I hate to say it, but Smith & Wesson’s newest pistol is just plain … cute. I can’t help but marvel at just how well the modern M&P pistol design has been downsized into a single-stack 9mm deep concealment gun.
Micro-sized 9mm pistols are the hot ticket in the concealed carry market, and S&W is arriving fashionably late. Fortunately, the extra research and development time seems to have been well spent. The Military and Police line of strikerfired pistols has been a great success for S&W, so it makes perfect sense to retain as much of the M&P design as a micro-sized pistol will allow.
“Honey, I shrunk the pistol!”
The Shield is a single-stack pistol with a three-inch barrel that weighs about 19 ounces empty. My test pistol was chambered in 9mm, but a .40 S&W model is available as well. The Shield has roughly the same dimensions as the Ruger LC9 or the Kel-Tec PF-9. Put simply, the Shield is not quite small enough to be a true pocket gun, but is well suited for concealment just about anywhere else.
This little M&P pistol is a striker-fired double-action like its full-size counterparts. The Shield is equipped with a thumb safety, although I’m not sure a manual safety is required for this design. A relatively heavy seven pound trigger pull and a trigger safety equate to a safe design, with or without the thumb safety.
Even in its shrunken state, the Shield retains all the standard pistol controls. Unlike the full-size M&P, however, the magazine release is not reversible, and the thumb safety is not ambidextrous. The external levers are flattened and reduced in size a bit to keep the gun thin and streamlined. In fact, the Shield is very slim, measuring just less than one inch wide.
S&W opted to stick with high-end materials, like the stainless steel slide and barrel finished in black Melonite for maximum corrosion resistance. Even the three-white-dot fixed sights are stainless steel.
The Shield comes with two magazines; a flush fit seven-round magazine, and an extended eight-round magazine. The flush fit magazine works well for concealment, but the eight-round magazine provides just enough extra grip length for most shooters to get a full grip on the pistol. I tend to prefer the smaller magazine for ease of concealment, but it’s great to have the extended magazine option, especially as standard equipment.
Disassembly of the Shield is easy, and follows the same procedure as the full-size guns. S&W’s manual of arms requires manipulation of a sear release lever prior to rotating the take-down lever and removing the slide, but no tools are required.
Although somewhat large for pocket carry, the Shield will be a pocket gun for some people. I tried a DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster during the course of my testing, which worked fine so long as I chose my pants wisely.
Most people will carry the Shield on their belt. The small size of the pistol makes belt carry as easy as it gets. I carried the Shield outside the waistband in a Galco Stinger belt holster, and inside the waistband in a DeSantis Cozy Partner holster. Supporting the diminutive Shield isn’t much of a challenge for either holster, and both worked exceptionally well. If you want to carry on the belt, either of these holsters would work for you, and many other options will be available soon.
The real test of a small pistol, of course, is at the range. Micro-sized guns are often difficult to handle, but the Shield defies that stereotype. Excellent ergonomics make this pistol very comfortable to shoot, even with hot defensive loads. The Shield exhibits noticeable muzzle flip while shooting, but the perceived recoil is very mild. I was actually surprised at how pleasant this micro-sized 9mm could be at the range.
The accuracy of the Shield was even more impressive. At seven to ten yards, I could pepper the x-ring of a standard NRA pistol target at will. I attribute this, in large part, to the trigger. While the trigger pull requires a relatively heavy seven-pound pull, the length of pull is quite short. The trigger has a definite glass rod feel to it, which facilitates a surprise break. The trigger feel is somewhat unusual, but definitely contributes to the pistol’s excellent practical accuracy.
I experienced no functional problems with the Shield in the course of my testing. Only time will tell, but this pistol’s well-established design bodes well for its long-term performance.
With the introduction of this pistol, S&W rounds out the M&P line with a true micro-sized 9mm that shares the same look, feel, and manual of arms as the full-size pistols. Ironically, this is something that many fans have been begging Glock to do for more than a decade (but to no avail), and yet, S&W continues to innovate in the strikerfired polymer pistol market. I think the availability of the Shield may actually help sell full-size M&P pistols by closing the loop on a well-rounded pistol platform.
Even if you don’t buy into the whole M&P line of pistols, the Shield promises to be a great gun on its own merits. S&W is offering a high quality single stack 9mm (that performs as well or better than any pistol in its class) for an MSRP of only $449. Street prices will be somewhat lower, and that translates to a real bargain for concealed carry. Of course, Smith & Wesson will stand behind every pistol with its lifetime repair policy and its excellent customer service.
The Shield promises to be a great success for S&W, and I predict they will sell a metric ton of them. I know that I am planning to keep this one!
[ Duane A. Daiker is a contributing editor for CCM, but is otherwise a regular guy—not much different from you. Duane has been a lifelong shooter and goes about his life as an armed, responsible, and somewhat opinionated citizen. More of Duane’s writing can be found at RealWorldCarryGear.com. Duane can be contacted at Daiker@RealWorldCarryGear.com, and welcomes your comments and suggestions for gear reviews, gun reviews, and future articles. ]
|Smith & Wesson