Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm – A Transformational Overview

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Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm

It appears history does not favor the Smith & Wesson semi-automatic M&P. Reliability appears to be dismal; five generations of strikers, repeatable failures to extract, trigger fails to reset, involuntary magazine drops, etc. After preliminary research and discussion with M&P owners, I wondered why these pistols were still sought after. Check out this 28 page dedicated to problems with the S&W M&P!

A fan, dedicated reader of The Packing Rat, and close friend, Shenaniguns understood and acknowledged S&W’s quality control issues. However, he paid close attention to ToddG’s M&P Mondays at Pistol-Training.com. Given how hard ToddG shoots his pistols, it appears that the M&P is worthy of purchase. Shenaniguns also credits Apex Tactical Specialties for this purchase by having parts available to address common concerns/issues.

Shenaniguns couldn’t stop talking about the M&P he was about to buy six months ago. He talked so much about M&P, I dreamt about it.

I didn’t have to dream long. Nighttime shooting turned into reality – minus the smiley faces; Shenaniguns bought the full sized Smith & Wesson M&P chambered in 9mm Parabellum.

With the OEM pistol, he and I went to our LGR after work. He was pleased with the pistol, as was I. The M&P, California compliant with a chamber indicator and magazine disconnect, has interchangeable palmswells, a 4.5” barrel, “reinforced polymer chassis, superior ergonomics, ambidextrous controls, [and] proven safety features.” Also advertised, “In the design of the M&P, we considered the needs of military and law enforcement from every conceivable angle. No other polymer pistol offers this combination of versatility, durability and safety. ALL BACKED BY OUR SMITH & WESSON LIFETIME SERVICE POLICY.” I think the pistol’s rear and front sights were factory night sights.  Correction:  Factory dot front  sight, with Novak rear sight.

smith and wesson M&P 9mm right sidesmith and wesson M&P 9mm disassembledsmith and wesson M&P 9mm barrel

Perceived recoil flip was minimal using WWB 115gr. FMJ cartridges. The pistol was comfortable to hold and permitted a high grip, close to the barrel’s axis. I prefer the smaller palmswell. To replace it, twist the heel of the pistol 90˚ and pull down from the pistol. Grip slip was noticeable, but not severe. Trigger pull was satisfactory, but tactile perception was that of a twang; not a solid click. Trigger reset was less than desired. A soft reset was perceived along with a minor catch as I relaxed my trigger finger. I shot satisfactory groups at 7, 10 and 15 yards and my perception of the M&P was satisfactory, “Hm. Not bad.”

smith and wesson M&P 9mm backstrap changesmith and wesson M&P 9mm rear sightsmith and wesson M&P 9mm front sight

Shenaniguns, well aware of S&W’s quality control problems, had his M&P sent to Apex Tactical Specialties. Their mission; “superior parts, exceptional performance and craftsmanship, and above all, unparalleled customer service.” He purchased Apex’s Failure Resistant Extractor, and Duty/Carry Action Enhancement Kit. The parts were installed and the CA complaint magazine disconnect was removed by Apex as well.

smith and wesson M&P 9mm slide railssmith and wesson M&P 9mm barrel feed ramp

Soon after it was sent to Apex Tactical Specialties, Shenaniguns had Ray T. texture the grip. The texture was described as “full Tawakshi (Godzilla Skin) texture. Medium front and backstrap, fine on R&L sides.” The extra palmswell was textured, the undercut of the trigger guard was smoothed, thumb pads were added and the magazine release was also textured and rounded.  Ray also has a website, Broken Arrow Tactical, and more examples of his work.

Heinie Ledge Sights were also installed by Apex Tactical Specialties.

In my opinion, the Apex Specialty parts significantly enhanced tactile perception of the trigger. Resets were reduced and slightly more pronounced with no awkward twang feeling after the striker released. Shorter over-travel was another perceived benefit. I yet to experience any malfunctions; however, it was rather short. Noting other consumers’ experiences, the extractor appears to be a valid investment.

