Gun Review: Smith and Wesson M&P 45C

TTAG is no stranger to the M&P 45C. In fact, our boy Giao reviewed one back in July of 2011 and found it to be quite nice, save for some trigger shortcomings. I’m ignorant of most things pistol and self defense-related, but the M&Ps are mighty popular, especially with new shooters. So my take on the gun is through the eyes of a total noob. There are a few other practical reasons for the M&P comeback. First, I’m at a breaking point on finding a concealed carry piece for the First Time CHL series. . .

For a few reasons, a 1911 is no dice and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m going to end up carrying (and shooting) a couple different guns along the way to the concealed carry promised land. Second, the rep from Springfield Armory has said that an XDs will be harder to find that an honest politician in Chicago for a while so my hopes for a grip safety-equipped carry gun are on hold until they either dig up a T&E sample or I break down and pump some money into the local economy. And third, our man Dan seems to have done a great job schmoozing the boys from Smith at the SHOT Show. They initially told me it was going to take 90-120 days before getting a test gun in my grubby little paws. Six days later, my FFL took my 1911 in for maintenance and handed over a blue plastic S&W case.

Initial thoughts

If you don’t want to sit through 6:00 minutes of my oddly toned voice, I can sum things up rather quickly. There isn’t much to finagle on this here M&P. Magazine release, slide release, takedown lever, and trigger. Those are your four controls. No manual safety and no grip safety. There is no question about this being a fighting gun. Back when I raced motorcycles (way back when), you could always spot the race bikes from a mile away. There was safety wire everywhere, coarse cut magnesium parts, and flat black paint. Just one look told you that those bikes weren’t made for impressing people. It was for getting from point A to point B as fast as the rider could stomach. The M&P is the same way. This isn’t a pretty gun by any means, but it looks functional as all hell. Bonus points for being all black.

There were a few items that really impressed me. First, shipping with two different magazines. One flush for maximum concealment, the other with a pinky extender for those with bigger paws to get a good purchase on that nicely textured grip. Second is how easy it is to change out the backstraps. You’ll only need one, but not having to dig out a drift punch and hammer is sweet, sweet news. In less than 30 seconds, you can change the grip to suit your needs. That’s seriously awesome. Third, you can release the slide by ramming a loaded magazine home with gusto. See video to watch it in action.

Now for the two pieces of bad news. First, the slide release is worthless in its current form. It is low profile which is nice for avoiding fat fingering it in a shootout. However, it is WAY too stiff and cannot be manipulated unless you completely move your thumb to 90 degrees and press down HARD. Thank god for a heavily serrated slide that makes racking easy.

Second, the trigger is godawful. Like real bad. S&W says 7 pounds. My trigger scale say 8 pounds. And it’s not an easy road to get to the 8 pound breaking point. This road to hell is apparently paved with long travel, a fair amount of grit and no noticeable reset. Good news for Apex Tactical. I’m planning to try out one of their DCAEK kits.

First Range Trip

What does it eat?

Pretty much everything. Plain and simple. I fed it steel case, hollow points, FMJ, and even some rat shot just for giggles.  According to the manual, +P is verboten. I only had one failure to fire in 250 rounds and it was from a dud primer on some steel cased ammo. Check out the video of my shit-eating grin after popping off some rat shot.

Is it accurate?

Plenty enough for me. Pictures speak a thousand words, but suffice it to say that slow or fast, seven yards or fifteen, I never had a problem with MOBG accuracy. And a nicer trigger should only improve this tendency towards ragged holes.

Is it pleasant to shoot?

You betcha! .45 ACP is no slouch when it comes to recoil, but things were manageable and I didn’t have to ice down my hands and wrists after 250 rounds after a little more than 60 minutes of bangbangamous fun. Would I take it shooting all day? Sure, as long as I could afford the ammo.

Does it jam?

