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Smith's New M&P9 2.0 Competitor: Ultimate Factory Competition Pistol

Feature-packed out of the box, Smith & Wesson's New Performance Center M&P9 2.0 Competitor could be the ultimate out-of-the-box-ready competition pistol.

Smith's New M&P9 2.0 Competitor: Ultimate Factory Competition Pistol

Smith & Wesson’s M&P line of handguns has been a gold mine for the company, and that mother lode is not yet tapped out. Following close on the heels of the introduction of the metal-frame M&P in late 2022, Smith & Wesson has created a version that should be of interest to anyone who competes or is thinking about competing in today’s action-pistol sports: the Performance Center M&P9 2.0 Competitor. As part of the M&P Metal family, it features an aluminum frame, and in this case the stainless steel barrel is five inches long—three-quarters inch longer than the regular Metal full-size pistol. You’d think this would mean the Competitor is heavier than the regular full-size Metal, but it’s actually an ounce lighter at 29 ounces. How can that be? The Competitor’s slide—which is treated to a Tungsten Grey Cerakote finish—has aggressive lightening cuts in the slide: three ovals on each side at the muzzle and twin 2.5-inch-long cuts in the top of the slide starting just behind the front-sight dovetail. These cuts serve to reduce the reciprocating weight of the slide and keep the balance from being muzzle heavy. Combined with the M&P’s low bore axis, the design reduces muzzle flip—increasing the ability to deliver rounds on target at speed. The slide has a sporty, angled cut at the muzzle as well. And instead of the wavy slide serrations you’ll find on either the polymer- or metal-frame M&Ps, the Competitor’s serrations have straight sides. The serrations are slightly angled, and the ones at the front are deeper than those at the rear. This makes sense to me for a couple of reasons. One, with the prevalence of red dot sights, the rear serrations don’t come into play all that much when you’re manipulating the slide. You’re primarily grabbing the sight when you rack. However, if you’re not shooting a red dot, the rear serrations work just fine.

Some of the competition-ready features include an extended magazine release and a trigger with an enhanced sear resulting in a light, clean trigger break.

Two, some competitors will do a press check after being given the “Load and make ready” command at the beginning of a stage, ensuring a round did indeed chamber. The Competitor’s aggressive forward serrations make this easy to do. There is also a viewing port in the barrel hood for visual confirmation of the chamber’s condition. M&Ps that are set up for red dots are among the most accommodating pistols in terms sight footprints, thanks to the seven provided polymer plates. Right out of the box you can mount Trijicon RMR, Leupold DeltaPoint and DeltaPoint Pro, and six other red dots. For the RMR you use the screws that come with the sight; for the rest, S&W provides five sets of screws. The gun comes with a black polymer slide cover plate installed. The iron sights are steel, set in dovetails, and they are excellent. The rear is black and serrated with a 0.16-inch notch. The front sports a green fiber-optic pipe that’s well protected in a steel housing. The blade portion is 0.154 inch wide, and the sight body is 0.77 inch long. Sight radius is 6.5 inches. The irons are standard height and will not co-witness with most red dots.

A gun meant for competition definitely needs a great trigger, and the Competitor doesn’t disappoint. As Keith Wood described it in his review of the M&P Metal, it’s “semi-flat,” exhibiting just a slight curve and incorporating a safety lever. But in the case of the Competitor, it is treated to some Performance Center love, with an enhanced sear for a lighter, crisper pull. How much lighter? The pull on my sample averaged 3.5 pounds. That’s a full pound lighter than the trigger pull on the M&P Metal that Wood reviewed. Sure, individual triggers will vary some in weight, but a pound difference is significant. The Competitor’s trigger has a quarter-inch of take-up and a nice, crisp break. The reset is a bit on the soft side, but it’s easily discernible. There’s no manual safety. The magazine release is oversize, extended and easy to activate. It’s reversible for lefties; the extension must be removed by turning out the Allen screw before switching the release to the other side.

Lightening cuts on both sides and the top of the five-inch slide reduce reciprocating mass for less muzzle jump. Finish is Tungsten Grey Cerakote.

As mentioned, the aluminum frame on my sample has a Tungsten Grey Cerakote finish that matches the slide—there’s also a two-tone version with a black Armornite slide—and out front you’ll find a three-slot rail. But the big news here is the removable magazine well funnel in addition to the four interchangeable backstraps that come with M&P 2.0 guns: small, medium, medium-large and large. The funnel comes installed. To change the backstraps, remove the frame tool at the heel of the grip and push the funnel off to the front. Then you can switch backstraps and reassemble in reverse order. If you’re going to run the gun without the funnel, you’ll need to install the alternate frame tool, which is longer and slimmer.

The first time I fired the Competitor in a match I shot it as an Open gun—magazine well funnel installed and a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro up top. One of my local clubs runs what it calls Defensive Pistol competitions. They’re basically USPSA matches but without the official trappings. It’s basically a “fun match,” but there is a shot timer, and you’re drawing, moving, dealing with obstacles, and shooting for accuracy and speed. The Competitor acquitted itself really well. Reloads were amazing. I didn’t even have to think about them. No twisting the gun in my hand to activate the release, no fumbling to hit the well thanks to the funnel. Magazines dropped free every time. However, you do need to take care to seat the magazines properly. Since I live in a restrictive state, the four magazines that came with my sample are 10-rounders. Their metal tubes are capped off with polymer extensions, and the springs are stout. A magazine loader is pretty much mandatory, and even at that you to have to apply serious pressure to get the 10th round in. In discussing the issue with a Smith & Wesson product guy, he confirmed that the 10-rounders are particularly difficult to load.

