Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Smith & Wesson M and P 9 - Practical Tactical

The Smith and Wesson M+P.   For a female shooter, or anyone considering something to carry concealed, it's a nice alternative to the G-22 and has less recoil due to a low bore axis. Like the G-22 it will stay tight and accurate, always a fine trait in any firearm, but even more so, necessary if you're using it for self defense. (the one pictured above is the M+P9c)

The  M&P  stands for Military and Police and it's a polymer (fancy name for plastic) framed, short recoil operated, locked breech, semi auto which was introduced in 2005 by an American company, Smith and Wesson.  While targeted at law enforcement agencies, the M&P is also readily available, new and used, on the commercial market, still a quality firearm made in America by Americans.

But don't think because of it's smaller size it's a "Girl's Gun" 

I've run into people that said they'd never carry a gun, if accosted by rapper/mugger they'd reason with them. (Wait, that was rapist, not rapper, but I'd not want to be accosted by either, come to think of it.)

"Communication's the key" I've heard from non shooty acquaintances and anti gun commenters on the net. Communication does NOT work for many things.  For example. I picked up a phrase book in Africa years ago.  It was VERY old.  Old, as in most of the phrases were something like -

"Don't be alarmed, we are British soldiers".
"We will take everything you have and give you receipt".

It didn't come in handy.  Remember, a criminal doesn't necessarily speak "your language". (Not to mention that sometimes, what you need to communicate needs to be a little faster than words.)

I rarely venture out without some sort of personal protection, it comes in handy for self defense when aforesaid communication doesn't work. 

Picture a taxicab somewhere in a foreign land far away -

Driver (I can't understand more than every 4th word but I'm guessing it goes something like this) "My village is so wonderful for small fee I show you look there is my cousins place he can get you fine rug how many goats do you bring please ask your father."

B. - "Hurry Up!  Someone is shooting at us!!  Imshi!  Imshi!  Imshi! "

Driver:  (in perfect English, not hurrying up) "Have you gone to Pittsburgh?  I have a cousin in Pittsburgh." 

Self defense is something I learned to be serious about by experience, finding that  a small laser dot on the center of someones forehead IS the universal language for "NO".

But there are so many different handguns out there, and many folks, new to shooting, have asked me, on and off blog, to recommend something for concealed but not necessarily for a first time shooter.

I like the M & P. My first choice is always something in a larger caliber, but that is not always practical, based on weight and size and clothing choices for concealed.  The M &P is a good alternative to most "pocket pistols", in my opinion. The M&P is striker fired, which basically means the trigger system presents the firearm from discharging unless the trigger is fully depressed, even if dropped.  An internal lock and/or magazine disconnect are available as options and an optional external thumb safety became available in 2009

There are a couple of features that make it worth a look at for someone looking for a nice concealed piece. Plus, there is something going for it that is gaining favor in law enforcement work. It has replaceable backstraps for the grip, and comes with three different sizes. I have pretty big hands, though they're small boned, and the "small" is too small but would be perfect for the average sized female shooter. Get your dealer to let you try all three, see which one works best. If you found the smaller G22 backstrap did NOT fit your smaller hand, this one will.

These can be replaced in moments, and chosen to suit the hand size and comfort of the shooter. Here it is with the backstrap removed to show you how easy it is. Twist and turn one part of the grip base, pull it down and pull off the backstrap and there you go.

Law Enforcement departments like this feature, as one model of pistol can be tweaked to fit many hands, and female officers appreciate being able to change grip size to suit their sometimes smaller hands. The trigger guard, as well, is designed to accommodate gloves.

There's a lot of discussion on the net regarding M & P vs. Glock.  I'm not going to tout one firearm over the other but I can say, that for this shooter, M&P’s ergonomics just felt more natural to me, not just in grip comfort but in the speed I can acquire good sight alignment. In ergonomics it's flat out superior to many firearms in its class and shooting left handed or right handed required no adjustment in handling.

Yes, the M & P is polymer, but unlike other firearms, it has a stainless steel chassis embedded in the frame to impart rigidity as well as provide a hard mount point. It also has an integrated Picatinny rail underneath the slide on the front of the frame for attaching tactical lights, lasers and other accessories (though if you accessorize it with anything with the name "Kardashian" on it, you lose ALL range and street cred).

The weapon is easy to clean as well. The sear must be released before the slide can be taken off. S + W built the M + P so the sear could be deactivated by moving a lever in the magazine well. Other guns of such similar action types including the trusty Glock require you pull the trigger for disassembly. I probably need not remind my readers, that the most basic step before disassembling a gun is to ensure it is completely unloaded INCLUDING A CHAMBER CHECK.