Yes, but only if you don’t release the slide with vigor. You can see in the video that when I daintily released the slide with two fingers it jammed up. When I changed my grip to an overhand rack, end of problem. If the M&P does jam, a quick tap sets things in place.

While trying to film a video of the gun jamming up, I loaded and reloaded the same bullet several times. Regular readers might remember that we talked about bullet setback back in November. As this picture shows, setback is very real and happened in less than ten reloads. My guess is that the feed ramp on the M&P is a bit aggressive and that can put some things in a bind.

Conclusion

The M&P 45C is a good gun that needs just a bit of tweaking to become an excellent firearm. I feel completely comfortable using it as my EDC gun and will be doing so when my certificate comes in the mail. I have a feeling that I’ll be converting to 9 mm in the coming months, but for right now I’ve got a really solid platform to start practicing with.

Smith and Wesson M&P 45 Compact (no manual safety)

  • Caliber: .45 ACP
  • Capacity: 8+1
  • Barrel Length: 4”
  • Action: Striker Fire (DA Only)
  • Weight (No Mag): 26.2 oz
  • Overall Length: 7.55”
  • Overall Height: 4.8”
  • Width: 1.2”
  • Material: Polymer Frame, Stainless Steel Melonite coated, Slide and Barrel
  • MSRP: $599 (street price less than $500)

Ratings (out of five stars)

Style * * * *
Ugly as sin in all the right ways. Not Glock ugly, but still no 1911.

Ergonomics * * * *
I found it to have a very natural point of aim and the changeable backstraps mean that you have a lot of options when it comes to making the gun fit your hand. All of the controls are low profile and don’t inhibit your ability to put holes in stuff.

Reliability * * *
I’m docking points for the minor jamming issue. It might resolve itself in the next 1000 rounds or so, but I think it’s worth consideration. You need to be extra diligent about really jamming the slide home.

Control Usability * *
Mag release works great and the takedown process is easy. However, the slide release and trigger really chapped my skivvies. S&W could definitely fix the trigger by just implementing something like what Apex already offers. So why don’t they?

Overall Rating * * * *
This is a fine polymer gun that’ eaten everything I’ve thrown at it. It’s plenty accurate and  very concealable. No manual safety means that it’s a point and shoot affair. I’ll be strapping one to my hip in the next few months if that tells you anything.

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About Tyler Kee

Tyler Kee is a small town kid trying to make it in the big city of Austin, TX. A salesman by day, he is an avid motorcyclist and aspiring chef out of the office.

37 Responses to Gun Review: Smith and Wesson M&P 45C

  1. avatarbontai Joe says:

    Looks to be a pretty nice gun, shame about the trigger. I like the 8 +1 capacity for a smallish .45

  2. avatardan says:

    I dont know if its just the M&P 45 you received or something else but I can not say that i find the trigger to be gritty on my M&P 9mm. it might be that i have put over a few thousand rounds through it but its just smooth till you get to the point of breaking the glass rod.

  3. avatarGraybeard says:

    About the slide release. My initial impression when I first got a Sig P220 was that the slide release was way too tough to operate. However, after some “breaking in” it got a lot better, or I got used to it & learned how to do it better, or both.

    I know Para Ordinance recommended a break-in of 250 rounds or so.

    The S&W may also improve over time with use. They may see this as a non-issue, but it would be nice to warn buyers up front.

  4. avatarTaurus609 says:

    Tyler, I own and carry a Taurus 609 and a Sig Pro 2022, no not at the same time (both 9MM), and wanted either the XDM or the S&W also in nine. So I went to a local indoor range that lets you rent guns for use while you’re at their range, and after putting around 150 rounds through both, I settled on the S&W. I just liked the feel and fit better and shot much better with the Smith. I’ve also added a Crimson Trace laser, so as soon as I purchase a Crossbreed IWB for it, it will become my everyday carry.

