WE GUN OWNERS BANDY ABOUT TERMS like fit, feel and ergonomics as if they’re critical factors in life-saving encounters. When you think about it, they are. If you talk to any precision rifle or pistol shooter, you’ll hear him or her gush on and on about something called the “natural point of aim.” In short, this means you adjust your body position so the gun naturally “wants” to point at the target based on your physiological structure. If you force your gun’s sights onto the target from any old position, you develop muscle fatigue from all the extra work you have to put in to keep the sights exactly there. The result? Reduced accuracy. That same concept is exactly why pistol ergonomics are so important. We’re all built differently, and some pistol designs will likely shoot “better” for each individual. Sure, most of us can pick up any gun and force shots on target, but if one handgun does some of that work for you because it fits you better, why not take that advantage?
I mention this because, at least for me, the Smith & Wesson M&P has always been a very easy gun to shoot. If I close my eyes and raise the gun to target, it’s going to be darn close to my desired bullseye, because the grip angle suits me. The grip circumference allows my finger to reach the trigger easily, without contacting the frame. The rounded contours keep the gun stable in my hand and dampen recoil. In fact, the only thing that I’ve been less than enthusiastic about are the original M&P triggers, mainly because I’m a trigger snob. (Hey, the first step is admitting you have a problem, right?)
Anyway, when I had the opportunity to check out the new Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 pistols, the major improvement to the trigger system was the first thing I noticed. There are plenty of other changes to discuss, so let’s take a look at this first significant upgrade to the line in 10 years.
A Quick Tour of The M&P 2.0
From a distance, you’ll see the new model as a classic M&P pistol. It’s a polymer-framed, semi-automatic, striker-fired pistol built around an interior steel chassis. Of course, the operating parts like slide and barrel are all steel, but the polymer frame reduces weight and the need for tender loving care. Like the original model, the slide has those nifty and attractive scallop-shaped serrations on the back to help your grip when racking. On the 2.0 models, you’ll also spot a smaller version of those on the front of the slide. They’re subtle, and only about a quarter of an inch tall. The purpose is to help out those folks, like yours truly, who appreciate the convenience of grasping the front of the slide to check the chamber status. It’s nothing tactical; I can just see the chamber more clearly around my fat hands when I grasp the slide up front.
When you pick up the 2.0, you’ll feel the revamped grip texture. The new pattern is a lot like skateboard tape: The shallow cut has a very sandpaper-like feel, and the pattern covers the circumference of the grip. I like it a lot. (If you carry inside the waistband, be sure to wear an undershirt or else that texture will abrade your love handles.) You’ll really notice the difference when you shoot. The new gun stays put in your hand even when things get sweaty, and I had no issues with needing to re-tweak my grip during magazine dumps.
While we’re talking about the grip, there are now four grip sizes from which to choose: The company includes three different grip inserts in addition to the medium-sized one already installed. If you want a smaller or larger grip to better fit your hand, try the small, large or extra large. They’re compatible with the original grip panels, but you have to use the new tool to install them.
Forward of the trigger guard, you’ll spot two ports in the polymer frame. When you look through these, you’ll see steel underneath. That’s because the internal chassis has also been redesigned. It’s longer and extends farther into the polymer frame forward of the trigger area. The idea behind this change is to provide more rigidity to the frame and, in theory, improve accuracy of the pistol.
The Gun’s Trigger
The biggest change on the M&P 2.0 series of pistols is a dramatically improved trigger. When I say “dramatically improved,” I’m not just referring to the pull weight. The whole feel of the trigger has been upgraded. We’ll get to that in a minute, but let’s start with the pull weight. I’ve been shooting these three M&P 2.0 pistols for a couple of months, so the triggers are now pretty well broken-in. As I sit here with my Timney Trigger gauge, I measure a 5.25-pound pull weight on the M&P 2.0 4.25-inch .40 S&W model. The identical pistol in 9mm is measuring exactly 5 pounds.
The sensation of the trigger press movement is where you’ll really notice the difference. Let’s just say the original models didn’t have the smoothest sensation during the takeup stage and the whole break was a bit on the mushy side. With the new model, you’ll experience a grit-free take-up for about 1/2 inch, followed by 1/4 inch of constant-pressure travel until the shot breaks. There’s no stacking or tactile sensation that hints at the coming break, so I suppose you could call the feel more of a “surprise break” if you’re into that.
Even though they are Performance Center models with enhanced triggers, there’s still a noticeable difference; the 2.0 models are better.
I should note that the manual safety model behaves just a bit differently and the trigger, while still improved over the original, is not quite as light and smooth as the non-safety models. I measured the manual safety model at a consistent 6 pounds. I also noticed a very slight “click” just before the break, resulting from contact with the safety mechanism.
