February 05, 2020
It’s been just about three years since Smith & Wesson brought out the second generation of its M&P pistols. These pistols sport improvements—inside and out—over the original M&Ps, but until now there was one thing missing from the second-generation lineup: a subcompact.
The new Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 Subcompact is offered in 9mm and .40 S&W and with and without a thumb safety. The 9mm and .40 versions are identical but for caliber and capacity. There is also a .45, but that gun is larger in every dimension. The .45 has a longer four-inch barrel, 8+1 capacity and weighs 2.4 ounces more. Every version of the Subcompact, no matter the caliber, is the same price.
I obtained a sample of the 9mm version with no thumb safety for testing because it is likely to be the most popular version. The Subcompact sports a 3.675-inch barrel and a 12-round capacity in 9mm (10 rounds in .40).
Other than its abbreviated size, it offers all the same features found on the Compact and full-size M&P pistols. These are polymer-frame, striker-fired pistols built for rigorous use. Both the slide and barrel are stainless steel and given an Armornite corrosion-resistant finish, and the pistol is rated for +P ammunition.
Factory standard sights are steel with three dots, and the Subcompact has the same dovetails as the larger M&Ps so all of the aftermarket sight options like fiber optics and tritium will fit this pistol as well. The M&P has an 18-degree grip angle, which in layman’s terms means it’s much closer to a 1911 than, say, a Glock. It arrives with four interchangeable backstraps.
With many striker-fired pistols you’ll see a safety lever on the trigger. With the M&P the trigger itself is the pivoting safety lever. There is an internal striker safety as well. As I mentioned, you can also buy the Subcompact with a manual safety. That lever is ambidextrous and is located at the top rear of the frame, similar in position to where you’ll find the thumb safety on a 1911.
This pistol comes with two 12-round magazines. One has a flush base pad, the other an extended base pad. With the extended base pad magazine in place, I can get my whole hand on the gun, but when using the flush base pad, my pinkie is left hanging. However, the flush base pad is half an inch shorter, making the gun slightly easier to conceal. I say “slightly” because it is usually the butt of the pistol that prints under clothing.
Before we dive deeper into the details of the pistol, let’s look at the changes and improvements between the first- and second-generation M&Ps. The two biggest have to deal with the trigger pull and the grip.
By far, the two most common types of customization done to first-generation M&P pistols have been trigger jobs and increasing the texturing of the grip area, usually through stippling.
First-generation M&Ps have an advertised 6.5-pound pull, which seems to be the standard trigger pull weight for pistols designed to be “service weapons,” as the M&P was. Heavy trigger pulls on duty guns are often meant to be an additional safety. The only problem with this is most people buying M&Ps aren’t cops, and the American consumer is getting awfully picky when it comes to trigger pulls. Heavy trigger pulls make it harder to shoot accurately, much less quickly, and who wants that?
Smith & Wesson engineers took a long look at what was being done to the first-generation M&Ps to improve the trigger pulls, and so for the M&P M2.0 they reduced the trigger pull weight mostly through improved geometry in the sear and striker. The targeted spec for the M2.0’s trigger pull is 5.5 pounds, and that’s just what I got with my test gun. I’ve actually put a lot of rounds downrange through various sizes of M&P M2.0 pistols, and every trigger pull has been within a quarter-pound of that 5.5-pound spec.
More than the trigger-pull weight, what a lot of people didn’t like about the trigger pull on the original M&P was the lack of a discernible reset. Reset shouldn’t matter in a defensive pistol. In any self-defense scenario, nobody will be worried about the reset on their trigger; they’ll just be pulling it as fast as possible until the problem is solved. Still, S&W engineers addressed the problem, and the triggers on the M&P M2.0s have very positive reset; you can both hear and feel it.
Many people thought the factory texturing on the grip of the original M&P was too slick. As a result, hand-stippling was a common sight. Thanks to modern injection-molding techniques, stippling your M&P M2.0 is no longer necessary. The factory texturing on the frame and backstraps of the M&P M2.0 is as aggressive as stippling, and that is no exaggeration.
I’ve always carried the gun I shot in USPSA competition and vice versa, and for years I avoided stippled grips because I thought the stippling would chew through my shirt. Finally, about 10 years ago I got my first stippled grip, and I will never go back.
I bring this up because, as I said, the Smith & Wesson frame texturing is as aggressive as hand-stippling, but just like stippling, you will not have to worry about it wearing through your covering garment. However, I would recommend having some layer of fabric (a thin T-shirt is all that’s necessary) between your skin and the frame of the pistol, or you will suffer what medical professionals term a skin abrasion.
The first-generation M&Ps came with three sizes of interchangeable backstraps: small, medium and large. According to the folks at Smith & Wesson, 80 percent of users prefer the medium backstrap.
M&Ps have never been my first choice for a carry gun simply because the pistol never fit my hand properly. The medium backstrap was just a little too small for me, and the large backstrap adds a little bit of meat on the back, but is mostly just fatter than the medium, which I didn’t want. The closer a pistol grip is to round, the less naturally it points.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only person who had this issue. The M&P 2.0 in all sizes comes supplied with not three but four backstraps: small, medium, medium-large and large.
The big news here is the medium-large backstrap, which has the same girth as the medium but adds a curve at the top to provide more material under the web of the shooter’s hand to increase reach to the trigger. On both the full-size and Compact M&P M2.0, I love-love-love the medium-large backstrap, but I was surprised to discover that on the Subcompact the medium backstrap is a better fit for me.
