Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P

David K
by David K

Smith & Wesson M&P is considered one of the main competitors for Glocks on the market of relatively cheap polymer frame pistols. Recently, I had a chance to lay my hands on an M&P 9mm and to compare it to its rival. Below is the detailed review.

First, let us cover the technical details. Smith & Wesson M&P is a striker action, polymer frame pistol. It comes in 9mm, .40S&W, .45ACP, and .357SIG calibers. Mine was the 9mm. It is a full size handgun with the barrel length of 4.25” and the width of 1.2”. The 9mm version comes with two 17-rounds magazines.

M&P Side View

Specification

M&P9Glock17
Capacity17+117+1
Barrel Length4.25”4.49”
Trigger Pull6.5lb5.5lb
Overall length7.63”7.32”
Weight (empty)24oz22.04oz
Overall height5.5”5.43”
Width1.2”1.18”
Sight Radius6.4”6.49”

As you can see from the table, the M&P is slightly larger and heavier in comparison to Glock-17. At the same time, surprisingly it has a slightly shorter barrel and the sight radius. The trigger pull is slightly heavier as well.

Special features

The Picatinny rail under the muzzle allows installation of various aftermarket accessories such as tactical flashlights or laser sights.

The ambidextrous controls make it a good choice for a left-handed shooter. The slide lock release is accessible from both sides. The magazine release is located on the left side, for a right-hand shooter, but can be reinstalled for a left-handed operator.

The loaded chamber indicator allows to see if there is a round in the chamber without moving the slide backward. The indicator is large in size and the loaded round is clearly visible even in relatively low light conditions.

Load Chamber Indicator

Similar to Glocks, the M&P has integrated trigger safety, but M&P’s design is slightly better, leaving the trigger shape intact without parts of the trigger sticking out.

The back straps are swappable to accommodate different hand sizes.

Ergonomics – [A+]

If there is anything striking about this gun, it is its ergonomics. When designing this pistol, S&W engineers have invested a lot bringing it to perfection. Not only this gun looks great, but it fits perfectly into the hand.

Let us check out the details:

  • All the edges are rounded to create a natural look and feel.
  • The large beaver tail protects shooter’s hand from the nasty skin bites Glock is famous for.
  • The grip angle is more natural and reduces muscle tension when holding the gun.
  • The grip is higher and the barrel sits lower allowing better recoil control.
  • The magazine release button is located in a perfect location, allowing dropping off the magazines without shifting your hand position.
  • The riffling on the back end of the slide is very “sticky” providing better traction when racking the slide.
  • The magazines are easy to load to the full capacity. Inserting the last round is almost as easy as the first one.

Accuracy – [C]

I took this gun to the range and I had about 150 rounds shot through it. I have shot this gun side by side with the Glock-19 – my primary gun. Hands down, the Glock was the winner.

M&P vs. Glock at the range

I attribute the discrepancy to the following factors:

The trigger pull

It is always hard to describe a difference between a good and a bad trigger pull. It is something you need to experience yourself. The M&P trigger feels mushy; it becomes obvious when you shoot it side by side with the Glock.

M&P9 vs. Glock Trigger

Another problem – the trigger reset. When you release the trigger halfway it clicks, but it does not reset yet. You have to let it go slightly more to get it reset. It is confusing at first and requires getting used to. On the other hand the reset is short – no complains here.

The M&P trigger is also heavier than usual for a striker action handgun. Most popular striker guns have a trigger pull around 5.5lb. M&P’s 6.5lb.

The mediocre trigger is a known problem for this gun, and a problem for one is a business opportunity for another. APEX Tactical has released an aftermarket trigger that claims to solve all the original trigger problems.

The sights
M&P Sights

The art of an iron sight is to choose the ideal width of the front side comparing to the width of the opening in the back sight. Too wide of the front sight will not leave enough space on its sides to align it properly, making aiming harder and longer. The too narrow front sight will have too much space on its sides, leaving room for an alignment error and affecting accuracy.

The M&P creators made the second mistake – they made it too narrow. They also made the front dot too small in comparison to the back sights dots, making it harder to align vertically as well.

As with the trigger, the problem can be solved by an aftermarket solution. There are many aftermarket sights available for M&P handguns.

Maintenance – [B]

The field strip is much better in comparison to Glock. No awkward hand position, no partial movement of the slide. Just remove the magazine, rack the slide backward, rotate the take down lever, release the slide, pull the trigger…

Did I say “pull the trigger”?

The M&P field strip is definitely a progress from the awkward Glock disassembly, but still requires a trigger pull. It is a big no-no in my book, that’s why M&P does not get “A” in this category. The requirement to pull a trigger when disassembling the gun for the cleaning is a known source of accidental (or rather negligent) discharges.

