Thursday, October 10, 2013

Initial Review/Range Report: Smith & Wesson M&P40 (/9/357Sig)

Cross Posted at The GunDivas

It's been a stressful few weeks. Between work, getting ready to be out of the office for work and personal travel, The Queen not feeling well, M&M needing her daily dose of Daddy Hawk, house work, cooking, shopping and generally failing badly at getting the sleep necessary to function as a normal member of the human race, I was getting ready to shoot something. Whether that something turned out to be an animate or inanimate object was rapidly becoming less of a concern to me. So, the other evening, I finally had a chance to sneak away from the house (actually, I just didn't return home as early as I otherwise would have) to visit the local range for the purpose of taking the new M&P out for its first official test spin.

So, before I dive into breathlessly describing how wonderful the M&P is or isn't, I'd like to issue my standard disclaimer and tell the FTC (who I hope are enjoying a restful Obamacation) that I paid my own hard earned, seriously value deflated dollars to buy this particular M&P. Smith & Wesson has no idea who I am and has not offered me any compensation or consideration for this review. So, go suck on your banana punk monkey. These opinions are 100% mine.

Alright, now that my libertarian tendencies have been mollified for a little while, let's get down to business.

Starting with the title of this review, you will notice that I am calling this the Smith & Wesson M&P 40/9/357Sig. The dirty little secret is that M&P saved a whole hoochie load of money developing this pistol by going big for commonality across the platform. The recoil spring is identical for all three calibers. Need proof? Go look up replacement recoil springs on Midway USA's website. Barrel dimensions are identical (a fact we will address in more detail in a bit) which means the slide dimensions are identical which in turn means that the frame dimensions have to be pretty darn close too. There may be (though I seriously doubt it) a tiny skosh bit of difference in the mag well on the 9 as opposed to the 40/357; however, the 40 mags are marked ".40S&W/.357Sig" (or vice versa depending on your perspective) meaning that the frame of those two calibers have the same freaking dimensions.

Now, reading the forums [fora?] (and even watching a few videos from manufacturer reps) you will find many a post that suggests that the slide on the 9 is not strong enough to hold up against the pressures generated by the .40. I've not come across any comment on the .40 slide not being strong enough for the .357Sig, but give it time. Someone will decide that the slides on the .357Sig MUST be stronger to contain the uber high specialness that is the chamber pressure of a .40 case necked to a 9mm bullet. Personally, I call el toro guano. I don't see Smith & Wesson making some slides "stronger" when they are toleranced to the same dimensions as other "weaker" slides when using the same (presumably...I'd be happy to hear a S&W rep confirm that) materials on the same manufacturing line. I'm no metallurgical expert, but I don't think it works like that.

Don't take my word for it though. Proceed at your own risk. Do your own research. I take no responsibility for your own stupidity for something you read on the internet from someone who is a self avowed non-expert in the field.

Here is my personal, anecdotal experience on the subject to close out this portion of the review. I bought the M&P40 as well as a 9mm replacement barrel. I can confirm for you that the 9mm replacement barrel was a perfect, drop in fit. 9mm ammo fed from the 40/357 mags without a hitch (including the last round despite what I've read from other noted internet experts on that point). The pistol fired and cycled the 9mm ammo without incident. I would not hesitate to attempt the same with a .357Sig replacement barrel. Your mileage may vary.

I'm not going to spend much time here on the aesthetics of the M&P. As polymer pistols go, I think it's a good looking pistol. The fish scale slide serrations are unique as well as functional. The black Melonite finish performs its intended function well enough and will serve as a good canvas for a custom coating should I ever decide to get around to doing something to set my M&P apart from the masses. The rounded grip is quite comfortable, and I had no problems hanging on to the gun even during moderately rapid fire (something between .5 and 1 second per shot). A texture job on the grips would certainly enhance that, but I don't see it as a necessity unless you were gifted with exceptionally sweaty palms.

As to safeties, Smith & Wesson wisely in my humble opinion took the “buffet” approach of offering a wide variety of options. Do you live behind the nanny state curtain? They have you covered with 10 round mags, magazine disconnects, thumb safeties and infernal (internal) locks. Do you live in free America where you are trusted to make decisions for yourself? They offer versions without the infernal lock, with or without the thumb safety, etc. My particular model is completely safety free (other than the odd trigger safety which is marginally okay). Call it a point and click model if you like.

From a concealability point of view, I have no problems hiding it in the appendix carry position under an untucked polo shirt. Bear in mind that I am 6'4" tall and heft about 240 pounds on the scale. So, petite folk may have a different perspective on this. Wearing it unloaded, "Mexican" style (as I have not found an AIWB holster for it yet that I like), The Queen did not notice the gun (she was not informed that there would be a CCW "printing" test) over the course of an hour or two. Even without a holster, the gun was comfortable (hardly noticeable in fact) and stayed put fairly well while performing normal household activity (I would try jumping jacks without a good holster). I have not tried it in the 4 o'clock IWB position yet; however, I don't foresee it being any more visible than in the AIWB position. In the 3 o'clock OWB position, I would expect it to bulge an untucked shirt just a bit. But, balance it with a mag carrier at 9 o'clock and it might not be an issue.

