S&W Goes Full Circle in a very Metal way
Founded in 1852, Smith & Wesson is one of the oldest American gunmakers, only narrowly bested by Remington who claims a circa 1816 origin. While best known for their revolvers, Smith is also one of the oldest makers of semi-auto pistols in the world, having placed Belgian engineer Charles Philibert Clement’s interesting .35 S&W blowback autoloader into production in 1913. This later morphed into the Model 35, for obvious reasons.
Then came the Army’s canceled X100 program in the late 1940s and early 1950s to replace the M1911, which led S&W to release the Model 39 and super-size it (at the request of the Navy in the 1960s) to the Model 59.
In 1979, Smith & Wesson began to introduce a better machined and more evolved series of improved 9mm pistols while putting the Models 39 and 59 out to pasture. This saw the carbon steel-framed Model 539 (single stack) and 559 (double stack), the alloy-framed Model 439 and 459, and the stainless steel Model 639 and 659 (see = Reservoir Dogs) arrive on the scene.
Notably, the 459 competed against the Beretta 92 in the Army’s 1980s pistol trials, in sort of a repeat of the old X100 program, although it worked out better for Beretta than Smith.
As S&W’s 2nd Gen 9mm pistols became an all-out hit with police forces across the country, Smith further refined their semi-auto pistols and expanded the number of configurations available when they introduced their 3rd Generation line in the late 1980s. In 9mm format, this included the 12 pistols in the compact Model 3900 series, another 21 pistols in the full-sized Model 5900 series, and 9 pistols in the Model 6900 series. Obviously, with some 40 different 9mm semi-autos in their catalog offering a variety of finishes, barrel lengths, magazine capacity, sights, and actions, Smith had a “Wondernine” for every occasion and customer.
Then came plastic.
The “SWock” or S&W Sigma series, debuted in 1994– and later spun off into today’s “value-priced” SD/SVE series– while the M&P line of polymer-framed striker-fired handguns hit the market in 2006.
Smith & Wesson is good about listing to user feedback and in 2017, after getting 10 full years of it on the original M&P series pistols, introduced the M&P M2.0 which upgraded nearly every aspect of polymer pistol.
Today, technically Smith’s 6th generation (or 7th if you count the early Clement guns) of semi-auto pistols in over 109 years, the M2.0 M&Ps are at the top of the company’s food chain when it comes to fully evolved handgun designs.
And, true to form, they have now come full circle by taking the M2.0 M&P9, dropping the polymer frame, and swapping it for one crafted of T6 aluminum. The new M&P9 M2.0 METAL is still striker-fired but is optics-ready and, with a Tungsten Gray Cerakote finish, has a unique aesthetic from America’s oldest pistol maker. Still capable of fitting standard M&P9 compatible holsters and using the same magazines, the gun offers a more rigid feel for those who are fans of the model but don’t love the “whip” of a polymer-framed firearm.
More on the move back to METAL in my column at Guns.com.