Thanks to my friend out at Hart’s Guns in Uniontown, Ohio, I recently acquired a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield in 9mm. I have heard much about this popular subcompact firearm and, since I have never owned a subcompact pistol, I thought I would give it a try. After a cleaning and application of lubricant, I took the pistol to the range today for its first live-fire test. If you follow my Facebook page (found HERE), you may have seen my post about thoroughly testing a firearm before strapping it on your side with the intention of using it to protect yourself and others. This live-fire test was a requirement before I would trust the pistol to save my life. Until the test was completed, it remained in the gun safe, unloaded, and still in its box. So, let’s talk turkey about the Shield, post haste.
Now, if you are not familiar with my writing you may be shocked. I am a no BS kind of guy and I take my firearms very seriously. If you are looking for someone who is going to fawn over the latest gadget or doodad, you came to the wrong place. We accept that everyone has an opinion on virtually everything, even when they have not earned the right to speak on the subject, so I expect there to be a lot of “shoulda bought a Glock” type comments found below this article. Don’t worry. I will ignore them. If you didn’t come here to learn about the M&P Shield, you can take your candy-ass right back over to your support group that thinks only Glock and Kalashnikov know how to make good firearms. For the rest of you, let’s get started, shall we?
The M&P Shield is the subcompact offering in Smith & Wesson’s popular line of striker fired pistols. You may have read my review of the M&P 45 Compact last year. If not, you can give it a read HERE. At just over 3/4 of an inch wide, this is the thinnest pistol I have ever owned or even fired. It is almost exactly 6 inches long and stands 4.4 inches tall with the 7-round magazine; 4.8 inches with the 8-round magazine inserted. In short, it is quite short.
I’ve said before that the M&P pistols are damned ugly. The Shield is simply ugly in miniature. But, since weapons should not be a beauty contest unless you are a pimp, it is irrelevant for the purposes of this evaluation. Let’s discuss the GOOD about this small gun.
THE GOOD AND SOMETIMES GOODER
S&W provides 7 slide serrations with the Shield 9. I still maintain that the S&W serrations are the best I have ever experienced. Positive purchase is assured and slip is virtually impossible to achieve. I would have preferred that they added some serrations to the front of the slide as well, but certain concessions have to be made as a pistol shrinks in size.
The loaded chamber observation port is identical to the compact models and allows for quick inspection of the firearm without having a giant flag sticking up advertising it to everyone around you.
The recoil spring on this subcompact differs from that used in the compact models. It is effective in managing the felt recoil in this small firearm and allows for rapid reacquisition of the target for follow-up shots. I was actually impressed with how soft the Shield shoots.
Two magazines are provided with the pistol – one 7-round, and one 8-round. The 8-round magazine has a pinky finger extension. The 8-round magazine is more pleasant to shoot because my pinky finger if fully off of the frame when using the 7-rounder. Again, my hands are a bit meaty and many people may not have this issue. For me, I will probably source another 8-round magazine so that I can carry two of the same type.
The thumb safety on the Shield is a major win for a gun of this size. When you have a pistol that’s size is suited for dropping into a coat pocket or a purse sans holster, a safety of some type becomes a necessary, and I think mandatory, part of the equation. The low-profile, recessed design makes for the perfect solution for both pro-safety and anti-safety shooters alike. It takes a very positive and forceful push to activate the safety lever. Since it is recessed, those who choose not to use the safety can feel confident that the safety will not accidentally be engaged with normal use. It can be fully ignored if you so choose. If S&W had placed this type of safety on the 45C I would not have removed the exaggerated lever provided with their compact models. Dear S&W, please consider this in the future.
FAILURES DURING TESTING
None. Not one. Nothing. From the first round to the 150th round, the firearm fed, fired, and ejected each without a single hiccup. As I experienced with the M&P45C, S&W seems to have figured out how to make a pistol that feeds and ejects just about any type of ammo. I have to call the functional performance of this tiny gun flawless.
For what might be considered by some to be a “pocket pistol”, The Shield provided adequate accuracy at typical handgun combat ranges. I will admit that this was not a great day at the range for me. Tendonitis and arthritis being an irritating companion, I was admittedly off my game today. But, shaky, achy, and holding my breath to deal with the pain, I was still able to produce respectable results. Shooting offhand, standing, placing the target at 18 feet using bullseyes that are 1.8 inches in diameter, I was able to squeeze shot groups into the 1.5 inch range and sometimes better. (sometimes much worse) Here are some examples.
As you can see by some of the tighter groupings, even when having a bad day, it isn’t reasonable to blame the gun. It appears to be capable of impressive accuracy for its size when its shooter does the right things.
As you can see in the photo above, even when firing rapidly, (less than one second between rounds) the groupings were well under 4 inches. The reduced recoil accounts for much of this capability which is a testament to the design considerations put into this firearm. If you have been following me for a while you are well aware that I impose a one inch shot group standard on myself and typically shoot closer to 3/4 inch groups on a good day. So, you will have to trust me when I say these groupings were not the fault of the gun today. It was all me. Well, except for one…. tiny… little thing.
Hands down, this is the worst trigger I have ever touched. Period. It is embarrassing. Spongy, inconsistent, and with an indistinguishable reset, I would have been ashamed to place this trigger mechanism in a gun emblazoned with my name. Smith and Wesson has been designing and building firearms for 163 years. You would think they would have the greatest trigger ever conceived by humankind in their most popular series of pistols. But, NOOOOOO. We get a crappy, creepy, spongy pile of camel poop for a trigger with pre-travel and over-travel figures that make you wonder if there is even a sear involved in the process. The M&P Series does not know the meaning of the word “crisp.” And it makes me a bit angry. After purchasing the 45c, I had to invest an additional $200 to make the trigger even acceptable to my experienced finger. Now, I am resigned to the fact that I have to make the same investment in order to bring the Shield to the level of an exceptional pistol, which is where it should be. If not for the trigger system used in the M&P line, I would rank these pistols right up there with any other world-class, striker-fired handgun.
With that off my chest, I will now say that the only other complaint I have with the Shield is the absence of a notch on the rear sight that could be used as a “cocking shoulder.”
I may add to this T&E in the future as I do more with this pistol. For now, I will say it is an impressive design and it should make a great concealed carry pistol. For the price, I think it would be hard to beat. That is, of course, if you don’t count the added investment needed to get the trigger to perform like a grown-up’s gun. I am fond of the S&W brand and I am impressed with many of the features of the M&P line but I must admit openly right now that this will be my last M&P. After making modifications and paying for extra parts, one would be better off just buying a higher end pistol that possesses those features to begin with. We shouldn’t have to fix your guns, Smith and Wesson. Get your shit together before everyone else figures out what I have.