July 18, 2017
We're Americans. We are a nation of inventors, tinkerers, improvers, people who won't settle for "good enough." An example is the P-51 Mustang. When it was first unveiled, it was a merely adequate fighter plane. Then came a new engine and external fuel tanks, and the P-51 quickly proved superior to anything in the air. Our country made them in volume, to the point that when a high-scoring German ace first saw unpainted P-51s, he had two thoughts: "They make so many they don't even bother to paint them?" and "The war is lost."
What does this have to do with handguns? Simple. S&W unveiled the M&P pistol back in 2005, when striker-fired pistols had become the norm and its previous efforts with that design — the Sigma — weren't exactly setting the world on fire. The M&P was a big step up, and it offered advances over the competition, but the intervening decade gave shooters and Smith & Wesson engineers time to practice, train, use and modify pistols. The results of the company's R&D efforts is the M&P 2.0.
The M&P 2.0 does not leave behind the strengths of the original. It retains the replaceable backstraps, the firing assembly chassis, the no-dry-fire disassembly and the hell-for-tough through-hardening of the slides and barrels. It keeps the 18-degree grip angle, one so many of us are familiar and comfortable with.
Smith & Wesson also kept the M&P's low bore axis. While you can learn to live with a high bore axis and shoot it well, it takes more time, effort, practice and ammo. I think we all have better things to do than spend extra time building skills.
A long time ago, S&W determined that certain barrel twists were the most accurate. For 9mm and .40 it's
1:10, and these remain. The sights are steel, which all sights should be, and are three-dot white sights. The dovetails are the same as before, so all the makers of tritium night sights can swap the sights for you if you have a favorite brand.
But designers changed everything else. The 2.0 now comes with four sizes of interchangeable backstraps — small, medium, medium-large and large—and the texture is more aggressive than on the original M&P. So more shooters not only will be able to get a better fit for their hands, but also that fit is going to be more secure. More secure means less movement in recoil and faster back on target. Also, the tool required for disassembly, which is housed in the grip, now has a steel lanyard loop embedded in it and is easier to turn with your fingers.
The slide gets forward cocking serrations, and for a lot of shooters that makes a big difference. With forward serrations you can do a press-check (ascertain if there is a round in the chamber) with your non-firing hand under the pistol.
Engineers overhauled the trigger system. The 2.0 trigger now has a much crisper and cleaner pull. One of the drawbacks to the striker-fired design, in many pistols, is a long, spongy, gritty trigger pull. The M&P 2.0 changes that. The pull is also lighter, with a design goal of 5.5 pounds. It measures 5.5 pounds, but it feels lighter due to the crispness of the pull.
Inside the polymer housing, S&W has extended the length of the embedded stainless steel chassis to reduce flex of the frame/housing. You can see it, forward of the trigger guard through the cutouts, and that's where the serial number of the frame resides.
This change eliminates flex of the frame when there is a light or laser mounted, a problem occasionally seen in other pistols. It also reduces felt vibration and torque delivered to the frame and your hands. Again, more control and comfort when shooting.
The 2.0 trigger mechanism also features a reset that is both tactile and audible. If you are working on your resets, with the idea of keeping your trigger finger in contact with the trigger at all times while shooting, this is a great help. It may even help you avoid my nasty old habit of slapping the trigger.
The slide stop is ambidextrous, as is the optional thumb safety. The 2.0's magazine catch is reversible. The super-hard surface treatment of the through-hardened slide and barrel came in for some fine-tuning as well. The end result is a process S&W calls Armor-nite, and it comes in one color: a buffed matte black. Now, not all M&P 2.0s will be black. There is a flat dark earth model, which gets its color from an
additional Cerakote coating on the metal and frame polymer that's dyed before it is injection molded. The flat dark earth version has a five-inch barrel, allowing it to serve double-duty as a tactical and a competition version.
Just because the company has improved the M&P doesn't mean it has left owners of the 1.0 version behind. The 2.0 uses the same excellent magazines as the 1.0, and since the 2.0 frame retains the accessory rail on the dustcover, all your lights and lasers that fit your 1.0 will fit your 2.0. And as a bonus, the new backstraps for the 2.0 will fit the 1.0 frame, and holster fits are unchanged — and there are plenty of holster options out there for the M&P.
The suggested retail price remains the same as well, a buck under six Benjamins. You'll be seeing the 2.0 in gun shops for less than that. And each pistol comes with two magazines in the box, along with instruction manual, limited lifetime warranty, fired case and a lock.
I received three versions for testing: two 4.25-inch guns in 9mm and .40 as well as the five-inch flat dark earth model. The five-inch 2.0 lives up to the accuracy S&W says the barrel delivers, not that the smaller guns were slouches. It was easy to smack the 100-yard plates, and I spent several magazines tipping over the rifle-rated bowling pin steel at 95 yards.
The five-inch model also provided a couple of interesting details. It has the ambi thumb safety, and I noticed right away I had much more control over the five-inch model than I did over the smaller 9mm. The extra leverage of my thumb on the safety kept the muzzle down and got it back on target faster.
The five-inch model was also softer in recoil. It would just barely cycle with the American Eagle suppressor-ready 124-grain full metal jackets with a muzzle velocity under 1,000 fps.
My shooting grip is a hard one, and if it will barely cycle for me, for a lot of readers it won't cycle reliably. This is not a slam on either pistol or ammo because the American Eagle ammo is meant to be used with a suppressor mounted, which will boost recoil. Used in the smaller M&P 2.0, it cycled 100 percent and the empties were pitched a goodly distance.
The grip texture change was such that I could tell the 2.0 from other pistols just from the texture alone, even with my eyes closed. If the M&P 2.0 texture were any more aggressive, you couldn't let go of it; it would stick to your hands.
So I'll warn those who don't work with their hands: You may find the first few range sessions with your new 2.0 leaving your hands a bit sore.
The three models in the first offering are a clear indication that Smith & Wesson wants to own the striker-fired market. The fiveinch pistol is aimed directly at the competition market and those who want a full-sized pistol with a generous capacity.
As a competition pistol, the longer sight radius will mean more useable accuracy, which is always a good thing. The longer barrel means two things. Those who desire terminal performance for carry will be wringing every fps out of their loads that can be had, and competition shooters can use the smallest amount of powder possible to make Minor and thus shave even more off of the felt recoil.
The midsize pistol is clearly a duty gun, in 9mm or .40. Police departments using either caliber have a stellar option for their next upgrade. If they already use the M&P, the storeroom full of spare magazines won't even have to be traded in.
And for those who want a marvelously effective everyday carry gun, the size means they can have the full capacity of 9mm or 40 and avoid the sometimes-difficult fullsized carry gun conundrum.