In any event, the M+P9c can be disassembled without pulling the trigger, a nice feature. S + W also went ahead and built in a tool to do this, the lock rod for the replaceable backstrap is just right to reach in and move the sear deactivation lever. Release the slide, and it comes right off the frame. Easy as can be.

Like all firearms, the M+P should be cleaned before its first use. Like all auto pistols, it benefits greatly from an initial cleaning and lubrication. Since much of the trigger mechanism is exposed by a simple field stripping, its a great time to apply a light lubricant.

The compact pistol comes in 9mm, .40, and .357 sig (a fairly hot round).In either case I would suggest the 9mm version for the lighter recoil and less expensive practice if this isn't going to be your sole source for concealed carry.

The trigger is quite workable, cupping the finger nicely, with a manageable 6.5 pounds of trigger pull. Out of the box, the trigger isn't perfect, slightly better than the Glock, but like the Glock, smoothing out even more after about 250 rounds through it.

Like a Glock,  the S+W M+P  (at least the early ones) has no external safeties (except some of the full size .45 models).

The concept is simple - if there is a round in the chamber and the trigger is deliberately pulled, it will fire.

Don't want it to go off? Don't pull the trigger.

It's much like a revolver in this way, only easier to shoot well and holds 13 rounds of hot 9mm in its 9c compact form. I wouldn't promote this for a concealed choice for someone who had limited or no shooting experience. This is hardly a huge power tool or a bucking bronco but I wouldn't recommend it as concealed if you don't have basic shooting safety down cold. If you shoot often enough to develop really solid handling habits, the lack of external safeties and light pull double action should not deter you.

All guns you have access to, you need to be practiced with, but this piece requires enough practice to be ready to use it without hesitation. This is a handgun designed with a professional in mind but frankly, the trigger safety system on the M + P is great and less likely to have an accidental discharge than other smaller weapons you may have looked at.

I had a discussion with someone about the lack of safety and I brought up one point. I'm an expert in several aspects of forensics and human factors engineering, and I can tell you this. When all starts going to hell in a handbasket, the first thing to go is fine motor skills. The mental coding repetitive training offers is what keeps one alive.  Frankly, I DON'T want to be fumbling for a safety when being rushed by a home invader twice my size. I want to release my weapon aim and pull. Period.

Factory sights are good  (though there are a number of options for sight upgrades if you wish such as the Trijicon night sights, among others).  With a sight length of just less than 6 inches and the weapon unloaded weights are just mere 21.7 ounces, My little bag full of assorted flavored tactical lip gloss weighs more than that.

Holster options are comparable with Glocks, in other words - about anything goes! Personally I like the Dragon Leatherworks  DL Classic, but there are a lot of choices out there. Ladies, if you are looking for a concealment purse or bag, there are lots out there, many incredible overpriced. Make sure whatever bag you use for this gun, that it has an internal holster. I would never recommend this pistol for bag carry with a round in the chamber, otherwise. If there is a round in the chamber, the trigger needs to be covered for safety.

Shooting it is much more comfortable than another small pistol I own and have reviewed, the Kahr in 40 (though that's a fine, very accurate firearm).  This pistol has a very low slide profile which holds the barrel axis close to the shooter's hand.  That reduced muzzle rise, making it more comfortable to shoot and allows for faster aim recovery if you are doing rapid shooting drills.

It's rugged, not just pretty in pink. Stainless construction coupled with Melonite  (proprietary nitriding  process  that makes for a matte gray non-glare surface with increased surface hardness) should make for a rugged carry in the long run. Gunsmithing, if ever necessary, is readily available and spare parts are available from Brownells and others.

But there is one drawback to this fine piece, one that someone commented on the first time this weapon was discussed in the comments.

The magazine has been known to "drop out" when in use. Yes, you get good action going, things are tight and grouped well, and the magazine falls out. That really ruins the fun. This is NOT someplace you want to be. Preliminary research suggest somewhere over 15% of the older M + P compacts had this issue and Smith and Wesson redesigned it several times without any great joy until just a few years ago. The one I shoot has never done this, but it did drop out while in the holster. Not good for a law enforcement weapon. Not good for self defense. Any semi-auto can have that happen, a good reason to always carry a spare magazine, but this particular magazine had it happen more than others.

The problem appeared to be threefold.
  • The catch has a very small engagement area with the magazine.
  • The metal of the magazine is harder than the catch, and it was a sharp edge that was being engaged.
  • The spring which holds the catch engaged is a torsion bar, and could be stronger.
Smith and Wesson's answer was to make the new catches with some kind of coating which resists wear. It seems to do the trick. I believe the new design catch has been standard for about 3-4 years and all M + P pistols come with it now, but if you are buying an older, used weapon, it's something to think about.