M&P Dissassembled

The manual says you can field strip it without pulling the trigger, but the instructions are not clear and hard to follow.

Reliability – [A]

I have not had a chance to shoot enough ammo through this gun to see the actual frequency of malfunctions. I can tell you it worked flawlessly for the 150 rounds of mixed ammo – Federal, PMC, and some gun show reloads.

An online research shows that there are not many complaints about this gun malfunctioning, not more than for Glocks. The manufacturer took several steps to improve reliability of this gun:

  • Similar to Glock, the slide and the barrel are made of stainless steel hardened with the Melonite process. The result is much harder and much more corrosion resistant material.
  • The slide and the frame area of contact is minimized. There are only four relatively short points of contacts where the slide touches the frame. That makes gun more resilient to dirt and dust, and makes cleaning easier.

Pistol-training.com has torture tested the gun and it was able to survive 62,333 rounds without major malfunctions.

Accessories – [A-]

The M&P series is quite popular. The aftermarket of accessories follows. Holsters, sights, triggers are readily available. Spare parts like magazines are not a problem to buy (the prices and the availability these days are different due to the recent political events).

The Picatinny rail allows installation of standard handgun accessories like tactical flashlights and laser sights.

One thing I could not find for M&P, which would be very beneficial in the light of increased ammo prices – a 22lr conversion kit. Thus the minus.

Cost

The MSRP on the manufacturer website is $569. It makes this gun to be a priced at the mid-range for the category. Not long ago it was possible to find a new one online as low as $450. With today’s situation on the firearm market, we will have to wait until things calm down before we see such prices again.

Conclusion

The Smith & Wesson M&P9 was designed to be the most ergonomic handgun on the market. Kudos to the M&P designers and engineers – they got it very close. Unfortunately, it came with the price – the trigger, the sights, and the disassembly could be better.

M&P9 vs Glock 19 - Size Comparison

Here is how it fits different usage scenarios:

Concealed Carry – 2/5

The M&P9 is a full size gun. It is large, thick, and relatively heavy. If you are looking for a handgun for concealed carry consider the M&P Shield or the M&P Compact variations.

Home Protection – 5/5

High capacity, good ergonomics, striker action and improved resilience to dust and dirt makes this gun an ideal handgun for home defense. Less than perfect accuracy does not play an important role at the distances inside of an average home in a self-defense scenario.

I still think a shotgun is better tool for the task, but among the handguns, the M&P is quite close to the top of my list.

Range Fun – 3/5

If you want to buy a gun to go occasionally to the range with your friends, the M&P might not be the best candidate, mostly due to its poor accuracy. The fun is lost when you cannot show off your 1” groups at 25 yards to your buddies.

Competition – 4/5

While M&P is definitely not a good fit for a bull’s eye shooting, it is very good for practical shooting sports like IDPA or USPSA. Its lower slide profile improves the recoil management, and as a result, allows faster shooting. On the negative side are the less than ideal sights and the trigger pull, both of which can be easily fixed by the aftermarket solutions.

Duty – 5/5

When the size is not the factor, the rest of parameters bring this gun forward. High capacity, ergonomics, striker action, reliability, availability of holsters and aftermarket accessories make this gun a great duty firearm for LE officers. In a defensive shooting scenarios sights and trigger does not play as an important role, but reliability and large amount of rounds in a magazine are critical.

Additional info

David Kizhnerman is a certified NRA instructor and author of the simplyaboutguns.com blog, dedicated to popularizing firearm education, improving shooting skills, and other firearm related topics.

David K
David K

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  • DwnRange DwnRange on Apr 25, 2014

    FYI - the Texas DPS has now discontinued used of the S&W M&P 9mm handguns used in training classes and gone back to using the Sig P226.

    read here: http://www.texastribune.org...

    excerpt: //
    The agency decided to halt the use of the new handguns after a couple
    of the weapons experienced slight movement of less than 10 microns
    after repeated firing of about 3,000 rounds, Vinger said. A micron is
    one-millionth of a meter. Movement in a gun could affect accuracy. There
    were also bullet “feeding and ejection” issues. None of the performance
    issues resulted in any injuries. And so far, DPS has not been able to
    replicate these issues in subsequent testing, Vinger said.

    These “concerns” were first reported as “malfunctions” last Friday by the gun news site TheTruthAboutGuns.com.

    Seems IMHO, Gaston Glock is about the only guy to get the polymer pistol right, YMMV

  • John John on Aug 29, 2014

    That's an old model M&P 9 so the review is not really relevant. You should try a newer one.

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