Smith & Wesson M&P Compact No. 109003 40 S&W, $569
We recently tested compact 40 S&W handguns in the March 2013 issue. Here’s an excerpt of that report.
Gun Test’s Idaho test team has spent a lot of time looking at relatively tiny 9mm handguns over the past year. We’ve found there are a few good designs that permit the use of some relatively hot ammo in the small 9mm packages. But some people want still more power, so we’ve decided to sample a few of the forties out there. For this test we looked at a S&W M&P Compact 40 ($569) and a Kahr CW40 ($485). They are a bit larger than the tiny nines we’ve been trying, and there are good reasons for that. The 40 S&W is a lot more cartridge than the 9mm Parabellum, and when forties get smaller than these two test guns, recoil is entirely unfriendly. However, Kahr and a few other makers do offer smaller guns in this caliber if you must have one. We tested these two compact forties with three types of ammo, Remington 155-grain JHP, Black Hills 165-grain JHP, and American Eagle 180-grain FMC. Here’s what we found.
Smith & Wesson M&P 40 Compact
No. 109003 40 S&W, $569
Our first impression of the M&P Compact was that, yes, it can fit in a big pocket, but we wouldn’t be completely happy with it there. The grip extension made it hard to get out of the pocket. A suitable concealed-carry holster would be far better, we thought, for packing this amount of powerful handgun. A magazine with a smaller bottom plate came with the gun, as well as some different-size inserts for bigger or smaller hands, but with the smaller magazine in place, we thought the M&P 40 Compact was still a big enough gun that most of us would have preferred to pack it in a holster, especially if we were in a hurry to get the gun out. The same held true for the Kahr CW40. Also, the smaller grip resulting from the flat-bottom mag was not as secure feeling as the larger grip, which permitted getting all our fingers onto the gun.
The fit and finish were excellent, we thought. The pebbly leather feel of the grip was pleasant, but it did not provide enough traction during our shooting. The three-white-dot sights were excellent, giving good visibility and a good sight picture.
The wavy pattern on the rear of the slide provided plenty of grip to control the slide, which required a strong pull to get all the way back. There was a rail under the chin for a light or laser sight. The sights and trigger were typical Smith & Wesson, which is to say outstanding. The fixed sights had three white dots and gave a good sight picture. We noted the rear sight is a cantilever, made of steel, but when viewed from the side, it has a relatively thin section across its overhang. Can it break if dropped? Most likely it’ll bend, and we’re really picking nits here.
The overall design of the M&P permits easy takedown for maintenance. With the extended magazine, we liked the feel of the gun in the hand very much. With the flat-bottom mag in place, we didn’t like it so much. We test-fired it with the extension magazine, and when we tried it with the other, we didn’t like the control nearly as well.
Takedown for cleaning and maintenance with this design is extremely easy. Clear the gun, lock the slide back and turn that lever on the left side downward 90 degrees. Release the slide, press the trigger, and pull the slide off the frame. The captive spring comes easily out and so does the barrel. Reassembly was just as easy. Inside the gun, the use of stampings and clever engineering were obvious. As always, we were impressed with the construction and engineering of the M&P that results in simple, easily made parts inside that might look on the small side, but are more than strong enough for anything asked of them. We liked this gun’s design as much as we liked its feel and operation.
The M&P’s trigger was relatively predictable and controllable. However, the M&P 40 Compact kicked quite hard. The recoil was, we thought, unlike the push of the average 45 ACP round, but more of a vicious snap. The gun twisted badly in our hands, and we concluded some additional traction on the front and rear straps was needed. Grooves, checkering, or stippling there would greatly help the control. The leather-like covering of the polymer frame did not lend itself to being sticky, which was not a good thing. On firing the hotter rounds for accuracy, the gun twisted badly in our hands no matter how hard we held it, and we had to reposition our grip every time for the next shot. During rapid-fire testing it was less of a problem because we were not concerned with extreme accuracy. But be advised, there’s significant kick to these 40-caliber guns. The two hot light-bullet loads were also quite loud.
Accuracy was adequate, but there was no tack driving. The gun seemed to like the heavier bullets more, and so did we, because they were not as brutal as the lighter JHP loads. The full-metal-jacket bullets in several brands we’ve seen in 40 S&W caliber are truncated cones, flat noses with full metal covering. That design has been lauded by several sources as being excellent for self defense. Such a design would seem to be lots better than just a round nose, as found on most other hardball ammunition in other calibers.
Our Team Said: This was an excellent handgun if you need a compact 40-caliber semiauto. Our one complaint was that the grips needed more traction on the forward and rearmost parts. If you need a compact but perhaps not quite pocket-size 40, we thought this was an excellent choice. It’s an A-minus in our book.