February 13, 2023
If you have been aware of custom handguns for any length of time, the name Ed Brown will be familiar. You probably associate the name with high-end 1911s, but this time, no. We’re talking about the Ed Brown Fueled Series, a line of customized S&W M&P pistols that are so far beyond the out-of-the-box pistols that they might as well be new. The Fueled Series, the 1, 2, 3 and 4, all started as vanilla-plain S&W M&P 2.0 pistols. Once they arrive at Ed Brown, they are stripped, inspected and stacked for their trip, and then the custom rebuilding begins.
Where does the Ed Brown crew start, on each pistol? Why, with the heart of the S&W M&P pistols, the locking block. S&W does a good job of making solid, precise locking blocks, but they are in the business of making them by the tens of thousands. The Ed Brown crew is not, and they machine each block to be perfect, and then fit it into the polymer frame where it will reside until the pistol in question is done being used. The locking block is held in the frame by a set of precision pins, turned on Swiss lathes. OK, time for some techno-speak. Most pins are made one of two ways. One way they are made is from wire stock that is fed into an automatic lathe that trims the ends and makes whatever grooves in them the pins are supposed to have. The feed mechanism of the lathe, and the lathe headstock, make the pins more-or-less straight as part of the work. Emphasis on “more-or-less.” Better pins are lathe-turned out of rod stock, but there’s not much lathe work other than cutting to length.
The pins in the MP-F, the Fueled Series, are turned on Swiss lathes. While some of these machines do actually come from Switzerland, the name is also applied to the process. The difference is two-fold: in a Swiss lathe, the piece being cut is held at both ends. It doesn’t just stick out of the headstock, while spinning and being machined. And it is machined on its full surface, not just trimmed to length. So, the pins in your MP-F, Fueled Series pistol, are machined to be the exact size desired for the task, not whatever diameter is close enough while being pulled through the drawing die (that’s how wire, and pins from wire stock, are made). The locking block that is now precisely pinned into the polymer frame both supports and cams down the barrel, as well as providing guidance and alignment to the slide. That’s asking a lot, and EB (if I may make my typing a bit easier) looks at all the dimensions, and makes sure the locking block plays well with others. Which is an easier task than you might think, because….
EB makes new slides to fit onto the frame and its locking block. Think about it: it is a whole lot easier to machine the locking block guide rails to exacting dimensions, when you are also machining the slide to fit into that locking block. So, they machine the slide from 17-4 stainless steel, to the exact dimensions it needs to be to fit the locking block, and then they add in all the extra cuts. You know, the cocking serrations fore and aft, the lightening slots cut through the slide, the sculpted lines to enhance looks, and the front end is machined and bored to properly and precisely hold the barrel in place for accuracy. After that, the slide gets a Black Nitride finish, to match the frame and to keep it looking cool and businesslike. But wait, this is, after all the third decade of the 21st century, and red-dot optics are en-vogue.
So, EB machines the top of the slide to accept a Trijicon RMR, and then for those who are still using iron sights, they install a filler plate to keep the lines clean. A slide does more than just move back and forth, and part of that is extracting the fired case. EB makes a new extractor, and the pistolsmith who is working on a given pistol will fit the extractor and tune it to work correctly.
Ok, even if you are planning on using the red-dot of your choice (a lot of brands of red-dots will fit onto a Trijicon RMR pattern, and there are adapter plates for the others) you need iron sights. So, ED installs a set of Ameriglo Pro-Glo sights. There’s a tritium front, with a plain black rear sight, and installed so they will still be useable when there is a suppressor installed. Now, if you favor the Trijicon RMR (and who doesn’t?) then you can have EB install one for you and get it all bolted on and ready to go, saving you that extra work. The slide internals have to stay internal (having them hurl themselves out onto the ground is at the least embarrassing, and at critical times perhaps generating the last “Oh damn” the world hears from you). So, EB machines a replacement backplate for your slide out of aluminum, hardcoat anodizes it, and offers you custom serrations.
A precisely fitted slide to locking block process is pretty much wasted if you don’t’ follow through with a barrel in the same class, so of course EB does just that. They use a 416 stainless, and button-rifle the bore, machine the hood, locking lugs and barrel foot, and then add extras. They put diagonal flute-like grooves on the barrel exterior, as recesses to scrape off any grit, dust, debris or powder residue that might try to take up residence on your barrel. The bore has traditional rifling, none of this polygonal stuff, and as a result will happily accept all bullet types; lead, coated, plated and jacketed, without a problem. And since it is an Ed Brown product, fitted by the EB crew, it is going to deliver superb accuracy. Now, the stainless barrel isn’t finished just yet. EB makes the barrels with one of three types of finish; Black Oxide, Spectrum or Titanium Nitride. Black Oxide, is, well, black. The Spectrum barrels are a multi-hue color that is hard to pin down, and the Titanium Nitride is gold. The color you can get depends on which Fueled Series pistol you order, the 1, 2, 3 or 4. Lastly, each barrel is threaded ½" x 28 at the muzzle for use with a suppressor, or if you want to install a muzzle brake or comp there instead.