  5. avatarKYgunner says:

    Slightly off topic: I would like to see a side by side comparison of the M&P 9 and the Sig SP2022. From what I’ve seen they are very similar, minus the action and firing mechanism, and about the same price range. Any thoughts TTAG?
    Heck I’d even settle for just a review of the SP2022 on here. But I’m a little partial seeming how I’m picking up my 2022 next week…

    • avatarTaurus609 says:

      Just got a flyer from Cabela’s today. They have the 2022 in either nine or forty for $399.99. Don’t know if you have one close, but that’s a great price. And the 2022 is the most underrated Sig out there. Low cost, good trigger, decocker, night sights and 15 + 1 capacity (nine).

  6. avatarChas says:

    I have loved my M&P45c since I took it out of the box. I don’t find the trigger to be an issue at all, and I’ve never had any kind of failure with mine. Recoil is what I expected, and mine is very accurate. It is my FIRST choice as EDC over my 1911, M&P9c, or Ruger SP101.

    It is the perfect carry weapon IMO.

  7. avatartdiinva says:

    Tyler:

    I would beg to differ about using a 1911 as a carry gun. Despite the size I find my Springfield 45 conceals nicely even in summer clothes. From my experience carrying my XDm Compact 9mm, a 1911 prints less than a modern boxy polymer pistol. If you think a full sized 1911 is too big then you can always go with a Colt Commander (4″ barrel) or a Cold Defender (3″ barrel).

    • avatarTyler Kee says:

      I definitely agree about the 1911 absolutely disappearing. For me, the issue is the manual safety more than anything else. I have no doubts that I could learn and master running the 1911 as my EDC gun. However, my TTAG “job” lets me shoot a lot of different guns and I worry that I’ll start destroying muscle memory immediately when I start banging away with Glocks, S&Ws, and XD(m)s. My theory (for now) is the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle.

  8. avatarEric says:

    The only time I ever use my slide release is for locking the slide open after emptying with no magazine in preparation for handing it to someone else. That is: not often at all.

    Looks like a nice gun.

  9. avatarChris Dumm says:

    I put the very first rounds through a box-new M&P 9mm back in December, and the trigger was the worst semi-auto trigger I’ve ever fired. Worse than a WWII P-38, worse than a Steyr TMP, and even worse than the Chiappa Rhino. Which isn’t even a semi-auto. It nearly required both index fingers through the trigger guard, just to get the job done.

    If S&W would get off its ass and fix the trigger, this gun would get a lot more love.

    • avatardan says:

      You had a defective M&P then they are not that hard to fire. the triger should range from 7.5-5.5 pounds of pull if its substantially more there is an issue that needs to be fixed.

    • avatarpair-o-dee says:

      Ha! Try the double action trigger pull on a Walther PPK/S – around 12 pounds.

      • avatarChris Dumm says:

        That M&P 9′s trigger was off the chart: well in excess of 15 pounds. It’s owner was our Good Samaritan during that range trip, he set us up with his brand-new pistol when we got stranded with a box full of 9mm FMJ when the range rental gun broke.

        I hope he got it fixed.

  10. avatarboomenshutzen says:

    Tyler, is that Red’s Indoor Range? North or South? I’ve been to the one in Pflugerville once…still relatively new to the area and unfamiliar with the best places to shoot. I’m a bit of a newbie too handguns and CHL too. If you’re ever up for a day at the range and a beer after let me know.

  11. avatarRyan Finn says:

    Oh come on now Tyler, ugly? I think you Texans don’t appreciate anything that doesn’t shoot long colt or sport wood grips. :D

    Good review buddy and I’m glad you came over to M&P. An interesting thing I noticed about my M&P45c is that once I put the Apex parts in it the “auto slide release” feature became pretty sporadic; which is totally worth getting a nice trigger in it.

  12. avatarRalph says:

    Nice review, Tyler.

