S&W M&P .45 Compact, by Pat Cascio

Today, I’m writing about Smith & Wesson’s M&P .45 Compact. This is the “older” M&P rather than the 2.0 version.

Smith & Wesson

I used to be a huge S&W fan. I still love their guns, but over the years their customer service just isn’t what it used to be. So, whenever I have a S&W firearm, I know that I’m pretty much on my own if something goes wrong with it. Last time, S&W wanted $88 to repair something that was covered under the warranty. I told them to keep the gun. Instead, they returned it still broken!

S&W is still a leader in the firearms industry. There is no doubt about that at all. And, they are making a very strong come back in the law enforcement arena, which they used to pretty much own until Glock came on the scene. Still, S&W is doing great with their M&P line-up of handguns and AR-style rifles.

Older Version M&P .45 ACP Compact Model

Though this article is about their older M&P .45 ACP Compact model, Smith just recently released their 2.0 version of their M&P 9mm handgun, though I haven’t yet seen one. When all things are considered in talking about “compact” guns in .45 ACP, their M&P Shield .45 ACP is much more compact than the full-sized version. It only gives up two rounds, but that’s another gun for review at a later date.S&W M&P 45 Compact

Barrel and Frame

The .45 Compact comes with a 4-inch stainless steel barrel and stainless steel slide, which is coated in something they call Armornite. Armornite is a nice, evenly applied subdued black coating that is super tough to resist the elements. The frame is black polymer with texturing in all the right places for a sure grip.

When looking at any polymer framed handgun, I believe we have to look at the weight savings factor compared to a handgun with an all-steel or aluminum frame. The M&P .45 Compact weighs in at 27.5 oz. It could have been lighter in weight, but the slide is a little on the wide side, which aids in reducing recoil because of the weight. The slide has serrations for ease of retracting it, to chamber a round or clear a malfunction. The slide also has the very popular three dot, white sight set-up. It’s very fast to pick-up under stress. The gun also has three different sized back straps, which are easy to change. One will surely fit your hand. I put the small back strap on and never looked back.


Two magazines come with the .45 Compact. Both hold eight rounds of .45 ACP. One has a flat magazine base pad, and the other, while still holding 8-rds, has a slightly extended magazine base pad. Hands down, the extended base pad wins, and it is only ever so slightly longer, still affording great concealability. I’ve tried to find after-market extended mag base pads. There are none to be found to replace the flat one, and I don’t see it on the ***S&W website***www.smith-wesson.com either. My pinky finger only has about half of it on the flat mag base pad. That is not good enough for a firm grip.S&W M&P 45 Compact

Striker-fired Handgun

Of course, this gun is striker-fired, which is all so popular on polymer framed handguns. I’m still not 100% sold on striker-fired guns over a hammer-fired handgun. I’ve had more misfires with striker-fired handguns than I’ve ever had with hammer-fired handguns. Take it for what it’s worth. Test any ammo you plan on carrying in your handgun before you bet your life on it. Be advised.

Safety and Trigger

My M&P .45 Compact has an ambidextrous thumb safety that is easy to snick on and off. Some models can be hard without this feature. I don’t use it, so it doesn’t matter to me. The pivoting two-piece trigger is all the safety I need, plus the one between my ears. You have to have a pretty deliberate finger placement on the trigger, before you can fire the gun. So I’m not overly concerned with the gun firing accidentally with the safety off. Still, the safety is there if I want it.

The massive external extractor should be able to pull out any stuck empty brass in the chamber. And, the top rear portion of the barrel has a hole in it, so you can visually check and see if there is brass in the chamber. The hole is too small for my aged eyes to see into it. There is also an ambi slide release-– one on either side of the slide. That is nice, very nice.


The gun is easy to break down, or field strip, for routine cleaning, too. Simply remove the magazine; make sure there isn’t a round in the chamber of the barrel. Then pull back on the slide to lock it open, using the slide release/stop. Once that is done, you simply push down on the take-down lever on the left side of the gun, then slowly release the slide. It will stop. At that point, you must pull the trigger, and the slide comes off the frame. Then remove the full-length recoil spring/guide and barrel. It’s just that simple.

