Smith & Wesson’s M&P pistol line has earned a reputation over the last few years as a reliable, simple, and comfortable handgun for any duty, sport, and self defense need. The M&P9 Compact model further specializes in the defensive role, making it one of the best buys on the market today.
The S&W M&P9c is a compact, semi-automatic 9mm pistol. It weighs less than 22 ounces and carries 12 rounds per magazine. It is striker-fired and includes a variety of standard and optional safeties. At only 4.3″ tall, and with a 3.5″ barrel it is a breeze to conceal.
Ergonomics and Controls
The great strength of the M&P9 Compact is its simplicity and comfort. All of the pistol’s lines and corners are smoothed and there are no sharp edges. It does not feel blocky. It’s a very friendly pistol for concealed carry. The grip angle is what most shooters consider normal, and the backstrap shape is a smooth curve.
The M&P9c’s grip straps are replaceable, and each pistol includes three size options. The small size is very thin and merely follows the contours of the handle. The large size adds a nice amount of palmswell and adds a bit of depth and texture for the web of your hand. The medium splits the difference in size without the extra web portion at the top. I like the medium grip strap best. The size is right for my palm, and it provides just enough contact for the heel of my support hand.
Each of the safeties on the basic model are passive, meaning that pulling the trigger to the rear disengages each one before firing the pistol. Since no other external controls need to be operated in order to fire the gun, the user is free to focus on getting the pistol up and making good hits. The trigger on the M&P line is not mushy like many other striker-fired pistols and it’s easy to shoot well. For those that are interested, there are drop-in aftermarket parts that will make the M&P trigger the best in its class of striker-fired guns.
The magazine release is a good size and it’s easy to operate. The slide stop/release is textured and contoured making it easy to use to either lock the slide back or release it with the thumb. The slide stop is ambidextrous and the magazine release is reversible, making the M&P an excellent choice for left-handed shooters. The grasping grooves on the rear of the slide are the best design I’ve seen. They’re attractive, low profile, and provide excellent grip. The dust cover area of the frame features a picatinny-style rail for attaching compact lights or lasers.
Each M&Pc comes with two magazines. One mag will have a flush-fit baseplate while the other will have an extended base that S&W calls the Finger Rest. I’m not a fan of having my little finger wrap under the butt of the magazine, so for each of the extra mags I order, I’ll be getting them with the Finger Rest.
Smith & Wesson obviously put a lot of thought into the safety options of the M&P lineup. All M&P pistols include a trigger safety, a firing pin block, a loaded chamber witness hole, and a sear disconnect lever for safe disassembly. A trigger safety prevents the gun from firing unless the trigger is pulled. The M&P’s is the best feeling trigger safety design available because it gives a flat trigger face as opposed to a split face with a centered safety lever. The firing pin block protects against even accidental discharge due to mechanical failure and the loaded chamber witness hole allows you to easily verify the status of the pistol at a glance.
I’m most impressed by the safety built into the takedown procedure of the M&P. Everyone should know to make sure that a weapon is empty and clear before disassembly. Yet every few months we hear of a negligent discharge during pistol disassembly because the user “thought it was unloaded”. S&W has attempted to combat this issue with smart engineering. In order to disassemble the M&P the slide must be retracted and locked to the rear before the takedown lever can be rotated down. If there had been a round in the chamber, retracting the slide would remove it. Another safety feature is built in at this point. With the slide locked back, you can reach a little finger or tool into the ejection port to lower the sear disconnect lever. This allows you to remove the slide without requiring you to pull the trigger as you do with most other striker-fired guns. To restate what should be obvious: any firearm disassembly must begin with clearing the weapon. I just appreciate that S&W have taken steps to fool proof this procedure for the M&P line.
In addition to the safety features standard on all M&P pistols, some also include additional optional safety features. The M&P9c is available with an ambidextrous thumb safety. This is a good option if you aren’t comfortable carrying a pistol without a manual safety. It’s also a benefit if you’re accustomed to shooting a 1911 and like using the safety lever as a thumb shelf. The lever is placed and sized appropriately for this use and will help some thumbs keep from preventing slidelock on an empty mag. S&W also provides models with magazine disconnect safeties and internal locks for customers in those jurisdictions that require them.
The M&P9c is easily one of the most durable pistols ever made. The metal parts are all stainless steel and the external metal gets treated with S&W’s super-hard Melonite process and blackened. The M&P is known to routinely outlast many other duty-style pistols in high round count training environments and the design’s reputation is such that it is now one of the few pistols that are expected not to have any issues in those extreme conditions. The fact is that the M&P will outshoot and outlast most of its owners. Because of this reputation, and the fact that more and more police departments are switching to M&Ps from their other polymer-framed guns, aftermarket parts and accessories are getting easier and easier to find. If you’re in the market for a compact pistol, the M&P9 Compact really should be the first thing you check out.