Over the past few years, the Production division of USPSA has become dominated by polymer-frame pistols, and I recently had the opportunity to try the newest entry into this highly competitive market: Smith & Wesson’s M&P9 Pro.
The M&P pistol has been scrutinized extensively in the gun press, so I don’t feel it is necessary to repeat the technical nitty-gritty here. Suffice it to say that the M&P is unique among polymer-frame pistols in that it uses internal steel rails to provide rigidity that strengthens the frame for enhanced accuracy and reliability.
It is a striker-fired design with a long-stroke trigger, multiple internal safety devices and is available in 9mm, .357 SIG, .40 S&W and .45 ACP in compact, standard and long-slide versions.
|S&W | M&P9 Pro|
|Barrel length:||5 in.|
|Overall length:||8.5 in.|
|Sights:||fiber-optic front, Novak rear|
|Extra Features:||3 inter-changeable backstraps, spare magazine|
|Manufacturer:||Smith & Wesson | 800.331.0852|
Recently the folks up at Smith realized that a few changes were in order to enhance the competitive ability of the M&P and accordingly assigned the artisans at the S&W Performance Center to do just that. The result is the M&P9 Pro.
The most apparent change is the use of a five-inch barrel and longer slide, which provide the multiple benefits of better balance, longer sight radius, recoil-dampening weight and higher bullet velocity.
There’s also a small, semi-circular cut-out at the rear of the chamber hood that allows the shooter to verify if there is a cartridge in the chamber or not.
The Pro features a green fiber-optic front sight mated to a plain black rear sight–the preferred setup among today’s serious action pistol shooters. The Novak rear sight is angled to significantly to cut down on glare from sunlight and allows fast sight alignment, target acquisition and rapid transitioning.
The Performance Center’s most radical change to the Pro was to modify the trigger. By using a different sear and polishing and fitting the internals, the trigger pull has not only been reduced from the standard 6.5 pounds to 4.5 pounds but the reset distance is shorter and there is an audible “click” when the trigger resets.
The Pro of course includes the standard M&P features that make it a good choice for action pistol shooting: ambidextrous slide releases, a reversible magazine release button and interchangeable “palm swells” that allows the shooter to fit the pistol to their particular hand size.
I received a test sample of the Pro and found its handling characteristics to be noticeably improved. After fitting a medium-size palm swell to the grip, I grabbed a supply of 9mm ammo and met my friend Rusty Rawsen at the range to see how the Pro performed.
Rusty paced off 25 yards and set up some targets. Using a selection of generic 9mm ammo in addition to premium target loads and two of my favorite handloads, we proceeded to test fire the Pro for accuracy from an MTM Predator rest.
When the very first round of Cor-Bon Performance Match ammo I sent downrange almost demolished the little “10” inside of the target’s 10 ring, Rusty accused me of being lucky. Well, after the next four followed the first inside the confines of said ring we realized this was one shootin’ pistol.
That first group, which measured 1.6 inches, turned out to be the smallest we fired that day, but the others were not much larger. In fact, all of the group averages came in at or under 2.5 inches–damn fine performance for any out-of-the-box pistol.
After chronographing the six loads, I set up a pair of USPSA Milpark targets and ran the Pro through a series of rapid-fire, offhand drills to get the hang of it.
At distances ranging from seven to 15 yards I was able to keep all of my rapid-fire double taps inside of the targets’ highest-scoring zones.
For the ultimate test, I started shooting the Pro in matches, and while it goes against my ingrained sense of modesty to mention it, I managed to take first place in Production division the first time I shot the Pro.
|Accuracy Results | S&W M&P9 Pro|
|Bullet||Bullet Weight (gr.)||Avg. Velocity (fps)||Avg. Group (in.)|
|American Eagle FMJ||115||1,181||2.37|
|NOTES: Accuracy tested from an MTM Predator rest at 25 yards; results are averages of three-five shot groups. Velocities are averages of five shots measured with a Shooting Chrony chronograph. Abbreviations: FMJ, full metal jacket; RN, roundnose; FP, flatpoint.|
Over the next month I competed in a number of matches with the Pro, and my opinion of it continued to grow. First of all, it proved 100 percent reliable. I did not experience a single failure to feed, fire or eject despite using a variety of factory and handloaded ammo with widely varying bullet weights and configurations. Handling characteristics, ease of reloading and accuracy were all one could ask for–especially from a 100 percent stock pistol.
If you have a hankering to try your hand at USPSA, IDPA or Three Gun matches, the M&P9 Pro would greatly ease your entry into these fun sports. It is ready to run out of the box and all the shooter has to provide is ammunition, some accessories and a little skill. Now if you’ll excuse me, there is a match this weekend and I have to load some 9mm ammo.