November 20, 2020
Let's be clear. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison of the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P9 Shield EZ and the Taurus G3c pistols. It can’t be because they are too different. One is an internal hammer-fired pistol tricked-out by Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center, and the other is a box-stock, striker-fired pistol from Taurus. However, both are compact, polymer-frame 9mm semiautos designed for personal protection. And both are good carry guns in their own right. Here’s a quick look at them.
The first thing I noticed about the S&W Performance Center M&P9 Shield EZ (I’ll refer to it as the P-C Shield EZ throughout this report) is the grip safety. It’s a lever that extends about two-thirds of the way down the length of the pistol’s backstrap. It’s pinned at the bottom, so to fire the gun, the shooter squeezes in on the safety. That happens naturally when a firm shooting grip is acquired, so it’s not the least bit tricky. When the safety is not squeezed, the trigger mechanism is deactivated. It can be pressed fully to the rear, but the internal parts are not engaged. The lever on my gun is matte silver (so is the trigger, more about it in a moment) and has fine vertical grooves running down its back. You also can have the P-C Shield EZ with a gold trigger and safety lever or a black trigger and safety lever. By the way, S&W sells a standard M&P9 Shield EZ as well, but of course, it doesn’t have all the P-C Shield EZ’s bells and whistles.
My P-C Shield EZ also has an ambidextrous manual thumb safety. It’s optional, so if you prefer no manual safety, S&W has you covered. If you choose the manual safety, be aware that it does not prevent the slide from moving, so a round can be chambered with the thumb safety engaged. The P-C Shield EZ also has a passive internal firing pin block, and it has a visual and tactile loaded-chamber indicator on top of the slide. When a round is chambered, the indicator sticks up a fraction of an inch, but it’s enough to easily be seen and felt.
Taurus G3c Specs
- Manufacturer: Taurus; taurususa.com
- Type: Striker-fired autoloader
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Magazine Capacity: 10 and 12 rounds
- Barrel: 3.2 in.
- Overall Length: 6.3 in.
- Width: 1.20 in.
- Height: 5.10 in.
- Weight, Empty: 22 oz.
- Grips: Integral to polymer frame
- Finish: Matte black Tennifer
- Sights: Drift-adjustable black rear; fixed white-dot front
- Trigger: 6.85-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Manual thumb safety; trigger safety; striker block
- MSRP: $305.74
The striker-fired G3c also has several safety features, including a trigger safety. Like other similar trigger safeties, the G3c’s is designed to prevent the trigger from being squeezed unless the shooter’s finger has fully engaged and depressed the trigger. The G3c’s trigger safety measures 0.19 inch wide (as best as I can measure it), making it noticeably wider than other such trigger safeties.
The G3c has an internal striker block that prevents the striker from moving forward unintentionally—as in a drop or a hard impact—and accidentally striking the primer. When the trigger is squeezed rearward, the striker block is pushed away from the striker.
In addition, the G3c has a manual thumb safety located on the left side of the slide. It is not ambidextrous. Moving it up engages the safety and prevents the trigger from being squeezed all the way as well as preventing the slide from moving rearward. Moving it down allows the pistol to be fired. The G3c’s loaded-chamber indicator consists of a view port at the top rear of the chamber. (When a round is chambered, the cartridge case can be seen through the top of the barrel’s chamber.)
Another interesting safety feature of the G3c is that its polymer frame has recesses on both sides above the trigger guard that are designed specifically for the shooter to use to rest the trigger finger on when not actively shooting. The company calls them “Taurus Memory Pads,” and they keep the trigger finger entirely outside the trigger guard and off the trigger.
Ease of Operation
Both pistols are easy to rack, easy to load, easy to shoot, and easy to disassemble. I’ll get to the ease of racking later when I report on the shootability aspects of each gun, but I want to speak to their ease of disassembly and loading here.
Both guns have been designed to make field-stripping quick and easy. Here’s how it’s done for the G3c. Remove the magazine and be certain the pistol is not loaded by racking the slide and checking the chamber. After returning the slide to its forward position, point the pistol in a safe direction, retract the slide slightly, pull down on the takedown lever from both sides of the frame, and move the slide forward off the frame. Remove the recoil spring assembly from the slide and then remove the barrel.
