A Customized S&W M&P9

A Customized S&W M&P9

Photos by Alfredo Rico

I have had the opportunity to shoot and review dozens of beautiful custom guns, but until recently, I have not owned one. Every pistol I owned was duty-grade, holster-worn and slightly beat up. Thanks to my good friends at Agency Arms, that finally changed.

It’s not that I never wanted a really beautiful custom gun, it’s just that I could never justify the expense. Even in the age of polymer dominance, custom work on guns takes time, patience and expertise. Sure, you can get a decent stipple job from your buddy and his soldering iron, but perfect lines, recontoured frames and that custom slide work are going to cost you. I recently spent a day with Michael Parks and the rest of the great crew at Agency Arms, and I saw what goes into some of those works of art that are blowing up your Instagram feed. 

I’ve known Parks for several years, and we both work as police officers in Southern California, so there was an immediate sense of familiarity. Parks was great about teaching me what goes into designing the modifications for each pistol, from the CAD-CAM drawings to the prototyping. As an end user, I had no idea how much work went into designing each modification. For every action there is a reaction, so every time you alter the weight of the slide by removing material, that needs to be accounted for to ensure that the pistol’s cycle of operation isn’t affected. This is a brutally tedious and painstaking process that, if ignored, will turn your $2,000 blaster into a $2,000 paperweight. At Agency, it all starts with the engineering, and that makes the difference. 


Custom-SW-MP9-5

A tour of the Agency facility proves that the obsessive attention to detail isn’t just relegated to the engineering department. Every work station is immaculate, with generous work space and easy access to tools and parts by each of the skilled gunsmiths and artisans. There is none of the clutter or dirt that I’ve seen in shops that do similar work. The multiple state-of-the-art CNC machines also have their own spaces, with adjoining racks and trays. There is an overwhelming sense of military order, which makes sense based on Parks’ U.S. Marine Corps and police background. There was something else that struck me as I toured the facility: everyone was happy. There was none of the sweatshop vibe that I’ve seen in some other shops, and everyone was happy to answer my stupid questions as we went through.


First customized pistol

After touring the place and talking to Parks several times, I knew I wanted Agency Arms to design my first custom pistol. I had the perfect donor pistol, a Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 Compact. After 30 minutes of talking, haggling, laughing and peering intently at the computer, all the specs were figured out. All that was left to do was wait. For a while. Since I didn’t need it right away, I volunteered to wait for some cool new upgrades that they were perfecting. Six months later, I got the pistol back — and the wait was worth every minute.

Custom-SW-MP9-1

I have to admit, uncasing the pistol was a surreal moment. I inhaled slightly when I pulled it from the case. The frame was subtly modified with additional stippling above the standard texture, extending forward to the famous Agency Accelerator Cut. The triggerguard was tastefully and sparingly reprofiled, allowing a higher grip with the support hand without compromising the function or aesthetic of the M&P lines. The slide was done with the Agency Gavel package, which, in addition to a reprofile of existing serrations, added serrations to the forward portion of the slide as well as to the top of the slide. These serrations are important, Parks informed me, because M&Ps with thumb safeties (like mine) are difficult for some people to manipulate because the safety gets in the way of the shooter’s grip when trying to cycle the slide. The RMR perched upon the top of my magnificent pistol negated that, as it can act as a large cocking handle, but for those who have not yet crossed over to the mini red dot side, the forward serrations provide an area of purchase. Besides the Trijicon RMR, my custom pistol also included a set of Dawson precision fixed sights, with the rear sight sitting in a new dovetail in front of the RMR. I’ve had the opportunity to run several different sight setups, and while I’ve found most of them useable, the rear sight in front of the dot works best for me.

Custom-SW-MP9-4

Despite all of the really cool things going on with the slide, the real show-stopper was the barrel: an Agency custom with a partial hexagonal barrel exterior and a match-fit hood, finished in an absolutely stunning multicolored PVC coating. The light glinted off the edges of the flats as I locked the slide to the rear, and the colors swirled like the Northern Lights, with the green at the crown of the barrel showing the deepest color. I’m not usually a fan of these synthetic finishes, but this is impressive — it’s like color case-hardening on steroids.


Custom-SW-MP9-2

As I handled the pistol and dry-fired it, it became clear that the most meaningful upgrade was the trigger. The combination of Apex and Agency parts, along with the Agency hand-fitting, resulted in a trigger press of less than 3¼ pounds with very little take-up and virtually no over-travel. The reset was crisp and tactile, and the trigger seemed even lighter when pressing out of reset. This is the best striker-fired trigger I’ve felt, and it’s even better than many of the tuned 1911s that I’ve shot. I don’t mean to wax hyperbolic, but the trigger is that good.

Custom-SW-MP9-3

Performance

So, with a match-fit barrel and a phenomenal trigger, how would this little gem shoot? I took it to the range as soon as I got it back from its photoshoot, and my first group at 10 yards, off-hand, put 10 rounds into a ragged hole about the size of a half dollar. It was a little high and to the right but not too bad. I shot some more to get used to the trigger and recoil impulse, and then I took it back to 25 and shot it rested. Once I got the RMR dialed in, I was able to shoot consistent sub-2-inch groups from a sandbag.


