Smith & Wesson’s M&P pistol line has earned a reputation over the last few years as a reliable, simple and comfortable handgun for any duty, sport or self-defense need. The M&P9 Compact model further specializes in the defensive role, making it one of the best buys on the market today.
The S&W M&P9c is a compact, semiautomatic 9mm pistol. It weighs less than 22 ounces and carries 12 rounds per magazine. It is striker-fired and includes a variety of standard and optional safeties. At only 4.3 inches tall, and with a 3.5-inch barrel it is a breeze to conceal.
Ergonomics and Controls
The M&P9 Compact’s greatest strength is its simplicity and comfort. With its smooth lines and corners, there are no sharp edges and it does not feel blocky. The grip angle is what most shooters consider normal, and the backstrap shape is a smooth curve.
The M&P9c’s grip straps are replaceable and each pistol includes three size options. The small size is very thin and merely follows the contours of the grip. The large size adds a nice amount of palm swell and a bit of depth and texture for the web of your hand. The medium splits the difference in size without the extra web portion at the top. I like the medium grip strap best. The size is right for my palm, and it provides just enough contact for the heel of my support hand.
Each of the safeties on the basic model are passive, meaning that pulling the trigger to the rear disengages each one before firing the pistol. You are free to focus on getting the pistol up and making good hits, since no other external controls are necessary to fire the gun. The trigger on the M&P line is not mushy like many other striker-fired pistols and it is easy to shoot well. For those who are interested, there are drop-in aftermarket parts that will make the M&P trigger the best in its class of striker-fired guns.
The magazine release is a good size and is easy to operate. The textured and contoured slide stop/release makes locking the slide back or releasing it with your thumb easy. The slide stop is ambidextrous and the magazine release is reversible, making the M&P an excellent choice for left-handed shooters. The grasping grooves on the rear of the slide are the best design I have seen. They are attractive, low profile, and provide excellent grip. The dust cover area of the frame features a Picatinny-style rail for attaching compact lights or lasers.
Each M&Pc comes with two magazines. One mag has a flush-fit baseplate while the other has an extended base that S&W calls the Finger Rest. I’m not a fan of having my little finger wrap under the butt of the magazine, so for each extra magazine I order, I will get them with the Finger Rest.
Smith & Wesson obviously put a lot of thought into the safety options of the M&P lineup. All M&P pistols include a trigger safety, a firing pin block, a loaded chamber window, and a sear disconnect lever for safe disassembly. Because of the trigger safety, unless you pull the trigger, the gun will not fire. The M&P9c’s safety feels best to me because it gives a flat trigger face as opposed to a split face with a centered safety lever. The firing pin block protects against accidental discharge due to mechanical failure and the loaded chamber witness hole allows you to verify easily the status of the pistol at a glance.
When taking down the M&P, the built-in safety impresses me. Everyone should know to make sure that a gun is empty and clear before disassembly. Yet every few months we hear of a negligent discharge during pistol disassembly because the user “thought it was unloaded.” S&W has attempted to combat this issue with smart engineering. The M&P will not disassemble without retracting the slide and locking it down to the rear. Only then will the takedown lever rotate down. If there is a round in the chamber, retracting the slide will remove it. With the slide locked back, you can reach into the ejection port to lower the sear disconnect lever. This allows you to remove the slide without requiring you to pull the trigger as you do with most other striker-fired guns. To restate what should be obvious: any firearm disassembly must begin with clearing the weapon. I appreciate that S&W took steps to foolproof this procedure for the M&P line.
In addition to the safety features standard on all M&P pistols, some also include additional safety features. The M&P9c is available with an ambidextrous thumb safety. This is a good option if you are not comfortable carrying a pistol without a manual safety. It’s also a benefit if you’re accustomed to shooting a 1911 and like using the safety lever as a thumb shelf. The lever is placed and sized appropriately for this use and will help some thumbs keep from preventing slidelock on an empty mag. S&W also provides models with magazine disconnect safeties and internal locks for customers in those jurisdictions that require them.
The M&P9c is easily one of the most durable pistols ever made. The metal parts are all stainless steel, treated with S&W’s super-hard Melonite process and blackened. The M&P routinely outlasts many other duty-style pistols in high round-count training environments. The design’s reputation is such that it is one of the few pistols you can expect not to have issues with in extreme conditions. The fact is the M&P will outshoot and outlast most of its owners. Because of this reputation, and the fact more and more police departments are switching to M&Ps from their other polymer-framed guns, aftermarket parts and accessories are getting easier and easier to find. If you are in the market for a compact pistol, the M&P9 Compact really should be the first thing you check out.
Do you have an M&P pistol? What do you find are the pros and cons of the design? Tell us in the comment section.