Smith & Wesson’s M&P .45 ACP Pistol

By David Tong

Smith & Wesson’s M&P .45 ACP Pistol</p>
Smith & Wesson M&P. Photo by David Tong.

While there are many of us “out there” who prefer our handguns to be made of some kind of ferrous alloy, we are dwindling in number it seems, as the majority of folks prefer some kind of plastic-framed sidearm, and the M&P is Smith & Wesson’s third shot at this, having produced the Glock rip-off Sigma and the oh-so-funky SW99 (from their engineering and marketing agreement with Carl Walther and their P99).

It hasn’t been produced very long, only since 2006 in .40S&W and 9mmP, and 2007 for the .45 version. There are an increasing number of American law enforcement agencies who have adopted the M&P, perhaps because of patriotism, over the predominant Glock platform, so since I had never had the opportunity to pull a trigger on one, I took up the offer graciously.

As everyone knows, the .45ACP is still the darling of the most elite members of our military and law enforcement communities, and plays a large part in the minds of regular Joes like us. The M&P statistics are thus:

  • Weight: 29.5 oz with empty magazine
  • Grip circumference: 5.5-5.6”
  • Grip thickness: 1.1”-1.3”
  • Barrel length: 4.6”
  • Trigger pull: 6lbs., 12 oz.
  • Trigger travel: 0.3”
  • Magazine capacity: 10 rounds

Compared to the Glock 21, which with I am very familiar, the M&P is thinner, has a different grip angle and feel, more comfortable trigger blade shape and has softly rounded contours on both its slide and frame. This was not achieved by accident, as S&W decided to keep the overall dimensions and feel of the .45 to be as close as possible to the 9mm/.40 version.

It achieves this mostly by carrying fewer of the big rounds, 10 versus 13 in the Glock, but also because the next wave of polymer framed handguns will probably all sport the removable back strap/side panel inserts to allow for different grip girths and trigger pull reach lengths. The grip, though having molded “stippling” is somewhat slippery in feel when shooting with one hand.

Sights are the near ubiquitous Novak 3-dot design made of steel, with tritium inserts as an option. Also optional is a 1911-like thumb safety, as is a key safety lock, both of which can be added or removed. The magazine catch is merely reversible, however, whereas most of its competitors, such as the Glock 21SF and the Springfield XDm, have now moved toward ambidextrous releases.

Shooting the pistol brought little surprise. I had no failures of any kind shooting mixed ammunition of FMJ and JHP persuasion and the 10 round magazines were easy to load by hand, without the aid of a loading tool. Sights were regulated, at least in my hands, for a six o’clock hold at 25 yards, the test piece printing approximately 2.5” to 3.5” five shot groups that hit about 3” high at that distance off the bench. Serviceable, but not outstanding.

I must comment here that I do not find any of the polymer/striker fired pistols to have very good triggers and the M&P unfortunately shares this observation. At nearly seven pounds, even if the release is creep free and the stroke and reset distances are short, this thing needs a trigger job, as even a Glock’s pull is better, being about two pounds lighter. The M&P’s entire trigger blade pivots to act as the safety block to negligent discharge.

To my way of reckoning, the 1911 is still King in this regard, but the CZ-75 is close in terms of cleanliness and reset length, while the SiG design is also very crisp, if longish in reset. This is primarily an issue when firing rapid pairs of shots, as most pistol trainers teach these days.

However, the comfort of having 11 rounds of .45 on tap, in a smoothly ovoid grip frame that points naturally and recoils softly, means that many will take to the M&P. Maybe the Performance Center can do something with the trigger to make it more acceptable to the dedicated shooter.

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Copyright 2010, 2011 by David Tong and/or All rights reserved.