During my law enforcement career I never had a malfunction or a problem with any of the Smith & Wesson pistols that I owned or was issued. Needless to say, I like Smith & Wesson pistols.

So when S&W announced that their new Military & Police handgun would be a semi-auto, all I cared about was whether or not it would be as rugged and reliable as my old M&P revolver. Believe me, it is.

Contemporary Design

The new M&P line has really excellent aesthetics, including a Melonite blackened stainless steel barrel and slide assembly, and a rugged polymer frame. It also has excellent design and engineering. Both the M&P and the M&P Compact are striker-fired, double-action-only pistols with high-cap mags, ambidextrous mag release buttons, ambidextrous slide releases, internal locking mechanisms, three-dot Novak Lo Mount steel sights, a loaded chamber indicator, and a 1913 Picatinny accessory rail. Both M&P pistols are also available with a magazine disconnect and Trijicon three-dot night sights.

When chambered in 9mm, the M&P Pistol holds 17 rounds in the magazine. The M&P 40 and the M&P 357 SIG have 15-round magazines. The soon to be released .45 ACP variant has a 10-round magazine capacity. The M&P Compact magazine holds 12 rounds in 9mm and 10 rounds in .40 S&W and .357 SIG.

The full-size M&P magazines are easy to load, but it took some extra muscle to plug the last round in two of the five M&P Compact magazines that I used in my test and evaluation. Hopefully, these magazines will become easier to fully load after some additional use.

By far, the most interesting design feature of the full-size M&P pistol and the M&P Compact is the grip design, which incorporates three interchangeable grip inserts. This feature lets any user quickly install a small, medium, or large grip insert to accommodate his or her hand size.

I fired my full-size M&P Pistol with all three grip inserts and found that I am most comfortable using the medium or the small grip. The small insert makes the full-size M&P feel more like a 1911. The medium grip insert works best for me on the M&P Compact.

In order to change grip inserts, just remove the security pin/disassembly tool that holds the grip assembly together. This pin must be rotated before you remove it from the frame. However, when the pistol is brand new, you may have to use a thin screwdriver as leverage to remove the combination security pin/disassembly tool from the frame. Once this pin is removed you can change grip inserts until you find one that works best for you. But remember to reinsert this pin into the frame before you fire the pistol.

Concealed Carry Model

The M&P Compact Pistol is lighter and smaller in overall dimensions than the full-size M&P and is specifically designed for concealed carry. It has a 3.5-inch barrel length, as opposed to the 4.25-inch barrel found on the standard M&P.

One of the best things about the M&P compact is that it makes an excellent complement to the standard M&P. Magazines of the same caliber are fully compatible between the two pistols. This means that you can use full-size M&P high-capacity magazines in your M&P Compact backup gun should your primary service pistol become lost, stolen, disabled, or damaged during any life-threatening emergency. Off-duty and plainclothes officers can also carry full-size M&P magazines as spare magazines when they carry an M&P Compact Pistol.

I'd suggest that you carry your spare magazines in a DeSantis Style N81 Double Magazine Ankle Holster. Even though this is not the fastest reload available, it allows you to comfortably carry two standard capacity or high-capacity magazines on your ankle instead of in your pocket or on your belt.[PAGEBREAK]

Keeping It Clean

Maintenance and cleaning are easy to do on both M&P pistols. To disassemble a full-size or compact M&P pistol, rack the slide to the locked open position and remove the magazine before using a thin screwdriver or the security pin/disassembly tool that locks the grip assembly into position to pry the sear release lever away from the frame. This internal lever is found against the rear wall of the magazine well. Once this is done all you have to do to remove the slide from the frame is lower the slide release lever and pull the slide forward.

You are not required to pull the trigger in order to remove the slide from the frame of an M&P Pistol. This safety feature is designed to prevent an unintentional discharge.

After your pistol is cleaned, properly lubricated, and reassembled, you can reset the sear release lever by inserting a loaded or unloaded magazine into the frame.

Range Time

The 9mm Smith & Wesson M&P Compact that I tested proved to be a pleasure to operate and shoot. It was flawlessly reliable while using 115-, 124- and 147-grain Federal, Winchester, and Speer FMJ and hollow-point ammunition. And, yes, it ran great when I used high-capacity magazines from the full-size M&P.

I also briefly tested an M&P Compact Pistol in .40 S&W caliber and found this pistol to be just as easy to shoot accurately at a fast "combat" rate of fire as the 9mm version. It was also exceptionally comfortable to shoot while using Federal 165-grain FMJ ammunition.

The M&P Compact Pistol has a very short trigger return or reset, which makes it possible to deliver quick and accurate follow-up shots. This is an important feature for law enforcement officers who may be forced to fire multiple shots during a life-threatening situation.

I found the M&P Compact 9 and Compact 40 pistols to be just as combat accurate as the full-size M&P. During three different range sessions, the Compact produced excellent groups.

From an unsupported standing position, I was able to consistently keep the contents of a magazine or two on nine-inch-diameter paper plates, while firing fast at different combat distances. When I ran out of paper plates and regular targets, I successfully used my M&P Compact to engage smaller targets like one-inch Shoot N See adhesive black dots and tin cans.

The greatest compliment and recommendation that I can give any pistol is to use my hard-earned money to purchase the firearm that I tested and evaluated for a magazine article. I bought the 9mm M&P Compact that the company sent me to test and evaluate. I also recommended the M&P Compact to my oldest son who serves as a city police officer.

Nick Jacobellis is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and former police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent.

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