    As a dedicated S&W weenie from way back (and you thought I was just a revolver man), I’ll note a few things. My EDC is an M&P 40c. I bought the .40 because the compact .45 isn’t Massachusetts legal while the full-sized .45 is legal. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know.

    A few things you should know:

    1. The slide stop/release will break in, but not to the point where you can accidentally fat-finger it. If it’s not as soft as you’d like, a ‘smith can fix it in five minutes, and he can remove the internal lock if you have one. And no, removing the lock does not leave an empty hole in the gun. It’s only the internal latch that goes buh-bye.

    2. M&P .45 triggers have been cludgy from the get-go. The trigger will break in, but replace it with the full Apex duty/carry kit anyway. It’s a 5.5 lb trigger that does not lose any of it’s takeup. For carry purposes, I appreciate that first light takeup stage. It keeps the gun a little safer and it does not compromise accuracy or speed. You’ll soon be double-tapping like Gregory Hines (look him up). If you don’t like where the trigger resets, there’s an Apex change for that, too.

    3. Never “ease” the slide forward or backward. Rack it and let it snap forward. This goes for almost any modern autoloader. They’ll all jam (FTF) if you try to guide the slide. Let the springs do their job and they won’t let you down.

    Now have fun and play nice with the other kids, okay?

  13. avatarMatt G. says:

    You cannot convert the .45s to 9mm. Only the .40/.357sigs. The breach face is just too wide. Also, the slide release will free up a but with use, but it doesn’t mater because I don’t use it anyway.

    Also, when you got te bullet setback, were you using the “slam the may in to release the slide” method? It will cause major set back and it’s not a great habit to get into. If you slam the mag in like that with only a few rounds in, like say if you were doing range drills, the mag can come apart at the Baseplate because the spring is not providing enough tension to hold it on. Plus if you slam it in too hard it can cause the rounds to nosedive possibly, then you have a non working gun.

    • avatarTyler Kee says:

      Good thoughts all around.

      I won’t be converting to 9 mm. I’ll just be buying a new gun.

      Good thoughts on the slamming the mag. Its not something I’m going to get in the habit of doing because I can’t reliably make it happen.

      • avatarRalph says:

        I bought the 9mm conversion barrel and some 9mm magazines for my .40. It shoots Luger rounds very reliably and very straight.

  14. avatarShawn says:

    My m&p 9 pushes the projectile into the casing as well. I love the gun but for some reason I shoot to the left with it, and with it altering rounds its not my favorite

  15. avatarMike OFWG says:

    Slamming the mag to release the slide sounds dangerous to me, in fact, it sounds like a forced malfunction. Just my opinion.

  16. avatarJoe says:

    I think the M&P45C looks better than the full size and would fit my hands perfectly, but I guess I’ll have to settle for the 4.5″ version since I live in California.

    I mean, I guess I could get it single shot converted but I’m sure it’s more hassle and money then I want to spend for my first handgun.

  17. avatarGary says:

    I’ve had my M&P 45c for over a year and found it to be a great pistol. I used it during an advanced combat pistol class and only had one jam in about 500 rounds–and that jam was my fault; an improperly resized reload that managed to get through my progressive reloading press. The trigger was a little gritty at first, but smoothed out as a result of live fire and dry fire practice. While it will probably never be as crisp as the trigger on a 1911, it is more than adequate for a concealed carry gun. (And there is hope that it will become as light as the pull on my M&P 9 Pro!)

  18. avatarBrian in CA says:

    Love my M&P45FS. 1400rounds and not a hiccup. First 500 rounds were aluminum-cased Blazer and it’s eaten anything and everything, though no rat-shot for me. It feels like an extension of my hand and the 45C fits so well too. The Apex DCAEK is a godsend and paired with a TLR-1 and PDX1s or Critical Defenses, it’s my bedside gun.

    A 45C will probably be my next handgun, albeit in SSE form- more CA BS but it is easily bypassed through legal means.

