August 10, 2022
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Not long after the 10mm was released, the cartridge found itself hanging over the yawning abyss of obscurity thanks in no small part to a lack of suitable firearms. Bren Ten pistols, which were the first to be chambered in 10mm, were available in the early 1980s, but unfortunately magazines for those pistols were not. To add insult to injury, the FBI—for whom the 10mm was essentially developed when the agency decided it needed more stopping power after the infamous 1986 Miami shootout—gave up on the 10mm in favor of the .40 S&W.
One group that never gave up on the 10mm, however, was shooters. Competitors, hunters and some law enforcement and military units stuck with the 10mm, and as the years passed so did those early bad memories of the Bren Ten and the FBI’s abandonment. Today’s shooters have come to like the 10mm, and gun companies are adding more and more models chambered for the powerful 10mm each year. One of the newest 10mm pistols is Smith & Wesson’s M&P 10mm M2.0—not to be confused with the M&P 10 7.62 carbine. Based on the company’s popular M&P line of pistols, the striker-fired gun holds 15 rounds of 10mm ammo and features the M2.0 grip texturing, which looks modern and keeps the gun planted when firing. The steel slide and 1:10 twist barrel are treated to a coating of Armornite, which is Smith & Wesson’s version of a nitrocarburizing surface treatment. But the surface finish on the M&P 10mm and other Smith & Wesson guns has a smooth, even finish that is neither too glossy nor too dull.
Best 10mm Features
The front and rear slide serrations are ample enough to offer complete control over this pistol when cycling, and they bear the same wave pattern found on other M&P pistols. There’s a beefy side-mounted extractor and a hole in the rear top portion of the chamber that serves as a window through which the shooter can see whether a cartridge is in the chamber. The M&P 10mm comes and optics-ready slide. Eight mounting plates are included that will allow you to secure just about any reflex sight you’d like to this pistol. A cover plate is also included for those who prefer to stick with the iron sights. Speaking of irons, Smith & Wesson has given this gun a great set of iron sights that are elevated to allow for co-witnessing with a red dot sight. Both the front and rear sights are dovetailed into the machined slide. The rear sight includes both a flat tactical ledge for one-handed cycling and a recessed rear sight face that cuts glare on sunny days. The three white-dot layout is familiar and functional.
The polymer frame comes with an embedded stainless steel extended chassis to reduce flex when firing. Slide-to-frame fit is good, and the grip design is superb. An 18-degree grip angle keeps the hand in a comfortable position and helps control the 10mm’s substantial recoil. The frame design allows the shooter’s hand to ride high on the grip thanks to an undercut trigger guard. A low bore axis helps with control as well. Years ago, German companies like Walther and HK had the best grip designs, but American guns like the M&P 10mm M2.0 have closed that gap, and today’s M&Ps feel as good in the hand as the top imported competitors. Smith & Wesson sends four backstraps—small, medium, medium/large and large—with each of these guns for a custom fit.
Swapping backstraps is simple and straightforward. After ensuring the gun is unloaded and with the magazine removed, simply rotate the frame tool in the bottom of the grip a quarter-turn and pull it free. This allows the backstraps to be pulled free and replaced, a much simpler process than swapping out backstraps on some other polymer pistols. The M&P 10mm comes with Smith & Wesson’s M2.0 flat-face bladed trigger. The design promotes more surface area engagement with the face of the trigger and a smoother, cleaner trigger pull for improved accuracy. When I unboxed the M&P 10mm, I tested the trigger weight and found it broke at five pounds, four ounces for an average of 10 pulls on my Wheeler gauge.
I retested after firing more than 100 rounds and found that the trigger broke at five pounds, one ounce on average and the trigger take-up was smoother. It’s not that take-up was bad initially, but there was some grittiness that went away after a day on the range. There’s a molded polymer trigger stop inside the trigger guard. M&P 10mm pistols come with barrel lengths of either 4.0 or 4.6 inches. All M&P 10mm pistols are available with or without a manual thumb safety, and all come with a slide stop that’s large enough to be functional and a takedown lever that eases fieldstripping for cleaning and maintenance.
There’s an oval reversible magazine release and the aforementioned frame tool that rides in the grip. A three-slot rail under the barrel allows you to mount lasers and lights. The version of the pistol I tested came with a 4.6-inch barrel and without a manual safety and carries a suggested retail price of $665. Overall length is 7.9 inches, slightly shorter than Glock G20 MOS pistol with the same length barrel. The Smith & Wesson weighs 29.3 ounces unloaded to the Glock’s 30.7 ounces. Both pistols measure 1.3 inches wide, and both hold 15 rounds of ammunition.
Glock G20 pistols have a street price of between $650 and $699, which is likely slightly higher than the Smith & Wesson, but the Glock lacks the suppressor-height sights, takedown lever and other features standard on the M&P 10mm. Much has been made about the 10mm’s recoil, which is considered by some to be tremendous. It was recoil, after all, that prompted the FBI to dump the 10mm Auto in favor of the .40 S&W because too many of its agents couldn’t handle it. However, it’s never been my experience that the 10mm is particularly vicious, and with light or moderate self-defense loads, this pistol is manageable for experienced shooters.
