The concealable semi-auto handgun market has been booming as more and more Americans start carrying handguns for self-defense. Smith and Wesson released the M&P Shield in 2012, filling the market demand for a compact 9mm.
Buyers could choose between the Smith and Wesson Shield 40 or 9mm, and the 9mm quickly rose to prominence as one of the best weapons for concealed carry due to its slim size. The main drawback of the initial Smith Wesson M&P was the thumb safety, which many owners engaged by accident, resulting in a much slower response time.
Smith & Wesson responded to this complaint by releasing a second version of the Shield in 2014, without the thumb safety. The gun still has multiple safety features to prevent accidental discharge, with the added advantage of a faster response, which is essential for self-defense.
Since then, Smith and Wesson has released several different versions of the gun, including the EZ with either .380 ACP or 9mm rounds, as well as the Smith and Wesson Shield 45 for .45 ACP rounds. The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield m2.0, released in 2017, is the latest in the Shield line but only features modest improvements over the original thumb-safety less version.
If you’re looking at buying one of these guns today, you’ll get the 2.0 version with a slightly more aggressive grip and cosmetic texturing at the muzzle end. In this review, we’ll look at the Smith and Wesson 9mm Shield without the thumb safety since it’s the one most people will get. We’ll also take a look at the second-most-popular model, the Shield 9mm EZ.
Smith and Wesson Shield Specifications
The Shield 9mm falls into the category of compact handguns, with a polymer frame, stainless steel slide and barrel, and single-stacked magazine. The gun is less than 1″ thick, making it perfect for purses, pockets, and holsters. Smith & Wesson used the single-stack magazine to cut down on width while sacrificing some magazine capacity.
If you choose the 9mm version, you get an option of two magazines: a seven-round or extended eight-round magazine. The .40 caliber version of the gun is the same size as the 9mm but has one less round in the mag: six in the flush-fit option or seven in the extended mag.
The original full-size M&P pistols had a trigger feel that many experts found soft and spongy, and a reset that was easy to miss. The Smith and Wesson Shield 9mm has a much more robust trigger with a shorter take-up and heavier pull required to break. Some people may find the pull to be slightly too heavy, but it does soften up slightly over time.
Overall, the gun is very lightweight, coming in at 19 oz, with an overall length of 6.1″, making it small enough to carry around everywhere. It has three-dot, drift adjustable sights and a striker-fired action.
Smith & Wesson Shield Real-Life Handling
Specifications can give you a small idea of what a gun will feel like in action, but the real test comes in on the firing range. Guns marketed for self-defense need to be light, easy to carry, reliable, and accurate. If it fails any of these criteria, chances are it will rot away in your gun safe while you use something better.
Gun owners tend to buy different types of ammo, so a gun must stand up to even the lowest-quality ammunition with no issues. Smith and Wesson have put a lot of effort into making this a reliable weapon, even in bad conditions, and it shows. Several testers have reported firing well over 1,000 rounds with no malfunctions, which is a pretty impressive record.
Whether you’re running with potent hollow-points or something a bit gentler, you can rest assured that your M&P 9 Shield won’t let you down, no matter how badly you treat it.
Firing a gun at CCW distances is completely different from firing on a range. If you want to use your gun for self-defense, it needs to be accurate at very close distances and from several yards away. A good estimate is whether a gun can hit an 8″ target between seven and 25 yards with no issues.
The Shield does very well at this simple accuracy test, and the sights work great as well. The full-size, dovetailed, three-dot sights have a 5.3″ sight radius. Aligning the sights on targets is relatively easy, though the front sights obscure the target at longer distances. Since the S&W M&P Shield is primarily a self-defense weapon, long-distance work isn’t a massive concern.
Recoil and Feel
Shooting a 9mm round from a small pistol or revolver can lead to a surprisingly big punch, which the Shield 9mm manages with ease. While you do get a bit of recoil, it’s relatively easy to control the muzzle rise, even if you’re the fastest finger in the West.
The 6.5-lb trigger pull is relatively heavy, which will please some people and disappoint others. The reset is tactile and audible, making it one of the best features of the trigger feel and responsiveness.
Managing ergonomics on a very thin gun can be tricky, especially with a gun this size. People with larger hands may struggle to get all four fingers on the pistol. Also, Smith & Wesson failed to adjust the backstrap, which follows the same curve as larger pistols. The gun’s thinness means that this curved backstrap sits on a smaller portion of the hand, and any recoil gets focused into this much smaller space; This discomfort is minimal at first but becomes increasingly noticeable the more you shoot.
Lefties will be disappointed with the lack of ambidextrous slide release or any other concessions to left-handed users. The magazine release isn’t reversible, which is surprising considering how modern this gun feels otherwise.
While the Smith & Wesson Shield has a slide release, people with weaker grips may find the level extremely difficult to move when the slide is locked to the rear. It’s not a big problem but can put several demographics off buying the gun.
