April 26, 2021
By James Tarr, Handgun Editor
Love them or hate them, red dot-ready carry pistols are the current hot thing. To address this demand Smith & Wesson has introduced a new optics-ready version of their M&P Compact called the M&P9 M2.0 Compact Optics Ready. This pistol isn’t just their standard Compact M&P with their C.O.R.E. (Competition Optics Ready Equipment) slide though. The new M&P9 M2.0 Compact Optics Ready offers unique features not previously seen on any M&Ps. Currently, there are two versions of this pistol, one with a bilateral thumb safety and one without. I secured a sample of the slick-sided model for testing.
The M&P Compact is a 4-inch barreled 9mm with a 15+1 capacity. It’s a polymer-framed striker-fired gun, sized small enough for concealed carry while being big enough to handle and shoot on par with many “duty” or full-sized pistols. It is meant to live in that Goldilocks zone of size, handling, and capacity. With its 4-inch barrel, the M&P9 M2.0 Compact is roughly 7-inches long versus 7.25-inches for the standard model. With the oversize sights, it is 5.3-inches tall with its flush 15-round magazine inserted. The grip on the Compact is half an inch shorter than the full-size M&P. There is a corresponding weight loss; 25.7 ounces for this model, down roughly two ounces for the original full-size M&P. The M&P9 Compact ships with two 15-round magazines and two grip extension sleeves designed to slip over big-stick 17-round magazines. Original M&P magazines fit the new M&P 2.0, so there are a lot of M&P magazines out there that will fit the new Compact.
With many striker-fired pistols, you’ll see a safety lever on the trigger. With the M&P the trigger itself is the pivoting safety lever. There is an internal striker safety as well. Like previous M&Ps, both the slides and barrels of the guns are constructed of stainless steel, then coated with Amornite, S&W’s corrosion-resistant nitride coating. The sights are steel. The magazine release is reversible, and the slide stop is bilateral. The “loaded chamber indicator” on this pistol is a simple port through the rear of the barrel hood. I’ve found these are nearly useless in anything other than direct sunlight, but allow the M&P to be sold in certain states which mandate safety features on guns.
The targeted spec for the M2.0’s trigger pull is 5.5 pounds. The actual measured trigger pull on my sample gun was 5.5 pounds. Every M2.0 trigger I’ve measured so far has been within a quarter-pound of that 5.5-pound spec. The trigger on the 2.0 resets with a very positive click.
As for the grip, many people found the factory texturing on the grip of the original M&P was too slick. Due to improvements in injection molding, the texturing on both the frame and backstraps of the M&P 2.0 is as aggressive as stippling. It will not move in your hand while you’re shooting, period. Modern polymer technology is getting truly amazing, and the texturing possible now through simple injection molding is making hand stippling a historical curiosity, as S&W was just one of the first, but far from the last, firearm manufacturer to offer very aggressive texturing on their polymer frames.
The original M&P came with three easily interchangeable backstraps, Small, Medium, and Large. The size Medium backstraps were a little too small for my hands while the Large backstraps were too big and oddly proportioned. Apparently, I wasn’t the only person who had this complaint, as the M&P M2.0 Smith & Wesson has a fourth backstrap size, the Medium-Large. The Medium-Large backstrap adds a curve at the top to provide more material under the web of the shooter’s hand to increase reach to the trigger. For reference, the distance to the trigger with the Medium-Large backstrap installed is still a bit less than what you’ll find with a Glock. One thing which I love about the M&P backstraps is how easy they are to swap out.
What looks and acts like a minimal magazine guide at the bottom of the frame (a small wedge of plastic) is actually the base of the “frame tool” holding the backstrap in place. Once the gun is unloaded and the magazine is out, twist the frame tool to get a better grip on it, and pull it from the bottom of the gun. The backstrap then pops right off the back of the gun, base first. Reassemble in reverse order. The entire process only takes a few seconds.
The internal Armornite coated steel chassis inside the polymer frame is much longer on the 2.0 than the original M&P. On the original M&P the chassis didn’t extend much past the front of the trigger guard, but on the 2.0 the steel goes most of the way out to the end of the frame. This ensures it will not flex, even if you hang a big weapon light on the frame’s tactical rail.
