Firearm: Smith & Wesson M&P VTAC, Gen1 (MSRP: $739 – M&P M2.0 in FDE)
We’ve chosen a first generation Smith & Wesson M&P specifically for this particular “I Carry,” mainly because there’s a bunch of them out there and red-dot mounting options are pretty scarce. The version we have here is the VTAC version, which came from the factory with a flat dark earth finish and upgraded sights; if this particular setup intrigues you, Smith & Wesson offers an FDE version of the M&P M2.0. It is the ready availability of this particular pistol that makes it a viable choice as an “I Carry” subject. While Smith & Wesson has made some impressive upgrades to the M2.0 version, the first generation has been out for more than a decade, and there’s a ton of them out there in shooters’ hands. Given the current scorching hot market for firearms, you might have better luck looking for a used Gen1 than waiting for supply to catch up on the M2.0.
This particular pistol is the full-size variant, with a 4.25-inch barrel and 17-round capacity. It has an Apex Tactical trigger upgrade, which makes the pull much smoother and lighter than the first generation M&P trigger. In fact, one of the big upgrades made to the M2.0 M&Ps was a greatly improved trigger. Should you be looking at a first gen M&P that has the stock trigger, it might be worth investigating. Other than the trigger, the remainder is more or less standard from the factory (the sights were upgraded with Trijicon HDs a while back when the tritium insert on the front sight went dim).
An item of note with the two generations of Smith & Wesson M&Ps: To the best of our knowledge, all supplemental gear will interchange – a Gen 1 will use the same magazines as the Gen 2, they’ll both fit in the same holsters, the sight arrangements are the same, etc. Should you find yourself purchased a used Gen1 M&P now because it’s the only thing available, and down the road decide to upgrade to the M2.0, you won’t need to replace all the gear. This is one of those things you tend to find out after the fact, and it’s a smart move on Smith & Wesson’s part to keep everything consistent.
Optic: Leupold DeltaPoint Micro (MSRP: $519.99)
Recently released, the new DeltaPoint Micro from Leupold offers red-dot sighting with significantly different mounting. Traditional red-dot sights require an optics-ready model from the factory, a custom-milled slide or an optics cut to be milled into the top of the existing slide. One of the reasons we chose the Gen 1 M&P for the DeltaPoint Micro is the lack of options for red dots for that pistol. M&P M2.0 pistols have a pretty good selection of optics-ready models straight from Smith & Wesson; for the first generation, though, aftermarket slides with red-dot cuts are few and far between. Leupold designed the DeltaPoint Micro to install on a dovetail mount that replaces the rear sight, eliminating the need for custom gunsmithing or replacement slides.
The DeltaPoint Micro is a unique take on red-dot sighting systems. Rather than offer a large objective lens that sits high on the slide, it’s more of a tunnel that sits in the standard optics channel. The height of the 3-MOA dot means that suppressor-height sights aren’t necessary, and the DeltaPoint Micro has rudimentary rear sight markers on either side should the battery fail. Even with power off, it’s pretty much a ghost-ring sight. While it might seem that the small window makes finding the dot harder, with proper presentation of the pistol it’s not an issue. In fact, for those who haven’t trained with a red-dot on their pistol, the DeltaPoint Micro is more instinctive than a standard pistol red-dot because the sight is on the same plane as the standard iron sights, making this a great choice for someone just starting out on red-dot sights. Battery life is a claimed three and a half years on medium power, and brightness is controlled via the button on the underside of the unit.
One thing to note: Should you need to detail-strip your slide, the DeltaPoint Micro will need to be taken off, as it blocks the rear plate. Since it installs on a dovetail mount in the rear sight channel, it would be a good idea to check the zero after replacing the sight. Installing the Micro, however, is ridiculously easy once you remove the existing rear sight. The mounting plate slides into the dovetail, and two Torx T15 screws secure the unit to the plate. Detailed instructions are available on the Leupold website should you chose to do it yourself, and this is a project that’s not difficult. The DeltaPoint Micro is also available for Glock pistols.
Holster: Dark Star Gear M&P Orion (MSRP: $80)
This particular Dark Star Gear M&P Orion is the perfect holster to spotlight one of the advantages of the Leupold DeltaPoint Micro. While Dark Star Gear offers an optics-cut version of the Orion, this model is designed for a non-optics-bearing pistol. With the high-walled sweatguard, it won’t work with traditional, slide-mounted red-dot sights – the sight impinges on the sweatguard and won’t permit full seating of the firearm. With the location of the DeltaPoint Micro, the pistol can still use standard holster fits.
The Orion offers adjustable ride height, numerous belt-attachment options, colors and is available for both left- and right-handed shooters. There’s a ModWing available to help tuck the pistol into the body, and as mentioned previously the Orion can be had with an optics cut for pistols with traditional slide-mounted red dots.