Smith & Wesson CORE with Trijicon RMR Review

The Smith & Wesson Pro Series CORE pistols were announced in late 2012 were ready to run at the Media Day event at the 2013 SHOT Show. 

I had the chance to shoot an M&P9 CORE fitted with a Trijicon RMR sight and want to give you an early preview of the system. The short story is: this is the direction the entire S&W M&P series is headed.

where to buy M&P CORE pistol

Where to Buy the M&P CORE Pistol

The updated M2.0 Smith & Wesson M&P CORE pistols can be purchased at select retailers and through our affiliate links here:

Let’s jump in to my M&P CORE review.

Overview of the Guns

Unless you’ve been living off-grid for a very long time, you are likely familiar with the Smith & Wesson line of M&P handguns. These pistols are designed for law enforcement, military and defensive use as well as general plinking and competition.

M&P Pro CORE with RMR at the range

The CORE line is the company’s optics-ready M&P Pro Series pistol family. These guns – sort of an in-between step bridging the standard and Performance Center offerings – allow you to mount a mini reflex sight on the slide.

Reflex sights revolutionized rifle shooting and aim to do the same in the handgun space.

CORE Pistol Features

The Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm Pro Series handguns are a performance line of pistols based on the standard M&P platform. The Pro Series is a step between the base 9mm model and the highly-tuned guns coming out of the Performance Center.

There are several different Pro models including the Pro Series M&P9 C.O.R.E. These CORE guns are slightly different from the standard Pro Series pistols.

evaluating the S&W M&P CORE pistol with a variety of ammo

First of all, the slide on these handguns are cut to accept variety of optics, Your M&P CORE optics options include these sights available through our special affiliate links:

This allows for the easy installation of a reflex sight onto your M&P pistol.

the CORE Pro pistol tested

Red dot sights on pistols are a very good idea, and I was happy to see that Smith and Wesson jump on board as the first major gun maker to embrace the concept.

M&P CORE Sights

Going with the slide cut for optics is the installation of taller standard sights. Should you need to make a precision shot, or if the glass optic was to fail, the standard iron sights will be there to get you home.

Having an RMR or similar red dot on top of your pistol does add to the overall size of the gun. However, I think the benefits may outweigh the drawbacks of a larger package.

There are a number of Kydex holster makers who are already making scabbards for M&P CORE red dot pistols.

I also saw a new duty holster from Safariland this year designed to accommodate a red dot. So, we may be reaching critical mass on pistol optics.

There are also a couple of aesthetic changes to the Pro Series CORE pistols. The first is a slight restyling of the palm swell grips (see the photos on this page) and the addition of C.O.R.E. to the left side of the M&P9’s slide.

M&P CORE grip texture

The new palm swell grips are called Newly Enhanced Textured, or NET, grips. At this writing, it is not known if the grips are going to be standard for all M&P9 pistols going forward, or just for Pro Series handguns.

Performance Center M&P 9L Red Dot

A second Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm Pro Series C.O.R.E. pistol was introduced, this one being a longslide version of the gun. The M&P9L CORE, as it is sometimes referred to, is much the same as the stadard CORE pistol, but with a 5″ barrel and increased weight (26.0 ounces v. 24.0 ounces).

Both of the CORE models are striker-fired, have a polymer frame and use a stainless steel slide with a black Melonite finish. Neither of the guns are considered California compliant.

All of the guns in the Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm Pro Series are made in the United States and have a lifetime service policy.

Both of these pistols maintain many of the features of the standard model, including the use of 17-round magazines, a 4-5 pound trigger pull, a polymer frame, interchangeable palm swell grips and a black Melonite finished stainless steel slide. The guns are striker-fired.

About the RMR

The RMR, or Ruggedized Miniature Reflex, sight is a tough little red dot manufactured in the USA by Trijicon.

M&P CORE with RMR mounted on the slide

Trijicon has an excellent reputation for building durable optics. Friends of mine who have used the Trijicon ACOG overseas have been very complimentary of the ruggedness are reliability of the optics. 

While a group of writers at Media Day isn’t the harshest thing a RMR is likely to encounter, the guns were certainly being shot. Based on the numbers of people I watched cycling through the Smith & Wesson range, I’d expect that each of the guns was getting no fewer than 500 rounds each hour through them.

Call it 5,000 rounds each for the day? And the sights experienced no failures according to the reps I spoke with. Also, the temps were very cold – below freezing when I was shooting.

Both the gun and the optic ran 100%. I’m impressed.

How Does It Shoot?

In a word: great.

I’ve shot a lot of AR-type rifles with various red dot optics, but I think this was the first pistol I have shot with one. It was a fantastic first outing.

The RMR sight worked just as I would expect it to. The bright aiming point was easy to see, allowing for fast target acquisition. Accuracy was very good with the RMR.

M&P CORE 9mm review at the range

Smith & Wesson had a bunch of zombie and killer clown targets on the range. Frankly, if I am doing a M&P 9mm CORE review, I couldn’t ask for a better target system.

While the distances were not great, getting hits was easy enough: push the gun out and when the RMR’s red dot is superimposed over the target press the trigger.

Recoil was mild in the 9mm pistol I shot. Full-size 9mm handguns are generally easy shooters, and with the additional weight on the slide soaking up the recoil impulse it was soft shooting.

man shooting the Smith Wesson MP CORE at the range with RMR

The three-dot sights were taller than the standard sights so you can co-witness through the optic. This is good should something go wrong with the optic in combat or competition. The downside is they could be somewhat distracting for some people – nothing that isn’t quickly overcome with training, however. I didn’t have any problems with them.

Where Are We Today?

When Smith & Wesson introduced the CORE pistols many years back, they were on the front edge of a wave that swept over the industry.

Trijicon RMR for M&P CORE Pistol

Red dot sights are nearly ubiquitous on fighting rifles. It seems miniature optics are doing the same with pistols. At the time of this update, nearly every manufacturer has at least one handgun that can readily mount an electronic sight.

Likewise, there are many competitors to the RMR today. Trijicon even released a new version of the RMR and another pistol optic called the SRO.

In fact, even reflex sights with even smaller footprints are available for subcompact pistols like the Springfield Hellcat and Glock 43X.

where to buy M&P CORE pistol

Where to Buy the M&P CORE Pistol

The updated M2.0 Smith & Wesson M&P CORE pistols can be purchased at select retailers and through our affiliate links here:

Final Thoughts

When Smith & Wesson introduced the CORE pistols, it set a trend that continues today. No longer do people have to have a gunsmith specially mill a slide to attach an optic. Instead, you can get your favorite defensive pistol fitted from the factory for a miniature optic like the Trijicon RMR.

You have many choices today in combat pistol optics. The Trijicon RMR and M&P CORE was one of the first and remains one of the best. I know the RMR is expensive, but you can get a M&P CORE with a red dot from Crimson Trace straight from the S&W factory at a very reasonable price.

Last Update: September 3, 2021

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