There’s just something about a metal-framed handgun. Traditionalists love them, competition shooters run them through their paces, and enthusiasts appreciate their sharp aesthetics.
Those who grew up shooting 3rd Generation Smith & Wesson® pistols, revolvers, and iconic 1911s oftentimes have a deep seeded preference for metal frames. To these folks, metal frames feel familiar, and some will even go as far as "poo-pooing” polymer-framed guns out of concern for durability over time. Even though many years of high-volume testing by the military, law enforcement, and everyday gun owners has proven polymer-framed pistols to be extremely capable. When it comes down to it, one isn’t necessarily better or more capable than the other, it’s a matter of personal preference.
What makes a metal frame pistol so special and desirable? A metal grip feels firm and solid in the hand. Compared to aluminum, steel, or titanium frames, polymer does have a bit of give. Depending on the model and type of metal frame, metal can change the overall balance and heft of the pistol, something that translates to how the firearm recoil and handling feel. When looking at heavier steel-framed handguns vs. polymer, you’ll find that polymer pistols can feel top-heavy when compared to the balance of a metal frame.
Manufacturing processes also differ between the two. For M&P®s, where the polymer-framed option is injection molded, M&P™9 M2.0® Metal frames are produced in a CNC machine. The aluminum frame on the Metal is rigid throughout. For the polymer models, in developing upgrades to the first generation of M&P pistols, Smith & Wesson added an extended steel chassis to M&P 2.0 models. The additional steel embedded into the frame reduced the amount of flexing in the frame during firing. But because polymer is much more flexible than aluminum or steel, even with the steel chassis, polymer-framed pistols flex more in recoil compared to metal-framed pistols that produce less torque in the hand.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for polymer pistols, or benefits too. Polymer-framed handguns tend to be lighter and less expensive. In hot or cold conditions, they don’t transfer the heat or chill the way metal does. High volume range days can be more comfortable when it's hot out. Shooting a metal frame on a cold winter day can be tough because its cold grip can affect your grip strength and even your trigger finger speed and dexterity. Many find polymer to be more comfortable to carry and use for these reasons.
As for me, I am excited about the new M&P9 Metal model. It weighs just one more ounce than the polymer version with the same features. That means it’s still light, but between the additional ounce and rigidity of the frame, this pistol tracks really well for both irons and with an optic.
Metal-framed pistols tend to require more upkeep and, depending on the slide-to-frame fit, can be a bit more finicky. Some have to be cleaned more often. They may require different lubricants based on the temperature, a thinner oil for cold temperature and thicker lubes or greases in the heat. With the M&P9 Metal, you get the best of both worlds with a metal-framed pistol and the reliability of the M&P platform.
There is still polymer on the M&P9 Metal and it’s in all the right places providing texture to aid in recoil control. I love that the newest M&P kept the removable palmswell feature. The small grip size is the ideal backstrap size for me and like all full-size M&P’s you can change the grip to suit your hands. If you enjoy all the features of the M&P but also appreciate the benefits of a metal-framed pistol, this is one you’ll want to check out.
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