Sunday, September 23, 2012

Smith and Wesson M&P Shield 9mm Review

First off, a huge thank you to Jon at Nighthawk Custom Training Academy for the loan of the Shield 9mm.  I enjoy doing the occasional pistol review, but being entirely self funded at this point, I'm really limited to reviewing only what I can afford to purchase.  Loans from Jon really open up the spectrum of pistols I can test.

I decided to try a little different review style this time around and made 3 video entries that I am going to tie together with additional commentary in this blog article.

The first video covers my initial impressions of the pistol.  It's now 5 months after it's initial release and the pistol has been reviewed to death so I'm not focusing so much on the fantastic features of the pistol as much as wondering why the designers at Smith and Wesson decided to design the pistol the way they did.  In my mind they could have up-sized the Bodyguard 380 or down sized another platform.  They chose to downsize the M&P line instead of up-sizing the Bodyguard.  In doing so they ended up with a pistol I find to be incredibly top heavy and not really that much smaller or lighter than their 3rd Generation alloy frame single stack 9mm pistols from the 90's.  

This video is generating quite a bit of interest from those that have viewed it.  Some agree that using the 3rd Gen auto as the basis may have been a better option while other feel I'm bashing the pistol.  I'm not trying to bash the pistol at all, but rather to open up some debate based strictly on my personal opinion.  I don't feel that my opinion is really that crazy when you consider that Sig's new P938 is really nothing more than an up-sized Colt Mustang 380 Pocket Lite, which is another 90's design.

Never one to turn down the chance to shoot a new pistol, it was off to the range yesterday to spend some time shooting the Shield and start forming some new opinions after time behind the trigger.  The first thing I did was the Recoil Cam video to give folks an idea of the recoil and muzzle flip they can expect with the pistol.  I used Winchester Ranger 124 Grain Nato FMJ for the test because I thought it would be a good compromise between "softball" range fodder and full power defensive loads.

With Recoil Cam out of the way, I got down to the business of shooting the pistol and discovering for myself why this pistol is currently in such high demand and held in equally high regard by those that own them.  There is an awful lot to like about this pistol.  One thing I appreciated was the lack of any mechanical hiccups throughout the testing.  I had been told by the pistol's owner that less than 70 rounds had gone through the pistol before it was turned over to me.  I experienced none of the "break in" drama that I have come to expect with pistols out on the market for less than 6 months.  A+ grade for flawless functioning.

I will say that Smith has sprung this gun tight.  The recoil spring assembly was very stiff.  So much so that I struggled a bit to engage the slide stop when I was practicing the field stripping exercise for the First Impressions video.  I ended up inserting the empty magazine so the follower could engage the slide stop and I could focus my energy on just getting the slide pulled back.  The magazines are also very stiff and required me to use an odd squeeze to fully seat the full mag.  You'll see it in the video.  Some folks may wonder why I just didn't slam it in, but this wasn't my pistol so I tried to keep slamming to a minimum. 

I mentioned the trigger system in my video because it was quite a bit different than what I am accustomed to.  It measured 7 to 7.5 pounds on my Lyman Digital trigger pull gauge and is definitely an acceptable weight for a defensive pistol.  After spending a little time with the trigger system, I had no problems at all keeping my shots going where I wanted them to go.  I found the pistol to be capable of great accuracy with many of my shots landing right on top of previous shots at 7 yards.  I was so taken with the accuracy potential that I tried the pistol at 25+ yards and still managed to keep a few shots in the black zone of the target.  A+ for accuracy.

Final Thoughts:
I think the Shield 9mm will sell exceptionally well for Smith and Wesson.  For those looking for a small-ish, flat, easily concealable pistol that can also be fun to shoot at the range this pistol should be very appealing.

I personally found the slim grip to be a challenge.  I simply couldn't make this pistol point naturally for me.  With an investment in time, training, and possibly a grip sleeve, I'm sure I could make it work for me.  I absolutely loved the reliability and accuracy of the pistol.  Even with full power defense loads, it as easy to score hits on the target.  I think I am beginning to understand why the Shield has been so well received in the market place.

I do hope that the folks at Smith and Wesson decide to keep the R&D juices flowing and check into the possibility of up sizing the 380 Bodyguard platform for a true pocket 9mm. Just leave the integrated laser off the pistol this time.

Please see this important safety update on the M&P Shield.


  1. Wow thanks for this review. Likewise my 3913 was my first handgun purchase in 2001. Of course since the release of the Shield I have wanted to get my hands on one. The jury is still out for me. If I have a chance at a used version I have a feeling I will have a shield.

  2. Glad to see a good review on another M&P.
    I have the M&P 9, my son has the 9c and this one seems to be just as I had hoped.
    I love my full size M&P, it seems as smooth as butter, and I am a relatively new shooter.
    I read a really negative write up on the M&P series, but it was prolly from a Glock Lover.

  3. Thanks for this review. There are tons of amateur gun reviewers out there (amateur is a compliment as many of the "pros" have questionable motivations (i.e. to sell ad space to the manufacturers of the products they are reviewing)) but very few as thoughtful.
    That said, I think the Shield is an improvement in every way over the 3913. None of the improvements are earth shattering, but it IS lighter (4 oz is not much but it is noticeable) striker fired trigger over a DA/SA trigger, dimensions are smaller so more easily concealable. Small improvements are still improvements.
    Also, you have no doubt fired more polymer compact pistols than me, but every one I have ever picked up is top heavy when unloaded, seems an unfair criticism.
    Taken in historical context, the most modern pistols are really not much better than 38 snubbies, 1911s, Browning Hi Powers, etc. That doesn't mean designers shouldn't still work towards even small improvements.
    Just my .02, thanks again for all the great reviews.