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Suppressed, Red Dot-Ready Carry Gun? S&W M&P C.O.R.E. 9mm—Full Review.

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To learn more, visit http://www.smith-wesson.com/firearms/performance-center-mp-9-core-threaded-barrel.

To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=M%26P%20C.O.R.E.

I am normally a Glock guy, as anyone that has trained with me over the last seven years knows. Hell, I have literally at one point been a Glock poster boy. But one thing a life in the military will break you of quickly is brand loyalty. You always have to be looking for an advantage, and in a world were equipment failures cost lives, you don’t care at all where that advantage comes from. So when the chance to review the Smith and Wesson M&P C.O.R.E. with threaded barrel came up, I jumped at the chance.

The author found that the C.O.R.E. was equally at home in a CCW or a tactical role.

The author found that the C.O.R.E. was equally at home in a CCW or a tactical role.

My time on an M&P, prior to this article, was limited at best. I have a few friends that use them for 3-Gun, but that doesn’t really count since those inadvertently always have Apex triggers, and are fully raced out. I had probably shot less than five magazines from one prior to this week, certainly not enough to form an opinion. So what is my opinion now?

I am in love with this gun. The minute I opened the box and beheld this 4.25-inch marvel, complete with threaded barrel and red dot mounting hardware, I knew I was in trouble. It was a borderline religious experience. The Smith is gorgeous, for sure, but a lot more like looking at the Goddess Kali than the girl next door. Beautiful in a “ burn all those who oppose you to ashes” kind of way. But, how something looks and how it handles can be two very different things. So, how does the M&P function?

The author tried out an S&W C.O.R.E. pistol with a standard and a threaded barrel, direct from the factory.

The author tried out an S&W C.O.R.E. pistol with a standard and a threaded barrel, direct from the factory.

SPECS

  • Chambering: 9mm
  • Barrel: 4.25 inches
  • OA Length: 7.5 inches
  • Weight: 24 ounces
  • Frame Material: Polymer
  • Slide material: Stainless Steel
  • Action: Striker fired
  • Finish: Black durable, corrosion resistant
  • Capacity: 17+1
  • MSRP: $825

The exact name of this gun is the Smith & Wesson M&P9 C.O.R.E 4.25” Threaded Barrel. That is a mouthful for certain. This is a special factory configuration that ships with both a threaded and non threaded barrel. I think this is an outstanding way to do business, even on a gun you plan to suppress as its primary duty. The non-threaded barrel fits some holsters that the longer one doesn’t. Also, no need to bang up your more expensive threaded barrel if you use the gun for competition or such as well. And believe it or not, there are some places in this country just having the threaded barrel in the gun (no suppressor) is illegal. Insanity I know, but having both barrels gives you options should you ever need to visit one of those communist-controlled areas. It is a factory barrel, so you know you aren’t going to have fit issues, and all other things being equal, it is cheaper to buy it in this kit than to piecemeal one together.

The C.O.R.E. comes standard with suppressor-height sights that make co-witnessing with a red dot such as this Burris FastFire3 a possibility.

The C.O.R.E. comes standard with suppressor-height sights that make co-witnessing with a red dot such as this Burris FastFire3 a possibility.

The C.O.R.E. comes with a very nice set of suppressor height sights, which you probably expected from the threaded barrel version. They are tall enough to use with a suppressor out of the box, and are sturdy steel. But that isn’t why we bought the C.O.R.E., now is it? C.O.R.E. stands for “Competition Optics Ready Equipment”, and what that means in basic grunt is that the slide is pre cut to accept mini red dot optical sights. Smith covered all the bases by including four types of screws and five adapter plates, as well as a cover if you prefer not to use an optic. While it isn’t listed as a supported optic, my Burris FastFire 3 fit perfectly with a #5 plate and “ type C” screws.