Now, an accurate pistol is all well and good, but you still have to shoot it. A brilliantly fitted barrel is of naught if the trigger is terrible, and I’ve run into more than a few of those combos. So, Ed Brown Products, rather than re-inventing the wheel, went to Apex Tactical and procured the triggers needed to properly work a Fueled Series M&P. This is precision machined, and the design is a straight trigger, so the trigger is perpendicular to the axis of the bore as the moment of release, for the most neutral release possible. The clean, crisp trigger release is aided by the precision locking block and the Swiss-lathe cut pins. they so decrease the slop, squish and mush of the typical polymer frame, that this approaches 1911 levels of clean, and this should not come as a surprise, as Ed Brown knows 1911 triggers.
The frame is so well-done by S&W that it doesn’t really need much, if anything, done to it. There is the now-normal accessory rail out on the dust cover, and the gripping area is treated to a non-slip stippling, with the M&P logo incorporated in the pattern. But, when you need to reload, you will sometimes need to reload quickly, smoothly, and without slowing your getting back to work. To that end, EB machines an aluminum magazine well funnel, and then fits it to the frame. It is, however, low-profile, and is not some competition goiter that you can get your whole hand up into. It is large enough to speed reloads, but not so large that it causes problems printing, should you have the class to use the Fueled pistol of your choice as your EDC or competition pistol. It is, of course, hard anodized and black, to be durable and fit in with the rest of the ensemble.
The mag funnel requires bigger baseplates for best use, and EB machines new hard-coat aluminum baseplates for your magazines. One of the two is a smaller, easier-to-carry-and-conceal size, and the second is your reload, a bit larger, easier to grab out of the mag pouch and reload with. Oh, and the smaller basepad is the standard 17-round capacity, while the bigger, faster-to-reload magazine is 19 rounds. Yes, nineteen rounds of 9mm goodness, waiting on your belt just in case. So, the two mags that come with your MP-F-whichever and the chamber, means you have 37 rounds of 9mm on hand for emergencies. At last, someone who understands that “one size fits all” actually means “no size fits anyone.” The magazines are the S&W M&P magazines the pistol came with, because that part was made correctly, to be durable, reliable and solid right from Day One. I was there at S&W when the M&P was first shown to gun writers, the magazines were solid then, and S&W has only worked to make them more so to this day. There are some pistols where I will search out aftermarket magazines, to improve my odds of getting 100% reliability, but S&W M&Ps aren’t one of them.
All this comes in an Ed Brown logo carrying case, lock, the magazines, you know the drill. Oh, and the slide is machined for a Trijicon RMR, and while you can order it without an optic, or with an RMR, you also have the choice of having it arrive at your Locale Gunne Shoppe with a Holosun HS507CX2 on board instead. This is America, after all, you have choices. Now, we have the Fueled Series, but we have the 1, 2, 3 and 4 in that series. Why?
The MP-F1 is an all-black pistol, with the slide left in the Black Oxide, and the assembly pins, trigger and barrel black as well. The MP-F2 is a black slide and other parts, but the barrel is done in the “Spectrum, which is a multi-colored surface treatment. The MP-F3 has the slide and pins left in their natural stainless, while the barrel is black oxide and the trigger is black anodized. The last, the MP-F4, has the slide and barrel done in black oxide, the trigger black anodized, but the barrel is Titanium Nitride. I opted for the blingi-est, of course, and had the EB crew send me an MP-F4.
As I mentioned, I’ve got a first-production M&P (in the quickly becoming obsolete .40) and have owned, handled, shot and tested M&Ps in the various calibers, and in the 1.0 and the 2.0 versions. This is not something new. Well, Ed Brown makes it new. The M&P trigger is already better that most polymer framed striker fired pistols, but the Apex trigger and the precision assembly takes that up a notable amount of clean and crisp. Just to refresh my memory, I dragged the closest version of the M&P 2.0 in 9mm I have out of the safe, and spent a coffee break dry-firing them side by side. I figured there would be a noticeable difference. The box-stock 9mm M&P I hauled out of the safe is a 1.0 version, and its trigger pull is actually pretty nice for a striker-fired pistol. OK, let’s try the MP-F4. Wait, what? No, that can’t be, try it again. And again. Doggone, the Apex trigger on the MP-F4 is nicer than some of the 1911s I have in the safe. This is just a bit embarrassing. I mean, I’m a 1911 guy, I’m supposed to be a trigger snob, and here I am, going “That’s a nice trigger” on a striker-fired pistol. What is the world coming to? It is coming into the 21st century, that’s what, and a squishy, gritty, “Let’s get this ordeal over with” striker-fired trigger pull is no longer the baseline assumption.
