Practical Perfection

S&W Performance Center M&P M2.0 C.O.R.E.

David did most of his shooting using a Crimson Trace red dot sight from 15 yards.
Even shooting offhand, he found it easy to put shots where he wanted.

Ford vs. Chevy, Toyota vs. Honda, GLOCK vs. M&P — this world is full of choices often made for no other reason than personal preference. Smith & Wesson’s M&P line has often been the runner-up to GLOCK for law enforcement and civilian defensive use. Of course, GLOCK pistols are great guns, but often they’re picked just because they’re GLOCKs. When someone chooses the M&P there is usually an underlying reason. For me the reason is related to recoil. In my subjective evaluations, the M&P mitigates recoil better than many other brands I have tried.

When police departments all over this land began to trade in .40-caliber pistols for 9mm’s, I started picking up trade in M&P 40’s to stash around my home and vehicles. Having more standard M&P’s than I needed, I never got my hands on a new M2.0 model before now. I was pleasantly surprised to see the differences from the first generation of M&P pistols.

David wasted no time installing a Crimson Trace Red Dot sight. This model didn’t
require an adapter plate and mounted directly to the slide.

M&P M2.0 Basics

The 9mm Performance Center M&P M2.0 C.O.R.E. features a ported 5″ barrel and slide. The overall length is 8.5″ and the weight is 28.6 oz. unloaded. The barrel and slide are both stainless steel with an Armornite black finish, while the chassis is matte black polymer. Capacity is 17+1. The gun ships with two 17-round magazines.

There are four different palm swells so you can fit the grip to your hand size. I changed out the one that came on the gun for the smallest one to fit my hands better. It’s a simple task using a pullout tool at the base of the grip. This tool has another purpose we’ll discuss later.

There is a large external extractor and a very large ejection port. This gun has no external safety. That’s an option on regular M&P’s, but I don’t see it offered on any of the Performance Center models. All M&P’s have a trigger safety, and they have an internal drop safety that blocks the striker from moving forward until the trigger breaks.

One thing I like on this gun that’s not on my older M&P’s is the click-on, click-off operation of the ambidextrous slide lock lever. On all my other M&P’s this lever is spring-loaded and only held in the up position by locking into a notch on the slide. There isn’t such a notch on this slide; it’s all internal. The magazine release is reversible and since the slide lock is already ambidextrous, left-hand shooters should be right at home with this pistol.

The frame of the 2.0 has some improvements over the earlier models. It is built around a rigid embedded stainless-steel chassis system to reduce flex and torque while firing. The chassis is extended a little beyond that of the M1.0 guns. There are two small windows at the front of the frame through which the inner chassis and the serial number are visible.

The grip has a new texture. A tactically minded friend of mine once showed me how easy it was to twist an M&P out of my grip. He was correct. No matter how hard I tried, I could not hold on to the gun if he wanted to take it away from me by wrenching it out of my hand. That’s not true of the M2.0 pistols. The new texture is aggressive, but not so aggressive as to be uncomfortable. It’s got just the right grit to provide a secure grip, even if your palms are sweaty.

The M&P’s cocking serrations resemble fish scales. There is a full set on the rear of the slide and a small set on the front that works fine for a press check, although a visible port on top of the slide at the rear of the barrel makes a press check technically unnecessary.

In addition to the cutout for the optics, the slide features two rows of four ports each. The forward two ports are aligned with the two ports on the barrel. The purpose of all these cutouts is straightforward. Exhaust gas going straight up helps keep the muzzle down and on target while yielding a sensation of less overall recoil.

Included with the PC M&P9 M2.0 Ported 5" Barrel are three additional
sizes of palm swells, mounting plates for common optics, an extra magazine
and a Performance Center branded cleaning kit.

Optics Ready

The C.O.R.E. Competition Optics Ready Slide includes an optics mounting kit with adapters for many of the popular add-on optical sights including Trijicon RMR, Leupold Delta Point, Jpoint, C-More STS, Crimson Trace and EOTech MRDS. I happened to have a Crimson Trace sight on hand, so I popped it on. This particular sight did not require one of the adapters. I quickly noticed the fixed 3-dot sights installed on the frame are higher than those on my other M&Ps. The reason became obvious when I installed the Crimson Trace Red Dot. The red dot super-imposes itself right over the front sight when this sight is tucked within the two dots on the rear sight.

The PC model has an enhanced trigger with an adjustable over-travel stop. The cutaway under the trigger guard allows for a high grip. There’s no “trigger leaf” safety. Instead, the hinge serves a similar function.


I mentioned the trigger safety. M&Ps don’t have the blade safety in the trigger like so many other striker-fired pistols. Instead, the trigger is hinged such that the plastic tab moves out of the way when the trigger is operated normally. If the trigger is bumped, the plastic tab keeps it from going far enough back to fire the gun. All M&Ps have a small bump behind the trigger serving as an over-travel stop. On the Performance Center model the stop is threaded so it can be adjusted in or out as needed to get the correct amount of over-travel. I left mine as it came from the factory and it works like a champ.

Takedown does not require a trigger pull. The same tool for grip panel changes
releases the sear for field stripping.

Takedown requires a safety step that differentiates the M&P from GLOCKs and other striker-fired pistols requiring a trigger pull to remove the slide from the frame. The tool I mentioned used to change out the grip swells also performs another duty for takedown. With the slide locked back, it is used to lower a lever inside the open port lifting the sear and allowing the slide to come off the frame without pulling the trigger. Once this is accomplished, disassembly for cleaning is standard for a semi-automatic pistol.

Speaking of cleaning, the Performance Center M&P 2.0 ships with a Performance Center-branded cleaning kit that contains a cleaning rod, cleaning patches, a nylon cleaning brush, bronze bore brushes in multiple calibers, nylon jags and nylon slotted tips. It’s a nice touch.

The barrel porting makes a big difference controlling muzzle flip and reducing felt recoil.

CORE Shooting

My first trip to the range with the Performance Center M&P M2.0 Ported 5″ C.O.R.E. was on a drizzly afternoon during the COVID-19 lockdown. My grandson and I ventured off to a “private range” on a friend’s farm. It was just the two of us, a bunch of guns, factory and reloaded ammo, and a looming threat of rain showers.

I didn’t worry about setting up the chronograph or shooting for groups, I just shot the gun a bunch with various kinds of ammo. It’s a fun and comfortable gun to shoot and there were no malfunctions of any kind. We were set up about 10 yards from our targets, and I used the time to shoot some speed runs and to ping a nearby gong.

M&P’s are already known for mitigating recoil, and the ported barrel on this one helped even more. I’m sure this helps competitors who shoot a lot of rounds during a day’s competition.

When I next took the PC M&P out, I had since installed the Crimson Trace on the pistol, so I felt comfortable shooting it from 15 yards. I had Federal Train & Protect Versatile HP, Hornady 124-gr. XTP, Hornady 147-gr. XTP, Hornady Critical Defense, Inceptor 65-gr. ARX and Speer 124-gr. +P with me for this session. The C.O.R.E. handled it all with no hiccups and tight groups all around. One thing I observed is the clock speed of most of the ammo was running an average of 120 fps faster out of the 5″ M&P than the other pistol I was shooting that day which had a 3.75″ barrel.

If you’re a competitor or want to shoot like a competitor, you couldn’t go wrong with the PC M&P9 M2.0 Ported 5″ Barrel & Slide C.O.R.E. Add your favorite optic and be prepared to nail whatever handgun targets lie in your path.

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