S&W M&P 9mm Compact, by Pat Cascio

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.

Many Variations

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.

S&W M&P Left CloseupThe 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

S&W M&P Compact With MagazineOne 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 M&P_Compact_CUtargets 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.




9 Comments

  1. The full size version of these come with 3 additional hand grip sets for a nearly perfect grip fit. Not sure if the sub compacts do but I wouldn’t see why not. And these are great shooters right out of the box.

  2. S&W made some fine wheel guns and I have shot many of them, many of them over 100 years old now. I think I’ll pass on their plastic offerings and stick with what they produced in steel.
    I have one plastic pistol. I’m not that impressed. I’m probably getting to old to change over…..

  3. Dear Pat: Try a review on the Taurus G2C. Comes with 2 twelve round mags for $207. I would love to have you do a review and test. I can guarantee you will love the gun for it’s hand fit, reliability, conceal carry. I can guarantee you will get one and it will be you EDC gun forever!

    1. That strikes me as a great idea! If the G2C is as good as I heave heard, how can you go wrong at that price point? Certainly would leave a lot of $$$ on the table for buying ammo to go with it compared to the spendier brands of small pistols.

      How about it, Pat?

  4. I am a S&W fan. Particularly their revolvers. I own several and am very fond of the model 19 and the 66. I was very skeptical of the small black compact semi autos. One of my favorite gun stores had a big S&W sale. I had read some good reviews on the Shield and decided to give it a try. I am very pleased. Mine came from the Performance center and has a ported barrel, a trigger job, and red rear sights with a green dot front sight. I can pick up the front sight very quickly. It is a very accurate and reliable gun. Smith did a great job on this gun and their sales confirm that it is great concealed carry gun.

  5. I have the full size M&P9 2.0, M&P45 2.0, an M&P40 and I liked the 40 so much I bought a second to be my truck gun. In June I will be adding two extra 9s and a 45 to the stable to round out the family needs. I have fired almost every model of Glock ever produced; carried them on duty since the 90s, and carried them off duty. I won many USPSA shoots with my stock duty Glock 21 in the 90s. I love the Glock handguns.
    But I spent a weekend shooting with a fellow officer from a neighboring department and did a polar shift to M&P and am very satisfied with the decision. My last department even switched from G22/23 to M&P9 and many officers who had struggled shooting Glocks for whatever reason were corrected and became quickly proficient with the M&P. Trigger reset is fantastic now, and they shoot where you point them.
    When Smith came up with the 2.0 they answered several gripes and nitpicks from end-users and produced a damned fine firearm.
    I cannot speak for the M&P-C because I like full-sized guns, even for CCW. Perhaps I will add one to the stable some day, but for the near future my ranch is fully equipped with M&P.
    Thanks for your fine reviews Pat. Next time you are contemplating testing and trading something, look me up! I am just an hour away to the south.

  6. I have 2 S&W pistols. One the full size M&Pin 9mm with stainless slide. Very nice, no issues expect when ran thru the first 100 Rd’s. Couple FTE but then cleared up nicely with no issues since. It resides in the GHB in the car. The other is a M&P compact in .40 S&W. This pistol has never ever had any functioning issues. Loaded very hot .40 cal handloads and gobbles them up no prob. So like them both other than the somewhat weird if”Ed strip procedure for getting them back together, having to depress that pin or whatever you call it down the mag well. The pricing on them is always very good from what I see. Seems like you would do well to have this as your go to pistol. Although I have a Glock 19 Gen 5 9mm and those seem very nice also. Ahh whatever feels good and functions is good, eh?

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