Smith & Wesson M&P®9 Performance Center® Ported Pistol Review
Part 3 - External & Operational Features
May 27, 2015

Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Review

In this part of my S&W M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol review, I show the external and operation features of this pistol.  This pistol is a full size pistol chambered in 9mm with a black coated stainless steel slide, uncoated stainless steel barrel and a black polymer grip frame.

 

The stainless steel slide is actually Melonite coated which is a thermochemical treatment for improving surface properties of metals.  These improvements increase surface hardness, lower coefficients of friction, enhance surface lubricity, improve running wear performance, increase slide wear resistance and enhance corrosion resistance.  The polymer frame is made from Zytel (trademark owned by DuPont) which is used for its high strength and abrasion / impact resistance.

Figure 1
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Review

Some of the unique features that you notice immediately are the cutouts in the slide and barrel, nylon cover for the C.O.R.E. mount location and tall sights.

Figure 2
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Review

Also, the left side of the slide displays the respected "Performance Center" branding which gives you an idea that there are other internal enhancements as well.

Figure 3
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Review

The Ported model also comes with three different palmswell grip inserts which include extra texturing for positive gripping.  All these features are enhancements to the standard M&P9 pistols and these enhancements cater more to the target or competition shooters preference.

Figure 4
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Review

I included these photos from Part 2 because they make this part of the review more complete and I like having them all on one page for my own reference.  This pistol measured 1.3" in width which was across both the grip insert and slide stop. 

Figure 5
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Top View

The pistol measured 5.75" in height and 8.4" in length which was slightly shy of the 8.5" in the specifications (no big deal).

Figure 6
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Right View

Figure 7
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Bottom View

Figure 8                                                  Figure 9                                                       Figure 10
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Rear View  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Left View  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Rear View

The pistol with magazine and no optic weighed in at 1 pound 11.4 ounces (27.4 ounces).  Without the magazine it weighed in at 24.4 ounces which is very close to the advertised weight of 24.1 ounces.

Figure 11
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Weight

One of the first things you will notice about these ported handguns are the oval cutouts in the slide.  The 5" barrel pistol has eight cutouts as shown below and the 4.25" barrel pistol has six.

Figure 12
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Ports

Only the forward cutout in the slide is actually needed for porting the gasses and the remaining cutouts give the pistol a unique look along with removing a small amount of weight.  The cutouts are about 0.21" in width and 0.42" in length.  In the area of the cutouts, the slide is about 0.10 thick, so the total weight removed by the six extra cutouts is only about 0.21 ounces.

Figure 13
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Barrel Ports

The ported slot in the barrel starts about 0.70" from the end of the barrel and is about .09" wide and 0.40" long.

Figure 14
M&P9 Ported Barrel Slots

The front left side of the slide is engraved with "M&P9L" as shown below.  The "L" refers to this pistol being a long barrel version which seems to be a designation adopted for the C.O.R.E. model pistols

Figure 15
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Slide

The bottom of the polymer frame under the barrel includes an integrated 3-slot Picatinny rail which is about 1.45" in length.

Figure 16
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Rail

The rail and slide length works well with a full size handgun light such as the Streamlight TLR-1 or 2 Series. 

Figure 17
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol with Light

The barrel is stainless steel and comes with a 5-groove RH rifling with a 1:10" twist rate.  I also verified this twist rate by contacting S&W.

Figure 18
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Barrel

The C.O.R.E. pistols come with a set of high 3-dot white sights.  The height of these sights is intended to allow you to co-witness through your optic system.  The front sight is not intended to be adjusted.

Figure 19
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Front Sight

The rear sight is intended to be drift adjustable for windage only.

Figure 20
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Rear Sight

I'm a fan of the three dot sight pictures and the gaps between the front sight post and rear notch in the photo below looks pretty close to how your sights would look at arms length.

Figure 21
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Sight Picture

I'm going to talk about sight selection further in the review, but I wanted to discuss the taller sights and co-witnessing some more.  Some optical sights such as the Burris FastFire III can be installed on the slide, but the height of the body of the FastFire III covers most of the view of the front post.  Other sights such as the Burris FastFire II allow you to see your front post and acquire a standard sight picture using your fixed sights.  The height of the fixed sights on this pistol will allow you to get a good sight picture when using the appropriate optic.  This allows you to use either your fixed sights or optical sight at any moment.  When the optic is installed and operational, I would consider the fixed sights to function more as a backup sight.  For some people, the fixed sights aid in getting the pistol into a near sight alignment and then they shift their focus to the red dot.

Figure 22 - Burris FastFire III                                    Figure 23 - Burris FastFire II     
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol With Burris FastFire III  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol With Burris FastFire II

The rear sight has a set screw for locking the windage position.  I checked the screws tightness and it seemed sufficient.  In front of the rear sight is the polymer C.O.R.E cover which is held in place with two screws.  C.O.R.E. is the acronym for Competition Optics Ready Equipment.  As the name implies, optics installed at this location would be considered more for competition (or target) shooting than for normal defense applications, although they could prove to be very effective for any application.

Figure 24
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol CORE Cover

When the C.O.R.E. cover is removed, you see various features such as threaded optic mounting holes, two raised areas to help transfer recoil to the optical sight mounting plate (instead of the screws), the striker block access cover and the roll pin for the extractor.

Figure 25
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol CORE Cover Removed

S&W provides a table in the Instruction Manual that lists the sights that will work directly with their C.O.R.E. system.  Note that I already showed two Burris sights installed on this pistol, so other sights are possible even though they are not listed in this table.  Also note that just because another sight can be installed doesn't mean that the sight will allow you to co-witness with the fixed sights.  The table shown below also identifies the appropriate mounting plate and screws to use with the sight you select.

Figure 26
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Mounting Plate Matrix

Since I already proved both the FastFire II and FastFire III sights will work on this pistol, the mounting plates and screws shown below are the ones needed for mounting these sights.

Figure 27                                                            Figure 28
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol FastFire II Mounting Plate  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol FastFire III Mounting Plate

This next photo shows the five different sets of mounting plates and four different pairs of mounting screws that come with the pistol.  Each screw comes with some preinstalled thread locking compound.

Figure 29
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Mounting Plate and Screws

Although I could have used one of my Burris sights, I decided to go with the Leupold DeltaPoint as my red dot sight.  The DeltaPoint was on sale at Cabela's for $350 for the 3.5 MOA All Mounts version which seemed like a good price.  This Leupold sight is also the one that S&W shows when marketing their Ported pistols as seen below so I felt it was worth checking out.  If I had to make the decision again today, I might have selected another sight for this pistol (make sure you read my Range Test Results for comments on this sight because I would have preferred something easier to adjust).

Figure 30
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Marketing

These next photos show the Leupold sight installed on this M&P9L Performance Center Ported pistol which I feel makes an extremely attractive combination and I also think that is why S&W selected it for their marketing photos.

Figure 31
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Leupold DeltaPoint Installed

Figure 32
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Leupold DeltaPoint Installed Top View

Figure 33
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Leupold DeltaPoint Installed Left View

Based on the mount selection table above, it took the Type 2 plate and Type B screws to mount the sight.  This DeltaPoint sight gives you the full co-witness capability with the fixed sights.

                                     Figure 34                                                           Figure 35
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Leupold DeltaPoint Installed Left View  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Leupold DeltaPoint Installed Rear View

For these next photos, I must say up front that the dot size in the photos is larger than what you see when looking through the sight with your eyes because the focus of the camera lens is focused on the fixed sights (not the dot).  The dot size looks more like the bright center spot inside the red dot shown.  The photo on the left shows the fixed sights and red dot in a true co-witness configuration.  The photo on the right shows the dot in the center of the window and you can see how the fixed sights appear to aim upward.  The photo on the right having the red dot centered in the window is what you will most likely see during your normal shooting situations for best field of view.

