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.