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June 26, 2012
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Andrew L. Butts Firearms Evals
with Andrew L. Butts

Firearms Review: Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

As the name implies, the Shield is aimed at the law enforcement back-up and off-duty market, and should especially appeal to those who carry one of the M&P full-size models in a duty holster

Smith & Wesson has recently introduced a diminutive carry pistol chambered in either 9mm Luger or 40S&W. This new little handgun is no bigger than some 380s and will no doubt become a trusted companion for many who carry a pistol as part of their daily attire.

This new pistol is a component of the M&P line and is called the M&P Shield. As the name implies, the Shield is aimed at the law enforcement back-up and off-duty market, and should especially appeal to those who carry one of the M&P full-size models in a duty holster.

Smith & Wesson’s M&P line has been a tremendous success for the company, setting the market on its ear by offering performance, accuracy, and value in a polymer-framed law enforcement pistol made by an American manufacturer. The line of pistols is gaining more and more ground in the law enforcement arena with adoptions by the New Mexico State Police and, recently, the Miami Beach, FL Police Department, the Olympia, WA, Police Department and the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office in New Jersey, to name a few.

Introducing M&P Shield
The M&P can currently be found in 45ACP, 40S&W, 357SIG, 9mm Luger, and 22LR — most of these caliber offerings are available in full-size and compact-size formats. The addition of the Shield to the M&P series adds yet another size option to the already diverse line of pistols.

The Shield is comparable in height and length to the earlier M&P Compact models. What sets the Shield apart from the other M&P Compacts is its width.  For comparison purposes, Smith & Wesson shows a width of 1.2” for the M&P Compact and a width of just .95” for the Shield.

Unlike the compact models that use double stack magazines, the Shield uses single stack magazines and ships with both a flush fit and a slightly extended magazine. This makes the Shield as flat and compact as possible. To further reduce size, S&W has eliminated the interchangeable backstrap feature that has helped make the other M&P models so popular.

Also gone is the ambidextrous slide release and the reversible magazine release. Whether the change in ergonomic features will appeal to the masses has yet to be seen, but I like what S&W has done to make the Shield as small as possible. 

Big Hands and Long Fingers
I have but one complaint. I get a very high and aggressive grip and this, coupled with fairly big hands and long fingers, did cause problems on the range. The size and location of the magazine release combined with a narrow grip frame, I had several instances where the tip of my middle finger bumped against the bottom edge of the magazine release, causing the mag to drop.

That said, the magazine release issue was easily avoided when using the flush fit magazine by dropping my little finger underneath the magazine base pad. This lowered my shooting hand enough to keep my finger off the magazine release button. With the extended magazine in place, I found my shooting hand would invariably creep up on the grip frame, causing accidental magazine release. I would imagine other shooters with hands about equal to mine will experience similar issues and would like to see S&W increase the strength of the magazine release spring as well as make the button itself a little smaller.

In all reality, I would rather have a button that’s somewhat hard to operate on a pistol that might find its way into an ankle holster, handbag or pants pocket. I don’t think there’s any real need for a large “speed reload” button on a pistol that’s most likely to be used for close range self defense as a back-up to a full-sized pistol. 

The Final Analysis
The above aside, I find the M&P Shield a very capable little blaster. Despite the compressed size, I had no issues with accuracy and recoil was surprisingly manageable for a pistol chambered in 40S&W. I fired the pistol with a mix of ball and JHP ammo and had zero reliability issues with the pistol itself. The sights were dead-on right out of the box and I had no trouble shooting expert scores on my agency’s qualification course of fire with the Shield.

Based on my limited testing, I would feel comfortable with the Shield nestled securely in a good IWB holster. 

About the author

Andrew Butts has served as a soldier in the Army National Guard and also served as a correctional officer in Montana, and is currently with a federal law enforcement agency. Butts currently holds an Expert classification in IDPA and an A classification in USPSA in both Limited and Single Stack Divisions.

Contact Andrew Butts


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