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Fantastic Folder: Smith & Wesson M&P FPC Semiauto 9mm

Whether as a fun gun or an effective personal-defense carbine, Smith & Wesson's Folding Pistol Carbine (FPC) has you covered.

Fantastic Folder: Smith & Wesson M&P FPC Semiauto 9mm
(Photo courtesy of RifleShooter)

Named the FPC for Folding Pistol Carbine, Smith & Wesson’s cutting-edge new firearm is a blowback-operated semiauto 9mm that uses M&P magazines, has on-board magazine storage, folds at the midriff and features an M-Lok-compatible handguard and threaded muzzle.

Handgun-caliber carbines that hold a lot of ammo have been popular since the first lever-action hit the scene during the mid 1800s. Those early Henry and Winchester carbines became known as “a rifle you can load on Sunday and shoot all week” and quickly became favored among settlers protecting their homesteads and cowboys guarding the herds. Smith & Wesson’s innovative folding 9mm carries on the grand tradition of being an excellent personal-defense tool for defending hearth and home.

In The Fold

To fold the carbine, press the large latch lever just forward of the ejection port with the right-hand thumb. This is equally comfortable whether you’re shooting right- or left-handed. Pull the front end of the carbine around and press it into the folded position until the charging-handle latch clicks into place. When folded, the FPC measures just 16.36 inches. To unfold the FPC, pull slightly rearward on the AR-esque charging handle. It serves double duty as the latch that secures the carbine in the folded position. Swing the front end around, and the breech will naturally click into place and be ready for use. Overall length when ready to fire is 30.36 inches. When folded, the FPC is entirely disabled because it folds at the juncture of the barrel breech and the bolt face. It’s not like rifles that fold behind the action and can be fired with the stock folded. The design offers a couple of advantages: It’s perfectly safe when folded because the action cannot go into battery, and the bore is easily accessed for cleaning.

smith and wesson fcp fully folded
When folded, the FPC is just 16.36 inches long. Because of where it hinges, it can’t be fired in this condition and must be unfolded first. (Photo courtesy of RifleShooter)

Solid Elements

The S&W FPC is a very modern firearm. Close scrutiny reveals that many parts—including the grip frame, receiver, handguard and stock—are made of premium glass-filled nylon, a material that has proved to be nearly indestructible. Only the barrel, bolt, recoil buffer tube and various small parts are made of metal. As mentioned earlier, the FPC has a blowback-operated bolt. As such, the barrel is fixed—no tilting-breech mechanism here—and has excellent accuracy potential. That potential plays out on the range, as I’ll detail shortly. The bolt is a robust chunk of steel and is controlled with a T-type charging handle that rides a rail on the bottom of the recoil buffer tube. Said bolt locks open on an empty magazine. There’s a magazine release tab on each side, so the design is ambidextrous in this particular function. However, the tabs are low-profile and not easy to activate. I found it much easier to just draw the charging handle rearward and release it to close the bolt on a fresh magazine. A weighted recoil buffer system inside the tube reciprocates with the bolt and reduces the already mild recoil of the 9mm cartridge. As a result, the FPC is very shooter-friendly.

There’s a sturdy extractor embedded into the right side of the bolt, and a slot on the left side for the fixed steel ejector secured inside the receiver. The two reliably yank fired cases from the chamber and heave them out the ejection port. Smith & Wesson fitted the FPC with a flat-face trigger with a hinged safety lever housed in the trigger shoe. Pull weight averages a quite usable four pounds, 14 ounces, and the trigger release is reasonably crisp.