The P-C Shield EZ takes a bit longer, but not by much. First, make sure the pistol is unloaded and place the manual thumb safety in the up position. Remove the magazine. Draw the slide back and lock it open with the slide stop lever. Rotate the takedown lever located on the left side of the frame down to the 6 o’clock position. Carefully and slowly draw the slide back, letting the slide stop disengage, and then move the slide forward and off the frame. Do not depress the grip safety when moving the slide off the frame; hold the frame by its sides. Remove the recoil spring assembly from the slide and then remove the barrel from the slide.
Both pistols’ magazines are easy to load, but the P-C Shield EZ takes the prize here. I’m pleased to see a major manufacturer paying particular attention to this aspect. I’m old enough to have worked with a lot of older semiautomatic pistols whose magazines were honestly real pains in the you know what to load. Many of the pistols had comfortable grips and grip frames for shooting, but it seemed like nobody gave a hoot about how painful loading those magazines was.
The P-C Shield EZ magazine has a load assist button inserted into the follower above the spring, and it really makes loading the magazine a breeze. Tabs on the button stick out slightly on each side of the magazine, so you can use the thumb and forefinger of one hand to pull down on the follower and spring, thereby allowing loaded cartridges to be inserted from the top easy-peasy. It seems like a simple thing, but it is one feature that differentiates the P-C Shield EZ from other small semiautomatic pistol designs.
Unlike other striker-fired pistols, the G3c has repeat-strike capability. That means if a round fails to go off the first time, after the trigger resets, the trigger can be squeezed again quickly. It’s a great capability for a self-defense gun.
The G3c also can be fired with the magazine removed, as can the P-C Shield EZ. A lot of semiautomatic pistols these days have a magazine disconnect safety built into their mechanisms and will not do that. I prefer a pistol that will fire with the magazine out, especially if it’s a self-defense gun.
My G3c came with three flush-fitting, 12-round, double-stack magazines. Taurus also makes the gun available with 10-round magazines. The magazine bodies are metal, and they have removable polymer baseplates and polymer followers. The followers in my magazines are yellow.
The P-C Shield EZ comes with two eight-round, single-stack magazines. The bodies are stainless steel, and the removable baseplates and followers are polymer (the followers are orange).
Other interesting features of the G3c include a single-slot accessories rail on the frame and three grasping grooves on each side of the front of the slide and eight at the rear of the slide. The top of the slide is flat, and the front and sides ahead of the ejection port are beveled for easy holstering. The polymer grip frame has thumbrests on both sides.
S&W Performance Center M&P9 Shield EZ Specs
- Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson; smith-wesson.com
- Type: Internal hammer-fired autoloader
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Magazine Capacity: 8 rounds
- Barrel: 3.83 in.
- Overall Length: 7.0 in.
- Width: 1.46 in.
- Height: 4.85 in.
- Weight, Empty: 23.2 oz.
- Grips: Integral to polymer frame
- Finish: Matte black Armornite with silver barrel, trigger, and grip safety
- Sights: Drift-adjustable Hi-Viz LiteWave H3 rear; Hi-Viz LitePipe front
- Trigger: 5.18-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Manual thumb safety; grip safety; firing pin block
- MSRP: $588
The G3c’s grip circumference measures 5.38 inches. I have medium-size hands and can get all three of my gripping fingers fully on it without crowding them. The grip has six panels of fine texturing wrapping all the way around.
The P-C Shield EZ’s grip circumference also measures 5.38 inches with the grip safety depressed. And it also has six panels of fine texturing on the sides, the frontstrap, and the backstrap below the grip safety.
The G3c’s sights are steel, and the rear sight is dovetailed into the slide, so it is drift-adjustable for windage. It is all black and has fine horizontal striations. The square notch is 0.167 inch wide. The front sight is 0.147 inch thick and has a white dot on the post. The sight radius is 5.19 inches.
The P-C Shield EZ’s sights are steel and made by Hi-Viz. The rear is called the H3 LiteWave, and it has two green fiber-optic inserts. It is adjustable for windage and elevation. The front sight is called the H3 LitePipe, and it has a single green fiber-optic insert. The housing is 0.155 inch thick, and the rear sight’s notch measures 0.158 inch wide. The sight radius is 5.50 inches, and both sights are dovetailed into the slide.
The G3c is 6.30 inches long overall, 5.10 inches high, and 1.20 inches wide. The slide proper is 1.0 inch thick. The pistol weighs 22 ounces unloaded. The finish is matte black.