This is especially true since the M&P 10mm has a well-designed grip with interchangeable backstraps for a customized fit and the high hand position and low bore axis that send recoil energy back into the arms and shoulders. This prevents the shooter’s hand from acting as a fulcrum, which promotes excessive muzzle rise. The M&P 10mm is a gun that experienced shooters can fire quickly and accurately. Not as quickly as a 9mm, perhaps, but much faster than a big bore revolver, which is why the 10mm has become popular among Alaskans who live, work and play in bear country.
Red-Dot Ready 10mm Auto
I elected to add a Trijicon SRO to the M&P 10mm, and doing so was easy because Smith & Wesson sends all the bases you’ll need to mount just about any optic you’d like. If at some point you elect to switch optics, it’s easy to do because you’ll have bases to accommodate most any red-dot footprint. The SRO worked great, and its wide window and robust design make it a natural match for this pistol. The M&P 10mm produced good accuracy, grouping five shots as small as 1.7 inches from 25 yards. One benefit of the 10mm is it offers so many different loads for so many varied applications. In the test group I had three jacketed hollowpoint self-defense bullets, a full-metal-jacket target round and a hard-cast predator defense round.
Velocities ranged from just under 1,100 fps to over 1,200 fps, which means you can tailor your load for just about any situation. Milder loads like the Hornady Critical Duty at 1,100 fps are a great choice for daily carry, and if you’re in the backcountry you can switch to something like Federal Syntech Solid Core or Hornady Handgun Hunter—neither of which I happened to have on hand. The M&P 10mm M2.0 finished the test with an unblemished reliability record. Smith & Wesson uses quality metal magazines, and the feed ramp is smooth and clean. That hefty extractor is capable of manhandling even sticky cases, and the slide locked open after the last shot in each magazine.
The Smith & Wesson stays planted in the hand, and I could fire 180-grain 10mm bullets almost as quickly and with accuracy just as good as 9mm bullets from my Shield pistol, though the 10mm loads are hitting with half-again as much energy as the smaller 9mm. The 9mm/10mm debate brings up another point. Since most of us train with a semiauto for self-defense, it only makes sense that your bear/backcountry gun is of a similar design. If you have a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm you’ll transition to the M&P 10mm without issue.
What about concealed carry? I admit the M&P 10mm is large for inside-the-waistband carry, but the shorter four-inch version will be easier to hide under light clothing than the 4.6-inch gun I was shooting. Slide cuts allow the gun to ride close to the body comfortably, and the M&P 10mm certainly works if you like (or at least don’t mind) a larger gun. I think it’s hard to argue for a seven-shot .45 ACP’s merits over the more powerful 10mm that holds over twice as many rounds. If the M&P 10mm won’t get you out of a dangerous situation, you needed a carbine in the first place.
Smith & Wesson has spent decades refining the M&P handgun line, and I believe the M&P 10mm offers the best control layout and grip design of any polymer-frame 10mm—although I do miss the flared mag well found on Springfield’s XD-M OSP 3.8 10mm. The slide stop is large enough that it can be functioned while under duress, the magazine release button is easy to access, and the rotating takedown lever makes fieldstripping simple. Left-handed shooters will be happy to know that the slide stop is ambidextrous, and the magazine release can be reversed to function for southpaws.
The sights are basic but rugged and functional, and if I need to cycle the pistol with one hand, the ledge allows me to do that. I carried the M&P 10mm pistol to and from the range, holstered and unholstered it several times, and dragged it out for photos on multiple occasions without any damage to the Armornite nitrocarburized finish. Normal wear is common during testing, and the Smith & Wesson came through it completely blemish-free. One reason this gun is so good is that it comes with an excellent trigger that smoothes noticeably the more the gun is shot. Flat-face triggers are all the rage, but they do offer more control and help shrink group sizes, which is part of the reason they’re so popular with USPSA and IDPA shooters. Trigger pull and break are consistent, which also promotes accuracy.
There’s a lot to like about the M&P 10mm, and if you’re in the market for a new 10mm Auto pistol, it deserves a position on your short list. Accuracy, ergonomics and reliability are as good as anything in this class, and you get the flexibility of numerous optics plates and those interchangeable backstraps. We’ve watched Smith & Wesson refine the M&P pistol line until these guns are so good it’d be hard to ask for more. You might even call this Smith & Wesson a perfect 10.
Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 10mm Auto Specs
- Type: Striker-fired, semiautomatic
- Caliber: 10mm Auto
- Capacity: 15+1 rds.
- Barrel: 4.6 in., Armornite-finished, stainless steel
- OAL/Height/Width: 7.9/5.6/1.3 in.
- Weight: 29.3 oz.
- Construction: Armornite-finished stainless steel slide; polymer frame w/4 interchangeable backstraps
- Trigger: Bladed, flat-faced; 5.3 lbs., (tested)
- Sights: Metal three-dot suppressor height; optic ready
- MSRP: $665
- Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson