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Smith's Powerful Performance Center M&P 2.0 10mm Pistol: Review

Smith & Wesson's newest Performance Center M&P 2.0 puts the hard-hitting 10mm cartridge in a refined, easy-to-shoot package.

Smith's Powerful Performance Center M&P 2.0 10mm Pistol: Review

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Most shooters are familiar with the 10mm’s early failings, which very nearly resulted in this superb cartridge being relegated to a footnote in firearms history. There were issues with the release of the first 10mm, the Bren Ten—not the least of which was a lack of magazines—but the real problem was that the FBI felt that the 10mm produced too much recoil for some of its agents. The .40 S&W swooped in and became a more palatable option for recoil-sensitive shooters, and the 10mm’s fate seemed sealed. We all know how the story ends, though, and—spoiler alert—the 10mm was way too good to go away. After years of refinements to guns and loads, I wondered what might have happened if Smith & Wesson’s new Performance Center M&P 2.0 10mm had been the first 10mm Auto to hit the market. It’s a well-designed gun that’s as easy to shoot as any 10mm I’ve tested. And, most importantly, it actually comes with a functional magazine. Two, in fact.

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The gun features an ambidextrous manual safety and a flat-face trigger that’s tuned at the S&W Performance Center.

We’ll never know how history would have been changed if a refined 10 mil like the Smith & Wesson had been the first gun chambered for the round to hit the streets, but it doesn’t matter. Even in today’s 10mm-heavy market the Performance Center M&P 10mm sets a high standard for accuracy, reliability and shooter comfort. I’ve tested many of the new 10mm semiauto pistols for Handguns, and having done so I must say that the new Smith & Wesson stands out. In its scramble to get 10mm Auto Bren Ten pistols out the door, Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises ran into some serious production problems. Now, almost 40 years later, the Smith & Wesson is the antithesis of that get-it-out-the-door gun. Smith & Wesson has tuned its M&P pistols to a razor’s edge, refining spring weights, triggers, the operating system, magazines and everything else that makes these guns perennial best-sellers. But a really good 10mm—a great 10mm—needs something more. You’ll get that with this pistol.

It all starts with a quality 5.6-inch stainless steel 1:10-twist barrel with muzzle porting. Twin ports on the tip side of the barrel allow gases to vent and thereby reduce recoil, resulting in a flatter-shooting 10mm pistol. There are corresponding cutouts in the square-nosed steel slide, as well as a trio of lightening cuts on the left and right sides of the slide near the muzzle. The barrel and slide are treated with Smith & Wesson’s tough Armornite nitride finish that not only protects against corrosion but also stands up well to abuse and rough handling. The barrel and slide are set in a polymer frame with a rigid stainless steel chassis that reduces flexing and ensures smooth operation and long life. The 10mm Auto cartridge is many things, but it is not gentle on the architecture of a pistol. The Smith & Wesson’s chassis is sizable and precision machined so you can expect long life from this gun. The grip features Smith & Wesson’s signature 18-degree grip angle, which keeps the hand high on the gun and allows the shooter to access the controls comfortably while maintaining a firm hold on the gun. The pistol comes with four interchangeable polymer palm-swell inserts—small, medium, medium-large and large—that can be easily swapped out, and the fit is such that the palm swells look natural with the grip.

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The two ports on the muzzle help release gases and effectively reduce muzzle rise. The gas is vented through corresponding cuts in the slide.

Some other polymer pistols with changeable palm swells look pieced together. The Performance Center M&P 10mm looks natural with any size grip in place since the lines flow with the grip itself, and there are no ugly gaps or odd textures. Speaking of texture, this new Performance Center 10mm comes with Smith & Wesson’s 2.0 texturing—one of the things the company changed when it designed the M&P 2.0s. It’s more modern looking than the cheese-grater grips some companies can’t seem to part with, and it’s comfortable in the hand while still offering a firm hold. The short beavertail and molded trigger undercut combine with the microtextured grip surface to help maintain a natural, comfortable hand position that helps keep the muzzle flat while firing, and the texturing wraps around the entire grip. Part of the Performance Center package includes a tuned flat-face 2.0 bladed trigger with a molded trigger stop. The trigger has an average amount of take-up, but when it comes taut only a slight press is required to trip the sear.

It’s a very manageable trigger with an average four-pound, eight-ounce trigger break when tested 10 times using an RCBS gauge. The reset is very short and audible, and the combination of muzzle porting, grip design and tuned trigger allows you to shoot faster splits with this gun than with most other 10mms. Slide cuts to accommodate optics are pretty much standard fare on high-end semiauto pistols these days, and Smith & Wesson provides a variety of inserts that allow you to attach a wide array of reflex sights to these guns. The owner’s manual features a full rundown of mounting options for each insert. Extra tall tritium night sights come standard, and these sights co-witness with most red dots. Both the front and rear sights are dovetailed into the slide and the rear sight has a set screw to allow for windage adjustments. The control layout is simple and easy to use. The small metal slide stop is ambidextrous, as is the 1911-style manual safety. The magazine release is reversible, too, so the gun is southpaw friendly. There’s also a rotating takedown lever for easy disassembly that allows the owner to disassemble the pistol for routine maintenance without the need to pull the trigger.

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The tall, bright front night sight is easy to see in any light conditions and co-witnesses with red dots. Lightening cuts in the slide help make this a flat-shooting gun.

