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Introducing the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

by Joseph von Benedikt   |  April 12th, 2012 45

This pistol has had over 600 rounds through it, with only one ammo-induced failure.


Smith & Wesson has just announced its new Shield handgun. It’s an addition to the M&P line and fills a significant niche.

In short, it’s a single-stack, polymer-frame handgun built to the ultra-durable standards of the Military & Police line and designed to be carried day in and day out by people who will abuse it and then expect it to perform on demand. Initially available in 9mm and .40 S&W, it retails at $449. It is less than one inch wide and weighs in at 19 ounces.

With it come two magazines—one short and one extended with a grip extension sleeve. The short magazine holds seven rounds in 9mm caliber; six rounds in .40, while the extended version holds eight rounds in 9mm and seven in .40 caliber. Plus it has the added benefit of providing a full grip. The slide is finished in Black Melonite at 68 HRc. Barrel length is three inches.

Sights are white-dot front and rear; the firing mechanism is striker-fired, and the trigger sports mild enhancements to S&W’s standard M&P line of pistols, offering a quite usable 6.5-pound pull. The grip angle is a natural-feeling 18 degrees—a number settled on after engineers spent an inordinate amount of time studying human anatomy. Breaking from M&P pistol tradition, there are no interchangeable backstraps. Such a luxury would have made the grip bulkier, and proved a worthwhile jettison in order to achieve the fantastic slender feel of the Shield.


To date I’ve put over 600 rounds through my sample M&P9 Shield, with exactly one failure—and that was due to a clearly-visible ammo defect and no fault of the gun itself. It’s accurate and surprisingly controllable under rapid fire. Check out the accompanying video to see it in action.

In a fit of pro-active activity, the good folks at S&W coordinated with a number of holster and aftermarket accessory providers. When new Shield pistols hit your dealers’ shelves sometime in mid-April, you’ll be able to purchase a holster for it from half a dozen manufacturers including Galco, DeSantis, Fobus, Blackhawk, Uncle Mike’s and Pistol Wear. XS Sights and Hi-Viz are producing tritium and fiber-optic drop-in sights. And last but not least, laser accessories will be available from Crimson Trace, Laserlyte, and LaserMax.

Some, but not all, of the holsters and aftermarket sights can be viewed in the accompanying photographs.

What makes this gun important on today’s scene? The fact that it carries the hallowed M&P designation. It is tested with much more extreme tests than standard pistol lines from S&W and competing manufacturers, and is built to provide lawmen with count-on-it performance.

This is an enthusiastic report. Do I really like it that much? I like it enough that it’s going to become a permanent resident in my IWB holster. And that’s about all I need to say about that.

Watch for a full, in-depth review coming up in Shooting Times magazine.

  • Phil Corbin

    At 4:45 where did the fifth shot go? I didn't see it hit the target at first, but after watching several times I see it going through the same hole as the second shot! Not bad.

  • cheerio

    Is the mag catch reversible like standard m&ps? given that the slide release and safety are not ambi, I hope the catch is at least reversible.

    • JvB

      Cheerio, I believe the mag catch is indeed reversible–I'll do some research and let you know for sure. –JvB

      • JvB

        Cheerio, I stand corrected: The mag catch on the M&P Shield is not reversible. –JvB

        • cheerio

          Weeeeeeak. Thanks though.

  • WasatchKid

    Well….I like it but I prefer 14-15 rounds, you know.. the spray and pray shooter. :)

    • JvB

      WasatchKid, you spray, I'll stay out of the way and pray!

  • HighV

    It looks nice but I wish they'd put a laser on it…

    • JvB

      High V, I agree that it would be nice to have an on-board laser like on the Bodyguard series, but at least Crimson Trace, Laserlyte, and laserMax are already building aftermarket lasers for the M&P Shield. –JvB

  • 97thSignalman

    Darn, I just got an M&P9c to go with my M&P9 full size. I think that I would have liked the slimmer design of the Shield single-stack rather than the M&P9c. I wonder if the Apex trigger stricker block kits for the double stacks will fit these single stack compacts. I put those Apex kits into both of my current M&P's to upgrade the trigger feel and function and I really like them.

