FNS-40 Contest Entry: Gun Review – Smith and Wesson M&P9 Pro Series

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By John Sager

In my relatively limited time as a gun enthusiast, I’ve found that there are at least two groups of people who commonly get screwed over in the great wide world of firearms: 1) those with small hands, and 2) lefties. And of course, I fall into both of these groups. After taking a few classes from KR Training here in the Austin area (reviewed on TTAG), I became acutely aware of the idea of gun fit and trigger reach. Although I consider myself a card-carrying GLOCKophile, I realized I’d needed to compromise the grip on my Glock 19 in order to get my trigger finger off the frame. In short, the gun just didn’t fit me as well as it could . . .

So as I entered market for a competition-suited pistol, I knew I wanted something easy to shoot that would provide me the best fit possible. Any southpaw-friendly features would be a bonus. Enter the Smith and Wesson M&P9 Pro.

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Overview and Features

For those of you not familiar with the M&P line of handguns, they are S&W’s top line of polymer-framed striker-fired pistols. M&Ps are commonly carried by law enforcement and armed citizens alike, and they are also well suited for recreation and home defense.

This particular M&P is chambered in the trusty 9mm and comes with an extended 5 inch barrel, only available on the Pro Series (normal M&P9s are 4.25”). Magazine capacity is 17+1, and S&W provides 1 extra 17 round assault clip for your standard-capacity enjoyment.

Other features include Picatinny rail space (useful for hanging lights, lasers, coffee makers, etc.), and a loaded chamber indicator, which consists of a hole in the slide (shown below). Not the greatest design in my opinion, as it can be tough to see brass in suboptimal lighting conditions. However, you should already know the condition of your gun anyways, chamber indicator or not. Besides, if the need arises, press checks make you look like a tactical ninja.

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One of the distinguishing features of the Pro series is the upgraded sights from Novak, which includes a black “reduced glare” rear sight and a green fiber-optic front sight. A lot of competitors prefer this set up over three dot sights, and after owning this gun, I’m inclined to agree with them.

Also included on this gun: an ambidextrous slide stop and a reversible magazine release. Lefties rejoice! Thumb safety? Nope. Mag drop safety? No thank you. The M&P9 Pro includes the features you need and nothing more.

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Ergonomics

The first thing you notice when you pick up the gun is how great it feels in your hand. The grip angle of the gun is much more 1911 than Glock, and the new, textured palm swells provide the just-right amount of friction.

As is en vogue these days, Smith includes 3 sizes of palm swell so you can customize the fit of your gun. It’s worth noting that the medium comes on the gun from the factory, and so it will likely be the one on the model in your neighborhood LGS, meaning the grip can be made smaller or larger from there. At the risk of inciting a severe case of C.G.E.S. (crotchety gun-store employee syndrome), it’s a good idea to ask to try the other sizes before buying the gun. Based solely on feel, I would say the medium palm swell on the M&P is similar to the smallest backstrap on Gen 4 Glocks.

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The smallest palm swell is clearly meant for men with female sized hands and for females with hands. So naturally, I slapped on the small was good to go. This made the trigger easily reachable (much more so than on any Glock) and allowed me to get the airspace between the frame and gun required to get a straight-back trigger pull.

Trigger

The triggers on the M&P’s have been much, and quite fairly, maligned. For many people this is the proverbial Achilles heel of these guns. The take-up is often gritty and the break mushy and inconsistent. The trigger safety is also a bit strange and takes some getting used to. And let’s not even discuss the reset. M&Ps are notoriously the Houston Astros of trigger reset. Just…embarrassing.

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Fortunately, Apex Tactical makes triggers that, by all reports, fix each of these issues. Although the triggers on the Pro Series had allegedly been improved, I was prepared to drop the extra dough to get a self-respecting trigger for my gun. However….

The trigger on this particular gun was…surprisingly good. Rated at 4-5.5lbs (a whopping 1-1.5lbs lighter than that the normal M&P trigger), it had smooth take-up with no noticeable grit, a predictable wall, and a VERY CRISP break. I mean nearly icicle crisp with negligible creep.

And then I reset the trigger… I mean, you can kind of feel the trigger reset, but you sure as heck can’t hear it. Coming from a Glock where the sound of the trigger reset has been known to bring people out of comas, this is disappointing to say the least. However, with practice, I think there is enough feel in the reset to get by.