Custom-SW-MP9-7

The barrel definitely preferred the 147-grain ammunition, but even the cheap 115-grain range ammo that I had on hand grouped under 4 inches — and that junk usually groups around 6 inches. Shooting this pistol just flat out makes me happy.

Custom-SW-MP9-6

The ergonomics of the M&P 2.0 are among the best in the striker-fired world, and the subtle Agency reprofiling makes it even better. The stocks fill my medium-size hand perfectly, and it’s so ergonomic that it’s hard to believe that there are 15 rounds lurking in the magazine well. Everything fits and works perfectly; the pistol is smooth where it needs to be smooth, rough where it needs to be rough, and no detail has been overlooked.

Even the slide cycles ridiculously smoothly. The dot tracks easily in recoil, and the recoil itself is easy to control because of the contours that allow the shooter’s hands to get nice and high on the gun. The gun is very fast to shoot, and even coming off recent shoulder surgery, my splits between shots were all easily in the teens when I cared to push it. Which was often. Because this gun is fun to shoot.

About seven years ago, I wrote an article on an advanced-for-the-time custom polymer gun that sported a red dot. I asked the question, “Is the world ready for a $2,000 striker-fired gun?” I certainly wasn’t. But time has validated the concept, and Agency has perfected it. I’m ready now.

  
 

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Beretta

Beretta's New 92X

The 92X Performance model from Beretta was created to satisfy two requirements: Speed and accuracy. Beretta's new competition pistol is uncompromising and aims for top performance.

A New Season of G&A TV

A New Season of G&A TV

In this new season of Guns & Ammo TV, we introduce two new series and bring back a viewer favorite - Camera's Don't Lie. We look at long-range tech and see how to make shots previously thought impossible. Next we visit ISS Prop House in Hollywood.

Century Arms Introduces a Heavy-Duty AK Rifle

Century Arms Introduces a Heavy-Duty AK Rifle

Chambered in 7.62x39mm with components machined from extremely durable S7 tool steel, a chrome-moly 4150 barrel and a carburized 4140 steel bolt.

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - 94 WINCHESTER

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - 94 WINCHESTER

Joe Mantegna talks about the origins of the 94 Winchester rifle.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Crossbreed's new The Reckoning holster is a simple leather-Kydex combination with multiple points of retention adjustment and clip options. Accessories

Crossbreed's The Reckoning Holster

Eric R. Poole - May 13, 2019

Crossbreed's new The Reckoning holster is a simple leather-Kydex combination with multiple...

Don't mortgage the homestead to get into PRS, this is what's available from the likes of Mossberg, Tikka, Savage, Howa, Bergara, Weatherby and Remington. Rifles

Starter Rifles for Under $1000

Aaron Carter - May 09, 2019

Don't mortgage the homestead to get into PRS, this is what's available from the likes of...

Don't underestimate the fun factor. Shotguns

Review: Remington V3 TAC-13

Brad Fitzpatrick - March 08, 2019

Don't underestimate the fun factor.

A guide on how to pair .223 and 5.56 NATO rifle barrel twist rates with bullet weights. Conventional wisdom says slower twist rates wouldn't properly-stabilize a heavy bullet. On the other hand, faster rates could over-stabilize lighter bullets. This is correct in theory, however, modern ballisticians have all but debunked the over-stabilization theory. All things being equal, it is better to have too much twist than not enough. How-To

Pairing Barrel Twist Rates with Bullets for .223 and 5.56 NATO

Keith Wood - November 17, 2018

A guide on how to pair .223 and 5.56 NATO rifle barrel twist rates with bullet weights....

See More Trending Articles

More Handguns

Hi-Point has announced the YC9 9mm – YEET Cannon G1 – version of their current C9 pistol model. SHOT Show

Hi-Point YEET Cannon G1 YC9 9mm

Guns & Ammo Digital Staff - January 23, 2020

Hi-Point has announced the YC9 9mm – YEET Cannon G1 – version of their current C9 pistol model.

Tom Beckstrand visits the SIG Sauer Academy to learn more about the development of the SIG MCX Rattler in 5.56 NATO with Mike Joslin, SIG Sauer's assistant rifle product manager. Handguns

Guns & Ammo TV: SIG MCX Rattler 5.56 NATO

Guns & Ammo Staff - May 29, 2020

Tom Beckstrand visits the SIG Sauer Academy to learn more about the development of the SIG MCX...

Ruger has introduced the new PC Charger, a 9mm pistol based on their PC Carbine Chassis model. Handguns

Ruger PC Charger – First Look

Guns & Ammo Digital Staff - March 16, 2020

Ruger has introduced the new PC Charger, a 9mm pistol based on their PC Carbine Chassis model.

Wilson Combat has announced a must-see deep-concealment carry pistol with the new EDC X9S, a double-column 9mm with a gripless lightweight aluminum grip frame design. SHOT Show

Wilson Combat EDC X9S 9mm Pistol – New for 2020

Guns & Ammo Digital Staff - January 17, 2020

Wilson Combat has announced a must-see deep-concealment carry pistol with the new EDC X9S, a...

See More Handguns

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now