Late last Summer, I reviewed the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield 9mm. Initially, I wasn't sold on the Shield because it really wasn't that much smaller or lighter than the older 3rd Generation Smith and Wesson single stack semi-autos. I warmed up to the pistol after spending some time on the range and came to appreciate how easy it was to shoot and how reliably it functioned with any ammunition I used in it. As I wrapped up the review of the 9mm, I made a mental note to add the Shield .357 Sig to my wishlist for future purchase.
I was very disappointed when the SHOT and NRA shows passed this year and no single stack polymer compact .357 Sig was announced by Beretta, Springfield Armory, or Smith and Wesson. I had cash in hand and was ready to buy the first Nano, XDs, or Shield chambered in .357 Sig I could get my hands on. Regrettably, all three manufacturers focused their line extensions in other areas so the market is still waiting for a single stack .357 Sig option other than Sig's P239.
Undaunted, I changed my mental note from Shield .357 Sig to Shield .40 S&W at about the same time I happened to walk into our local Cabela's and find a Shield 40 that the store had just finished checking into their inventory. One very nice feature of many of the polymer framed pistols chambered for .40 S&W is their ability to use 9mm and .357 Sig conversion barrels. If you aren't familiar with the barrel swapping feature, you can read this previous post about my 3 caliber capable Glock 27. I'm hoping down the road one of the aftermarket barrel makers will come out with a Shield conversion barrel, but for now I'm quite satisfied with the 40 S&W and prospect of a possible conversion later on.
I'm skipping the unboxing video for this review because the Shield 9mm and Shield 40 S&W are essentially identical in all features and functions. The only functional difference is the magazine capacity for the Shield 40 is one less round per magazine versus the Shield 9mm. Since I skipped the unboxing, I also skipped the initial cleaning. As a change of pace I wanted to see if the Shield 40 arrived ready to shoot from the box. Over two weekends I ended up running 160 flawless rounds through the pistol before guilt got the better of me and I decided I better give it a cleaning.
The video below documents the highlights from three weekends with the Shield. I'll be honest and admit that I wasn't super thrilled with my ability to shoot the pistol after the first two trips to the range. I really struggled with accuracy and found that too many of my shots were going low and left during longer and faster strings of fire. Prior to my third outing, I compared the Shield grip with another single stack polymer 40 S&W that I can shoot fairly well. The Shield grip was visibly larger so that wasn't my problem. I decided the stippled grip was not providing the aggressive gripping surface I needed. I added a Hogue Hand-all Jr to the grip and that seemed to fix my problems keeping a grip on the pistol. The Hogue grip works for now, but I'll probably install a set of Talon rubberized grips in the future.
When it came time to pick out holsters for the Shield, I opted for a Remora Size 5MP ART SS holster for IWB appendix carry. I also tried the Shield hybrid holster from Aegis Armory. Both holsters were used in the range review video.
I tested a wide variety of ammunition over the 275 rounds run through the pistol during the review. The Shield fed, fired, and extracted everything that was loaded into the magazines. During the review I shot FMJ target/range loads from Winchester, Federal, Remington, CCI-Blazer, and Fiocchi. All rounds were 170 or 180 grain weight. I also shot Federal, Hornady, Remington, and MagTech JHP defense ammunition with 135, 155, 165, 175, and 180 grain bullets. Again, there were no issues with any of the tested ammunition. It appears that my Shield 40 came from the factory ready to run, with no awkward break-in rounds required.
As I was working through the review, I was also doing some terminal test work on another project. Since I had the Shield and ammunition with me, I included a terminal test in the review. I'm actually really glad I did the test because I think the 3.1" barrel of the Shield may not allow all 180 grain JHP loads to reach their minimum terminal performance velocity level. The tested load below simply didn't perform to expectation and I have to believe it was due to insufficient velocity. I'll be looking for carry ammunition in the 155 or 165 grain weights.
For those wondering about penetration depth of a FMJ 40 S&W, I think they 4 layers of denim test shot may provide you with some insight.
About that manual safety......yes, I did use it all the time. I know some folks don't like the idea of the safety being on the pistol and would prefer if it wasn't there at all. Others like the manual safety and may actually purchase the Shield because it has a frame mounted manual thumb safety. As I started the review, I was on the fence regarding the thumb safety. I never used it when reviewing the Shield 9mm, but this time I made sure to use it ALL THE TIME.
After 3 weeks with the pistol, I did an experiment comparing total time to draw, fire twice, and score two hits on a 6" paper plate at 5 yards. I used the Shield 40 carried IWB appendix carry and a Kahr PM40 carried in a similar holster in the same location. Split times from beep to first shot were virtually identical with both guns. Like most things in life, practice makes perfect and sweeping the thumb over the safety during the draw became an automatic step by the third weekend. One advantage of video recording much of my range time is that I can watch my own progress over time. Week 1 I was botching the safety deactivation during the draw frequently. By week 3, it was automatic and smooth. If you are willing to commit the time and cost required to train yourself to use the thumb safety correctly, I didn't see any negative impact on my practice shooting.
I closed out the range video with "it's a keeper" and for me it will be. I've got my shopping list put together for the modifications I would like to make. I will be swapping the factory sights for XS 24/7 Big Dot Night Sights out of personal preference. I mentioned the Talon grips earlier in the review to take the place of the ugly Hogue Handall Jr. I've started shopping for a 357 Sig conversion barrel, but Bar-sto and Storm Lake have not produced a barrel for the Shield yet. I'd also like to pick up a few spare magazines, but it's virtually impossible to find spare magazines unless you are willing to pay the on-line auction house inflated prices. Hopefully the magazine problem will go away as demand stabilizes or starts to tail off.
Having reviewed both the Shield 9mm and 40 S&W, I can really see why the model has become so popular in the marketplace. It's large enough to be a range gun you will want to practice with, but still small and light enough to be a comfortable carry companion. You will be seeing more of this Shield in future ammunition tests.
Please see this important update on the Shield. http://mousegunaddict.blogspot.com/2013/08/s-m-shield-safety-alert-issued-8-22-2013.html
Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested. All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media. Terminal performance in all other media will show different results. It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on which specific ammunition to use for their needs. It's also critically important to test any ammo in YOUR SPECIFIC FIREARM before relying on it for any purpose.
Ammunition labeled as +P or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.