Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hmmm, good move

Now, I've fingerprinted the S&W Military and Police, and other than the blasphemous profaning of the glorious M&P name with a polymer auto pistol, instead of the large and manly steel and wood revolver (which by the way, is still basically in production as the modern K frame models), it seems a perfectly servicible pistol.

Though I didn't much care for it, a lot of folks say it's a decent pistol, and for someone looking for a real American made gun (a rare comodity these days, even in 1911s which are mostly manufactured in Brazil, Argentina, or the Phillipines, and then assembled in the US), it would seem to be a decent option.

Also, for those who don't like guns without manual mechanical safeties (and there are a hell of a lot of you), or whose department doesnt ALLOW guns without said safeties (and there are a lot of THEM too), this serves as a very viable option.

The only problem is, up 'til now the weapon only came in 9mm, .40 S&W, and its derivative the .357 SIG; three calibers which are very popular, and decent choices; but not Americas first choice, especially given S&Ws strongest marketing point is that the pistol is American made.

The most popular choice here of course is the .45 acp, for any number of reasons I've gone into many times before; but you can almost guarantee that a full sized pistol sold in the United States won't do very well these days, unless it's offered in .45. Anything smaller than .45 these days (except the Beretta M9 series, which have always sold well here regardless of chambering) and it better be a compact model tailored for CCW; or a competition model for IPSC or summat.

Just as an example, the Croatian HS2000, which is sold in America as the Springfield XD, is an excellent pistol; and since Springfield started marketing them they always sold well, but not spectacularly, except in the compact models. It's an excellent gun (actually one of the best on the market), but initially again it came in .357 9mm and .40 (as well as .45gap, but almost no-one bought them). When they released the .45acp models, the sales of the entire line jumped through halo effect from the .45.

It's just an odd fact of life in the American market. Introduce a pistol that previously came in smaller chamberings in .45 and get a big sales boost. To American handgunners, having a .45 model says "this is a gun that can handle the hard stuff"... even though the .40s&w and .357 sig are actually much harder on guns... but I digress.

The genesis of this post, is this announcemnt:

Company to Introduce M&P45 at January 2007 SHOT Show

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Dec. 12 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (Nasdaq: SWHC), parent company of Smith & Wesson Corp., the legendary 154-year old company in the global business of safety, security, protection and sport, today announced that it will expand its Military and Police (M&P) Pistol Series with the launch of the M&P45, a .45 ACP model, at this year's Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, January 11-14, 2007 in Orlando, Florida.

The M&P45 is the newest addition to the company's growing M&P Series of advanced design polymer pistols engineered to the exacting standards of global law enforcement and military personnel. Michael F. Golden, Smith & Wesson's President and CEO, said, "During the development process of the M&P Series, it became evident that numerous law enforcement agencies prefer a sidearm chambered in the powerful .45 ACP cartridge, and one that incorporates the same performance and safety features we designed into the entire M&P family of pistols. We are also aware that multiple branches of the U.S. Military including Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the Air Force (USAF) and the Army have recently expressed a desire to shift from their current 9mm weapons to either a .40 or .45 caliber for greater stopping power. The addition of the M&P45 allows us to provide a broader portfolio of high-performance polymer pistols to military organizations, law enforcement agencies, sports shooters and consumers desiring personal protection."

The M&P45 will initially be available in two configurations for consumers and multiple configurations for law enforcement professionals. The polymer-framed sidearm will be offered with a traditional black frame, or in a bi-tone, dark earth brown frame. The bi-tone model will be a striker fired polymer pistol featuring an external ambidextrous thumb safety. As with the entire M&P Series of pistols, both models are made in the United States and are manufactured with enhanced ergonomics, ambidextrous controls and proven safety features that make the new pistols well suited for professional use and for personal protection.

The bi-tone M&P45 will be manufactured with additional features such as an ambidextrous, frame-mounted thumb safety. The new thumb safety acts as a passive safety device allowing the slide to be pulled toward the rear, clearing the firearm without disengaging the safety. Another feature of the bi-tone model is the specially designed take down tool that includes a lanyard attachment. The M&P45 will also be available with a traditional black frame and will be manufactured with the same standard features that are found in the M&P Pistol Series. Shipments of both versions of the M&P45 are expected to begin in February 2007 into both the sporting goods and law enforcement channels.

Both M&P45 models feature a 4.5-inch barrel with an overall length of 8.05 inches. The full size pistols will ship with a 10+1 capacity, with an option for 14+1 capacity. Featuring one of the smallest grip sizes available on any .45 ACP pistol, the M&P45 benefits from the addition of three interchangeable grips, allowing the user to customize grip size to their preference. The M&P45 utilizes a steel dovetail mount front sight and a steel Novak(R) Lo-mount carry rear sight. Tritium sights are also available for low light conditions. A universal Picatinny style equipment rail has been incorporated for tactical lights and lasers. The polymer pistol has an empty weight of 29.6 ounces.

The full size pistols feature a Zytel polymer frame reinforced with a ridged stainless steel chassis and a thru-hardened black melonite finished stainless steel barrel and slide for durability; a passive trigger safety to prevent the pistol from firing if dropped; and a sear release lever that eliminates the need to press the trigger in order to disassemble the firearm. A loaded chamber indicator is located on top of the slide. The firearm also features an ambidextrous slide stop and a reversible magazine release, as well as an enlarged trigger guard designed to accommodate gloves. The Smith & Wesson lifetime service policy is standard with each pistol.

S&W always said that they would be coming out with a .45 at some point; for all the reasons above, as well as to compete for the SOCOM pistol contract (now in limbo). If they manage to execute it properly the pistol should do very well. It'd be a hell of a trick to get the grip frame down as small as the XD45, and one more round capacity, but it they manage it, then spectacular. No word as to whether there will be a compact model, but I'd bet on it within a year.

The compact models of the XD line have been their best sellers, and for good reason. They are very comfortable, dead reliable, and easily concealable. The new XD compact .45 models are the smallest doublestack .45s available (the ParaOrd warthog is close in size, but much heavier); and they conceal very well, plus they offer the option of a full length magazine with a grip extender, to bring them up to the same grip dimension as the full size model.

Mel and I both really like the XD grip frame, which for Mel is unusual because she much prefers the feel in the hand of revolvers, and small single stack autos. In fact, she's very interested in the subcompact 9mm XD; and I'm very interested in the 4" XD45 compact.

The competitive position against the XD, and Glock, is going to be tough for S&W. They are coming into this market not only a few years behind; but with the bad taste of the failed S&W Sigma, and SW99 (reall the Walther P99) still in consumers mouths. If they manage to get this .45 M&P right, that should erase the previous stain, and allow them to compete on a level playing field at the very least.

Do I think the M&P is better than the Glock or XD? No, but its a good enough pistol, from an american manufacturer and made in America, that it should do well in its target market; and in compact versions may penetrate into the civvy CCW market for people who want a polymer gun with a safety.

Oh and that M&P name that they are abusing? Well... at least it's in a proper military caliber this time.