Shooting

Being a competition gun, accuracy and controllability should be the main two reasons for buying the M&P Pro. I’ll preface this by saying that the sight picture/point of impact on this gun was not what I was used to. Typically, on a handgun with the sights aligned, POI is right at the top of the front sight. On the M&P Pro however, POI is right behind the green fiber optic dot, meaning that if you use the former sight picture, you will miss low.

Despite struggling to make this adjustment, 1” groups at 7 yards weren’t a problem, using 115 grain Wolf ammo. With a little more practice, getting these to shrink into the same hole shouldn’t be too difficult.

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Obviously, things opened up as I moved the target back, but a fist sized group offhand at 15 yards isn’t anything to sneeze at. I expect the gun’s accuracy to show even more as I get used to putting the dot over the target, rather than the top of the blade.

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Slow-fire accuracy is good, but controllability during rapid fire is just as, if not more important for a gun like this. After receiving my paddle holster and some mag pouches in the mail from Comp-Tac, I took the M&P Pro out to Best of the West to run a few practical shooting drills.

I had no trouble keeping strings of rapid fire inside the A zone on a standard IPSC target from 3 to 7 yards. The weight and balance of this gun with the long, 5 inch slide make the M&P Pro a pleasure to shoot. Recoil is tame to nonexistent, and the green fiber optic sight immediately drops back onto target, making follow up shots no problem. The bright green dot is also very easy to pick up when transitioning between targets.

Reliability

As a poor college student, I buy the cheapest ammo I can get my hands on and don’t have the time or cash for ammo-finicky firearms. As of writing, I’ve had this gun about a week, but have managed to run several hundred rounds consisting of Blazer, Wolf, WWB, Tula, Brown Bear, Monarch, and others. All ammo was digested without issue and I don’t expect this to change. By all accounts, M&Ps are just as reliable as Glocks, although you won’t see me freezing my M&P Pro inside a block of ice or baking it into a cake anytime soon.

The M&P Pro is a solid gun in its own right, but what truly makes it shine is its ability to work for a wide variety of different shooters, including us small-handed lefties. Suffice to say, I’m pleased with this gun’s performance, especially at a reasonable price point that’s about half of what you would pay for a high quality 1911.

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Specifications:
Caliber:              9mm Luger
Barrel:                5″
Overall:              8.5″
Weight:              26 oz. empty
Capacity:           17+1
Price:                 $669.00 MSRP (Street price will vary)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy: * * * * *
Long sight radius and nice sights make for small groups in slow fire and easily controllable rapid fire. If you can’t shoot this gun well, it’s on you.

Ergonomics (Handling): * * * * *
Huge plus of the M&P line. Unless you are a smurf or a mountain gorilla, you can make this gun fit for you.

Ergonomics (Firing): * * * * 
Superb trigger break…awful reset. Apex kit might make the trigger nearly perfect.

Reliability: * * * *
Right up there with Glock. In the land of reliability, plastics reign supreme.

Customization: * * * *
There are plenty of holster options and the Picatinny rail should satisfy the desires of all but the most extreme of tacticool.

Overall Rating: * * * * 1/2
I’m withholding half a star for the trigger reset, but if you’re looking for a full size pistol for, competition home defense, or just plain, old American fun, the M&P9 Pro is a great option.

comments

  1. avatar Gyufygy says:

    Thanks for the review. Looked at one of these before, so good to hear some feedback.

    Also, the post-Shield triggers on the M&Ps are definitely way better than the earlier ones. None of the phantom reset crap, and much nicer break.

  2. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    I bought mine regular M&P9 used with a bunch of goodies for $425. My friends gave it a go and liked it better than their Glocks they had with them, even with the mushy reset. It’s interesting to read a review that sounds about what I thought about my gun. Oh and Cabelas finally had some M&P9 mags for sale so I bought two. I haven’t seen any around here since June and those were pre-Firearmageddon leftovers at a pawn shop. This is going to be my 3 gun pistol and I finally have enough mags to use it. I might give a trigger upgrade a try if I find the trigger bothers me, but I need to put a lot more rounds through it. I’ve only put about 6 mags through it so far.

