Func­tional Art

AGENCY ARMS UR­BAN COM­BAT M&P9 M2.0

Firepower - - CONTENTS - TEXT BY JOHN SCOTT / PHO­TOS BY JERRY TSAI

In­side Agency Arms, and the com­pany’s re­tooled M&P9 M2.0—form fol­low­ing func­tion in the purest sense.

Nes­tled be­tween the pic­turesque beaches and ar­ti­san winer­ies of Cal­i­for­nia’s Ven­tura County is an out­fit that’s turn­ing the af­ter­mar­ket firearm cus­tomiza­tion busi­ness on its ear. Part­ners Michael Parks and Randy Niswan­der formed Agency Arms in early 2015 with the man­date to up­grade and per­fect the func­tion­al­ity of firearms, ini­tially spe­cial­iz­ing in the ever-pop­u­lar line of Glock pis­tols.

If you’ve ever browsed the In­ter­net or flipped through Instagram look­ing for gun­porn (who of us hasn’t?), there’s a good chance that you’ve come across an Agency Arms cus­tom-built pis­tol to drool over. Their in­stantly rec­og­niz­able look is hard to miss. With a mul­ti­tude of slide ser­ra­tions and unique frame cuts, once you’ve seen an Agency build, it’s hard to for­get it.

Func­tion Over Form

The guys at Agency Arms in­sist that they are “in­ter­ested more in the func­tion­al­ity [of their prod­uct] than its vis­ual ap­peal.” Be­ing that they pro­duce what prac­ti­cally amounts to fu­tur­is­tic-look­ing pieces of func­tional art, we find that last state­ment a bit hard to be­lieve. Since vis­ual ap­peal isn’t their pri­mary fo­cus, we’re very in­ter­ested in tak­ing a pis­tol out to see if it shoots even bet­ter than it looks.

Un­like their com­peti­tors in this space, their first goal was to fo­cus on those users who re­quire their guns to pri­mar­ily func­tion un­der the pres­sures of life-and-death sce­nar­ios. They paid lit­tle con­sid­er­a­tion for the use of their mod­i­fied weapons at events such as shoot­ing com­pe­ti­tions or weekend plink­ing. By ca­ter­ing to those who carry on-duty and off, as well as for those who carry for the self-defense of them­selves and oth­ers in real-world sit­u­a­tions, Agency Arms shoul­ders a heavy re­spon­si­bil­ity—and as we found out, they’re more than ea­ger and ca­pa­ble to take it on.

Find­ing Suc­cess

Agency Arms quickly found suc­cess af­ter they de­buted their ini­tial line of mod­i­fied Glock pis­tols, which have since be­come their most pop­u­lar items. Their mod­i­fi­ca­tion process is straight­for­ward and prac­ti­cal. They es­sen­tially re-skin the pis­tol by machining cus­tom light­en­ing cuts and adding ad­di­tional cock­ing ser­ra­tions, among other things, that add to the slide’s func­tion­al­ity and per­for­mance.

They also dras­ti­cally tune the Glock’s frame to suit the needs of shoot­ers such as a re-con­toured groove-less grip, a com­plete stip­ple job, and a high trig­ger guard un­der­cut, to name a few. One of the most rec­og­niz­able mods that Agency Arms makes to the frame comes to­ward the front end in the form of “Ac­cel­er­a­tor Cuts.” We’ll talk more about those later on.

Agency Arms also mod­i­fies the in­ter­nals of the pis­tol by painstak­ingly hand-fit­ting their Flat Faced Trig­ger for an over­all bet­ter trig­ger feel with min­i­mal over travel and a very no­tice­able re­set. The re­sult is a sat­is­fy­ing trig­ger pull, which also re­sults in faster fol­low-up shots, and if you’re do­ing your part, tighter shot groups.

With these qual­ity mod­i­fi­ca­tions, de­mand ex­ploded and the Agency Arms crew dis­cov­ered that their cus­tomers’ ap­petite for their ser­vices was in dan­ger of quickly out­strip­ping their ca­pa­bil­ity. In just a few short years, Agency Arms went from a small shop staffed by a hand­ful of peo­ple to a more ex­pan­sive fa­cil­ity hous­ing even more staff and even a third shift that al­lows the com­pany to run 24 hours when need be— and as we can at­test, there is a need.

