Glock was the king of the polymer pistol game for decades. But only because there were no other polymer pistols to challenge Glock’s claim to the throne.
But things changed.
In the early 2000s, Smith & Wesson released their own polymer pistols. The Smith & Wesson M&P pistols instantly became one of the most popular alternatives to Glock.
However, it wasn’t until Smith & Wesson released their M&P 2.0 compact that there was a direct competitor to the Glock 19.
For years, the Glock 19 was simply the only polymer pistol that came in that compact, 15-round profile.
Even though Smith & Wesson obviously created the M&P 2.0 series to be a direct competitor to Glock handguns, they’re not exactly the same. There are some key differences between the two that may make one or the other a better option for you.
We’re not going to dig into the general specifications too much. Those have been done to death. We want to explore some of the more subtle aspects of these pistols that aren’t so widely talked about (though not entirely unknown).
What Makes Glock Pistols Unique?
We’ll start with the Glock. Since they’re the original polymer pistol.
Although Glocks are known for being utilitarian, almost to the point of boredom — but that utilitarian approach has led to some nice design subtleties.
The Glock grip has been a point of contention since the beginning. People usually love the Glock grip or hate it. There’s not a ton of middle ground.
It seems like Glock has been unreasonably stubborn in maintaining the grip shape. But, the grip is shaped very intentionally. And it’s not to make Glocks uncomfortable.
The grip angle and palm swell are designed to direct recoil forces straight back, along your radius. This helps keep the gun flatter when you shoot it.
Now, many shooters claim that the benefit is so small that the vast majority of shooters won’t notice the difference. But, the Glock grip was designed with intention, which explains why they haven’t changed it in over three decades.
Hexagonal rifling is actually really old technology. It was first introduced in the 1800’s.
Glock uses polygonal rifling because it cuts into the bullet less, and therefore delivers higher muzzle velocity. But, it stabilizes the bullet slightly less. So, the added velocity comes at the expense of accuracy.
The new Gen5 Glocks still use polygonal rifling. But, the lands and grooves are more pronounced. So, it’s a bit of a hybrid design. It offers improved accuracy, with slightly lower muzzle velocities.
Something to consider: Glock recommends against using lead bullets with their hexagonally rifled barrels. But, the Gen5 barrels foul less with lead bullets than the Gen4 barrels.
Embedded Slide Rails
This could be a pro or a con, depending on how you use your gun.
The slide rails on a Glock are molded into the polymer frame. Many other polymer pistols, like the M&P use pins to secure the slide rails. So, Glock slide rails are super solid. However, if you need to replace your slide rails for some reason, you have to replace your entire slide.
Whether or not this is an issue for you depends on how you use your gun. For most defensive and recreational shooting, slide rail durability is never an issue.
Glocks are like the Toyota of guns. Pretty plain. But they work well. And Glock has put some thorough thought and engineering into their guns.
What Makes M&P Pistols Unique?
Although the M&P pistols were designed to compete directly with Glock, they were never intended to be a Glock clone. So, they look and feel different, in addition to some internal features that help differentiate them from Glocks.
If you slammed a full magazine into the original M&P pistols, the slide would drop on its own. Some people liked this. But Smith & Wesson determined that it could be a safety issue.
So, the revised slide stop on the new M&P 2.0 pistols has a locking mechanism that ensures the slide only releases if you press the slide stop or pull the slide back and drop it.
Most shooters don’t mind. But, some competition shooters say that they prefer the original M&P because the slide drops when you slap a full magazine in. However, it may cause a malfunction if the slide drops when a magazine is inserted.
Although it’s well-known at this point, the slide stop has also been ambidextrous since the M&P handguns were released. Glock just added an ambi slide stop with their Gen 5 pistols. So, Smith & Wesson stopped discriminating against left-handed people long before Glock did.
The original M&P trigger was widely regarded as terrible. Glock triggers are widely regarded as sort of okay.
The M&P 2.0 pistols were one of the first polymer guns to address the trigger feel troubles that have plagued polymer guns since the beginning.
Smith & Wesson greatly improved the trigger on the M&P 2.0. It’s still a striker-fired trigger. But, it’s much smoother from slack to break, and the reset is much more tactile and audible.
Another nice thing about the M&P triggers is that they have amazing upgrade potential. Even with some very good upgrades, a Glock trigger is still very much a Glock trigger.
However, a fully upgraded M&P trigger can reach near single-action only status. So, the M&P might be the best gun for trigger sticklers.
Steel Frame Insert
Something that Smith & Wesson added to the 2.0 models is the steel frame insert. It makes the frame more rigid, which improves the inherent accuracy and provides a smoother recoil impulse.
This is a step up over many competing polymer guns, including Glock, which have no steel reinforcement in the frame other than the rear rails and the locking block.
So, the M&P 2.0 line may have a slight accuracy and durability advantage over the all-polymer competition.
M&P and Glock pistols are both great guns, and neither one would win a decisive battle against the other. But, they’re different.
And those differences go beyond aesthetics and ergonomics.
Obviously, handgun fit and feel are still good go-to methods for choosing a gun.
But, if both guns fit and feel great, you may want to look at some of these internal design features to help you determine which gun is best for you.
GearScout contributor Jay Chambers is a pro free speech business owner based in Austin, Texas. Having lived through several natural disasters and more than a few man-made ones (hello 2008), he believes that resilience and self-sufficiency are essential in this increasingly unpredictable world. That’s why he started a business! Jay writes over at Minute Man Review.