You may already know I love the M&P line of pistols. They are my favorite carry gun in any flavor – 9, .40 or .45. I would love to own the revolvers as well, but I’ve got an old Smith and Wesson model .66, and, well, I love that too.
I bought my M&P .40c (compact) as soon as they were available. I purchased mine when Smith & Wesson was still running a promotion to move the guns, two free magazines. I had followed the news about Smith and had anticipated some good developments and better pistols because of some of the press releases, business reports and that had been coming out. I had followed Smith’s partnership with Walther, and anticipated they would bring up their capacity in Smith branded pistols. I had also shot a full-size M&P .40 rental at The Place To Shoot in Portland, Oregon, and had loved the feel and controllability of the gun. I was ready to jump in with the .40c.
Since that time the M&P has been adopted by more police departments than I can think of. Recently, the Unified police of Salt Lake County began issuing the M&P as a primary sidearm, with Glock and Springfield authorized for duty pending qualification with the gun to be carried, but not issued.
This holiday season I bought myself the full size M&P in 9mm. I immediately looked over the gun to see what changes, if any, had been made since my early purchase of the .40c. The first thing I noticed was that the rear sight, which was a ramp on the earlier handguns, now has a notch or ledge for racking the gun off your belt or holster. The ramp is supposed to be a “snag free” design, but when you need to rack a gun single handedly, you want something for purchase, and the ledged rear sight is just the ticket.
Either the snag free ramp or the notched sights add the benefit of extending the sight radius as far back on the slide as possible. The notch on all pistols are a quarter to half an inch forward on the slide. Many pistols such as the Glock and Springfield XD series come with a simple sight that, while functional, shortens the sight radius of the gun. On either the compact or standard size M&P, the added distance between rear and front sight provides the opportunity for increased accuracy, depending on the shooter and his or her capability.
The second thing I noticed is that the Smith & Wesson extractor retaining pin has been replaced with a roll pin. This is a great option, because as people have started customizing their guns, many choose to upgrade the extractor. There is nothing wrong with the extractor as is, but some people want to change it out. The solid metal pins had to be hammered out with significant force, and some risk of damage to the slide of your gun. With the roll pin, the extractor is effectively retained, and the pin can be removed with significantly less force.
The two guns I chose have different features from one another. The 40.c has no thumb safety, but does have an internal mag safety. Externally, and in function, it feels very similar to shooting my Glock 23. It is a lever that, when the magazine is in place, is depressed, moving the trigger mechanism in line with the sear. As soon as the magazine is removed, the lever is released and the trigger bar is moved to the right, out of line with the sear. My M&P 9 has a thumb safety and no magazine safety. I had to get used to depressing the thumb safety on my draw stroke. At first it was irritating, but I realized I can ride the thumb of my dominant hand higher on the frame of any of my handguns, potentially reducing recoil and maintaining better control of the firearm. With my thumb on the safety the recoil from my M&P 9 is negligible, and I am very happy with my groups at speed.
I like to have an extra safety on the gun, beyond the trigger safety that comes standard on most modern polymer framed handguns. Numerous misfires have occurred on camera where shooters have gotten something stuck in the trigger guard while a shooter holsters his or her gun. While it is any gun owner’s responsibility to manage his or her trigger, having a backup can be of benefit. The thumb safety can be clicked on, or the magazine removed before holstering the gun. For new shooters who have not had the benefit of supervised shooting from childhood on, such added features can increase safety on what can be a swift learning curve.
Both guns have a sear release lever, which means you don’t have to dry fire the gun during disassembly. That translates to added safety as well.
Other differences are smaller. The M&P locking block is a little different in the earlier 40c pistol. The block contacts the barrel behind the feed ramp on three points. You can see where these points have rubbed the steel smooth. The new M&P 9 contacts on two planes. Both guns cycle smoothly. I am uncertain if these differences are based on the caliber or size of the guns, or if Smith & Wesson has made decisions about changing minor specifications as the guns are produced. In any case, the line of pistols is of exceptional quality and performance. Smith & Wesson remains my first choice in sidearm.