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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.