Daniel O’Dea enjoys Smith & Wesson’s latest M&P
I’ll start with a declaration – I’m a massive fan of the Smith & Wesson M&P series of polymer pistols and that’ll be no surprise to anyone who’s read my handgun reviews of the past 15 years or so. The original was launched in the US in 2005 and it took a year or so for the factory to provide local Australian distributor Grycol International a product SKU for the pistol in 9mm with a 5” barrel to make it compliant for Aussie shooters, though I had one allocated off that first shipment for review and have been shooting M&P for IPSC Production Division ever since. Over the years I’ve owned, used, fired or reviewed just about every variant released either here or in the US. Until recently that is as a sway of new models coupled with Covid travel restrictions has made it difficult to keep up.
Sometimes as a consumer you find a product that just seems to fit, it works well for you, you’re comfortable with it, you like the feel and styling and for me that’s the Smith & Wesson M&P. I own and enjoy many other handgun brands, makes and models but let’s just say the M&P is one of my favorites and as such I’m always keen when Grycol has a new variant which this time round is the Performance Center M&P9 M2.0 C.O.R.E. Pro Series’ pistol. That’s quite a handle but it basically breaks down to pretty much everything you could need in an optics-ready modern polymer production-type handgun.
For those unfamiliar with the Smith & Wesson M&P9 pistol, in essence we have a polymer framed, striker fired, production-type gun and it wouldn’t be wrong to say it was initially Smith & Wesson’s answer to the Glock. The history in brief goes like this: Once upon a time S&W owned the law enforcement and defensive handgun market in the US, mainly with revolvers until Glock came along with its new polymer handgun and captured most of the business. It took time to come up with an answer but S&W finally designed the M&P pistol primarily to retake the law enforcement sector and large parts of the market (civilian and law enforcement) loved it including the Victorian and South Australian Police who adopted it as their standard-issue firearm.
Today the Smith & Wesson M&P and its many variants (both pistol and rifle) have led to S&W becoming the biggest gun company in the US though that’s not to take away from Glock whose pistols still reign in many handgun segments of US and global sales. As to which is best is a bit like the old Holden v Ford argument with much depending on personal preference and that’s an argument unlikely to be settled any time soon.
I conducted a full review of the M&P9 2.0 for Issue 17 of this magazine which covers in depth all the feature upgrades from the earlier M&P9 to the newer 2.0 version. With the 2.0 C.O.R.E. the base 2.0 platform of this pistol remains the same but what we’re dealing with is S&W’s optics-ready variant of the new platform (C.O.R.E. stands for Competition Optics Ready Equipment). As the name suggests it’s aimed directly at the ever-growing popularity of optics division pistol disciplines so for the C.O.R.E. rendition of the M&P9 2.0 you have all the 2.0 improvements with two main additions – a machine-cut slide to accept direct mounting of a large range of commercially available red-dot optics and a set of all-steel suppressor-height sights.
Suppressor-height sights are higher than usual iron sights originally designed to clear the outer diameter of a suppressor which might otherwise obstruct your sight alignment with the target when fitted. With the introduction of slide-mounted red-dot optics it was quickly realised that when paired with these higher iron sights you’d still be able to use the iron sights visible through the lens of the red-dot optic when mounted. In such instances the iron sights are said to co-witness with the red dot.
Out of the box comes the pistol, two 10-round magazines, three spare grip panels (four in total), manual and warranty card, M&P C.O.R.E. screw and plate kit, a chamber block/flag, Allen key for trigger over-travel adjustment, ubiquitous gun lock and, as a S&W Performance Center offering, a nifty little ‘Performance Center’ cleaning kit.
A polymer cover plate just forward of the rear sight is retained by two screws which when removed reveal the precision machine-cut recess specifically designed to accept one of seven adapter plates provided in the M&P C.O.R.E. screw and plate kit which in turn accept your red-dot optic. A chart in the manual provides guidance as to which plate and screw combination are required to fit your chosen sight and lists them by number, for example Plate Type 1 is for the Trijicon RMR and uses its own (Trijicon) OEM screws, Plate Type 2 is for Leupold Delta Point combined with screw Type B and so on.
