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Smith & Wesson’s Military & Police

Written by Charlie Cutshaw

The original Smith & Wesson Military & Police revolver is one of the most honored and widely recognized names in the firearms lexicon. The name goes back 107 years to 1899, when Smith & Wesson introduced its Military & Police in two calibers, the .38 S&W Special for police and the .38 Long Colt for military.

The .38 Long Colt cartridge was the standard military cartridge of the time, and both the Army and Navy bought thousands of Military & Police revolvers in that chambering. The military .38 Long Colt was distinctly less powerful than the .38 Special, however, and most police revolvers were in the latter caliber.

As time passed, the original Military & Police designation became the Model 10, 11, 12, or 13 Military & Police, the model number dependant upon caliber. The Model 10 was in .38 Special, the Model 11 in .38/200 (.38 S&W), the Model 12 in the Airweight (alloy-framed Model 10) and the Model 13 in .357 Magnum. The basic frame was designated the “K” frame, and the Model 10 remains in production today without the “Military & Police” designation. Smith & Wesson also continues to manufacture K-frame revolvers with other model numbers.

In the various guises, the Military & Police was a mainstay of law enforcement worldwide throughout the 20th century until the advent of semiautomatic pistols in the mid-1980s. Even so, some agencies today continue to issue Model 10s in .38 Special for duty use because it is arguably the finest police or personal defense revolver ever manufactured. So, with the Military & Police name recognition, it was only natural for S&W to resurrect it for the company’s latest law enforcement handgun.

New Auto Pistol
 
The new Military & Police auto pistol in the originally released calibers seems to be a success for the company. The military is seeking a new handgun to replace the Beretta M9, but in .45 ACP caliber for which the M&P is just now being chambered. Due to the size difference between the .45 ACP and the other calibers for which the M&P is chambered, the M&P will have to be redesigned to be considered for the Army’s next military handgun.

The M&P is currently chambered in 9mm, .357 SIG and .40 S&W, all of which can be accommodated without major modification. So while the new M&P appears to be an excellent candidate for law enforcement where the .40 S&W predominates, it will probably have to be chambered in .45 ACP before it can truly be considered a military handgun.

Before we look into what the M&P is, we need to point out what it is not. The S&W M&P is not an S&W Sigma, which was the S&W answer to the Glock. The M&P is an original design that has many features not available on the Sigma or anywhere else. Nor is the S&W M&P an SW99, which is simply a Walther P99 bearing the S&W logo. This is not a criticism, as S&W has partnered with Walther and the P99 is actually made for S&W by Walther. From our examination, the M&P has features common to both the Sigma and the P99, but others that are unique to the M&P.

Like the P99, the M&P has three interchangeable grip sizes, a feature that ensures that the M&P will fit just about anyone’s hands. The slide stop is ambidextrous, and the magazine release can be reversed. For the 10% of the population that is left handed, the M&P is a great solution. The M&P slide must be to the rear before the disassembly lever can be activated—a major safety feature. The lever also deactivates the sear when rotated into the disassembly position.

The M&P slide and barrel are of stainless steel with a finish called melonite that has a surface hardness of 68 Rockwell C. The full-length rails are imbedded in the frame in an extremely rigid chassis system. The full-length rails should eliminate the flexing that is the cause of complaints about some polymer-framed pistols. The M&P has an internal lock so the pistol can be secured from unauthorized access. The M&P also has a magazine safety that is standard for commercial pistols but optional for LE and government customers.

We don’t much care for magazine safeties, but in today’s society where the lawyers seem to make marketing decisions based on possible lawsuits, they are becoming more common. It is possible to make an argument for magazine disconnectors as an officer safety issue where an officer might be able to disable his pistol if a bad guy somehow is able to disarm him, but in general, magazine safeties are neither necessary nor desirable. Since several other manufacturers and importers have introduced new handguns without magazine safeties, we question their necessity.

