Full Size, Striker-Fired 9mm Pistol Roundup (Ruger American, Ruger SR-9, Remington RP9, S&W M&P9 M2.0)
Along with Armalite-platform rifles and entry-level bolt action rifles, the striker-fired 9x19mm semi-automatic pistol category is a spectacularly crowded one. I have tested far too many to list here, but in this article I am covering the Ruger SR9, Ruger American, Remington RP9 and S&W MP9 M2.0.
The blocky Glock has been an outstandingly reliable self-defense implement. It set the standard and changed the industry for good. The Glock safe-action blade in the center of the trigger (or something similar) has been copied by almost every firearm manufacturer. Beretta goes the same route with their new APX striker-fired 9mm pistol.
While the entire crop of polymer-framed, striker-fired 9s owe a debt to the Glock, the Glock in turn owes something to the Browning Hi-Power, designed between 1914-1926 by John Browning (John Browning passed in 1926) and 1926-1935 by Dieudonne' Saive, FN's chief weapons designer. It was Mr. Savie who developed the double-stack magazine for the P-35 Hi-Power.
The tilt-barrel (Browning short recoil operated) design employed in all of these pistols does not promote great accuracy, compared to more rigid, fixed barreled designs. Pistols are individuals, just as much as rifles and shotguns and accuracy is contingent on the ammo. However, all of these examples are capable of two to four inch 25 yard accuracy, and in the two inch area (8 MOA) with their favored ammo.
However, no one uses a Ransom rest for self-defense and 25 yards is not a self-defense range in many precincts. Although accuracy is a perpetual topic, you won't find much in the way of accuracy guarantees on handguns.
MOA accuracy is trendy in rifles, but MOA at 25 yards is 0.26175 inches and service autoloaders are inherently incapable of achieving this. My most-used hunting handgun is a scoped Ruger Super Redhawk .44 Remington Magnum revolver that groups inside 1-1/2 inch (1.5 MOA) at 100 yards with 240 grain Hornady XTP rounds.
RUGER AMERICAN and SR-9
I have no qualms whatever about the build quality and durability of the Ruger American and I appreciate its easy dis-assembly and good trigger. Little tidbits, such as not having to dry fire the pistol to disassemble it, are niceties, if trivial. However, I am left with a less than stellar feeling about the gun. It isn't the accuracy, for it is essentially a three inch 25 yard gun with the right ammo. The problem is the grip, which is just too wide and uncomfortable.
The early Ruger SR9's had truly horrid triggers, but that has been rectified. I have a particular disdain for external safety levers on a Glock-esque handgun, but I found the SR9 to be extremely soft-shooting and actually a better, more pleasant handgun than the Ruger American.
By direct comparison, the Ruger SR-9 (that I have been shooting for six years) is about a quarter pound lighter, yet far softer-shooting, than the American. While both of these handguns are full-size service pistols, the SR-9 is slimmer, lighter, a lot more comfortable and just plain fun to shoot.
The Remington RP9 is the newest of the bunch. It is actually a very well made, competent pistol with the allure of a lifetime warranty. However, I found a few flaws. The magazines are excessively wide for a 9mm, with a large gap in front of the loaded rounds, and it balks with flyweight loads (100 grain bullets and lighter), although that is to be expected with a full-size 9mm that is +P rated.
It scores well in the value department. Right now, you can get the RP9 for $339, or less. There is a glut of firearms on the market at present, making it a buyers' market like I have not seen in the last decade.
The RP9 is a credible first effort by Remington. It would be negligent to fail to note the Glock 17 has been out for 35 years and the new S&W MP9 has seen its recent major face-lift after a decade, so I would expect refinement in the RP9 in the future.
As is, I am not a fan of the excessive gap in the magazines, but I have no functional issues to report. While certainly not my favorite 9mm, it is bargain-priced with clean machining and a massive beaver-tail that eliminates any chance of slide-bite.
S&W M&P9 M2.0
The new M&P9 M2.0 addresses most everything that I personally don't care for in the Glock 17 Gen4: steel magazines, no finger ridges in the front of the grip, no blade in the center of the trigger, a better stippled texture all around the grip and four back straps that make it easy to find the fit for which most shooters are looking. I think it is S&W's best pistol to date and it is the pistol that challenges the supremacy of the Glock 17.
To show how things have progressed, the all steel, luster blued Hi-Power (mentioned above in the introduction to this article and still in production) weighs two pounds and has a 2017 MSRP of $1119.99. The S&W MP9 weighs a pleasant, by comparison, 1.54 pounds and carries a $599.00 MSRP.
The conclusion here is a modest one. We are fortunate, today, to have such a wide selection of pistols from which to choose, at very attractive prices.
The Sig Sauer P320 deserves a mention, although it is not covered here, as on January 19, 2017, it was announced that the SIG Sauer P320 MHS won the United States Military's Modular Handgun System trials. (The Glock 17 Gen4 was the other finalist and also deserves an Honorable Mention.) The P320 is the "M17" in U.S. Military service.
Some readers identify with pistols more as "lifestyle brands" than others. This is an aberration to which I have never subscribed. While pistols may be touted as fitting 80%, 90%, or 95% of all individuals, that still leaves a goodly number of folks they do not fit. It is always good to try before you buy and a fun session at the range of your local pro shop will often quickly reveal, not what is the mythical best, but far more importantly, what is best for you and your unique application.
There is a winner, in my personal terms, and that is the S&W MP9 M2.0. It is the first 9mm handgun in many years that has left me completely satisfied.
It is unlikely that you will be forced to use a firearm on a human being to save a life. I have been in that situation only once. It worked and I am glad I had a pistol and so was my wife. It happened to be a IJ-70 Makarov .380 and it was more than good enough to get the job done.
As a nightstand gun and for fun at the range, the S&W MP9 M2.0 hits the mark in all the right places. It may not be your vision of the ideal full-sized 9mm, but it is worth anyone's consideration.
Copyright 2017 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.