We’re throwing it back to one of the original Smith & Wesson Performance Center handguns, the M&P9L. One recently found its way into the Guns.com Vault, and we thought it was worth plucking it out for a closer look. 

These guns rolled out of Smith & Wesson for over a decade, but how do they stand up to the test of time? With new souped-up handguns flowing onto the market every year now, it’s worth seeing what this older one still has to offer. So, let’s take a closer look, review the history of this gun, and hit the range for some trigger time. 

Table of Contents

Video Review
Range Testing 
Specs & Features
Final Thoughts

Video Review


The M&P platform ran in its first version configuration for 12 years. Through the course of a decade, Smith & Wesson managed to harness a very large and loyal fan base. The Performance Center M&P9L, just as it sounds, is the performance version of the M&P from Smith & Wesson. It is a very proven pistol and still holds a special place in the minds of many shooters. Though this particular model was replaced by the 2.0 version, which came out in 2017, it’s still an excellent option for someone who wants a Performance Center M&P.  

Performance Center M&P9L
With features normally only found on customized guns modified after purchase, such as lightening cuts on the slide and porting, the Performance Center M&P9L represented refinement right from the factory. (Photo: Taylor Abney/Guns.com)

The M&P is one of the only factory striker-fired pistols to have a 1911 grip angle, and it comes with a slew of added features when coming out of the Performance Center shop. The Performance Center takes things to the next level over standard production pistols, incorporating semi-custom features while still remaining true to the overall stock pistol. These guns receive more polishing and fitment, making them more geared towards competition and target shooting overall. 

Range Time Testing


Performance Center M&P9L
The fiber-optic sights made the gun much more competition and target-shooting friendly. Plus, it's a feature that is even a pleasant surprise to find on many factory guns today. (Photo: Taylor Abney/Guns.com)

I actually became more familiar with the 2.0 version before handling an original version such as this one. By encountering them in reverse order, you realize where many of the great features of the current version actually came from, such as the takedown tool and the ported slide. This gun was incredibly innovative when it came out. 

The M&P is very comfortable to shoot. Though there were a lot of changes that came with the 2.0, the difference in shooting them is not earth-shattering. I even took the time to compare this pistol to a fully modified Fueled by Ed Brown 2.0 version and, for someone who doesn't need all the racy bells and whistles but still wants some, it really is perfect. 

Performance Center M&P9L
The porting on the barrel and slide show themselves while shooting, helping to keep the gun flat and on target. (Photo: Taylor Abney/Guns.com)

I truly enjoyed putting this Performance Center through the paces, and it surely would handle whatever was thrown at it. The long slide and ported barrel help to reduce recoil. Even getting a ported barrel from the factory was a pretty innovative idea when this was first offered, and the dual 11 and 1 o’clock cuts really do make a difference. 

Performance Center M&P9L
The grip texture, in particular, marked a big improvement over the normal factory guns. (Photo: Taylor Abney/Guns.com)

Slide vent ports and lightening cuts also assist in further reducing muzzle flip. Ergonomic controls such as ambidextrous slide releases make it easy to manipulate. While the grip texture on the standard M&P was often thought to be too smooth, the Performance Center received a new texture that will keep your hands planted. The grip texture was noticeable in helping to maintain a positive grip even when sweating in hot weather. 

Specs & Features


Performance Center M&P9L
As a Guns.com Certified Used gun, this one did come with a few upgrades after it left the factory, including an aftermarket drop-in trigger that is crisper and shorter. (Photo: Taylor Abney/Guns.com)

Since this was a Guns.com Certified Used gun, it came with a few extras. This particular M&P has an aftermarket drop-in trigger, which both crispens and shortens the pull. But there were plenty of things to really like about the original features as well. Here are some of my favorite additions:

  • Two 17-round magazines
  • Ambidextrous slide stop  
  • High-strength polymer frame
  • Stainless-steel chassis, barrel, and slide
  • Picatinny-style rail
  • Three interchangeable palm-swell grip sizes

Beyond that, there were additional specs that came into play to make this 9mm Performance Center M&P9L a great option as a competition or target shooting base gun right from the factory. Here are some of the standard specs that come into play for that.

Capacity: 17+1
Barrel Length: 5 inches 
Overall Length: 7.5 inches
Front Sight: Green fiber optic 
Rear Sight: Red fiber optic 
Weight: 28 ounces 

With lightening cuts to keep it from entering the too-hefty range and high-visibility fiber-optic sights, getting and staying on target is still easy today. The improved grip texture is still effective, and the overall size aids in gaining a nice sight radius. 

Add to that all the other touches that came from the Performance Center, and there’s no reason this older version wouldn’t be a great target gun for those who don’t require the newest bells and whistles.

Final Thoughts

For those who are looking for more performance out of an M&P, the Performance Center is a great choice. This first generation is a great example of the innovation that Smith and Wesson has been bringing to the table for years. The Performance Center M&P9L has been proven over the course of a decade and will be able to provide more performance for years to come.