One thing you have to appreciate about the M&P, it is built with a variety of users in mind. The magazine release is reversible for the devil handed amongst us, and there is a slide release lever on both sides of the gun. It is very nice to see a gun out of the box that works equally for left- and right-handed people. It also comes with three back straps, which are a snap to change, no tools required.  The grip is a bit smaller than what I am used to, but changing to the large size grip insert corrected all my problems. The small insert makes this gun feel tiny, and is great for smaller framed shooters, like Off The Reservation 6. 6, the commander of the Martin household, is 5’1”, and the small size grip fit her perfectly. All in all, the three grip sizes cover pretty much everyone. If you need something bigger than the large, I recommend bicycle inner tube a few layers deep over the large. And don’t take up proctology, for all of our sakes.

The pistol comes with ambidextrous controls for ease of operation for all shooters.

The pistol comes with ambidextrous controls for ease of operation for all shooters.

The slide of the M&P has very nice lines, and has been cut by design to reduce weight. The slide, from the factory, looks like the custom lightening job people order for Glocks. I also like that the edges are rounded, as the smooth surface helps keep clothing from grabbing if this is your carry pistol. At the rear of the slide, Smith has added very aggressive, wave type, cocking serrations. These are quite functional, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing. Up front on the frame, there are three lugs of picatinny type rail, which gives you plenty of options for flashlights, lasers, or anything else you can think of.

The trigger, out of the box, is the best of any striker-fired pistol I have ever shot. And I have shot a lot of them. There is a bit of take up, as you would expect on a gun without an external safety, but it is nice and light. What impressed me is how easy it is to feel the mechanical stop. The mechanical stop is the point where all the slack is taken out of the trigger, just before it fires. Being able to feel this point is critical to making precision shots with a pistol. Smith and Wesson batted one out of the park in this regard. The mechanical stop is pronounced, and there is almost zero trigger creep after. I have heard others poo-poo the M&P trigger, so I am not sure if something changed, or those others just didn’t know how to shoot. I was very impressed. Combined with a red dot sight, this made for some pretty incredible accuracy.

Manufacturer's suggestions about supported optics. The FastFire3 worked fine with #5 plate and C-type screws.

Manufacturer’s suggestions about supported optics. The FastFire3 worked fine with #5 plate and C-type screws.

Speaking of red dots, how did that shake out for me? Very nicely it turns out. I used a Burris FastFire 3, with a 3 MOA ( minute of angle) dot. The Burris is very light, weighing under an ounce. This is important, as any time you start adding weight to the slide, you can reduce reliability. The FastFire was easy to mount and easy to zero. Clear directions are engraved on each of the adjustment screws, and the adjustments tracked true to markings, which was 1 MOA per click. Having co-witnessed the dot with the iron sights before I went to shoot the first time, only minor adjustments were needed. The controls of the FastFire are intuitive, with the power/brightness button on the left side of the optic housing. Press the button till you have the brightness you want. You’re done. I also like that from off, the Burris starts at the brightest setting, i.e. the one that is useful in all lighting conditions. Maybe not ideal, but useful. Imagine turning your pistol on in a crisis, and then cycling the button five times before you can see the aiming dot because it is bright out. The Burris way makes a lot more sense. The other thing I really liked about the FastFire is that the battery compartment is on top of the optic, which means you don’t have to remove the sight from the gun to swap batteries. Batteries last a very long time in most mini red dots, but it is still a nice touch to be able to replace them without having to re-zero. The one negative of the FastFire, which I feel excludes its use as a combat or carry optic, is that it does not feature an auto on or motion detect on. The iron sights still work with the Fast Fire in place, so maybe some users will feel differently. Still, it’s half the price of a comparable RMR or Delta Point, so it is an excellent entry level red dot for your pistol.

The C.O.R.E. pistol has smooth and round corners for ease of carry and added comfort.

The C.O.R.E. pistol has smooth and round corners for ease of carry and added comfort.