Don't let this put you off this fine American made firearm.  If you are buying a used one, and can't ascertain if it's been updated Smith and Wesson WILL provide a new magazine catch. (Or if you're really handy with tiny elfin type tools and Scottish with the "thrifty" gene as some of us are, you can also make a small nylon spacer tube to strengthen the torsion bar spring and increase tension on the magazine catch).

S + W Customer Support is good, even if they don't get  well "too wordy" in their responses (don't take it personal, everyone gets that).  The fix for the weapon below was a thin coating of something dark and mysterious. It's pretty thin, the steel shows through. There doesn't seem to be any other change - engagement tension feels the same, release distance still measures about the same.

Hundreds of rounds later, there has been no evidence of any further problem and others I know who had the same fix, report the same. I would not let it scare you off this piece and frankly, it's one of the best concealed weapons out there for the price. If you are looking for a tight, designed for the pro's but simple enough for the average law abiding citizen, weapon - this is it. People that own them, wouldn't trade them and more than one person I know has bought one used, and later on added another one to the family gun safe.


  1. Excellent review! Thanks. M&P has been on my list for a bit but "other" items seem to be coming up first. Heavy Sigh . . . .

  2. For smaller hands there's the M&P Shield that's single stack.

  3. I have a 9C with the external ambi safety. Wanted something like the 1911's controls. Funny thing though: the slide can be racked with the safety engaged. Very un-1911.

    Fine gun.

  4. The only other criticism I have is from an armorer's viewpoint, in that the M&P has several roll pins which have to be replaced when a complete maintenance dis-assembly is done. May not be an issue for most folks, but it does require the spare parts etc.

  5. My manager bought a M&P9 about two weeks ago, and he loves it.

    Me, I just bought a SIG-Sauer P228 for my first gun. I think it's a spectacular pistol (though you wouldn't know it from my shooting ;-) )and am very pleased with my purchase. Though if I ever decide to pick up a polymer-framed pistol, I'll definitely give the M&P a good hard look.

  6. Terrific review... but I'm curious... does tactical lip gloss come in bagon flavor?

    Dann in Ohio

  7. Ah, the M&P. A direct descendant of the Sigma and SW99. I simply love these things!

    I converted from the venerable 1911 platform to one of these after watching all the new kids running around at Blackwater with such stuff while I was running a 1911. Added motivation was the fact that the Colt was becoming a Family Heirloom. Time to get something not so valuable.

    Many rounds have been fired through mine and I simply love the thing. As you point out I don't have to pull the trigger to field strip, and backstraps make all the difference in the world. That is my only complaint with the Glock. I can't fix the grip. I have small hands for a male, I don't like the angle, ect.

    Of course, I replaced the trigger assembly with an Apex kit. The trigger got much smoother, yet retained the same trigger pull.

    The VTAC sights are impressive yet problematic. The fiber optics seem to want to come out, yet the Trijicon night sights are hanging in there. Customer service as you say has been terse but effective in these matters.

    Bottom line? I carry one. I trust it to go boom if I put my finger on the switch.

  8. Years ago, a friend lost a spring from his early model 60 S&W. He wrote them, and they sent him three replacements at no charge!
    Years later, I called Roy Jinks personally about a model 39-2 history question - he responded personally.
    Great customer service!
    Now if we could just get rid of the silly revolver locks!


  9. At the counter for my first plastic carry, to fill in an open slot on my Kali 'three gun only' CCW, I had the nice young lady lay out all of the nines. After pulling all of the triggers I bought a CZ P-07.
    I own a lot of S&W pistols and the CZ is real close to my 686 wheely in touch.
    About half of the pull on my 5904.
    Love your post,
    thanks Doc.

  10. A very fine and fun gun to shoot, and very accurate. I love mine, although I wish it was .40 instead of 9mm. Perhaps some trading is in the future but as I said I do love it!

  11. Nice pistols, but I can't shoot the damn things accurately... high right is the norm for me with any of the backstraps... Too many years shooting 1911s... sigh

  12. Great review! The M&P 9c is on my short list of CC replacements for my current pistol. Others on the list are the M&P Shield and the Kahr CM9.

  13. I really like the M&P and will probably purchase one as a carry gun in the Spring. Technical question. I know the Glock and the Ruger SRs can swap slides/barrels between 9 and 40. Can the M&Ps do the same trick. The idea being buy one and interchange mags and barrels as necessary.

  14. Brigid,
    Out here in Wyoming, we just had an interesting situation...

    A guy tried to rob a hair salon and produced a pistol. He fled when he noticed that one of the female clients had drawn her own weapon from her purse and had drawn down on him.