A very important feature is the gun’s textured grip. The polymer frame has incredibly aggressive texturing to ensure you have a firm grip on the gun at all times, regardless of how sweaty your palms are. Since grip affects everything from accuracy to carrying, having a strong, reliable grip is essential.
Carrying The Smith & Wesson Shield
The Shield is designed from the ground-up to be a concealed carry weapon, but we still recommend using a holster instead of pockets. The gun doesn’t fit comfortably in most pockets but sits very well under clothing in the correct holster. Whether you wear cargo pants and a T-shirt or dress pants, you can carry this gun with confidence and comfort.
A known problem with the M&P Shield is with the extended magazine. While the seven-round flush-fitting magazine is perfect, the eight-round extended magazine sits a little bit over the pistol frame. Smith & Wesson’s solution uses a polymer sleeve to cover the area between the base and gun frame. It makes the joint look nicer, makes it easier to grasp the magazine, and acts as a spacer to prevent the magazine from hitting the ejector and potentially ruining the gun.
Unfortunately, this polymer shield comes with some problems of its own. Firstly, the backstrap extension means that it’s more difficult for the magazine to drop cleanly from the gun. The sleeve also tends to move up the magazine over time, preventing correct insertion when you need it the most.
While the chances of having to reload in a self-defense situation are rare, these issues can affect the gun’s safety and handling. A good solution is to choose the flush-fitting seven-round mag, but if you feel you need the extra round, there are third-party magazines that fix this glaring issue.
The best of these third-party fixes is the MagFix, which replaces the original polymer sleeve with a base pad. The base pad has the same function as the sleeve, but since it’s at the bottom of the mag, you won’t experience the same slips that you would with the original. It’s a pricey addition, but considering the Shield’s excellent value, it’s well worth the price.
Smith & Wesson M&P380 Shield EZ
After the success of the Smith & Wesson Shield semi auto pistol, the company decided to release an easier-to-use version. While it’s slightly bulkier and has a weaker cartridge, it’s still a viable option for many new gun owners who want something basic to carry around for self-defense. Smith & Wesson also released a 9mm version of the EZ if you wanted a bit more stopping power with the same ergonomic advantages of the original Shield EZ.
The main difference between the original Shield and the EZ is how easy the gun is to use and maintain. With the EZ, Smith & Wesson made a gun that’s easy to load, easy to shoot, and easy to clean and disassemble. The slide is easy to manipulate, which is important for people with less hand strength who may otherwise struggle to operate their self-defense weapon.
Another feature that left-handed people will appreciate is that the gun is significantly more ambidextrous than the original Shield. It has a configurable magazine release, though the slide-stop and safety levers are both on the left-hand side of the gun.
So What Do We Think About The Smith & Wesson Shield?
So now that we’ve taken a close look at the features and specs of the Smith & Wesson Shield, here’s a few of the main take aways.
Smith & Wesson Shield Advantages
The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm has a lot going for it. Designed from the ground up to be a CCW, every aspect of it is ideal for self-defense. From the lightweight and thin frame to the excellent accuracy and reliability, this is a gun that will be by your side for years to come.
In addition to handling every type of ammo we threw at it, the Shield has good ergonomics to ensure that you’ll always hit your target at close and medium range. We were impressed with the recoil control and general feel of the gun, though some left-handed people may want to look for alternate options.
Smith & Wesson Shield Disadvantages
The two main issues we found with the gun were the backstrap design and the eight-round magazine issue. These two issues can severely impact the Shield’s performance. The backstrap design can make the gun uncomfortable to handle, especially for people not used to firing their weapon often, which means less time on the range and less skill for defense.
The eight-round magazine polymer sleeve can impact the gun’s handling in a variety of ways. We understand why Smith and Wesson added the sleeve, but the execution could have been much better. Luckily, there are third-party solutions, but we feel that the company should have addressed these issues in the iterations since the first M&P Shield.
Some people may think seven- or eight-round magazines aren’t enough. But considering the situations the M&P Shield is designed for, we think that it should be enough stopping power for personal protection.
The Final Verdict
Overall, we can safely recommend the Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm for anyone looking for a daily personal defense handgun. It’s small, easy to use, and incredibly reliable. It can stand up to lots of abuse with sub-par ammo under different firing conditions and still work with zero malfunctions. Whether you’re a new gun owner looking for an extra safety net or an expert looking for a reliable CCW, this is an excellent choice all-round.
The Smith and Wesson Shield is also an excellent value for money. The MSRP is already very affordable, and these guns regularly go on sale at major retailers. Even if you paid full price, you’ve gotten a personal defense weapon that will last for decades.
If you’re a complete novice to the gun world, also take a look at the EZ version of the Shield. Smith and Wesson has done a great job making an accessible gun that’s suitable for anyone, no matter how old, frail, or vulnerable. Since these are the groups of people who need the most protection, it makes sense to have a gun that’s very easy to load and use.
Converting Your Smith & Wesson Shield
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