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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Weight: 26 oz. empty
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.