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.


  • 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


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.

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