Since I started carrying a handgun on a regular basis, I’ve tried dozens of different carry guns of all types; full size semi-autos, compacts, revolvers big and small, tiny pocket rocket .380s, and vintage Cold War-Era military surplus pistols. And that’s not even counting the guns I’ve carried as part of research for reviews — just my personal carry options. I tend to have a hard time making a major decision unless I know what all my options are. So in the case of carry pistols, I tried as many as I could before really committing.

If you’re a long-time reader of the Lounge, then you know that the carry pistol I finally settled on is the M&P 9c — Smith & Wesson’s compact 9mm version of their polymer framed, striker-fired M&P pistol. I started carrying this gun about five years ago, and while I’ve tried a few other carry guns here and there during that time, I always end up coming back to the compact M&P. I shot this quick video this week to explain why I picked the M&P 9c, what I like about it, and what I’d like to change if I could.

The Best Carry Pistol Ever!?

I wouldn’t say the M&P 9c unequivocally the best carry gun on the market, but it’s the best one I’ve found that I can comfortably carry and easily conceal in almost any of my clothes while still maintaining the qualities of a good fighting pistol: reliable operation, effective caliber, manageable recoil, and decent ammo capacity.

Chris Baker w/ M&P9c

Notice that there’s a lot of subjectivity in those qualities, and a lot of room for debate. However, when measured against those factors, the M&P 9c comes out looking pretty good by most standards, and I believe it’s underrated in that respect. The “serious” self-defense crowd has embraced the Glock 19 as the go-to all-around carry pistol. And I have a hard time arguing with that — it’s a fantastic self-defense tool and probably as close to a universal, generic “best carry gun” as we’re going to get. But for reasons I explain in the video, the M&P compact just works better for me, and I recommend it without hesitation right alongside the G19.

If you’re newer to concealed carry, a fat double stack pistol might seem intimidating for a first carry gun. That’s okay — a lot of people take some time to experiment with different holsters and carry methods and eventually work their way up from the pocket pistols to slightly heavier, but more effective handguns. If you’re a little farther along that continuum and you’ve been carrying a small single stack and want to upgrade to something a bit more formidable but still easy to carry, the M&P 9c is an excellent next step, and definitely worthy of consideration.

Smith & Wesson M&P9c


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42 thoughts on “Five Years with the Smith & Wesson M&P 9c

  1. I found my way to the same decision you’ve made about a year ago.

    I carried mainly 1911’s for the last 27 years, but, based on “current events;” I settled on the 9c with a full size 17 round mag with X-grip for a reload.

    I also carry the full size M&P9 on occasion; but the 9c is my EDC of choice.

    1. I do exactly the same. Note that for the reload, I find the full-sized mag filled with 17 rnds takes an extra hard tap to seat it home. For that reason I always load 16 for the reload mag to make reload with adrenaline dump as easy as possible. Great gun, have had Zero malfunctions in 3000 rnds.

      1. I don’t have that problem with any of my 15 17 round mags, but some are nine years old now, and all have been used a good bit.

        I’m also in the habit of seating all my mags forcefully (all my M&P9’s “auto load” with 100% reliability).

        As far as the comments about mags releasing in the holster; I won’t own a holster for any make of auto pistol that makes contact with the mag release. So that’s a non-issue for me.

        1. Of course a forceful “tap rack” is always appropriate, and I do. But it requires a distinctly more forceful “tap” to sink it home when 12 or 17 are loaded than when 11 or 16 rnds are loaded. I want to make reloads as uniform as possible, especially for tactical or speed reloads. Doing that, I have never had any feed issues

  2. When out and about in casual dress I prefer an H&K USP 40 Compact or an S&W 469 9 mm. When I am in something like a suit I prefer a Sig P230 in a .380 caliber. All of it is good if you practice drawing from a concealed holster and accurately use it as it is meant to be used. Stay safe!

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  4. Have you ever had problems with premature magazine release? I have three M&Ps and when carried in an IWB holster they ALL release the magazine if just slightly bumped. The mag release button seems to have a VERY light spring. In fairness, it has ALSO HAPPENED WITH MY GLOCK 19 !!!