En­ter M&P

With all of Agency Arms suc­cess with Glock pis­tol mod­i­fi­ca­tions, it was only nat­u­ral that Smith & Wes­son M&P en­thu­si­asts came knock­ing. The M&P line of pis­tols has rapidly gained ground on Glock’s dom­i­nance in the striker-fired poly­mer pis­tol game since

its in­tro­duc­tion about a decade ago and is now a fa­vorite among shoot­ers of all back­grounds. Many M&P own­ers waited with bated breath for Agency Arms to start mod­i­fy­ing M&PS. Their ap­peals were an­swered.

Agency Arms used the blue­print of their suc­cess­ful Glock mods and ap­plied them to the M&P. They of­fer three pack­age vari­a­tions: Ur­ban Com­bat, Hy­brid Spe­cial, and Field Bat­tle. Each ver­sion fea­tures sub­tle changes as to the num­ber of ser­ra­tions and avail­abil­ity of light­en­ing win­dow cuts. All pack­ages in­clude an RMR Cut as stan­dard to ac­cept an op­tional Tri­ji­con RMR red dot sight. A “Bat­tle Plate” cover is in­stalled when the red dot is not be­ing used.

The M&P frame also gets a sim­i­lar treat­ment as the Glock frame, in­clud­ing Agency Arms’ Ac­cel­er­a­tor Cuts on the for­ward por­tion of the slide and frame stip­pling for an en­hanced non-slip grip.

The M&P M2.0

Just be­fore SHOT Show 2017, Smith & Wes­son re­leased its re­vamped M&P M2.0, which fea­tures im­prove­ments such as a more ag­gres­sive grip tex­ture, dif­fer­ent slide con­tour and im­proved trig­ger. Not missing a beat, Agency Arms quickly fol­lowed up and de­buted a cou­ple mod­i­fied ver­sions of the M&P M2.0 only days later and re­leased even more exciting news.

Agency Arms, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with long­time M&P af­ter­mar­ket trig­ger spe­cial­ists Apex Tac­ti­cal Spe­cial­ties, an­nounced the re­lease of the Agency

Arms M&P Flat Faced Trig­ger. This trig­ger pairs the patented Agency Arms Flat Faced Trig­ger with Apex Tac­ti­cal’s renowned in­ter­nals. The trig­ger prom­ises re­duced trig­ger pre- and over-travel for a feel sim­i­lar to a sin­gle ac­tion sys­tem. The re­sult­ing re­duc­tion in trig­ger travel is about half with a re­duced re­set and smooth trig­ger pull through­out. Plus, let’s not for­get the cool-look­ing, and nice-feel­ing, flat-faced trig­ger it­self.

Ur­ban Com­bat

We were for­tu­nate to be in­vited to

Agency Arms to check out the M&P9 M2.0 MAY-JUNE, 2017 cham­bered in 9mm as fin­ished in the

Ur­ban Com­bat pack­age. Due to the num­ber of win­dow cut outs, this pack­age pro­vides the light­est pos­si­ble slide con­fig­u­ra­tion that they of­fer.

The Ur­ban Com­bat slide fea­tures three win­dow cuts, one on each side to­ward the front of the slide and a large win­dow cut out up top. Like the other slides of­fered by Agency Arms, an Rmr-ready cut with Bat­tle Plate cover comes stan­dard.

An­gled ser­ra­tions are then re-cut into the front and back of the slide, elim­i­nat­ing the stock scal­loped ser­ra­tions from the fac­tory. It’s no­table to men­tion that the new front ser­ra­tions greatly in­crease grip­ping area com­pared to the stock ver­sion, though we found them to be a tad shal­low for our pref­er­ences. The slide is also re-pro­filed for ex­tra weight sav­ings along the lengths of

“Un­like their com­peti­tors, agency’s first goal was to fo­cus on users who re­quire guns that func­tion un­der the pres­sures of life-and-death sce­nar­ios.”

both sides over its stan­dard con­fig­u­ra­tion. As a fin­ish­ing touch, a set of cus­tom Daw­son Pre­ci­sion sights com­plete with a fiber op­tic front are in­stalled.

