Firearm: Smith & Wesson M&P full size (MSRP: $759 for M2.0 FDE)
While we tend to focus on new handguns and pistols still in production, there’s a pretty good reason to feature a first-generation Smith & Wesson M&P: the company produced this handgun for a good dozen years, and countless thousands if not millions of 9 mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP models are available on the used market. There’s also a sizeable number of first-generation pistols becoming available as police departments upgrade to the M2.0 or other pistols. With that large and robust of a used market, the first gen M&Ps are still a concealed-carry consideration.
This particular M&P started life as one of the VTAC units, hence the FDE frame. This model originally had the unique twin fiber-optic/tritium sight arrangement and came with FDE backstraps and magazine floorplates. The FDE slide has been replaced with a Faxon Firearms Hellfire slide (MSRP: $399) with a cut for the RMR footprint. Suppressor-height sights co-witness with the attached red-dot sight, and serrations both front and rear assist in charging the pistol. Rounding out the upgraded components is an Apex trigger, which was more or less a necessity on the first-generation M&Ps.
It’s a fair question why anyone would be interested in buying one of the first-generation M&Ps when the M2.0 models offer better triggers, more aggressive texturing and optics-ready capability. There are two ready answers for that: First, as we have recently experienced, in times of scarcity we find we might not have as many choices as we would normally like. Being willing to dip into the used market, especially for an older model that had been produced for more than a decade, greatly increases one’s chances.
The second answer is quite simple: value. An LE trade-in M&P can be found for significantly less than $400 on the used market. That’s a tried-and-tested handgun that most likely hasn’t seen a tremendous number of rounds put through it, offered up for the price of an off-brand model. Since Smith & Wesson smartly designed the M2.0 to use the same magazines and holsters as the Gen1 models, there’s nearly 20 years of aftermarket gear available for this popular pistol.
Holster: Tier 1 Concealed MSP Pro (MSRP: $159.99)
We ran the new Tier 1 Concealed holster not all that long ago, but I wanted to circle back to it and use it as it was originally intended: for a pistol with an optic mounted. It’s one of the reasons I opted for the M&P with Faxon slide and SRO – because of the size of the SRO and the aggressive serrations on the Faxon slide, holster fits are somewhat difficult for this M&P. Opting for a holster like the Tier 1 Concealed that indexes on a weaponlight and has more room allows a more customized firearm to be carried easily.
Also overlooked in the first pass on the MSP Pro was the spare magazine carrier that comes included with the holster. The MSP Pro we received was shipped with a magazine carrier for a double-stack 9 mm, so we couldn’t use it for the M&P 10 mm. The magazine carrier can be worn inside or outside the waistband, and can be canted at one of three angles to best suit your carry method. It’s a well-designed, comfortable system that can be used with a variety of firearms, provided they have an accessory rail for a weaponlight.
Trijicon’s Specialized Reflex Optic, more commonly known as the SRO, was introduced in 2019 and won our Golden Bullseye Award for Optics in 2020. We appreciated the large viewing window, simple controls and top-mounted battery in addition to using the popular RMR footprint for mounting. The SRO’s dot is super easy to acquire quickly, presenting a 1-, 2.5- or 5-MOA dot in the center of a large, circular viewing window.
One area to be aware of, when choosing the SRO, is holster fit. The SRO overhangs the optics cut by a fair amount, and a good number of holsters—even ones with optics cuts—stop just shy of the cut. This leaves the potential for the SRO to impact the holster before the pistol is fully seated. Not all holsters will do this, but it is a phenomenon we’ve encountered using the SRO. Multi-fit holsters like the MSP Pro are often the best bet for larger optics like the SRO.