  3. avatar B says:

    If the trigger feels fine just buy the Apex hard sear for $40. Review on TTAG says it fixes the reset with an positive click and lightens the trigger a bit. I actually have enough guns right now, bought a Witness Elite Match for 9mm, but if I was going to buy another it would be an M&P9. Or an FDE M&P45. I’d have to hold them to decide.

  4. avatar Shwiggie says:

    Glad to hear the triggers are somewhat improved. My M&P45 was horrid until an Apex hard sear just happened along.

  5. avatar michael kennedy says:

    I was leaning towards the M&P 9 but, after some research, I was made aware of the conversion barrels from .40 to 9mm. I like the idea of having the same gun but two calibers. Now you can’t go 9mm to .40 but if it’s as simple as switching barrels, I’m sold.

  6. avatar tdiinva says:

    Third try.

    I don’t understand why high quality modern polymer pistols have crappy stock triggers. From my experience they are good enough to reliably hit center mass in a DGU but if you want something smooth you have to “pimp” you trigger. You would think that Glock or S&W would be able to make a gun with a stock trigger as smooth as a cheap 1911.

  7. avatar b.malloy says:

    Great review!

  8. avatar Vuddha says:

    One gun I don’t think gets enough love is the Walther P99. I don’t claim to be an expert on anything gun-related, but I’ve fired a few polymer framed handguns, and my P99 is by far the one of the best, maybe even better than my USP Tactical. Among me and my friends, we own several Glocks, an M&P 40, a SIG P250, and my USP Tactical and P99, whose trigger is far better that the aforementioned pistols that belong to my friends. And the trigger reset is literally like a quarter of an inch!
    Mine’s an older first gen (the one made famous by Pierce Brosnan), but the newer ones have ambidextrous slide releases as well as the “European” ambidextrous magazine releases ubiquitous on HK pistols. The P99 was one of the first to offer interchangeable backstraps too! The only non-ambidextrous feature is the decocking button on the top rear left of the slide, but since it doesn’t have a safety its always ready to fire, single or double.

    1. avatar Vuddha says:

      Left out the part where I say great review!

      1. avatar John Sager says:

        Thanks! I used to own a Sig P226 but just couldn’t deal with the DA/SA. If I did own one, it probably would be the USP Tactical. Very sweet shooting gun. Can’t say I’ve ever shot a P99 but that’s good to know.

  9. avatar Heavy says:

    John, I have an M&P Pro CORE 9, and like you I was pleasantly surprised by the trigger.. but also like you, I was disappointed in the reset. I bought this to be a nightstand gun and installed a motion-activated Leupold Deltapoint on it (spoiler alert: the setup is perfect for this role).

    After about 500 rounds the OEM Pro trigger had both lightened up and smoothed out even further from the Performance Center treatment, but the creep “stage” had actually lengthened because the sear engagement surface had rounded out a bit. However, I had to consciously search for this difference with my finger. It was still a great trigger by any striker-fired stock measure. We’re talking a few percentage points difference after 500 rounds. It felt like trading a mm of squish for an ounce or two of pull.

    I actually prefer the M&P hinged trigger to the Glock-style trigger safety, but always intended to “max the gun out” on Apex parts. To that end I installed their striker block and hard sear (these two things really go together, as without the USB the striker safety will feel like a whole second stage – do both or neither), as well as the “Reset Assist Mechanism.” I stuck with the stock springs as I felt the weight was already great for the intended usage, so the pull only dropped by half a pound to around 4 lbs – perfect.

    The USB + Sear were crisper than the Pro trigger out of the box. The engagement edge is visibly much sharper, and the melonite-treated hardened metal will probably keep it that way for the life of the pistol. However this was not a night and day change – while the Apex trigger is as good as it gets without removing safeties, the Pro trigger really is quite good already, so installing the USB + sear really didn’t net me much bang for the buck. The Apex trigger is excellent, but the Pro trigger was already very good.

    I also installed the Reset Assist Mechanism, and this is where the night and day change really happened. Unlike the other Apex upgrades, the RAM doesn’t replace anything. It’s an additional spring and plunger that push the sear back into position as you release the trigger, basically assisting the trigger spring in its return. If the trigger spring breaks the RAM spring will allow you to push the trigger forward and still reset the sear, so it is in fact a reliability upgrade. The reset went from inaudible and barely perceptible, to audible and clearly perceptible, without any sense of trigger slap. It’s not Glock audible, but that is to say that it is not excessively loud, not to say that it is insufficiently loud. And the feel is just an absolutely crisp click where before it was just oatmeal.

