Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Sub-Compact 9x19mm Semi-Auto Pistol

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn and Boge Quinn

May 21st, 2012

UPDATED June 19th, 2012

 

UPDATE!

XS Sight Systems (www.xssights.com) is now producing their excellent Tritium Dot sights for the Shield, as Stephanie Pastusek of XS Sights demonstrates:

 

 

 

Click pictures for a larger version.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Excellent three-dot sights are adjustable for windage correction.

 

 

 

 


Witness hole serves as a visual loaded-chamber indicator.

 

 

 

 


Manual safety pushes downward to fire.

 

 


Striker safety prevents firing unless the trigger is pulled.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Slide lock (top), magazine release (bottom).

 

 

Ever since Smith & Wesson introduced their striker-fired M&P Series auto pistol six years ago, it has been steadily making inroads into the law enforcement market, proving itself a worthy alternative to the ever-popular Glock autos. While the Glock is a fine pistol, and I own several, most shooters find the M&P to fit the hand better, and with its interchangeable grip inserts, is easily customized to fit the individual shooter’s hand. I still have the first M&P 9mm pistol that I ever fired, and since October of 2006, it has served as my bedside gun, traveling with me only occasionally. That M&P 9 is outfitted with a Crimson Trace Lasergrip laser sight, as well as a Crimson Trace Lightguard flashlight and a set of Trijicon tritium night sights. It is a perfect handgun for reacting to dangerous situation in the dead of night. It is, however, a bit larger than I like to carry. S&W introduced their M&P Compact a few months later, and it is a fine weapon, but still a bit thick for everyday carry, at least for me.

With many gun manufacturers introducing sub-compact semi-auto pistols lately, folks have been hoping that Smith & Wesson would introduce one as well. The wait is over, and the new M&P Shield was worth the wait. No need to keep you in suspense until the end of this review; in my opinion, the Shield is among the best of the new breed of sub-compact 9mm pistols.

Not quite a pocket gun, but smaller than most compact autos, the Shield falls into that “just right” category. While I carried this one around in my pocket for a while, I prefer to carry it in a thin inside-the-waistband holster, such as a Cross Breed Supertuck, or pulled in tightly to my side in an outside holster such as the Simply Rugged Pancake, or a Galco belt holster.

What makes the Shield so much better for concealed carry as opposed to the M&P Compact is the thinness of the Shield. The Shield uses a magazine design of a semi-double-column arrangement, with the wider mag body tapering at the top to a single column. The Shield comes supplied with both a seven-round and an eight-round magazine, with the latter extending .45 of an inch below the base of the grip, extending the grip for a better hold. Unlike the full-sized and compact M&P pistols, the Shield does not utilize interchangeable grip inserts, nor does it need any. The grip feels perfect in my large hand, and I also received positive comments on the pistol’s grip from shooters with hand sizes varying from tiny to huge. The trigger reach fits most any hand well, and the trigger pull is among the best for a sub-compact pistol.

The Shield wears a very good set of three-dot sights, adjustable for windage correction by moving laterally in the slide dovetail. The sights are large enough to see easily, yet neither obtrusive nor prone to snag. Perfect. Stripping the Shield down for cleaning is very simple, requires no tools, and will be familiar to anyone who has disassembled a full-sized M&P pistol. The slide locks open on an empty magazine, with the slide lock located in the familiar left-side position at the top of the polymer frame. The Shield has an internal striker safety which prevents the weapon from firing unless the trigger is pulled, and there is also a manual safety for right-handed shooters at the upper left side of the frame. In the upper position, the safety blocks the trigger, and pushes downward to the “fire” position. There is no magazine disconnect safety, so the pistol will fire with the magazine removed. The magazine bodies are, thankfully, made of steel, and are well-formed and finished. The followers are polymer, as are the magazine bases.

The black Melonite-coated steel slide matches the finish of the polymer frame very well, and the Melonite is a very durable finish, protecting the hard parts from corrosion.

Critical specifications for the 9mm M&P Shield are listed in the chart below. Weights are listed in ounces. Linear dimensions are listed in inches. Trigger pull is listed in pounds of resistance, as measured with my Lyman digital trigger pull scale. Height includes sights and magazine base with the standard seven-shot magazine in place. Maximum width is measured across the top of the frame, and includes the slide lock.