Figure 36                                                              Figure 37
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Leupold DeltaPoint Co-Witness  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Leupold DeltaPoint Sight Picture

In this next photo I shifted the camera lens focus to infinity (where the dot appears) to give you a better idea of the actual dot size with this sight.  Leupold states the dot size is  3.5 MOA.

Figure 38
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Leupold DeltaPoint Red Dot Size

The optical sight sits just behind the ejection port and in front of the rear sight.  The outside portion of the chamber of the stainless steel barrel has a polished look.

Figure 39
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Slide Rear

The top of the barrel chamber is marked with the caliber "9 MM".  The Instruction Manual states the following on the use of +P ammunition.

“Plus-P” (+P) ammunition generates pressures in excess of the pressures associated with standard ammunition. Such pressures may affect the wear characteristics or exceed the margin of safety. Use of “Plus-P” ammunition may result in the need for more frequent service.

Since this handgun is marketed more toward a competition role, I doubt shooting +P ammunition would be desired and most likely I will never do it.

There is a half circle cutout at the rear of the barrel's chamber which functions as a window to let you see if a cartridge is in the chamber.  In the right photo below you can see the silver colored case in the chamber to identify that the gun is loaded.

Figure 40 - Unloaded                                             Figure 41 - Loaded
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Chamber Markings  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Loaded Chamber

The right side of the slide has "SMITH & WESSON" along with "SPRINGFIELD, MA U.S.A." milled into the slide.  Also, in white lettering is the "CAUTION - CAPABLE OF FIRING WITH MAGAZINE REMOVED" warning statement. 

Figure 42
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Slide Markings

The polymer frame has a metal plate which appears to be glued to the polymer surface.  The plate contains the serial number engraved along with a 2D bar code printed on the front of the plate.  I used my cell phone to scan the code and the results were "06 17V55358 1P279380000 SHUS8823".  I recognize the serial number in the last set of numbers, but am not sure about the others.  On the right side of the pistol is the ambidextrous slide stop and you can see the end of the magazine catch button.  The button can be removed and installed so that button is on the right side if desired.

The trigger has a lower portion that functions as a trigger safety.  As the lower portion of the trigger is pulled, the upper portion above the pivot pin pivots up/forward to allow the trigger to be pulled.  As I mentioned earlier in the review, the trigger pull on this pistol came in at about 7 pounds which was not as advertised for these Performance Center pistols.  I immediately sent the pistol back to S&W and they replaced the sear and the pistol now comes it at 5.4 pounds based on 10 pulls using a digital trigger pull scale.  This was in the range of 4 to 5.5 pounds advertised, but I was hoping for closer to a 4.5 pound pull.  Reset on the trigger was only about 0.07" from the adjustable overtravel stop.

S&W advertises the action as a "Striker Fire (Double Action)" pistol, but I struggle believing that "double action" would apply to a trigger having a reset as short as 0.07".

Figure 43
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Trigger

The overtravel stop can be adjusted by removing the grip insert and putting the provided Allen wrench through the hole in the rear of the grip and adjusting the stop.  I was able to adjust the overtravel stop closer to the trigger by about one turn and still get a reliable trigger pull.

                                                  Figure 44                                                            Figure 45
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Overtravel Stop  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Overtravel Stop

The left side of the slide includes the "Performance Center" branding along with the S&W logo at the rear.  Earlier I showed the "M&P9L" at the front (not shown in the photo below).  The controls on the left side are the ambidextrous slide stop and magazine catch button (remember the magazine catch can be reversed to the right side).  You can also see the takedown lever above the trigger.

Figure 46
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Slide Marking

The slide comes with their standard wave pattern serrations for a no-slip surface when racking the slide.  I found that the pattern provided a good textured surface, but was not so aggressive that it dig into your finger tips.  S&W chose to remove the manual safety lever which is probably the right choice for a competition pistol and this is the same as their other Pro Series pistols.  Therefore, the only safety features preventing the pistol from firing are the trigger safety and striker block.  The striker bock is internal and prevents the striker from moving forward until the trigger is pulled.

