, I am constantly scanning my surroundings and looking for threats. My travel companions are a different story. We stayed one night in a motel located in an industrial town in central Tennessee. Tired and not wanting to go out for supper we decided to walk to a nearby grocery store for some fried chicken. Upon arrival at the store I told them we would cross the street on the way back to avoid the drug dealer who was eyeing us. “I didn’t see any drug dealer” was their response. “I know you didn’t” was my reply. As for 9mm vs. .45? Whatever you feel comfortable with is the best choice. Good arguments to be made on both. I like yours.

  3. JACK7@AOL.COM' JACK FINSTER Reply

    VERY INTERESTING BUT IT’LL BRING ALL THE WANNABE MASSAD AYOOBS OUT IN THE COMMENTS SECTION. UGH. PLEASE, IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN IN A GUNFIGHT, KEEP YOUR MOUTHS SHUT. YOU KNOW NOTHING.

  4. hankmeister3@gmail.com' Hank Seiter Reply

    Fortunately I never fell for a lot of the 9mm vs 45 Auto “conventional wisdom” one way or the other. I’ve been shooting for nearly fifty years (got my first .22 when I was 12) and when I was in my late 20s acquired both a S&W 59 and an AO .45 Auto 1911. Loved both and really enjoyed the 1911. I consider myself an above average pistol shooter though I mostly shoot centerfire rifles from the AR-15s to just about anything can be shot from a Mauser 98 action.

    Since those days I’ve acquired Glock 17s, CZ-75, the venerable P-38, Luger P08, Sig 226, M&P 9mm (and .45 Auto) with Apex trigger upgrade, H&K VP9 and several other polymer-framed 9s and .45s. Given the present tech built into the 9mm family of self-defense cartridges from the Winchester Rangers to the Hornady Critical Defense/Duty, the big-hole vs. little-hole arguments are moot in my opinion. My carry option is the M&P Shield 9mm with three magazines full of Critical Duty. I love my 1911 and enjoy the visceral experience of shooting a manly man’s big bore semi-auto in whatever platform, but the author is right, the 9mm is just as effective in my opinion given the new generation of self-defense ammunition that is available to the average American, plus one generally has nearly twice the cartridge capacity with hi-cap 9s.

    BTW, I do some club steel plate shoots and run about the same speed with either .45 (handloaded lead) and 9mm FMJ loaded to factory SAAMI specs. I have to admit I like the plate reaction to a flush hit with 230 grains worth of lead but there’s a lot less mag changes with the 9mm during the shoot. I run a Colt Gold Cup Trophy in .45 and a Glock 17 with Mepro iron sights. Accuracy is a wash shooting at those speeds which are generally in the low 3s and high 2s for five plates.

  5. semperwhy@gmail.com' Semper Why Reply

    I know you’ve invested a lot of time & money into your M&P, but if I may suggest another option. If you can, give the Walther P99 a try. It has possibly the best stock striker-fired trigger I’ve encountered.

    Don’t get the Quick-Action (QA) version. Get the Anti-Stress (AS) version. It’s sort of a DA/SA trigger, but you can half-cock it to be single action and it’s awesome.

    Give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.

  6. twolaneflash@yahoo.com' twolaneflash Reply

    I have an H-K .45 with a 12 round mag + 1 round chambered. I always felt sorry for anyone stupid enough to test me with it. I, too, have gone to the 9 mm for many of the same reasons – age & injury, but the main reason is my son, an 11 year SF senior weapons NCO. All my son’ s teammates know from experience you can drop a body with a single 9 mm round, and of course, with the 30 round mag in a Glock, you can fire away all day. But the main reason they tell me to go 9 mm is the zombie apocalypse. When you run out of ammo, what are you most likely to find if you have to scavenge for resupply? 9 mm.

  7. jim.hogue@verizon.net' RetiredE9 Reply

    I’m 67 and carried a 1911, NOTE: a REAL 1911, it was made in 1913 and my father carried it in WWII, Korea and, finally, in Vietnam.

    To get better concealment I got a .40 sub-compact Springfield.

    Routine shooting became painful because of wrist arthritis. Cleaning became almost impossible because of the long spring and the sore wrists.

    I carry a 9mm now and wish I’d switched years ago. Nothing stays the same forever and the clever shooter realizes that fact.

  8. jim.hogue@verizon.net' RetiredE9 Reply

    “…, IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN IN A GUNFIGHT, KEEP YOUR MOUTHS SHUT. YOU KNOW NOTHING.”

    Well sir, I have been in a gunfight, several in fact. The one thing I learned was that I’d rather have a rifle than a pistol.

    But if I only have a pistol I want one that I’m comfortable with. I was very comfortable with the standard issue M9 9mm Beretta. It is accurate and carries a lot of ammo. I saw a young Marine in the Bakara Market in Mogadishu, Somalia hit a gunman at 50-75 yds. wounding him long enough for another Marine finish him off with a SAW.

    Another secret to peace of mind in a gunfight is that other people around you have interchangeable magazines and the same caliber ammo.

  9. mhieric@yahoo.com' Rocketeer Reply

    I have a late 1980s vintage AutoOrdnance M1911A1 chanbered in 9mm, 9+1. I’ve always thought it was the best of both worlds and have enjoyed it immensely.

  10. mhieric@yahoo.com' Rocketeer Reply

    I have a late 1980s vintage AutoOrdnance M1911A1 chambered in 9mm, 9+1. I’ve always thought it was the best of both worlds and have enjoyed it immensely.

  11. oatmeal@aol.com' gman Reply

    “But the main reason … is the zombie apocalypse. When you run out of ammo, what are you most likely to find if you have to scavenge for resupply?”

    actually, you’ll most likely find lots of loaded guns laying in the ground. you’ll have to pry them out of someone’s hand and unload them to get the ammo ….

  12. newscaper@yahoo.com' Newscaper Reply

    Thanks for the well reasoned argument you make. Just curious, any particular reason for skipping over the .40 caliber?

  13. joe@atomickc.com' Joe A Reply

    I’m still with the 1911, although I’ve moved to 9mm for a couple extra rounds and an alloy bobtail frame for reduced weight.

    Which begs the question: why doesn’t anyone (or several someones) make a double stack, polymer framed 9mm 1911? I guess Bul sort of does, but I want to go the corner store and have several to pick from.

  14. patriotkw71@gmail.com' Ken W. Reply

    Can anyone tell me about the Glock 36 in .45??

  15. dblgfirearms@gmail.com' Lt. Donn Reply

    I agree wholeheartedly with all the comments made by the esteemed Mr. Rogers…except for one minor issue. Replacing the stock trigger with the Apex model will be an issue to overcome in any subsequent litigation…whether criminal and or civil…not that it cannot be overcome by a good defense such as Ayoob, et al, just that it is an issue that does not need to happen…the stock triggers may not be ideal, but certainly are able to be learned and mastered…and will deny an over-zealous prosecutor yet another “issue” to confuse the already woefully uninformed public.

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