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Monday, May 14, 2012

Smith & Wesson M&P9 Compact Review

The good folks at Smith & Wesson sent two of their M&P models for testing and evaluation, the full-sized .45 ACP model I reviewed a few weeks ago and also a compact 9mm model:

S&W M&P9 Compact

It comes with two magazines (10 round in this case because of the MA AWB, 12 round magazines in free America), three backstraps (I use, boringly enough, the medium that were already on it), and one box to keep it all in. The M&P series is ambidextrous in all but takedown lever – the magazine release can be quickly reversed for southpaws, and the slide release is on both sides of the frame.

The compact 9mm was of particular interest for review as I had already received the Ruger SR9 compact for testing, and the two pistols are quite similar in design – compact, striker-fired, polymer-framed handguns aimed at the concealed carry market. I was also rather interested in trying the compact M&P another time – my first experience in a few years ago was less-than-stellar, with a persistent issue whereby my standard grip would trigger the magazine release and eject the magazine – often two or three times per magazine!

The M&P 9 compact is a very usable size – comparing it to the ubiquitous Glock series, it’s positioned between the sub-compact model 26 and the compact model 19 (or 23/27 for the .40 S&W version). It’s a little large for pocket carry (although I did accomplish pocket carrying the M&P 9 on more than one occasion using the Woolrich Tactical Elite pants), but is just about perfect for IWB carry. It’s small enough to disappear under even a light cover garment like a large T-shirt or untucked polo shirt, but still large enough that it’s not trying to jump out of your hand at the range.

Caring for the M&P9 compact:

The M&P series breaks down very simply and easily, although this one gave me some trouble initially (more on that in a moment). After ensuring that the gun is unloaded, there’s a sear disconnect that must be flipped down, then the slide is locked back, the take-down lever rotated, and then the slide can be released and taken off the gun. Here it is all apart:

Coming apart

I had the hardest time breaking down the 9mm compact the first few times I tried it. If I hadn’t had the full size 45, I might have thought that I was doing something wrong; however I performed the exact same steps for both guns, and the 45 came apart whereas the 9mm would not. A quick talk with S&W customer service and it appears that some of the compact guns had problems with take down. Not a lot, but they had heard of the issue.

Here’s where S&W really impressed me – they directed me to the online section where you can request a return tag, and the process was quick and simple. Within a couple days they had a tag sent to me electronically, which was used to schedule a Fed Ex pickup for return. In less than two weeks the M&P was returned to me in perfect functioning order.

Since the M&P9 compact was returned to me, I haven’t had a single issue taking it down for cleaning. This was the only issue I experienced with the M&P in over 700 rounds of firing. I even fed it an exclusively steel cased diet for ~ 400 rounds without cleaning or even additional lubrication without any failures of any kind. Cleaning is very simple and quick, with the pistol requiring a minimum of scrubbing before it is back in action - that is if you even feel like cleaning it; it ran like a champ even when it was filthy...

Carrying the M&P9 compact:

The M&P9 compact is quite easy to carry; while I was able to carry it in a pocket in one instance, most often it is carried IWB in either a Crossbreed Supertuck (purchased originally for a S&W SW99 compact, and also used for my Glock 30) or the Remora holster shown here:

M&P and Remora

It disappears under most any cover garments (although there is a bit of printing under a tightish polo shirt) and is light enough that carrying it for an entire day is not a problem at all; it can feed from the full size magazines, so someone in Free America can have 30 rounds of 9mm goodness at the ready in only two magazines (12+1 +17 round backup mag). If you can’t get the job done in 30 rounds, there’s nothing the M&P can help you with – unless you have an M&P15 for backup…

Shooting the M&P9 compact:

The same caveats on the MA-compliant M&P trigger that I made for the full sized 45 apply for the compact 9mm. The trigger is extra heavy – weighing somewhere north of 10 pounds – as the gun is a striker-fired semi-automatic with no safeties, it requires a pull in excess of 10 pounds to meet MA requirements for sale. With a bit of dry-fire (and a bunch of live-fire; somewhere north of 700 rounds), the trigger smoothed in nicely, although it was still very heavy. I suspect that this will have a date with an Apex trigger kit in its future (Note to Apex: Need a trigger kit reviewed?).

With those caveats, though, accuracy was excellent for a small double-action only pistol with a heavy trigger:

Not too shabby

That’s 20 rounds of 115 grain, steel-cased Wolf 9mm fired from 10 yards. Only two outside the 8 ring, and those are awfully close at that. For defensive purposes, the M&P 9mm is certainly up to the task, and I suspect with a smoother, lighter trigger and some more practice time I’ll be able to shrink those groups even further.


The M&P compact series is accurate, reliable, and sized for carry. The price is very reasonable (MSRP of $569 per S&W and selling for under $500 at least here in MA), commensurate with other similar polymer-framed handguns available from other manufacturers (The Ruger SR9C has an MSRP of $529, for example), and it does come with two magazines, two floorplates, and three different backstraps. Over the course of several months of shooting and carrying it was found to be reliable at the range and light on the belt.

S&W M&P compact series – well worth consideration for someone looking for a concealed carry firearm.

That is all.


Anonymous said...

How is it that getting a T&E gun is not illegal in MA?

Jay G said...


Heh. MA is bad, but not that bad. Any guns received for T&E have to be either MA compliant (for handguns) or AWB-compliant (for rifles). Other than that it's like any other transfer.

Also, a quick shout-out to reader DJ to say thanks for spotting a couple typos.

Thanks DJ!