Once the correct plate is selected it’s a simple matter of bolting your selected RDO on and sighting in. Not all RDOs sit low enough on the slide to achieve the above mentioned ‘co-witness’ effect even with suppressor-height sights, as it generally depends on the base or body height of the actual sight and dimensionally if it sits low in the slide cut or slightly higher up. The big bonus is if you can achieve even a partial co-witness through the red dot it makes it extremely easy to sight the unit in, simply line up your iron sights on a target and, taking a standard sight picture, adjust the dot to sit on the tip of the front sight. In most instances, as long as the iron sights are true to begin with you should be bang on target or require just minor adjustments once you get down to shooting.
When I received the 2.0 C.O.R.E. for review I didn’t have an appropriate spare red-dot sight to fit to it but that didn’t stop me using the M&P9 2.0 C.O.R.E. in my ‘Great 9mm Ammo Comparison’ article which appeared in the previous issue of this magazine. The pistol’s effective ‘Three White-Dot’ iron sights come up just fine on their own and the elevated suppressor height isn’t really noticed in practical terms when presenting on target. In that review alone the M&P 2.0 C.O.R.E. digested around 700 rounds of factory ammo, feeding 12 different brands and types from 115gr FMJs to 147gr jacketed hollow-points and in typical M&P fashion never failed to feed, fire or extract, producing great practical accuracy with pretty much everything I gave it.
Not long after I received a new Bushnell RXS-250 for review (Australian Shooter, July 2022) so finally had a chance to mount an RDO on the C.O.R.E. and put it through its paces as intended. I ran the RXS-250 on the pistol for several months shooting IPSC club shoots at SSAA St Mary’s and it worked out to be a great pairing with both M&P and RXS-250 preforming admirably. More recently I’ve had a Holosun HS507C X2 which I’m currently looking at mounted on the C.O.R.E. As with the Bushnell the Holosun was easy to mount up and in this case with a slightly lower sight base provides a better co-witness to boot.
The M&P9 2.0 is a joy to shoot, I find the grip angle superior to other options on the market as my hand melts into the frame like a good-fitting glove. The web of your hand naturally sits high and close to the bore line which mitigates recoil and aids target recovery and with four sizes of grip panel you’ve lots of flexibility to tailor individual needs and the rough texture finish also feels good. Fish scale slide rackers front and rear are both practical and classy and the new trigger with tactile and audible reset as well as over-travel adjustment is a vast improvement over the original M&P. The magazine release is well positioned and easily reversable for lefties and the extended ambidextrous slide release another improvement on the original. Finally the matte black Armornite finish to the stainless-steel slide is both durable and corrosion resistant.
From my perspective the new M&P9 2.0 C.O.R.E. represents a natural evolution of an already excellent polymer production pistol platform. If you like your M&P and are looking to transition into a pistol with provision for mounted optics it represents a very easy choice and if just starting out all I’ll say is it points well, shoots well, looks great and is well priced. What more do you want? Grycol International are sole distributor of S&W products in Australia, more at www.grycol.com.au
Pistol: Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 C.O.R.E. Pro Series
Action: Self-loading, striker fired
Trigger: New single-stage
Calibre: 9mm (as tested)
Capacity: 10 (or 17) rounds double-stack magazine
Barrel: 127mm (5”) (Australia-compliant)
Twist Rate: 1:10
Sights: Suppressor-height steel three-dot
Sight Radius: 184mm (7.25”)
Length: 216mm (8.5”)
Height: 140mm (5.5”)
Width: 33mm (1.3”)
Slide: Stainless-steel, Armornite finish, optics-ready
Frame: Polymer matte black
Weight: 822.2g (29oz)