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Preview – Smith & Wesson M&P CORE

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Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

Bad to the Bone or Rotten to the C.O.R.E.?

The Smith & Wesson M&P CORE is Billed as a Race-Ready 9mm. When the Flag Drops, Can This Plastic Fantastic Hack it?

Smith and Wesson introduced their Competition Optics Ready Equipment line of M&P’s as a plug-and-play means to enter the heady world of Open Division USPSA and three-gun matches. We’ll be the first to admit that this is far from an exclusive review — in fact we’re positively tardy when it comes to bringing you the scoop on this pistol. However, until now, no one in the media has actually considered whether it’s any good in its intended role.

Those of us who have gone over to the Dark Side (as Open is jokingly called) are always looking for an edge, whether it’s a new powder or bullet, a different sight or mount, a faster holster, or just a cooler pair of shoes. The division is currently dominated by 2011-style guns with 29-round big-stick mags, frame-mounted red dot sights, and multi-port compensators. The price of admission is high. A full-house race gun, six mags, and competition rig will set you back six grand if you buy new — and then you have to feed the beast. At around 800 bucks, the M&P C.O.R.E. starts to look like a pretty attractive alternative, so long as it can keep up.

So can it? We threw a 9mm major race gun, a 4.25-inch barreled M&P that had benefited from an Apex trigger kit, and the C.O.R.E. into the range bag and headed off to Cowtown. Putting all three guns on the clock yielded some interesting results. Before we delve too deeply, let’s take a look at the pistol that Smith sent us.

SW-Core-02 SW-Core-03

Bench Racing

Our sample gun arrived with a standard M&P full-size frame, including aggressively textured backstrap inserts, but lacking the trigger overtravel stop pictured in their catalog. The gun is supposed to benefit from a newly designed competition sear, but in comparison to a stock unit, we didn’t detect much of an improvement. It’s somewhat ironic that the best feeling trigger in the M&P lineup is found on the Shield subcompact rather than the match pistol, which suffers from a spongy break and long, indistinct reset.

The majority of the Custom Shop’s work can be found up top. M&P slides have always been among the most attractive of the polymer guns, and that feature is enhanced here with a series of eight lightening cuts ahead of the ejection port. A removable plate sits aft, allowing the user to attach a number of mini red dot sight options. We took the opportunity to fit the lightest of the bunch, the JP Industries J-Point, which is all plastic and made in the UK by Shield Ltd. Suppressor-height sights give a lower 1/3 cowitness in the plastic lens, so it’s simple to zero the dot on the tip of the front sight. Despite (or perhaps because of) its polymer construction, the sight held up well throughout our 1,000-plus round evaluation and was bright enough to use during the scorching Arizona summer.


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