  19. avatarPC says:

    I was looking to sell or trade off my Glock 21SF at the end of October last year. A guy offered me a LNIB S&W M&P 45c and enough cash for me to say yes without hesitation. I haven’t regretted that decision. It is one gun I would not consider getting rid of. The trigger pull on mine is perfect for SD, not too light and definitely not too heavy.

  20. avatarBrian in Seattle says:

    Better re-read the owner’s manual. It says no “+P+” in any S&W handguns. Regular +P is good to go.

  21. avatarchad haire says:

    Another attempt by S&W to enter the handgun race. Big deal. Here is food for thought; about 90-95% of the handguns used by police and military are Beretta, Glock, HK, and Sig. Add West Europe and you can put Walther and CZ on the list.
    Since introduction of the Colt 1911, US gun makers have yet to make a pistol that is good ( as in reliability/durability) enough for Govt use — not Colt, ruger, and even S&W. That’s about 100 years!!! Think about it! A sad state for American gun industry — in handgun design, the Euros have been kicking our ass for a century! There is nothing about this S&W pistol that is going to change this situation. For the flaws in this turd design, see my comments in the first (part one) S&W article above.

  22. avatarduke says:

    MAYBE IF YOU USED IT AS INTENDED AS A SLIDE LOCK, AND NOT A SLIDE RELEASE IT WOULDN’T BE AN ISSUE.

  23. avatarJim says:

    When the gun breaks in, everything works better. I had a problem with mine returning to battery which was solved with proper lubrication. The slide release works great now. I’m at 1,500 rounds and love it. Also, the trigger reset is audible with live ammo. Maybe not as nice as a glock, but I’m a new shooter. Ignorance is bliss.

  24. avatarPat Slevin says:

    Ive had a 45c for almost a year. Gun shoots low with most ammo and haven’t been able to fix this even with different sights. A 200 grain bullet @800 ft/sec shoots to point of aim (pretty close) but anything hotter and it starts going low, sometimes real low.

    Trigger was a nightmare when I first got the gun and I was thinking about the APEX kit. However, with several hundred rounds the trigger has really smoothed itself out. It’s not great but it sure isn’t bad either.

    The changeable backstraps are nice, I just can’t find one that really fits. They all feel like the are trying to push my hand down from the bore axis of the gun, don’t like that feel.

    After all this I still like this gun. It is so accurate, not uncommon to cut one ragged hole from 15 to 20 yards….just shoots this great group really low. The gun, even with hotter ammo feels great, it absorbs recoil much better than my Kimber Crimson Pro Carry, I just wish it shot to POA. This is a very reliable pistol, no hiccups, nice and light, like the polymer frame, it would be a great gun if it shot to POA. I wouldn’t mind if it shot high but I hate a gun that shoots low. Still, I think Smith has a winner here.

    • avatarM Meade says:

      If it’s shooting low but still producing a tight group it is more than likely sights. Had the same problem with a Pro 9mm.

  25. avatarSgt Bubba says:

    After shooting Smiths pretty much exclusively for 50 years, I ready to swear off of them. I’ll keep all my old revolvers and 69/59 series autos but no more new ones. I bought a 640 pro (for the sights) and it was terrible, but S&W replaced the gun with a slightly better one. I decided to get a 45 for social purposes and settled on the M&P 45c(old habits are hard to break, until now). Trigger was gritty and extremely heavy and got really bad just before let off. Sent it back to Smith and it came back the same way with a check off sheet, with nothing checked off as to the problem. I really don’t think you should have to pay for an Apex tactical trigger to be able to shoot a new gun. S&W has just switched my loyalty to Ruger. Repair guys told me anything with barrel 4″ or less is targeted for 10 yds. I never heard of that before. It wouldn’t have been very handy in my cop days or PPC shooting days.
    I will not purchase, anything with Smith&Wesson on the side plate again. To bad 50 yrs of customer loyalty being flushed down the tubes.

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