Trigger Guard and Picatinny Rails

The trigger guard is rounded. There is none of this squared-off foolishness that was so popular for the longest time, along with placing your trigger finger of your off-hand in front of the trigger guards. I never figured out why that caught on. We also have Picatinny style rails on the dust cover of the frame for attaching a light or laser. It’s very nicely done!S&W M&P 45 Compact

Trigger Pull

The trigger pull is about 6-lbs even, but it doesn’t feel bad at all, after you take-up the slack. There is a crisp trigger break, making for more accurate shooting. One thing that is worth mentioning is that, with the thumb safety applied, you can operate the slide to either chamber a round or eject a round with no fears of the gun going off. The magazine release, while I’d like it to be a little bit larger, does the job.


When the gun is unloaded, it feels a little bit barrel heavy. It’s just like many other polymer-framed pistols. However, with a fully loaded magazine, the gun balances nicely. And, during live fire, you simply don’t notice the gun getting barrel heavy at all. So, if you check on of these guns out at the local gun shop, don’t let that slight front end heaviness put you off at all.

Ammo Used for Testing

I had an outstanding array of .45 ACP ammo to run through the M&P .45 Compact, too. From Black Hills Ammunition, I had their 200-gr Match Semi Wad Cutter, 230-gr FMJ, 185-g JHP, 230-gr JHP, 230-gr JHP +P, and their 185-gr Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point +P. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had their 160-gr Barnes TAC-XP, low-recoil stand pressure all-copper hollow point, 185-gr FMJ FN standard pressure, 255-gr Outdoorsman Hard Cast FN +P, 230-gr FMJ FN +P, 230-gr JHP +P, and their 185-gr Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point +P load. So, this was a great sampling of ammo for self defense on the streets, out in the boonies against 4-legged threats, and for just punching paper.S&W M&P 45 Compact

Testing Protocol

In all my testing, I fired more than 500-rds through the M&P .45 Compact. There wasn’t a hint of a malfunction with any of the ammo, and the gun wasn’t cleaned or lubed after I initially cleaned and lubed it. I did my accuracy testing at 25-yrds, using a rolled-up sleeping bag over the hood of my pickup truck. If I did my part, I could easily hold three-inch groups all day long with most of the loads. There were two standouts. The most accurate load was the Buffalo Bore 160-gr TAC-XP low-recoil load.

While it shot a little bit low, because it is a light-weight bullet, it grouped under three inches. Second up was the Black Hills 230-gr FMJ load, which is always a great load for me. It was ever so slightly behind the Buffalo Bore load. Both loads were consistently under three inches, but I think the gun can do better, a lot better, if I could stay on my game. All shooting was done over two shooting sessions. I got a bit fatigued, and I know it hurt my scores.


I carried the S&W M&P .45 Compact for more than a month in a Blackhawk Products leather hip holster. It kept the gun high and tight against my body, which is very nice. There are no safety straps, but you can adjust how snug you want the gun to fit by simply turning a screw. The gun never gave a hint of wanting to fall out of the holster. Many people don’t realize that Blackhawk sells fine leather holsters that are made in Italy. Check ‘em out on their website. The costs are very reasonable too. I was also testing out a new leather gun belt from Springfield Armory  It is one tough son-of-a-gun and will last you 20 years or more, with a little care.S&W M&P 45 Compact

Nothing To Complain About

Try as I might, I just couldn’t find much of anything to complain about with this Smith, and I was really looking for something to fault with the gun. But the thing just perked along all day long, and it didn’t matter what kind or make of ammo I fed it, it gobbled it all up and begged for more. This gun is a nice size for not only concealed carry, but it would do double duty as a uniform gun as well. It’s great for the city or out in the boonies, and it would certainly do well as a survival weapon for when the SHTF.

Cost and Availability

In my neck of the woods, this gun is $499. But check around to see if you can find it for a little less. Spare magazines are selling for $29.99 each. They are stainless steel and fairly easy to load, too. I guess I don’t have to worry too much about any problems with this gun or sending it back to S&W for service. It’s one very nice gun. And, if you want the full-sized version, go for it. It holds two more rounds, but it is harder to conceal. I can do without two more rounds and keep the concealability.