Chambering 9x19mm
Weight with empty magazine 20 oz.
Trigger Pull 6 lbs.
Barrel Length 3.12"
Barrel Diameter 0.56"
Overall Height 4.60"
Overall Length 6.10"
Grip Thickness 0.93"
Frame Width 0.962"
Slide Width 0.91"
Maximum Width 1.05"
Trigger Reach 2.71"
Magazine Capacity 7 or 8
Magazines Supplied 2
Accessory Rail No

I fired a variety of ammunition over the chronograph to check velocities, with the results listed in the chart below. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second. Bullet weights are listed in grains. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint bullet. DPX, Buffalo Bore Lead Free, and Double Tap Tac-XP are hollow nose homogenous copper bullets that are made by Barnes Bullets. Guard Dog is a FMJ with a soft plastic core to promote rapid expansion. FP is a frangible, pre-fragmented flatnose bullet. FMJ is a full metal jacket roundnose bullet. FMJ-FN is a full metal jacket flat nose Buffalo Bore Penetrator bullet. PB is Pow’RBall, a specialty bullet from Cor-Bon. Glaser is a pre-fragmented bullet. Velocities were taken at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, with an air temperature of ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Velocities were recorded at ten feet from the muzzle.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Buffalo Bore Lead Free HP 95 1386
Buffalo Bore Lead Free HP 115 1186
Federal Guard Dog 105 1117
Double Tap Tac-HP 115 1003
Double Tap FMJ 147 1013
Atomic HP 124 1136
WCC NATO FMJ 124 1001
Fiocchi FMJ 115 1070
Buffalo Bore FMJ-FN 124 1215
Buffalo Bore JHP 115 1272
Buffalo Bore +P JHP 115 1313
Buffalo Bore +P JHP 147 1047
Cor-Bon Glaser 80 1601
Cor-Bon JHP 115 1314
Cor-Bon Pow’RBall 100 1298
Cor-Bon +P DPX 115 1142
Cor-Bon JHP 125 1262
Stryker JHP 115 1010
International Cartridge FP 100 1061
Stryker FMJ 115 1070

The short barrel of the M&P Shield turned in very respectable velocities. I fired twenty types of 9x19mm ammunition through the Shield. Functioning was perfect. Every round fed, fired, and ejected without fail. Ejection was to the side, and no empty cartridge cases were flung towards the shooter. Reliability is paramount in a fighting handgun, and this Shield runs smoothly, reliably, and is easy to shoot. The size and feel of the Shield is just right. Not too small, and not too large. It is thin and lightweight, but shooting the Shield feels like shooting a larger weapon, in that the design of the grip handles recoil very well, with either magazine in place. Accuracy was very good. I made no attempt to benchrest the Shield, instead firing it as it was intended, at distances from three out to twenty-five yards at a standard human-sized silhouette target. It was easy to keep all shots in the kill zone at those distances, and rapid-fire at seven and ten yards produced fist-sized groups in the vital zone.

The M&P Shield would be an ideal backup weapon for law enforcement officers who carry an M&P as a duty gun. The only thing that this pistol needs to serve as a good primary weapon for concealed carry is a Crimson Trace laser, and Crimson Trace has a Laserguard in the works, to be released for shipping soon.

There are many sub-compact 9mm pistols on the market now, with more being released to the market regularly. Some are better than others, and as I stated earlier, this S&W M&P Shield is among the best. Balancing size, weight, power, price, and ease-of-shooting, manufacturers have to try and get the precise combination of features, getting every detail as close to “right” as possible. With the new M&P Shield, Smith & Wesson got it right. It is reliable, accurate, and priced competitively. MSRP as of this writing is only $449 US, and the Shield is in full production and available now in both 9x19mm and 40 S&W calibers. As soon as I can bolt a Laserguard onto this Shield, it will start riding on my hip on a regular basis. The M&P Shield is built right, priced right, and built in the USA.

Check out the extensive line of Smith & Wesson firearms and accessories online at www.smith-wesson.com.

For the location of a Smith & Wesson dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at www.lipseys.com.

To order the Shield online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.

To order quality fighting ammunition, go to www.buffalobore.com, www.doubletapammo.com, www.luckygunner.com, and www.theamericanmarksman.com.

Jeff Quinn

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

Click pictures for a larger version.

 

 


Shield comes with both a seven-shot and an eight-shot magazine.

 

 


Shield is very easy to disassemble without tools.