S&W M&P 9mm Compact Title

S&W M&P 9mm Subcompact [2021 Review]

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The M&P line of handguns and rifles is a big seller for Smith and Wesson. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past decade or two, M&P stands for Military and Police and is one of Smith and Wesson’s several lines of pistols and rifles. Where did that name come from? Well, I described it in some detail in my review here – check it out for a bit of history. The short version is that the M&P name was first used in 1899 when it was applied to a .38 Special revolver. During WWII, thousands of M&P revolvers were made in .38 Special and in .38-200 for Great Britain. Those guns were labeled Victory models. In 2005, S&W brought out the first semi-auto handguns under the M&P moniker, in calibers 9mm and .40 S&W with .45 ACP soon following. If you go to Smith and Wesson’s website and search for “M&P”, 215 rifles and pistols come up. That’s a lot of variations on a theme. So, we see that the M&P line is alive and well. 

I have reviewed a couple of M&P Shields – the first was a 1.0 9mm. You can read that one here. Another, more recent, review was of the M&P .22 Compact pistol – that one is here. My second Shield review, one of a 2.0 Performance Center .45 ACP gun, was just published – you can read it here. This is the first time I’ve reviewed an M&P pistol (not a Shield), and it is a doozy of a gun.

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Where Does The M&P Fit In?

Some shooters, especially new ones, get an idea about what gun specifically they want to buy. They may have a friend who owns one, or they saw an ad of some type but at any rate they are fairly well sold before they go into the gun store. It seems that many of those buyers are, or were, sold on a S&W M&P of some sort before they plopped their hard-earned cash down on the counter. I just saw a listing, from Gunbroker.com, of their top-selling guns from 2020. Gunbroker is a huge firearms sales site, one of the largest auction-type gun sellers out there. On their list of the top twenty semi-auto pistols for last year, the M&P Shield was number 4. Please remember, the Shield is the single-stack version of the regular, double-stack M&P line and is very popular as this ranking attests. 

I asked above “where does it fit in” – maybe a flip answer might be “thousands of holsters” or words to that effect. 

One Popular Gun

Now, back to the gun in front of us – the double-stack M&P 9C. This gun fits a very large niche in the concealed carry market – a gun that is really small but still easy to shoot and holds 12+1 rounds. This is a popular size – witness all the guns made to this general specification. Heck, my Taurus G3c is one of these – 12+1 rounds with good sights that are Glock-compatible, reliable, accurate and a grip frame you can really grasp. I even have a couple of 17-round magazines with extensions for the G3c … an article on G3c upgrades is down the road. What other guns out there fit this general spec? The Glock 26 (10+1) is but one more example of a gun that fits that category and there are many, many others… that would be a topic for a very long, detailed article that would be out of date the minute it was published. I do not have production numbers but I would imagine that the subcompact 9mm market is the fastest-growing segment of pistol development. And, for a very reasonable price, you can get one of the most popular guns in that category – the M&P 9C. 

What is it about the gun that causes the M&P to be such a good seller? I see a few reasons. I have seen my share of guns in my capacity as reviewer and backwoods-purveyor-of-things-that-go-bang. I sometimes think I have my finger on pulse of the shooting public – at least at this moment. That changes, of course, but let’s talk about now. The M&P has some advantages. Of course, it is not the only gun made to fit into the subcompact 9mm category, but it does do some things very well. They include:

  • Its size is very conducive to concealed carry but yet gives you enough grip to hang on to. Look at its size – it’s basically 6×4 inches or thereabouts and 25 ounces. That’s not a lot of gun to have to hide but it still speaks with authority when needed.
  • It is more than sufficiently powerful for the task at hand. No matter what side of the 9mm fence you’re on, the ability of that cartridge to end the fight has been documented.
  • If you are in a stressful situation and are fumbling your spare magazine after leaving just one round in the chamber after ejecting the empty magazine, you can still defend yourself with that last round and no magazine in place. This gun does not utilize a magazine disconnect safety, a good thing in my opinion. I am not a fan of those on a carry gun.
  • The sights make it easy to hit with. Whether you get three-dot or night sights, you have a decent sight picture when you raise this gun to eye level. Plus, you can swap them out for something else if you want to.
  • Speaking of “easy to hit with”, that great trigger is a big aid in doing that – hitting what you’re aiming at.
  • The gun grips’ adaptability with four backstraps means that the gun should fit almost every hand out there that it needs to. That’s a pretty big thing. How many of us have put a gun down after shooting it with a disappointed “it just doesn’t feel right” with your shots all over the target? Ergonomics are nothing new – well, maybe that term is – but I would imagine that even as far back as ancient Rome or further, Roman centurions and other warriors probably altered their sword’s grip to make it more suitable for their hand, more ergonomic as we would say. S&W makes it easy to change things to benefit your personal grip. 
  • Taking the gun apart to clean it is a piece of cake. I am a fan of rotating takedown levers.
  • And, heaven forbid the gun should break, S&W has some of the best customer service in the industry.