Smith & Wesson’s traditional wave pattern serrations adorn the rear of the slide, and they offer ample texture for reliable manipulations. The front serrations are short but functional, and the slide cuts reduce weight and give the gun a stylish look. There’s a very large, beefy externally mounted extractor that will rake reluctant cases from the chamber, and a three-slot rail on the dust cover makes it easy to mount any lights and lasers you’d like. The Performance Center M&P 10mm ships in a lockable hard plastic case. You get two metal 15-round magazines, four backstrap inserts, all the screws and plates you need to mount any optic you want and a well-fitted cover plate should you decide to run your pistol sans optics. The manual is easy to follow and includes all the necessary charts and photos required to operate the gun. With its 5.6-inch barrel the Performance Center M&P 10mm measures 8.6 inches long and weighs 31.4 ounces unloaded. Height is 5.6 inches, and overall width is 1.3 inches across the controls. That makes it slightly shorter and lighter than Ruger’s SR1911 Target 10mm (8.67 inches long, 40.4 ounces) and Rock Island Armory’s TAC FS 10mm (8.74 inches, 40 ounces) 1911 pistol.

Its overall length is slightly longer than the 8.5-inch SIG P320 XTen, but the Smith & Wesson weighs a couple ounces less even with a half-inch longer barrel. The new FN 510 MRD weighs about a half-ounce less than the Smith & Wesson, but it comes with a 4.1-inch barrel, so velocities will be slower. As I mentioned, I shoot a lot of 10mm pistols, and all produce substantial recoil and muzzle blast. But after a long morning spent firing five-shot groups behind the Smith & Wesson, I must say it’s probably the most manageable of the 10mms I’ve ever fired. The added barrel length helps, and the muzzle ports work just like they’re supposed to. The Performance Center M&P 10mm’s smooth operation is even more noticeable off the bench. This is a really fast, flat-shooting 10mm autoloader that’s aided by a good grip, a great trigger and those recoil-eating barrel ports. With low(er) velocity 10mm loads—those that hover between 1,000 and 1,160 fps—you can shoot this gun very accurately very quickly, at least for a 10mm.

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The slide is cut for optics, but the iron sights work well. The rear sight is drift-adjustable, comes with tritium vials and is tall enough to co-witness with reflex sights.

The sights are, as I said, quite good. They were properly regulated at the factory and easy to see. But this is a gun that begs for the addition of a red-dot sight, and I attached Trijicon’s new enclosed RCR sight [Ed. note: See our review elsewhere in this issue]. It was a good match, and the gun printed five-shot groups in the 1.5- to two-inch range with various loads at 25 yards. But what was perhaps most impressive was the consistency with which this pistol produced those groups. Most guns will, after firing dozens of groups, churn out the occasional sub-two-inch cluster. That’s oftentimes just a matter of the right load, the right conditions and luck. But if you look at the Smith & Wesson’s figures you quickly see that those two-inch groups are the norm, not the exception, and the small, consistent average group sizes are evidence of this. The bottom line is that this gun is consistently accurate with a range of loads. Benchrest testing a 10mm is not fun, but once I finished that portion of the test and had a chance to wring out the Smith & Wesson from a standing position I was even more impressed with this gun. The local IDPA shooters had left a few barrels in the 25-yard bay and plenty of targets, so I ran the Smith & Wesson through a short improvised course. The takeaways were that this gun gets on target quickly with a red dot, manages recoil well and allows for fast follow-ups, and it’s a very accurate close- to mid-range defensive weapon.

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The gun gets on target quickly, manages recoil well and allows for fast follow-ups, making it a powerful and effective defensive pistol.

The knife-wielding, two-dimensional attacker on one of the paper targets took several double-tap shots to the forehead and torso, so he didn’t fare particularly well. I hope I never have to shoot a bad guy who isn’t printed on paper at a competition pistol range, but if that happens, the Smith & Wesson will help stop the attack. It’s not just two-legged predators that may need neutralizing, though. If you scroll through outdoor news social media posts as frequently as I do, then you can’t help but notice that grizzly bear attacks are on the rise—the inevitable result of lots of bears and lots of people coming in contact. But if you find yourself in the path of a charging grizzly you’re less inclined to wax eloquent about the ill effects of a burgeoning human population and more concerned with stopping that bear in its tracks. The Smith & Wesson will do that, and probably as well as or better than any other 10mm on the market. It’s also under these horrifying circumstances that the Performance Center shines. Bears and all other four-legged mammalian predators are very fast, and by the time your brain registers the danger and responds you’ve got precious little time before those teeth, claws and a half-ton of grizzled fury land on top of you. A flat-shooting, low-recoiling 10mm might allow you to get two aimed shots off instead of just one, increasing your odds of survival substantially.

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Despite its laundry list of features, the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 10mm carries the lowest suggested retail price among other striker-fired 10mms. The Smith & Wesson costs $749, compared to about $799 for SIG’s XTen and $919 for the FN 510. So in addition to all its other impressive attributes, the Performance Center M&P 10mm is also a great value. Are there things I would change? Yes. I’m not a big fan of Smith & Wesson’s undersize slide stop, which I find more difficult to use than those on other pistols. The safety is large enough that it’s easy to use, but I do wish it had a bit more resistance because you could brush the gun against something and have the safety change position. Otherwise, this is a very good gun. It’s the distillation of generations of striker-fired pistol design and refinement, and it’s good to see that the 10mm finally gets the opportunity it deserves thanks to well-engineered guns like the Performance Center M&P 10mm.

Recommended


Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P M2.0 10mm Specs

  • Type: Striker-fired, semiuto
  • Caliber: 10mm Auto
  • Capacity: 15 rds. 
  • Barrel: 5.6 in. 
  • OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 8.6/5.6/1.3 in. 
  • Weight: 31.4 oz. 
  • Grips: Polymer with four interchangeable backstraps
  • Finish: Black Armornite
  • Trigger: 4 lbs., 8 oz. (tested)
  • Sights: Extended-height, drift-adjustable tritium night
  • Safeties: Trigger, ambidextrous thumb
  • Price: $749
  • Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson



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