Review of the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm
Just over a week ago, Smith & Wesson announced and simultaneously launched their newest edition to the M&P line – the Shield in both 9mm and 40 S&W. I ordered mine on launch day, received it last last week, and took out to the range this past weekend to do some testing.
The M&P Shield seems to be designed to cater heavily to the consumer “CCW” concealed carry crowd. But according to a source I spoke with that works closely with S&W, Smith was actually responding to the needs of military officers needing a small firearm to conceal with their dress uniforms more than any perceived need in the consumer market. Fortunately, the needs of a military officer dovetail nicely with those of the average consumer looking for a firearm for concealed carry purposes.
When it comes to firearms, concealed carry is about compromises – giving up something to get something. The goal is to get a defensive handgun that’s small and light enough to carry somewhere on your body comfortably, without those you come into contact with knowing you’re armed. The question becomes, what are you willing to give up in a full-size weapon in order to meet this goal? What are your priorities? The Shield is by and large based both cosmetically and functionally on the successful S&W M&P design and form factor – a very good thing. Smith already makes a “compact” version of the M&P called the M&P Compact. The Shield 9mm is essentially a single-stack (technically a 1.5 stack) magazine version of the M&P 9c. Here’s a comparison photo showing my M&P 9c next to the M&P Shield:
While it’s clear to see in the above photo that the Shield is a bit shorter than the M&P 9c, it’s hard to see many other differences from this view. Here’s another photo where you can see the differences in the magazine width between them:
Height wise, the Shield about the same as the M&P 9c with the 7 round magazine, and quite a bit taller than the M&P 9c with the Shield’s extended 8 round magazine. But magazine and frame are quite a bit more slender on the Shield, which will make it more comfortable for “inside the waistband” (IWB) carrying of the weapon. Further comparing the M&P Shield to the larger M&P 9c, the list of other compromises made to create the smaller, more concealed carry friendly Shield grows. In addition to fire power/magazine capacity (the M&P 9c has a 12 round capacity), the Shield does not have ambidextrous controls (The Shield is set up for right-handed use) like the M&P 9c. While a frame mounted safety is an optional feature on the M&P 9c, it’s not optional on the Shield. Fortunately, in my testing of the Shield, I found the safety to be unobtrusive, and not prone to accidental activation.
Fortunately, firing stability wasn’t tossed out with the Shield design – it’s a very easy weapon to manage recoil when firing, and muzzle flip didn’t seem worse than the larger, heavier M&P 9c. In fact, the M&P Shield is a very comfortable gun to fire, in large part due to the redesigned trigger found on the Shield. Crisp, with relatively short uptake and a definite reset point not found on the triggers in other M&P models. According to Smith, the new trigger in the Shield will soon be integrated into the rest of the models in the M&P line.
If you’re looking for a gun which can be “pocket carried” the M&P Shield isn’t, in my opinion ideal for this purpose. When I bought the M&P Shield 9mm, I was really hoping to find a striker fired replacement for my “pocket .380″ – the Sig Sauer P238. But, as you can see in the below photo, the Shield is quite a bit larger than the Sig P238 (or Smith’s own “pocket .380″ the Bodyguard):
As long as I’m comparing the Shield to the Sig P238, I’ll mention my only real criticism of the Shield – the lack of factory installed night sights. In my mind, night sights are mandatory for any gun considered for defensive concealed carry use – criminals tend to prey at night and in the shadows. On the Sig P238, factory night sights are standard. Even on the M&P 9c, night sights are an available option (you’ll note that mine pictured above has factory night sights). But the only option for the M&P Shield are non-luminous, daytime sights. Presumably Smith & Wesson made this decision in order to maintain the relatively low $449.00 retail price point. However, given the necessity of night sights, most users will have them installed by a 3rd party at an additional cost of about $100.00
This minor criticism aside, the S&W M&P Shield is most definitely a home run for Smith, and I predict that retailers will have a hard time keeping them in stock – many will find it’s just what they’re looking for in a concealed carry firearm. As for myself, I’m still on the hunt for a pocket sized striker fired 9mm pistol.
A good friend of mine (YouTube Snareman95) also bought the M&P Shield and did a nice video review on the gun (which I helped film at the range):
He also does a nice comparison of the Shield to the M&P 9c: