I don’t think we’ve made any secret of the fact that we really like the Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 series of pistols. The upgraded trigger, improved grip texture and overall feel of the M2.0 make what was already a pretty great choice even better. Smith & Wesson upped the ante by rolling out two different Compact versions and a subcompact as well, offering a complete family of pistols including the Shield.
One thing that was missing, though, was a red-dot-capable version. To fix that, Smith & Wesson came out with a full-size offering, and now the Compact has received this important addition. For this multi-use system, Smith & Wesson offers seven different mounting plates to cover a wide variety of red-dot optics. This is accomplished via two sets of screw holes on the slide – which means that only one set of screws is needed to mount your optic. Choose the plate you need for your optic, place the plate in the optics cut, then attach the optic. Smith & Wesson even includes the correct screws for most of the optics (the RMR cut uses the screws that come from Trijicon).
The downside to this system, some argue, is the plastic plate, which obviously doesn’t have the longevity of a metal variant. I happen to like this attachment system for multiple optics because it doesn’t require you to bolt the plate to the slide, then the optic to the plate, doubling the points of potential failure (and the number of screws to tighten down). The concern about the plastic plate is that, over time and rounds fired, the plate might suffer damage and fail. It’s something to be aware of if you intend to take a high-round pistol class or if you’re involved in competitive shooting that sees you send lots of rounds downrange. Nowadays, though, there’s barely enough ammo to practice with, so it might be a while before this concern needs to be something to worry about, if it even is a concern in the first place.
If you’re not the least bit interested in red-dot sights, though, it’s still a great option. The pistol is only slightly more expensive than the non-optics-ready variant, and it comes with suppressor-height sights in addition to the optics cut. You’re still getting a great-shooting pistol that’s easy to carry concealed, and should you ever change your mind about red-dot optics on your pistol, it’s ready at the turn of a pair of screws.
In the world of pistol-slide-mounted red-dot sights, the vast majority are of the open-emitter variety. These are the sights that have a flat glass or plastic screen separate from the LED that projects the dot. They’re generally lighter and simpler to attach than tube-style, closed-emitter red dots like you typically see on carbines. Recently, we’ve seen a number of closed-emitter red-dot sights designed for pistols, though, the most recent of which is the Holosun HE509T-RD we have today.
Obviously, the protection of the emitter is the major advantage of the closed-emitter style. With an open emitter, the possibility exists that dirt/dust/rain/snow/etc. could wind up on the body of the sight and block the emitter. I’ve never had it happen, and I carry a red dot daily, but it’s easy to see situations where it might occur. With the HE509T, the emitter is protected by a titanium body topped with a solar panel for added battery life. It’s about as small as a closed emitter can get, and adds less than 2 ounces to the weight of your pistol. It can cycle between a 2-MOA red dot and a 32-MOA circle/2-MOA center dot, has an automatic brightness adjustment mode and 10 brightness settings.
The HE509T uses an RMR footprint to attach to optics-ready handguns, but owing to the closed emitter design, it uses a plate onto which the sight itself attaches like a rifle sight. Mount the plate to the pistol slide, then the HE509T fits on the plate by means of a clamp screw that tightens a lug into a milled slot on the plate. It’s secure, but it does involve two separate points of attachment rather than a single point like open emitters, meaning two areas that need to be properly torqued and checked periodically. It’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch, just something of which to be aware.
Holster: Mission First Tactical OWB Holster (MSRP: $69.99)
Be mindful of holster compatibility when choosing a red-dot equipped pistol. Even if the holster you have in mind for your pistol/dot combination is of the open-top variety, check with the manufacturer to make sure it’s designed specifically for the pistol with a red dot attached. If possible, verify the specific optic itself--there are optics that share footprints that do not have the same overall external dimensions.
Mission First Tactical’s OWB holster is designed for a variety of pistols and can accommodate red-dot sights and tall iron sights. Holsters are constructed of Boltaron, a polymer similar to Kydex that offers high impact resistance and can be precisely molded. Should you prefer to carry inside the waistband, all that’s needed is a pair of belt clips, sold separately. There is, of course, also a dedicated IWB model that works for appendix carry as well.