A FEW MORE IMPROVEMENTS ALLOW YOU TO GET THE MOST FROM THE S&W M&P 2.0 9MM
A few more improvements allow you to get the most from the S&W M&P 2.0 9mm.
Smith & Wesson did its job well when it came to upgrading its already excellent striker-fired pistol with the M&P 2.0. Now how can you as a shooter make a good thing even better?
I took a new M&P 2.0 and had some personal modifications done to make what I think are some key improvements to this fine fighting handgun.
When the Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm pistol appeared a few years back, it set the handgun world on its ear. It was sleek, aesthetically pleasing to the eye and just plain had the look of success.
And it wasn’t just another pretty face. When you held it in your hand, you knew it was a winner. All the controls were in the right place for fast, efficient operation under stress, and its pointability was so superior that many suggested it was the logical to the legendary M1911. Yep, chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, and available in multiple configurations, the M&P pretty much covered the whole field of tactical handgunning, quickly rising to the top of the popularity scale.
AN M&P CONVERT
Being a long-time M1911 and Glock aficionado, I viewed the M&P’s meteoric rise with a certain degree of cynicism. After all, every time a new gun appears, we see a flurry of accolades about how wonderful the new gun is. Then, as time passes, and the true characteristics and capabilities of the weapon become more apparent, the accolades quickly fade away and it becomes just another pistol.
This is why truly revolutionary guns like the M1911 and Glock remain so well thought of—after their characteristics and true capabilities became known, their popularity remained high because they really are superior!
As a weapons and tactics instructor and writer of many years, I long ago learned to put personal preferences aside and at least try to control my biases when evaluating firearms. Sometimes this isn’t easy to do, because I quite literally work with them every day, and eventually came to realize that certain guns are better than others, and those that make the top of that list are few and far between.
Yet, as soon as I picked up my first M&P 9mm, I knew I was holding something truly better in my hand. Not only did it point and handle beausuccessor
tifully, but its various selective backstraps ensured a perfect hand-to-gun fit, something that few manufacturers had previously bothered to offer.
Subsequent shooting drills confirmed my initial impression—the M&P was indeed something new and excitingly different. Transitioning to it from a Glock or M1911 was easy because it pointed and fit my hand so well, and once it received the trigger job that nearly all new guns need, my performance with it immediately equaled both. This surprised me, because typically a familiarization period of at least a few weeks is needed for full transition to take place.
And, as they say, “The rest is history.” In the years that followed, I purchased five more M&Ps—two in 9mm and three in .45 ACP. And in each instance, my initial impression repeated itself. Now the M&P is the gun I carry daily, which means I’m willing to bet my life on it. What better recommendation can there be?
ALONG COMES THE 2.0
Not satisfied with having a superstar on their hands, Smith & Wesson didn’t sit on their laurels. In 2016, the company began offering an improved M&P 9mm, which they dubbed the 2.0. Though the U.S. military did not adopt it (for nebulous reasons, from what I’ve been told), the 2.0 hit the commercial market late in that year and, like its original version, quickly became a success.
But how do you improve on something that’s already superior to everything else? Well, the 2.0’s frame was strengthened and its trigger design improved. S&W also enhanced the M&P’s already superior pointability, modified its ambidextrous slide stop lever to operate more positively
and roughed up its grip-frame area to improve its grip.
You would think that these improvements would make the 2.0 the perfect fighting handgun, but in fact, as good as it is, it isn’t perfect. For my needs, some of the improvements actually degrade my performance with it. First, while its ambidextrous thumb safeties are well located, they also exhibit some sharp edges, which must be removed to prevent excessive abrasion of both skin and concealment clothing.
There are other abrasive areas as well, including the front and rear grasping grooves on the slide (which are too sharp), the magazine release button, the takedown latch and the whole grip-frame area. For absolute best performance, sharp edges of any kind on a tactical handgun must be removed and excessively abrasive areas toned down.
The stated trigger pull for the 2.0 is 6.5 pounds, but mine was more like 8.5 pounds, so I opted to have a slightly modified Apex trigger kit installed, using the regular M&P hinged trigger and factory striker spring and striker.
In all the years I’ve been shooting M&Ps, I’ve never had trigger issues of any kind, including the current much discussed reset problem. And because I’ve always operated under the premise that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” I saw no need to opt for the new solid trigger. With the aforementioned Apex kit installed, the trigger pull on my 2.0 is 4.25 pounds, which is not so light as to create a civil liability hazard, but light enough for excellent accuracy.
