Smith & Wesson M&P®9 Performance Center® Ported Pistol Review
Part 5 - Range Test
May 26, 2015

Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Review

In this part of the review I show my range test results for the Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol.  I took the pistol to the range for four different sessions and shot a total of about 500 rounds of ammunition and wish I had brought more.  The short version of my results is the pistol shoots great, the ported feature does seem to help reduce muzzle flip and I can see that the red dot greatly helps target acquisition which makes this platform more user friendly on those with less than perfect eyesight.

For the long version of my results... some of my goals for range testing were to see where the point of impact was when using the fixed (iron) sights, to zero the red dot sight, to check the firearm for overall bench accuracy, to get some chronograph data and finally to evaluate the pistol while shooting steel targets freehand (the fun stuff) to get a feel for the ported features ability to reduce muzzle flip and the optics ability to help get on target faster.

 

The ammunition I selected for range testing ended up being various types of 115gr 9mm ammunition.  I wanted to evaluate the bench accuracy with some premium Hornady ammunition and also with some value steel case ammunition (Tulammo) to see if there were any noticeable differences in performance.  Shooting the Hornady American Gunner and Critical Defense ammunition also gave me another bullet style (shape) to check for reliability when feeding.  The other ammunition selected was used primarily for evaluating performance at my steel target range.  The photo below shows some of the ammunition and my bench setup.  By chance, I had the red dot sight removed when taking these next photos for checking the point of impact for the iron sights.

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

The actual configuration of the pistol when using the Leupold DeltaPoint sight is shown below.  Refer to Part 3 for details on the different sights recommended by S&W along with installation information.

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

All my bench testing was done at 25 yards and the chronograph was setup about 10 feet in front of the muzzle.

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

To get things started, I put 9 rounds (finished up a box of Tulammo) into the magazine and gave the pistol it's first try at the bench to see where the red dot was adjusted.  The photo below shows those 9 rounds.  Although I clearly had 3 flyers as I was trying to settle into shooting from the bench, the other six that grouped together formed a 6-shot group of about 1.5" with cheap steel case Tulammo ammunition.  Based on this point of impact, some red dot adjustments were needed.  I also learned that my target styles would not be the best for shooting precision groups.  The 3.5 MOA red dot seemed to cover my center dot on the target too much.  The next morning I made a trip to Wal-Mart and picked up some targets that had bold circles that aided in alignment of the red dot in the center of the circles.

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

Since the Leupold DeltaPoint sight is always turned on (motion activated), it was distracting when trying to use the fixed sights only, so I decided to go ahead and remove the red dot sight and shoot some groups with just the fixed sights.  After looking at all my groups when shooting the fixed sights at 25 yards, I feel the point of impact seemed about 2" low and 1.5" to the left.  Overall this wasn't too bad and I will probably drift the rear sight over slightly, but first I wanted to get more rounds down range before I made the adjustment to confirm that my free hand shooting point of impact was consistently the same.

I only attempted to shoot groups at 25 yards with the two types of Hornady ammunition and the steel case Tulammo.  I did collect velocity data from the other brands of ammunition, but I used that ammo for shooting steel targets to evaluate how well the pistol and red dot sight performed on my steel plate range.  The table below summarized my bench results and you can see that my group average for all the groups using the red dot (15 different 5-shot groups) was 2.40".  I feel that I could have improved on this average if I had a slightly different bench setup.  For some reason I had a hard time getting in the groove and seemed to regularly have one shot that was outside the group.  If I discounted the groups to a 4-shot group by dropping the outside shot, I would have had a 1.77" total group average which I feel is very good for any pistol at 25 yards (for me).

Ammunition Stated
Velocity
(ft/sec)
Measured1
Velocity (ft/sec)
5-Shot
Group Size2 (in)
Avg Std
Dev.
Max Min Avg
Hornady American Gunner 115gr XTP (#90244) With Red Dot Sight 1155 1148 9 3.12 1.86 2.47
Hornady Critical Defense 115gr FTX (#90250) With Red Dot Sight 1140 1195 12 2.73 1.40 2.09
Tulammo 115gr FMJ With Red Dot Sight 1150 1150 16 3.43 1.34 2.63
Tulammo 115gr FMJ With Iron Sights 1150 1150 16 5.15 2.53 3.86
American Eagle 115gr FMJ (AE9DP) 1180 1233 9 - - -
PMC Bronze 115gr FMJ (9A) 1150 1125 14 - - -
Winchester (White Box) 115gr FMJ (Q4172) 1190 1201 20 - - -
Total For All Groups Using Red Dot Sight = 3.43 1.34 2.40
1 - Average velocity based on 10 shots with chronograph located ~10 feet from muzzle
2 - Group sizes based on five 5-shot groups at 25 yards shooting from a bench.

