Back in the day, I used to be a huge fan of S&W firearms. It was usually my preferred choice in a handgun. However, over the years, some of S&W politics turned me off, as well as a few times I encountered poor customer service. S&W is less political these days, and their customer service is said to be better. Today, we’re checking out the M&P 9mm Compact semi-auto, and it’s a real dandy for concealed carry.
I’m not really bashing S&W these days. Far from it – the old guard at S&W made some bad business decisions some years ago, under the Clinton Presidency, and it cost them a lot of business. Make no mistake, Smith & Wesson, still produces some of the best handguns to be had. S&W has taken a big chunk of business from Glock, with their M&P handgun line – available in .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. The county sheriff’s department in my area switched from Glocks to the M&P. The deputies I’ve talked to say that they prefer the M&P over the Glock, in a big way. And, I’m not knocking Glock, they set the tone for polymer framed guns back in the mid 1980s. I own more than a few Glocks myself, and I love ‘em, too.
When it comes to the S&W M&P line-up, you can have many of the models in a full-sized duty form, or in a more compact (and subcompact) handgun for concealed carry. I’ve owned all three sizes in nearly all the calibers. I really like the full-sized 9mm and .45 ACP models. When it comes to a .45 ACP I love the M&P Shield, and I can be caught carrying it quite often. It just fits my hand perfectly and feels great. I’ve owned the M&P Shield in 9mm and .40 S&W too – but I prefer the .45 ACP over those two calibers–even though the .45 ACP version is a bit bigger.
Let’s take a quick look at the specs on the M&P 9mm Compact version: Of course, it is chambered in 9mm and can handle all the +P ammo you want to fire through it. It comes with two mags, each holding 12 rounds. On the pinky catcher mag, I added some skate board friction tape, so that my pinky stays locked on under recoil. The gun only weighs 21.7-oz, so it’s a light-weigh for concealed carry. The barrel is 3.5-inches long, and the width is 1.18-inches. Of course, it is semi-auto, and short-recoil operated, the frame is black textured Zytel polymer.
The slide is stainless steel, and it has a black Melonite coating – so even if the coating wears in spots, the slide is stainless steel and will resist rusting, although stainless steel can still rust – keep that in mind. My sample came with three dot white sights – one dot on the front sight, and two on the rear sight – optional tritium night sights are available on some models. You can also get a frame-mounted safety. As a Glock enthusiast, I preferred a model without the safety. The trigger is a two part affair and it pivots, if you don’t have your finger in the right position on the trigger, the gun won’t fire – plus there are internal safeties as well.
I’ve read that the M&P Shield in 9mm sold more than a million guns the first year of production and I’m not surprised if those stats are correct. Smith & Wesson is doing the M&P and Shield line of handguns up the right way, and they are priced more than right, too.
Stout Magazine Springs
One complaint that I, and other owners of these guns have is that the magazine spring is quite stout. That makes it a bit difficult to load those last few rounds. This isn’t a bad thing, the spring in the mag is stout so those rounds will feed into the chamber – even with +P rounds. On the 9mm Shield version, the magazine only holds seven rounds, and it is a brute to get those last few rounds in there without a loading tool, so be advised.
I carried my M&P Compact 9mm for several months, in a Blackhawk Products www.blackhawk.com leather holster – and the gun rode nice and tight to my side – I like that. I take extra care when carrying concealed, that I have the right holster, for the right gun, and the proper clothing, that conceals my handgun so no one notices it- not even in the summer months. I’ve never cared for Inside The Waistband holster, so my method of daily carry is on the belt, on my strong side, just slightly behind my waist.
Function & Accuracy Tests
I tested the M&P Compact 9mm with a good selection of 9mm ammo from Black Hills Ammunition www.black-hills.com – if you’ve never tried any of their premium ammo, please do so. They have been supply most of my ammo needs since I first started writing about guns, back in 1992, and even through several ammo droughts, they were able to get ammo into my hands – maybe not all I requested, but they sure keep me supplied for my articles – they are fantastic folks to do business with!
My ammo selection consisted of the new Black Hills HoneyBadger 100-gr +P and HoneyBadger 125-gr Subsonic loads, and to be sure, I’m not misspelling HoneyBadger, that’s the way owner Jeff Hoffman prefers it to be spelled. I also had their 115-gr JHP +P, 124-gr +P, 115-gr FMJ Factory Seconds, 115-gr EXP (Xtra Power) Hollow Point, and their 115-gr Barnes TAC-XP, +P loads.
I want to make clear that, the Factory Seconds are not reloaded rounds or defective rounds, they simply have some slight cosmetic blemishes – like a tarnish case or a little dent in the brass, and this in no way makes this ammo anything but top quality. To be sure, every single round of ammo loaded by Black Hills is hand inspected – no other big name ammo maker does this – none of them. So, a slightly tarnished (new case) is pulled aside and reserved for Factory Seconds use, and I’ve never had a defective second from Black Hills.
My accuracy testing was conducted at 25 yards, using a rolled up sleeping bag, over the hood of my pride and joy, my Dodge Ram pick-up, with that powerful 5.7 Hemi engine. I had a couple volunteer testers – never a lack of helpers when the guns and ammo are provided at no charge. In all, we fired more than 500 rounds down range – killing rocks and paper. However, when it comes to the final accuracy testing, I do that myself, so if I’m wrong, I’m wrong – I don’t put the blame on anyone else.
If I believe I pulled a shot, or if I know I’m having a bad day, I’ll re-shoot some rounds – I usually shoot several targets for accuracy with each load I test, still there is human error, but I try my best to give the gun and ammo a fair work out. Top leader in the ammo department was the Black Hills 124-gr JHP +P load, and I’ve always liked this one for some reason…I easily got groups slightly under 3-inches. Next up was the Black Hills 125-gr HoneyBadger Subsonic load, and this one is light-recoiling, too – easy to control…every thing else was 3.5-inches and under – and for a compact pistol, you can’t ask for more.
It Didn’t Grow On Me
Now, here’s a shocker, at least for me, for whatever reason, this M&P 9mm Compact just didn’t grow on me – it didn’t feel quite right in my hand – this is an important thing for my wife – no matter how good any handgun is, if it doesn’t feel right, she’s not interested in owning one. I can’t point to any one thing, that I didn’t really like about the gun, other than, it didn’t quite feel right – it didn’t grow on me, and I gave it a really fair shake, too. I shot it well, and it carried nicely concealed, and it never missed a beat. It fired everything without any problems. It was 100% reliable.
I did take this gun out shooting several times, and I owned it for several months, but “whatever” it was, that turned me off to this gun, just turned me off. It is just one of those things you can’t really put your finger on when it comes down to it – very strange. I ended up trading it for something else. I kind of regret it, but that happens from time-to-time.
Check a sample out at your local gun shop, and if it fits your hand well, then I think you’ll like owning and carrying one. You could do a lot worse, if you ask me.