Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P45c

Virginia may be for lovers, but it’s not for full-size handguns. At least not in summer. By June, the temperature in Old Dominion starts knocking on 100F. The humidity is so thick you need a machete, never mind a pistol. No matter what holster I’ve tried, carrying my full-size Springfield XD(m) .45 in the Virginia summer proved only slightly more comfortable than wearing a hair shirt. So when my local fun shop announced a sale on Smith & Wessons that put their M&P45c (Compact) within my play budget, I took the plunge . . .

As a Springfield guy, I’d already tried (i.e. bought and sold) a Springfield XD sub-compact. That gun’s grip left my pinky finger looking for something to do. It was ironic and unacceptable; the Springfield’s ergonomic delights are the main reason I favor the brand. Like any sensible compact gun maker, Smith & Wesson provides M&P45c buyer with two magazines: one with a flat butt plate (for maximum concealment) and one with a low-hanging finger groove (for grip Nazis like me). Plan B is the perfect Plan A.

The Smith & Wesson M&P45c isn’t Tory Spelling; it’s not so thin that it has to run around in the shower to get wet. That said, for a double-stack design, the Compact’s noticeably slimmer than its same-caliber peers. In terms of overall size, the gun slots between Smith’s M&P 9mm Compact and the full-size M&P45. The 45c’s four inch barrel and slightly smaller frame makes it that much easier to conceal.

Of course, there are sacrifices. The Compact’s standard magazines hold a 1911-like eight rounds (as opposed to the full-size gun’s 10). Due to the width difference, there are no X-Grip adapters for the M&P45c. On the positive side, unlike Ruger’s SR9c, you can buy the M&P45c with or without a frame-mounted safety.

The polymer Smith’s slide stop—or slide release if you don’t worry about the degradation of motor skills under stress—rests flush against the M&P54c. On my XD(m), I have to remember/train not to grip the handgun too high, lest I trip the slide release when the mag’s empty. The M&P’s ergonomics eliminate that issue. In both guns, slamming a loaded mag in while the slide is locked back releases the slide. Automatic slide release, such a modern feature. I wish my 1911 would do that.

The Smith & Wesson M&P45c comes with three different size palm swells. Swapping palm swells involved pulling out the frame tool from the grip, which releases the current palm swell. This method is far superior to my XD(m), whose grip change requires a punch and mallet, and plenty of elbow grease.

You can buy the M&P with the slide release on either side of the gun. In both cases, the magazine release arrives on left side. A Smith smith can relocate the M&P45c’s mag release to the right side of the gun, but it’s either or. If you’re ambi serious—some people want to be able to run their gun with either hand in case their strong hand’s knocked out of action—a similarly priced FNX semi-automatic gives you both an ambidextrous magazine release and slide release.

I’ve put 700 rounds through the M&P45c over the last month. I fed the weapon a wide variety of ammunition types and brands: brass cases, steel cases, and different brands of hollow points. There was one FTF. It was the very first cartridge I tried to chamber (steel-cased); limp-wristing is the most likely culprit. Subjectively speaking, the Compact’s recoil was surprisingly light for a polymer gun. Once you learn to grip the gun tightly, follow-up shots are fast and furious. In terms of accuracy, I could make fist-sized ragged holes in targets at five yards.

If ultimate accuracy is your goal, the Smith & Wesson M&P45c’s trigger is a major issue. It’s heavier than the full-size models. The company claims seven pounds, mas or menos. It feels all of that and then some. Worse, the trigger’s a bit gritty and prone to stacking. I’m hoping it improves over time. And now the really bad news: the Apex Tactical DCAEK trigger kit for other calibers Smiths will not fit the .45ACP. You’re stuck with the factory trigger.

To field strip the Smith & Wesson M&P45c, you clear the gun and flip the sear disconnect lever. That’s the bent piece of metal in the grip just below the slide. My fingers were slightly too thick to get in there and flip the lever. The manual advised using the frame tool. A pocket knife is preferable. The take-down lever on my particular gun did not like to remain in any position except “normal.” Field stripping involved a circus act: I keeping the take down lever vertical while releasing the slide. Very awkward. Despite several cleanings, the take down level remains stubborn. Not a deal breaker. Just. Really. Annoying.

Overall, the M&P45c is a potent handgun in a relatively manageable size. The lack of available mods is the most significant drawback. You can trick-out your full-size Smith & Wesson M&P45c with all manner of triggers, sights, slides, controls, grips, lasers and espresso holders (for all I know). The Compact version is what it is: an accurate, reliable, concealable weapon with a rail for a light that holds enough bullets and provides enough grip to solve most self-defense problems.

