By Daniel T. McElrath, Shooting Illustrated
Smith & Wesson’s M&P9 M2.0 Subcompact gets the Springfield, MA, manufacturer into the highly viable subcompact, double-stack combat handgun market. Pistols of this ilk offer reduced size and weight, easier concealability, good firepower and the ability to use the more capacious magazines of their larger brethren.
This last advantage is pressed by the company, as it includes magazine sleeves that fit over and around larger variants to cover the body of the unit that extends below the mag well. The sleeves provide a comfortable and secure (and aesthetically pleasing) gripping surface if you use larger magazines at the range or carry them for reloads.
The pistol comes with two magazines of its own. One is flush-fitting, while the other incorporates a finger rest for the pinky (capacity is the same; 12 rounds). The presence of a “frame tool” extending from the heel of the grip frame means there is less advantage to the flush-fitting magazine since, when the gun is carried strong side at a cant, the highest point with either magazine is about the same. The extended magazine has a wedge-shaped base and is significantly thicker than the flush fit only at the frontstrap.
Differently sized backstraps are also included with the M&P9 M2.0 Subcompact, allowing the end user to fit the pistol to his or her hand. The inserts are aggressively stippled. The stippling works well and is not painful with moderate use.
In addition to the magazine sleeves and backstrap inserts, the M&P9 M2.0 Subcompact has an 18-degree grip angle for comfort and pointability, and offers a low bore axis for better control during recoil. Further, an extended stainless steel frame insert helps the pistol resist excessive flexing.
Other features include a port in the barrel hood that serves as a loaded-chamber indicator. Also, the M2.0 Subcompact is available with a thumb safety, not my thing, but an important selling point to some, especially those new to carrying firearms.
Heavily sculpted, the M&P9 M2.0 Subcompact has a handsome, but purposeful look. The appearance is decidedly busy. There are a lot of full-size controls on not much real estate and I imagine it could be intimidating for a newbie. In use, though, busy doesn’t equal crowded. Everything is well-placed and easy to reach and manipulate without confusion or fumbling.
This trigger, after take-up of the hinged safety that comprises the lower half, then grittily describes a short arc before coming to a small but distinct bump. It’s excellent for staging. Learn to stop at the bump, then apply just a touch more pressure and the shot breaks almost like you’re firing a single-action pistol.
Reliability was good, except for two failures to feed ARX, with its oddly shaped 80-grain bullet. In terms of accuracy, the pistol had a preference for Winchester Defender JHP.
The real issue was loading the magazine. The follower had a very unusual shape, which made inserting the first round an ordeal. After plenty of trial and error, I learned to roll the lower half of the first cartridge onto the follower forward of the feed lips under pressure, then to apply additional pressure and slide it back under the lips. Subsequent cartridges were not a problem, but that first one was always a doozy.
Disassembly is not difficult, but it would be wrong to call it simple, compared to other striker-fired pistols available. It involves removing the frame tool from the heel of the grip frame to push down the sear-activation lever once you’ve removed the backstrap insert. After that, the process is pretty straightforward. Just be sure to read the owner’s manual.
I carried the little M&P9 in a strong-side Kydex holster. It was quite comfortable, especially for a double-stack. It’s heavier than some popular, similar-size polymer pistols, but not by much. My recommendation would be to carry with the finger-rest magazine installed and have the magazine of a larger M&P equipped with a magazine sleeve carried as a handy and capacious reload.
As my colleague points out elsewhere, subcompact double-stacks (sub-dubs?) have their virtues and the M&P M2.0 Subcompact (also available in .40 S&W and .45 ACP) certainly evinces them. It’s a fine addition to an already good line of carry pistols.