Firearms Review: Shooting the Smith & Wesson M&P CORE

What makes the CORE unique is a clever series of adapter plates that allow the user to install optics from a number of different companies by simply switching plates


Smith & Wesson recently introduced the M&P CORE, which stands for Competition Optics Ready Equipment. Available with a 4.25″ or 5.0″ barrel in 9mm or 40S&W, the new CORE appears at first glance to be a standard M&P, but it is factory-built to be used with a small red dot sight as the primary aiming method.

In theory, a red dot greatly increases the speed with which a shooter can engage a target by removing a point of reference. When firing a pistol with iron sights, the shooter lines up his dominant eye with both the front and rear sight and the target.

All this alignment takes time — fractions of a second, but still time — to accomplish. With the red dot, the shooter lines up his eye with the dot and the target. This reduces the amount of items the shooter must align by 25 percent. Also, the bright dot appears to be superimposed against the target so the shooter’s eye focus become less of a concern, allowing the shooter to focus on the target rather than what he’s holding at arm’s length.

Clever Mounting Solution
Up until now, those wishing to add a small red dot to an M&P had to either buy a new slide with a mounting point milled in or send an existing slide off to a specialized shop for costly machining. Custom-milled slides are only compatible with certain brands or sizes of sights, limiting the shooter’s options of experimenting with different equipment, dot sizes, and the like.

What makes the CORE unique is a clever series of adapter plates that allow the user to install optics from a number of different companies by simply switching plates.

As the name implies, the CORE is being marketed for competition, but it will find a home with self-defense shooters too. It happens that my CORE arrived shortly before I was scheduled to attend an IALEFI Master Instructor Development Program hosted by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Since I was interested in how the CORE would fare in a law enforcement training environment, the timing couldn’t have been better. I mounted a Trijicon RMR to the gun, spent just a bit of time on the range getting the pistol sighted in, and then I headed for Vegas.

Contrary to my initial thoughts, I found the red dot slower when performing certain drills that require a good awareness of sight tracking. With iron sights, I always have the sights in my visual plane in recoil. With the red dot, I found it difficult to track the sight since there’s really no way to see the red dot as the gun lifts off target.

A Learning Curve
I did have some better results by trying to keep the sight’s housing in my visual plane and then bringing the housing down out of recoil in order to see through the small window and pick up the dot again. The whole affair seemed slow and choppy and I found my times were half a second slower using the red dot over conventional sights on five- and six-round speed drills.

The human eye likes symmetry, and I found myself constantly trying to center the red dot inside its window even though this isn’t necessary. As long as you can see the dot and the target, good accuracy is possible regardless of where the dot sits in the window.

No doubt a bit of re-training is in order for me. I need to allow myself to see the dot on target and press the trigger rather than see the dot on target, center the dot in its window, and press the trigger. Additionally, I found myself looking for the iron sights and then, once the irons were aligned in a traditional manner, looking above the sights for the red dot. This is naturally slow because it adds a step to the aiming process.

Despite these issues, I did find the red dot very easy to use while shooting on the move and while performing precision marksmanship drills. I did have some concern that the two small screws used to mount the red dot to the slide would work loose in recoil, but they were still snug after 400+ rounds.

Notwithstanding my initial impressions, I am still intrigued by the idea of a rugged and simple red dot sight on a defensive handgun. I will continue to practice with the new CORE and see if taking a more open-minded approach will help me achieve the results I’m after.

In the meantime, those wishing to give the red dot handgun a try will likely be pleased with the accuracy and reliability offered by this new model. The introduction of the CORE shows S&W’s commitment to adopting new ideas and pushing the handgun into the 21st century.

About the author

Andrew Butts has served as a soldier in the Army National Guard and also served as a correctional officer in Montana, and is currently with a federal law enforcement agency. Butts currently holds an Expert classification in IDPA and an A classification in USPSA in both Limited and Single Stack Divisions.

Contact Andrew Butts

  1. Tags
  2. Firearms Training

Recommended Off Duty

Join the discussion