Now let’s talk about the slide serrations. While the scalloped serrations at the rear of the slide did not change between the first- and second-generation guns, the M2.0 S&W added serrations to the front of the slide. With every previous M&P M2.0 those front serrations were limited to the narrow section of the slide down low where it meets the frame. With this new model, Smith & Wesson has moved their name (right side) and M&P logo (left side), and extended those forward serrations up to the main flat of the slide. This vastly improves the “gripability” (that’s a word, right?) of the front of the gun.
Now let’s move on to one of the most interesting features of this gun, the Competition Optic Ready Equipment (C.O.R.E.) feature which gives you the option of mounting a mini-red dot to the rear of the slide. Pistols mounting red dots are the hot new thing, and red dots do offer some performance advantages over traditional iron sights. They are optically easier to aim than iron sights. You just have to put the red dot on the target and pull the trigger. Plus, that red dot is on the same focal plane as the target. If you’ve got problems getting that front sight in focus you won’t have that problem with a red dot.
As it comes from the factory there is a polymer plate on the slide covering the mounting area. Smith & Wesson provides seven, count ‘em, seven polymer adapter/spacer plates, with accompanying screws, to fit just about every brand of red dot there is to your slide—Trijicon RMR/SRO, Docter/VortexVenom/Burris FastFire, C-More STS, etc. While an optic will never be as durable as simple iron sights, modern red dots have been specifically designed to handle the abusive G-forces in a cycling pistol slide, and they do that very well. Battery life has also been improved, and most mini red dots will run for a year or more on a single battery.
Mounted on the slide you’ll see tall sights. These sights are steel and have the traditional M&P three dots. Depending on which red dot you mount you might not have full view of the iron sights through the window. Many mini red dots have 5 MOA dots for reticles. If you’re a hunter and 5 MOA sounds big to you, remember that the front sight width of most pistols is near to 20 MOA. This is one reason why most people shoot red dot topped pistols more accurately.
I mounted Trijicon’s new RMRcc for testing. This version of the RMR is reduced in width for concealed carry pistols and so is aptly named “Ruggedized Miniature Reflex for Concealed Carry”. It is basically the same length and height as the original RMR, but noticeably thinner side to side. Due to this, it doesn’t hang off the edges of your slide. Dimensions are 1.8x.95x.97 inches and it weighs just an ounce. It has an aluminum housing and the same high-pointed window housing to handle impacts. The RMRcc is available with either a 3.25 or 6.5 MOA dot and I obtained a sample of the 3.25 MOA model for testing.
Accuracy testing is always easier with a red dot, as I mentioned, the dots are much smaller than a steel front sight. The M&P showed average accuracy, which means most people will struggle to shoot up to the accuracy potential of the gun. You should watch me do accuracy testing with iron sights, 52-year-old eyes, and a caffeine addiction. “Struggle” is a very accurate term.
Where red dots really shine is when shooting at distance. After shooting groups, and having some fun on USPSA targets and a steel plate rack, I moved back to thirty-five yards and tried not just hitting an IDPA silhouette, but hitting it fast. I tried to average one round-per-second for a full magazine. Trigger control is paramount, but having a red dot atop your pistol means you can focus on that trigger control instead of having to deal with both that and sight alignment. My resulting group was much smaller than it would have been if I’d been running iron sights. If I’d slowed down it would have been even smaller, if you’ll look at the target you’ll see a lot of vertical stringing, due to me rushing the shot.
This pistol is a solid contender. As a consumer, your options for quality carry guns have never been better or more numerous. My oldest son just got his CCW and I gave him my S&W M&P M2.0, which should tell you how I feel about the design. Smith&Wesson’s latest addition to their lineup gives you not just everything you need, but everything you might want in a modern carry pistol. MSRP on this model is $616.
Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 Compact Optics Ready Specifications
Operation: Striker-fired Short-Recoil
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel Length: 4.0-inches
Overall Length: 7.0-inches
Weight: 25.7 ounces
Slide Material: Stainless steel with Armornite coating
Frame material: Polymer
Safeties: Sear-block drop-safety, trigger safety lever
Sights: 3-dot high profile
Trigger: 5.5 pounds (as tested)
Accessories: Two 15-round magazines, 4 backstraps, two magazine sleeves, 7 optic mounts
Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson