"This is not your daddy's Smith & Wesson pistol." That was what I was told at the range when I was first handed the M&P. "Sure," I thought. "That's what I've been told about every new Smith & Wesson pistol." I had a rough familiarity with the evolution of Smith & Wesson pistols with my first experience being an S&W Model 59. I remember the third generation guns and the creation of the Model 1006 in 10mm for the FBI, etc. I never expected to be so happy with a Smith & Wesson pistol as I was with the M&P.
As you can see from the photos at right, the M&P Pistol from Smith & Wesson has lines slightly reminiscent of the Sigma pistol from the same company. This time though, rather than trying to make a pistol as similar to a Glock as possible without actually being a Glock, they made a competitor pistol as good as the Glock with features some shooters might want, and certainly some features more tolerant of the occasional stupid shooter.
The controls are indicated in the third photo to the right. Left to right, top to bottom you have the disassembly lever, slide stop, trigger safety and magazine release. Compare that photo to those above and recognize that the slide stop is ambidextrous. The magazine release is easily switched to either side for left handed shooters. For ease of reaching and manipulating controls while shooting, the M&P impressed me. The gun is quite comfortable in the hand and requires little, if any, adjustment of grip to pull down the slide stop or push the magazine release.
Something that caught my attention early on was the presence of certain design features normally considered "custom" by some shops. Note, in the fourth picture to the right, the stippling/texturing on the magazine release. It's visible in both photos and easy to feel when you're handling or shooting the weapon. The pattern matches that of the front and back strap of the weapon, blending in so well that unless you actually take the time to look at it, you may not notice. That texture on the magazine release, although unique in pattern in this case, is common on magazine releases to help insure a higher level of friction and easier activation.
The final "unique" features I'll point out are (and some can be easily seen while others are hidden inside):
- The scalloped slide serrations to provide grip when racking the slide. The entire handgun industry seems to have realized that creativity is acceptable and that different might be good. Many companies are now offered weapons with something other than straight side cuts in the slide for grip. I'm waiting to see which is first to actually mill grooves into the slide like thumb indentations...
- The magazine disconnect safety. Like all the other S&W pistols I've dealt with, this one can't be fired unless there is a magazine in the pistol. This isn't a safety feature I'm fond of, and it's optional for law enforcement agencies. The M&P can be ordered without it for them.
- The disassembly process that doesn't require you to pull the trigger on an empty chamber before taking the weapon apart for maintenance. Due to the design, S&W incorporated a feature that allows you to lock the slide back, move a piece, turn the disassembly lever, and take the gun apart into its main components. I like that a lot.
- The deepness of the backstrap below the slide. Although I still believe in keeping both my thumbs on the same side of my pistol when I shoot, this design actually is more forgiving if you wrap your support thumb around the back of your shooting hand. I didn't believe it could be done until I saw it--and then did it--even though it felt simply WRONG. Inevitably, especially during night fire, someone will wrap a thumb--especially when shooting with their weak hand in a barricade position. In all fairness, usually those who do this are wearing white shirts and have been around long enough to remember wrapping that thumb while firing revolvers as their duty weapon. I hate to do blood paperwork so when I see a weapon that is less likely to catch or cut when a shooter does this, I tend to like the feature.
And speaking of shooting, of course everyone wants to know how well this pistol shoots. That is, after all, what all pistols are made to do. This pistol, like many others of contemporary design and manufacture, is probably better than many of the people who will shoot it. My first five-shot group fired from the 7-yard (21 feet) line is shown here. It's five shots--almost one long hole. The things you need to know: that's an 8-inch black target. The bullet hole you can see just outside at about 1:30/2 o'clock wasn't part of this string. It was previously fired on the cardboard target prior to my pasting up the black Shoot-N-See. This is one sample of how it shot that day. The gentleman who brought this pistol to the range for test firing was able to shoot several five-shot groups that were four in-one-hole and a called flyer. Rapid fire from the same distance, it was easy to keep all shots inside the eight inches of black target. We fired an assortment of full metal jacket ammo and some semi-jacketed hollow points. We experienced no malfunctions.
Although I never really thought I'd say it, I like this Smith & Wesson pistol. Just like all fairly new weapons the appearance of it will take a little time to grow on you, but "pretty is as pretty does." The gun is comfortable to hold, manipulate and shoot. It shoots well. It's easy to disassemble for field maintenance. It has interchangeable back straps to adjust the grip for hand size and the ease with which it can be made "left handed" lends itself to department-wide distribution.
The pistol is available in 9mm, .40S&W or in .45ACP. In the .45ACP loading, you can have the frame in black or in "earth brown," which looks suspiciously similar to many "desert tan" colors available today. Capacity for the .40S&W is 15 rounds per magazine (unless you live in California). In the .45ACP you can stuff ten rounds into a mag. At this point I'm kind of eager to get my hands on an M&P in .45ACP to see how comfortable that ten rounds of .45ACP can be in the hand.