Navigating The Ergonomics

The magazine release is similar to that on S&W’s popular M&P line of pistols and is reversible. Forward of the trigger guard there’s a crossbolt safety. It falls comfortably beneath the tip of the right-hand trigger finger and is easily disengaged by the right-hand thumb for those shooting southpaw. Grip geometry is also nearly identical to that of Smith & Wesson’s popular line of M&P semiautomatic pistols. Like the M&P pistols, the FPC comes with four different grip modules that enable the end user to customize fit to his or her hand. They’re easy to swap, too. Just rotate the semicircular head of the retaining pin a quarter turn, draw it out the end of the grip, and pop off the existing grip module. Select the one you want, hook its upper lip into place in the grip frame and rotate the module into position. Insert the retaining pin, and rotate its head back into alignment with the grip backstrap.

smith and wesson fcp grip
The FPC’s safety is a crossbolt in front of the trigger guard. The gun takes Smith & Wesson M&P pistol magazines, and the magazine release is reversible. (Photo courtesy of RifleShooter)

A chunky but comfy buttstock is attached to the rear of the recoil buffer tube. It’s nicely thought out and designed, and it’s chunky for a very good reason: It holds two spare magazines. Each FPC comes with one 17- and two 23-round magazines, and the two spares can be housed in the buttstock. That’s 63 rounds of ammo on board, in case you’re wondering. Spare magazines slide nose-first into the mag carrier slots, and are released by pressing one side or the other of the rocker-type release lever. For shooters in magazine capacity-restricted states, the FPC is already available in a compliant version, which comes with three 10-round magazines. There’s a waffle-type texture on the buttstock to help it stick to your shoulder, and a QD cup for a sling swivel in the toe of the stock. Forward of the receiver, there’s just the barrel and handguard. The barrel breech is embedded in the rotating portion of the hinging mechanism, and the sleek octagon handguard clamps around it.

person holding rifle
The FPC uses a recoil-dampening buffer behind the bolt, and operating the action is accomplished via a T-type charging handle reminiscent of an AR-15. (Photo courtesy of RifleShooter)

At first glance the handguard appears to be a conventional aluminum AR-type part, but in fact it is high-strength polymer, fit in two halves to the barrel breech. It’s got a full-length optic rail down the top and plenty of M-Lok slots around its other seven facets. Free-floating it is not, but that’s not the issue it would be were the carbine chambered for a high-velocity rifle cartridge. The 9mm cartridge doesn’t produce enough barrel vibration and oscillation for accuracy to be adversely affected by contact between barrel and handguard. Up front the barrel is threaded 1/2x28 for easy compatibility with a suppressor. Barrel material is proven 4140 chrome-moly steel. It’s nicely finished in matte black. No sights come with the FPC, so I mounted a set of XS tritium flip-up back-up iron sights. They fold nice and low, and they provide excellent quick-action sighting. Because my middle-aged eyes don’t resolve iron sights quite as effectively as they once did, I added a Trijicon MRO red dot for accuracy testing.

parts of the Smith & Wessson fcp
Like Smith & Wesson’s M&P pistols, the FPC’s grip comes with four interchangeable grip modules for a custom fit. (Photo courtesy of RifleShooter)

Consistency At The Range

Scrounging up five different 9mm factory loads with bullets weighing from 90 to 147 grains, I headed to the local range to wring out the FPC. I posted a target at 25 yards, sandbagged the carbine, and fired a few rounds to get the red dot sighted in. Then I went to work, firing three consecutive five-shot groups for average with each type of ammo. The FPC ran without a hiccup, steadily chugging through load after load. To my surprise, the various bullet weights all impacted nearly the same point of aim. Even the 90-grain versions were only a half inch or so higher on target than the 115- to 147-grain bullets. That’s a fantastic characteristic in a carbine, and it enables the owner to shoot inexpensive practice rounds and premium personal-protection ammo interchangeably without worrying about changing sight settings.

Accuracy, too, was admirable. All five loads tested averaged less than one inch at 25 yards. Hornady’s 125-grain HAP Steel Match ammo took top honors, posting an average of just 0.60 inch. Federal Premium 147-grain HSTs also shot very well and generated the best on-impact energy (428 ft.-lbs. at the muzzle) thanks to a combination of top bullet weight and excellent velocity. It would be a great choice for self defense. To further test reliability, I ran ammo through all three of the different magazines included with the FPC. All ran perfectly. I did notice that when loading the magazines by hand, the first round into the magazines is a bit squirrely, seemingly due to the offset of the follower. But once the first round was in, the rest followed effortlessly. All magazines reliably locked the bolt rearward after the last round was fired, making it easy to insert a fresh, fully loaded mag and slingshot the bolt closed on a loaded cartridge.

