March 15, 2023
By Keith Wood
Thanks to the widespread use of polymer and aluminum in their construction, modern handguns have become lighter than ever. Lighter is always better, right? Well, not always. Lighter guns are certainly more comfortable to carry, but they’re not always an asset when it comes to putting rounds on target. The fact is that, within reason, heavier guns are more forgiving to shoot than lighter ones. It’s pure physics.
Simply adding weight to a handgun can reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise and result in faster hits, and for those who value shootability over portability, Smith & Wesson has developed the M&P9 M2.0 Metal Series handgun. This steel and aluminum-frame handgun combines the best elements of a modern striker-fired handgun with metal construction.
The Smith & Wesson M&P has been one of the top-selling and top-performing polymer-frame striker-fired handguns since its introduction in 2005. Numerous U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies have adopted and used the M&P series of handguns, and it’s a popular choice with civilian shooters as well.
Many firearm consumers find the M&P to be an attractive alternative to other polymer-framed handguns on the market. One might argue that Smith & Wesson’s engineers took a close look at the Glock and fixed all the elements shooters didn’t like. Many individuals who grew up with 1911s find the M&P to be among the most shooter-friendly of polymer handguns, perhaps due to the 18-degree grip angle shared by both designs.
The M2.0 Metal Series is built on the full-size M&P frame and slide, and it’s currently offered only in 9mm. The most glaring difference between it and the standard model is that the frame is machined from 7075 T-6 aluminum instead of being molded in Zytel polymer.
For starters, this material adds 5.3 ounces of recoil-tamping mass to the handgun. Empty, the M2.0 Metal Series weighs about as much as a polymer M&P does loaded with a full magazine. No, it’s not a ton of weight, but it’s enough to be noticeable.
Beyond adding mass, the aluminum frame also provides a more rigid foundation for the slide assembly, which potentially could increase accuracy. Finally, aluminum isn’t polymer, and let’s face it, plenty of shooters prefer a metal handgun.
Is there a demand for heavier guns? Weight-obsessed doubters should look no further than the success of CZ’s all-metal Shadow 2 handgun, which quickly became one of the most popular handguns in practical competition thanks to its weight and shootability. That all-steel handgun is a full pound heavier than the M2.0 Metal Series, though, making it a competition-only proposition. To put things in perspective, the M2.0 Metal Series is nearly identical in weight to the classic Colt Lightweight Commander 1911, once considered the “sweet spot” for a portable but shootable carry gun.
Back to the frame. It is milled to the same dimensions as the polymer variants, so holster compatibility should not be an issue. One of the attractive features of the M&P series is the interchangeable backstrap system. The M2.0 Metal Series maintains this ability to customize grip fit, and four different backstraps with integral palm swells are included: large, medium-large, medium and small.
Swapping backstraps requires no tools and can be completed in seconds. The lanyard extension/frame tool that sits at the rear of the magazine well is rotated 90 degrees and extracted. The backstrap can now be removed and replaced. It’s quite painless but plenty secure. I found the medium-large backstrap fit me best.
The backstraps are stippled for a non-slip grip, and an identically textured polymer panel is embedded into the frontstrap as well. A finger groove is machined into both sides of the grip, providing a thumb relief as well as a spot for the trigger finger to ride on during the draw. It’s easy to get a fast but secure grip on this handgun.
The magazine well is beveled on all four sides, and some faint grooves are milled into the frame for stripping a magazine manually. Both the slide and frame are finished with Tungsten Grey Cerakote, which creates a two-tone finish thanks to the black controls, barrel and grip panels. An integral Picatinny rail is machined into the frame’s dust cover for accessory mounting.
The two included 17-round magazines use steel bodies with polymer base pads and followers. These mags taper to a single column at the top, aiding reliability as well as rapid reloads.
In terms of controls, the M2.0 Metal Series has an ambidextrous slide stop and a reversible magazine release. Both are easy to manipulate while maintaining a firing grip. Although Smith & Wesson does offer manual safeties on some of its M&P models, there isn’t one on this particular pistol. The takedown lever is on the left side of the frame.
The M&P series has built a reputation for having one of the better triggers in the polymer world. In theory, this should be improved further thanks to the rigidity of the aluminum frame because the trigger assembly is less likely to flex or shift during the trigger press.
