The Smith and Wesson M+P. For a female shooter, or anyone considering something a little smaller 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"
"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 cousin's 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 someone's 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 the blog, to recommend something for concealed but not necessarily for a first-time shooter.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 suggests 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 , and could be stronger.
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 personally, 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.