April 12, 2012
By Joseph von Benedikt
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.