The second generation Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 takes the classic S&W pistol to the next level with ergonomic and performance upgrades.
There are two ways you can look at the new S&W M&P M2.0. One way is the philosophy of “Why fix what isn’t broken?” The M&P9 M1.0 worked fine; so, leave it alone, right? The second way is, “Test them like you use them.” Forward-thinking manufacturers know life is not static, nor does it occur in a vacuum. Needs evolve and change, and S&W delivers on change. S&W chooses to learn, listen, test, adapt and evolve, and that is what it did with the M&P9 M2.0.
I like the M&P series and found that these pistols perform. I’ve witnessed M&P pistols endure excessive round counts. As fast as magazines were loaded, the pistols constantly chattered, churning up the dirt backstop so much that the pistols became hot to the touch. The high round count did not faze the M&P, and it did not cave under the torture. In reality, no one will ever shoot 1,000+ rounds as fast as possible through their pistols, unless you happen to be like me and try to find a gun’s weak spot. I couldn’t break the old M&P9 M1.0.
There are other things I like about the old M&P, which I hoped S&W would leave well enough alone, and that was the grip. The 18-degree grip angle of the M&P is similar to a 1911 and comfortable to shoot. A Glock in comparison is about 22 degrees. S&W wisely chose to keep the angle at 18 degrees.
The trigger on older models was good, but the trigger is always the thing that can be improved. Forget about the ease of use and fieldstripping. The M&P is simple and safe and, yes, a thumb safety is available on older M&P models if that feature is a requirement. The new M2.0 I tested came with the optional ambidextrous thumb safety. I tried the thumb safety on the test sample just to tick that off the checklist. It is easily manipulated with the thumb of the shooting hand. If I owned this gun, I would probably never use it because the built-in safeties of the M&P keep it drop safe. Having the safety redundancy in the thumb safety is a good feature, nonetheless.
The slide release is the same as on the M1.0 except on the M2.0 it is ambidextrous. Also the magazine release is reversible, and the button is made of steel.
Some of the M2.0 design changes are obvious. Others are not so obvious. The first thing that I noticed when I pulled the M&P9 M2.0 out of the case was the aggressively textured grips. It reminded me of medium grit sandpaper but with none of the abrasion. Think the Glock RTF2 texture but not as spiny. The M2.0 texture offers good adhesion without feeling like my palm is being worn down one layer of skin at a time. The M2.0 comes with four grip inserts for petite to large hands. The palm swell grip inserts are actually sized small, medium, medium-large and large.
What I like about the M&P grips are the palm swells, which enable the pistol to stick to more of your hand with less gaps like pistols with flat grip sides. Another plus with the new M&P is the front grip strap is void of finger grooves. Sometime finger grooves fit, sometimes they don’t. Some finger groove grip straps feel like they were made especially for me, others feel like my big brother’s hand-me-down clothes, except I’ll never grow into them.
The next features that caught my eye were the new muzzle-end slide serrations in the trademark S&W scallops. When I compared it to my personal M&P9 C.O.R.E. Pro Series pistol, I could see the stainless steel slide was profiled a bit different. Relieved of metal to make it lighter.
What was odd and new were cutouts in the polymer frame. These cutouts reveal one of the major renovations to the M&P series, an extended stainless-steel chassis embedded in the polymer receiver. The chassis makes the pistol more rigid to reduce flex and torque when firing. I fired my M&P9 Pro Series next to the full-size M2.0 and felt the difference in recoil. The M2.0 had less felt recoil.
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There are the changes that you can see, but there are also changes that can be heard and felt. The M2.0 uses a new trigger. The new trigger is crisper and has a tactile and audible reset. It is the same trigger in the Performance Series M&P pistols. This trigger really separates the M&P M2.0 from all the other striker-fired polymer frame pistols. The trigger is wide, and I feel I have more control with it compared to triggers with a safety lever built into the trigger face. I also feel it is more consistent.
My test sample was equipped with a 5-inch stainless steel barrel, but it is also available in a 4.25-inch model. Previous 5-inch M&Ps were only available from the Performance Center. The finish was a nicely executed Cerakote FDE.
The high grip on the M&P means the barrel-to-bore axis is close, which translates into the pistol being more comfortable to shoot with faster aim recovery since the muzzle flips less in your grip. But the truth is in the shooting. I loaded up both 15-round magazines—the M2.0 comes with two steel magazines—with some hot handloads and 115-grain hollow point bullets. A piece of broken clay pigeon on the dirt bank at 25 yards worked as a target. I covered the piece of pigeon with the front sight and squeezed off the first. Dead bird. It’s not a target pistol by any means, but the M2.0 will gladly do your bidding. I ran the remainder of that magazine and the other to get a feel for the rhythm of the pistol’s cycle.
Hornady American Gunner with 115-grain XP bullets, Aguila 124-grain FMJs and Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense 50-grain HPs rounded out the ammunition—a wide assortment of bullet weights and different bullet types. The M2.0 chewed through all the test ammo, which is what I expected from an M&P. I used my backpack as a rest to collect accuracy data, and the Hornady American Gunner ammo gave me 1.5-inch groups at 25 yards. The Aguila and Liberty were both under 2 inches at 25 yards. Shooting for speed—the best part of a test in my opinion—revealed that the new M2.0 had less felt recoil. The enhanced trigger allowed me to get on target fast and fire fast.
The other attractive feature of the M2.0 is a price point of $599. The S&W M&P M2.0 has evolved an already excellent pistol platform into a pistol that is easier and more comfortable to shoot. Expect .40 S&W and .45 ACP variants, too. There is a lot to like about the M2.0. Change is good.
Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0
Action: Striker-fired, locked breech, tilting barrel
Barrel: 5 in.
Overall Length: 8.3 in.
Grip: Textured polymer, modular, four inserts
Weight: 26.9 oz.
Finish: Cerakote FDE (Flat Dark Earth)
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the March 2017 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.