In this article, I will provide a product review and range report on the Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm pistol as both a general equipment review and as information on an Aegis Academy rental gun. To set the proper context, let’s start with a little history.
In 1982, Glock took the firearms market by storm when it introduced a durable and highly reliable polymer framed pistol with its unique “safe action” trigger. Shortly after the Austrian Police adopted the 9mm Glock 17 as its duty sidearm, military and police forces around the globe either adopted or strongly considered this venerable platform. In the years that followed, many other pistol manufacturers rushed to regain this valuable corner of the firearms market.
For decades, Smith and Wesson revolvers and semi-automatic pistols had been long-favored sidearms for U.S. law enforcement. Adapting to law enforcement and consumer trends, S&W threw its hat in the polymer-framed pistol ring in 1993 with the “Sigma.” However, the Sigma design shared so many similarities with Glock that the subsequent lawsuit for patent infringement was eventually settled out of court in 1997.
Adapting to the ever expanding polymer-framed pistol market and aggressively seeking to enter into military contracts while also regaining a foothold in law enforcement circles, S&W introduced the M&P, or Military and Police, pistol line in 2005 with the M&P 9mm. Since then, they have expanded the line to include full-size, mid-size, compact, competition, shield, bodyguard and revolver models in 40 S&W, .45ACP, .357 Sig, .380ACP, and .22 Long Rifle. The M&P moniker has also extended to .357 Magnum/.38 Special M&P revolvers.
The S&W M&P pistols are polymer-framed, striker fired, short recoil operated, semi-automatic breech-locking pistols. This design incorporates an inertial striker safety which prevents the striker from moving forward and igniting the primer due to pistol momentum alone. This passive safety is disengaged only when the shooter depresses the trigger to initiate the firing sequence. The original models had no active or thumb safeties, but later models include this as an option. Other options include a magazine safety which prevents the pistol from firing while the magazine is removed as well as an integrated ignition system lock.
Other common design features include an integrated Picatinny rail to mount lasers or lights, ambidextrous slide lock, reversible magazine release, aggressive forward cut rear-cocking serrations, steel low mount “three-dot” or tritium sights, external extractor, loaded chamber indicator, and interchangeable back-straps to adjust to different hand sizes.
The action is a bit interesting. Most striker-fired pistols are considered single action since the slide recoil sets and locks the striker in a position ready to fire and the next trigger pull releases the striker to only move forward… thus single action. However, slide recoil in the S&W M&P sets and locks the striker 98% to the rear. The next trigger pull completes the remaining 2% movement to the rear before the sear releases the striker to move forward. Therefore, the S&W M&P is considered a striker-fired Double Action Only pistol. (Source: Smith and Wesson)
Ergonomically speaking, the bore axis is very low and an extended grip tang provides exceptional “guidance” toward a proper grip while drawing from the holster as well as recoil management during rapid fire.
S&W M&P 9mm Full Size Specifications
The pistol tested in this product review is the same model as the Aegis Academy rental gun. Actually, it IS one of the Aegis Academy rental guns. The Smith and Wesson web site lists this pistol’s attributes as follows:
- Caliber – 9mm
- Barrel Length – 4.25 inches
- Sights – steel, low mount, three dot fixed sights
- Trigger Pull – 6.5 pounds
- Overall Length – 7.3 inches
- Overall Height – 5.5 inches
- Width – 1.2 inches
- Sight Radius – 6.4 inches
- Weight (empty) – 24 ounces
- Finish – Black (frame: polymer; slide: melonite)
- Capacity – two 17-round magazines
I am very familiar with the M&P pistol line. I purchased a full-size M&P .45ACP in 2011 and used it extensively in USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) competitions in the Production Class through 2013. I have also used the full-size M&P 9mm on the range during instruction with Aegis Academy. In the following paragraphs, I’ll review the fit, function, and finances of the full-size M&P 9mm.
Fit – I found the full-size frame to be well suited to my large hands… even with the “Medium” back-strap insert installed. Aegis clients with smaller hands appreciated the option to “go down” one size and have the small back-strap insert installed. However, those with the smallest hands did occasionally have trouble gaining a “high grip” to ensure the tang sat snugly against the web between their thumb and forefinger. For most shooters, this pistol points naturally and the combination of the low bore axis and the extended grip tang made it easy to get the first shots on target while keeping the recoil manageable for rapid follow-up shots as well.
I personally appreciated the extended grip tang… especially when drawing from the holster. Again, with large hands, this is my main complaint with Glock pistols: overgripping the frame and getting “bitten” by the slide. Read more >>
Posted by Howard Hall