Smith & Wesson’s M&P40 VTAC is the latest Military & Police rendition. It features a distinct Flat Dark Earth finish, Viking Tactics’ superior dual-sighting system, and interchangeable backstraps. Pair it with a Viridian X5L, and you have a very versatile combat pistol.
Among historic American armsmakers, Smith & Wesson remains not only one of the oldest (founded before the American Civil War) but also one of the most famous for creating models with unforgettable names like Schofield, Combat Masterpiece, Chief’s Special, Centennial, and Military & Police. The latter first appeared as a revolver way back in 1899, establishing a line of firearms that set the standard for law enforcement and U.S. military revolvers for most of the 20th century. More commonly referred to today as the M&P, the historic brand was expanded to include a new, polymer-framed semi-automatic pistol line in 2006. The latest in this series of innovative semi-autos is the VTAC (Viking Tactics) chambered in 9mm and .40 S&W.
What distinctly separates the VTAC from standard .40 S&W and 9mm M&P models, outside of its eye-catching Flat Dark Earth finish, is the Viking Tactics dual sighting system; a tapered front sight provides a quick aiming point combined with a green fiber optic that provides exceptional daylight target acquisition. The real advantage, however, is the secondary tritium vials that have been inserted slightly below the fiber optics. These allow an instant transition from daylight to shadow to darkness without loss of sight picture. The front and rear sights, with their green fiber optics working in tandem with the tritium night sights, give the M&P40 VTAC a remarkable level of versatility for both home protection and law enforcement, where suddenly changing lighting conditions can more often be the norm than the exception. We also found the VTAC sights extremely fast because the rear is cut lower than the normal style, creating a deep valley that places the tapered front sight in view as quickly as you can raise the gun.
For a polymer-framed pistol, the M&P, and especially the VTAC, is a handsome-looking gun that makes polymer more than just a lightweight, durable plastic substitute for steel or aluminum alloy, but something that has style, or as they used to say, form and function, as opposed to form follows function. The frame has an ergonomic design that fits the hand comfortably yet solidly for the hard grasp that usually comes under conditions demanding the use of firearms. The M&P frames are made from Zytel polymer and differ from other polymer-framed semi-autos through S&W’s use of ridged steel rails built into both sides of the frame and running from the front locking block to the rear sear housing block. The internal appearance when field stripped is more akin to a traditional steel-frame semi-auto. The integral rails offer extra strength, reducing the felt recoil and torque that is typical of most polymer-framed pistols. Given the high velocity of .40 S&W cartridges, every advantage in recoil management is important.
The M&P40 VTAC measures 7.63 inches in length, 5.5 inches in height (base of magazine to top of rear sight), and 1.2 inches in width, including the ambidextrous slide releases. And that is the first of many features worthy of note. The M&P40’s ambidextrous slide releases have a flatter profile than most and are positioned slightly back from the traditional location, which is usually just at the furthest reach of the strong-hand thumb. The slide release is closer to the thumb, which makes activation easier, while the flat profile prevents the tendency to inadvertently rest the thumb on the release, which can, on occasion, cause the slide to close on an empty chamber after firing the last round. It’s embarrassing and I’ve done it.
The M&P40 also has a well-placed and easily activated magazine release that can be reversed for left-handed users. This is the only feature on the M&P40 I would like to see changed. A fully ambidextrous magazine release would not only accommodate southpaws, but ambidextrous shooters as well, and more importantly, any operator who is forced to change hands to gain full control of the gun’s primary functions. For law enforcement and military use, I believe fully ambidextrous features are a must.