Here’s our first look at the brand new pistol from Smith & Wesson, the M&P Shield.Â I had an opportunity to travel to S&Wâ€™s Springfield, Massachusetts headquarters a few weeks ago and run the Shield through its paces, and anyone looking for a small, easy to conceal, reliable pistol should pay attention.
Offered in 9mm and .40 S&W, the M&P Shield is a compact gun small enough to fit in a pocket but designed to pass rigorous law enforcement Test & Evaluation standards.Â In pictures the Shield looks like a standard M&P Compact in profile, but that’s deceiving.Â Personally I find the M&Pc rather chunkyâ€”the Shield is anything but.
The Shield is thinner than a standard M&P, because it isnâ€™t fed by a double-column magazine.Â Only .98â€ť wide at its fattest point (the grip), with a frame .95â€ť wide and the slide narrower than that, the Shield was very flat.Â The Shield doesn’t have the M&Pâ€™s standard interchangeable backstraps, but the grip profile is designed to imitate the medium-size backstrap of the M&P, which the people at Smith told me was the most popular size, by far.
The M&P Shield has a 3.1-inch barrel and weighs 19 ounces empty.Â It has a 6.1-inch overall length, 5.3-inch sight radius, and while it isnâ€™t as small as some â€śpocketâ€ť pistols, it will fit in a pocket as long as youâ€™re not wearing your â€śskinny jeansâ€ť.Â During testing I was wearing Leviâ€™s and was able to stick the pistol in my front pocket (flush magazine inserted) no problem.
Most everything you expect in a full-size M&P youâ€™ll find in the Shield, including three-dot no snag sights made out of steel, a stainless steel recoil spring guide rod, Melonite finished stainless steel slide, and a reversible mag catch with steel insert.Â The slide stop and manual safety are single-sided to keep the pistol slim.Â The engineers thought including a manual safety was a good idea for a striker-fired pistol destined to end up in pockets and purses.Â The safety is small and stiff enough that if you donâ€™t want to use it, it wonâ€™t get in the way or get accidentally engaged.
The Shieldâ€™s magazine isnâ€™t a true single column magazineâ€”in fact, it is about a cartridge-and-a-half wide, except where it narrows at the top.Â I spoke to one of the engineers who told me they didnâ€™t go with a true single column magazine to avoid issues with rim lock.Â This slightly wider magazine, however, allows for a little more capacity in a pistol that is a mere 4.6-inches tall.
Each Shield is sold with two magazines, one with a flush baseplate, the other an extended magazine with a grip extension.Â In 9mm the magazines hold 7 and 8 rounds respectively, in .40 S&W 6 and 7 rounds.Â With the flush magazine installed I can get all of my fingers (including half of my pinky) on the pistol, which is a huge plus.Â I have medium-size hands, and with the grip-extension magazine in place the grip felt nearly as long as a full-size M&P, even though it wasnâ€™t, perhaps because of it being narrower.
S&W engineers have improved the standard M&P trigger system for the Shield, and reduced the reset.Â Even though the trigger pull weight is still the standard M&P 6.5 lbs, the trigger pulls on all the Shields I tried were crisper than what Iâ€™ve come to expect on M&Ps, and felt lighter.
I shot a 9mm Shield extensively over the course of two days and found that it recoiled only slightly more than a full-size M&P.Â Honestly, it felt more like a full-size gun during shooting than a compact, and at one point I put 300 rounds through it in an hour without suffering a sore hand or wrist (most of it using the flush-fitting magazine).
Smith & Wesson reps have told me that as of today they should have two months of inventory ready to ship (7,000-8,000 units ready by April 12), so if you have a favorite S&W retailer they’re likely to have a Shield on their shelves very shortly.Â S&W has also done a very smart thing and paired up early with numerous accessories manufacturers, and by the time you find a pistol you should be able to find holsters, sights, and/or lasers to fit the Shield from Galco, Blackhawk, Crimson Trace, Hi-Viz, Uncle Mikeâ€™s, Fobus, and a number of other companies.
At a suggested retail of only $449, Smith and Wesson is sure to have a hit on their hands. I know I like it. Â Look for my full review of this pistol in an upcoming issue of Handguns Magazine!