Smith & Wesson M&P .45 ACP Auto Pistol


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

July 5th, 2007




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When Smith & Wesson introduced their new M&P auto pistol about eighteen months ago, first in .40 S&W and then 9mm, it was promised that a .45 ACP version would soon follow, and S&W has delivered on that promise.  I have had the opportunity to shoot a total of five different .45 M&P pistols, first before the 2007 SHOT Show, and again at the factory in early June. I was impressed, and have anxiously awaited the arrival of a pistol for a full review. Finally, it is here. After shooting it for awhile, I am still impressed.

The S&W M&P mixes the best of old and new manufacturing methods and materials. The slide is made from forged stainless steel, and the frame is injection molded plastic. The internal components are modular in construction, fitting within the plastic frame. Most of the internal metal components are also of stainless steel. The slide has a black Melonite finish which hardens and protects the surface. The M&P can be had with or without a key lock. It can be had with or without a magazine safety.  The .45 M&P can be had with or without a thumb safety. The rear of the chamber has a witness hole to see if the chamber is loaded. The magazine release is reversible if the shooter wishes to operate it from the opposite side. The slide release is ambidextrous. Disassembly is very easy. The gun sits low in the hand to reduce muzzle jump during recoil. There is an accessory rail in front of the trigger guard for those who like to hang flashlights, lasers, or other stuff on their pistol. The result is a state-of-the-art lightweight, reliable, and affordable auto pistol. While the 9mm and .40 caliber M&P pistols are excellent weapons, some folks like a .45 caliber hole in the barrel, and it is hard to argue with the logic that a bigger hole is better. For those who have been waiting for the .45 M&P, it is here. They have been shipping to dealers for a couple of months now, and are priced right along with Glocks at most gun shops. With the Glock being the most popular plastic-framed auto pistol today, comparisons are unavoidable, so we will get that out of the way now. The Model 21 is Glockís .45 ACP service pistol, and it will be used as a comparison to the S&W M&P. The biggest complaint that I hear voiced against the Glock 21 is concerning the size of its grip. If you have a large hand, it is not a problem, but it is difficult for most shooters with small to medium hands to handle and control the Model 21. I think that even shooters with large hands will appreciate the feel of the M&P once they wrap their hands around one. The M&P has, like the smaller caliber versions, interchangeable grip inserts to tailor the grip to fit the shooterís hand.  Smith & Wesson enlarged the grip of the 9mm M&P just slightly fore and aft to accommodate the longer .45 ACP cartridge. Other than that, the grip is the same as the 9mm version. I took a few measurements of the M&P and the Glock 21, with the critical dimensions listed in the chart below.

  Glock 21 S&W M&P
Weight w/ Empty Mag 29.5 28.7
Trigger Reach 2.936 2.716
Grip Circumference 5.818 to 6.286 5.552 to 5.594
Grip Frame Thickness (Max) 1.284 1.190 to 1.321
Grip Frame Thickness (Min) 1.262 1.082
Slide Thickness 1.125 1.082
Height w/ Mag 5.556 5.4
Overall Length 7.59 7.75
Barrel Length 4.6 4.6
Trigger Travel .5 .3
Trigger Pull 5 lbs 10 oz 6 lbs 12 oz
Ammo Capacity 13+1 10+1

All dimensions are in inches. Weight is in pounds & ounces. The trigger reach was measured from the point on the frame where the web between thumb and forefinger rests to the center of the trigger. Grip frame thickness was measured at the thinnest and thickest points.  On the M&P, the thickest part was at the palm swell on the grip insert. Grip circumference was measured at the top and bottom of grip frame. Height includes the sights and magazine floor plates.

The Glock has an ammo capacity advantage of three rounds, and the trigger pull was a pound lighter, but it was a well-used Model 21. I like the Novak sights on the S&W better, and they are made of steel instead of the Glockís standard plastic sights. Both S&W and Glock offer tritium night sights as options, and I highly recommend them.

Both the Smith and the Glock are very reliable, durable, and efficient fighting pistols. Where the S&W has the advantage is in the ergonomics. To everyone who handled the two, the S&W just plain felt so much better in the hand, and that is very important. The grip on the Glock feels rectangular, while the Smith grip feels oval, and much smaller. The Smith offers the option of three interchangeable grip inserts, with the medium and large sized ones having an ambidextrous palm swell, and the small size having a very slight palm swell. It feels good, and points very naturally for me. Holding the .45 and 9mm M&P pistols at the same time, I cannot feel the difference in the two grips. Smith & Wesson did an outstanding job of designing the grip on this forty-five!

