The Smith & Wesson Folding Carbine: Gimmick or Gem?
Earlier this year Smith & Wesson decided to jump into the pistol caliber carbine market with a folding 9mm rifle. Officially the gun is known as the M&P FPC (folding pistol carbine). For our purposes, we’re going to call it the Smith & Wesson Folding Carbine. Let’s take a look at the gun and how it shapes up.
About the Smith & Wesson Folding Carbine
The gun is actually a pretty simple design. It uses a straight blowback system, which is usually both inexpensive and very reliable. During my limited shooting with the FPC, I had zero malfunctions. If you have experience with the Smith & Wesson M&P series of pistols, the grip will look and feel very familiar. This is a smart move on S&W’s part. Not only does it make the transition between guns easier, it also helps let the rifle platform use the M&P pistol magazines. That magazine interchangeability not only helps you in terms of logistics, but you’re not stuck buying more new magazines.
The main feature of this gun is the ability to fold in half. The gun folds to a 16.38-inch length. This makes it somewhat similar to the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 and invites comparison. While the Kel-tec Sub 2000 folds over the top, the Smith & Wesson Folding Carbine folds to the side. While this is wider than the Ket-Tec, it will be shorter in terms of height. One advantage of side folding is that it allows you to mount an optic that doesn’t move. While I do have an optic on my Kel-Tec S2k, it requires one that has to move out of the way to allow the gun to fold. Both guns have a charging handle that runs along the tube leading to the stock and can be operated by either hand easily. Read more about the rifle here.
Shooting the Smith & Wesson Folding Carbine
The stock on the FPC feels a bit like some AR15 stocks I’ve used. This is different from the Sub2K, which has more of a blade-style stock. Aside from comfort, the Smith & Wesson’s stock will hold 2 magazines, which is a handy feature for a gun that is meant to deploy in a hurry. The gun ships with 1 17-round magazine and 2 23-round magazines (as long as you live in a free state). The bigger 23-rounders are the best choice for the stock-mounted holder. As a side note, the retention mechanism for the magazine holder is a little weird. It has a small, simple plate to push to allow the magazine to be inserted or released. However, it rocks the opposite way. So, to release the left mag, you push to the right and vice versa. I understand why it works that way, but it didn’t feel intuitive.
The gun is very soft shooting. Between the weight of the gun and the spring system, the recoil was barely noticeable. The trigger, which uses a Glock-style blade in it, was pretty crisp and a little lighter than I expected based on my experience with M&P pistols. My version used “iron sighs” (made of polymer).
Once I got the sights zeroed, I fired a few 5-shot groups to check the accuracy. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, so without an optic, I had to choose between fuzzy front sight or fuzzy target. The pic below are two of the unsupported 5-shot test groups I shot at 25 yards. (Target pasters are covering the rounds I shot to zero)
Now, this is where some people start complaining about the distance. Yes, I’m sure the gun is capable of much more distance. I tested it at 25 yards and closer. Why? First, because I was using an indoor range. I’m in South Florida, the temp was close to the surface of the sun, and I didn’t feel like driving to an outdoor range to shoot it 100 yards. That brings me to the second reason: 100 yards isn’t the niche I think this gun fits. I have other guns that handle that role better. This gun, for me, would be more for use in and around buildings. Think about the distance of a supermarket aisle. If you need 100-yard zeroing, then do that. It doesn’t fit in the context of my life and uses.
The Good Parts of the Smith & Wesson Folding Carbine
As I mentioned, the gun shoots accurately and softly. It folds nicely to be stowed in a vehicle, on your boat or in a backpack. The magazine release is reversible, so the gun is pretty left-handed friendly. (Except for the fact that blowback rifles tend to deposit a lot of soot on your face as a lefty). Like the Kel-Tec, it comes with a threaded barrel standard. Unlike the Kel-Tec, the FPC has a handguard that is usable for accessories. It is M-Lok compatible, so mounting lights or handguards is a breeze. The grip also allows the user to change out palm swells to fit their unique grip sizes.
Once you get used to it, the mechanism that locks/unlocks the gun to allow it to fold it pretty easy to use. In terms of deploying it from a folded status, the FPC is faster than the Kel-Tec. One other plus is that the M&P FPC has a last-round hold open, something the Kel-Tec does not have.
The Not So Good
Really, I had very little to not like about this gun. The triangle-shaped cocking mechanism is a little lower profile than I would like and not as positive feeling as the one on the Sub2K. But I feel like I’d get used to that over time.
The one real complaint I have is about the slide release. The slide release is small and located in the ejection port, adjacent to the slide. It wasn’t the easiest to activate and I was always concerned I was going to get my finger slammed in the bolt. In fact, after doing it once, I decided that was enough. There is no chance I’d feel comfortable enough to use that under stress. Going forward, the charging handle is the only method I plan to use.
The Bottom Line
So, is the Smith & Wesson Folding Carbine a gimmick or a gem? I’m going to say gem, with an asterisk. This fits a certain need. It’s not a battle rifle. Don’t confuse it with one. If you knew you were going into a gunfight, there are better choices. If you are thinking about using one for competition, you will probably be much happier with something like a Sig MPX. But for stowing on a boat, in a truck, or even in motorcycle saddlebags, this is a gem. Likewise, if you need a gun that can fit in a backpack and maybe flex into a home defense role. It is easy to use, seems reliable and more versatile than its main competitor, the Sub 2000. While it is a little more expensive than the Kel-Tec, I think the price is justified.
Overall, I have to say good job Smith & Wesson.
What do you think? Have you tried the Smith & Wesson Folding Carbine? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.
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