The semi-flat trigger on my test sample broke right at 4.5 pounds, thanks to the enhanced sear. Although the take-up was a little rough, the break itself was clean with no sign of creep. Reset was short and tactile. A polymer pad serves as an overtravel stop. Overall, I would rate the trigger pull’s characteristics and feel as being on the better end of the polymer handgun spectrum.
The slide on the M2.0 Metal Series is more or less standard M&P. Machined from stainless steel, there are generous scalloped cocking serrations at the front and rear. There is an external extractor and a fixed steel ejector that sweeps upward from the frame’s internals. The ejection port is generously cut and is flared back for reliability.
The slide on this model comes optics-ready with a cover plate installed. A screw and plate kit, identical to the one issued with the old C.O.R.E. series of handguns, ships with this handgun and gives the user six different mounting options. I remain an iron sight fan and chose not to mount an optic during my testing.
The barrel on the M2.0 Metal Series is 4.25 inches long and constructed from stainless steel. The 1:10-twist barrel uses traditional land-and-groove rifling, making it compatible with lead bullets. The integrally ramped barrel wears Smith & Wesson’s Armornite finish, which is essentially a black nitride surface treatment. A semicircle machined into the rear of the barrel hood serves as a visual loaded chamber indicator. The recoil spring guide is made from stainless steel and uses a captive flat recoil spring secured by a hex screw.
One of the selling points of the M&P series overall is there’s no need to dry-fire the handgun in order to complete the disassembly process.
There is a trick to completing this process, though. With the slide locked to the rear and the takedown lever actuated, the sear lever must be pushed downward via the ejection port—you can use the frame tool, a pen or a similar object—to allow the slide to be removed. If you prefer the faster route, simply dry-fire the gun in a safe direction and remove the slide.
The iron sights are dovetailed into the frame and use a simple three-dot arrangement. The rear is drift adjustable for windage. The sight picture provided was good, and the sights came perfectly regulated for 25 yards.
I fired numerous five-shot groups with three types of factory ammunition to establish mechanical accuracy potential. Accuracy from the bench was more or less average, with Norma’s 108-grain Monolithic Hollow Point producing the tightest groups by a healthy margin. I saw no sign that the rigidity of the metal frame had any real effect on accuracy when compared to the polymer M&Ps.
The test gun was 100 percent reliable with all four loads I used. I ran some remanufactured full metal jacket ammo through the handgun for rapid-fire drills on steel targets but did not include it in the formal accuracy testing.
It was not until I vacated the bench and began shooting at steel that I really began to appreciate this handgun. Recoil was extremely soft, and muzzle rise was controllable. Shooting at a 10-inch plate at 30 yards, I was able to make hits as fast as I could acquire a flash sight picture. I feel like I shot this handgun better offhand than I did from the bench, which, in practical terms, is far more important.
The M2.0 Metal Series really does encompass some of the best qualities of striker-fired handguns but with a more traditional overall feel. Given the out-of-the-box shootability of the M2.0 Metal Series, it would be a very attractive choice for the Production and Stock Service Pistol divisions of USPSA and IDPA matches respectively.
The standard full-size polymer M&P 2.0 retails for $629, and buyers of the M2.0 Metal Series will pay a $270 premium for the aluminum frame, the Cerakote finish and upgraded trigger. Given the cost and logistics of machining aluminum versus molding polymer, this strikes me as reasonable. Honestly, when I was introduced to the M.20 Metal Series, I assumed the price tag would be well north of $1,000.
If you’re old school and can’t warm up to polymer but are attracted by the many great features available on modern handguns, the M2.0 Metal Series is the handgun you’ve been waiting for. Likewise, if you’re looking for a handgun for practical competition or simple target shooting, this model also has a lot to offer. With comfortable and configurable grips, good sights and decent triggers, M&P handguns are shooter-friendly in general. With the added mass of the aluminum frame, the M2.0 Metal Series takes a good thing and makes it even better.
Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 Metal Series Specifications
- Type: striker-fired semiautomatic
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Capacity: 17+1
- Barrel: 4.25 in.
- OAL/Height/Width: 7.4/5.5/1.3 in.
- Weight: 30 oz.
- Construction: Armornite-finished stainless steel slide, 7075 T-6 aluminum frame
- Grips: textured polymer
- Sights: white three-dot, drift-adjustable for windage; optics-ready
- Safeties: trigger
- Trigger: 4.5 lb. pull (measured)
- Price: $899
- Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson; smith-wesson.com