Review: S&W M&P .45

   04.09.15

Review: S&W M&P .45

I steered clear of S&W handguns for many years because of a customer service issue that they refused to honor. This wasn’t the first time I’ve had problems with Smith’s customer service department, so for a lot of years I steered clear of any new or used Smith & Wesson firearms. I recently ran across a brand-new S&W M&P 45, full-sized .45ACP handgun at a decent price, and it was just too good of a deal for me to pass up.

Many law enforcement agencies are switching from the GLOCK 22 as their duty weapon, to the M&P in .40S&W, and those that I’ve talked to love the M&P 40. The one thing that most cops I’ve talked to like is the trigger pull on the M&P. It’s a bit more predictable and a bit more “crisp” than the mushy trigger pull on the GLOCK line of handguns. Also, they have found the M&P to be more ergonomic–it fits the hand much better.

The M&P 45 that I purchased has a thumb safety (they also come without a manual thumb safety), and that is something you can elect to use or not (I don’t). However, I understand that the US military is looking for a new handgun, and they are leaning towards going back to a .45ACP handgun and insisting that it have a manual safety; so S&W is already ahead of the game in this respect.

The M&P line of handguns has a black polymer frame, and the full-sized handguns also have Picatinny rails on the dust cover for mounting lights and lasers on the gun. Additionally, there are a couple different back straps you can easily install on the gun so it fits your hand all that much better. I used the smallest one, and the gun feels great in my medium/large hands. The frame also has an extended “beaver tail” on the top rear of the frame to prevent getting bit by the slide as it recoils–something that is a problem with a GLOCK when wearing heavy gloves.

The barrel is 4.5-inches, and the slide and barrel are coated with Melonite, a tough, black coating that resists the elements. Sights consists of a white, three dot set-up (one dot on the front sight and two on the rear), and you can elect to have night sights installed if you wish. The rear sight is of the Novak style, one of the best of the breed, too. There are rear cocking serrations on the back/sides of the slide for easy loading of a round from the chamber.

S&W calls the trigger pull a double action only. I guess that’s fair enough, but it’s not a long trigger pull. It has a crisp let-off, too. Capacity is 10+1 rounds, and for the life of me, it just seems like with a little bit of re-engineering, Smith could fit another round or two in the magazines. Speaking of magazines, they are easy to load.

The slide and barrel on the M&P 45 are actually manufactured out of stainless steel, so even if some of the Melonite coating wears off, the stainless steel will still resist the elements. There is a small loaded chamber viewing hole as you look down on the top of the gun at the end of the chamber of the barrel to see if there is a round in the chamber. I found this extremely difficult to see, even in bright light. I believe this “loaded chamber indicator” is more of a response to a political issue/requirement than anything that is practical, but it’s there just the same.

Weight of the M&P 45 is 29.6 oz empty, and that’s not bad at all for a full-sized duty handgun. When loaded and carried in a proper holster, the balance is great. For concealed carry, I used a nice leather Askins Compact hip holster from Blackhawk Products, and the gun rode high and snug. They have their Sportster line of polymer holsters that holds the gun securely. I really liked the leather hip holster best, and it was as well made as any custom leather holsters I’ve used over the years. Blackhawk also carries their SERPA line-up of duty holsters for law enforcement wear.

Testing

I had ample ammunition from Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition on-hand for testing. From Black Hills, I had their 230-gr FMJ, 230-gr JHP, and their 185-gr JHP loads. From Buffalo Bore, I had their 160-gr Barnes TAC-XP +P and their 185-gr Barnes TAC-AP +P loads–both all copper hollow point bullets. I also had their 230-gr FMJ FN +P load and their 200-gr JHP +P load.

In all my shooting I fired more than 400 rounds of ammo, and I wish I could report there were no problems. This M&P 45 simply did not want to function 100% of the time with the Barnes TAC-XP loads–many failures to fully chamber a round. And this is one of my favorite loads for self-defense, too.

After a little more than 200 rounds were fired though my M&P 45, I tested some more of the Barnes TAC-XP +P ammo, and the gun started to reliably feed these rounds. I guess it just needed a break-in period. That’s really strange since these bullets are not “aggressive” and have fed in most of the 1911s I own. The bullet is rounded enough for a hollow point that they should have slipped right into the chamber, but they didn’t until a break-in period took place.

I will say that, this M&P was extremely accurate, almost match-grade accurate in my humble opinion. At 25-yards, with the gun rested over a sleeping bag across the hood of my pick-up truck I could get 2.5-inch groups. I was getting the 2.5-inch groups with the Black Hills 230-gr JHP loads, and their 185-gr JHP loads were hot on the heels of the heavier load. The Buffalo Bore 230-gr FMJ FN load stayed right around the 3.25-inch mark, if I was on my game. And, if I wasn’t concentrating on my shots, I was still able to keep all the loads I tested under 4-inches, easily.

I will say though, for a “duty” handgun, getting groups in the 2.5-inch range is outstanding accuracy. If were out hiking in the Cascade Mountains here in Oregon, I’d elect to carry the Buffalo Bore 230-g FMJ FN +P load for defense against black bears, and I’ve run across more than a few in Oregon.

Any time you purchase a new handgun, you need to thoroughly test it with the ammo you intend to use in the gun. I trust very few guns right out of the box to bet my life on without actually testing them first. I was honestly surprised that the M&P 45 didn’t function 100% of the time with the Barnes TAC-XP all copper bullets. So make sure you run at least 100 rounds of the ammo you intend to use for self-defense through your new handgun; 200 rounds is even better.

If you’re in the market for a new duty handgun, take a close look at the M&P line-up. If .45ACP isn’t your cup of tea, then look at the 9mm or .40S&W handguns. I was pleasantly surprised with the S&W 45 sample I tested; it’s very well-made, and I liked the trigger pull a lot better than that found on a GLOCK.

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