The slide stop on the 2.0 has been slightly redesigned and a spring-loaded lever added to bear against it to prevent the slide from tripping too easily. However, in my view, one of the neatest things about the original M&P was that the slide tripped when a magazine was briskly inserted, cutting off a full half second of a speed reload.
Apparently, there was some eventual slide stop breakage as a result, and instead of simply strengthening the slide stop lever, Smith & Wesson instead chose to solve the problem by adding the spring-loaded lever.
Unfortunately, the result is that the lever is now too hard to quickly and effectively operate under stress and forces many shooters to reach over the gun and retract and release the slide to chamber the top cartridge in a freshly inserted magazine.
This adds a full second to a speed load and is, to my way of thinking, not a good thing, because if you need to speed load in the first place, you’re
“FOR ABSOLUTE BEST PERFORMANCE, SHARP EDGES OF ANY KIND ON A TACTICAL HANDGUN MUST BE REMOVED AND EXCESSIVELY ABRASIVE AREAS TONED DOWN.”
already in a nearly fatal situation. If things are that bad, reloading time must be kept to a minimum, not increased. I rectified the problem by having the spring in the bearing lever lightened so it doesn’t bear so heavily against the slide stop lever. I also had the height of the ridge around the slide stop lever reduced to allow faster and easier access to the lever itself.
The 2.0’s magazine well is already excellent and needs no improvement, so I left it alone. In addition, the small radiuses on each side of the grip-frame near the magazine well are quite well conceived and efficient, so no modification of them was undertaken.
The 2.0’s factory sights are high-visibility and feature a white paint threedot horizontal pattern, making them quite visible in normal light. However, in low light periods (where the vast majority of handgun altercations occur), more is needed so I had a set of Trijicon tritium horizontal three-dot sights installed.
Now getting perilously close to being an old man, my eyes aren’t what they used to be, so I also opted for a front sight that features a large orange ring around the tritium vial, so I can see it quickly and clearly at high speed. Does it work? Yep, although if my eyes were just a bit younger, I don’t think it would be needed.
Removing edges from a gun means refinishing it, so I had the slide and frame of my modified 2.0 Cerakoted in MOE Flat Dark Earth and all other parts—the barrel, magazine release button, takedown latch, thumb safeties, slide stop lever—Cerakoted in matte black. The result was an eye-pleasing appearance, but without the loss of practicality. Interestingly enough, the Cerakote tightened up the barrel/slide/frame relationship a bit and improved accuracy, without loss of functional reliability.
Above: While the standard M&P 2.0 has a 4.25-inch barrel, S&W offers this model with a 5-inch barrel and FDE finish. S&W photo
Bottom: For fastest sight acquisition in both normal and low light, the author had extra high-visibility Trijicon tritium sights installed. Front blade and rear notch both measure .150. Large orange dot around tritium vial in front sight guarantees fast visual acquisition in daylight.
Below: Though the 2.0’s barrel-to-slide fit is good, black matte Cerakoting tightens it up somewhat, enhancing accuracy without reducing its mechanical reliability.
Right: Integral Picatinny rail allows mounting of any number of accessories, particularly a light. Taylor selected the Streamlight TR-1HL, finished in Flat Dark Earth, and to protect the lens from dust and other foreign matter, also installed a Butler Creek flip-open lens cap.
Below: The ridge around the 2.0’s ambidextrous slide lock levers is excessively high and interferes with operator manipulation whenever the slide must be locked back, such as during a Type 3 malfunction clearance or weapon unloading protocol. Therefore, Taylor had it reduced. Some sharp edges on the slide lock levers and takedown latch were also removed.
Above: For smoother operation with a wider variety of ammunition types, the sharp edges on the breech face were polished off and the feed ramp polished and slightly recontoured.
Top Left: The 2.0’s ambidextrous thumb safeties are well located for effective use, but had too many sharp edges, so they, too, were polished off. Bottom Left: To enhance its operation under stress, magazine release button was polished around its circumference to remove annoying sharp edges. Top Right: The stippling on the
2.0’s grip area is excessively abrasive on both skin and concealment clothing and was thus polished down prior to Cerakote refinishing.