Firearm: Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 Compact (MSRP: $569)
We’ve covered the Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 Compact previously, but we are bringing it back for several reasons. First off, it’s an affordable, compact pistol with decent capacity and excellent shootability. Second, we ran it through a 2,000-round test with only a single failure-to-fire through more than 2,000 rounds of practice and defensive ammunition. Third, and probably most significant, it’s just a good, solid pistol with a decent trigger and notable ergonomics, thanks to the M2.0 upgrades.
With the launch of the M2.0 upgrades in 2017 and the M2.0 Compact in 2018, Smith & Wesson addressed two significant components of its M&P semi-automatic pistol line. For many years, the triggers on the M&Ps were one of the first places people made upgrades to the platform. Heavy and gritty, the trigger pull of the original M&P was a frequent source of complaint, and it was addressed extremely well with the updated M2.0. I have a first generation M&P, and it has an aftermarket trigger. The M2.0 does not, and getting one is nowhere near as important as with the original.
The second component is the overall size. Smith & Wesson’s original M&P came in two sizes: Full size and subcompact. The full size wasn’t difficult to carry, nor was the subcompact hard to shoot, but a model that split the difference would be the best of both worlds. It didn’t help that other manufacturers offered such a size, meaning Smith & Wesson wasn’t competing in a significant space. The Compact allows a full three-finger grip while only losing two rounds in capacity, yet is easier to carry than the full-size version. Adding the Compact size to the M&P line provided substantial benefits to the consumer and the manufacturer alike.
In the end, the M&P M2.0 Compact offers excellent performance on the range, carries easily and is reliable in the long run. It’s not unpleasant to shoot for an extended range session, has plenty of gear available and with an “off the shelf” price around $500, works with a variety of budgets.
Holster: N8 Tactical KO-1 (MSRP: $34.95)
The folks at N8 Tactical are best-known for the company’s line of oversize, comfort-oriented holsters. Traditional N8 Tactical offerings have centered around large, padded and sweat-wicking backers designed to cushion the body while keeping sweat and moisture from the pistol. For those looking for the utmost in comfort, this option worked well; however, for those looking for more of a minimalist rig, it wasn’t ideal.
The KO-1 represents N8 Tactical’s first foray into all-Kydex construction, utilizing the “taco” style single-sheet arrangement. This results in fewer parts to wear, gives two screws to adjust retention and offers a single polymer clip that allows the cant to be changed. Two clip options are provided: the tuckable low-ride option shown in addition to a higher-riding EZ Clip, which adds $5.95 to the price. For those looking to use this as a dedicated appendix holster, a ModWing attachment keeps the grip tight against the body and is available for an extra $8.95. Even with the extras, the KO-1 is an affordable, minimalist option.
Knife: SOG Trident AT (MSRP: $94.95)
SOG’s Trident AT knife packs a ton of functionality into a package not much larger than a standard pocketknife. Starting with a 3.75-inch, D2-tool steel, clip-point blade with titanium-nitride finish, the Trident AT has assisted opening for easy, one-hand operation. There’s a lock to make sure the blade doesn’t inadvertently open in your pocket, while a short section of pocket clip allows the knife to ride low in the pocket for maximum concealment – and it’s reversible for right- or left hand carry.
Additionally, there’s a glass-breaker on the top edge of the knife in addition to a cutout in the glass-reinforced nylon handle that allows the Trident to be used to cut rope, paracord or seatbelts in an emergency situation. While you might not ever need this feature, it’s good to have as a just-in-case measure, and it doesn’t add significantly to the size or heft of the knife. There’s even a lanyard loop for added carrying and holding options.