It is difficult for me to get too worked up
about a new polymer-framed auto pistol. Unlike an old Colt
Single Action Army, S&W N-frame, or Ruger Flattop, plastic
pistols do not stir my soul. To me they have no warmth, no
charm, nor any character. Plastic pistols are tools. They
serve a purpose to be sure. That is; they exist to protect their
owners from harm. Plastic pistols are generally used as
defensive pieces. They can be found in about ninety percent of
the police holsters in the United States. They also serve with
various military units around the world. They are also quite
popular with individuals who carry a handgun for self defense.
Glock introduced the first successful plastic-framed pistol over
twenty years ago, and it is still the most popular by a large
margin. That is not to say that other makes are not good pistols
as well. Several manufacturers have excellent polymer pistols on
the market, but none have been anything like as popular as the
Glock with law enforcement or the public. Much of this could be
attributed to marketing, as Glock has aggressively marketed
their pistols in the United States, with great success. However,
this article is not about the Glock, it is about Smith &
Wessonís newest entry into the polymer-framed service pistol
market. Still, comparisons are inevitable, and the new Smith
will most definitely be compared to the Glock whenever it is
considered by any police agency in this country.
I first heard of the new Smith & Wesson
M&P (Military & Police) a few months ago, and have been
waiting somewhat patiently ever since for the guns to go into
production. I first fired one at the writerís gathering the
day before the 2006 SHOT Show back in February, and was
impressed by the weapon. About a week later, I received a
production gun chambered for the .40 S&W cartridge, which is
the test piece reviewed here.
The new S&W pistol differs from their
earlier efforts in several ways. While their Sigma and
SW99 pistols were good guns, the M&P is better in every way.
Smith & Wesson apparently looked at every part of
their other polymer pistols, and also those of their
competition, and sought to improve each feature. Little details
make a big difference when comparing pistols. S&W went to
great effort to assure that their new M&P pistol actually
fitís the human hand. Someone in Springfield,
Massachusetts also recognizes that the human hand is not a
one-size-fits-all- proposition. While sales to individual
shooters will always be a big part of the pistol market, it is
readily apparent by just the name of the new Military &
Police pistol that S&W intends to take a larger share of the
law enforcement market with this new weapon. They realize that
law enforcement officers come in all shapes and sizes, with
usually proportional hand sizes as well. The M&P was made to
fit the hand. It is a good thing that most pistol manufacturers
do not make boots, or we would all be forced to cram our feet
into a size 10D, and make do the best we can. The M&P
grip is easily adjustable to fit different sized hands. What a
concept! Smith & Wesson first introduced this idea
with their SW99 pistols, but have perfected it with the M&P.
The pistol comes with three different size grip backstraps,
which not only alter the size of the grip from front to
back, but provide different sized palm swells as well. One can
also shoot the M&P with no backstrap installed, effectively
giving a choice of four different grip sizes in all. I shot the
M&P without a backstrap installed, and it did just fine.
However, I find the "medium" sized one to feel best in
my hand. You may prefer the small or large. The pistol
comes with all three.
Another nice feature of the M&P is the
takedown system. It is very similar to the SIG, being a rotating
lever on the left side of the frame. Before the slide can be
removed, a little yellow lever inside the magazine well must be
pushed downward, similar to the Ruger P-series. Doing this
disconnects the sear, and forces the shooter to retract the
slide before disassembly, emptying the chamber. The sample gun
also has a magazine disconnect safety, but some models intended
for police or military sales will not have this feature. Also
optional on the M&P is an internal key lock system. The test
gun did not have this feature, but it will be available to those
who desire such a device, or where required by law.
The sights on the test gun were of the familiar
three-dot pattern, and tritium night sights will be offered as
well. Both the front and rear sights are dove-tailed into the
slide, and are easily drifted to adjust for windage correction.
The M&P comes supplied with two steel
magazines, which hold fifteen rounds each in .40 S&W and
.357 SIG calibers. The soon-to-come 9mm is reported to hold
seventeen rounds. Add one round to these for total capacities of
sixteen and eighteen, respectively. The magazines drop free when
the magazine release is pressed. The magazine release is easily
switched for either right or left hand operation. I shoot
left-handed, but prefer to operate the release with my trigger
finger, which right-handed shooters might want to give a try. I
find that it works much better than using the thumb. The frame
of the M&P is also fitted with a slide release lever on each
side, which is a bit stiff to operate, but works well.
The trigger guard on the M&P has ample room
for a gloved finger to operate the trigger, which is of the
Smith & Wesson articulated variety. The trigger pull on the
test gun released at six pounds, five and one-half ounces, and
was very smooth to operate, much like a short-stroke double
action pull. The trigger must be reset by the slide after each
pull, hence the weapon has no double-strike capability, which is
touted by some to be desirable in the event of a bad primer.