    • JvB

      Signalman: From what the engineers at Smith & Wesson said, the Apex trigger will not fit the new M&P Shield. However, I got the impression that Apex will likely bring out a modified version for the Shield–but that's pure speculation. Only time will tell! –JvB

  • High Tide

    I'm contacting my dealer today to get my name on one. I just haven't been able to get 100% comfortable with my CCW and the full size M&P fits like a glove.

  • David

    JvB, I would like to know the difference between the Shield and the Walther PPS. It sounds like the Walther was the target S&W was shooting for, at under 1" thin, and with the same number of rounds in a single stack magazine, both short and extended. Also, interested in your views on durability, etc., between the two weapons. Prior to the Shield, the only option I had for a slim carry in deep cover was the Walther. Thoughts, comments?

    • JvB

      David, I don't have extensive personal experience with the Walther PPS… I have shot it, but only briefly. It's a nice pistol. It does have interchangeable backstraps and an interchangeable mag release, but it's slightly wider (1.04 inches) and blockier. Also, the new S&W M&P Shield costs only 75% of what the Walther PPS does. Finally, I can't say exactly how durable the Walther is or is not, but I can say that the S&W M&P Shield is bull-tough. I'd comfortably count on it through some pretty gnarly conditions.
      Hope that helps! –JvB

  • Jim Benat

    Like it but I already have 3 M & P's. (9mm compact, fullsized 40, and a 9mm Pro). I carry the compact sometimes (depending on the weather and my clothing) in a IWB holster, but most of the time I carry my S & W 442 snubby with Crimson Trace Laser grips. The 442 is the best carry gun I ever made, IMHO.
    I'd like to have a Shield though……you can't have too many M & P's they tell me.

  • Tom

    Just another plastic gun. Looks like a Mattel toy.

    • Jacques

      Somebody better go to the zillion people, civilians, army, police alike that use polymer guns and have no issues! Your input carries 0 value.

      • Joerel

        I bet those Zillion people out shoot and definitely carry less weight and more ammo than you also Tom.

        • Tom

          I retired in '91 from the military where I qualified under some of the most stringent hand gun qualifications standards the military uses for 17 of the 24 years I served..

          As for extra weight, at 64 I don't have an extra pound on my frame and am the same weight I was as retirement. And I'll match your ass at hauling a load, ammo or anything else any day.

          I really get tickled at some of the so called experts on here, especially the ones that are only expert at giving their opinion.

          • Wolvie

            Yeah, Tom…

            You claim to be "tickled" by the "so called experts" because they are "only expert at giving their opinion".


            This coming from the guy who, in a massive attempt at getting attention, posts the exact same comment on at least 3 different websites!

            I guess if you were one of the "experts", then you could have just posted the comment once. But no, you had to post the exact same thing (your opinion) on 3 different websites and then complain about other people giving their opinions.

            Sorry, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with polymer guns. This is a fact. Time has tested and verified beyond any doubt that they work, and in many cases they work VERY well. Anything negative is only opinion on how they look or how they make you feel. Ironically, this exactly the same tactic used by the anti-gunners. They demonize something because of the way it looks or how it makes them feel. Oh, and they also state opinions and then complain about other people's opinions when they don't agree with their beliefs.

            If this particular gun is safe, accurate, well-designed and popular…then I'm really happy and excited that it is being offered. This is the case even if I have no personal desire to own one. Another quality gun on the market that could save a life or bring another person into the sport is a good thing.

      • Tom

        If those zillions like plastic/polymer guns so be it. I'll stick with my series 70 model Commander and my Sig P220. I don't like plastic guns and like I said, it's just another plastic gun that's on the market.

        • Bulldog75

          Tom , get used to it because they will be around for a long time and if you want any of the new technology you will need to own one. You need to move into the modern times and get that chip of your shoulder, your not in the military anymore and here in everyday life , no one wants the negative comments.

  • JT Hickman

    What is your favorite holster of them?

