December 02, 2022
By J. Scott Rupp
If you’re into muscle cars, you know there’s a huge gap between, say, a standard V6 Mustang and a Shelby GT500. That same chasm applies to the Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 and the Fueled by Ed Brown M&P. The Fueled series of striker-fired pistols takes this proven platform to new levels, levels that only a company like Ed Brown—a well-known maker of high-end 1911s—can reach.
If you’re familiar with Ed Brown at all, you might be wondering why, of all the semiauto platforms out there, the company seized on the M&P in the first place. “We discovered that we all shot the M&P, and I think it is because it points more naturally for us 1911 guys,” said John May, Ed Brown’s director of sales and marketing.
One of the newest in the Fueled series is the MP-F4, which has a gold-colored, titanium-nitride-finished, custom fluted barrel housed inside a racy-looking black-nitrided slide. The barrel is made from 416 stainless steel and is given an 11-degree target crown. With the popularity of suppressors today, it is threaded 1/2x28 and comes with a black thread protector. The barrel has a 1:10 twist, and it’s traditional rifling so it can handle a diet of lead bullets.
The slide is also custom. It’s machined from 17-4 stainless, a type of steel with superior corrosion resistance compared to other types. It’s also known for its high strength and hardness while still being easy to work with. This certainly comes into play, as the MP-F4’s slide has lightening cuts on the top and on the sides toward the front, along with aggressive forward serrations. The rear of the slide features half a dozen flat-bottom serrations. My sample was also cut for a Trijicon RMR Type 2 (battery powered, not battery/solar), which was mounted on the gun when it shipped from the factory. This option adds $500 to the cost, but if you’re going to go the red dot route, the RMR is one of the best out there, and the 3.5-m.o.a. dot is fast to pick up.
As you’d expect with a suppressor-ready barrel, the sights are suppressor height. The front is from Ameriglo, and it sports a tritium lamp surrounded by a bright orange ring. Unlike the S&W factory M&P, the front sight is screwed into the slide rather than set in a dovetail. “We partnered with Ameriglo to get a package that fit our same sight plan with our 1911s,” May said. “The screw-in makes it more user-friendly and something we learned with the EVO series. Customers like the option to change it themselves.”
The rear sight is a plain black notch and is set in a dovetail. As suppressor-height sights they co-witness through the Trijicon RMR, which is definitely something you want. I don’t want to go any further without mentioning the trigger. I’ve owned an M&P9 2.0 for years, and I’ve always liked the trigger on it. But, man, it can’t hold a candle to the Apex Tactical aluminum flat-faced trigger on the MP-F4. The trigger on my M&P breaks right around four pounds. The MP-F4’s trigger breaks at two pounds, six ounces with less than an ounce of variation from pull to pull. Reset is nice and short, as is total travel. This is a huge upgrade, and if you’re keeping score at home, the trigger alone would cost $170.
That trigger is the most noticeable internal component to the MP-F4, but a big upgrade found in the pistol is the custom accuracy rail. It’s an oversize block that is precisely machined and then fitted to the frame by Ed Brown gunsmiths. It improves barrel lockup, and it reduces slide-to-frame rattle to the point I could feel almost no play when I twisted the slide on an in-battery pistol, which is not the case with my M&P. The extractor is also a custom job. It is fully machined from bar stock—not MIM’d.
“The big difference is profile and performance,” May said. “Our slide is shaped much differently than the factory slide. We wanted the extractor to fit perfectly in our slide. We took what we learned shooting the M&P, and based on our experience building custom handguns, we improved its performance by redesigning it to better suit longevity and performance.”
If you’re now thinking, “Hey, I’m not ready to take the plunge for a Fueled M&P, but I wouldn’t mind changing out the extractor on my current M&P,” Ed Brown also offers a factory-profile extractor with its own improvements that will work with a factory slide. Custom pins make for easier assembly and reassembly. Plus, their exacting fit keeps the accuracy rail firmly in position. Speaking of disassembly, instead of the plastic striker plate that comes on standard M&Ps, the MP-F4’s is aluminum. So if you’re someone who likes to disassemble the striker on your M&P periodically for cleaning—and you should, even though Smith & Wesson doesn’t include the procedure in its owner’s manual—the aluminum plate won’t wear from repeated removal and installation. And it’s serrated, making it easier to work with.