I’d like to say I’ve found the perfect hot-weather .45. But then I’d like to say that the Glock 30 doesn’t exist. Or slimmer (though less easily accurate) .357 revolvers. Or compact 1911s. Or far more concealable lower caliber handguns. Let’s put it this way: the Smith & Wesson M&P45c may not be the ideal concealable .45, but it’s less of a boat anchor than its big brother and it will drop ‘em when it’s hot.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Model:M&P45c
  • Price:$599 msrp
  • Caliber:.45ACP
  • Capacity:8 Rounds
  • Barrel Length:4″ / 10.2 cm
  • Action:Striker Fire (Double Action Only)
  • Weight (No Mag):26.2 oz.
  • Overall Length:7.55″ / 19.2 cm
  • Overall Height:4.8″
  • Width:1.2″
  • Empty Mag:2.7 oz.
  • Full Mag:Approx. 9.4 oz.
  • Grip:3 Interchangeable Palmswell Grip Sizes
  • Trigger Travel:Rest to fire – .300
  • Trigger Reset:.140 Approx.
  • Trigger Pull:7lbs. +/-
  • Material:Polymer Frame, Stainless Steel Slide, Barrel & Structural Parts
  • Slide & Barrel Finish:Black Melonite® 68 HRc
  • Sight Radius:6.3″
  • Front Sight:White Dot Dovetail
  • Rear Sight:Steel Low Profile Carry

RATINGS

Style * * * * *
Sleek, slim, and those fish-scale serrations sets it apart from the boring straight slide serrations set.

Ergonomics (carry) * * * *
Good ambidextrous focus. Very comfortable to hold with a grippy texture.

Ergonomics (firing) * * * **
Very manageable recoil for a light, compact polymer. Less than an XD(m). More than a 1911.

Reliability * * * **
The gun and magazines handled steel-cased ammo where others failed.

Customize This * *
Grips and whatever you can fit on the rails. That’s it.

OVERALL RATING * * * *
Great summer carry gun. Star withheld for less-than-ideal trigger.

41 Responses to Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P45c

  1. avatar2Wheels says:

    I had an XD-40 Subcompact too. Never failed me once, but the tiny grip+snappy recoil made it a difficult gun for me to control. And I had trouble with activating the slide stop prematurely, I’m used to 1911s and I keep my thumbs up high.

    Awesome gun otherwise, replaced it with another 1911.

    • avatarDammitDave says:

      I have a XD subcompact and love it. They make a pinky-extension for them that allows you to get your full hand on the grip.

  2. avatarVarmint Hunter says:

    “trigger’s a bit gritty and prone to stacking”

    Educate me, please. What is stacking?

  3. avatarMthughes says:

    Get the apex hard sear for the 45, then get the ultimate striker block which will fit that gun, that’s all I have in my 9c, and it’s great I am guessing it’s the springs in the dceck that won’t work with the 45

  4. avatarRalph says:

    Giao, my EDC is a S&W .40c, because the compact .45 can’t be sold in Massivetwoshits for reasons unknown. MA has a ten pound trigger requirement for DAO pistols, so I swapped out the factory trigger for a two-stage Apex. It was a huge improvement. The takedown release is a bitch, but I got used to it. If I slam a new mag home, it releases the slide and chambers the round automatically like your compact .45. This is a good feature for mortal combat, but I do not like it for the range. However, the workaround is to first release the slide and then replace the magazine. The best feature of the compact M&P is that’s its extremely light and easy to carry concealed. I would definitely purchase a .45c if I could get my hands on one, but I can’t.

  5. avatarsdog says:

    my buddy just got a full sized m&p, the take down SUCKS, but the trigger is good, it points well and the sights are good, i’m mostly a fan

  6. avatarBrett Solomon says:

    Nice review Giao! The only technical inaccuracy though is the comparison to Tori Spelling…she is looking a little chunky these days due for baby #3. A better choice for today would be Keira Knightly. Scary skinny. Robert, amend the text when you get a chance, lol.

  7. I live in MN (which can and does top 90 both in temp and humidity) and have carried a full-sized Baby Eagle 9mm, a full-sized Witness .40 and the full-sized Para Ordnance p-14, all in a shoulder holster. Wear a light T-shirt with an unbuttoned light button-down shirt over it and you’ll be fine. Or at least no more miserable than you would be without the cover garment.

