Smith & Wesson has just introduced a pistol caliber carbine designed to be the perfect companion piece to a S&W M&P9 pistol or a Glock 17/19. The lightweight carbine features AR-style controls in the familiar locations and the ability to use a number of aftermarket parts and accessories. My 500-round, single-day evaluation of the new Response convinced me the carbine has the reliability, accuracy and handling characteristics needed for competition and defense use.
Smith & Wesson Response
Constructed with reinforced polymer upper and lower receivers, the Response weighs under 6 pounds without its 23-round magazine. Even the free-floating handguard is constructed from polymer, and it possesses M-LOK slots and a picatinny rail on top. The pistol grip is shaped very much like the M&P9 grip and even comes with four interchangeable palm swell adapters.
But what sets the Response apart from other tactical/competition carbines is its Flexmag magazine well adapters that allow the shooter to easily switch between a double-stack M&P9 magazine and Glock G17/19 mags. Smith & Wesson is currently shipping the Response with both magwell adapters with plans to develop other magwell adapters for popular double-stack 9mm pistols.
The Response is blowback in operation, and it does not possess a gas block or locking mechanism and the upper receiver does not have a port door cover. Its two-piece bolt carrier is machined from stainless steel and uses a simple, claw-style extractor. The ejector is pinned into a module in the lower receiver that also contains the bolt lock. Resistance is provided by the buffer spring, and the carbine functioned well with mild range loads all the way up to hot defense rounds.
My test sample’s trigger breaks crisply at 3.2 pounds and has a firm reset. Triggers, charging handles, pistol grips and buttstocks are easily replaceable with aftermarket parts. As far as the trigger is concerned, I thought it was appropriate for both competition and defense use and made shooting groups easy!
Trijicon’s 1.25 – 4X AccuPoint was my favorite optic for 3-gun competition back when I was actively competing about a million years ago. It has plenty of magnification for most 3-gun stages and dialed down to 1.25X can be shot with both eyes open like a reflex sight. To test the Response’s accuracy, I set my target stand out at 50-yards. I fired all groups from a seated rest utilizing a DOA Tactical shooting bench. Then I rested the gun’s handguard on a sand-filled Caldwell Tack Driver shooting bag. I dialed up the AccuPoint to 4X and centered the red aiming chevron on the center of the target while adding pressure to the flat-faced trigger until the shot broke.
I fired three, five-shot groups with each ammunition and the best group is recorded in the accuracy table. Black Hill’s 115-grain JHP’s produced the best five-shot group, measuring just 1.20 inches at 50-yards. Hornady’s American Gunner, another high-velocity 115-grain hollow point, produced a group just slightly larger at 1.31 inches. Doubletap’s 77-grain Solid Copper Hollow Points produced 1,846 fps velocity and generated a whopping 582 foot-pounds of energy!
Wide Range of Ammo Tested
I tested the Response with loads ranging from 77 grains to 147 grains, all with different overall lengths, including hollow points and flat tips, and the gun never stuttered. The aggregate group size for the five different ammunitions tried was just a hair over an inch and a half. Quite frankly, that was much better than what I expected.
I brought along my first-generation M&P9, with a 4.25-inch barrel for comparison with the velocity of the Response’s 16-inch barrel. What I found, based on the loads used, is that velocity is about 15-percent greater than the pistol. Energy, however, is 24-percent higher. Increased horsepower from the 9mm is just another benefit of the carbine.
One thing you’ll notice shooting the Response from a bench is that you’ll get some gas from around the charging handle. I fired over 200 rounds from the bench before moving on to field exercises. Yeah, it is a gassy gun. I imagine it would be even gassier with a suppressor. Fortunately, I didn’t notice it as much during field shooting.
One of the advantages of carbines is that they are so much easier to hit targets with compared to a handgun. With my AccuPoint dialed down to 1.25X, I ran several magazines through the Response at an MGM BC C-Zone steel target at 20 yards. Doubletaps were scary fast – in probably a third of the time of what I can do with a pistol at that distance. In fact, I was able to connect with such consistency that I started trying to hammer the head box of the target. I had to slow a bit to get my hits, but it was still easy! The Response’s crisp trigger and firm reset made shooting it quickly an easy matter!
Test Rounds Downrange
I put a lot of rounds downrange during the field portion of my evaluation without giving the Response much time to cool. One of the things I wondered about prior to shooting the carbine was if the handguard would become too uncomfortable to hold. This, happily, was not the case! One suggestion I might make is that if you don’t intend to put a suppressor or muzzle brake on the gun, add a drop of blue thread lock to the thread protector cap. I found myself constantly tightening the cap so as not to lose it.
S&W’s new Response pistol caliber carbine impressed me with its accuracy and reliability. Its unique engineering and construction provide the user with a lightweight, fast-handling carbine capable of competing on the range or defending the homestead. Priced at $799, the Response provides the user with an affordable 9mm carbine capable of using popular handgun magazines.
For more info, visit smith-wesson.com.
Smith & Wesson Response Accuracy Results
|American Eagle 147-grain FMJ Flat Point||1,077||378||1.72″|
|Black Hills 115-grain JHP||1,423||517||1.20″|
|DoubleTap 124-grain FMJ Match||1,221||410||1.77″|
|DoubleTap 77-grain Solid Copper HP||1,846||582||1.61″|
|Hornady American Gunner 115-grain XTP||1,250||399||1.31″|
Smith & Wesson Response Specs
- Caliber: 9mm
- Action: Semi-Auto, Blowback
- Overall Length: 32 1/8″ (collapsed) to 35 3/8″ (extended)
- Rifling: 1:10
- Muzzle: Threaded 1/2-28
- Grip: Polymer, four interchangeable palmswell adapters
- Stock: Adjustable
- Handugard: M-LOK
- Overall Weight: 5.9 pounds
- Barrel: 16.5 inches
- Receivers: Polymer
- Capacity: 23+1 (shipped)
- MSRP: $799