Last May, I had the opportunity to shoot the Smith & Wesson M&P pistol for the first time. The guns were brought to the Valhalla Training Center by Chuck Buis of Blackhawk Products Group to be used in a Serpa CQC Holster demonstration that he was giving to some visitors from the press.
As part of that event, I was able to spend some time getting to know the pistol. I liked it a lot. And ever since, we have had six M&Ps that have served as the primary range guns at Valhalla. They have performed very, very well.
I am so impressed by this gun and its performance that I decided to make it the first product that I would review here on PoliceMag.com’s new Firearms channel. If your department is looking for a new full-size duty pistol, you should consider the M&P.
I have gone on the record many times saying that a duty gun should be as simple as possible. Separately operated external safeties, de-cocking levers, and other “safety oriented” accouterments to pistols complicate training issues and slow down weapons handling. The simple fact is that if you don’t pull the trigger, a modern firearm that isn’t broken won’t go BANG. So if you load a duty pistol up with a lot of “safeties,” you can make it difficult for an officer to use it as efficiently as possible when he or she needs to, and that is more likely to endanger an officer than an unintentional discharge.
Another way that gun companies try to prevent unintentional discharges is through “Double-Action Only” trigger systems. Administrators love DAO guns, but this trigger system penalizes the officers on the street with long, heavy trigger pulls that increase the amount of deviation during shooting and decrease the number of shots per second most shooters can fire effectively. I’ve met few instructors and even fewer shooters who prefer DAO guns, yet they keep popping up in department inventories.
“Safe-Action” type guns have become widely accepted over the past 20 years as the most efficient duty pistols available. They are also safe and dependable and should be the first choice for almost any law enforcement pistol need.
Smith & Wesson’s first offering along these lines, The Sigma, was plagued with problems and never made a huge impact on the market, but the M&P is a much better duty gun.
The full size M&P holds 18 rounds of 9mm in a comfortable package that shoots incredibly smoothly. I’ve handed the gun to a number of shooters and many of us have felt that the perceived recoil is generally less than expected. Good ergonomics, a low bore-line, and a good beaver-tail all contribute to this perception of the M&P as an “easy shooting” pistol.
One of the advantages of testing a gun at Valhalla is the vast diversity of students, including many people who have never held a gun before. When we hand novice students a gun for the first time, we want the experience to be as positive as possible. There is a lot to be said for a comfortable gun.
The trigger on the M&P is as good as any I’ve ever seen on an out-of-the box duty gun: not too short, but smooth and crisp. This makes it very easy for a shooter to maintain a good trigger press.
We have run tens of thousands of rounds through our M&Ps over the past year and have had no significant failures in the operation of the firearms. However, the first set of magazines that we received did have some flaws in feeding. They were quickly replaced with new ones, and we’ve had no problems with this issue since. A few front sights also snapped off, but it should be noted that we are tough on the guns and these are also easy and inexpensive to replace.
The finish on the steel slides of the M&Ps has held up impressively, again noting that we have not babied them by any stretch. The range guns probably get cleaned once a month, certainly not after every session or a specified number of rounds, which is another testament to the reliability and durability of the design.
Our M&Ps are combat accurate, meaning that they will do in terms of precision what any reasonable shooter would expect of them in a realistic shooting scenario. If you want to know the difference in group size at 25 feet out of a rest between Ammo A and Ammo B, you’ll have to run that test yourself. I don’t see a lot of value in it.
Overall, the reliability, high capacity, durability, and ergonomics of the M&P make it a weapon that you should consider for your next personal or department purchase.