Function-wise, I only had time to run 70 rounds of .40S&W, 10 rounds of 9mm (including time for the barrel swap back and forth), and 47 rounds of .22 (through the Ruger 22/45 Mk III which was feeling all lonely neglected in the range bag). I had no failures to feed, fire or extract. The only function issue of any note was that the slide did not lock back after the last round consistently. As a matter of fact, it probably locked back less than 50% of the time. I didn't diligently keep track of the problem. So, I can't say how often for sure; however, it was definitely noticeable. Next range outing I try to see if grip firmness affects that or if there is a mag follower issue.

Speaking of the 47 rounds of .22 as a quick digression, it would have been 50 rounds but for these little treasures.


I've never seen anything like that in a box of factory ammo. Not even from a box of cheapo, Walmart, Remington bulk pack.

And, just for GunDiva, a picture of the target.


No, I didn't WANT to change the target. That's 47 rounds at 7 yards fired as quick as I could load mags and fire. It was *VERY* satisfying to use the .22 as a bullet hose. Not that I am suggesting that one should EVER skirt the range rules or anything. Fortunately, the dude in the next bay giving his girlfriend her first taste of semi auto (using a Ruger P94 in .40...after letting her shoot .22 and .38/.357 revolvers...with full power magnum rounds no less) and was going all bullet hose with his gat (he was nice enough…so, I won't call him nasty names here) giving me the cover necessary to have some fun unnoticed by the front desk.

Now, digression complete. Move along. Nothing to see here.

In an earlier post, I commented on the quality of the trigger pull. I believe I said something about broken glass. That issue is still there; BUT, I found it much less noticeable when actually focusing on the front sight with the intention of shooting something. Maybe I'm easily distracted. Who knows? That's not to say that I might not still have a trigger job done and/or splurge on an Apex trigger kit. I want at least 250 rounds (preferably 500 rounds) through it before I decide on any substantive changes like that.

A quick note on field stripping: it’s pretty simple. Remove the magazine, clear the chamber, use a tool to push or pull the lever in the mag well that disconnects the sear down, thumb the take down lever down, remove the slide from the frame, remove the recoil spring assembly and remove the barrel. Done. It’s as quick as stripping a Glock though the downside is that it’s not completely tool less unless you have a finger that can manipulate the sear disconnect lever (I don’t). Reassembly was equally unremarkable.

The sights are fine for their intended purpose. This is not a bullseye gun. The rear sight is drift adjustable for windage. For elevation, it’s either learn your hold overs/unders or get a different front sight post. Having said that, I’m 95% certain I will be replacing these sights with fiber optic replacements soon since my 40 something year old eyes don’t focus at arm’s length the way they used to.

Moving right along, let’s talk accuracy. My first shot at 3 yards was in the x ring which, let’s be honest, shouldn’t be that hard at that range. The remaining 4 shots out of my first string were inside the 10 ring (four in the x ring); however, the grouping is not as tight as I would expect of myself at that range. My next string of 15 (one full mag) at 7 yards was even less impressive.


I was aiming for the top 8. Other than that, I have no explanation for that pattern or the others that follow. I’d like to throw an alibi out, but I got nothing. It’s certainly minute of bad guy accuracy and will get the job done, but I’m just disappointed because I am used to getting most everything inside the 9 ring at that range.

Finally, the only thing left to talk about are some odds and ends. Recoil was quite manageable for me at least (especially after my recent experience with the S&W M325PD). The 147 grain subsonic 9MM ammo had less felt recoil than the 180 grain .40S&W ammo. Duh. No surprise there. It’s no .22 pistol, but you’re not going to have to worry about digging the rear sight out of your forehead either. No issues with the mag release. It did its job just fine. I was unable to remove the little frame mounted tool that lets you swap out the grip panels. I’m sure I was just not doing it right since I hadn’t bothered with reading the manual yet. The witness hole/loaded chamber indicator worked as advertised. No issues with the mags themselves other than the first round is sometimes a pain in the butt to get in if you’re not paying attention to the follower and the feed lips. Rounds 14 and 15 will be challenging for most people to load without the use of a mag loader which Smith & Wesson did not see fit to include. Some people swear by the Uplula’s, but I’m not sure that a stiff, thin piece of metal wouldn’t work just as good. I may just have to test that theory and report back.

So, to sum up, I like the gun. It fits my hand well with the medium grip insert, and I can shoot it adequately as is. There are things I would like to change and probably will. Is it as good as a Glock out of the box? Meh, maybe. Glocks have better triggers out of the box while the M&P has better sights and more options in addition to being better looking (IMHO). After typical modifications (triggers, sights, texturing), they are a wash from price point, reliability, and functionality standpoints. Glocks have a slight edge when you consider accessories and other ancillary items like the fact that there are carbines available that use Glock mags but none that I am aware of that use M&P mags.