January 29, 2024
Pistol-caliber Carbines (PCC) are both useful and fun for a number of reasons. First, PCCs are more affordable to shoot than most other rifles because they are often chambered in 9mm. Smith & Wesson’s new M&P Folding Pistol Carbine (FPC) certainly meets this criterion. Most inexpensive full-metal-jacket (FMJ) 9mm rounds cost about half as much as the same type of round in 5.56x45mm. When you’re going to the range and having a good time is the priority, low-cost ammo allows us to send more shots downrange and stay on the gun longer.
The Smith & Wesson M&P FPC also makes sense when the shooter wants to fire more accurately and hit at longer distances than a pistol. Pistols are great for concealment, but they can be difficult to shoot accurately at 25 yards and beyond. With the FPC, a shooter puts two hands on the carbine and shoulders it for three points of support, all while having more sighting options than a pistol allows.
Smith & Wesson’s M&P FPC is a PCC unlike any other. It is a blowback-operated carbine, a common operating type for PCC firearms. This is where the commonalities end, however. Unlike many blowback-operated PCCs, the FPC is not beholden to the AR-pattern. AR-style blowback designs have limited mass that they can put in the bolt carrier and buffer weight. The downside of this is that recoil can be jarring; the lighter weight and longer bolt travel prolongs the recoil impulse. On the other hand, the FPC has a lot more mass in the bolt — and much less bolt travel. It cycles quickly when the fired. The shooter feels almost no difference in the cyclic rate between the two blowback designs, but there is a noticeable difference in recoil. S&W’s FPC is going to feel milder to shoot than AR-pattern blowback PCCs.
The most unique and appealing feature about the FPC is the folding hinge positioned ahead of the breech face. When activated, the handguard and barrel swing horizontally to the left and stow alongside the receiver and stock. This allows the FPC to fold to a short overall length of just 161/2 inches, even though it has a 161/4-inch barrel. The horizontal-folding design doesn’t interfere with top-mounted optics either, and, because the barrel and handguard move as a single unit, optics mounted to the handguard retain zero.
Keeping the barrel length at 161/4 inches means that no additional ATF paperwork is necessary to purchase the FPC (where legal) because, in the eyes of the law, it’s a rifle. Folding to the side allows the FPC to be much more concealable most other 161/4-inch barreled carbines. That’s the niche the FPC fills; it is a commonly-chambered firearm that can easily and reliably engage targets out to 100 yards while still offering concealability at a low cost.
At the Range
Guns & Ammo’s staff mounted a Burris RT6 1-6x24mm scope for accuracy testing, which proved an ideal companion for the FPC. Regular scope rings are tall enough to prevent a similar scope from impacting the rail that runs along the top of the handguard, and the optic’s height and eye relief were almost perfect.
The only wrinkle G&A experienced was mounting the scope too far forward on the handguard. This pulled the shooter’s nose within touching distance of the reciprocating handle when firing the FPC, so be careful! Regular scope rings of the appropriate height can be used without experiencing this issue if the rear ring is mounted as far back as possible and the scope is pulled rearward until the turret housing almost touches the rear ring. This provides enough eye relief that the shooter’s nose won’t brush the charging handle as the FPC fires. While the FPC worked fine with red-dot sights and most magnified optics, it did not pair well with the Trijicon ACOG because of its short eye relief.
The polymer handguard that surrounds the barrel measured 14 inches and offered plenty of real estate for positional shooting. It is a two-piece unit split lengthwise at 12 and 6 o’clock. Eight pairs of nuts and bolts join the two halves together. M-Lok slots runs down both sides and along the bottom to allow for mounting lights and bipods.
The polymer grip and fire control system bear a striking resemblance to the M&P M2.0 pistol lineup. It has a reversible magazine release button and a familiar flat-faced trigger with safety lever. However, the manual safety is a two-position crossbolt located just above the lead edge of the triggerguard.
The reciprocating charging handle is ambidextrous. Small wings protrude from both sides of the receiver extension, i.e., the “buffer tube.” The wings are large enough to grasp quickly, but not so large that they snag on clothing. There is a small relief cut in the wings that extend away from the charging handle, which allows the handle to grab one of the M-Lok slots in the handguard. This prevents the folded FPC from unfolding until desired.
The fixed stock is located at the end of the receiver extension. It is made from polymer and has the ability to carry two additional magazines. When loaded, those additional magazines sit close to the body and don’t make the FPC difficult to shoulder or transition from one target to another. There is a metal tab underneath the stock that must be depressed to release either magazine. Pushing up on the right side of the tab releases the magazine on the left side of the stock. The magazines sit in the stock with the bullet noses pointed down, so some twisting and turning was required to get the magazines seated in the FPC’s grip, readying the carbine for action. The metal tab that holds both spare mags is ideally sized to allow for fast activation without being overly large.
Like many blowback-operated carbines, the FPC has a fixed ejector and an external extractor. The bolt catch sits underneath the ejection port and is ambidextrous. While it is possible to use the bolt catch to release the bolt on a loaded magazine to charge the FPC, it is much easier simply pull the charging handle rearward and let it go.
Smith & Wesson’s M&P FPC is a simple and highly portable carbine offering better accuracy and range than a pistol. Ammunition costs are low for 9mm, and there was almost no felt recoil. Adding a suppressor is sensible, and the M-Lok forend accepts lights and lasers. The FPC is a great candidate for self-defense where concealment isn’t paramount, but a low-key carry bag is included.
Smith & Wesson M&P FPC
- Type: Blowback operated, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 17 rds., 23 rds.
- Barrel: 16.25 in.; 1:10-in. twist
- Overall Length: 30.4 in. (16.5 in., folded)
- Weight: 5 lbs., 4 oz.
- Grip: Textured, M2.0
- Stock: Fixed, polymer
- Length of Pull: 14.75 in.
- Finish: Armornite
- Sights: None
- Trigger: 5 lbs., 8 oz.
- Safety: Crossbolt, two position
- MSRP: $659
- Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson, 800-331-0852, smith-wesson.com
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