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I Carry: Smith & Wesson M&P9 in a High Noon Holsters Instinct Extreme

Welcome to another episode of "I Carry," Shooting Illustrated's weekly video series covering the guns and gear needed to put together a potential everyday-carry kit. Today, we have an upgraded Smith & Wesson M&P9 carried in a High Noon Holsters holster. We also have a Faxon Firearms M&P pistol slide, a Burris red-dot optic, and a ZT Knives carry knife.

Smith & Wesson M&P9 (MSRP: $599 for M2.0)

We’re running a first-generation Smith & Wesson M&P9 here rather than the M2.0 variant for a reason: the Faxon slide we’ll cover in a moment is currently available only for the first generation Smith & Wesson M&P. There’s plenty of folks who own and carry first-generation M&Ps out there, so this is still applicable, and there’s no reason to believe an M2.0 version won’t be available down the road.

Since we’re only concerned with the frame in this case, there’s not a lot of reason to focus too much on the rest of the pistol. There’s still the interchangeable backstraps to best fit it to the individual shooter’s hand as well as an accessory rail for a light, laser or combination unit. The trigger in this particular M&P has been upgraded with an Apex duty trigger, a common upgrade for the first generation of M&P pistols.

Whether you’ve got a first generation M&P or the M2.0 version, there’s a robust aftermarket for these Smith & Wesson pistols. Whether you want to upgrade the sights, improve the trigger pull or even replace the slide entirely, there’s a wide variety of options. It’s one of the many reasons to choose this popular handgun.

Faxon Firearms Hellfire M&P Slide (MSRP: $524.99)

One of the more-convenient ways to attach a micro-red-dot sight to your pistol is a pre-cut mount in the slide. You can either have a gunsmith mill your existing slide, or look for a ready-made unit like this Faxon Firearms Hellfire slide. Faxon offers two different optic cuts, one for the popular Trijicon RMR, and one for what Faxon calls Multiple Optics. This second variant, which we’re using here, accepts the Burris FastFire3 we’re featuring as well as Vortex Venom and Viper micro-red-dot sights.

In addition to the two cuts, there are three possible slide configurations. You can get a stripped slide and finish it yourself with the striker, extractor, etc., there’s a version that comes fully loaded including suppressor-height sights and the last option is a finished slide without sights. Obviously, pricing increases as more is added to the slide.

Two notes on this slide: Due to the complexity and intricacy of the Hellfire machining, some holster fits may be impinged – opt for an optics-cut or open-top style holster even if you’re not putting on an optic for a better fit. Second, this particular slide has been finished with a Faxon fluted barrel and XS Sights DXT suppressor-height sights. Ironically, even though this is an M&P slide, it takes Glock sights, as the Smith & Wesson rear sight assembly is larger.

Burris FastFire3 Micro-Red-Dot sight (MSRP: $299)

We’ve covered a few other micro-red-dots here on “I Carry,” and the Burris FastFire3 is the most-affordable option yet. The FastFire3 offers top-mounted battery access, one and a half ounce weight and a choice of two dot sizes. We’ve opted for the smaller 3 MOA dot rather than the 8 MOA dot for a mixture of speed and precision shooting.

As we’ve stated before with regard to red dot sights, the simplest way to overcome fears like being unable to find the dot is to take a training class or two from a reputable trainer. Operations like Modern Samurai Project who specialize in red-dot instruction have specific courses designed to get you on target quickly and accurately.

High Noon Holsters Instinct Extreme (MSRP: $66.95)

When it comes to holsters that are carried inside the waistband, generally there’s little thought given to aesthetics. I mean, you’re going to hide most of the holster anyway, so why bother making it in anything other than black? High Noon Holsters bucks this concept, offering a wide variety of colors and patterns in its kydex offerings. This particular holster, the Instinct Extreme, comes with a pull-the-dot horsehide single loop attachment and is cut for a micro-red-dot sight. It’s adjustable for ride height and cant, and uses a Raven Concealment Systems strut and riser for proper orientation when carried appendix style.

Zero Tolerance 0460TI (MSRP: $275)

Normally, we feature utilitarian pocketknives here on “I Carry,” but sometimes something pretty catches our eye. The Zero Tolerance 0460TI knife offers stonewashed titanium scales, a CPM 20CV steel blade with machine satin finish, flipper opening mechanism and frame lock. Blade length is three and a quarter inches, overall length is seven and a half inches and it weighs less than three ounces. Yes, the 0460TI is on the pricey side, but it’s super thin, ultra lightweight and sits supremely well in the hand. It’s also 100 percent made in the USA.

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