Smith & Wesson introduced the polymer-framed, striker-fired M&P pistol in 2005. While the “M&P” (Military and Police) designation on pistols had been a regular thing in the S&W lineup for a century, this new use of the M&P term denoted an entirely new design of pistol.
By any standard, the M&P line has become a huge success both commercially and with American law enforcement (LE). To many people, the S&W M&P is the alternative to the 900-pound, striker-fired gorilla that is Glock. In the eyes of many police officers and departments, because of its “proper” grip angle and the fact that it is made in the United States, the M&P is the first choice in polymer pistols.
In 2016, they introduced the M&P M2.0, an improved second generation of the M&P. They’ve now brought the M2.0 improvements into the whole line that stretches from 5-inch guns aimed more at the competition crowd to the compact Shield, which has been hugely popular with both cops and the concealed-carry market.
Let’s do a quick rundown of this popular American-made duty pistol, starting at the beginning.
The original standard-model M&P pistol has a polymer frame and striker-fired operation. For those of you new to the party, striker-fired pistols have the same trigger pull every single time.
The standard model features a 4.25-inch barrel and isn’t known by any specific name; every other model has modifiers in the title. It was originally offered in 9mm (17 rounds) and .40 S&W (15 rounds). They can be had with or without manual bilateral thumb safety levers.
These guns were designed and built with the intent to secure LE contracts, so they are far from delicate. Both the slides and barrels are stainless steel with the company’s Armornite corrosion-resistant finish.
Standard sights are steel (as the sights on all serious duty pistols should be) with three white dots. Also, unlike the competition, you don’t have to pull the trigger to disassemble them. They have full-length steel recoil spring guide rods. Unloaded weight of these pistols with an empty magazine in place is 24.7 ounces in 9mm.
If nothing but the biggest bullets will do for you, the M&P M2.0 is offered in .45 ACP. The barrel on the standard model has been stretched to 4.6 inches with a capacity of 10+1 rounds, and the weight slightly increases to 27 ounces.
Arrival of the Shield
Before we move on to the changes between the first- and second-generation M2.0 M&Ps, let’s touch on what might be the most successful product introduction the company has had in the last 50 years – the M&P Shield.
Building off their huge inroads into the LE market with their M&P line, they produced a small gun aimed not only at the rapidly expanding civilian concealed-carry market but police officers as well. Having a small, easily concealable pistol suitable for plainclothes and off-duty officers, the Shield not only looks just like a full-size M&P but functions the same.
To be attractive to officers, engineers had to design the Shield to be tough enough to pass strict LE test and evaluation standards. At the start of this project in 2010, they first obtained compact autos from their competitors and tested them for accuracy, reliability and durability. They literally shot them until they broke, and then the S&W engineers sat down at their computers and built a gun that even cops would have a hard time breaking.
Like its full-size M&P brothers, the Shield has a stainless steel barrel and Melonite-coated slide. The recoil spring guide rod is stainless steel as well. The magazine catch is reversible and has a steel insert. The Shield has the standard M&P three-dot steel sights and is rated for +P ammunition. To make it thinner than a standard M&P, however, required some changes.
The slide stop and manual safety are single-sided to keep the pistol slim. The Shield does not have the M&P’s standard interchangeable backstraps, but the grip profile is designed to imitate the medium-sized backstrap of the M&P, which the people at the company told me was the most popular size by far.
The Shield’s magazine isn’t a true single column magazine. In fact, it is about a cartridge-and-a-half wide, except where it narrows at the top. I spoke to one of the engineers who told me they didn’t go with a true single-column magazine to avoid issues with rim lock. This slightly wider magazine, however, allows for a little more capacity in a pistol that is a mere 4.6 inches tall.
Each Shield is sold with two magazines, one with a flush baseplate and the other an extended magazine with a grip extension. In 9mm, the magazines hold seven and eight rounds, respectively; in .40 S&W, six and seven rounds, respectively.
The Shield has been a huge success because it conceals like a subcompact but shoots like a much larger gun and is as durable and reliable as its larger brothers.
By far, the two most common complaints about the M&P pistols (which resulted in a lot of customization on the commercial side) has been about the trigger pulls and the too-smooth texture of the grip.
First generation M&Ps have an advertised 6.5-pound pull, and most pistols provided exactly that. The 6.5-pound trigger pull seems to be standard for pistols designed to be service weapons, and it has been adopted by a huge number of police departments around the country. However, if a trigger pull weight goes above 5 pounds, it gets exponentially more difficult for even skilled shooters to keep the sights steady while pulling the trigger.