  8. avatarThe Walruus says:

    “In both guns, slamming a loaded mag in while the slide is locked back releases the slide. Automatic slide release, such a modern feature. I wish my 1911 would do that.”

    Had to come to grips (lol) with the slide thing. Too many years with too many 1911s. I finally learned after the second time wedging the web of my hand out of the slide. Owee

  9. avatarGregInAtl says:

    I was all set to trade in/sell my Glock 23 and get an M&P 45c. Think I’ll wait until the trigger problem is no longer an issue. I don’t want to pay that kind of money and then have to do a trigger job on it.

    How long has the M&P 45c been on the market, it seems nobody has them.

  10. avatarnate says:

    How can anyone f up the takedown? It’s no harder then any other plastic gun, just different.

    “dis is a glock fo-tay, im the only one qualified enuff to carra dis”.

  11. avatarkeith says:

    I have one of these in 9mm and love it, I live in MA and purchased the apex trigger job kit which was quite easy to install and got rid of the ridiculous MA comp. trigger and turns it into a smooth, crisp pleasure to shoot. I purchased this gun because its both small enough to be an EDC and I can still take it to the range and pop off rounds all day and have fun. Apex Tactical has come out with trigger mods for every chamber in this gun as well as other replaceable high end internals. In my opinion it is a great gun to purchase in whatever your favorite caliber (as long as you go with apex after purchase)

  12. avatarJeff from MA says:

    Great write up on this one. I have a M&P 40 range kit and changed the trigger. I could not stand the MA compliant crap. I was just looking at .40 & .45′s for carry. The SIG’s P229RM (.40 w/night sights), P250 (.45 Compact) and P239M (.40) and two Smith and Wesson’s the M&P .40 Compact and the one you reviewed here. Anyone own a Sig and is the difference in price worth it? Oh I am a left handed shooter and I know on the S&W I can change the mag release. Safety I don’t think will matter either way. My current carry is a Smith and Wesson 442 Airweight .38 Special. Just looking for something new…

  13. avatarRick Lifer says:

    I recently purchased a (slightly) used M&P 45c. I put 100 rounds of Remington target FMJ and also some Hornady Critical Defense (my carry ammo) thru it and it functioned 100%. I also have the M&P 40 (full-size) and I was pleasantly surprised at the smooth recoil of the .45. I don’t beleive it’s much more than my .40. It’s winter here in Michigan and this .45 is my new carry gun. I also open carry so summer time will not be that different. I really didn’t notice an issue with the trigger not feeling right. It shot great, felt great, and carries great !! I continue to be an M&P fan.

  14. avatarEd Gratz says:

    First, Apex does make the parts to improve the trigger now. I just installed them in my 45c. Second, the X-grip adapters are also available now. I just got two for the 10 round mags I got when I bought the gun. I love my 45c. It’s chunkier than my 3″ 45 Para, so that’ s what I carry more often, but the 45c sure feels good knowing I have 20 rounds available with an extra mag rather than the 12 rounds with the Para.

  15. avatarRob says:

    I own a M&P40c. Not liking the take-down procedure created for the faint-of-heart involving the sear disconnect, I discovered that you can field strip it like any other modern pistol: After clearing the weapon and locking the slide back with the take-down switch, you can pull the trigger to release the sear. No stupid reaching in to flip the sear switch that I couldn’t reach. Yes, it can field strip exactly like an XD.

  16. avatarchad haire says:

    This pistol is a danger to the user and everyone around it. To see why, compare the trigger system to the Glock and Springfield XDM. On the latter two, the trigger safety is a thin metal part that fits in the middle of the trigger assembly. This prevents trigger movement should it come in contact with other material (such as a too-tight leather holster, or pants pocket) But on the S&W, the ENTIRE lower half of the trigger acts as a “safety”, so if it rubs against anything, it discharges the weapon. May be safe to carry in an assigned holster, but for non-holster carry, this is another deathtrap and liability nightmare. This is why I dumped mine (as well as the lousy accuracy). Too bad, did have a nice “feel” to it. I have presented this problem with S&W staff, but they refuse to discuss the issue. No surprise.