Figure 47
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Serations

The pistol comes with three different size palmswell grip inserts; small, medium, large.  The medium grip insert was installed on the pistol and the other two were in the case.  It was easy to notice the difference in the feel of the grip with each different insert.  The large grip was clearly for larger hands and the small for a smaller hands.  For my hand size, I'm leaning more towards the medium insert, but I may try the large insert out at some point.

Figure 48 - Small                        Figure 49 - Medium                        Figure 50 - Large
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Small Grip  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Medium Grip  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Large Grip

Changing out the inserts is very easy.  Twist the end of the pin at the bottom of the grip 1/4 turn and pull it downward out of the grip (the pin on this pistol was very snug).  The grip inserts can then be pulled off by tilting them out at the bottom as shown below.

Figure 51                                                         Figure 52                      
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Grip Removal  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Grip Removal

Identification of the different size inserts is easy because the size is molded into the underside of the insert.  Without these markings, recognizing the large grip is easy due to it having a slightly different profile in the beaver tail area, but recognizing the differences between the small and medium is slightly more difficult.

Figure 53
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Grips

The pistol comes with two 17 round magazines giving the pistol it's 17+1 capability.  The magazines have a steel body with polymer follower and floor plate.  The front of the magazines are stamped with the caliber "9 mm" and the S&W logo.  The photos below show one of the magazines in detail.

Figure 54
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Magazine

The magazines have holes in each side to show how many rounds are loaded into the magazine.

Figure 55
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Magazin

Figure 56
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Magazin

   Figure 57                                                  Figure 58                                                    Figure 59
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Magazin  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Magazin  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Magazin

No, this is not a Blackhawk Serpa Holster advertisement, but I will say that I'm a big fan of this style holster and wanted to get one for this pistol.  I already had a holster that fit my M&P22 pistol, but that holster does not work with the M&P9L PC Ported pistol because the combination of taller front sight and longer slide caused the sight to fully extend below the bottom of the holster.  This caused the front sight to snag on the holster and the channel for front sight was also too shallow.  After doing some research, I found that the Blackhawk holster size 13 shown below works so I ordered one. 

Figure 60
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Blackhawk Serpa Holster

The exact model number is 413513BK-R.  Although the front of the packaging states "Glock 20/21/37", the back of the package also adds "S&W M&P .45 9/40" to this holster's size description.  At the Blackhawk website, they also add the words "Pro" to the S&W portion of the description.  It would be nice if they also added the "C.O.R.E." acronym so that it is more clear because S&W does make a Pro version that does not have the taller sights.

Figure 61
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Blackhawk Serpa Holster

These next two photos show the pistol inside the holster and how much the barrel and sight stick out the end of the holster for this 5" barrel pistol.  The sight cannot snag on the front of the holster and the channel for the taller sight is barely deep enough, but works.  I will be honest in saying that the top of the sight does contact the bottom of the channel and this does cause a little resistance.  If I press the release button with the pistol held with the barrel pointed up, the pistol will not drop freely from the holster like on my other pistols with their appropriate Serpa holsters.  Personally, I don't think this resistance is significant and makes no significant difference when drawing and holstering the pistol.

                                  Figure 62                                                          Figure 63
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Blackhawk Serpa Holster  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Blackhawk Serpa Holster

 

Thoughts

In my mind, there is no doubt that S&W has a great product with this new C.O.R.E Ported Performance Center M&P9 pistol.  The features are ones geared towards a target or competition shooters preference.  The only issue I found was the trigger pull was out of specification and S&W immediately fixed that issue.  Take your time to look closely at all the potential red dot sights on the market and read other reviews to make your most informed selection when it comes time for your optics purchase.  For those Serpa Holster fans, you have an option that works.

For more detailed photos and commentary, make sure you check out the other parts of this review and feel free to leave comments below.  The following links are provided to help you see other parts of this review. 


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