S&W M&P .40 Pistol, by Pat Cascio

I spent a good portion of my life lusting after the newest and coolest firearms that came on the market. I used to haunt quite a few gun shops in the Chicago area, Colorado Springs, Colorado, all over Oregon, and some other spots. Needless to say, there was no way I could afford to purchase all the firearms I wanted – and I still can’t. Most gun writers that I know can’t purchase all the guns they would like to have – not on their salaries – believe me, I know! We are fortunate, in that, if we are well-known in the industry, they will send us firearms for testing, and at the end of the “on-loan” period, we either have to return the firearms, or we are given the opportunity to purchase the same. Of course, the gun makers give us a fairly good price – after all, we are purchasing “used” firearms, and they really don’t want to have to re-stock used guns. It’s a fair deal all the way around. Still, we can’t afford to purchase all the gun samples we’d like to – sad to say!

Many gun writers that I know work other jobs, and writing about firearms is a secondary income. And, believe it or not, gun writers, don’t make nearly as much money as you think we do. I used to work full-time at writing about guns – one of the few writers in the business. These days, I call myself semi-returned – although it seems like a full-time job. Up until this month, I usually wrote five articles per month for SurvivalBlog.com – and it takes up a lot of my time. My wife is a retired school teacher, so we live on a very modest income these days. So, I’m extremely limited in the number of gun samples that I can now purchase. Fortunately, over the years, I’ve “collected” a very modest gun collection, and I write about many of those guns – the newest guns on the market are on loan, and many times I’m forced to return the samples. I just can’t afford to purchase them.

My former employer, Col. Rex Applegate had two favorite gun companies. He loved the Smith & Wesson and Ruger brands of handguns. Both brands had also been favorites of mine, even before I met Applegate. During those early years when I started writing, S&W was coming out with, a new handgun variant a week, or so it seemed. I often found that UPS was bringing me a box full of new handguns to test and write about. I mean, I would literally I’d get a box with half a dozen or more handguns in it, almost weekly.

Today, we are looking at the S&W M&P .40 S&W full-sized handgun. This particular model has been discontinued, in favor of the improved model, a Gen 2 version, if you will. However, there is nothing obsolete about this M&P version – it was and still is a fine handgun for duty use, or even for a concealed carry piece. Glock just about owns the U.S. law enforcement market, with their fine line of handguns. However, over the past couple of years, S&W and SIG Sauer have made inroads. Our own US Military adopted the SIG Sauer P320 — as the M17/M18 — and this was a real feather in the cap of SIG. I can’t find anything to fault with the new SIG 9mm pistol, and I believe it is a better pistol than the Beretta M9 that it is replacing. That is just my two cents worth.

Some police departments (PDs) around my area, and around the rest of Oregon, are still carrying the Glock 17 or 19 models – again, a great choice. However, many are still clinging to whatever their department issued. However, many more decided that if the new SIG Sauer was good enough for our military, then it was time to purchase those pistols. A lot of it comes down to whatever the FBI is issuing, then they are good enough for the PDs. Then we also have many PDs issuing the same ammo that the FBI issues to their Agents. A lot of this comes down to that many PDs and individual officers just want the newest and coolest handguns on the market – don’t really blame them. However, it is usually the taxpayers who are paying for their next guns.

The S&W M&P is an outstanding handgun in many ways. And, just because the local PD decided to trade those guns in for the newest and coolest handgun, in no way makes the M&P obsolete. Still, many PDs traded their duty guns in for either the Gen 2 models or for some other make. And, this is great news for us gun owners. I picked up this particular M&P used – but 99% as-new – at my local gun shop, for $300. That was a steal-of-a-deal if you ask me. Yeah, the Gen 2 versions have a slightly better trigger pull. However, I don’t find the trigger pull on the original model to be a handicap at all.


Some specifications are in order for this particular handgun: As already mentioned, it is chambered in .40 S&W, and it holds 15-rounds of ammo in the magazine – and they come from the factory with two magazines. This model has no thumb safety, and it is not needed. The barrel is 4.25-inches long. It came with tritium night sights – front and rear – nice! Of course, like most polymer-framed handguns today, it is striker-fired. It comes with three interchangeable grip panels, so you can make the gun better fit your hand. The barrel is stainless steel, and the slide has what S&W calls a black Melonite coating – tough stuff. The gun weighs 27.9 ounces unloaded, so it is in the same weight range as many other polymer-framed handguns. There is also a Picatinny rail on the dust cover, so you can add a light and/or laser. The slide stop/lock is ambidextrous – another nice touch.

My Shooting Tests

I experimented with the palm swell interchangeable pieces – the large one was too large for my large hands, and it was a real chore, trying to find out if I liked the middle or small hand swell best – however, I settled on the middle-sized one in the end.

The original load in .40 S&W was a 180-gr. bullet, in FMJ or JHP – and it was, and still is a good load for self-defense. However, a lot of ammo makers have come out with a lot of different loads for the .40 S&W handguns. I’ve had this particular handgun for a while, and I’ve shot it a lot – and I mean a lot. I’ve lost count of the rounds I’ve put through it – probably at least 1,500 rounds of factory ammo – and I have never had a malfunction of any type. From Remington and Winchester, I fired a lot of their 180 and 165 grain ammo through it – never a problem. I did have some 180-gr lead UltraMax brand reloads and had one problem – and it was not the fault of the gun. I believe the one round was too hot, and it blew the case head completely off. The rest of the brass was stuck in the chamber, and the head of the case fell at my feet. I wrote to UltraMax several times, and sent them pictures. They never responded. I’ve never purchased any of their ammo since then.

From the nice folks at Black Hills Ammunition, I had their 155-grain JHP, 140-grain Barnes Tax-XP, 180-grain JHP, and their 115-grain HoneyBadger. I had no problems with any of their ammo, and I’ve been using their ammo for 30 years in my gun article tests. The 180-grain was about what I expected – it is fairly tame. However, their 155-grain JHP – that load got my attention. The 140-grain Barnes Tac-XP – another great load. But in my .40 S&W handguns that I carry, from time-to-time, I use the 115-grain HoneyBadger load – this is a solid copper bullet, that has flutes cut into the bullet – very effective for self-defense. I’m currently down on all calibers of Black Hills Ammunition, due to the ammo shortage, that is ongoing. And, I’ve told Black Hills to fill the orders for their paying customers, before sending me any ammo for my articles.

The M&P is a great pistol in the accuracy department…at 25-yards, with the gun rested over a sleeping bag, over the hood of my Dodge Ram pickup, I got 3.25 inch groups without any trouble, or without trying very hard. When I hunkered down, I got some groups just under 3-inches with the180-grain and 140-grain Barnes Tac-XP. The best accuracy from the S&W M&P .40 was the 155-grain JHP load – and the 115-grain HoneyBadger was right on the tail of the Barnes load. You can’t ask for better than that.

Fortunately, there are still a lot of police department trade-in pistols out there, and prices vary, depending on the condition of the guns. However, I checked around and most are going for $325 and up, so if you’re in the market for a nice .40 S&W chambered handgun, and you find a S&W M&P, then it might be just what you’re looking for.