Welcome to another “I Carry” segment, bringing you firearms and gear for personal defense. Today we’re taking a look at an optics-ready Smith & Wesson handgun, a mini-red-dot from Lucid Optics and a PHLster holster. Let’s take a closer look at this gear.
Firearm: Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P9 M2.0 Ported CORE (MSRP: $735)
Smith & Wesson introduced the Performance Center M&P9 M2.0 Ported CORE pistol early in 2020, finally bringing the M2.0 upgrades to its optics-ready pistol platform. This pistol is pretty much a trifecta: It has the M2.0 upgrades, with the improved trigger, more aggressive texturing and forward cocking serrations. It also has Performance Center upgrades, with a ported barrel and slide, tuned action and trigger stop. And, it has the CORE (Competition Optics Ready Equipment) cut-out and mounting plate system for a wide variety of pistol-mounted red dots.
Going through the M2.0 upgrades, I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I am quite a fan of these improvements. The texturing is much more aggressive than the first-generation M&P, but not overly so. It dances right up to that edge of being uncomfortable for longer range outings, but doesn’t quite cross the line. The trigger, well, let’s just say that a robust aftermarket dedicated to improving the M&P trigger sprung up after the release of the first generation, and doesn’t seem to be as needed this time around. It’s definitely a better all-around experience. I’m not a big fan of forward cocking serrations, but I know a good number of shooters are, so they’re useful.
On the Performance Center end of things, the ported barrel and slide help keep the barrel level when shooting fast. It’s designed for pistol competition, but certainly applicable for defensive applications—running Gunsite’s “hammer drill,” for example, is a lot easier with a pistol made to shoot flat. The already improved trigger benefits from an action-tune job as part of the Performance Center upgrades, resulting in a noticeable, audible reset. There’s a trigger stop, too, if you want to adjust overtravel.
And, lastly, the CORE arrangement. As you might have noticed with recent episodes of “I Carry,” not only are we fans of concealed-carry pistols with red-dot optics, but the market in general seems to be moving in that direction in a big way. Glock, FN and others have come out with optics-ready pistols, the number of optics manufacturers offering pistol dots is increasing; generally, pistol-mounted dots are really starting to come into their own. Smith & Wesson’s CORE system offers seven different mounting plates and raised-height sights for co-witnessing.
The mounting system on the CORE is different from the Glock MOS, and it has pros and cons. On the pro side, and this is a big one, the mounting plates lock into the slide cut with two different-size circular projections. You can’t install the plate backwards. Milled into the slide are two sets of screw holes, and each plate has the same diagonal cut to allow screws to attach the optic directly to the slide. Only one set of screws is needed as opposed to the two sets for the Glock MOS. The con is that the plates are plastic; while that keeps weight and cost down, there are some longevity concerns on a plastic plate as opposed to aluminum or steel.
Optic: Lucid Optics LitlMo (MSRP: $349.99)
Released in 2019, Lucid Optics’ affordable Litl Mo red-dot sight has a curious name and attractive price. Offering a 3-MOA dot, a Picatinny rail mount for attaching to a carbine or AR pistol and 1 ounce weight, the Litl Mo also comes with a lifetime warranty. It’s also water resistant and shock-resistant up to .458 Socom.
Controls are simple; there’s standard small-screwdriver adjustments for elevation and windage. Once zeroed, the only thing to worry about is brightness, which is controlled via a pair of directional arrows on the left side of the body. On the right side of the body is the battery tray, removable to replace the 1632 battery without having to take the optic off the slide, a nice feature. No information is given on expected battery life, though.
For an MSRP significantly lower than a good number of red-dot options, the Litl Mo is certainly an attractive optic. It uses the same footprint as the Burris Fastfire we’ve covered previously on “I Carry” and has a small overall size and weight. It doesn’t hinder the handling of the pistol to which it is mounted, and the dot is quite visible in the generous eye box. As for longevity, we don’t have a lot of time behind the Litl Mo, but we’re planning to keep an eye on it.
There is one little thing to be aware of: It does not ship with a battery. Fortunately, we happen to have a good number of batteries here at NRA HQ; however, if you don’t keep a standing complement of odd battery sizes you’ll have to order them. Good news is they’re inexpensive and available on Amazon (seriously, under $10 for a 4-pack), but it’s a questionable cost-savings not to chuck one in the box…
Holster: PHLster Floodlight (MSRP: $119)
We’ve covered the PHLster Floodlight holster previously here on “I Carry,” using it for an LTT Beretta 92, and it’s coming back for a multitude of reasons today. First, it is quite generously cut at the mouth, so that a variety of red-dot optics can work with this holster. Second, the M&P9 M2.0 has a 5-inch barrel, which is on the rare side for the Smith & Wesson, and the Floodlight can accommodate it easily.
The Floodlight is at the forefront of a new wave of holsters; it bases retention on an attached weaponlight rather than on the pistol itself. Two versions are currently available; one fit for the Streamlight TLR-1 and the one we have today, fit for the SureFire X300. What’s so great about this system is that once you’re setup with the light and the holster, you can swap basically any pistol with an accessory rail. 1911, Beretta, M&P, Glock, it doesn’t matter. Attach the light to the rail and you’re good to go with the Floodlight. The versatility and overall great construction make this a “must-have” holster.