S&W M&P .45 [Review]

Smith & Wesson makes some great looking and great firing guns, we know that.  But does the S&W M&P .45 really shoot as good as it looks?

A few months back, I did a list of my top seven .45 ACPs on the market, and unfortunately, that list did not include the iconic M&P.  

I then started thinking about all the praise that the M&P 9mm received for being an excellent home defense handgun and for being an excellent gun for women, and that got me wondering.

Have I been missing out? 

Let’s find out…

S&w m&p m2.0
It does look pretty darn good.

 

…I’m going to take a look at the pros and cons of the S&W M&P .45…in all available flavors…and see just how well it shoots, which models work, and which don’t.  I’m going to go into what I like, and perhaps more importantly what I don’t like about each one. 

The Many Faces of the M&P .45

The M&P .45 is a striker-fired handgun that is designed to meet the demands of military personnel and law enforcement officers, hence the name Military & Police.  The handgun is available in the following models:

Most of the M&P .45 models come with the option of an external safety, except for the Performance Center, which automatically comes with a manual safety.

While some handgun owners don’t like the safety on the M&P because they feel it’s useless or can accidentally become engaged when sighting the gun, I personally find it useful when carrying the M&P.  It adds an extra level of protection with the gun’s built-in trigger safety.

Putting the Guns to the Test

Now that we have an idea about the different types of M&P .45s out there, let’s have a look at those reviews.

1. M&P .45

The standard M&P .45 is one of Smith & Wesson’s most iconic handguns.  It’s a polymer frame gun that’s known for its durability, accuracy, and reliability.

Unlike its slimmer counterpart, the M&P Shield, this standard M&P is slightly larger and bulky, making it difficult for concealed carry.  With that said, one benefit that this gun has over the Shield is a built-in rail for your mounted lasers or lights.

550
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

  • 4.5” barrel length and an overall length of 8”.
  • Weighs 29.1 ounces with an empty magazine.
  • Has 10+1 capacity.

The standard M&P is a well-rounded gun that feels great and is fun to shoot

One of the things that I like about the M&P is its trigger system.  It comes with a pivot-style safety that prevents the gun from being fired unless you depress the lower portion of the trigger when shooting.

The M&P is also available with a manual safety that’s easy to switch on and off, adding a layer of protection against negligent discharges.

What I really like about the M&P .45:

  • It has a trigger pull of 6.5 pounds, giving a good break without being too sensitive to worry about carrying in a holster.
  • Great accuracy when shooting at targets from 25 yards away.
  • It has 10+1 capacity, which is slightly above average for a .45 ACP.
  • Three backstrap inserts: small, medium, and large.
  • Reversible magazine release.
  • Large trigger guard with enough clearance for gloved hands.

Disadvantages of the M&P .45:

The biggest problem with the M&P is its grips.  There’s very little traction provided by the grips, making it difficult to hold the gun properly with sweaty or wet hands.  This design is one of the few areas of improvement that will always haunt the M&P, but it was corrected with subsequent versions of the gun.

s&w m&p 45 grip
The gun’s grips are functional, but nothing to write home about.

Another issue that a lot of M&P owners complained about happened when reloading the gun.  If you happened to hit the bottom of the magazine too hard when inserting it, you could end up automatically cycling a round into the chamber.

While some people may like this, for me, it seems like a huge safety issue.  Fortunately, it was fixed with the release of the M2.0.

2. M&P .45 M2.0

The M2.0 brings the same performance as the original M&P but with added comfort

580
at Cabelas

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The M2.0 comes with the following changes:

  • 4.6” barrel length and an overall length of 7.9”.
  • Weighs 27 ounces with an empty magazine (2 ounces less than before).
  • Improved grips that increase traction over the entire handle as opposed to aggressive gripping only on the backstrap with the M&P.
  • It comes with four backstrap inserts: small, medium, medium-large, and large.
  • Steel magazine release button.
  • The slide of the M2.0 is slimmer than the M&P, giving the gun a smaller profile and shaving off two ounces of weight.
s&w m&p 45 2.0 grip
The grips on the M2.0 were a huge upgrade from the standard M&P.

Despite these significant changes, the M2.0’s magazines are backward compatible with the M&P, and vice versa.  The primary difference between this and the standard M&P is the comfort. 

