Smith and Wesson’s M&P Shield 9mm
1. Feel of the Gun
The gap the Shield filled was the physical size and perceived stopping power difference between .380s and compact 9mms. While this may be nuanced schematics, perhaps the best way to describe it is is the ‘feel’ of the gun that owners describe. The 18-degree grip angle, well-balanced 3” M&P Shield barrel, and clean break of the 6.5-pound trigger pull, all contribute to this positive feel. The major factor that affects a positive or negative feel is the shooter’s hand size.
This is something that stresses the importance of purchasing a firearm that fits you. The best way to do that is to handle and fire a wide variety of handguns before a purchase. The details that contribute to its success and shortcomings are listed here. While this is not an exhaustive list, these are the top topics that came up in interviews. It’s about Shield owners and this author’s own experience with the Shield.
2. Caliber and Concealability
The Smith and Wesson M&P Shield is currently produced in 9mm, .40, and .45 calibers. While the entire line could get days of accolades, we are going to focus on the 9mm platform. The most consistent feedback is the Shield has more soft edges. These soft edges are comparable to the boxiness of a Glock or similar frame. That’s not to say the Shield is only for skinny guys and gals. Plenty of other people say the low profile is great for larger frame individuals as well. The only drawback has been for shooters with larger hands. The gun tends to move around in larger paws, but again that’s why we test fire.
Perhaps the most notable feature about the Shield would be how slim it is. At .95 of an inch wide, it is one of the more intuitive conceal carry handguns on the market. When carried in combination with a high-quality inside-the-waistband holster like the Galco Kingtuk IWB, it’s concealability cannot be understated. Other features, like the recessed safety lever, add to the overall thin but user-friendly profile of the Shield.
Between the 6.5-pound trigger pull and integrated trigger safety, one would expect a ‘clunky’ trigger operation. While this may have been in reports, most owners report a clean and predictable trigger break. As with any handgun, dry fire practice can help you familiarize the details of the handgun. This helps build muscle memory to manipulate the trigger while in a stable platform. Additionally, the extended trigger guard may look unnatural but does allow for fitting a gloved finger into the trigger guard.
4. Disassembly and Maintenance
Having to pull the trigger to release the slide presents a unique safety concern. Even the best-intentioned and trained operators can make mistakes. This is in one of my personal experiences. When I was working in the security contracting industry, there was an infamous incident on my job site. We were carrying Glock 17s and one of the guards accidentally shot himself in the hand. He was pulling the trigger to take his pistol apart for maintenance.
While those accidents are few and far between, Smith and Wesson must have decided we need an option to be safer. That is why they installed a sear deactivation lever inside the magazine well. This gives owners an option to safely release the slide without building the muscle memory that involves pulling the trigger to simply take apart their handgun for maintenance. Alternatively, you still have the option to pull the trigger to release the slide for a quicker field strip. Ensure the firearm is clear beforehand and disassembled while pointing in a safe direction.
The Shield comes new in the box with two magazines. The 9mm variant comes with a 7-round flush magazine and an 8-round extended. On the same day of purchase, consider buying at least a few extra magazines. Having those extra magazines is good not only for EDC magazine rotation but also for practical reloading training.
The magazines themselves are great without any major or repeatable stoppages according to owners. The one magazine-related stoppage reported is a failure to feed due to the magazine not being fully seated. Due to its design, it is possible to wedge the magazine in the well without fully seating it. While that may contribute to the failure to feed, a stoppage like that is nearly entirely user-generated. The best resolution is by simply tapping the magazine to make sure it’s in before you chamber a round.
Unlike other everyday carry semi-automatics, the Shield is capable of firing without a magazine inserted. This is another design detail that may seem trivial. However, it can contribute to bringing you out on top of some of the worst-case scenarios. Some failure to feed stoppages results from something as simple as not fully seating a magazine. This feature helps mitigate that type of stoppage.
Despite its small size and lighter weight compared to the Glock 26 (and later Glock 43) the combination of the grip angle and overall weight distribution of the Shield work together for a manageable amount of recoil. Even with multiple shot drills, the muzzle rise isn’t going to take you completely off targets like some larger caliber or framed handguns.
Watch this video by SmithWessonCorp about the M&P Shield 9mm:
The M&P Shield is a great option in the concealable single stack 9mm, 40, and now 45 categories. It’s low profile from its soft edges and levers make the most out of the .95” width. This is one of the slimmest on the market. The functionality in such a small frame is immediately recognizable as soon as you pick up the handgun. It’s also proven by live fire and carrying it for an extended amount of time. The primary detail about this firearm that does not make it or any other gun a universal choice is its size. For shooters with larger hands, there are options such as grip tape and carrying the extended magazine to get the most contact of the M&P Shield grips. However, shooter preference will ultimately dictate if this is the right handgun. Take a buddy out to the range with their Shield or rent one at the local range and experience for yourself what has made the Shield such a success since 2012.
Feature image photo credit: Atlas Defense
What do you think of this M&P Shield 9mm gun review? Let us know in the comments section below.
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on March 6, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.