So, these are some possible reasons why the M&P line of pistols is so popular. Are they the only guns that fit some of these categories? Nope – it’s just that the M&Ps fit them all and are reasonably-priced. No wonder they’re such good sellers. 

Another thing to consider is that at one time at least 276 law enforcement agencies use or used M&P pistols. That, in and of itself, is a good recommendation. 

Sizes and Specifications

Double-stack M&P pistols are made in three sizes – sub-compact, compact and full-size. Here are some general specifications for all three sizes, in 9mm, from S&W’s web site.

Subcompact:Compact:Full Size:
Caliber 9mm LugerCaliber 9mm LugerCaliber 9mm Luger
Capacity 12+1
Capacity 15+1Capacity 17+1
Safety No Thumb Safety
Color BlackColor Black
Length 6.6Safety No Thumb SafetySafety No Thumb Safety
Front Sight Steel - White DotLength 7.25Length 7.875
Rear Sight Steel - White Two DotFront Sight Steel - White DotFront Sight Tall White Dot - Steel
Action Striker FireRear Sight Steel - White Two DotRear Sight Tall White Two Dot - Steel
Grip PolymerAction Striker FireAction Striker Fire
Barrel Material Stainless Steel - Armornite® FinishGrip PolymerGrip 4 Interchangeable Palmswell Grip Sizes
Slide Material Stainless Steel - Armornite®Barrel Material Stainless Steel - Armornite® FinishBarrel Material Stainless Steel - Armornite® Finish
Frame Material PolymerSlide Material Stainless Steel - Armornite® FinishSlide Material Stainless Steel - Armornite® Finish
Barrel Length 3.6" (9.1 cm)Frame Material PolymerFrame Material Polymer
Weight 25.0 oz.Barrel Length 4" (10.2 cm)Barrel Length 4.6" (11.7 cm)
Weight 27.0 oz.Weight 25.3 oz.

These are generic specifications – you can get different barrel lengths, for example, within categories. At least you can get an idea of what is available to you within each category of pistol. The most common decision to make is whether you want a thumb safety or not – these guns come either way. One curious thing that S&W omits from their specifications is the gun’s height. I was asked by a reader in the comment section after my latest Shield review about why I didn’t include the height as he was concerned about the conceal-ability of the pistol. That made me think – I guess I just forgot it, since it wasn’t listed with the other specs. So, I looked it up and replied to the comment. Sometimes, I’ll measure a gun’s overall width since that is the measurement that most folks are concerned about. But I seldom measure height. Let’s face it, most pistols in each size classification – subcompact, compact, full-size – will be very close to each other in terms of overall height and length, all things being equal. Anyway, we’ll just not go down that road here… the M&P 9 subcompact is 4.5 inches tall. It should conceal just fine.

Before we go on, let’s look at some photos I took. I was especially curious about the full-blown double-stack M&P, since I just reviewed a Shield .45 from the Performance Center. Anyway, here you go…this is the subcompact version.

S&W M&P 9mm Compact Left

S&W M&P 9mm Compact Right

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S&W M&P 9mm Compact Field Stripped

S&W M&P 9mm Compact Barrel Recoil Spring

Barrel and recoil spring. Why is the spring painted yellow? It helps during assembly – the color yellow says that this is a 9mm spring. The pain flakes off (evident in some photos around the muzzle), or you can strip it off. It does no harm.

S&W M&P 9mm Compact Frame Top

Frame, topside and slide, bottom. Nice machining, clean. I see more yellow down in there…


S&W M&P 9mm Compact Slide Underneath 2

S&W M&P 9mm Compact Slide Engraving 2

Slide engraving, above and below.

S&W M&P 9mm Compact Slide Engraving

Note the small slide serrations of sorts above the frame cut-outs.

S&W M&P 9mm Compact no magazine disconnect warning

S&W M&P 9mm Compact Slide Underneath 2

Another fairly important message on the slide. I don’t like mag disconnects on a carry gun, as a rule, but I suppose there are exceptions.