    Also, just as importantly, women need to think about holsters. Don't be like my boss's wife, the pharmacist, who kept her S&W snubbie loose in (the bottom of) her purse!

  15. I own and shoot several M&P pistols. A M&P standard, a M&P 5" Pro and a Shield. I think they're an excellent choice for all the reasons you so eloquently describe.

    As a small aside though, I had a male student with very small hands who could not comfortably shoot it even with the small back strap but was able to shoot a borrowed Glock 19 Gen 4 with their smallest back strap. The trigger reach was slightly shorter and enabled him to get a good grip. He could have made the M&P work but the G19 was less "make" work and easier for him to pay attention to the fundamentals instead of working against the tool.

  16. Love the MP9 platform! 9c is nice, 9Fs is even nicer to shoot, and then there is the MP22 which is just like the FS9 but in 22lr for practice!


    BTW, if you hadn't seen, Bob Munden passed away 2 days ago.

  17. Ma'am:

    Thank you for this review. Ishall give you my comment on the M&P--

    I am NOT a good pistol shot. I'm right handed, left eye dominant, wear bi-focals and have an astigmatism in both eyes. I also have arthritis in my hands and a permanent broken bone in my right arm. I love this pistol

    I was able, on first acquaintance, to put 32 out of 34 shots into a an 8" circle at 10 meters. I can hit with it, and I can handle both the weight and recoil with no problem. I can shoot it with reasonable accuracy.

    It's on my short list.

  18. "I've run into people that said they'd never carry a gun, if accosted by rapist/mugger they'd reason with them"

    Indeed. One also hears that giving the attacker what he wants will satisfy him and be the end of it.

    Such ideas should be labeled, "Harmful or fatal if swallowed."

    The key flaw in the logic, of course, is its assumption that an attacker shares your values. A much safer assumption is that he is:

    * A hardened sociopath who thinks taking what he wants by main force is not only okay but means you are more of a man;
    * Swacked out of his gourd on some kind of bug juice;
    * Well equipped with prey drive but not so much with impulse control; and
    * Acculturated to thinking that getting thrown in jail is a normal part of life and/or occupational hazard.

    Pick one or more.

    If you're really lucky, he recently spent a few years lifting weights, exchanging crime tips, and nursing grudges against society in whatever corner of the prison yard is controlled by his gang.

    Reason with him? Not from a position of weakness regardless of the circumstances. Certainly not after he's approached you in a dark parking lot or kicked your door down.

    And even if you're large, male, and know how to fight, you don't want to go hand to hand with such a one except as a last resort. You want the best weapon you can lay hands on.

    Doubtless everyone who would read a blog such as this one thinks I have a flabbergasting sense of the obvious, but just as obviously, not everyone out there Gets It. Many of these are nice people, even intelligent -- heck, I think of some of them as friends; they just haven't had as clear a glimpse of the bottom of the human condition, or are in denial about what they saw there. If they ever come in contact with it, one hopes they survive the experience.

    Whereupon their attitude toward self-defense and the tools thereof will likely be different...

  19. This looks like a wonderful piece! Oh how I wish that I had hands that were the size of adult hands, and fingers that were just a little bit longer. (I even asked the hand surgeon when he was fixing my wrists if he could make my fingers longer, but alas he said no) The only semi-automatic pistols that fit my tiny paws are the Sig P238 and others of that size, I've looked and looked...

  20. I have one of the compact 9 M & P's myself. Absolutely my favorite carry gun. Easy to control, accurate and concealable. In oversized pockets such as cargo shorts or pants it can be carried in the front pocket.

  21. I learn as much from my commenters as I do anything. Thank you all. Yes, I'd definitely buy another one!

  22. Sorry I'm late. I've shot Keads M+P, and I LOVE IT. But being on a Tight Budget, right now it's a No Go. Also, the Wife is still Hemmin' and Hawin' about which Semi-Auto she wants. But I have a "Cunning Plan." We're going to a Christmas Party this Weekend, and the Hostess is a Gunnie who owns one. She'll get a "Grip Test", and I'm hoping that she'll settle for it. We shall see.

  23. Our middle son bought a full-size M&P 9mm about a year before ye went active in the Navy. He and his bride shoot it equally well, and he's a Gunner's Mate who routinely cleans the courses-- she's 20, and very good! We all like it, and especially in the 9; more affordable practice (essential) and the ability to put multiple rounds where you want them very fast is a good thing; with high-end ammo statistics show limited gains with larger calibers. My budget right now allows my Taurus 709, and living in Illinois (soon to have CCW, allegedly) right now a concealed piece is useful on private property.

  24. So far, the M&P is the handgun that felt best in Marin's hand. We just haven't made it to the rental range to shoot on yet...


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