A thin concealment pistol joins the M&P lineup.
By Steve Tracy
Smith and Wesson’s Military & Police pistols have become a popular choice with law enforcement for good reason. Their polymer frames are lightweight and durable. Their black Melonite® coated stainless-steel slides and barrels resist the elements that police officers encounter on duty. The M&P has proven reliable and accurate and its ergonomic design fits most officers well due to the pistol’s interchangeable backstraps.
The striker-fired trigger offers a consistent pull from the first shot to the last, which contributes to the M&P’s inherent accuracy. Since its introduction in 2005, the M&P has enjoyed continuing expansive acceptance by police.
The M&P semi-auto pistol covers all the bases with the same basic handgun tendered in 9mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP calibers. The “Professional Series” are full-size duty pistols with 5-inch barrels; the standard versions have 4 ¼-inch barrels; and the compact models come with 3.5-inch barrels. Each of these M&P pistols feature high-capacity, double stack magazines. There’s even a .22 caliber M&P so officers can practice and train with low-cost rimfire ammunition.
The tiny S&W Bodyguard .380 pistol has a 2 ¾-inch barrel, a built-in laser, and fits easily in an outside vest carrier’s breast pocket. Although the Bodyguard is not in the M&P lineup, the new Bodyguard M&P without the built-in laser is, and the Springfield, Mass. firearms maker’s starting lineup is a powerful force for law enforcement duty, backup, and off-duty carry with its M&P and Bodyguard starting roster.
The Shield Fills the Size Gap
While the M&P Compact is short in both barrel and grip length, its double stack magazine requires plenty of pistol grip girth. The width of a pistol is often the major factor for comfortable carry, either inside or outside your waistband. Wide guns stick out under clothing and they bang around on seat belts and chairs. The new Shield is a slimmed-down M&P that hits the game-winning home run.
Pocket pistols in .380 caliber have become very popular because their super-small size makes them easy to conceal. However, many law enforcement officers desire a caliber more powerful than the .380 and the next logical step up is the 9mm cartridge. Therefore, many gun makers have begun to offer single stack pistols chambered in 9mm Parabellum.
The M&P Shield joins the growing list of single stack pistols in either 9mm or .40 S&W and the Shield is provided with two magazines. The 9mm pistol is packaged with a short seven-round magazine and an extended eight-round magazine with a slightly longer grip. The .40 caliber model comes with six- and seven-round magazines.
The Shield’s slim width measures just under an inch or about the diameter of a quarter. The pistol slips inside your waistband and is much easier to conceal comfortably than double stack guns. A quality concealed-carry hip holster helps make the Shield disappear under a shirt or jacket.
The Shield wore very comfortably in a high-ride custom holster by Bullard (www.dmbullard.com). This particular leather holster keeps the muzzle up high so it has less chance of poking out below a jacket. It also angles the pistol radically for concealment, retention, and a fast draw.
The increasingly common outside vest carrier allows a holster to be sewn underneath for backup pistol concealment. This system allows a fast draw with an officer’s strong hand. However, a thin pistol is needed for comfortable carry day in and day out in this manner. Double-stack magazine pistols are too wide for this kind of carry. The Shield was found to be so light and so thin as to go unnoticed during an entire shift.
Most M&P Features Shared
The Shield weighs just 19 ounces unloaded and comes with all of the standard M&P pistol’s attributes, except for the quick-change backstraps. In my big hand, the Shield felt good, but it did tend to point upward when aimed naturally. I needed to concentrate on the front sight to get on target quickly.
The top-notch sights are dovetailed both front and rear and come with standard white dots. Tritium sights are available from the aftermarket if desired. A viewing hole in the top of the barrel/ejection port lets you peek in to verify if a cartridge is chambered and ready to fire.
The fish scale-style rear cocking serrations provide an excellent grasp, which is needed to tug the slide to the rear and overcome the captive dual recoil spring. The Melonite ® coated stainless-steel slide will protect from the elements and body sweat. External edges are nicely softened, as they should be on a concealable handgun, to prevent abrasions to both you and your clothing.
Like its big brothers, the Shield can be field stripped without the need to pull the trigger. With the magazine removed and the slide locked to the rear, the chamber can be inspected to be sure it is clear. Then a pen or similar pointed tool is used to lower the yellow sear deactivation lever inside the magazine well. The takedown lever is then rotated downward, which allows the slide to move forward off the frame. The recoil spring lifts out, as does the barrel, to complete the disassembly process.
The Shield’s trigger includes a two-piece articulated safety that allows the pistol to be fired only when the trigger is purposefully pressed. Over travel stops are molded into the rear of the trigger and the inside of the trigger guard. A firing pin safety inside the slide prevents the pistol from firing if it is dropped. As prominently noted by the etching on the slide, the Shield does not have a magazine disconnect and will fire with its magazine removed.
The trigger pull measured an average of 7 pounds, 9 ounces on a Lyman digital-trigger pull gauge, which was heavier than S&W’s literature states at 6.5 pounds. There was some take-up as the trigger deactivated the firing-pin block safety, but the let-off was crisp. For its intended purpose as a concealed combat pistol, the trigger performed well and allowed proper placement of aimed fire.
There is a manual safety on the left side of the receiver if its user chooses to make use of it. Like a 1911-style pistol, the pistol is placed on safe when this lever is swept upward with the shooter’s thumb. A downward swipe of the thumb takes the safe off. While the safety is small, it sticks out just enough to be moved without effort during a natural grip.
The magazine release button behind the trigger guard ejects empty mags, which drop free with authority. The release can be swapped to the opposite side for left-hand shooters.
Reliability with 10 Different Types of Ammo
The Shield was thoroughly cleaned and oiled and then fired at the range. Ten different types of ammo were put through both magazines, including Hornady’s excellent Critical Defense 115-grain FTX load. This cartridge is specifically designed for shorter pistols with its fast-burning powder and red polymer tip that causes bullet expansion in all kinds of target media.
A total of 250 rounds were fired without fail during a range session. The Shield hit dead-on at both 7 and 15 yards. Its sights are pushed out to the slide’s extremities for the longest sight picture possible and they’re big and easy to see. Mastering the trigger’s take-up took just a couple magazines. Hits at 7 yards were kept in the 10-ring and hits at 15 yards were kept in the 9-ring when fired quickly from a standing, unsupported combat position.
Recoil was of no real concern, but muzzle flip was apparent with the hotter hollowpoint rounds. Recovery for follow-up shots was fast, despite the little pistol’s kick. Other shooters noted how slim and comfortable the Shield felt and how manageable the recoil was in 9mm. The .40 S&W version would obviously have a bit more recoil due to its cartridge’s more powerful abilities.
Another Hit in the S&W M&P Lineup
It would seem that Smith & Wesson has another hit on their hands with the M&P Shield. This 9mm or .40 caliber pistol is larger than the tiny .380 Bodyguard, but it packs a punch equal to its larger M&P brothers. The single stack magazine keeps the Shield slim for ease of concealed carry, while it shares the commonality of operation and features with the full-size M&P duty pistols.
For any police officers looking for a thinner version of the M&P duty gun they already carry, or even if you work the street with another brand pistol on your hip, the Shield is ready to step up to the plate and play ball. PM
Steve Tracy is a 26-year police veteran with 24 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He is also an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force, less-than-lethal force and scenario-based training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.