    • JvB

      JT, I was able to examine them and photograph them, but the only one I had time to put on and wear for a bit was the Galco, which I liked quite a bit. I'll try to get a feel for the rest before writing the article for Shooting Times magazine, and I'll let you know! –JvB

  • Joerel

    There is one glaring problem that we all seem to be overlooking…….it isn't made by Glock. lol just kidding.
    I wonder if Glock will follow this trend and make a single stack 9mm/40SW similar in size to the G36. I have the entire 9mm line and I would like to see a single stack 9mm for dress clothes/pocket carry. This little M&P doesn't look bad though might have to pick one up.

  • Jim

    Can you give us an assessment of the trigger?? including the pull and the crispness, let-off, etc.?? Thank you in advance.

    • JvB

      Jim, the trigger is a slight bit better than on the standard double-stack M&P models. The reset is a little more positive and the trigger a bit crisper. Pull weight will be right around 6.5 pounds from the factory. –JvB

      • Wolvie


        Thanks for that information. I am curious if you have any experience with the popular Apex modification with the M&P trigger and how that stacks up (no pun intended) with this new trigger in the Shield.

        • JvB

          Wolvie, unfortunately, I don't have experience with the Apex… That's something I have intended to try out in a standard M&P9 but just haven't done it yet. The Shield trigger is pretty usable, but from what I hear of the Apex is is likely still better. –JvB

          • Wolvie

            Thanks for the reply, JvB.

            I guess I'll see about comparing them side-by-side when the situation presents itself.

            Triggers on S&W pistols have always left me somewhat disappointed and wanting. This is so strange because I find the triggers on their revolvers to be second to none.

            Here's hoping that this new generation of trigger will finally be good…or that the (hopefully) upcoming Apex mod will move it from fair/good to very good/excellent.

  • Carbinecasey

    I love S&W products and I'm glad they will be making this for carry, however the price needs to get a little lower, because other gun companies will make it competetive in pricing. I'll have to wait for a few months for the price to become more stable. But it will be in my collection before years end.

  • 97thSignalman

    I noticed that after inserting a new mag that you were able to release the slide by depressing the slide release. On both my M&P 9 and 9c I am unable to derpess the slide release after inserting a loaded mag with the slide back. I can sometimes release the slide on the compacet but it is difficlult job requiring both thumbs. On my full size 9mm I can't release it at all.

    I have taken to just pulling back on the slide and releasing it to get it to go foreward and chamber a round. I really wish that it would work like my 1911 in that respect. It is so much quicker if you can get the slide release to actually work.

    Did S&W change something on the Shield model to make the slide release actually work with a full mag?

    • Wolvie

      That is interesting. Are the slide stops visually the same on both models?

      Regardless, sometimes these items are built as "Slide Stop Levers", not "Slide Release Levers"…in that, they are designed to only lock the slide back. When I teach students, I like them to use the pull of the slide to the rear to release the slide from lock. The reasons for this are, 1) This works for almost all of the pistols out there (heck, some don't even have a visible lever), 2) Fumbling for a small lever is not the thing you want to try to do under stress or while wearing gloves, etc., 3) Muscle memory from racking the slide is important since it is what you do if loading an empty gun from a closed slide or what you do in a malfunction drill…so it makes sense to incorporate the exact same thing when closing the slide from slide lock.

      But still, it is interesting that it is different on this new model.

      • Quigley150

        Wolvie you are correct. Most are slide stops and not slide releases. by grabbing the slide with your support hand and pulling it back to release it is superior for the longevity of the parts working correctly. your comment on Gross motor movement is on point.

  • Edge

    What I'd really like to see is one of these that has the same height/barrel dimensions of the old Colt CCO. I typically carry a full-size 1911 in an IWB holster. I'm not one of those people that is just enamored with the 1911…it's just the thinnest gun I own. I've got the exact same model holster for my beloved Sig P229 but it doesn't fit nearly as well due to the thickness of the Sig. My various Glocks also suffer from the same "chunkified" slide disease.

