The S&W Response – The Multi Mag PCC

When Smith & Wesson introduced the Response PCC, I was sort of ambivalent about it. Neat, another blowback-operated AR-15 in 9mm. I didn’t give it a long look, but when S&W offered to send it, I didn’t say no. I enjoy pistol-caliber carbines, so why not? After picking up the Response from my local FFL, I learned I judged the Response a little too early. The S&W Response isn’t your typical AR-9. It’s surprisingly different than most AR-9s and clever in a variety of ways.

The S&W Response PCC

First, the upper and lower are made entirely from polymer. Uppers and lowers made from polymer aren’t new, but they are new for Smith & Wesson. A lot of polymer lowers kind of suck, and after a few 80 lowers I’ve milled I can say that some are okay. I’ve had more than one negative interaction with polymer lowers. S&W is a name I trust for good firearms, so I’ll give it a fair shake.

One of the big benefits of the Response’s all-polymer design is weight. The gun weighs only 5.9 pounds in total. The upper and lower are not standardized and are not compatible with other uppers and lowers. The polymer goes into the rail, stock, charging handle, and more.

The next rather interesting feature is the ability to swap mag wells. The mag well detaches from the lower and allows you to use different magazines. The Response comes with the M&P mag well installed and a spare Glock magwell. That’s smart because, as Ruger learned, people really want Glock magazines. There is a reason the ‘Does it take Glock mags’ meme exists.

Also, like Ruger, this modular mag well can potentially introduce the mag platforms. The mag well seems large, so we might see the potential for other calibers like 10mm and .45 ACP as well. Who knows? With the aftermarket, we might get more options than we ever considered.

Swapping More Than Mags

The mag well is easy to replace. All you need to do is remove a single hex head bolt and slide the mag well to the side. Slide the new one in, and bam, you’re done. It’s an impressively simple system. It takes just a few minutes to swap the mag wells over. Not a bad system at all.

The other thing we can swap around with the Response is the pistol grip. It’s a lot like the M&P Pistol grip. It comes with a number of inserts that allow you to customize the size of the grip. The Response grip is quite grippy, more than any other AR pistol grip.

Most AR aftermarket parts and pieces work with the Response. You can swap charging handles, safeties, and the like. Stuff like the magazine release is proprietary, so it can accommodate both the M&P and Glock mags.

To the Range

I mostly used the M&P magazines for testing. I barely swapped to Glock to confirm the reliability, but in honor of the M&P being S&W mags, I figured it was the better way to go. Also, with the M&P magazines, you get a last-round bolt hold open design. That feature doesn’t work with the Glock mags, from what I can tell. S&W sends you two 23-round magazines for the gun. The M&P magazines are robust and work well for a PCC.

Any kind of straight blowback PCC tends to have some nasty recoil. Well, nasty might be an exaggeration. Typically, a 9mm blowback AR recoils as much as a 5.56 AR. It’s a bit much for a 9mm, but not out of this world or stiff. The Response isn’t completely free from that blowback recoil, but it is very well-balanced, so the effect is minimized and becomes very well-balanced. The bolt weight, buffer, and spring are well-tuned properly, and it shows.

The Response offers some very impressive ergonomics. The pistol grip is heavily textured and customizable, as we covered. The rail is thin and easy to grip, and there is a set of textured inserts on the rail for a nice grip. The stock is a Magpul MOE SL stock that is a fantastic touch to the rifle overall. It’s supportive and adjustable and locks on solid to the gun.

The controls are all your standard AR-type outside of the magazine release. To accommodate the handgun magazines, it’s pushed rearward a fair bit but very easy to reach. Up top, we have a polymer ambidextrous charging handle that’s quite generous.

Blasting Away With the Response

The S&W Response has a very nice trigger. It is impressively nice, to be perfectly honest. The Response’s trigger is less than three pounds and perfectly flat. PCC triggers can be finicky because of the varying quality of 9mm ammo. Steelcase Eastern Euro stuff tends to have hard primers, so strong springs are needed. That’s not an issue here. It’s a solid and light trigger with a short pull. To quote Ricky Bobby, “I want to go fast.”

Fast it goes, and it’s a real racehorse when it comes time to shoot fast. I blasted through several different drills and courses of fire. I set up my own mini Action Steel course for time with reloads, multi-positional shooting, and sprints. I also did the more traditional Bill Drill and scored a cold 1.99 seconds on it. The gun performs and works reliably. It’s easy to shoot fast and well-suited if you want to dive into the competitive world of PCC without breaking the bank.

Finally, does it shoot straight and can hit anything you need within 50 to 100 yards? At 100 yards, you have to start factoring in bullet drop, but if I aimed at the head of an IPSC target, I could hit it somewhere at 100 yards. At 25 yards, we could produce a good tight group that was nearly one big hole.

The PCC Life

The Response retails for around $699.99, according to the internet machine, so it falls outside of the budget range but is still affordable. It’s a great way to enter the competition world and be a competitor. Pistol Caliber Carbines are a good bit of fun, and they’re a great option if you’re already part of the M&P 9mm fan club.

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.