How it Breaks: Smith & Wesson M&P

Shortly after the Military & Police line of pistols was introduced in 2005, they garnered mixed reviews. Some publications loved the M&P pistols, while others not so much. There were reports of problems right out of the box and they weren’t break-in problems either. They were things like consistent jamming and even the front sight falling off. Whether it was a fluke, legitimate production problem, or quality control issue, S&W has since worked out the kinks and rectified the problems.

To prove it, in 2008, published results from an endurance test that deemed the M&P worthy of recognition. It took eight months of shooting and a total of 62,333 rounds to break the gun in a way that would be considered unsafe (even though it still worked) by a lawyer. The report is actually quite substantial, but the problem was very small: a tiny, little crack in the slide.

But they also identified a potential weakness in the gun that many M&P owners can attest to. Just remember, every gun has a weakness, but with safe handling and proper maintenance, most problems and unnecessary wear are preventable. For a Beretta 92: the design directs a lot of pressure onto the locking block, so don’t run it excessively hard for too long; for old model Glocks, it’s the ka-booms, so use quality ammo; and in the M&P’s case, it’s a broken slide stop.

In case you didn’t know, the slide stop locks open the slide when a magazine is empty. And if the slide closes after a magazine empties, the shooter may think there’s a round in the chamber when there really isn’t. And that can be dangerous, for say, a police officer during a gunfight.

What causes the slide stop to break? Well, when the slide is locked back on the M&P and a loaded magazine is slammed into the magwell with a little extra umph, the slide will drop on its own. Doing this too much, or too frequently, will cause premature wear on the slide stop.

And the slide stop isn’t much – it’s actually just a little nub on the inside of the gun. The slide stop notch actually has a lot of room, too, so there’s a difference when the slide locks back automatically on an empty magazine and when a user locks it manually.

A user can raise the slide stop higher up on the notch with his or her thumb than the lock can on its own (it may just catch the corner).

To avoid premature wear, practice inserting the magazine with a moderate amount of force – just enough to seat the magazine – and then release the slide manually.

And if the slide drops every time a magazine is inserted, then inspect the slide stop because it may have to be replaced. It costs about $18. I’ve heard about it breaking after 5,000 rounds if ran hard, but, if used properly, it can last as many as 20,000 or more.

But don’t let the minor maintenance woes discourage you from buying an S&W M&P. It’s a favorite for many when it comes to personal protection, law enforcement, and competitive shooting. And as long as it’s well maintained, the M&P will be reliable and shoot straight for a long, long time.

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