    1. Never had that issue. What kind of holster are you using? If it adequately covers and protects the magazine release, this shouldn’t happen.

  5. If S&W made a pistol in the same size class as the G19 (15+1, 4″) I would certainly give it a hard look. The 9C is nearly a subcompact.

    1. The full size M&P is comparable to the G19. Barrel length 4.25″, 17+1 capacity. Check it out at the S&W site. Be careful not to chose the “California” model; it holds only 10 rounds. The 9c is smaller, as you noted. Actually smaller than my G17, which I don’t really like. S&W 9c seems to shoot softer and is more comfortable in my hand.

      1. The full-size M&P is still a bigger gun. G17 sized, but without whatever voodoo Glock performs to squeeze in a slightly longer barrel than virtually everyone else in the same class.

  6. Agree, Trijicon HD sights are great. Love my M&M9c.

    Kahr makes the best tactile loaded chamber indicator. The extractor stands proud of the slide when a round is chambered. Even in the dark, one-handed, you know the weapon’s status as your right index finger can easily feel the extractor.

    1. Theoretically, a loaded chamber indicator that is both visual and tactile like the Karh’s would be better. The M&P’s loaded chamber indicator is basically just a hole in the chamber/slide that allows you to see the rim of the cartridge in the chamber if there is one present. It’s not tactile, but somehow being able to actually *see* the round in the chamber gives me more confidence than an extractor style indicator. It’s not really logical, but I like it.

  7. I’m new to handguns and have an M&P Shield 9. I shoot low and left with it with pretty consistent groupings and figured it was due to flinching and definitely something I was doing wrong. After following your tips about trigger control and how to fix the problem of shooting low and left, I’m still having difficulty. When I shot my dad’s old Taurus 9mm this weekend, I was MUCH more accurate with it. It has a longer barrel, so I don’t know if that has anything to do with it. How can I tell if it’s the sights or the shooter? I assumed it was definitely me since I don’t have a lot of experience with pistols, but when I shot a different 9mm and was more accurate, it made me wonder.

    1. Hey Jason, it can take a really long time to overcome issues of trigger control and recoil anticipation with smaller pistols like the Shield. Assuming the Taurus 9mm was a larger gun, it’s not unusual that you’d shoot it better. That said, there’s always the possibility that the Shield’s sights are not aligned correctly. If possible, ask an experienced and competent shooter to try shooting a few rounds through it and see if they have the same issues. If that’s not feasible, try shooting the Shield from some kind of sandbags or rest to reduce the probability of jerking the trigger off target. If you’re shooting at an indoor range, you can also try doubling up hearing protection (earplugs and muffs). That seems to help a lot of people with recoil anticipation/flinching. Good luck!

    2. The Taurus is probably larger than the Shield; it aims better, is heavier, and absorbs more recoil. That’s why you may shoot it better. However, if the groups with your Shield are consistent, flinching probably is not the issue. Trigger control probably isn’t either; jerking the trigger normally moves the strike of the round to the same side as the dominant hand. I’m going to guess that your dominant hand is the right hand; few of us are lefties like me. Your rounds are going in the opposite direction. Thus, I’d say that your grip is affecting point of impact. I have similar experience with point of impact, but mine is to the right side of the target. I’m less concerned about hitting the 10 ring than being able to stop the threat. Two suggestions: 1) drift adjust the sights, which will change the point of impact, or 2) leave it alone and be confident about where your groups are. I have chosen the latter, because my groups tend to be right over the heart area when I aim center of mass. So, I felt it best to leave well enough alone. I may not be the expert that Chris is because I no longer make my living with firearms; I have only my 28 years as an Infantry soldier to draw from. So take the advice for what you will.