There are two things I feel I must mention here, because we are talking about a Smith and Wesson. The M&P will fire with the magazine removed, and there is not a lock on this gun. Either one of those things would have been a deal breaker for me. I want my gun to fire with the magazine removed, because a carry gun is serious business. I might conceivably need to blast a bad guy mid reload, and I think the magazine removed disconnect is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I was very happy that the Pro series (of which this pistol is a part of) didn’t have one. The internal lock is a close second on dumb things to have on a gun. If you want to lock your gun up, cool, use a padlock. I don’t trust an internal part that locks my gun in a non-functional state though. I have seen a very expensive, very hard recoiling gun with the internal lock, decide to lock itself just under normal firing conditions. Fortunately we were at the range, not in harm’s way, but it stuck with me. That gun was useless until we drove home and got the key. I don’t own any guns with an internal lock, and I wouldn’t own one I couldn’t permanently remove. The Pro Series delivered on both counts, I am happy to say.

Range Time

The M&P was a joy at the range. It took everything I could throw at it, including the cheapest steel case I could find. It did take about 150 rounds of break in to function with the suppressor, but that is an acceptable price to me. Out of the box, with new springs and factory fit, jumping straight to a suppressor is a high bar. After I shot those 150, I didn’t have another hiccup with the gun. My test was, I would try suppressed, and if I had a failure, I would take the suppressor off and finish my drill with both magazines. Then after I reloaded, start with the suppressor on again. By the 150 mark it was running like a sewing machine. Over the course of my week with the gun, I shot it many times cold with the suppressor, and never had another problem. The 4.25-inch barrel handles quite nicely with the suppressor on, and carries nicely without it. I won’t bore you with group sizes, because I think group sizes out of a pistol are extremely arbitrary. If you actually need a pistol that guarantees a 2-inch group at 50 meters, you probably don’t need my gun reviews. But I will say this—The M&P CORE is probably the most accurate striker-fired pistol I have ever shot; I was very impressed. With the FastFire equipped, bowling pins were boringly easy at 50 meters, slightly challenging at 75 meters, and hittable at 100 meters. I’m not a bullseye champion by any stretch of the imagination, so that is a pretty telling statement.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-10-08-55-amThe GM-9 suppressor was a blast to shoot, and after a short break in on the gun ran flawlessly. You barely feel the five ounces of added weight in the GM-9, and it did a remarkable job of quieting down even supersonic ammunition. The really cool thing about the GM-9 is its interchangeable pistons for the decoupling system, which allows you to run one suppressor on any thread pitch of pistol or submachine gun. I also really liked that if comes apart easily for cleaning. With the suppressor attached, we also got a bit more velocity, similar to the free bore boost we saw with our rifle test earlier this month.

The GM-9 GEMTECH suppressor's baffle stack is shown here.

The GM-9 GEMTECH suppressor’s baffle stack is shown here.

Parting Shots

Why, you may ask, do I like the 4.25-inch model better than the 5 inch, in this particular configuration? I am usually an advocate of longer slides, to be sure. But only because the longer sight radius makes it easier to shoot accurately. And I stress the easier part of that. Human error is lessened. I have never once seen conclusive evidence that longer pistol barrels are mechanically more accurate. If you are using a red dot sight, sight radius is no longer an issue. You might get a tiny bit more velocity in a pistol with a longer barrel, but it is negligible.  Also, because we added a suppressor to the party, anything we can do to lessen overall length makes the gun handle better.

This Crossbreed IWB Super-Tuck is cut to accept a pistol with a red dot mounted.

This Crossbreed IWB Super-Tuck is cut to accept a pistol with a red dot mounted.

The author found that EDC with the Burris-equipped C.O.R.E. was no problem.

The author found that EDC with the Burris-equipped C.O.R.E. was no problem.

Availability of accessories is part of the equation when I look at a gun purchase. As a younger man, I have been caught with an exotic gun that required $50 magazines and custom holsters. Never again. Happily, the M&P is prolific enough I had no problem buying holsters, even with the red dot. Crossbreed makes a super-tuck for this set up, which is one of my favorite IWB holsters. And Safariland, the global leader in kydex retention holsters, covers it with the 578 GLS pro holster. I absolutely love this new set up, it is lightning fast for a retention holster. It doesn’t protect the red dot sight, but I don’t feel like that is a show stopper. Magazines, factory and aftermarket, are also prolific.

I am in love with this gun, and I don’t fall easy. Shh, no one tell my Glock 34. I am so impressed, I am losing money on this month’s gun review, and that isn’t something I do often. Having had this gun for less than a week, I will be writing a check to Smith and Wesson, they can’t have this one back.

