My first new addition of 2014 is an Smith & Wesson M&P 357c. It's an interesting little powerhouse, and had I not already had 357 sig reloading components I probably would have passed this compact pistol up. However after taking it out on our first date and getting a feel for its frame, I think I've grown a fondness for her. The price of the meal was unbelievable, as .357 Sig ammo prices have only skyrocketed up - on top of the prepanic pricetag that was in the $30 per 50 range. The only boxes I found locally were $33 for Winchester whitebox 125gr FMJ 50 rounds or $42 for the same offering from American Eagle. The trade off for the lighter wallet was heavy firepower, the sig round is definitely a snappy performer with a wallop.
Short history of the .357 Sig round: Developed in 1994 by Sig Sauer, the round 9mm bullet in a necked down (but slightly longer) 40s&w case. It's one of the first commercial members of the bottle-neck pistol cartridge family. The reason behind the design was to match the performance of a .357 Magnum 125gr round fired from a 4 inch revolver, but with a higher capacity semi auto pistol with magazines. Law Enforcement was all over the .357 Sig in the mid-late 90's and early 2000's until the economy tanked and it became much more fiscal to switch back to 40sw or 9mm.
The 357c and its other M&P bretheren have earned a high reputation for concealability, firepower, and overall suitability. As a defensive caliber, its hard to disagree that the .357 sig has an edge. With an average velocity of 1,385 ft/s and muzzle energy of 532 ft·lb, the projectile has more gas than both its 9mm and 40sw competition. Penetration averages 12-16 inches depending on bullet type. This equates to more energy delivered to tissue, and less resistance from barriers and heavy clothing. In a compact like this M&P, its a great carry platform. Having 10+1 rounds may seem disadvantageous to some who are legally allowed to carry more, or have the body frame that allows for a full size grip. But for those who want something smaller and easier to carry, and still have confidence in what the caliber is capable of, the .357c seems like the ticket. Those with sausage fingers may find three or two digits on the frame is pretty skimpy, and those mag extenders with the pinky ledge maybe something worth getting. Just be sure to pick up that brass, because its not something you come across at the range often and even if you do not reload, someone out there does and will be grateful to do business with you.
To address the affordability of future dates with this dame, I picked up a conversion barrel from Storm Lake in 9mm. The barrel was about $150 after tax and shipping, and will surely pay for itself after a few range sessions. I picked up a couple 17rd full size 9mm magazine (thank you Washington State for not trying to limit that freedom, I'm keeping my eye on you though!) and some X-grip adapters that make those mags flush with the compact frame. The result is a very comfortable range shooter, the magazine combination does not detract from the ergonomics but adds to them, giving the grip a Walther-esque curve that just FITS my hands much to my surprise. The Storm Lake barrel is supposedly "Match" grade, and with my shooting I can only determine that it hits where I point it.
What I don't like about the M&P357c is its "ninja" trigger reset, which is barely noticeable at all. Someone who has never had the blessing/curse of developing muscle memory and shooting habits with a Glock or other polymer strikerfire pistol may not care about it, but it drives me nuts. I'm used to that audible and tangible reset, and if it doesn't go off I'm used to treating it as a malfunction. It is there just ever so slightly, so I will have to adjust sensitivity. Also, I despise the safety systems. M&P's seem to come in different safety varieties, the least of which I hate is the thumb safety surprisingly, and I've only seen it on a 9mm compact model once (Most including mine do not have this). All factory models sport a hinged trigger safety, which is disruptive to good trigger pulls IMHO, and can easily be defeated by a stick of lip balm, jacket drawstring, a pen, basically anything thats rigid enough and the right motion and the trigger will depress fully, which probably explains the 6.5 lb trigger weight. There are modifications for both of those issues out there with basic disassembly abilities and access to youtube. The other safety I really don't care for is the magazine safety, which deploys when a magazine is released from the gun. Sure it can prevent ND's from that infamous "last round in the chamber" from occurring when you pull the mag out, but there's really no substitute for competence of the firearm operator. If for whatever reason you are in a struggle and the magazine is ejected from your M&P you had better switch to melee mode, because you are now holding an expensive bludgeoning device. Of course not many crooks will know about that achilles heel of safeties, so practice that poker face!
Firearms Insider Reviews - 8 Key Points
Claim to Fame: No other polymer pistol offers this combination of versatility, durability and safety.
Target Market: Police, private security and civilian shooters.
FNBs: (Features and Benefits of this product)
- 3.5" Barrel, 6.7" Overall Length compact profile well suited for concealed carry.
- 22.2 oz unloaded
- Zytel Polymer Frame, Stainless Steel Barrel/Slide and Structural Components
- Replaceable backstraps in 3 different sizes.
- 6.5lb trigger pull
- 10+1 capacity with standard compact mags, accepts 15 round full size mags.
- Sights: Front Steel Ramp Dovetail Mount / Rear Steel Novak® Lo-Mount Carry. Tritium sights optional.
- Reversable magazine release.
- Accessory Rail
What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black only but there are FDE backstraps available.
What others are saying?: "This gun now serves as a backup and nightstand gun, because it is still an excellent shooter, concealable, comfortable to shoot, reliable, good capacity for its size (and can take a full sized magazine, so use that for a secondary for increased capacity), and very economically priced for the quality you are getting." Buds Guns Customer Review
I need it now! Availability: Personal sales, or convert a M&P40c. This model is no longer in production as is widely sought after. 357sig barrels are in high demand and low circulation as well.
+ Better ergonomics than Glock (Gen 3) in my collection - easy to customize to personal hand size - grip has good beavertail/concave area for web of hand
+ Trigger is relatively smooth (mine was used/broken in) and doesn't feel heavy as 6.5 lbs sounds.
+ Scalloped rear slide serrations work well.
+ Sights are bright and white, rear is by Novak
+ Easy to convert to 40sw or 9mm with conversion barrels from S&W or Storm Lake. Can accept a factory S&W 40c barrel, uses same mags.
- Trigger reset is almost negligible, not audible and barely tangible. Takes getting used to or modification.
- Taking down not as fluid as a glock or XD, requires a tool (integrated in grip) to pry a lever from inside the slide, makes cleaning or caliber swapping a slow process.
- I personally think the trigger safeties on M&P's are pointless. A wide margin of objects besides a finger could inside the trigger guard and deactivate safety with the right downward motion and cause accidental discharge.
- Not a big fan of the magazine safety either (will not fire when mag is ejected)
Score: 7.5 Good