That’s the great thing about having four sizes of backstraps. They allow you to fit the pistol to your hand as much as possible. Swapping out backstraps takes all of 10 seconds.
Here is my only complaint about this specific pistol. The M&P M2.0 uses the same proven magazines as the original M&P. I’m guessing Smith & Wesson has a lot of extended base pads left over from the first-generation S&W M&P Subcompact, because the one provided with this pistol does not have that aggressive M2.0 texturing. The extended base pad felt a little slick under my pinkie.
One complaint I’ve heard about M&Ps for a while is the ambidextrous slide stop. You’ll notice S&W doesn’t term it a “slide release,” because if you’re a southpaw and try to release the slide by pushing down on the right-side lever, fuhgeddaboutit. You’ll discover it takes about four times as much force as pushing down on the left-side lever. You’re much better off just working the slide by hand.
You might notice the lack of a beavertail on the frame of the second-generation M&Ps. Smith & Wesson has eliminated the beavertail, so now the rear of the frame doesn’t really stick out any farther than the rear of the slide. On the full-size gun this makes less of a difference than on this subcompact pistol destined for a concealed-carry role.
The scalloped serrations at the rear of the slide haven’t changed, but with the M2.0 you’ll see S&W has added some minimal serrations at the front of the slide near the bottom where it meets the frame. I wish S&W had been willing to move some of the slide markings to fully serrate the front of the slide, but at least the rear serrations are aggressive.
There are small cutouts at the bottom of the frame on each side to give you a little better grip on the floorplate of the magazine should you have to strip one out by hand.
The internal steel chassis inside the polymer frame is much longer on the M2.0 than on the original M&P. S&W calls it an “embedded rigid stainless steel chassis,” and it also has an Armornite coating. In the first-generation M&P the chassis didn’t extend much past the front of the trigger guard, but on the new model the steel in the frame goes most of the way out to the end of the frame.
On the original M&P the serial number in the steel chassis could be seen through a window cut into the polymer at the rear of the frame. In the M2.0 the serial number in the steel chassis is located above the tactical rail, visual proof the chassis extends much farther.
This longer, stiffer frame makes more of a difference on the full-size M&P, ensuring there won’t be any flex if you hang a big weapon light on the frame’s tactical rail. But even with the Subcompact, less frame flex equals greater reliability.
The “loaded-chamber indicator” is simply a hole through the rear of the barrel hood. It is nearly useless in anything other than direct sunlight, but it allows the M&P to be sold in states that mandate certain safety features on guns.
I was lucky enough to enjoy some serious trigger time with the M2.0 at the S&W Academy when the gun was first introduced. At the time, the editor of a major gun magazine remarked he thought the new gun should be called the “M&P 1.1” because in his opinion there weren’t many changes to it.
But I’ll counter that’s because not many things needed to be done to the M&P. Did I mention any changes S&W made to the design to improve reliability, which is the most important aspect of any defensive firearm? No. They didn’t make any because none needed to be made. That says a lot.
Range time with the Subcompact brought no surprises. It fired everything I fed it and was nicely accurate for a subcompact.
The M&P Subcompact is much smaller than the full-size M&P, but it is not a pocket gun, and you will need a holster. That said, it will fit into any holster made for the first-generation M&P Subcompact and conceal under just about any garment.
A good review of this pistol wouldn’t be complete without a comparison to its closest competitor: the M&P Shield. A lot of people think one of the reasons why Smith & Wesson was so slow to introduce a subcompact version of the M&P M2.0 is because of the success of the subcompact Shield. They might be right, but these are far from identical guns.
The M&P Subcompact is the same height as the Shield, but it is roughly a half-inch longer, weighs a few ounces more, and is noticeably thicker. The Subcompact looks and feels like a chunk of a gun compared to the very flat Shield. However, that thickness doesn’t just offer a nice personality; it gives you substantially more capacity than the Shield.
These pistols are the same height only if the Shield is wearing its flush seven-round magazine. Meanwhile, the Subcompact offers a 12-round capacity. Plus, you can reload the Subcompact with those big sticks meant for the Compact and/or full-size M&P M2.0, which ups your capacity to 15 or 17 rounds. Last, the Subcompact has the four interchangeable backstraps, which the Shield does not.
If this sounds like I’m ganging up on the Shield, I don’t mean to. The Shield is definitely easier to conceal and carry than the Subcompact, but that doesn’t come without a price. The great thing about the Subcompact is that if you’re a fan of the M&P design and wanted a small, concealable pistol, you now have one more option.
American consumers have had access to compact 9mm pistols for decades. I owned a Smith & Wesson 3913 back in the late ’90s, and the pistols of today are far superior to those guns of yesteryear.
The Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 Subcompact is a perfect example. They have better ergonomics, vastly improved reliability, better texturing on the grips, better sights, better everything. And once you adjust for inflation, you’ll see that thanks to advances in manufacturing, they cost less, too.
SMITH & WESSON M&P M2.0 SUBCOMPACT
- TYPE: striker-fired semiauto
- CALIBER: 9mm Luger (tested), .40 S&W, .45 ACP (larger dimensions than 9mm, .40)
- CAPACITY: 12+1
- BARREL LENGTH: 3.7 in.
- OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 6.6/4.5/1.2 in.
- WEIGHT: 24.0 oz.
- CONSTRUCTION: Armornite-coated stainless steel slide, polymer frame
- TRIGGER: 5.5 lb. pull (measured)
- SIGHTS: 3-dot steel
- SAFETIES: sear block drop, trigger safety lever (as tested)
- PRICE: $569
- MANUFACTURER: Smith & Wesson, smith-wesson.com
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