One other cool feature is the built-in metal skeleton underneath the polymer frame which helps make it easier to keep the gun stable when shooting rapidly.   

What I liked about the M2.0

The gun had the same overall feel as the first-generation M&P, but its grips were light-years ahead.  One of the things that I thought that Smith & Wesson could’ve done better with the M&P was its grips, which were too slippery for my preferences.

They addressed this issue perfectly by implementing a sandpaper-like grip that provides a lot of traction; combine that with the improved backstrap inserts and you have yourself one comfortable .45 ACP for all hand sizes.

3.  M&P .45 SHIELD

The Shield is a slim and lightweight M&P .45 variant designed to capture the concealed carry market.  It’s an excellent gun for the person who wants the stopping power of a .45 ACP without having to sacrifice comfort while carrying the gun.

One of the features that I really like about the Shield is its extended magazine that holds an extra round while extending the grip.  People with larger hands will love this magazine.

Overall, the Shield is comfortable to hold and able to accommodate virtually everyone’s hand sizes.

400
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

  • 3.3” barrel length and an overall length of 6.5”.
  • Weighs 20.5 ounces with an empty magazine.
  • Comes with two magazines – one regular (6+1) and one extended-grip magazine (7+1).
  • Optimized for concealed carry.

Overall, the Shield sits quite comfortably in most people’s hands.  Smith & Wesson gave the texture of the grip much more traction than they did with the Shield 9mm model, making it easier to hold with sweaty or wet hands.

The SHEILD’s trigger has a 6-pound pull weight and gives a smooth break.  It also has a pivot-style safety that requires the trigger to be squeezed near the bottom in order to fire the gun, adding additional precaution against accidental discharges.  

What I liked about the Shield:

  • Enlarged trigger guard makes it easier to shoot with gloved hands.
  • Deep serrations on the slide make it easier to grasp onto.
  • The metal three-dot sights are durable and easy to use.
  • Incredibly thin – almost as thin as the M&P 9mm.

Disadvantages of the Shield:

There really isn’t anything to hate about this gun.  Its 3.3” barrel may affect accuracy if you’re shooting at a target beyond 20 yards and it also lacks a built-in rail system, but that’s what you come to expect with a compact .45 ACP.

4. Performance Center Ported M&P .45 SHIELD

The Performance Center Shield is the same as the original .45 Shield, but with a few upgrades.  The main difference between the Performance Center Shield and the original Shield is that this gun comes with a ported slide and barrel to help gas escape more efficiently and limit muzzle rise.

423
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

  • Same specs as the Shield.
  • Comes with a ported barrel and slide.
  • Improved fiber optic sights.
  • Improved texturing on the grip for better control.

Another really cool feature of the Performance Center M&P is its fiber optic sights.  You get two orange rear sights and one green front sight that are all encased in steel frames that protect them from your daily wear-and-tear.

Remember, porting has nothing to do with recoil – it only affects muzzle rise.  In my opinion, the benefits of having a ported barrel are barely noticeable for the price tag.

I find that the sights are the best feature of the Performance Center Shield and, in my opinion, the only reason to spend more money than the original Shield.  Not only do the sites look cool, they also make it easier to pick up the gun and quickly line up a target.

What’s the Verdict on the M&P?

There are minor differences between the different versions of the M&P, but they’re still essentially the same gun.

It seems like many of the people who aren’t keen on the M&P don’t like the fact that it’s a polymer-based gun.  In my experience, the M&P is just as durable and reliable as any Glock handgun.  I also find that the trigger pull on the M&P is smoother than the Glock.

Simply put, it’s a well-made handgun that’s incredibly fun to shoot.  I am happy with the M&P and think that it’s a great gun for home defense or shooting at the range.

The M&P does have some criticism leveled at it though, which you can see in this short video clip:

Overall, I think that the M&P lives up to its reputation of being a top-notch service pistol.  I appreciate its durability and comfort.

Like all Smith & Wesson models, the M&P comes with a lifetime warranty and lifetime service policy, which should help inform you on the excellent quality and craftsmanship of the gun.

Now that I’ve had a chance to review the M&P .45, I do believe that it should be ranked among the best .45 ACPs.

Looking for a semi-auto with a little more power than what .45 delivers? Take a look at our Best 10mm Handguns list

Do you own one of the M&P models?  What are your thoughts on it?  Let us know in the comments below.