It’s not like Agency Arms to leave any stone un­turned, but we were in­formed that they found the M2.0’s im­proved, ag­gres­sive grip tex­ture to be more than ad­e­quate and that fur­ther stip­pling by the Agency Arms team to be un­war­ranted in those ar­eas of the frame that were en­dowed with this new tex­ture. They did how­ever com­plete the job and added stip­pling to the por­tion above the grip and along­side the top por­tion of the frame. They also found the stock trig­ger guard un­der­cut to be suf­fi­cient and left that area alone as well. To com­plete the frame treat­ment, Ac­cel­er­a­tor Cuts are milled to the front por­tion where the front of trig­ger guard meets the up­per por­tion of the frame. These tri­an­gu­lar cuts form a “shelf” for the sup­port hand’s thumb to rest on, which al­lows the shooter to gain bet­ter pur­chase on the pis­tol, help­ing to ac­tively mit­i­gate muz­zle rise for faster fol­low-up shots.

At the time of our visit, Agency Arms was still wait­ing for Apex Tac­ti­cal to com­pete their sear for the M2.0, but we did get to ex­am­ine the pis­tol with their Flat Faced Trig­ger, which felt as good as it looked.

The Agency Arms shoe with Apex in­ter­nals comes out to a con­sis­tent 4.1-pound trig­ger pull.

Range Time

We headed to the range with sev­eral mod­els and con­fig­u­ra­tions of Agency Arms-ified M&PS to eval­u­ate. One thing to note was that the Agency Arms reps who came with us, Parks and Agency Arms Gun­smith Paul Van Dunk, did not bring any ammo with them to the range. Be­cause of their fo­cus on build­ing guns that ab­so­lutely need to func­tion cor­rectly at any given time, with no ex­cuses, we were en­cour­aged to bring our own ammo to see how their pis­tols func­tioned.

We’ve been around long enough to im­me­di­ately re­al­ize that these guys were beyond con­fi­dent about their prod­uct. You might be sur­prised, but you don’t see that

all the time. If we brought un­der­pow­ered loads or ammo that wouldn’t other­wise func­tion cor­rectly for one rea­son or another, that would be a quick end of our day. Many other man­u­fac­tur­ers would bring ammo that they knew would run right in their guns as in­sur­ance. Not the Agency Arms guys; they knew their guns would run no mat­ter what.

We brought a mix­ture of reloads, steel cased, and match am­mu­ni­tion in both 115 and 147 grain weights by Free­dom

“The guys at Agency Arms in­sist that they are more in­ter­ested in func­tion­al­ity than vis­ual ap­peal. Be­ing that they pro­duce what amounts to fu­tur­is­tic-look­ing pieces of func­tional art, that’s a bit hard to be­lieve.”

Mu­ni­tions (as well as some old reloads from home) to run though the M&PS. As one would ex­pect, the higher the grade of ammo, the bet­ter the ac­cu­racy we ob­served. But the most im­por­tant thing is that no mat­ter what type of ammo we used, even rounds from our box of ran­dom home­made reloads, each of the three M&PS we got to shoot, which in­cluded the orig­i­nal non-m2.0, fired per­fectly with ab­so­lutely no hic­cups.

The Apex Tac­ti­cal in­ter­nals with the Agency Arms Flat Faced Trig­ger was no­tice­ably im­proved over the stan­dard Smith & Wes­son trig­ger. Its short travel and re­duced (and very no­tice­able) re­set al­lowed us to get off ac­cu­rate dou­ble taps with ease. We no­ticed the light­ened slide al­lowed us to get back on tar­get very quickly. Cou­pled with the fact that our off-hand thumb in­stinc­tively found the frame’s Ac­cel­er­a­tor Cut to rest on, the nose of the pis­tol in­stinc­tively re­turned to the orig­i­nal po­si­tion af­ter com­plet­ing its fir­ing se­quence. Shot af­ter shot, the pis­tol came back to rest in nearly the same po­si­tion. Even though we shot at an in­door range, the Daw­son’s fiber op­tic front sight was still able to catch enough light to al­low it to glow nice and bright.

The pis­tols’ con­trols were ex­cel­lent, with the ex­tra ser­ra­tions, es­pe­cially the front ones, al­low­ing us to per­form press checks with­out any slip­page. The stip­pling was ag­gres­sive enough to give us more con­fi­dence when grip­ping the gun, but at no point did we think our hands were be­ing skinned alive.

Fi­nal Thoughts

We had the op­por­tu­nity to visit with the de­signer, tech­ni­cians, and artists that make Agency Arms mod­i­fi­ca­tions a re­al­ity. To

ob­serve how much care and skill is put into each job is in­spir­ing. One thing we haven’t touched on is the price of this pack­age. That’s the go­rilla in this room, isn’t it? Ac­cord­ing to their web­site at press time, an Ur­ban Com­bat treat­ment starts at $1,400—not in­clud­ing the gun it­self. Yes, you read that right. The listed price in­cludes all the cus­tom work plus Daw­son Sights and the Apex Tac­ti­cal in­ter­nals mi­nus the pis­tol. Op­tions in­clude a va­ri­ety of fin­ish op­tions and slide coat­ings (many of which are über-cool, by the way). We’d ven­ture to say that only you can judge if it’s worth it or not. But tak­ing into ac­count the many man-hours poured into each job by highly skilled pro­fes­sion­als us­ing state-of-the-art equip­ment, it is a sum that can be jus­ti­fied in our opin­ion.

One thing to know how­ever, if you do de­cide to take the plunge, you’ll have to get in line. The last time we spoke to the Agency Arms guys, they in­formed us that the cur­rent wait time for their ser­vices is counted in months. If you want one sooner, you can try search out a stock­ing dealer through their web­site.

Did the Agency Arms mod­i­fied M&P per­form flaw­lessly? Yes, it ab­so­lutely did for us. Was it ac­cu­rate? Yes, as ac­cu­rate as the shooter al­lowed it to be and in ac­cor­dance to the ammo it was fed. Was it pleas­ing to han­dle? Yes, it did all that we asked it to. Does Agency Arms’ M&P func­tion bet­ter than it looks as the founders in­tended? That’s got to be a judg­ment call. It per­formed beyond our ex­pec­ta­tions and we do think it looks damned cool. So per­haps it’s a toss-up in our book.

“Many other man­u­fac­tur­ers would bring ammo they knew would run right in their guns. Not the Agency Arms guys; they knew their guns would run no mat­ter what.”

Agency Arms es­sen­tially re­skins the pis­tol by machining cus­tom light­en­ing cuts and ad­di­tional cock­ing ser­ra­tions that add to the slide's func­tion­al­ity and per­for­mance.

Three pack­ages are avail­able: Ur­ban Com­bat, Hy­brid Spe­cial, and Field Bat­tle. Each ver­sion fea­tures sub­tle vari­a­tions and all in­clude an RMR cut as stan­dard to ac­cept a Tri­ji­con RMR red dot sight.

Agency Arms can ap­ply their touch to both the orig­i­nal M&P and the newly re­leased M&P M2.0 se­ries of pis­tols. The M2.0 is seen here placed on top of the M&P.

When Smith & Wes­son re­leased its re­vamped M&P M2.0, Agency Arms quickly fol­lowed up with a few mod­i­fied ver­sions, de­but­ing them just days af­ter the pis­tol's in­tro­duc­tion.

The pis­tol's con­trols were ex­cel­lent; shot af­ter shot, the gun came back to rest in nearly the same po­si­tion.

The Ur­ban Com­bat slide fea­tures three win­dow cuts, which makes it the light­est slide of­fered by Agency Arms. The Rmr-ready cut with Bat­tle Plate cover comes stan­dard.

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