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Review Of The M&P Shield Customized By Bowie Tactical

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The ultimate concealed carry defensive hand gun that can be pocket carried – that’s what I’m after.  That’s what I’ve been searching for every since getting my license to carry concealed.  Certainly I do holster carry (either an M&P 9c also modified by BTC or more recently a SIG P320 Compact).  Certainly the firearms market has some excellent choices in this category.  I’ve tried several – the SIG P938, the SIG P238, and the M&P Shield – with the exception of the P238, all of which were sold after they were found lacking in some critical area(s) I required.

In the case of the M&P Shield, the first I ever purchased was in April of 2012 – the very first day they hit the market in fact.  I ended up selling the gun shortly thereafter.  The lack of night sites, the safety, and the slick grip handle all contributed to my thinking “it’s not quite where I want it.”  Honestly, I thought within a year or two, S&W would release another version which addressed some of my concerns.  When that didn’t happen, I decided to try the Shield again in late 2014 and started what I then called The Shield Project – attempting to modify the M&P Shield myself to address some of the short comings I had with the firearm.  In some respects, this effort worked quite well – I really enjoyed pocket carrying the Shield over the next year.  95% of the time with how I dress, I could pocket carry the Shield.  The other times where I had to wear pants that could not accommodate the Shield in pocket, I carried my P238.  However, in some key respects, the project didn’t work.  For example, while some people have reported great success with using Talon Grip Tape for the M&P Shield to improve their grip, I did not.  The first time I applied it, the grip tape started coming off of the gun after about the 2nd trip to the range.  I bought a 2nd kit and again attempted to apply it, but still noted that the grip tape wanted to separate from the gun where it seamed together at the back of the grip.  The other problem I had with my gun was the trigger.  While M&P has improved their trigger in the M&P line and with the Shield in particular, it was a far cry from the exceptionally nice custom triggers I have on my M&P 9c pistols, and even the stock P320 trigger.  I finally made the decision that, for as often I as I pocket carried the Shield (a majority of the time I carry, particularly during the Summer months) that I deserved to have the gun customized to meet my exacting requirements.

In October of 2015 I reached out to David Bowie of Bowie Tactical Concepts about doing work to my M&P Shield.  As a long time student of Tactical Defense Institute where Bowie was an instructor, I had gotten to know David in some classes.  If you’ve taken any classes at TDI, you’ll see that half or better of the students shoot with a firearm customized by BTC, as well as many (if not most) of the instructors.  Bowie is a fantastic customizer of handguns that has created some true innovations which has come from years of experience in both law enforcement and competitive shooting.  Everything his does to a firearm is designed to make it a better fighting weapon and the core of his business is modifying Glocks and M&Ps.

I first exchanged some Facebook private messages with David (he’s a big user of social media and very responsive) with some basic questions – chief among them was turn around time.  Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m terribly impatient – it’s one of my more endearing qualities.  🙂  When I first met David, it was taking him around six months to turn around a custom gun.  Quite honestly, I don’t have the patience to wait that long.  I have two M&P 9c’s which Bowie customized, but I bought them second hand.  Instant gratification!  These days, Bowie isn’t doing much teaching at TDI and has dramatically improved his turnaround time on guns – he quoted me about eight weeks to do a Shield.  My only dilemma was, could I deal with being without my Shield for eight weeks?  My solution to the problem was to order a 2nd M&P Shield through Bowie – I would decide whether to keep or sell my current Shield later.

In terms of selecting options for my Shield, here’s what I put on the order form I sent to David:

-Stipple Grip (full) – $90.00
– Magazine well cut outs – $20.00
– BTC/Ameriglo sites – $95.00
– LT Trigger Job – $100.00
-Reliability package – $25.00

Additionally, I sent Bowie a couple of extra magazines to stipple for me at $10.00 each. So the total cost of the modifications I had Bowie do to my M&P Shield (over and above the cost of the gun) was $330.00 (closer to $400.00 with tax and credit card fees added). I sent off the order form with payment, Bowie ordered the gun, which he got on November 19th…and the waiting began.

On January 20th, David sent me a photo of the progress he’d made on my gun:

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Photo Courtesy of Bowie Tactical Concepts

Here you can see that Bowie’s “tree bark” stippling has been completed on the frame/grip area, the new front sight is in, and the rear site has been removed on the slide.  You can also see that the magazine well cut outs have been made, which makes for easier magazine removal.