I should also point out the improved trigger reset. Some people like to “ride the reset” and release the trigger post-shot only enough for the action to reset for a follow-up shot. If you’re one who shoots that way, you’ll like this pistol. After about a quarter of an inch of trigger release, you’ll feel and hear a distinctive click, letting you know you can execute another trigger press.
I also happen to have a couple of the original M&Ps here, and even though they are Performance Center models with enhanced triggers, there’s still a noticeable difference; the 2.0 models are better, and when you field-strip the pistols, you can see exactly why. On the original models, the trigger bar slid underneath the sear, forcing it upward to release the striker. On the new model, the trigger bar contacts a lever well above the sear, creating some mechanical advantage to move the sear, so less pressure is required. After you start digging around in there, you’ll see an all-new design.
The trigger face itself is hinged for the trigger safety. Unless you press on the lower half of the trigger, it’s not going to move or fire a shot. That hinged portion at the bottom needs to be deliberately pulled back to start the whole process moving. To me, a rounded trigger, like on this pistol, always feels smoother than a squarefaced one. Yes, the physics are the same; I just prefer the sensation and it “feels” lighter. At risk of committing heresy, I like this trigger a whole lot better than the one on those G-pistols.
Concealed Carry and Firearm Accessories
There’s good news here if you already have accessories for a first-generation M&P: Holsters and magazines are both compatible, so if you choose to upgrade, you get to take advantage of everything you bought before. While the barrel lengths differ, both of the 9mm models I tested have the full-sized frame, so capacity of the two included magazines is 17 rounds, plus an extra in the chamber. The two magazines included with the .40 S&W model hold 15 rounds each. Given the carry-friendly size of the 4.25-inch-barrel models, that’s a lot of capacity in an easily concealable pistol.
I’m a big fan of laser sights on carry guns, and I hoped that the existing Crimson Trace Lasergrips for the original M&P pistols would fit the new models. Here’s the short answer: They work just fine. I borrowed a set of Crimson Trace LG-660 Lasergrips for a Smith & Wesson M&P Full Size, and they installed without a hitch. The grips will add just under 2/10 of an inch of width to the very center of the grip where the batteries reside, but other than that, you won’t know they’re there.
The new 2.0 models also sport the three-slot rail, so you can attach whatever light and laser accessories you want up front.
Shooting the M&P 2.0
I’ve had three different pistols come in for testing: a 9mm with a 4.25-inch barrel, a .40 S&W with a 4.25-inch barrel and a 9mm with a 5-inch barrel and manual safety. Right now, only the 5-inch-barrel models in 9mm and .40 S&W are available in the flat dark earth color, but you can order black manual safety pistols with 4.25-inch barrels in 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP.
I’ve been shooting all three models with an assortment of practice and self-defense ammo and, as expected, I have experienced no malfunctions. As mentioned earlier, I find the M&P pistols very soft to shoot, owing to the generally well-rounded contours. Both 9mm models handled like pussycats, and even the .40 S&W presented only a slight increase in perceived recoil by comparison.
Since I had multiple pistols in the same cartridge with different barrel lengths, I wanted to see what kind of velocity difference there was between the two when firing the same ammo, so I set up my Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph 15 feet downrange and measured some shot strings (see the chart above).
As for elevation, depending on the ammo, impacts were either right through the front sight or right on top of the front sight.
I also tried a variety of ammo from the 4.25-inch-barrel .40 S&W pistol (see the chart above). I tested all three pistols for practical accuracy. I didn’t put them in a vise, so I’m not making claims about mechanical accuracy. Rather, I wanted to see how well I could shoot with them from a good rest at 25 yards. I fired five-shot groups and measured the diameters of all five and that of the best three shots within. (I figure that best three-shot measurement mitigates at least some user error.)
All three pistols were dead-on for windage, meaning groups were centered laterally according to my point of aim. As for elevation, depending on the ammo, impacts were either right through the front sight or right on top of the front sight. Even though both front and rear sights are mounted in dovetails and adjustable side to side, I wouldn’t need to make any changes.
The bottom line is that I liked these guns. I tend to carry either 9mm or .45 ACP, as I’ve always found that the increased recoil of the .40 S&W caliber negates some of the increased capacity benefits. However, with this pistol, I found the .40 S&W very easy to control and manage, even during fast strings of fire.
You can’t beat the capacity-to-size ratio of the 4.25-inch-barrel model, and it makes a great concealed carry gun. Add the dramatically improved trigger and it’s a keeper.
As for me, the one I’ll likely buy is the model without the manual safety. I like the smoother trigger and find no real need for the extra hardware, but that’s a purely subjective preference.