To learn more, visit http://www.smith-wesson.com/firearms/performance-center-mp-9-core-threaded-barrel.

To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=M%26P%20C.O.R.E.

The C.O.R.E. with the Burris FastFire3 and the GEMTECH GM-9 is James Bond ready!

The C.O.R.E. with the Burris FastFire3 and the GEMTECH GM-9 is James Bond ready!

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • James Carter November 21, 2016, 2:46 pm

    I got the S&W M&P, not core, few years back, and Apex trigger was very happy. Then found Walther PPQ M2. Too me this is the finest trigger, stock or not. Even tried the double spring set for reducing raise, but when back to stock. It just feels so natural, point,shoot,shoot,shoot. But then I am a novelist.

    • clay martin November 22, 2016, 1:47 am

      I have a Walther coming next month. I have heard the triggers in them are sick, I can’t wait to find out.

    • Gene P November 24, 2016, 10:51 am

      I too have the Walther PPQ Mark 2 with threaded barrel and run a silencerco suppressor. The trigger is amazing and it runs great
      And has never faltered. Love my M&P shield 9 for carry. (Used to have a Rutger LC 9 which had a horrible trigger). The red dot sight looks interesting though.

  • local_dirt November 21, 2016, 11:26 am

    Clay, great review. I’ve been looking at these as a potential suppressor host, but there’s not a lot of info out there. Another fella on one of the gun boards I visit is also looking at them.
    Your article helps fill the void of info I was looking for.
    Thanks for a great writeup.

    • clay martin November 22, 2016, 1:48 am

      Anytime brother. I was very happy with this package, it will serve you well!

  • B November 21, 2016, 9:46 am

    Great guns, just don’t pay msrp for it. No reason for it.

    • clay martin November 22, 2016, 1:49 am

      I never pay MSRP, it goes against my multi-cam yamika ways

  • Bubba357 November 21, 2016, 7:13 am

    Nice review. I just recently bought a new M&P 9 PRO 5″. You stated “The trigger, out of the box, is the best of any striker-fired pistol I have ever shot”. I have to agree with those that don’t care for the trigger. It isn’t smooth, actually it’s a little rough, but then I am comparing it to the stock trigger pull on my SIG P320, which is a gun you should try. Since I plan to use this gun in competition I have ordered an Apex trigger kit like one I have shot in a friends M&P.

    • clay martin November 22, 2016, 1:50 am

      The Apex is a bad MF for sure, no doubt about that. SIG 320 is on the list for next couple of months, so I will get to see for myself. But that factory M&P trigger was bad ass in mine, I was impressed.

  • Mark Birchard November 21, 2016, 4:46 am

    Clay, couldn’t agree more. I’ve been a card carrying Glock guy and Glock armorer for over 15 years. It’s been my carry LE duty weapon as well. I picked up my first M&P 9 as an anniversary present for my X2 (wife). I made the mistake of running it. I have been carrying the M&P for 2+ years now, and just bought the C.O.R.E. 9mm. Didn’t know about this model st the time. Right out of the box I qualified with a perfect score. Ran several rounds since, I love this Gun. Thanks for outing yourself (ref Glocks) I’ve got your six on this one! Great article.

    • clay martin November 22, 2016, 1:51 am

      Thanks brother. I was very impressed too. Just don’t let the Glock mafia find out.

  • Ringo Lapua November 18, 2016, 3:24 pm

    Nice rig .. and probably the best for a “STRIKER FIRE” handgun…. HOWEVER, the double action CZ – p107, the CZ – p109 and the FN- FNP45 tactical all have fantastic light hammers and in the single action mode YOU CANNOT BEAT THE ACCURACY. Make sure that you have a hammer. Striker Fired… ..nope.

  • DRAINO November 17, 2016, 11:53 am

    Good article. Good Review. I always enjoy your articles, Clay. Keep it up. I wish they would put a backstrap safety on these M&P’s.

    • clay martin November 18, 2016, 11:05 am

      thanks brother.

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