  1. I’ve always been a fan of the 45ACP and have carried one 7 days a week for the last 8 years although not a S&W it is a full sized 45 and printed to much under my sport coat when going to Church, so I decided to go for something smaller. So even though I’m getting somewhat off subject I just wanted to get this in before this deal runs out, S&W has a rebate deal that runs through the end of June and Palmetto Armory has a real good price with free shipping on the S&W 9MM Shield. I bought one and it runs great. So Hurry!!! Trekker Out

  2. Having also disappointedly owned S&W firearms in the past, I have to say there are better guns out there for less money and better service than what you get with S&W. You are still paying for the name, albeit quite tarnished since the Dirty Harry glory days. Being frugal, I believe in getting my money’s worth. Sadly, I’ve never felt that was the case with S&W, or Colt for that matter. You can do better for less.

  3. Cabelas has been running this gun on sale recently for $395 and if you buy before the end of the month, S&W is offering a $75 mail in rebate.

    1. MR $395 at Cabelas -$75 brings it down to $320 plus shipping. At Palmetto it’s $320 before the rebate and free shipping. Trekker Out.

  4. I will second the sentiment on S&W firearms…over the years…many since I am 68 now…I have had more S&W products in which I was disappointed than any other brand…I just purchased a S&W CORE pistol which is failing to go fully into battery occasionally…am hoping it will cure itself with more break-in. Also bought a S&W M&P 15 piston AR several years ago which is not dependable with about 75% of the ammo I tried which by the way runs just fine in my other AR’s and also Mini 14’s…just food for thought

  5. As always Pat, I’m a fan of your reviews. My only experience with a S&W M&P hand gun was a .40 that I bought from a friend. It was also my first striker fired handgun. Not being use to the trigger pull I became frustrated after a few sessions and sold the gun to my local gun store to replace it with an older Ruger P series .40 caliber. Looking back I regret getting rid of the gun, but not too much. I’ve bought a couple of Ruger striker fired guns and seem to be doing fine with them. I’m still looking to try out a Kahr next. Is an S&W M&P in my future? Not sure, but the review on the compact 45 has me thinking

  6. I use the M&P Compact in 9mm for my EDC. Very pleased. It conceals well enough, is comfortable IWB, and holds 12 rds. with the factory magazine (expandable to 18).
    Only trouble I’ve had w/ ejection or stovepipe on a round was some reloaded ammo I made. When running quality factory ammo (none of that walmart junk!), it’s been flawless over more than 2500 rds.

    1. The company was under different leadership back then. In 2001, they came under new leadership which has worked hard to rehabilitate the company. I’ve carried a .40 M&P as a LEO and as a private citizen after leaving the business several years ago. I now carry a.40 Shield as EDC and have never had a problem with either weapon.

  7. I’d like to hear a Pat review on a Kahr, from what my customers are telling me it takes Maximum lubrication to make them work reliably, which makes it a range only gun.

  8. I just traded in my beautiful S&W stainless 686 and added $200 to get one of these bad boys for carry. This is an awesome firearm. It was between the H&K Compact .45 or the M&P .45 and for $500 less I’m not one bit disappointed I chose the Smith and Wesson. This is definitely a fine hand gun. Nice article.

  9. I have a S&W Compact in .40cal S&W. Never had any issues with it, although beyond the break in 300 Rd’s have not used it as much as my other pistols. Right now it sits in my bugout backpack with a KelTec Sub 2000 also in .40 cal. Between those 2 weapons I should be able to handle most unwanted confrontations.

  10. I, too, have had my experience with a S&W M&P .40cal. It can be finicky with ammo, and extraction/stovepipes. Have not had those issues with my Beretta 96, Springfield XD, or even my Kel-Tec PF9. Reliability is THE only concern for me. If needed it MUST work.

  11. I owned the fullsize M&P45 and I loved it. I shot any and all cheap ammo out of it, including steel cased tula and it shot perfect. It was a very very easy gun to shoot and control. It was also very accurate, i dont shoot for tiny groups but i could eat small targets out to 70 yards no problem.
    I sold it to get the compact. So if its anything like the fullsize im sure i will be happy.

  12. I own and carry this weapon. I also own the S&W M&P 45 2.0. I like both very much but as far as a conceal and carry weapon, the 45 compact with a DM Bullard dual carry holster made with Herman Oak leather is my choice. The 45 compact is very dependable with any ammo I’ve shot. Thanks for the article. Any suggestions for a holster for the M&P 45 2.0?

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