|M&P 9 Thumb Safety, with Boresight Solutions 10-8 Package|
I have been shooting a S&W M&P 9mm full size with thumb safety since October. I had decided to bring the gun to the OpSpec Advanced Pistol Operator course, and was very glad that I spent the time with the gun. I have since reached a new level of mastery of the gun, and its mild recoil has done a lot for reducing the pain in my damaged elbows. I like the gun so much that I will be shooting USPSA Production Division most of this year using some variant of the M&P 9mm.
I frequently get asked for my recommendations for various pistols, and the M&P has always been at the top of the list no matter what caliber or size pistol was being discussed. I have over 5100 rounds through my one gun since late October, and my time with the thumb safety variant has given me a new appreciation of its value on the M&P. I am quite sold on it as a transition gun for a 1911 devotee.
First, let's discuss why the gun works for me, a lifelong devotee of the 1911. The M&P bore axis and grip angle are a very close approximation to the 1911, making it immediately more familiar to a 1911 user. The thumb safety placement and operation make the transition between M&P and 1911 quite seamless, and its presence is really the deal closer for me using the M&P in place of a 1911. Even though I am able to transition easily between other platforms, the sheer amount of time that I have behind a 1911 means that my thumb is habitually looking for something to do. A standard M&P does not have quite the same appeal for me, and all of the M&P's that I will have in rotation this year will be thumb safety models. The placement and use of the mag catch and slide stop also encourage a common manual of arms with a 1911. For slide lock reloads, I hit the slide stop with my support hand thumb, like I do on the 1911. It is a little slower than dropping the slide with the shooting hand thumb (possible on the Glock and M&P, but not recommended on the 1911 due to slide stop placement), but being consistent between platforms precludes any goofs when transitioning between guns.
Some other benefits of the M&P include its light weight - 28 oz with an empty magazine, and 36 oz with 18 rounds aboard. Compare to the 1911, which is 39 oz with an empty magazine, and 46 oz with 9 rounds aboard. The weight savings is significant for a duty rig, and a great benefit to those who have to carry a gun for extended periods. The M&P is a significantly lower maintenance platform than the 1911, and it is a nice break to not have to worry about wiping it down after a lot of sweat or rain, and not bothering much with cleaning or lubrication. The pistol was not cleaned during the last 2000 rounds of use, and only lubricated 2-3 times. It was not sluggish during any part of the service cycle, and probably could have easily gone another 1000 rounds.
M&P's in their factory configuration have a reputation for varying somewhat in the accuracy department. My particular sample is not one of those, as I have shot a sub 3" group, standing offhand at 25 yds. It does show some preference for ammunition, and you'll do well to find what your gun likes best for accuracy. The .45 caliber M&P's are known for excellent accuracy in their stock configuration. I look forward to experimenting with the Apex/BarSto barrels when they become available.
The quality of the factory triggers can vary, but I have had decent luck with guns out of the box. An Apex Duty Carry Action Enhancement Kit (DCAEK) is a simple fix for trigger woes, and their RAM (Reset Assist Mechanism)can add a more positive reset. I do not shoot to reset and am not dependent on a tactile reset sensation, so I actually hadn't really noticed the soft reset of the M&P until someone else pointed it out to me.
The M&P has also become a bit like the 1911 of the plastic gun world in that folks feel compelled to tinker with it. My "must have" mod set would be the Apex DCAEK, a 10-8 sight set and 10-8 base pads. Frame texturing such as the Boresight Solutions 10-8 package, which includes aggressive grip texturing around the grip frame and under the trigger guard, a front strap high cut, and a clearance cut at the front strap for the base pads, is a very nice luxury addition to the package and has an excellent feel that offers very similar traction to an aggressively checkered 1911. You can spend as much or as little as you want on the M&P. With a street price of around $500, add either $40 for the Apex sear alone or $90 for the entire DCAEK, about $75 for new sights, $60 for three 10-8 base pads, $25 for a third mag - you're under $800 for a very capable and reliable setup.
Rather than spend a ton of money on setting up a 9mm 1911 and constantly attending to it to make sure it works, 1911 guys would do well to just get a M&P 9 with thumb safety and call it good. I'm my own gunsmith, and that's what I have chosen to do.