Like many pistols intended for law enforcement, the M&P has a MIL-STD-1913 rail beneath the dust cover for white lights and lasers. The 18-degree grip angle is almost identical to that of the M1911, an excellent angle, with the upshot that the M&P points naturally. Another safety feature is a small notch in the barrel hood that allows a visible inspection to see if a cartridge is in the chamber.

Holsters
 
Another innovative design element is that the M&P fits any holster intended for Glock 20 or 21 pistols. Thus holsters are immediately available for the M&P from a variety of manufacturers. We chose BlackHawk Industries’ CQC SERPA Technology holsters for our evaluation. These are basically Level II retention holsters but with an unusual twist that—in our opinion—makes them superior to all other Level II retention holsters. SERPA technology holsters incorporate a unique retention system that is among the best we have ever seen.

The first time we saw a SERPA Technology holster demonstrated, the holster was attached to an overhead rafter, a pistol inserted and then a burly man grasped the pistol and lifted himself off the floor without the pistol coming out of the holster. The bottom line is that unless one knows the secret of releasing the pistol, it isn’t coming out of a SERPA Technology holster.

Yet releasing the pistol is as simple as pressing a button and is completely natural and intuitive without any special twisting, pressing or fine motor skills that are likely to be lost under stress. Drawing a pistol from a SERPA Technology holster is as fast as if there were no retention at all. All SERPA Technology holsters come with belt and paddle mounts and are fully adjustable for cant, ride height and belt width. CQC SERPA Technology holsters are available for most popular handguns.

The M&P trigger incorporates a passive safety that prevents the striker from moving unless the trigger is pulled fully to the rear. The trigger guard incorporates an over-travel stop. Trigger is a two stage type with a short take-up, a tiny bit of creep and a crisp release at just over 5.5 pounds without backlash, thanks to the over-travel stop. Overall, we give the M&P trigger excellent marks.


One aspect of the M&P deserves a special note. A tool of some sort is required to disassemble the pistol. This is neither good nor bad in our opinion, simply a fact. A factory-provided tool is carried in the grip, retained by a stud and is used to press the sear deactivation lever down into the magazine well, which must be accomplished before the slide can be removed.


Of course, this forces the user to clear the pistol and remove the magazine prior to disassembly, which is a good thing in and of itself. The tool is removed by turning a quarter turn in either direction and pulling it out. However, the factory tool isn’t really required. We successfully pressed the sear deactivation lever down with our pocket knife, a pen, a small screwdriver and a handcuff key, so just about any object of sufficient length can be used to depress the lever.


Once one figures the process out, M&P disassembly is no more difficult than any other handgun. If we were carrying an M&P on duty, we’d leave the tool in the grip and use something else to press the lever down because removing it invites losing it. The lever automatically returns to the “up” position when a magazine is inserted.


Shooting the M&P was a real pleasure. The Novak combat sights are excellent, and here again, S&W has made use of state-of-the-art components in its latest handgun. We tested the M&P from a rest at 15 yards, within which the distance most gunfights begin or end. Recoil management was excellent, and there was minimal muzzle flip. There was not a single malfunction or stoppage of any kind in 120 rounds of formal test firing and about 200 rounds of informal shooting. We got about 2-inch groups with a variety of JHP and FMJ ammo.


The bottom line is that Smith & Wesson has designed an excellent pistol for law enforcement use. We predict that the vast majority of sales will be in .40 S&W that dominates the law enforcement community. The M&P is a truly modern pistol, which was designed, developed and is manufactured right here in the good old USA. That alone would call for a serious look at the M&P.


As the third oldest firearms manufacturer in the United States, Smith & Wesson is a historic American icon that is once again one of the world’s premier gun companies. With its new M&P, all we have to say is, “Welcome back Smith & Wesson!”


Charlie Cutshaw is a small arms, ammunition and infantry weapons editor for Jane’s Defense Information. He served as an Army infantry, ammunition and intelligence officer before retiring in 1996. His military assignments included a tour of duty in Vietnam as an adviser. He currently lives in Alabama, where he is a full-time writer and reserve officer. He can be reached at CQCutshaw@aol.com.


Published in Tactical Response, Sep/Oct 2008

Rating : 7.0


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