Many recent judicial rulings enabling a citizen’s lawful right to carry a concealed handgun coincide with the ever-present threat of violent criminal attack and a newer threat of terrorist activity in the homeland have greatly increased interest in sub-compact pistols. So, I will add another pistol for consideration and review the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm and provide my observations of the handgun’s fit, function, and finances. I’ll also incorporate some useful accessories, such as the CrossBreed MiniTuck inside-the-waistband holster and Tractiongrips pre-cut grip enhancing tape.
A Little History
Following the immense popularity of Glock’s entry into the U.S. law enforcement and civilian firearms marketplace, Smith & Wesson introduced the polymer-framed Sigma in 1993. However, S&W’s design was so close to a Glock that a copyright infringement suit ended the Sigma’s run in 1997. Ten years later, S&W re-entered the polymer-framed striker-fired pistol market with the M&P (Military and Police) line. The 4.5 inch barreled .45 caliber M&P won Handgun of the Year in 2007 and it’s popularity spawned mid-sized and compact versions of the venerable .45ACP as well as 9mm chamberings in 2008. Later, in 2011, Smith & Wesson produced the M&P 22, chambered in .22 caliber long-rifle.
Also similar to Glock, the standard M&P line of handguns had wide-body frames which could contain “double stacked” magazines… and were somewhat difficult to conceal. So, in 2012, Smith & Wesson introduced the M&P Shield in 9mm and .40cal with a thinner slide and frame, and thus “single stack” magazine to enhance concealability. In 2014, Smith & Wesson introduced the M&P Bodyguard chambered in the diminutive .380ACP.
Initially, the M&P design incorporated only two “passive” safeties (a striker block to prevent inertial movement from striking the primer and a “hinged” trigger design which prevented trigger movement unless it was firmly pressed by the shooter). However, many shooters who wanted to use the M&P pistols for concealed carry or a back-up gun desired the addition of an “active” safety (which requires the conscious activation and de-activation on behalf of the handler). Thus Smith & Wesson incorporated an active “thumb safety” as a factory option in their M&P line.
In addition to client requests for training with a sub-compact M&P Shield, I too wanted to learn more about this handgun and considered it for my personal concealed carry. So I took advantage of a Father’s Day sale this past June and purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm for training and personal protection.
Introducing the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield 9mm
By the numbers, this pistol has an overall length of 6.1 inches, width of 0.95 inches, height of 4.6 inches, and barrel of 3.1 inches… all weighing-in at just 19 ounces. It ships with two magazines… a “flush” magazine that holds seven 9mm cartridges, and an extended magazine that holds eight. The “three dot” fixed-sights present a clear picture and seem durable. For the most part, the operating surfaces mirror the full-size M&P line. However, the Shield does not include the interchangeable back-strap common to its bigger sibling. The advertised trigger pull of 6.5 pounds was verified using a Wheeler analog trigger pull gauge. With considerable “free travel” the pull weight rapidly progresses to the 6.5lbs and lingers there for a slightly “creepy” sear disengagement. Some of this perceived “trigger creep” may be due to the unique striker action inherent to the M&P design. While most striker-fired pistols are considered single action (slide action retracts and holds the striker fully retracted until sear disengagement releases the striker for full forward motion), the M&P line is technically considered “double action” since slide action retracts the striker to 98%. Trigger movement retracts the striker the remaining 2% until the sear disengages and sends it forward.
With its aggressive and “forward facing” slide serrations, he M&P Shield is easy to clear, manipulate, disassemble, clean and re-assemble. It breaks-down into the basic elements similar to other models… slide, frame, barrel, and recoil spring captured in the recoil spring guide. Some owners complain about alleged safety implications stemming from the requirement to pull the trigger in order to accomplish full disassembly. Other than adding one more step, I’ve never had a problem with this. I believe that following the basic safety rules and ALWAYS ensuring the firearm is unloaded prior to disassembly and cleaning will avert any safety hazards. However, apathy and carelessness pave the way to negligent discharges.
Impressions, Fit, Function, and Finances
Eager to evaluate this pistol and test its “out of the box” reliability, I took the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm directly from the store counter to the range and put it to the test by firing 300 rounds of 115 grain Full Metal Jacket ammunition from various distances. I’m fairly impressed with the ease of operation and comfort in this small and affordable package. In the following paragraphs, I’ll evaluate its fit, function, and finances along with a full range report.Continue Reading »
Article by – Howard Hall