The P-C Shield EZ is 7.00 inches long overall, 4.85 inches high, and 1.46 inches wide. The slide is 1.07 inches thick. The pistol weighs 23.2 ounces unloaded. The finish is matte black. The frame has a three-slot accessories rail, and the slide has five grasping grooves at the rear and seven up front. Well, they aren’t actually grooves; they are more like small divots.
The G3c's barrel is stainless steel, the recoil guide rod is steel, and the recoil spring is tuned to deliver an easy recoil pulse while ensuring reliable operation.
As I said earlier, the Shield EZ is offered in a standard-catalog configuration, and some of the features that the Performance Center pistol has that the standard pistol doesn’t have include a single port on the top of the barrel at the muzzle end that is exposed when the slide is fully forward; three lightening cuts on each side of the slide; and a unique skeletonized, flat, and grooved trigger—in addition to the Hi-Viz sights I’ve already described. It also comes with a special cleaning kit that includes a semi-rigid case, a collapsible rod with a rotating T-handle, 10 cleaning patches, a nylon cleaning brush, bronze bore brushes, nylon jags, and nylon slotted tips. It covers .22, 9mm/.357/.38, .40/10mm, and .45 calibers.
Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P9 Shield EZ Accuracy Results
Like I said, both pistols are easy to shoot. I ran both through my usual shooting-from-the-bench routine where I fired five, five-shot groups with a variety of factory ammunition and averaged the groups. I also fired five rounds of each load through each pistol for an average velocity, extreme spread, and standard deviation. The results are listed in the accompanying charts.
As you can see, both pistols produced group averages of 4.01 inches or less at 25 yards with loads carrying bullets that weighed from 115 to 150 grains. The G3c’s overall average was 3.73 inches, and its best average came with Remington Golden Saber Black Belt 124-grain JHP ammo (3.38 inches). The P-C Shield EZ’s overall average was 3.26 inches, and its best average (2.81 inches) was obtained with Speer’s new CarryGun 135-grain Gold Dot G2 ammo. (You can read more about the CarryGun ammo in the Quick Shot on page 66.)
I own a couple of steel silhouettes and some round steel targets in addition to a couple of bouncing reactive targets made of synthetic, so I set up some action-type shooting drills at my personal range and had a really fun afternoon shooting both pistols. I burned up a bunch of ammo; in fact, I pretty much depleted my entire supply of 9mm ammo!
During that phase of the shootout, I found both pistols to shoot comfortably and to be easy to handle in terms of recoil and getting on target pretty quickly. I prefer the sights on the G3c because I don’t care for a three-dot setup. But that’s a personal choice, and based on what most gun companies offer, most shooters don’t have any problem with a three-dot system. However, I have to admit the fiber-optic sights on the P-C Shield EZ are quite easy to see in dark lighting conditions, so I’d like to see Taurus put a fiber-optic dot on the G3c’s front sight.
Unlike other striker-fired pistols, the G3c’s slide is pretty easy to rack even though a striker-fired mechanism requires stiffer springs for reliable operation as a rule. Of course, being an internal hammer-fired pistol, the P-C Shield EZ was easier to rack. When I got home from my range, I performed a simple technique to measure the weight required to rack the slides of both pistols. Using a cleaning rod that fit the bores and my RCBS High Range Trigger Tension Scale hooked around the cleaning rod’s handle, I found the P-C Shield EZ required 19 pounds of force to pull the slide fully to the rear, and the G3c required 24 pounds to do it.
Taurus G3c Accuracy Results
By the way, according to my standard RCBS trigger pull scale, the P-C Shield EZ’s trigger pull averaged 5 pounds, 3 ounces, and the G3c’s trigger pull averaged 6 pounds, 13 ounces. That’s the average of five measurements for each gun. Both triggers were fairly consistent, but both had up to 14 ounces of variation between the lightest and the heaviest measurements. Take-up on the G3c was long, but the break was crisp. The reset was not the longest I’ve experienced on a striker-fired pistol, and it was audible. The P-C Shield EZ had almost no perceptible take-up, and reset was quite reasonable.
One more thing. Reliability throughout my shooting session was perfect. I didn’t have a single failure to feed, fire, extract, or eject with either pistol. That’s a testament not only to the reliability of the guns, but also to the ammo. These guns and this ammunition are designed for personal protection, so they ought to function perfectly.