David sent me a Facebook message the following Saturday the 23rd to let me know my gun was finished and would be shipping out on Monday!  Woohoo!  Given that we’re in the same state, the gun was set to arrive the following day.  Sure enough, I received a call from my local gun store that my custom M&P Shield was ready for my pickup, and I headed there after work.  Here it is, along with the challenge coin Bowie sent me:

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My first impressions of the gun when I brought it home were quite positive.  Aesthetically speaking, I was more pleased than I thought I would be.  In photographs, I’ve thought in the past that Bowie’s distinctive “tree bark” pattern stippling was less than attractive.  But in person it looks better – or perhaps the look has grown on me.  I had the gun stippled strictly for utilitarian reasons (to improve the slick grip handle of the stock M&P Shield) and was prepared to not really care how the gun looked because  Truth be told, I think the Shield isn’t the prettiest of guns anyway.  Now the gun really is much more visually appealing to me, and the stippling provides an unparalleled grip.

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The trigger job Bowie did is a thing of beauty and arguably the biggest overall improvement on the gun.  Bowie’s LX Trigger option creates a very 1911-like trigger pull on a polymer striker fired hand gun.  The take up is almost non-existent, with a crisp, clean break and audible as well a tactile perceptible reset.  I’d estimate the pull between 4 and 5lb. – very similar to the Apex Tactical FSS triggers I have on my M&P 9C pistols.  I’d rate this trigger only slightly below the Apex Tactical FSS trigger – the M&P hinged trigger (I’m not a fan) still feels a bit spongy relative to the Apex Tactical replacement trigger.  But Bowie’s work on the stock M&P trigger makes it about as good as it can get…which is darn good.

The Ameriglo #SW-145 night sites Bowie sent are actually virtually identical to the Trijicon “Bright and Tough” sites I put on my other M&P Shield I got last year.  The notable difference is that where the rear sites on the Trijicon set I originally purchased have a graduated slope, the Ameriglo rear site post forms a “shelf” that is ideal if you need to do a one-handed slide rack of your belt, shoe, or other object.  If you find yourself in a gun fight with one arm disabled (like from taking a round), and need to rack your slide, such a capability could be a life saver.  However, other than this small but significant difference between the Ameriglo sites Bowie put on my gun, and the Trijicon sites I put on my “Project Shield” gun, the two sets of sits are practically identical.  The site picture provided by these Ameriglo sites is excellent in either bright or low-light conditions.

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The day after I received the gun, I took it to the range for the first time, and ran about 250 rounds through it to ensure reliability.  What I experienced during that range session can only be described as…surreal.  In short, I had not begun to anticipate the improvement in the shooting experience with the M&P Shield that Bowie’s modifications would make.  After the first magazine, I was quite dumbfounded – my brain was registering “bang” sounds with each trigger pull, and holes were appearing on paper…but my sites didn’t move.  I loaded another magazine, then proceeded to empty it on the target…and experienced the same phenomenon.  At first I thought “surely Bowie had done SOMETHING else to this gun than what I ordered…a new recoil spring….SOMETHING!”  When fired, the gun would gently push back with only the faintest of muzzle rise, then settle right back into position.  I actually called over two other guys that were at the range during the same time I was, loaded up a magazine for each and asked them to shoot the gun.  Both were impressed and agreed this was easily the softest shooting 9mm pistol they’d tried.  The one guy in particular was so impressed he made sure to take down Bowie’s web page address – “I have a Shield…this gun shoots completely different.”

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The improvements to the M&P Shield made by Bowie Tactical Concepts has made this gun I want to shoot every time I go to the range. I’m thrilled with the work Bowie did, to say the least – money well spent!   The only other improvement I can imagine making to the M&P Shield would be to add a red dot optic (Bowie indicates there is room on the slide to add a J-Point which he’s done for some customers).  However, I did not want to detract from the ability to pocket carry the Shield so I opted to stick with traditional iron night sites. 

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In addition to this written photo review, I’ve also prepared this video supplement which also has some range footage where you can see just how little muzzle rise there is on this handgun when fired (pay attention to the intro):

I finally have the ultimate concealed carry defensive hand gun that can be pocket carried.  Life is good.  🙂  If you’d like to reach David Bowie of Bowie Tactical Concepts, click here for his website.  You can also reach Bowie Tactical on his Facebook page as he’s quite active on social media.

About John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

  1. Great write-up…impressive photography and a nice video link as well. You are 100% right on needing to be patient for David’s work. However, once you get it back, you’ll be hooked. The first one David did for me was completed in about 24 weeks and I am currently 33 weeks into a wait for my second pistol from David.

  2. I just wish I was more patient. 😀

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