These next photos give you some proof that if you do your job, then the M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol will do it's job.  This first group was the best I shot using the Tulammo with the red dot sight.  My group average for shooting this ammunition with the iron sighs was 3.86" and with the red dot sight it was 2.63".  In my mind this is a significant difference and a testament to the benefit of a red dot for shooters that may struggle with bifocals.

Figure 5
Group Size = 1.34" at 25 yards
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Review

These next two groups are using the premium Hornady American Gunner and Hornady Critical Defense ammunition.  The group averages were slightly better using the Hornady ammunition which came it at 2.47" for the American Gunner and 2.09" for the Critical Defense ammunition.  Although it looks like only four holes in the right target below, the bottom left hole had a longer tear to account for the fifth shot.

Figure 6                                                                 Figure 7
Group Size 1.86" Hornady American Gunner               Group Size 1.40" Hornady Critical Defense
at 25 yards                                                             at 25 yards
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Review  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Review

Now for a few words on the Leupold DeltaPoint sight...  Based on my experience with this sight and trying to zero the sight, I would not recommend the DeltaPoint on this pistol because I was having trouble with my set screws for locking the sight adjustment.  Tightening them caused a zero shift when I tightened the screws.  You cannot leave the set screws loose because I tried it and I experienced zero shift when shooting the pistol.  After much frustration and at one moment debating throwing the sight in the lake, I was able to achieve a close enough zero for my range test purposes.  From my first hand experience, I feel another sight that has click adjustable windage and elevation features would be much more enjoyable for the shooter.  Since I purchased the "all mounts" kit for the DeltaPoint sight, it may be used on another shooting platform in the future.  Only time will tell and once I have recovered from the frustration of spending well over an hour trying to zero a sight, I might have another opinion as long as the zero does not shift over time.

Once the DeltaPoint was adjusted and I started using it at my steel target range, it was very enjoyable shooting this red dot configuration.  I was able to get on target fast and shift between targets quickly.  The trigger pull was great, but I did notice that the way the trigger safety pushes up on the side of my finger seemed more noticeable than I would have thought.  I believe this was because I tend to prefer a low finger perch on the trigger and someone else might not notice this.  The ported feature on the pistol allowed for faster subsequent shots and I was really getting the feel of this setup when I finished my last box of ammunition.  As I loaded my last magazine, I started thinking that now may finally be time to get a progressive reloading press because I'm sure I will be shooting this pistol much more in the future.

One observation I made was that if the slide was locked open and I inserted a new loaded magazine into the pistol firmly, this action alone would drop the slide automatically loading a round into the chamber.

One thing I noticed prior to cleaning the pistol was that the originally white dot front sight was now a dark gray color due to the gasses being ported up towards the sight.  A Q-tip swab and about 30 seconds seemed to clean the sight, so this didn't seem like too much of an issue considering that most likely you will have a red dot optic installed.

Figure 8 - Before Range Testing                                  Figure 9 - After Range Testing     
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Review  Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported Pistol Review

This last photo shows the ports on the barrel after range testing.  The only issue I see here is that this is just another location that will need some additional cleaning.

Figure 10

 

Thoughts

The Smith & Wesson M&P9 Performance Center Ported pistol is a great shooting pistol just like you would expect from the S&W and the Performance Center Shop.  The point of impact on the fixed sights was very close to the point of aim at 25 yards.  The pistol proved to have great bench accuracy with both premium and value ammunition.  Although the Leupold DeltaPoint may be a good sight, the location of the set screws to lock the adjustments does not allow locking the screws without removing the sight and locking the screws seemed to cause a shift in zero, so I would not recommend the Leupold sight on this pistol.  Shooting the pistol and sight combination at the steel targets was great fun and the red dot sight configuration along with the ported barrel were clearly noticeable benefits when making fast follow-up shots.

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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