  8. I have both the Shield and the M&Pc. Like others here, experienced magazine release and hits off-center with the compact. I’m a lefty, so I had switched the release button; instant trouble. Anytime I bumped the pistol or sat down, the magazine would release. Switched it back to the original position, end of trouble. The button is protected within the holster and doesn’t get bumped. As for off-center hits, aiming center of mass puts all rounds about 2 inches left and 1 inch low, consistently. Probably related to my grip, as I trained with and carried the 1911A1 in service. Not worried about the point of impact because I know where the rounds are going to strike. Carry the compact during the winter as it’s a little warm during Texas summers and I find the Shield more comfortable under like light clothing. Also have not had the release issue with the Shield. I do think the Shield trigger is a little heavy but not going to change. The heavy pull favors a deliberate action, so I’m not likely to be guilty of accidental discharge. Thanks for the great, honest review of the compact.

    1. The comments here are the first I’ve heard of the mag release issues. I haven’t experienced that myself but I’ll be looking into it.

      Your accuracy issues are not all that surprising. My understanding is that most handguns are not tested for accuracy at the factory, so a couple of inches between point of aim and point of impact is not irregular. Of course, as you mentioned, it could also be shooter error. If not, the sights can be drifted with a hammer and punch to correct the windage issue. The elevation will change slightly with different ammo loads.

  9. For what it’s worth, I currently am using holsters from AlienGear for both S&W pistols. I find them comfortable, easy to put on/take off, and more affordable that others. Tried Galco’s King Tuk; didn’t like it at all. The AlienGear holsters are similar in design, but much more comfortable. Started with the Cloak Tuck 1, which is leather backed. A little stiff for the first couple of days, but it conformed nicely. Leather is thicker than Galco’s. Now have the neoprene backed Clock Tuck 2. Light weight, no stiffness, immediately comfortable. Only complaint is that the holster’s extended tab ( it runs up behind the frame of the pistol) tends to curl over, making initial holstering/re-holstering a little more difficult. Saw several posts at AlienGear forum about that. Looks like AlienGear actually listens to their customers. They now have the Cloak Tuck 3, which uses a spring steel insert and seems to address the issue. Haven’t tried it yet.

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  10. A lot of people say the M&P compact got a much better trigger a couple years ago. Any info on this?

    1. S&W changed the trigger on all the M&P pistols a couple of years ago and it it is indeed much improved, but I still prefer the Apex modified trigger.

      1. I’ve been looking at the Apex upgrades for my 9c too. Specifically the DCAEK that was shown in your video, their aluminum trigger, and their reset assist mechanism. Do you have any experience with each of these and know which ones are worthwhile?

        1. I have only used the DCAEK and would say it’s very worthwhile. I haven’t tried their aluminum trigger and haven’t really felt it was necessary, but I’ve heard good things about it.

      2. In Canada the Apex trigger is $200. I cant justify spending $200 on a trigger for $650 gun

  11. I have a butt-load of Isreali military 9mm ammo. Will the 9c’s slide and frame hold up to the extra pressure and recoil?

  12. Just bought mine today. I’ve gone from S&W SD40 (too big) down to the Glock 43 (too small). Here’s hoping the MP 9c is just right

  13. 1) Has S&W stopped production of this wonderful pistol?? They still make and sell the model in .40S&W but their website shows the 9c being “archived” – and I cannot find stock barrels to convert my 40c to 9mm which I prefer.

    The M&P Shield rocks as a carry gun, but the M&P 9c (or 40c) is, in my eyes, the perfect carry gun — the Goldilocks pistol if you will. Just small enough to carry (conceals quite easily), but big enough to hold plenty of ammo and to shoot with a full grip. The crazy-smooth recoil is simply an added bonus.

    Over the last few years of going from non-shooter to gun enthusiast, I have settled on the M&P line as the best I can find – and I have looked and owned a lot in these few short years (4 or 5). Started with the full-size, the was loaned an M&P 40c. Loved it so much, I ordered an M&P Shield sight-unseen. Best decision I ever made! The Shield and “c” make for fantastic conceal-carry options. The former for deep cover if desired and the latter for “everyday” carry, IWB or otherwise.

    I hate to buy aftermarket stuff, so I may just get an M&P 9c before they are all gone.

      1. Yeah, for some reason S&W’s website was showing the 9mm in the “Archive” section, but further investigation revealed I can upon some anomaly caused in part by a change of stock numbers or some such thing.

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