At the 2010 Gun Blogger Rendezvous.  I am the fellow in the green shirt.

Note the shooting times.  I shot with the M&P on all four introductory stages from low ready.  Also note some were shooting rimfire with optics.

Steel Challenge Stage Times

Stage Times From the Steel Challenge atThe Gun Blogger Rendezvous
Name #1 #2 #3 #4
Allen 16.77 6.02
Andrew 23.66 9.87
Ashley 102.23 50.29 89.13 9.20
Bea 68.90 112.00 55.33
Connie 120.00 120.00 120.00 65.50
David J. 30.99 25.71 40.03 16.81
David M. 33.54 30.44 71.03
Derek 21.01 13.05 24.24 5.69
Drang 68.22 29.28 9.53
KeeWee 21.41 14.45 23.37
Keith 33.35 44.80 56.52
Kevin 22.82 20.54 37.35 7.89
Lori 16.20 23.32 6.92
Mike 27.46 7.06
Molly 28.56
Mr. C. 15.00 10.03 13.15 4.64
Olav 23.11 17.10 36.61 4.63
Patricia 34.93 26.76 51.86 12.41
Skip 46.05 31.47 33.81
US Citizen 27.35 46.42 6.05

My initial impression of the textured grips was mixed. Grip slip is non-existent.  Texture is enough – not too rough. I like it. On the other hand, I believe the texture would wreck havoc on my dress shirts and suit jacket should I carry this pistol. Your mileage may vary should decide to have your firearm textured. Personally, I think grip slip wasn’t severe enough to warrant the texture job; though it didn’t hurt.

smith and wesson M&P 9mm rear sight alignmentsmith and wesson M&P 9mm pistol grip

The magazine floor plates appear to be too big. Reminded me of the Ruger Mark series pistol magazines – they get caught on anything imaginable. Reportedly, they’re also prone to break.

smith and wesson M&P 9mm glock 19 magazine

Others have also reported slide auto-forward. I consistently experienced this at an introduction to Steel Challenge at Gun Blogger Rendezvous 2010. I was not accustomed to this. I initially thought it was a mechanical error; however, discovered it’s the placement of my index finger. During reloads, I rest my finger along the frame, just below the ambidextrous slide catch. Inserting a new magazine, I often slam it through the magazine well to ensure it’s securely seated. Anticipating the force, I alter my shooting grip slightly, which evidently rolls my index finger up. Is that weird? I imagine this might be true for other shooters.

smith and wesson M&P 9mm hand comparisonsmith and wesson M&P 9mm handgrip

Overall, I was satisfied with the brief experience I had with a bone stock Smith & Wesson M&P. It had some quirks, but I understand why others prefer the ergonomics of the M&P as opposed to a Springfield xD or a GLOCK. Quality control issues at Smith & Wesson are still a concern, but now appear to be unwarranted given ToddG’s experience. Should one buy an M&P, I highly recommend the Apex Tactical Specialty parts; expect immediate perceived improvement. Reliability appears to be a shoo-in.

Bottom line?  I wouldn’t consider buying an OEM M&P and take the time and effort to have someone install the Apex Tactical Specialties DCAEK. However, should I find a used M&P with properly installed Apex Tactical Specialty parts, I might buy it. FYI.  At the time of this writing, I’m very much a 10mm fanboy, thus precluding me to bother with any 9mm firearms. 😉

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9 Comments on “Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm – A Transformational Overview”

  1. Shenaniguns
    October 10, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    Sweet review, more details listed here:
    http://mp-pistol.com/boards/index.php?showtopic=25202&st=0&gopid=252119&#entry252119

    We’ll also update after the Reset Assist Mechanism and have a part 2 after the fitted Bar-Sto 🙂

  2. Bob
    May 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    Where do I get orange hands like that?

    • May 15, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

      Color correct to desired pigmentation in your favorite photo editing program. jjj

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