The frame itself and the controls—ambidextrous slide-lock lever and reversible magazine release—are standard Smith & Wesson, and my sample came with the medium backstrap installed. Interestingly, this backstrap seems to have more of a palm swell than the medium backstrap on my older M&P, and I asked May about that. He said it must be a change initiated at Smith & Wesson since Ed Brown gets the backstraps directly from S&W. At the base of the grip you’ll find a mag well by Ed Brown. It’s low profile and machined from aluminum. It is not only roomy enough to really speed your reloads, but it also permits the use of the higher-capacity magazines that come with the gun.
Both are 17-rounders, but one of the magazines has a base plate with a deeper profile that gives you an extra two rounds. The base plates are aluminum and are hardcoat anodized, plus they have a small shelf to give you extra purchase in case you need to strip one out. Standard M&Ps feature a sear release lever that allows you to fieldstrip the pistol without pulling the trigger. On standard M&Ps you can use the frame tool at the bottom of the grip to lower the lever. However, there is no frame tool on the MP-F4 because the locking pin that attaches the mag well to the grip is located where the frame tool would be. Therefore you have to use a tiny screwdriver or something similar to operate the sear release lever.
As an alternative, after dropping the magazine, locking back the slide and ensuring the gun is unloaded, rotate the takedown lever and point the gun in a safe direction. Pull the trigger as you ease the slide forward and it will come off. Accuracy was outstanding, although the super-light trigger pull definitely took some getting used to. Bench results are shown in the accompanying table.
One issue I had was that the first round was always out of the group by a couple inches at 25 yards. This flyer was so consistent—always at six o’clock—that I sent the pistol back to Ed Brown for a look. They didn’t find anything, so I have to chalk it up to something I was doing on every group. Hey, I never professed to be the world’s best pistol shooter, especially from the bench. The “out” shots are not included in the accuracy results since they’re on me.
In drills, my first shot at seven to 10 yards wanted to be slightly out at 11 o’clock. Again, it was consistent, so whatever I was doing, I was doing it every time. The only thing I can think of is the super-light trigger was throwing me off both from the bench and out of the holster. After this first shot, though, the MP-4 chewed tiny, tiny groups, even in rapid fire. Control was fantastic, and if you’re of a competitive bent, I think this would make a great USPSA/Steel Challenge gun.
“We have had a lot of fun applying what we have been doing for over 50 years to a new platform and providing Ed Brown customers with a high-capacity 9mm with options of how to set up the final product—optic or no optic,” May said. He also noted this pistol is a ton of fun to shoot. As a longtime M&P shooter, I totally second that. I’ve owned an Ed Brown 1911 for 10 years, and I love it. But I have to say as much as I enjoy shooting that 1911, if I had to pick a gun I’d rather spend a day with, I might just pick the MP-F4.
For one thing, as much as I respect the gold-standard Government-size 1911 .45 ACP, a high-capacity, striker-fired, polymer 9mm can prove more capable. The military and law enforcement have moved in this direction, as evidenced by the adoption of the SIG P320 by the military and the widespread acceptance of the striker/polymer 9mm platform by LE agencies across the country.
So taking the M&P, which ranks high among my favorite guns in large part because of its 1911-like grip angle, to the next level as Ed Brown has done really appeals to me. Yes, it’s beyond my price range and maybe out of yours, making it a more aspirational gun for many of us. However, if you’ve got the scratch—or you’re of a mind to own just one pistol and have it be the best you can get—the MP-F4 is worth checking out.
ED Brown Fueled Series MP-F4 Specs
- Type: Striker-fired, semiauto
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 17 rds., one with a 2-rd. extension
- Barrel: 4 5/8 in., threaded w/cap, gold nitride, fluted
- OAL/Height/Width: 8/5 3/8/ 1.3 in.
- Weight: 1 lb., 14 oz. w/sight
- Construction: Black nitrided stainless steel slide; polymer frame w/interchange- able backstraps and aluminum magazine well
- Sights: Suppressor-height Ameriglo day/ night; Trijicon RMR Type 2 red dot (tested)
- Trigger: Apex Tactical aluminum, flat-faced; 2 lbs., 6 oz. pull (measured)
- Safety: Trigger lever
- MSRP: $2,695 (tested)
- Manufacturer: Ed Brown Products