Great Gear, Lousy Habits

If you’ve never been fortunate enough to shoot someone’s customized pistol, you really don’t know what you’re missing.

Having been in the position to shoot some really great handguns that belong to some absolutely amazing shooters, I’m not afraid to say that the guns of the top level professionals have about as much in common with the guns of the mere mortals as NASCAR’s “stock cars” have in common with the family Chevy.

Now that I’m actually fortunate enough to own a high-end customized competition pistol, I can let you in on a secret: even a piece of amazing technical wizardry can’t make up for aging eyes, shaky nerves, and a yanked trigger. Nothing can make up for a lack of practice.

As one observer reminded me after a frustrating practice session: “you can’t miss fast enough to win.”

No kidding.

So, I’m falling into my normal mindset. Don’t think about winning; try not to embarrass yourself and shoot smooth and clean. After all, slow is smooth and smooth is fast, right?

If you’ve not done your part, even an amazing pistol like mine can’t save you.

And it is genuinely amazing. When I sent my M&P Pro pistol to Scott Folk at APEX Tactical ( I sent it with no idea what Folk would decide to do to/with my primarily polymer, striker-fired pistol. After all, there’s not a lot you can do to a polymer pistol, right?


OK, it doesn’t look like the usual M&P Pro. That’s because it isn’t. Jim Shepherd photo

If you’re a whiz pistolsmith, there’s plenty you can do to a polymer striker-fired pistol-and all of it good.

When my M&P Pro came home, it had changed like a chunky kid changes at basic training. It was never meant for anything other than shooting reliably in any situation. Now, it’s lean(er), mean(er), and ready to go play.

Folk machined the slide to eliminate weight, stippled the polymer frame to help hold the gun even more steady, added APEX’s awesome competition trigger kit, removed my already solid front sights, and replaced them with a Dawson Front Sight and Warren Tactical’s rear sight, and then -if that wasn’t already enough – did a “Level 4” action job.

And I almost forgot: he also melonited a failure resistant extractor, and replaced the information machined off in the customizing process. The result: the Apex Limited M&P-004. It’s now what I’d call an “Uber M&P Pro 9”- made to race.

The name says it all- Apex. Limited.

Calling what Folk did to my trigger a “trigger job” doesn’t do the parts -or the guy who put them into my gun and tuned them to perfection- justice. He installed the Apex Forward Set Trigger Kit (FSS Hard Sear, FSS Ultimate Striker Block, Spring and FSS Trigger). That results in a gun that’s polished to run as smoothly as possible and deliver a 4.0-4.5 trigger pull. If I’d not planned on actually using my M&P Pro for anything but competition, I could have had a sub-3 pound trigger pull.

As I explained to Folk, I didn’t want a trigger that light. Apex Limited M&P-004 isn’t just a competition gun, even if it is more than capable of competing – anywhere. It’s also the 9mm pistol most likely to be found in my “every day” holster. I’m still capable of handling larger calibers, but I prefer shooting this 9mm. Especially now that my “backup” is the M&P Shield. They’re compatible to the point I have a Galco shoulder holster rig that has the M&P Pro on one side and the Shield on the off-side.

If you’re unfamiliar with APEX Tactical, they have competition shooting in the core of their products and expertise. Pistolsmith Randy Lee brings a quarter-century of pistolsmithing expertise, but he’s also a top-20 shooter in the International Revolver Championships and has competed – very successfully – in multiple USPSA, IDPA and Steel Challenge events.

The aforementioned Scott Folk has plenty of CNC EDM and waterjet technical expertise, in addition to having worked for Master Gunsmith Bruce Gray where he developed his skills on H&K and Sig Sauer pistols. He’s not a bad shot, either.

Lisa Farrell’s modestly listed as “Office Administrator” on the Apex website. Lisa’s also a seven-time International Stock Revolver Champion with ICORE and member of the U.S. Revolver Team that took the 2005 IPSC world title.

As far as I can tell, only the Luigi and Zoey, the “shop dogs” aren’t high-level shooters.

If you’re a revolver shooter/competitor, you need to consider their work for your Smith & Wesson revolver. For J-frames, they offer a Duty/Carry tuneup. If you have K, L, and/or N-Frames, they can take you from a Level II action job to the Level IV “High performance/race grade” package that nets a 4.5 -5.0 Double Action trigger. If you’re not a revolver shooter, that’s tech-speak for “fast”.

Race-ready rig. All that’s missing is a race-tuned shooter. Jim Shepherd photo.

They’re even capable of tuning your Model 617 .22 revolver to “Race Grade” with a 6-7 pound double action trigger pull.

In less than two weeks, I’ll be lining up at the Bianchi Cup’s Speed Challenge. When I do, I’ll be equipped with gear that’s capable of winning the event.

My gear – this year- is absolutely top-shelf. But a plow horse doesn’t have much chance in the Kentucky Derby. Especially if the horse hasn’t been doing much more traveling than practicing.

–Jim Shepherd

WireShots Staff

WireShots is a news service provided by H&H Shooting Sports in Oklahoma City. We cover all news related to the Shooting Sports including Firearms, Archery, Outdoors, as well as events at our range and retail store. You can reach us via email at . Shoot On!