Test-firing was the joyful experience you’d expect with a brilliantly-accurate 9mm pistol, and a clean, crisp trigger pull underneath a red-dot optic. The 100-yard gongs on the rifle range stood not a chance. The chrono work was spectacularly uneventful, as the Ed Brown barrel is only half an inch longer than a stock barrel, so the velocity boost you might expect is pretty much lost in the velocity spread of any given load. The accuracy work, however, was spectacular. Everything shot well, and I tried some accuracy work with a Silent legion 9mm suppressor, and the Hornady Critical Duty 135-grain Flextip, just to see if that would change things. It did not. (No surprise there, both Silent Legion and Hornady know what they are doing.)
Now, the Ed Brown MP-F4 is snazzy looking, but it is also a tool. As a carry gun, it would be superb, as the clean trigger would give you excellent control, and the accuracy would be most useful. It can also be a competition gun, and so I decided to try it with my sole remaining competition load. Back when I was competing more, I had a bunch of loads I used, depending on the competition, but these days I spend my range time working on articles, and what practice I get is aimed toward bowling pins. I have a load I worked up, using a Blue Bullets 115-grain round-nose, and Vihtavuori V-320 powder. The Blue Bullets are not jacketed or plated, but coated, and the coating is blue, hence the name. Now, some striker-fired pistols use bores and rifling shapes that do not play well with lead bullets. (You know who you are.) Coated bullets sometimes get along with poly bores, and sometimes not. The Ed Brown barrel does not use a polygonal bore, and it is just fine with a lead bullet. Coated bullets are to such a bore, simply cleaner lead bullets. No particular reason for that powder, except that I had more of it on hand than any other powder, and if I was going to be loading in volume, I’d work up a load using the powder I had the most of. Well. The Ed Brown MP-F4 shoots that load (going a miserly 1,090 fps) like there were JDAMs, laser-guided projectiles. I’d routinely put five of them into a group of an inch-and-a-half size at 25 yards. When it came time to do one for the camera, I was able to do a group just over an inch. (Note to self: order more Blue Bullets, and check VV-320 supply.)
Since the MP-F4 came with a threaded muzzle, and suppressor-height sights, I would have been remiss had I not tried it with a suppressor. The first one that came to light when I opened the safe was a Silent Legion 9mm. Perfect. Pistols need some extra oomph when you use a suppressor. The extra weight, hanging on the end of the barrel, will stall the function of the pistol, so it is common for suppressors made for pistol work to have a “booster” or L.I.D. what they do is essentially store some of the recoil energy, for a moment, and then deliver it back into the system just when the slide might otherwise be stalling. As a result, a pistol with a suppressor actually feels to recoil harder than one without, despite the extra weight. Good designers make the booster parts fit precisely enough so as to not throw off accuracy. Well, Silent Legion is a good designer, and the accuracy change wasn’t one.
Disassembly is easy. Unload. Remove the magazine. Lock the slide back and rotate the takedown lever, on the left side. Ease the slide forward, dry-fire, and then pull the slide assembly off of the frame. To remove the barrel, first unscrew the muzzle thread protector. Then pry out the recoil spring assembly. Then pivot the barrel down and out.
So, you get the Ed Brown Fueled Series MP-F4, the two magazines, and an Ed Brown marked carry case for $2,195, with a bump up for the optic you select. Yes, that seems like a lot, but it is actually not. The Ed Brown crew takes the parts they have taken out of the stock M&P, and puts them up for sale on the web page. While not on a pistol-for-pistol basis, those sales help to offset the cost of the new parts, the work, and the knowledge it took to make it all work. You don’t have to go with a red-dot if you don’t want to, and you can shoot it all you want and not ever mount a suppressor, if you don’t feel the need. But boy are you missing a good time if you don’t at least try an Ed Brown MP-F1, 2, 3, or 4. If someone at your gun club had one, try it. But fair warning, you may end up ordering one.
Ed Brown Fueled Series MP-F4 Specs
- Type: Striker-fired, semiautomatic
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 17 rds.
- Barrel: 5 in.
- Overall Length: 8 in.
- Weight: 28 oz.
- Finish: Balck Oxide, polymer
- Sights: Notch rear, Ameriglo front
- Trigger: 3 lbs., 3 oz.
- MSRP: $2,195
- Manufacturer: Ed Brown
About the Author
Patrick Sweeney is a life-long shooter, with more than half a century of trigger time, four decades of reloading, 25 years of competition (4 IPSC World Shoots, 50 USPSA Nationals, 500+ club matches, and 18 Pin Shoots, as well as Masters, Steel Challenge and Handgunner Shootoff entries). He spent two decades as a professional gunsmith, and two decades as the President of his gun club. A State-Certified law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, he is also a Court-recognized Expert Witness.
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