Upgrading the trigger on an M&P is considered by many gunsmiths to be relatively easy. Apex Trigger Specialties sells highly regarded trigger kits for the M&P pistol, which include sears and firing pin plungers with improved angles as well as reduced power springs.
S&W engineers took a good look at what was being done to their pistols and reduced the trigger pull weight via (mostly) improved geometry in the sear and striker. The targeted spec for the M2.0 trigger pull is 5.5 pounds, and most pistols I’ve tested have been within a quarter-pound of that. The breaks seem crisper as well. The trigger bow is the same curved plastic model with a hinge in the middle.
More than the trigger pull weight, what a lot of people didn’t like about the trigger pull on the original M&P was the lack of a discernible reset — you couldn’t hear or feel the click as you let the trigger out. As far as I’m concerned for a defensive/duty pistol, if you can feel the reset, you’re not shooting fast enough. Still, S&W engineers addressed the problem, and the triggers on the M&P 2.0s have a very positive reset.
For many people, the factory texturing on the grip of the original M&P was too slick. As a result, hand-stippling was a common sight on off-duty guns and on some duty guns where allowed.
Modern polymer technology is truly amazing, and the texturing possible now through simple injection molding is amazing. The texturing on both the frame and backstraps of the M&P 2.0 is aggressive.
The steel chassis inside the polymer frame of the M2.0 is longer, providing a more rigid lockup between the slide and barrel, theoretically increasing both reliability and accuracy. The beavertail at the back of the frame has been pretty much eliminated. The scalloped serrations at the rear of the slide haven’t changed, but with the 2.0, you’ll see S&W has added some serrations at the front of the slide. They’ve only been added to the wide part of the slide where it meets the frame.
Back It Up
Finally, there’s the matter of the extra backstraps. Apparently, a lot of customers found the medium backstrap on the M&P a bit too small, but the large was way too big. The M&P M2.0 comes supplied with not three but four backstraps — small, medium, medium-large and large.
The big news here is the medium-large, which has the same girth as the medium but adds a curve at the top to provide more material under the web of the shooter’s hand to increase reach to the trigger. The distance to the trigger with the medium-large backstrap installed is still a bit less than what you’ll find with a Glock.
The internal steel chassis inside the polymer frame is much longer on the M2.0 than the original M&P. S&W calls it an embedded-rigid, stainless steel chassis, and it, too, has an Armornite coating.
On the original, the chassis didn’t extend much past the front of the triggerguard, but the steel in the frame goes most of the way out to the end of the frame on the new model, ensuring that there won’t be any flex if you hang a big light on the frame’s tactical rail. You’ll notice none of the upgrades in the M2.0 were done to improve reliability, because none were needed. I think that says it all.
S&W introduced 5-inch-barreled versions of the M&P in the first generation, and they’re back, new and improved, in M2.0 versions. While 5-inch guns might seem intended more for the competition crowd, I think they’re a solid option for officers in uniform.
The longer-barreled guns are only 2 ounces heavier than the standard M&P while offering a longer sight radius (making them a little easier to shoot). If you’re in uniform, that extra three-quarters of an inch barrel length will go completely unnoticed, as will those extra 2 ounces.
Most recently, the company has introduced two compact versions of the M&P. Both have 15-round capacities in 9mm and 13 rounds in .40 S&W. One sports a 4-inch barrel and the other a 3.6-inch barrel. They offer the Shield, the 4-inch compact and the full-size guns chambered in .45 ACP, so whether you’re a fan of the 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP, there should be an M&P for you.
You can get M&Ps with different sights, flat-dark-earth (FDE) finishes, manual thumb safeties or no safety, integrated Crimson Trace lasers and in a “Carry and Range Kit” complete with two magazines, holster and double magazine pouch. Not including the semi-custom models coming out of S&W’s Performance Center, there are currently 78 different M&Ps listed on the S&W website. No matter what configuration M&P you’re looking for, Smith & Wesson should have it.
M&P M2.0 (STANDARD MODEL)
- TYPE: Striker-fired, semiautomatic
- CARTRIDGE: 9mm
- CAPACITY: 17+1 rds.
- BARREL: 4.25 in.
- OVERALL LENGTH: 7.4 in.
- WEIGHT: 24.7 oz.
- FRAME: Polymer
- FINISH: Armornite
- TRIGGER: 5.5 lbs. (tested)
- SIGHTS: White dot (front), two-dot (rear)
- SAFETY: Sear block drop, trigger lever, thumb safety optional
- MSRP: $600
- MANUFACTURER: Smith & Wesson, smith-wesson.com
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