The full-sized Smith & Wesson M&P series just continues to get better and better — especially for the concealed carry permit holder. The new 3.6-inch-barreled .40-caliber M2.0 Compact is the ideal combination of high capacity, full power and full features in a low-profile package.


The S&W M&P was originally introduced in 2005 as a “Glock Fighter” — one in a series of pistols designed to take on the Glock pistols that were riding in approximately 71 percent of law enforcement holsters at the time. While the Sigma, S&W’s first attempt at regaining a majority share of the police market via the polymer-frame pistol, was not in the same league as the Glock, the new M&P certainly was.

The M&P gained immediate acclaim for two primary reasons: its integral, molded-in Picatinny rail and, most importantly, its highly ergonomic grip. Another selling point for many was the fact that, unlike the Glock, the M&P could be disassembled without having to pull the trigger. Though everyone (especially cops who have been properly trained) should know to fully unload a pistol before taking it apart for cleaning, large agencies saw this as a big win over Glock. It was precisely because of the “no trigger pull needed” takedown capability that the S&W M&P .40-caliber was selected over the Glock 22.

The M2.0 version of the original M&P subtly enhances the original features. The new 3.6-inch-barreled M&P .40 M2.0 was introduced to make the pistol better balanced and easier to conceal. It still retains all the features of the 4-inch-barreled M2.0, including four interchangeable palmswell grip inserts and the extended rigid embedded stainless-steel chassis to reduce flex and torque when firing.

In February of this year, I tested the M&P M2.0 .40-caliber pistol with the 4-inch barrel. It was, and is, a great pistol, but I think the new 3.6-inch-barreled version is even better. In fact, it is the one I would buy given the choice of the two — and that goes for off-duty concealed carry or on-duty uniform carry.

I requested my test sample with the (optional) ambidextrous manual “1911-style” safety levers. The safety levers operate in the same fashion as those on a 1911 pistol. Unlike a 1911, though, the M&P does not need to be cocked in order for the safety to be engaged. Even so, the M&P is perfectly safe to carry and operate without the additional manual safeties because of the articulating trigger safety system.

The M2.0 Compact ships with two metal reduced-friction (my term) 13-round magazines with polymer baseplates. These mags eject smartly and smoothly when you hit the mag release button, and the slide release system is ambidextrous. The one thing I would like to see changed or added as an option is an extended slide release lever to make it easier to drop the slide during rapid reload.

Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 Compact .40 Caliber Features

• Extended stainless-steel chassis and low barrel bore axis = reduced muzzle rise and faster aim recovery

• Shorter 3.6-inch barrel

• Textured grip

• Four interchangeable palmswell inserts for optimal hand fit: S, M, M/L, L

• Tactile and audible trigger reset

• 18-degree grip angle for natural point of aim

• New M&P M2.0 crisp trigger with lighter trigger pull

• Includes two magazines, limited lifetime warranty and lifetime service policy

MSRP: $569

On the Range

I brought my new S&W M&P .40 M2.0 to the range with SIG Sauer’s Elite Performance Ammo – the 180-grain Ball Practice and the 165-grain V-Crown JHP defense load. I believe the 165-grain-weight bullets are the ideal defensive load for the .40 S&W since the 180-grain loads have been shown to have less effectiveness than once thought.

The first thing my lieutenant and range property owner noticed was that the M2.0 had more weight up top than the Glock 23 he carries. The M&P Compact 3.6, it turns out, weighs three ounces more than the .40-caliber Glock 23, even with the barrel 4/10 of an inch shorter.

Firing the 3.6 revealed no surprises — save one: It was easier to control the M&P, even compared to the 4-inch version I shot earlier this year. The extra weight up top helps soak up some of the recoil, especially when combined with the superbly designed grip and the built-in palmswells. I did not bother trying the various grip adaptors that were included, as the gun already felt perfect in my hands.

But the grip isn’t the only superb part of the M&P M2.0 Compact 3.6. The balance of the gun in the hand is among the best I’ve felt. It has a totally neutral feel — not muzzle-heavy or rear-heavy. It really feels like an extension of the fist.

I shot the 180-grain SIGs first, with the M&P fired right from the box without cleaning or additional lubrication. Every round fired and cycled flawlessly. The white three-dot sights were sighted-in perfectly, and all rounds landed dead-on to the point of aim from both 21 and 30 feet. I then tried the 165-grain rounds, noticing there was more muzzle blast, but it was just as controllable.

While the .40-caliber cartridge has taken a hit for having greater recoil than the 9mm because of the greater power of the larger round (which is noticeable in a lot of pistols), this is not true of the M&P M2.0 Compact. I thought the recoil was easily managed; as a matter of fact, when I cranked off the first rounds, I thought it felt more like a 9mm.

If you are considering a .40-caliber defensive handgun for the increased stopping power but are concerned about the increased recoil, this is the handgun to buy. The .40 does, in fact, have more power than the 9mm; it just doesn’t manifest itself in the M&P like it does in other pistols.

Final Verdict

The M&P .40 M2.0 Compact with 3.6-inch barrel is lightweight, has a 13+1 magazine capacity (for more ammo, get a spare full-sized 15-round magazine for reloads) and a molded-in Picatinny rail, and is more than accurate enough — in large part thanks to the crisp trigger pull. MSRP is $569. It will make a fine choice for concealed carry, home defense or trail use.


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Smith & Wesson:

About Scott W. Wagner

Scott W. Wagner has been a law enforcement officer since 1980, working undercover in liquor and narcotics investigations and as a member, sniper and assistant team leader of a SWAT team. He currently works as a patrol sergeant. He is a police firearms instructor, certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun. Scott also works as a criminal justice professor and police academy commander.