I had been intrigued by Smith and Wesson’s Military & Police 9 (M&P9) since it first came out in 2006.
Especially after numerous gun writers and critics started touting it as being “better than a Glock”, which I thought was definitely something worth investigating. The first model to come out was a full-size 9mm semi-automatic that held 17 cartridges in the magazine plus one in the chamber, just like the Glock 17.
Actually purchasing the pistol was a decision based on ‘optimal’ thinking. I asked myself, “If you could only have one handgun, what would it be?” And the choice I arrived at, in that time and place, was the Smith and Wesson M&P9. Since I had never fired one before, buying the handgun required a leap of faith and, of course, I jumped.
It turned out to be an excellent decision.
I had never really gotten used to the grip that Glocks have. I wanted a pistol that offered some degree of customization right out of the box, and the M&P9 offered that. It came with three different palm swell attachments that would, ostensibly, suit small, medium, and large hands.
Since I regularly introduce newbies (all with different hand sizes) into the art and science of pistol shooting, I considered this a definite plus.
My personal preference turned out to be the middle-sized palm swell (which supposedly meant that I had medium-sized hands). The textured pattern on the M&P’s grips suited me just fine—not so aggressive as to cause discomfort, but rough enough to provide positive control.
I also liked the fish-scale pattern that Smith and Wesson used on the slide. Aside from looking distinctive, the pattern provided a better grip on the slide when handling the gun with wet hands.
A few months down the track, I discovered that Crimson Trace’s laser grips for the M&P9 were the same size as the middle-size palm swell supplied with the gun. Having wanted to install a laser on my M&P9, I decided to replace the original grips with the Crimson Trace unit.
The laser module on the Crimson Trace unit is located on the left side of the grip. It sits just above the knuckle of the trigger finger, and is activated by a button on the blackstrap of the grip. As many experienced laser users will tell you, the advantages of positioning a laser unit well behind a gun’s muzzle are numerous. The most obvious of these is that when the gun fires, smoke and residue don’t get anywhere near the laser’s lens. This keeps the laser’s beam clean and focused even after long strings of fire.
Because I also intended to compete in IDPA and IPSC events with this handgun, I bought an adjustable Kydex competition holster. The gun had come from the factory with two magazines, and I added another pair to that, for a total of 4 magazines. The requisite magazine pouches came next.
Another accessory I found useful for the M&P9 was a universal scope mount that attaches to the gun’s picattiny rail. Using this accessory, you can mount almost any kind of red-dot scope or pistol optics on the gun, to help improve your shooting.
Carrying the M&P9
For everyday carry, the M&P9 rides in a DeSantis Supertuck IWB holster. This nylon holster is called the “Supertuck” because unlike most IWB rigs, it actually allows you to tuck in your shirt over the holster, leaving only a thin metal strip at the bottom edge of your belt to signal the gun and holster’s presence. Very discreet!
This particular DeSantis holster also has an elastic slot to accommodate a spare magazine in front of the holstered gun but, in practice, I discovered that the setup was easier to conceal minus the extra mag riding in front of the holstered gun. During active carry, the spare magazine simply went into the weak-hand-side trouser pocket, as has always been customary for me. The only time I actually tuck the extra mag into the front pouch is when the rig comes off at the end of the day.
Performance on the Firing Line
The S&W M&P9 shoots quite well, to say in the least.
I find that I have to watch my trigger squeeze more carefully, however. The M&P’s trigger doesn’t have the same crispness as a good 1911 trigger. It doesn’t provide the same tactile feedback when it resets itself for the next shot. You have to rely on your own sense of rhythm to make it work to your personal satisfaction.
My eyesight is no longer as keen as it used to be, but I can still manage to shoot groups under 4 inches at 15 meters using the factory-issued sights on the M&P9. For defensive purposes, I consider this adequate.
How Does the M&P Stack Up Against the Glock?
Surprisingly, I have found that a Glock 17 is marginally more accurate than the M&P9.
In a side-by-side test, my groups using the Glock averaged 1/2 inch smaller than the ones produced using the M&P, at 15 meters.
The trigger reset on the Glock 17 is also more decisive. You can actually feel when the Glock’s trigger is ready to fire again, which is a definite plus when you have to deliver fast repeat shots.
Ergonomically, however, the M&P9 wins hands down. Its grips are more comfortable, and the angle of the grip seems to be more appropriate. The M&P9’s palm swells adapt better to your hand, even compared to the Gen 4 Glocks with their interchangeable back straps. The fish-scale serrations on the M&P’s slide are also easier to grip than the vertical indentations on the Glock’s slide.
Finally, the 3-dot sights on the M&P9 are a bit easier to use than the Glock’s dot-in-a-basket arrangement.
In every other respect, the two guns appear to be at par with each other. Both have the same 17+1 capacity. Both have metal finishes that are incredibly durable. Both utilize light polymer frames to reduce carry weight.
That said, deciding whether a Glock or an M&P is better boils down to your personal priorities. If accuracy and good trigger action are your main concerns, get a Glock. If you feel that ergonomics should come first, go with the S&W M&P.
Both are excellent sidearms. Either one will get the job done, and both are designed to provide years of reliable service!