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Core Strength: Smith & Wesson M&P Pro C.O.R.E. Review

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Smith & Wesson M&P Pro C.O.R.E. Review. Photos by Alex Landeen
Photos by Alex Landeen

Last year, Smith & Wesson added an integral mounting system for optical reflex sights and designated the guns as C.O.R.E models, the acronym indicating Competition Optics Ready Equipment. Dick Jones reviews the Smith & Wesson M&P Pro C.O.R.E..

The M&P Pro C.O.R.E. takes the proven striker-fired pistol and adds modern optics to the platform.

The C.O.R.E. comes with five bases and screws for mounting six different optical reflex sights. There are mounting bases for the JPoint, Doctor, C-More, STS, InSight MRDS and the Leupold Delta Point, the sight I chose for the test. The three-dot iron sights supplied on the C.O.R.E. are extra high and allow co-witnessing with the reflex sight. Of course, there’s also a lower rail for mounting a laser or light or a combination thereof.

What makes this work so well is that the top of the slide is milled down, allowing the sight to sit lower over the bore. This makes the gun more compact and reduces the offset of the sighting plane. The closer the sight is to the target, the less difference there is in zero at different distances.

Obviously, it also greatly simplifies the process of mounting a reflex sight because the mounting location is already prepared to that specific sight. All that’s required is to remove the plate that comes on the gun, choose the appropriate mounting adapter and screws and mount the sight. The iron sights can be removed then or left in place as a co-witness system in the event the reflex sight fails or the batteries are used up.

The C.O.R.E features a rail for lasers and flashlights, as well as a set of three-dot iron sights.

As delivered, there’s a cover plate over the mounting area, and it’s hardly noticeable. What are noticeable are the high co-witness sights. They are almost twice as high as normal sights, and I found them to work really well when using the gun as it comes in the box. They are slide windage adjustable at the rear, but there’s no provision for elevation corrections.

This is a gun primarily designed for optics, so adjustment is of little importance when the C.O.R.E. is used as designed. I did notice an issue with the Leupold Delta Point I chose in that the Delta Point or the rear sight had to be removed before unlocking and locking the elevation and windage adjustments.

Shooting the C.O.R.E. without an optic installed isn’t a lot different from the standard M&P. There are three different grip inserts to get a better fit; I have always liked the way the M&P feels in my hand and only swapped out to test the Radetec Round Count system, but more about that later.

If, for some reason, your optic fails, you can easily fall back on the iron sights

For some reason, the M&P series of pistols seem to shoot flatter than most of the polymer-framed striker-fired guns I’ve tested, and I’ve tested about all of them at this point. The bore axis is low, but I think it’s more about shape than geometry. The slide provides an excellent gripping surface at the rear with parallel vertical sides and a scalloped pattern that’s easy to grip without being abrasive.

S&W C.O.R.E. standing target: Many will find the addition of a reflex sight improves their scores.

I’ve heard some complaints about the hinged trigger system on the M&P guns, but it doesn’t bother me at all. I shot one of the .22 rimfire versions quite a bit before I put much time on a centerfire gun and I’ve never noticed a problem.

The trigger on my test gun broke right at 6 pounds after a reasonable first stage and with a normal amount of backlash for a striker-fired gun. The trigger was good for a service gun, but most serious competitors replace the stock system. Controls are well placed; the slide release is ambidextrous, and the magazine release is reversible. Fieldstripping is easy and self-explanatory if you have experience with striker-fired pistols.

Accuracy was good. I used Winchester 115-grain full metal jacket and Black Hills 124-grain +P hollow points. Both shot groups better than my capabilities at around 2 inches at 25 yards off a bench rest. I experienced zero malfunctions with either brand or with my 124-grain coated Blue Boy Bullet reloads. The Delta Point system I chose worked very well for precision shooting because the pyramid reticle allowed a precise hold.

Disassembly and reassembly is as simple as putting new batteries in the TV remote.

Smith & Wesson C.O.R.E
Caliber    9mm Luger
Capacity    17 + 1
Magazines    Two black nitride with witness holes
Barrel    5 inch
Sights    Dovetailed 3-dot system,
raised for co-witness functionality
Frame    Polymer
Slide    Stainless Steel
Length    8.5 inches
Height    5.625 inches
Weight    26 ounces
Options    N/A
MSRP    $769.00

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