    • avatarMikeyMike says:

      I am not so sure about your ‘lousy accuracy’ comment. A) Out the box, my M&P .45 and .40 produced 4″ groups at 20 meters. B) My M&P 9mm did not enjoy the same ‘out-of-the-box’ accuracy as the .45 and the .40, which simply meant what that means to most shooters; adjust or replace your sights. It seems too many shooters these days are expecting a $500 utility weapon to perform and run like a $2K custom piece.
      As far as your comment/concern about the trigger design/safety function in a non-holster carry situation; tell me who carries any M&P in their pocket?
      I am sorry your personal experience with the M&P was so unfortunate, but in my opinion, each of your ‘issues’ were/are easily remedied and is certainly no fault of the weapon.
      I am not surprised you were not responded to by the S&W staff. 1) The weapon is not designed to be carried in a ‘non-holstered’ fashion. 2) ‘Lousy accuracy’ is the shooter’s responsibility to remedy.
      Were you upset that it did not reload itself and police its own brass after being run? Probably.

    • avatarRob says:

      What kind of moron carries a gun without a holster? No wonder S&W ignored you…

  17. avatarchad haire says:

    Hey Goober, I have been shooting for 30 years, have written approx 400 firearm test articles in national magazines, so me thinks I know how to shoot. So if my M&P was grouping ave 6 inches at 15 yards with various ammo from a fixed rest, I don’t think we can blame my shooting ability. I didn’t say ALL S&W M&P shoot this way, just mine–so it appears I got a lemon. You say I could have “solved” the trigger problem too–but naturally you don’t say how. Because you can’t. Who carries a pistol in their pocket you ask?? I DO as well of many many concealed carry users around the country. Many females carry in their purse too, sort of the same thing. A live trigger/cartridge design like this in a bag? Bad bad bad idea. If a pistol cannot be safely carried out of a holster without discharge potential IT IS NOT SAFE–PERIOD. And THAT is why S&W will not discuss the issue! Who is going to admit a defect design in this lawsuit world we live in? So I am right and you are wrong, and that is it

    • avatarCarlos says:

      You are wrong, a pistol should always be in a holster when being carried even when in a purse or bag. If you do not take this safety precaution, then no trigger in the world will be able to protect you from your own ineptness.

      • avatarC. A. Haire says:

        Bullshit. There is no way a DA pistol with a 12-15 pound trigger is going to discharge unless you pull it and pull it hard. The DA trigger IS THE SAFETY PRECAUTION! And if you have a properly designed DA with no external safety like the Sig 226/229, even better. Furthermore, your idea that a handgun should ALWAYS be carried in a holster, even in a purse, pocket, or bag is simply absurd. If you are being mugged, assaulted, or carjacked, the time to take the weapon out of BOTH the purse/bag and remove it from a holster too is too long — you obviously have little clue about personal protection. I hope you never have to pull a gun out in a hurry, I suspect your attacker is going to take it away from you. Perhaps you should carry mace instead — or do you want to carry that in a holster too?

        • avatarBill Rakes says:

          Glocks and Springfields do not have 12-15 lb stock triggers. M&Ps can be bought with thumb safeties for pocket/purse carry for this reason. If people are pocket/purse carrying Glocks, they’re being irresponsible. Quit being such a cocky d-bag, no one cares about your alpha dog self-image.

  18. avatarChuck Burnett says:

    No reason to get mad. Interesting that you are not familiar with the M&P 9FS problems with early unlocking that started to appear after the release of the compact. Pretty good right up about halFway down the page about some work arounds.

    http://10-8performance.blogspot.com/

    No excuse, just an explanation. I’m unpublished in anything.

  19. avatarTim says:

    I don’t get have a M&P 45 compact shoots great no problem with the trigger.
    Carry it all the time great size for a 45.

  20. avatarDaniel says:

    For what it is, the M&P45C is a fabulous gun. I’ve had mine for over 3 years and have yet to have any issues with it. I shoot it maybe 3 or 4 x’s a year. Last time I had it out, I was more accurate than I have been with it, since I have owned it. Never had an issue with the trigger pull or anything else about it. All my mags have the extended finger grip on them, ordered them from S&W. S&W M&P’s are the only Polymer handguns I own, except for my LCP. I wouldn’t have it any other way, Made in The USA.

  21. avatarbp says:

    Nice article. I’m a Glock Practitioner by trade and carry and recently acquired two M&P 45′s. A standard and compact variant. I also own an HK45c to which I have significant rounds downrange with and from both an accuracy and reliability perspective, have been uber satisfied with. I have cycled over 500 rds through each of the M&P 45s to date and both compare quite well in both accuracy and reliablity to the HK45c. I will wait until I have at least few more rounds through before deciding on wether to EDC them. For the moment, as much as I don’t care for S&W management or thier politics, the stock trigger may not be the best but they have made a great 45 poly pistol, nice work S&W. Carry on

  22. avatarGregor says:

    Excuse me but there are Apex trigger kits for this gun… please update your review.