    I find that for IWB carry the most important dimension is the thickness of the gun. Next to that is the size of the grip. Standing up, my Government model conceals just fine but if I bend over the grip pokes out a bit. A shorter grip would be perfect. Barrel length, on the other hand, isn't really an issue for me. Maybe it is my body type or perhaps it is my quality Tucker holster but I have no issues with the 5" barrel, which is nice since a little extra sight radius never hurts. And unlike many (most?) I like my guns to be heavier to absorb recoil. As much as I'd like to chalk that up to my He-Man physique I'm again pretty sure it is due to wearing a top notch holster.

    So if S&W comes out with a skinny M&P with a short grip and long barrel I will practically beg them to take my money. Maybe in the meantime I will check out a Kahr 9mm…

  • Edge

    Forgot to mention that I got a chuckle out of the part that mentions the S&W engineers studying human anatomy and coming up with an 18 degree grip angle. I seem to remember that when the Sigma came out all those years ago S&W also talked about all the anatomy research they did to come up with the perfect grip angle. If memory serves that was also 18 degrees. I hope they get a repeat customer discount on those anatomy studies!

  • BigJim

    Reality Check. The only advantage polymer offers over steel, aluminum or titanium is cost and weight.
    Problem is the Millions of McSheeple who go for Tactical Tupperware seem to intellectually incpacitated to realize they are paying forged steel prices for an investment cast plastic gun.
    You do the math. It costs around $99 to produce a Glock. What do they retail for?
    Once manuacturers realized they could charge the same price factor for Tactical Tupperware they did for forged steel, they doubled the prices of steel and aluminum guns.
    So shooters with discrimination are being ripped off because of the millions of reasoning-challenged individuals who pay too much for a tupperware popgun.
    Notice that as soon as the copyright wore off the first thing people came out with for the Glock was ….an aluminum frame upgrde….
    I guess if a Million people jumped off a bridge, worshipped Satan, voted for Obama or texted while speeding on the freeway it would make it okay for you guys to do it too? LOL…

    • quigley150

      You are the one whom needs a reality check. there are plenty of other advantages to the polymer pistol over steel, aluminum, or titanium. As far as Steel is concerned, polymer won't rust. transfer heat or cold, will give slightly and produce less recoil pulse. As far as aluminum is concerned, polymer is more durable and less prone to wear with the rail inserts. As far as titanium goes, yes it is less expensive and again, better recoil pulse. Do the manufacturers price gouge? Yes. However, It costs money to run businesses these days. Fight law suits, pay employees, keep up maintenance, etc. It is obvious which school you prefer. That is fine and is your right as a gun owner. However, don't spew that BS because it doesn't hold water. The fact is that polymer guns are here to stay. Like it or not. And they are attractive to people for whatever reason. My first Agency weapon was a S&W 4046. Great gun, all stainless. We then recently went to the M&P 40. One was not better than the other. They are just different and some of the Officers preferred the steel gun, some did not. So just enjoy your steel guns and let others enjoy their Tupperware.

  • Ron

    I love my M&Ps in 9 and 40 and I can outshoot most of the range rats with their fancy guns unless they have them on a Ransom rest. In the real world M&Ps go bang and hit the target from offhand shooting. I get tired of so called experts. I love my 45s but damn they are heavy.

  • Mike

    Just picked up my new S&W M&P 9 Shield on 4/28/12. Got it at a gun show in K.C. MO. Paid $375 + tax. Had it on my range two hours later. LUV IT!

  • EWRoss

    The Shield now appears to be in short supply. What does one have to do to get one?

  • Carl

    Right on!

  • Snake

    Got my M&P .40 a couple of weeks back. It has become my EDC. Love it.

  • Kim Spencer

    I want one! I am looking!

  • MrApple

    The Shield is a great gun. I searched and searched and was able to pick one up last December. Mine is a 9mm and it shoots great. Before the Shield I was a huge Glock fan and have actually written to Glock (with no response back) about them making a model of similar size to the Shield. My only real criticism of the Shield is the unnecessary external safety and that you need the strength of Hercules to get a fully loaded 7 round magazine in the gun when the slide is closed, the 8 round fits with no problem. Well worth the wait.

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