When Smith & Wesson came out with their new polymer pistol in 2005 to compete with Glock they came out swinging. To leave no doubt as to whom they were marketing it for they named it the M&P, or Military & Police. Today about 300 police department around the United States have adopted the M&P and many believe the M&P is the front-runner in replacing the M9 for the Army.
The success of the M&P doesn’t lie in doing something different, but doing a lot of things right. It has a positive safety and ambidextrous controls. Although being a lightweight polymer gun, it balances well and features high capacity steel magazines. It was also the first gun to perfect the adjustable back straps, so you’re sure to get a comfortable grip. It possesses Glock-like reliability with a great fit and finish. Finally, it’s just fun to shoot. Follow-up shots are quick and the trigger is great.
Ergonomics and Recoil
Although introduced on the SW99, the M&P is the first pistol to really perfect interchangeable backstraps. Having the option of three different sized backstraps with different palm swells, as well as a fourth option (being able to shoot the M&P with no backstrap) is ingenious. It means that those shopping for a pistol won’t need to reject the M&P just because of the feel of the grip. It also means that police forces and militaries can buy in bulk and know each soldier will be provided a firearm with a custom fit. In addition to the backstraps, the M&P just feels right with its comfortable and natural feeling grip. The M&P is a joy to shoot and a lot of that has to do with the lack of perceived recoil. This most likely has to do with the fact that the M&P sits low on the hand and recoil seems to go straight back.
Trigger and Accuracy
The trigger on the M&P is light and smooth. It is about 6 pounds but it feels lighter. It is also very consistent because of having to be reset by the slide after each pull. The sights on the M&P are a three-dot pattern and easy to adjust. For our pistol reviews we don’t place too much of an importance on accuracy. However, from simply firing the M&P we could tell it is a very accurate handgun and easily surpasses many of the other handguns in this review with regards to accuracy.
Reloading and Disassembly
Reloading was easily achieved and although we are all right handed, the ambidextrous magazine release is a huge plus for those who are left-handed. However, we took one point off because of the magazine release safety. Overall, disassembly of the M&P is an absolute breeze and ranks right up there with some of the best takedown designs. There is a slightly tricky step of pushing down a tiny yellow lever through the open chamber before you can remove the slide. It’s an annoying step, but one that forces the shooter to retract the slide before disassembly. However, we didn’t subtract any points since you can always dry fire it to get the slide off.
Reliability and Durability
We didn’t have any problems with our M&P at the range. Reliability in general should be pretty good as it incorporates a stainless steel guide rod and the slide only connects with the frame in four places, allowing more dirt to escape than with a full-length rail designs. We would expect long-term durability to match that of the Glock, but don’t feel right ranking it as high as the Glock’s proven design. In addition, Smith & Wesson released the results of a 50,000 round test and noted some of the smaller parts had to be replaced. One thing we like, however, is the metal magazines that should provide years of flawless use.
The M&P is one of the finest pistols on the market and should definitely be considered by anyone looking to buy a polymer pistol. Smith & Wesson had the advantage of studying the Glock for years as it replaced their Revolvers as the most popular police sidearm. They took everything agencies and shooters love about the Glock and kept it, while improving on its weaknesses. The result is our choice for the best polymer full size pistol.