    Apex Duty / Carry Enhancement kit for M&P 45 / 45c:
    https://apextactical.com/store/product-info.php?pid16.html

    Apex Competition Enhancement kit for M&P 45 / 45c:
    https://apextactical.com/store/product-info.php?pid38.html

    Apex aluminum trigger for M&P (45/45c included):
    https://apextactical.com/store/product-info.php?pid60.html

    Apex polymer trigger for M&P (45/45c included):
    https://apextactical.com/store/product-info.php?pid71.html

    And more. Just look on the Apex website.

  23. avatarGregor says:

    Also I forgot these two Apex M&P trigger kits compatible with the 45 / 45c:

    Apex M&P aluminum forward set sear & trigger kit:
    https://apextactical.com/store/product-info.php?pid54.html

    Apex M&P polymer forward set sear & trigger kit:
    https://apextactical.com/store/product-info.php?pid70.html

    As mentioned above, each one of these products I have listed links for ARE compatible
    with the M&P .45 and M&P .45 Compact, so you do have quite a few choices, and what
    I like is you can buy just the polymer or aluminum trigger, you don’t need the trigger bar
    and everything like you do with Glock handguns (pyramid trigger, fulcrum trigger etc)
    which cost quite a bit. I can’t wait to try one of these Apex triggers and trigger kits out on
    my M&P .45C!

  24. avatarRichard Rowe says:

    Here we are, nearly three years after your review and I see from some of the later comments that there have been some -presumably aftermarket- enhancements to the array of components and methods of fine-tuning one’s Smith & Wesson M&P45c compact added to the mix. Perhaps you could be kind enough to update your review. I am in Illinois, have completed the requirements for concealed carry, and am looking for something with a lesser profile than my Hi-Power. I like the notion of added knock-down power with the .45 ACP compensating for fewer rounds available if -God forbid- I ever actually have to pull a weapon to protect me, mine, or other innocent victims.

    Thank you

  25. avatarDaniel says:

    Knockdown power? What it really comes down to is larger wound channel (specifically speaking of diameter of hollow point spread), though depending on the ammo used, may not be too much larger. But, that is all debatable on what one deems significantly larger: 25%, 50%? More important than caliber, or quantity of rounds, is the ability to present the weapon smoothly and fire accurately with rapid and accurate follow up shots if necessary. Also, can you carry conceal the weapon comfortably and do so through all seasons without printing? I personally find the M&P45C too large to carry except for heavier jacket months (winter), a compact 1911 in 45 and most often a subcompact size 40 or 9 (in steel) are what I choose in shirt & pants weather. A Shield, Bodyguard or LCP size weapon are also more to my liking, even though they are polymer not steel.

  26. avatarsckarekrow says:

    chad haire you are an ignorant loudmouth. 30 years of running your mouth in assclown gunrags doesn’t qualify you as a shooter or a defensive tactics expert. The trigger isn’t a safety, you are.

    • avatarc haire says:

      I still know more than you dumbass

    • avatarc haire says:

      you need to go back to school and learn how to read. The policy on this web clearly states you are to use your REAL NAME here. We want real people, not panzy cowards who talk shit while hiding behind a fake web name–like you. Come back when you get it.

  27. avatargeorge says:

    I carry over 4 decades, 7 days a week all of the time other when in the shower. I carried from the revolver days, “when there were no small auto’s”, other than a PPK’s, “which I carried as a backup for 20 yrs. also.
    I have been pocket carrying an XDS or PM9 the past 5 years. As 380′s just don’t cut it.
    I carry in a Remora, D’esantis, or “sticky” holster in the right front pocket. Sometimes as a back-up sometimes as my only gun, “if I am around the house, just hanging out, or local like walking the pup.
    A 45 is really the most sensible gun to carry, know that they are similar to a 9mm in size. Carried a Glock 30 since they first made the gun, and after selling it for almost what I paid, and looking at every new SIG, HK, and Walther, I bought the 30 S.
    Where can you find a 20 oz gun that holds 11 rounds of 45?, They shaved 3 oz. off ,and thinned down the grip, making it the perfect gun, especially with the Glock 21 Mags and a plus 2.
    I do recommend a pocket holster as if you have a good one the gun will come out faster because it is staged in the perfect position, rather than flopping around. Especially a glock. I normally won’t pocket carry a Glock,, “any glock,” only because of the sensitive trigger and lack of a manual safety.
    I don’t want a manual safety but with dogs and grandkids I don’t want to get shot either.
    Small hands and Paws can get into spots where they can cause damage.

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