Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The M & P 9 - Practical Tactical

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"

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 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.

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 prevents 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 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 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 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.


  1. "reason" with the punk - reminds of of the story about the missionary trying to reason with the cannibals - from inside the stew pot...

  2. Gotta say I love my full size 9mm M&P. That is my go to carry gun when I do. I also did get the apex trigger for it to deal with the trigger issues but now it shoots fine. I also have to agree the changeability of the grip is nice and it is very easy. Once I got my ego out of the way and put a smaller grip on it I was shooting much better : )

  3. My usual carry is the M&P Shield, 9 mm, and of course in the Peoples Republic of New York, we are only allowed 10 round magazines. My cousin, who is a walking talking encyclopedia on all things firearms, has been trying to talk me into going with a 1911 for carry. However, like you mentioned in this post, if I have reason to pull out my gun in a life or death situation, I don't want to stop and think, okay there are two safeties here did I get both of them???

  4. A prettier, American made Glock if you will. I just hate the name. M&P is a four or six inch .38 Spl revolver.

  5. My 9s' are all CZ. Good guns but shooting my grandsons M&P has me shopping.
    Nice review, Doc.

  6. Nice, balanced review. If I didn't already have a Ruger SR9c that fills the same role, I'd definitely consider one. Or, rather, if I need an additional 9mm for CC, I will definitely consider one.

    And though the SR9c has an external safety, it gets flipped to "hot mode" as soon as it goes in the holster. Because I want all my carry guns to work the same. Pull gun, aim, pull trigger, go bang. Repeat last three steps as necessary.


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