The magazine well speeds reloads, and the well is removable for competition divisions that don’t permit it. The stippled backstrap and frontstrap contribute to the gun’s great control.

That strong spring tension also means you have to make doubly sure to smack home a fully loaded magazine with authority when the action is closed. At my first match, I failed to seat a mag during a speed reload, and it dropped out of the gun. And twice I didn’t seat magazines hard enough during “Load and make ready.” Luckily, on those occasions it felt like a round hadn’t fed, and peeking down at the loading port confirmed the chamber was empty. It’s something to keep in mind and make part of your training. At the next match, I paid more attention to the process and only once failed to get a magazine fully seated. I suspect the normal-capacity 17-rounders will not present a similar issue. When I first handled the Performance Center M&P9 2.0 Competitor I was a little worried the aggressive stippling on the backstrap and the frontstrap would chew up my keyboard commando hands. That concern was unfounded. The stippling kept the gun anchored, and after close to 200 rounds downrange at the first match my hands emerged unscathed.

The Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P9 2.0 Competitor’s weight and balance were just right. Muzzle flip was minimal, and it was easy to keep the sights on target for multiple shots when necessary. The gun tracked smoothly across multiple-target arrays. At the second match I removed the mag funnel and the red dot and shot the pistol as a Production gun. I mentioned earlier that the irons were excellent, and I found the rear/front relationship to be just right. The front blade fits the rear notch with enough room you can pick it up quickly but not so much air that you have to work to center it. The slightly flared magazine well made reloads a snap even without the funnel. Bench testing at 25 yards proved the gun is a shooter for sure. Results are shown in the accompanying chart. I’m not one to make excuses, but I do believe the accuracy with the reloads should’ve been better. I was rushing to get the gun zeroed and ready for the match, and I don’t think I was breaking good shots that morning. Anyway, I used the reloads at both matches, and they—along with the factory ammo I shot for accuracy and a few drills—fed with 100 percent reliability.

The Competitor ships with four magazines, 10-rounders in this case. The springs on the 10s are really stiff, and loading and properly seating the magazines takes some effort.

Where does the Competitor fit in the scheme of things? It’s in that sweet spot, delivering competition-ready features at a $999 suggested retail. That’s well below high-end competition guns but not much more than guns you could compete with but that don’t have the Competitor’s bells and whistles—like the excellent trigger, magazine well funnel and extended mag release. In the 17-round version, you have a gun that’s ready for three USPSA and Steel Challenge divisions: Open, with the mag funnel on and a sight up top; Carry Optics, sight on but no mag funnel; and Production, iron sights, no mag funnel. The only division where you might find the gun lacking is Open, as the Competitor doesn’t have a threaded barrel for mounting a compensator, there’s no porting, and serious Open shooters are using double-stack magazines that offer capacity without exceeding max mag length. For the 10-round version, I think its utility is based on where you live. Production is Production, and you’re restricted to 10 rounds in the magazine regardless of what state you’re in. And in a state with a 10-round restriction, everyone is in the same boat in all the divisions—any grandfather clauses notwithstanding.

However, in the handful of 15-round states like Colorado, where I live, with a 10-round mag you would be operating at a disadvantage in either Open or Carry Optics—which are not capacity-restricted. One other note. When it comes to Steel Challenge, the Competitor’s four-magazine complement is going to leave you one magazine short. In this sport, you shoot each eight-target stage five times, and unless you’re really good and/or really confident, even with 17-rounders I think you’ll be wanting a fifth mag. I thought about all this quite a bit, and in the end I sent Smith & Wesson a check for the Competitor. While I’m hoping S&W or an aftermarket company comes up with a +5 extension for my magazines—currently no one does that I can find—I really like shooting the Competitor as-is. I’ve competed with polymer-frame pistols and steel-frame guns, and I think the aluminum-frame Competitor splits the difference between those quite nicely. It’s softer shooting with a quicker recoil recovery than the polymer guns I’ve used. While it’s not as fast on follow-ups as my all-steel gun, it’s not as fatiguing to shoot all day either—and at least for me it’s faster on target transitions. The trigger is fantastic, a great combination of the flat face and a light pull.


And a big selling point is being able to get the fit right thanks to the interchangeable backstraps, which isn’t an option on all-steel competition pistols. If you’re just getting into competition, this gun should be at the top of your list. Its feature set, shootability and flexibility in terms of divisions are tough to beat. Sure, you’re not going to set the world on fire in Open with the Competitor, but do you want to bet several thousand dollars you’re going to become a serious, active Open competitor? My instincts are to start with something decent that doesn’t bankrupt me, and if it becomes a real thing, then upgrade. In the meantime, though, the Competitor is going to allow you to play in the Open pool and also give you the potential to be a contender in the other two divisions. But say you’re already actively competing in something other than Open. Does the Competitor give you enough reason to switch? I’m not all that serious, but I enjoy shooting several matches a year, and the Competitor offered traits my other pistols lack. While I won’t abandon my steel-frame gun for some events, the Competitor simply checked too many boxes not to add it to the gun safe. It might do so for you as well.

Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P9 2.0 Specs

  • Type: Striker-fired, semi-auto
  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Capacity: 10+1 rds. (tested), 17+1 rds; four mags included
  • Barrel: 5 in. stainless
  • OAL: 8.25 in. 
  • Weight: 29 oz. 
  • Construction: Tungsten Grey Cerakote-finished steel slide (as tested), Tungsten Grey Cerakote-finished aluminum frame; 4 interchangeable textured backstraps, textured polymer frontstrap
  • Trigger: Semi-flat face; 3.5 lbs. pull (measured) 
  • Sights: steel; serrated, plain black rear; green fiber-optic front; slide cut for optics
  • Safety: trigger
  • MSRP: $999
  • Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson

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