I like the M&P auto pistols from S&W. The "why" of it is more practical than emotional. I really love to handle a fine old single action revolver or lever action rifle. In a perfect world, those are the only guns that we would ever need. I wish that we could just hunt, fish, ride motorcycles, and play with our grandkids, but that just ainít the way that the world is. There is evil in this world that seeks to destroy us, sometimes collectively as a society, and sometimes individually. Besides the grand picture of those idiots in this world who seek our destruction as a nation, everyday on a smaller, more personal scale, some selfish individuals acting independently or in small groups, with evil in their black hearts, maim and kill other people. The police in our society do a good job, but unless a policeman is standing next to you, you are pretty much on your own when it comes to the safety of you and your family. Even if the response time of your local police department is very good, it will be at least five minutes before you can expect help to arrive, and in most of the nation, the time is much, much longer. Do this simple exercise: Go lie on your bed and look at the clock. Imagine that a couple of punks just kicked in your door. Now, stare at the clock for a full five minutes. Even if you somehow manage to call 911 and get an operator instead of a recording, you will quickly realize that the best that any police department can do is to show up and draw a chalk line around your dead body, and those of your loved ones, unless you personally take action. It is your fight, and you need a fighting pistol. You can fight with whatever gun you have available, but some guns are better for this purpose than others. That is where guns like high capacity auto pistols come into their own. Guns like the Glock, Sigma, XD, SIG, H&K, and the new M&P. They are not things of classic beauty to hang on the wall and admire. They are cold, black, plastic guns, but they exceed in being able to accurately and quickly place a lot of bullets into a target at across-the-room distances.  In my hand, the M&P allows me to perform this task better than any of the modern high capacity auto pistols that I have ever tried. Much like the legendary and beloved 1911 .45 auto pistol, the M&P points naturally for me, allowing me to concentrate on the target, instead of the pistol. When you are at the range, concentrating on the front sight works just fine, as most trainers advise you to do.  Looking at the front sight in focus with the rear sight and target slightly blurred allows you to score well at the range. However, when you are awakened suddenly by a pair of screaming coked-up punks that are determined to ruin your day, you WILL be concentrating on them, and not your shooting form. The M&P allows me to focus on the target and fill it with holes better than any other high capacity centerfire auto that I have ever tried. While it can certainly function as such, it is not a hunting pistol. It is not a bullseye target gun. It is a fighting pistol. Now, if I know that I am in for a fight and cannot avoid it, I ainít going in with nothing but a pistol. I want a rifle or shotgun, depending upon the situation. However, a defensive weapon by definition is for fighting when the fight comes to you, suddenly and by surprise. Sometimes, the pistol is the best choice, especially at armís length. An eleven-shot  forty-five is a good choice. I donít get into arguments over whether the 9mm beats the .45, or whether the .40 S&W beats them both. I think that these arguments are silly, and are usually dreamed up by gun writers to fill pages in a magazine. If you can shoot fast and hit your target, I donít care if you use a .9mm, .357, .44, .45, .38 Super, or even a .22 Magnum. Any of them will work most of the time, and all of them will fail some of the time. Thugs are not made of ballistic gelatin. Keep shooting until the threat is over. I am only worried about a one-shot stop if I only have one shot in my pistol. If I have fifteen shots in my pistol, that is probably the number that I will use.  Keep shooting until the threat is over. There are those in our society that deny that evil exists, or so it would seem. I wish that it was so that none of us needed fighting guns. It would be great just to have hunting, target, and plinking guns. However, as long as people keep doing evil things to their fellow human beings, fighting guns will continue to be necessary, as will the need for them to progress as the world changes. The M&P .45 is a progression of the fighting pistol to fill the needs of the US Military and our police forces, and contrary to what some elitist types would have you to believe, you need every bit as much or more firepower as do the police, because when the fight comes to you, you have no backup on the way. There is no reason that you shouldnít have the same fighting tools as those you hire to fight for you. Both our military and police are becoming more and more diversified, with more women and small-statured minorities in the ranks. The M&P .45 has a grip that is adaptable to the user, instead of a one-size-fits-nobody approach that most pistol makers employ. I would like to see US soldiers and Marines using an American-made, American-owned service pistol. I would also like to see an American pistol in the holsters of American police officers.