    Knowing what I know now, I would recommend Apex RAMs for every applicable M&P without exception. It’s incredibly easy to install, does not replace any existing parts, and it’s only $24. Honestly, I don’t know why S&W doesn’t already include this part as it seems so natural once you have it installed, like the gun shipped with a part missing from the factory. It’s so simple and obvious that I truly believe we’ll see this included from S&W at some point in the future.

    I would also not recommend that anyone with a Pro trigger jump in with both feet to a full Apex setup – start with the RAM only. It will be a huge improvement. If you then want to max the gun out no matter the cost, install both the USB and Hard Sear, but compared to the RAM you’ll only gain a marginal improvement. Would I do it the same way over again personally? Heck yeah, but cost wasn’t an object and I enjoy tinkering, so the USB installation (requiring the removal of the rear sight on non-CORE models, and striker block from the slide) wasn’t daunting. Anyone with opposable thumbs can install the RAM and there’s very little risk of messing anything up. You even get the satisfaction of seeing the shiny little head of the part through a hole in the frame when you’re done.

    FWIW I reload, so I also installed the Failure Resistant Extractor in order to achieve a little more positive extraction into the rail-mounted brass bag. Extraction was already 100% reliable and remained so with the FRE, I just wanted it to extract with a bit more gusto.

    1. avatar John Sager says:

      Thanks for the feedback on that! I’ll definitely look into the RAM. I agree that it could make a lot of sense for S&W to use this in their guns from the factory. Especially since M&Ps tend to be cheaper than Glocks and Springers as it is.

      1. avatar Heavy says:

        Please post a follow-up when you do!

    2. avatar Jay says:

      +1 for the whole comment…Just want to add…The RAM kit will only work with M&Ps without thumb safety. (I don’t think that the Pro Series come with that, but just in case)

  10. avatar TTACer says:

    Just wanted to vote this up as a contest winner. We have had politics and sentimentality, how about a straight up, well-written, detailed, and humorous review?

  11. avatar Bdk NH says:

    Nicely done review. My experience has been similar to the reviewer. I am recovering from being a long time Glock fan to regular S&W user. It started with a classmates full size M&P 9 that I shot at a training session about a year ago. I immediately shot it as well as my Glock 19 and it fit me better.

    I recently picked up a M&P 9 CORE Pro Series 5″. Trigger is really good, even new, and the gun is amazingly accurate, smooth and effortless to shoot. It is very 1911 like in the way it handles and shoots IMO, which is a very GOOD thing for me anyways. The extended sights allow for really accurate shooting however they may be too tall for any sort of practical carry as they seem a bit snaggy. Yesterday at the range, I threw my brush gun red dot on the CORE. After a few shots to tweak the sight in, my son and I were both easily shooting pie plate groups out to 50 yards off hand. After they thought I was nuts for trudging out to the seldom used 50 yard line to place my target, I had several people come over to shoot the gun at that range and every single one walked away saying , “I gotta get one of those.”

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      I would think that any decent handgun would be accurate to 50 yards with a red dot sight.

    2. avatar John Sager says:

      Those CORE models are pretty sweet as well. Seems like that could be a great open gun for competition with a good red dot mounted on it. Do those high sights bother you for just normal target shooting without the red dot?

      1. avatar Bdk NH says:

        @John I found the taller sights to increase accuracy for target shooting out to 15 yards.

        @TD- I suppose you are right but I have shot few hand guns seriously at this range to confirm. My G29 with Fast Fire red dot is not nearly as accurate as the M&P at 25 yards. I cant recall any great success with the G29 at 50 yards.

  12. avatar Zed says:

    Just like John’s story I learned from my time at krtraining about proper gun fit. I have short stubby fingers and glocks are just not for me. I shot and handled Karl’s (of krtraining.com) g19 with a grip reduction to figure this out and soon was in the market for an M&P. After acquiring an M&P 9FS in May and using it in competition I decided to upgrade to an M&P pro 9L 2 weeks ago. I cleaned and lubed it and shot it the next day. I was horribly disappointed at how badly it shot. It consistently shot left of point of aim and to prove to myself that it wasn’t my shooting, I bench rested it and shot my FS right after to verify. I was ready to call S&W that night but once I inspected the gun I realized that BOTH the front and rear sights were completely off. I used a vice/nylon hammer to adjust the sights, verified with a laser boresighter and it shot like a dream the next day. I’ve put almost 300 rounds through it now and can’t be happier with the upgrade. The trigger pull on the pro is definitely much lighter than the FS but the FS has a much better reset. I do have an apex kit just sitting around and might install the sear as others have suggested here.