S&W M&P 9mm Compact Takedown Lever Slide Release Trigger 2

Takedown lever down, hinged trigger (no Glock-style trigger blade), mag release, slide release. All together in one handy area.

S&W M&P 9mm Compact Grip Texture

The 2.0-improved grip texturing. There is no comparison to the texturing on a 1.0 gun – this works well.

S&W M&P 9mm Compact Magazines

Two included magazines with extender collars. It’s a nice touch to include those, and an even nicer touch to texture them with matching patterns to the grip.

S&W M&P 9mm Compact Backstraps

And lastly, the backstrap collection. A new owner of an M&P pistol should never feel that S&W doesn’t care about how the gun fits his or her hand – you have four, yes four, backstraps to try. Once you’ve found the right one, you should be all set. And, if your grip ever changes, you have the other three to choose from. They are uber easy to change – twist the little T-shaped rod at the bottom of the grip and pull it out. Pull the grip module down and away. Stick another one’s tab in the slot at the top of the grip and push it on. Replace the T handle and you’re done. It literally takes longer to describe it than to do it. The modules change the distance from the back of the grip to the trigger face and also the palm swell. With four, just about every hand should find one that fits. 

Shooting The M&P

SW Tula 115-grain bullet target

I shot both Fiocchi Training Dynamics and Tula bulk 9mm ammo. Here’s a sample target shot with the Fiocchi ammo. Both loads used 115-grain bullets and were decently accurate. I shot at 15 yards on a very cold day at my back yard range. Both loads shot low and left for me, but I never worry too much about shot impact on targets with loaner gun – that is easily fixed but not on a gun that’s not coming to live with me. I hunted up some factory ammo to shoot, and since my ammo larder has seen better days in terms of supply, I found some Tula. I knew I had Fiocchi ammo to shoot, but I wanted more than one factory load (no handloads this time). I’m not sure where I got the Tula – I’ve had it for a while but the Fiocchi was sent to me for review. I only have good things to say about it – the new Training Dynamics stuff is fine for everyday shooting and practice, plus the Boxer-primed cases are great for reloading. I am very glad to have received some boxes of it from Fiocchi, especially in this day and age of shortages of seemingly everything shooting-related. When ammo comes back, check it out – it is not expensive, it’s made here in the U.S. and it is accurate and reliable.

I was curious to see how close my measurements of the trigger pull and overall gun weights were in comparison to the stats I got from the S&W website. The overall weight was close… S&W says the gun weighs 25 oz., and my scale showed 24.4 oz – close enough. They don’t show trigger pull weight, but my gun’s was an average of 5 pounds, 1.3 ounces – very nice! There was a tiny amount of take-up and literally no creep, and then the trigger broke. It is much improved over the trigger pull weight of the 1.0 models. I remember reading in forums time after time of owners of the earlier model installing Apex triggers – that seemed to be the brand of choice. I owned two S&W SD9VE 9mms in addition to a Shield (1.0 version). I distinctly remember dry-firing one of those SD9VEs 500 times in hopes of smoothing its trigger out. It worked. Of course, it didn’t lighten the pull weight but it did make it smoother. I believe that’s called the Redneck Trigger Job. Anyway, I was truly pleased with both the Performance Center Shield’s and this gun’s triggers. Very smooth, very crisp and lighter than before. You could surely do worse than the trigger this gun employs. My shooting experience was very nice, overall. It was like shooting a slightly-heavier Shield but with more rounds in the magazine.

Summing Up

Are you in the market for a new carry semi-auto? Do you want a sub-compact? Compact? Full-size? Gotcha covered. I even have heard of guys who owned a full-sized M&P buying a sub-compact for carry, they liked their gun that well. I also like the fact that, if you wanted something a bit slimmer, there’s the slightly-less-expensive Shield at the ready. At least you’re still in the M&P family. From the time that S&W introduced that very first M&P revolver 122 years ago, the brand has been a performer for S&W and for very good reason – the guns work. Now expanded into semi-auto pistols and rifles, the M&P moniker seems to be gaining in popularity every year. Each time I read a “best-selling-pistol” listing from a previous year, the M&P is always there, usually up towards the top. If you want reliability, accuracy, good build quality and a great rep to lean on, check out an M&P pistol – I think you’ll be pleased. If you own one, please feel free to leave a comment below. As always, keep ‘em in the black and stay safe! 

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