Our first impression of the $679 S&W M&P 9mm was that it felt extremely comfortable in the hand. It was well balanced, not too heavyat least without a magazine full of 17 heavy-bullet loadsand was pleasantly devoid of extraneous controls and levers. We note S&W also sells a version with a thumb safety, along with a host of variants in 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP, and with longer or shorter barrels or grips, and in a variety of colors. One even has a pink grip insert.
Our test gun came in a large case with two different grip inserts to make the handle larger or smaller. We liked it as it was, so we left it alone. The sights were fixed, and excellent in all respects. There will be no cut hands here from stovepipe drills. The sights had white dots and again no tritium inserts. The rear could be drifted for windage (unnecessary for us) and was locked with an Allen screw. The front was dovetailed, but without the lock pin which wed like it to have. A nice touch (there were many) was the wavy cut of the slide to form the serrations for slide retraction. The matte-black slide was stainless, and the polymer grip was hefty enough that the gun didnt have a top-heavy feel even when empty. The frame had a light rail beneath the muzzle. The controls were very simple. The trigger action was the prime safety on the gun. Dont touch the trigger and the gun cant fire. Pressing on the trigger first unlocks it so it can travel rearward, and then it releases the striker to fire the gun. It wont shoot with the magazine removed, at least on our version. After the last shot is fired the slide stop locks the slide back. The slide lock is ambidextrous, another nice touch rarely seen on pistols.
There was a small hole at the junction of the chamber and slide on top that was supposed to serve as a loaded-chamber indicator. We could not see a loaded cartridge well enough to suit us, but it was easy to pull back the slide slightly to see the chambered round.
Forward of the small slide stop, on the left side, is the takedown lever. Field stripping was slightly tricky. After clearing the gun and locking the slide back, you first had to stick a tool into the open port and flip down a tiny, thin, and extremely fragile-looking part before you could remove the slide from the frame. However, that fragile-looking part has only the simple function of levering the sear down for taking the gun apart, and is thus adequate for its purpose. There was a tool provided in the heel of the gun for pushing down the lever, but we found it impossible to remove the tool with our fingers. We used a small screwdriver. Then, with the takedown lever turned 90 degrees down, off came the slide.
Inside we found some extremely clever use of multi-bent sheet metal, bent for strength and various dual purposes here and there. The slide spring was captive, so no tiny parts went flying as you took it out, another nice touch. We saw some items inside that were not as stout as we thought they should be. S&W recently published the results of a 50,000-round test of one version of this handgun, and noted that several small parts had to be replaced. We expect the failed parts will get beefed up as time shows the need.
Another item we questioned was the spring-loaded magazine disconnection system, which relies on a spring to move the trigger arm into contact with the sear as the magazine is inserted. As it was, it was a passive device and wed prefer a mechanical link to move the levers instead of hoping no dirt gets in the way and defeats the spring. But were being picky. Obviously the gun works, and works well. In fact, we felt we were looking at the future of all auto-pistol design and production as we looked inside this very clever Smith & Wesson handgun. It was mighty impressive design, to our eyes. Reassembly was straightforward.
The trigger was pleasant, not too heavy, and worked well in fast shooting. The pull was identical for all shots, but if a round had happened to misfire you would have to eject it, rather than drop the striker again, which was an option you did have with the CZ.
Our Team Said: On the range we found the M&P to be just as comfortable to shoot as it was in the hand. Felt recoil with the heaviest loads was insignificant. Thats what a comfortable grip can do for you, and the M&P had a great grip. There were exactly no problems with the gun.