Smith & Wesson’s new Performance Center .380 Shield EZ offers extra features and refinements, including black, silver and gold options for the barrel, trigger and grip safety. This transforms it into a semi-custom piece at a factory pistol price — and a great-looking one at that!
What Makes the EZ Pistols Special?
If you are not familiar with the S&W M&P380 Shield EZ pistol, you are missing out on a revolutionary arm — one that was designed from the outset to meet the needs of shooters with hand-strength issues (such as loading magazines, racking the slide and pulling the trigger). No other manufacturer has put as much effort into designing a handgun line to deal with this highly critical issue. But don’t think of the EZ .380 as being just for folks with strength deficits.
S&W built the EZ using a slim polymer frame with an 18-degree grip angle, which produced a solid, easy-pointing, natural feel in the hand for improved shootability. To make the trigger crisper, the company substituted an automatic grip safety for the standard M&P articulating trigger safety. The easy-to-rack slide features comfortable, easy-to-grasp slide serrations and two raised grasping ridges for solid gripping by the thumb and index finger.
The single-stack eight-round magazine is one of the most important features that makes operation easier (two are included with the gun). A double-stack magazine is more difficult to load to capacity than a single-stack magazine. Smith & Wesson also added “load assist tabs,” which allow you to compress the magazine spring while loading. This means that you are dropping the rounds into the magazine rather than pushing them down on the follower against spring tension. You won’t need a specialized magazine-loading tool.
Performance Center M&P380 Shield EZ M2.0 With Gold Ported Barrel Specifications
Barrel Length: 3.8 inches
Overall Length: 6.9 inches
Weight: 18.6 ounces
Barrel / Slide Material: Stainless-steel armornite finish
Sights: HI-VIZ® Litewave H3™ tritium/litepipe; rear adjustable for windage
Performance Center Enhancements
For about $120 more than the standard .380 EZ, you can get a Performance Center version with some very nice upgrades. While I’m not normally into handgun “bling,” I really like the looks of the Performance Center M&P380 Shield EZ M2.0 with Gold Ported Barrel. The barrel, which features a single barrel port to vent powder gasses upward for recoil reduction, has a titanium-coated gold finish, which is visible through the slide lightening cuts.
The grip safety and flat-faced trigger are also anodized in the same gold color; the trigger is skeletonized and Performance-Center-enhanced. The gold barrel, grip safety and trigger enhance the appearance of the Performance Center .380 EZ without being gaudy. Also, S&W equipped the Performance Center .380 EZ with dual ambidextrous manual safeties that allow you to manipulate the slide with the safety engaged.
Performance Center upgrades also include:
- Slide lightening cuts
- Performance Center action; crisp, lightweight trigger with tactile and audible trigger reset
- HI-VIZ® Litewave H3™ tritium/litepipe sights
- Performance-Center-branded cleaning kit included
I took the Performance Center .380 EZ to my lieutenant’s outdoor range for testing. Loading and chambering the rounds was just as easy as S&W claims. The Litewave H3 sights are highly visible in bright and low light — a huge improvement over plain three-dots.
For testing, I used SIG Sauer 100-grain Elite Ball practice loads rated at 910 feet per second and 90-grain Elite V-Crown JHPs rated at 980 feet per second, mostly firing from 21 feet.
Functioning was absolutely flawless, and while the .380 isn’t much for recoil to begin with, I noticed a bit less muzzle flip from the Performance Center EZ .380 than I did from a previously tested stock 380 EZ.
My first few groups landed left of center to my point of aim. This required me to adjust the sights to the right to compensate. The rear sight is adjustable for windage, but you cannot access the adjusting screw from the top of the sight. Instead, it is located on the inside of the slide, requiring the user to unload the pistol with the slide locked back and hold it upside down to make adjustments with the included Allen wrench. I actually had to … *gasp* … read the directions to figure this out.
Of the two loads I tested, the Elite V-Crown ammo was more accurate. At 21 feet, I managed 2-inch, six-shot groups from a two-handed standing position, which is more than satisfactory for a pistol of this type.
I really like the Performance Center M&P380 Shield EZ M2.0 with Gold Ported Barrel. If the gold color is a bit much for your taste, consider the silver or black version. It is comforting to know that there is a wonderful concealed carry and home-defense pistol that will work for me down the road when my hand strength doesn’t. MSRP is $517. Thank you, Smith & Wesson!
About Scott W. Wagner
After working undercover in narcotics and liquor investigations, Scott W. Wagner settled down to be a criminal justice professor and police academy commander. He was also a SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader before his current position as patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. Scott is a police firearms instructor certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.