Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
As concealed weapons gain traction, consumers have a world of options and choices of carry guns. Although there is an impressive variety available, prevalent issues remain regardless of the caliber. Pistols are getting lighter and smaller, and rounds are more powerful and shooting hotter. The options narrow for a gun that contains ballistic power in a package that is small, easily concealed, and comfortable. All the pieces come together in the Smith & Wesson M & P Shield.
In early 2012, Smith & Wesson introduced the Shield variation of its Military & Police. The gun fits the slim-nine profile. It is a flat, thin pistol that has a single-stack magazine chambered for full-power 9mm cartridges.
A potent .40 S & W having the same length is offered. The 9mm M & P Shield comes with a magazine holding seven rounds and an eight-rounder having a more extended floor plate. Each allows a round to be carried safely in the chamber.
- Attractive design
- Available in 9mm and .40 caliber
- Feels good in the hand
- High capacity
- Best suited for small hands
- Narrow backstrap
- Safety is set back rather far
The trigger pull is not as ‘mushy’ in the break and reset as the standard size M & P that it resembles. The 9mm registers an average Lyman digital scale of 7.89 pounds of pull. The pull weight of the .40 caliber averages 7.72 pounds. Pull characteristics of the two are similar. Telling them apart with eyes closed would be difficult unless the thumb safety is manipulated. The .40 is markedly tougher.
It has a relatively light, long trigger take-up. There is a tiny scrape followed by a smooth, short rollback to the breakpoint and discharge. The balance between concealability and shoot ability is a sweet spot for pistol shooters who test and maintain shooting skills on a regular basis.
Many shooters place the M & P Shield in the carry rotation. Some make the M & P Shield an everyday carry. Over and above marketing hype and specs, a test of the usefulness of a self-defense gun is on the street and range.
The gun is accurate for a defensive weapon. The slide stop and mag release are situated on the right side, positioned for one-handed operation, though it is ideally situated for smaller hands. The Shield’s low-profile, slender size is perfect for deep concealment either behind the hip or appendices inside the waistband.
It can be worn without wearing down the wearer. It can hardly be felt in a holster. The gun has a natural feel when pointing it. The sights are picked up quickly, and it is naturally, where it needs to be. The weapon makes less skilled users better shots and helps gain confidence.
A piece of yellow metal is exposed that is pulled down to disassemble. It can also be disassembled by pushing the slider forward and pulling the trigger. It has three dot sights. They show up well and adjust for windage. The sights offer decent visibility, although an upgrade would be an improvement.
The barrel has a loaded round indicator on the top. It comes with or without an external safety. It is not ambidextrous. The pistol is made for right-handed shooters. The small profile is understandable because the gun is a conceal and carry weapon.
The Shield is a striker-fired, polymer-framed pistol. It falls into a broad classification of compact handguns. The single stack is partially the reason the S & W design could make the gun thin. It reduces potential capacity but keeps the width of the pistol at a minimum.
The thinness is a major selling point of the gun. The lightweight, slim design paired with the power packing 9mm chamber has made the Smith & Wesson M & P Shield one of S & W’s most popular subcompact models.
It boasts ergonomics that work well in small hands and the reliability that shooters can count on when necessary. The gun has an excellent grip. The thinness of the grip gives the weapon a good feel. It is ideal for those with smaller hands.
The design seems to be like the Smith & Wesson Sigma, and S & W 99 combined to take the good features to make it. The light round mag with the extension makes the grip of the pistol perfect.
Hollow points are the lower end of self-defense ammo. A 9mm cartridge is a lot of power for a small gun. Moving from target to target is seamless. Multiple target engagement is not an issue.
A group of testers used Winchester WinClean 147-grain ammunition that has a jacketed, truncated cone. A 5.25-inch group that centered four to five inches above the aim marker was strung.
The best three had a group of 2.1 inches. Using a 124-grain load, the shot was closer to the point of aim. After the initial shot, which was low and to the left, the next four landed 1.65 inches apart. The lightest bullet the tester used was the old Classic line 9BP of the Federal.
It was a benchmark load the tester used for testing 9mm pistol accuracy. There was no stray first shot. The Federal round was unquestionably the most accurate, but the group clustered a little high and to the left of the POA.
Another team of testers used a minimum of 12 kinds of ammunition. At least four shooters with various experience and hand sizes shot the gun. Everyone agreed shooting the pistol was a breeze. This team stated there were no malfunctions.
Nine-mm cartridges are high-pressure rounds that are often thought to be ‘mild’ shooters. The mild recoil is accurate for large frame guns. When the cartridge is packed into a light, small pistol, the recoil can be surprising.
Both the 9mm and .40 caliber have soft recoil. A team of testers was surprised at the lesser than expected kick of the .40 M & P Shield. The M & P Shield has an excellent grip on managing recoil.
The recoil can be managed with a little practice. There is little problem controlling muzzle rise and recoil. No malfunctions of either weapon tested were experienced. The narrow backstrap at the hand web is not an aspect receiving favor from a test.
Larger M & P pistols have a backstrap that follows the curved shape. The Shield creates a point of interface that is more narrow between the hand and gun. The recoil force is directed into a smaller area of the hand.
If the backstrap were not tapered as much, the force of recoil would spread over a wider area of the hand. The recoil is neither too much nor painful. A small change in design would make the gun more comfortable to handle and shoot without impacting the gun’s ability to conceal or carry.
Changing magazines is relatively standard for seven-round (flush fitting) magazines. When the button is pressed, it drops free. When an extended magazine is used, things get a little sticky. An eight-round magazine extends below the pistol.
It is not the easiest pistol to engage. Nine times out of ten someone with small hands will require two thumbs to release the slide. To compensate the shooter often releases the slide by slinging it back.
The pistol has a five and a half pound trigger pull that breaks to the rear, which is typical of a conceal and carry gun. It is strike-fire only. Though classified as a double action pistol, it is striker-fired.
Turning on the safety of a 9mm Smith & Wesson M & P Shield is difficult but not as much as the .40. Swiping the safety to the ‘fire’ position is relatively easy. Although a manual safety is optional, at least 70 percent of M & Ps are produced without the feature.
Many M & P Shield owners carry the weapon with the manual safety in the ‘off’ position. The Shield without a lever was offered by Smith & Wesson and became an overnight success. The M & P Shield does have multiple safeties to aid in accidental discharge prevention.
Only the small thumb safety on the frame’s rear portion has been removed. Fear exists that the safety can be accidentally engaged while carrying. A slow threat response could occur when a user pulls the gun in defense of an attack. Trainers attest that the concern is not far-fetched.
* 9mm or .40 caliber
* Barrel length of 3.1 inches
* Drift adjustable three-dot sight
* MSRP $449
* Overall length of 6.1 inches
* Seven or eight-round capacity
* Strike-fire action
It strikes a responsive chord among men and women holding concealed carry permits for concealed carry discretion and comfort. A gun that is not accurate and reliable is nothing but a pain to carry.
The Smith & Wesson delivers in reliability and accuracy. Accuracy is good, and reliability is excellent. Some shooters still feel the trigger is mushy. Others say the trigger is crisp. The Shield does not perform to the ultimate in that aspect. Though it is not the worst trigger on the market, it certainly could be better.