    I bought the APEX kit prior to obtaining the FS with the intent to replace the FS trigger but was shocked to find out that the new M&P’s manufactured in 2013 already have an excellent trigger and very audible reset so I decided to keep the stock trigger.

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  14. avatar Charlessolomon says:

    I have the Smith&Wesson M&P 9 model 206301(With Safety) and am lovin’ its’ accuracy w/4.25″Barrel as much as my SD9VE Which Should REALLY be called SD9VP(Value Packed)with it’s very Accurate 4.0″Barrel. All I need is this M&P 9 series and the thrill is there as much as shooting SD9VE.
    The M&P 9 uses any kind of 9MM ammo I feed it and there are no complaints, Love the accuracy at 15yards great grouping, tight, and this S&W Classic M&P 9 is a real sweetHeart. Trigger could be a bit faster; very similar to SD9VE…So glad I got the M&P 9.

  15. avatar Glenn says:

    My S&W’s Performance Center 5″ C.O.R.E.’s first trip to the pistol range was a good news/less than good news story. The good includes the pistol’s open sites being spot on from the factory. The firearm
    fits well into the shooter’s hand. Choice of 3 easily installed backstraps helps take care of that. For cleaning, the take down and reassembly are super easy. The metal slide has provisions for quick installation of the owner’s choice of several name brand red dot aiming devices. The handgun is light
    without feeling too light. The two provided magazines eject quickly and fall free on their own.

    But what could have been an above par purchase falls short in several ways. The provided magazines do not seat snugly. Once in the mag well, there is play or slop to the point that they can almost be made to rattle. Tapping the bottom of the magazine, the magazine chatter up and down. When breaking down the pistol for cleaning, one must reach inside the grip to drop a little, think thick wire, sear disconnect. While this set up might last forever, it appears suspect and prone to damaged. On my M&P’s first trip to the shooting range, the slide failed to lock back 5 or 6 times out of 25 empty magazines. And as many others have commented, the trigger reset is far too soft, mushy, and indistinct. The poor trigger is the greatest failing of this firearm. It alone, for many, would be a deal killer. The trigger is that bad.

    On the its-no-big-deal side of the ledger, out of 125 rounds fired, there was one failure to feed and the loading the magazines took a good deal of effort. The one failure to feed might work itself out in time. The magazine’s followers were stiff to almost sticky. I will clean the feed ramp and magazines and
    bet that will help. A loading tool would be a useful accessory.

    In my opinion: S&W makes some fine firearms. Regrettably, the M&P5L C.O.R.E. is not their best efforts. If I knew before buying this pistol what I know now, I most likely would not have purchased it. I am not so disenchanted as to totally regret my purchase and will give my M&P another chance. I would not recommend this firearm to others. It is disappointing to find a manufacturer as renoun as S&W who is touting this somewhat expensive firearm as being above other offerings has fallen short. With a little more attention to detail, the pistol’s shortcomings could have been corrected before release to the public.

  16. avatar CharlesSolomon says:

    I finally got the Century Arms TP9 sa, 9MM, 18shot, and I tell You, Like my M&P9 AND SD9VE, IT IS One Incredible pistol. They are Very Fine Pistols. M&P9 and SD9VE are as much a hoot to shoot as the TP9sa.
    It IS a Plastic gun like the M&P9 series But Much Lighter.

  17. avatar pjcolorado says:

    I just got the 4.25 inch version this past week. I had a Trijicon RMR added and my Streamlight TLR 1 HL light. This is my 4th M&P and by far my new favorite pistol. Even over my Glocks, Sigs, FN’s, and HK’S. It’s just the most comfortable gun I’ve ever had, and awesome with the RMR. I also have the FNX 45 Tactical with and RMR and love having the red dot. I actually really like this trigger as well despite most people complaining about it. Anyway. Buy one you will not regret it.

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