20 Leave a Reply

  • Bud Short

    It may be a little premature for me to be posting here, I'm mainly looking for comments from experienced shooters. I'm 71 years old and I've just bought my first handgun. I'm not a total stranger to handguns, I have shot handguns in the military, always .45 1911A1's and the government always wanted it back when I was finished with it. There was a sporting goods store near my office that was getting out of the firearms business and running specials at $5 or $10 below their invoice cost. My wife was wanting a little .38 special snub-nose and as long as we were there I figured I would buy a pistol too. All of my experience was with .45 so I figures I would stick with .45. They were pushing a .45 Springfield of some sort that was made in Croatia. I didn't feel right and the moving parts seemed a little too loose and sloppy. The fact that they had a bunch of them in the store that they hadn't sold didn't feel right either. On the top row of the display case was one lonely .45 nestled in a row of 9mm's. I asked the salesman to show me that one. Their reduced clearance price was well within my budget. My military training was equally right and left handed, so I was looking for a pistol that felt good in either hand. The construction on the S&W M&P .45 M2.0 felt so much better than the Springfield that I told him to box it up and put it with my wife's little Ruger LCR .38 Special already in our cart. I figured this S&W would be a good pistol to get started back into shooting again. I decided on the medium-large grip, it felt good both left and right handed. I've disassembled it, cleaned it, and familiarized myself with the construction. I've loaded the magazines, but I have yet to even chamber a round, waiting until I'm ready to shoot to do that. It's probably a little late, but I'm reading reviews on this gun to see if I've made a mistake, so far it looks like the full size M&P .45 2.0 might just be a good quality investment as my first handgun to actually own.

    6 days ago
  • Sean

    I have an M&P 45 2.0. I love it EXCEPT for the aggressive stippling of the grips. Yea people say grip this that the other thing with wet hands etc, I haven't had any issues with my M&P 9 with the old style grips. If you are going to carry a 2.0 DON'T. those grips are like sandpaper on your skin. I carried the 45 ONCE, and that was enough. I love it as a shooter, so I had to come up with something to do with the grips, so I took a disposable razor and shaved the grips down to smooth them out some. I left the back strap and front strap untouched, but the sides I went to town. Now I can carry it, still grips very well with front and back straps and it doesn't feel like sandpaper against the skin when carried. I've dumped 1000 rds through it with zero issues. I'll take an M&P over a Glock every day and twice on sundays. My 9mm has 3000 rds through it, and my 9c has 1500. Not one jam, failure to feed or failure to eject in any of them.

    2 months ago
  • AE Gary PhD

    I'm looking for a m&p 5 inch with a ext safety. Is this available?

    5 months ago
    • Trevally

      Gary, Yes, in FDE. $450.00-$500 street price. It's a superb striker-fired polymer pistol.

      1 month ago
  • Guncritic

    Thank you, this was a very helpful review for someone looking for a S&W M&P .45

    11 months ago
  • Robert Eucare

    My Walther PPS M2 LE hasn't been cleaned since I bought it and always fires reliably and accurately. You bought the wrong gun

    1 year ago
    • Trevally

      Rob, UUUUUUGGGHHHH WRONG!

      1 month ago
  • Robert

    I have the shield, compact, and fullsize 45 2.0 which i just purchased. the shield got a Apex trigger without a doubt a must have the compact loved it but the shield is summer carry bliss! xtra mag in the pocket and bingo now the compact is on the for sale list. now the 2.0 student had one in 9mm and really impressed bieng a big ol slug thrower ordered the 45 still impressed will see if trigger smoothes out if not apex here we come.will admit the triggers are not my fav, Apex makes the platform better that said the new trigger on the 2.0 is much better will see how after at least 800-1000 rounds 2.0 will be fall winter carry/RO gun.

