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American Handgunner Jan/Feb 2010 - Page 28
COPTALK Massad Ayoob Manual thumb safety, working like a 1911’s, is an option on service and compact M&Ps in all calibers. OPINION AND FACTS FROM THE MEAN STREETS &W revolvers had ruled U.S. police handgun sales until the sea-change to semiautos pistols began in earnest in the 1980s. S&W took a while to recognize polymer police pistols were here to stay, and they were not particularly quick to catch up. In 1993, S&W introduced Kevin Foley’s design, the Sigma. Some departments adopted it, but it never really caught on in LE, instead finding its niche as a low-price, entrylevel consumer pistol. A few years later, the company Americanized the Walther The Rise of the S&W MiliTaRy & Police S P99 into the SW99. A few cops liked them and still carry them today, but the SW99 didn’t really catch on, either. In-house, Joe Bergeron — a brilliant engineer who had begun his career in Gun Valley “down the road” at Colt’s — was put in charge of a design team tasked with creating an all-new S&W handgun for this market. The result was the first semiauto pistol in decades to bear a name instead of a model number. That name was a hallowed one in the halls of S&W: “Military & Police.” Ambi slidelock/slide release lever; integral light rail; tapered slide for easier holstering; extended tang; and ambi-safeties are available. www.smith-wesson.com Quick Acceptance est sample M&Ps started going out to writers and select police departments in 2005, and the pistols were in mainstream commerce by early 2006. The .40 S&W came first, followed in order by 9mm, .45 ACP and .357 SIG. Early on, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio adopted the M&P, in 9mm and .40 respectively, and Iowa State Patrol became the first state law enforcement agency to adopt the M&P, choosing the .40. Early brush fires were quickly extinguished. It became apparent from the beginning the ambidextrous slide stop lever was too small to function effectively as a slide release lever; Bergeron T and company acted quickly to rectify that. A few early feed problems, such as malfunctioning due to limp wristing, were cleared up with careful tweaks. In the few short years since, acceptance has grown greatly. Iowa State Patrol was followed by five other state police agencies in adopting the M&P. These include Colorado (.40 S&W), New Mexico (.357 SIG), New Hampshire (.45 ACP), and most recently, the North Carolina Highway Patrol (.357 SIG) and Washington State Patrol (.40), according to Ian O’Donnell of S&W’s law enforcement sales division. Major municipal police agencies have been adopting the Military & Police, as well. Detroit, Michigan and Milwaukee, Wisconsin recently announced adoption of the M&P in .40, in both cases for department-wide adoption. Tampa, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia have also adopted the .40 caliber Military & Police pistol as standard issue; ditto RaleighDurham, North Carolina. Hartford, Connecticut issues the M&P in .45. New Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis has indicated he wants all 13,000 or so CPD officers to carry the same uniform pistol, and if should come to pass, it’s a contract I’m sure S&W will go after with alacrity. At this writing, the NYPD is testing the M&P for possible approval as an optional 9mm for its estimated 35,000 officers, who also buy their own duty weapons from an approved list. disconnector, it’s an option on all M&Ps. According to S&W’s Ian O’Donnell, some 40-percent are going out the door in that configuration. I know of one state police agency and one city department that mandated this on their M&Ps because it had already saved their officers’ lives in earlier struggles for guns, when the embattled cop deliberately pressed the magazine button as he felt the attacker gaining control of his weapon. M&P round count equals Glocks in three of the four calibers offered, when comparing service size pistols. That’s 17+1 in 9mm, and 15+1 in .40 S&W and .357 SIG. It does come up short in .45 ACP, with 10+1 in the standard magazine M&P45 versus 13+1 in the Glock 21 or the XD45. The bottom line? The S&W M&P autolo has made a “positive entry” into the US police pistol market. It’s a race worth watching. Why CopS Buy M&pS S &W’s critics and competitors say only dyed in the wool S&W departments are buying these guns. That’s not entirely true. New Mexico troopers switched from Glocks, as did Milwaukee and Detroit, and NCHP and NHSP transitioned from SIG SAUERs. Individuals accustomed to buying guns that fit themselves don’t always appreciate the “one size fits all” needs of LE agencies, especially large ones. Alone among the big three makers of polymer police pistols (though the XD offers the feature in the M-series, and Glock may offer the option soon), all M&Ps from the beginning have come with small, medium and large interchangeable backstraps to adjust for grip girth and, most important, trigger reach. This has proven to be a huge selling point for the M&P, particularly with fire- arms instructors and department lawyers. Whatever backstrap is installed, the grip tang goes out over the web of the hand more than the competition. Some find this just feels more solid in the hand, but a tiny percentage of cops have hands so big they need this to keep the slide from contacting their hand during firing, particularly when wearing gloves. The compact models don’t have the extended grip tang. Manual thumb safeties are available only on the .45 ACP version of the XD, and not at all on factory Glocks, but are optional now on all calibers of M&P, from service size to compact. More than one department has chosen the M&P with manual safety because of its proven life-saving capability if a bad guy disarms the officer by force. Neither of the other brands offers a magazine * 28 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • JANUARY/FEBRUARY2010