December 11, 2023
Until recently, the biggest barrier to entry to shooting any pistol chambered in 5.7x28mm was the expense. The 2004 commercial release of FN’s Five-seveN launched with a price of $889, rising to $1,409 by 2022. The updated Five-seveN MRD retails for $1,509 and ammunition can cost nearly a dollar per round. Given 5.7mm pistols often carry 20-plus rounds, the initial cost of ownership can be a hurdle.
However, in recent years the 5.7mm has been recognized for being a fun, flat-shooting round. Manufacturers picked up the slack, too, increasing production and developing new loads. AR-style pistols and rifles also chamber the 5.7mm, which has piqued interest. For 2023, Smith & Wesson (S&W) submitted an entry to the 5.7 pistol market, the M&P 5.7 Series. It’s another indicator that the cartridge is gaining popularity.
Besides S&W, two other manufacturers have targeted FN’s price-point with more affordable platforms: Palmetto State Armory (PSA) 5.7 Rock and Ruger-5.7. These have lowered the barrier to entry in owning a 5.7. However, S&W engineered a different approach to managing the action’s reliability since a broad range of sporting and defensive ammunition has recently become available.
Out of the Box
The M&P 5.7 is a full-size handgun. It’s even larger than several M&P9 models, but these proportions are only greater for width and height. The M&P 5.7 is remarkably thin at 1.1-inches, made possible by the skinny cartridge. The shoulder and base diameter of the 5.7x28mm cartridge is just .313 inch (7.95mm), which is how the two included magazines can each hold 22 rounds.
The size of the pistol was a deliberate decision. Current loads for the 5.7mm cartridge perform best in longer barrels, so it is unlikely that we’ll see a short-barreled M&P 5.7 anytime soon. Weight-wise, unloaded, the 26.7 ounce M&P 5.7 is comparable to a standard full-size M&P9.
The grip is sufficiently textured, but not as aggressive as the brand’s M2.0 frames. The low recoil from the 5.7mm round doesn’t warrant it. Under the dustcover is a length of Picatinny rail for mounting short or long lights or lasers.
Serrations for gripping the stainless-steel slide are pronounced and generous, so it can be worked with relative ease. The slide is also cut for optics with a modified RMSc footprint, meaning it has two recoil lugs in the front and none in the rear. For evaluation, we tested it with a Holosun 507K; no additional adapter plate was needed.
As with the slide, the 5-inch steel barrel is finished in Armornite. The shroud is also threaded for a suppressor, and a knurled cap is included for use without a can.
Keeping up the Tempo
What stands out on the spec sheet is that the M&P 5.7 is gas-operated rather than recoil or blowback operated. Originally developed for the FN P90 personal defense weapon (PDW), the 5.7x28mm is suited for a gas-operated system. The amount of gas pressure generated, relative to bullet sizes spanning 23 and 50 grains, means that the gas port can be placed farther away from the chamber than a typical pistol cartridge. Paired with S&W’s Tempo barrel system, the pistol has a steady, controlled feel.
When disassembled, the Tempo barrel is the most noticeable difference when compared to other guns. After removing the barrel assembly, rotate the barrel by the pair of locking lugs above the chamber and pull the barrel from its shroud. The gas port is near the muzzle. When fired, the barrel remains stationary until the bullet passes the gas port. Gas pressure is bled off through the port to push against the integral gas rings within the shroud. This forces the barrel rearward as a cam lug rotates about 30 degrees within the shroud to unlock the barrel. Then, primary extraction follows. The fact that no components move until the bullet has nearly exited the barrel should enhance the M&P 5.7’s potential for accuracy.
Guns & Ammo’s test sample arrived with a heavily greased barrel, and we kept it that way. Granted, the 5.7x28mm shoots clean enough that it produces little fouling, so scrubbing the barrel assembly is an infrequent chore if you abhor cleaning a gun after you shoot it.
It would have already been a leap for Smith & Wesson to produce a traditional delayed-blowback 5.7 handgun, being that many view the cartridge as “niche.” The fact that S&W developed a novel approach signals that the company isn’t satisfied with the status quo. With Smith & Wesson relocating its headquarters by the end of 2023 to Maryville, Tennessee, the M&P 5.7 may foreshadow fresh ideas to come.
At the Range
Even during G&A’s first-impression tests — no optic mounted — 2½-inch groups were not uncommon at 25 yards. Mounting an optic to the slide reduced group sizes to 1½ inches, with an occassional outlier. The sometimes snappy 5.7mm round was softened by the Tempo gas system. This evaluation suggested that the M&P is the most comfortable-to-shoot pistol chambered in 5.7x28mm currently on the market.
Of note, we did need to shoot through the first box of test ammo to wear-in the pistol. G&A’s staff experienced several failures to feed and a couple of stovepipes within the first 30 shots, despite the operating system. Things smoothed out near the end of the first 50-count box, and reliability was flawless for 400 rounds.
One aspect that should not be discounted, though, is simply how fun the gun is to shoot. The low recoil and ease of accuracy almost rivals a .22, but the blast from the muzzle and the report belies the power behind each shot. (A suppressor helps.) Considering how easy it was to shoot quickly, the 22-round capacity is a must-have rather than a bonus. Every shooter commented on how quickly they can empty a mag without fully realizing it. The cost of 5.7x28mm ammo does not make this advisable unless you have some spare change to throw downrange.
The trigger operates a single-action-only internal hammer. It’s flat faced when the safety lever is pressed flush, which is followed by a crisp break at just less than 4 pounds.
The thin width of the pistol is offset by its height and length. There is plenty of surface area to grip, and the weight is balanced well. The muzzle is threaded 1/2x28, so a thread-on suppressor used for 9mm pistols will mitigate some noise, but ear protection is recommended.
A new entry into the 5.7x28mm market benefits everyone. As Interest builds in the round, we’ll hope to see more manufacturers of both guns and ammo enter the market. For now, Smith & Wesson’s M&P 5.7 is an option that deserves a top spot on your list if you’re interested in a pistol of this caliber.
Smith & Wesson M&P 5.7
- Type: Gas operated, locked breech, internal hammer-fired, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 5.7x28mm
- Capacity: 22+1 rds.
- Barrel: 5 in., 1:9-in. twist
- Overall Length: 8.5 in.
- Height: 5.25 in.
- Width: 1.1 in.
- Grip: Polymer, textured
- Sights: Three dot, optic ready
- Trigger: 4 lbs., 1 oz. (tested)
- Safety: Trigger safety lever; thumb safety lever (optional)
- Weight: 1 lbs., 10.7 oz.
- MSRP: $699
- Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson, 800-331-0852, smith-wesson.com
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