accuracy chart

Finding Balance

With two fully loaded spare magazines on board in the buttstock, the FPC is a bit butt-heavy. Once you’re accustomed to the feel, it’s not an issue, and it does not interfere with the carbine’s lively handling characteristics. Balance at the shoulder is what I’d term modern/tactical. The FPC mounts, points and maneuvers comfortably, and the feel will be familiar and comfortable to shooters used to shooting any sort of tactical carbine. Because it’s so clearly suppressor-compatible, I mounted a SIG SRD9 suppressor. Now discontinued, this particular can is about eight inches long, and 1.35 inches in diameter and weighs 12 ounces. Immediately, the FPC went from a super-compact, butt-heavy folding “pistol carbine,” as S&W terms it, to a shooting tool that balances like a proper rifle but doesn’t fold down as small. With the suppressor mounted, overall length is 23.5 inches. Still small, but not 16.36 inches small.

Here I’d like to insert a warning: If you shoot the FPC left-handed, don’t use a suppressor on it. Like all semiauto firearms, back-pressure created by the suppressor can cause particulates to blow out the ejection port—and right into the eyes of a left-handed shooter.

Recommended


Pragmatic Approach

My son William, age 13 and a hunter at heart, looked askance at the FPC. “What’s it for?” he asked dubiously. A valid point, and one that’s a bit hard to answer for rural folks. Perhaps a better way to phrase that question is “What’s it good for?” Fun, first of all. Smith & Wesson’s new FPC 9mm is tremendous fun to shoot. And let’s be real—that’s the only reason we need. Equipped with an FPC and a bevy of tin cans, steel targets or milk jugs full of water, you’re bound to have a good time. More importantly, the FPC will make a tremendous self-defense tool, particularly for urban use. I can’t think of anything much better. It folds into a tiny, discreet package that’s easy to store and to transport. It provides lots of firepower, and it’s easy to control thanks to low recoil. Even the authority of the 9mm cartridge itself benefits from the long-ish 16.25-inch barrel, which enables maximum velocity.

Additionally, the FPC is quite intuitive to use. Unfolding and folding it is easy. The safety falls naturally under the fingertip when the trigger finger is indexed along the frame above the trigger. The charging handle is obvious and not hard to pull back. Spare magazines are easily visible and quickly accessed. And the sighting system is really optimized for use with a red dot—the simplest aiming method available. The FPC comes in an unassuming cloth carry case. You could easily add a couple of iron-on non-gunny patches to make it even more discreet. Inside are straps to secure the folded carbine, and storage pouches for spare magazines and accessories.

One or two trips to the range with the responsible members of your family should be adequate to familiarize them with how to operate it. That’s an important factor in a home-defense tool that, if ever used in earnest, will be put to work under extreme pressure. 
From first impression to considered evaluation, the new FPC is not your usual Smith & Wesson. It doesn’t have the refinement of a classic revolver, the balance of an M&P pistol or the precision of an M&P AR-15 rifle. What it does have is S&W’s robust reliability, practical ergonomics and user-friendly nature. And with 63 rounds on board, it’s a carbine you can load on Sunday and shoot all week.

Smith & Wesson FPC Specs

  • Type: blowback-operated carbine
  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Capacity: 17-, 23-round magazines (tested); 10-round
  • Barrel: 16.25 in., threaded 1/2x28
  • Overall Length: 30.4 in., 16.36 in. folded
  • Weight: 5 lb.
  • Stock: glass-filled nylon; folding w/on-board magazine storage
  • Finish: matte black
  • Trigger: flat-face, 4 lb. 14 oz. pull (measured)
  • Safety: crossbolt
  • Sights: none; optics rail
  • Price: $659
  • Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson

S&W Recent Announcement

As we went to press, Smith & Wesson had just announced the Response. Like the FPC, it’s a 9mm carbine. While it doesn’t have a folding stock like the FPC, it has one feature that will endear it many folks out there. Thanks to its Flexmag system, the Response will feed not only from M&P magazines but also Glock G17 and G19 mags. The latter are widely available on the aftermarket in various capacities.—JSR 




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