In fact, the US Military is responsible for the .45 M&P having the option of a manual thumb safety, as the specs for the military trial .45 pistols required the option of a manual safety. Instead of making it mandatory, S&W cleverly made a thumb safety that can be incorporated into any .45 M&P, but can easily be eliminated if the shooter desires. Before you ask, no, it cannot be added to the current 9mm and .40 caliber M&P pistols. It operates in the most natural fashion, pushing down to fire, is in the perfect position atop the frame, and falls naturally under the thumb, just like on a 1911. The thumb safety serves to block the trigger bar, and has no effect at all on the trigger pull of the pistol. If one wants to remove the safety, Smith & Wesson provides fillers for the slots in the frame to keep out dust and debris. Personally, I like the thumb safety being there. However, a shooter accustomed to using a Glock, Sigma, or similar pistol can have their M&P without the thumb safety, if that is their preference. S&W got it right. Good idea.

The M&P fit perfectly in my Barranti Urban Companion that is made for the 9mm M&P, and the holster does an excellent job of carrying the pistol close to the body where it hides well under a shirt.

Shooting the .45 M&P offered no surprises. I fired a wide assortment of .45 ACP ammunition, mostly high performance hollowpoint stuff, along with some full metal jacket factory loads, and my favorite lead semi-wadcutter handload. The factory ammunition that I used was from Cor-Bon, Buffalo Bore, and Winchester.

Every brand and type of ammunition fed, fired, and ejected flawlessly.  Accuracy from a hand-held rest proved the M&P to be as accurate as I can shoot three-dot sights anymore; that is, it grouped into about two and one-half inches at twenty-five yards. I can still see all-black sights pretty well, but with the three-dot style, all I can see of the front is the dot. If I get an insert for the Ransom Rest later, I will retest and add that info. However, the M&P still shot well, with most combat ammo hitting point of aim at twenty-five yards. I really liked the Cor-Bon PowRBall in this pistol. Functioning was very quick, and the weapon got back on target immediately. Any of the loads from Buffalo Bore or Cor-Bon would be a good choice for carry in the .45 M&P. That is the good thing about a .45 ACP pistol; it makes a big hole, and most any ammunition is sufficient, but I still like a good expanding bullet. Shooting offhand as quickly as possible, keeping all shots on the torso area of a silhouette target at fifteen yards was easy. At ten yards, shooting rapid fire, I got all but one from a magazine into the head and neck area, with another shot being a marginal hit. Looking at the vertical stringing on the head shot picture, you can see what I mean about the three-dot sight picture. Please donít get me wrong; I like the three-dot sights, and have them on all of my fighting pistols. They are just not the best for accurate paper-punching with my eyes. They are, however, very good for social work.

I have fired several M&P pistols since their introduction, and I like the design very much. I have been to the factory and seen them being built. I liked the M&P enough that I replaced my old Glock 19 with the 9mm M&P. This .45 ACP version is a great addition to the line. In my opinion, it is the best choice available in a polymer-framed .45 ACP fighting pistol. It is built in America by Americans working for an American company. I realize that is read worldwide, and even translated in some Eastern European country to a Slavic language, so the previous  sentence will mean little to some of you. However, to me, American made is important, if I have a choice. I own several foreign-made weapons, and they are very good. In fact, every one of the competitors on the market to this M&P pistol are also good weapons, but I think that the M&P is superior to its competition, at least at this time. This type of combat pistol is still developing and advancing, but for now, the M&P is state-of-the-art, and is my choice.

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Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Smith & Wesson M&P .45 ACP Auto Pistol.



The M&P .45 comes with hard case, three grip inserts, and two magazines.





Tailoring the grip for different hands by changing grips inserts is quick and easy.





As is popular with many modern shooters, the M&P .45 features an accessory rail.





Another nice touch is an ambidextrous slide release.





Disassembly latch makes field stripping a breeze.



Frame is cut for thumb safety, if desired.





Loaded chamber witness hole.





9mm M&P compared to the .45 version.



The Smith & Wesson is less blocky, and most shooters find that it fits the hand much better than does the Glock 21.



Left to right: Glock 21, .45 M&P, and 9mm M&P.



Barranti's Urban Companion holster, made for the 9mm M&P, works perfectly for the .45.



Author tested the M&P .45 with a variety of ammunition, and it performed flawlessly with each load.



A long-time favorite, the 165-grain +P PowRBall, proved to be a stellar performer in the M&P .45.