    1 year ago
  • Charlie

    Hey! I own several M&Ps! I love the platform! Hell if they made a Shotgun I’d have a M&P 3-Gun Match setup! Hahahaha! My M&P 45acp is a first generation with a Manual Safety. I hated the grips, nearly sold it because of the 2 items I’ve seen that really needed help, the Trigger and the Grips. I practiced stippling on pmags and the small backstraps. Did the Stippling myself which not only does it stay in my hand on wet rainy days, it also looks great!! I had a trigger job done but I’m changing the entire trigger system out. Likely the Agency Arms Trigger? Oh! I also wanted to point out my Full-size 45acp has a 5” Barrel? I thought they were all a 5” but reading this article you have listed at 4.25”?? Was this the Compact Model? Thank you

    1 year ago
  • Jerry c

    I agree the trigger needs getting use to. But you could never compare a Glock to a S&W M&P M2.0 9mm 4.25” which is what I own. Glock hasn’t changed there platform since they were invented. That’s why a government agency got rid of them; that can’t keep up with the times! The change the caliber, the size and call it new. There machining is rediculous a box for 20 years. They have no grip,plastic guide rods, plastic mag release, plastic mags no type of design. Just a plain box. What they pay for on upgrades, like all that slide work, and the maggot stippling, stippling something that’s milimeters thin: Really. That why I stick to the best S&W M&P9mm M2.0

    1 year ago
  • jbourneidentity

    I respectfully disagree about the M&P's trigger comparison with Glock. I've never met an M&P trigger that could compete with a Glock trigger, all things being equal. In fact, the M&P trigger is atrocious...probably it's biggest failing, beside the known lack of 9mm full-size accuracy. There's a reason Apex Tactical has made a mint selling their M&P trigger improvement kits.

    2 years ago
    • Mac

      The M&P 2.0 is way ahead of Glock.

      1 year ago
    • Dave Jones

      I have three M&P’s and one Glock and respectively disagree. The Glock trigger sucks!

      2 years ago
  • Don Martin

    I have an M&P 40 full size with a 4.25" barrel. It has a 15+1 capacity and is my daily carry. I work security and only have the one handgun. I bought the S&W because of a previous experience with the brand and was very pleased with the over-all performance. I practice frequently at the local gun range and can consistently place a 4" grouping center mass at 20 yards. I use the SigSauer Elite performance ammunition, 180 grain JHP. I like the hollow point to help prevent through-and-through concerns. While I'm not a marksman by any means I feel that this handgun will do all that I need if the time ever comes where I will need it when on duty. I have large hands and the additional backstraps that came with the gun made it very comfortable to hold and use. If you're looking for a polymer handgun, I strongly recommend the M&P.

    2 years ago
  • Andrew Owens

    I own the M&P 45 full size, 9mm Pro 4inch, 9 Shield and the 9 Compact. I've smoothed the trigger and lighten all but the Compact, Off hand I have shot 2inch groups with the 45 at 25 yards, consistently hit a 4inch ball at 30 yards with the Pro. It blows my mind that I can hit a 4inch ball at 30yards with the Shield not every shot but when I miss it's by and inch or two. I Love my M&Ps.....

    2 years ago
  • kb

    I have the shield with the safety. However, as a left handed shooter I find two 'litle' problems. One the safety is only on one side. The second, is that no red paint is under to safety to let you confirm it is on safe. Yes, I know I should remember...but really ...one drop of paint... Overall, I love my shield but keep the safety in the hot position.. I just need the trigger safety, the striker safety and my brain safety.

    2 years ago
  • TactiFool

    I am a big fan as well. And frankly, don't understand the M&P hate I regularly encounter here on the interwebs... (E.g., the fella in that video (above) above seems a tad schizophrenic...the title is "epic fail"--and it begins with a complaint about the condition his firearm arrived in, as the result of an apparent artifact of shipping...BUT by the end of the video, he's gushing about performance and seems immensely thrilled with his purchase. If you only read the video title, you'd never suspect.) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    2 years ago
    • Alan

      I have the S&W Shield 45acp and I carry this round for protection. Ballistics on this round are awesome. Check it out on YouTube.

      1 year ago
  • Steve L.

    I forgot to mention the Shield Performance Center. That is my favorite compact carry.

    2 years ago
  • Steve L.

    Good stuff here. My first M&P is the 9mm 2.0M. I loved it the first time I shot one. One added benefit to the M&P series is how nice it is to field strip...WITHOUT having to pull the trigger. The back straps can be swapped out on the fly, drop the magazine, twist the retainer, pull it out, slip off one back strap, pop another one on, replace the retainer and get back to shooting. The field strip/breakdown is almost as easy. You are right about the grip improvement with the 2.0's. Some of my friends have a hard time getting their head around the feel...then they put a few rounds down range. Thanks for the article.

    2 years ago
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