However, I always prefer to get the dud cartridge out of the
weapon, chambering a fresh round instead of wasting time trying
to repeatedly get a bad round to fire.
Like most polymer framed autos, the M&P has
an accessory rail at the front of the frame for those who like
to attach flashlights and such to their weapons. The front
of the slide is contoured for easy re-holstering, and the rear
of the slide is scalloped for a secure grip when retracting it
to chamber or eject a cartridge. The barrel and slide are of
stainless steel, with a durable black finish.
Inside the frame of the M&P is a forward and
rear steel block which contains the fire control mechanism, and
also serves as the guides upon which the slide reciprocates. The
slide only contacts the frame at four points, instead of the
full-length rails on most pistols. This makes for a very good
self-cleaning rail system, leaving plenty of room for any dirt,
grit, or sand to fall out of the weapon instead of binding the
slide. Good idea. The recoil spring is of the captive design,
and contains a stainless steel guide rod, which should be much
more reliable than the plastic rods used by some other pistols.
The barrel locks up securely in the slide, and the chamber
supports the cartridge case head adequately to prevent a
blowout. The rear of the chamber also has a witness hole,
so that the shooter can visually confirm that a cartridge is
chambered. The M&P .40 S&W pistol weighed in at one
pound and eleven and one-half ounces with an empty magazine.
Back to the ergonomics of the pistol, the trigger reach measured
2.640 inches on the sample gun, which is about one-quarter of an
inch less than a Glock of like caliber. Again, I am comparing it
to the Glock, but that is inevitable, so we might as well do so
Shooting the M&P was a real pleasure. While
.40 S&W recoil is not bothersome, it does make some guns
jump a bit in the hand. The M&P sits low in the hand, and
the recoil is straight back. All shooting was done using Cor-Bon
high performance ammunition. I found the M&P to be the most
comfortable and controllable .40 that I have ever fired.
I fired five different Cor-Bon loads out of the
M&Pís four and one-quarter inch barrel, with the
chronograph results listed below. All testing was done with the
screens of the PACT chronograph twelve feet from the muzzle, and
an air temperature around seventy degrees. All velocities
are listed in feet-per-second. JHP is jacketed hollowpoint. DPX
is a Barnes solid copper hollowpoint X bullet. PowRBall is a
specialty load consisting of a jacketed hollowpoint with a
plastic ball in the cavity.
|Cor-Bon 165 grain JHP
|Cor-Bon 135 grain PowRBall
|Cor-Bon 135 grain JHP
|Cor-Bon 140 grain DPX
|Cor-Bon 150 grain JHP
Any of these loads should work very well for
social situations. Recoil was very controllable in the M&P,
and accuracy ran in the two to three inch range at twenty five
yards, depending upon the load. More importantly, it was very
easy to keep a magazine full of bullets in the kill zone of a
full-sized human silhouette target firing rapid fire at
twenty-five yards from a standing position. The M&P
was one hundred percent reliable with all loads tested. It fed,
fired, and ejected perfectly, every time.
Now comes the time to draw conclusions, as I
will certainly get email, and lots of it, asking me to compare
the M&P with other weapons, particularly the Glock, as it
currently holds the top spot in the polymer-framed service
pistol field. I like the Glock, and carry one often. However,
comparing the two, the S&W feels better to my hand. It
points better for me. I like its trigger function better. I like
the roomy trigger guard, and the shorter reach to the trigger. I
do not like a magazine safety on an auto pistol, but can live
with it. I do like the steel M&P magazines better. I like
the recoil feel of the M&P better than the Glock. I find the
M&P easier to control and shoot accurately during rapid
fire. I like the sights of the M&P better than the Glock.
Both weapons are priced comparably. Neither weapon will inspire
one to seek out custom engraving and gold decoration. Both are
built for business. Both are tools which do their job well.
However, above all else, the S&W just feels better in my
hand, whether during shooting, or just holding the weapon.
I like my Glock 19. I liked the feel of the 19,
until I tried the S&W. Compared, the Glock just feels
blockier to me now. The S&W feels like it fits. You might
think differently, but I believe that most shooters will find
the S&W to fit the hand better than the Glock. I own stock
in neither Glock nor Smith & Wesson, and am within the
coveted gun writerís inner circle with neither company. I have
carried my Glock 19 for many years, and will continue to do so,
at least until the M&P is available in 9mm. I realize that
it is unfashionable for gun writers to like the 9mm cartridge. I
am supposed to prefer the .40 caliber, and proclaim the nine to
be next to useless. Well it just ainít so. With good ammo, the
9mm is a dandy defensive pistol cartridge in capable hands, and
when I can get a S&W M&P chambered for the 9mm with
tritium night sights, I might have a Glock 19 for sale. I will
just have to wait and see.
Check out the M&P, and other Smith &
Wesson products online at: www.smith-wesson.com.
To order Cor-Bon high performance ammunition, go
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