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Carry On Pistols

Introducing The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

by James Tarr   |  April 12th, 2012 66

Here’s our first look at the brand new pistol from Smith & Wesson, the M&P Shield.  I had an opportunity to travel to S&W’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.  In pictures the Shield looks like a standard M&P Compact in profile, but that’s deceiving.  Personally I find the M&Pc rather chunky—the Shield is anything but.

The Shield is thinner than a standard M&P, because it isn’t fed by a double-column magazine.  Only .98” wide at its fattest point (the grip), with a frame .95” wide and the slide narrower than that, the Shield was very flat.  The Shield doesn’t have the M&P’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.  It has a 6.1-inch overall length, 5.3-inch sight radius, and while it isn’t as small as some “pocket” pistols, it will fit in a pocket as long as you’re not wearing your “skinny jeans”.  During testing I was wearing Levi’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 you’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.  The slide stop and manual safety are single-sided to keep the pistol slim.  The engineers thought including a manual safety was a good idea for a striker-fired pistol destined to end up in pockets and purses.  The safety is small and stiff enough that if you don’t want to use it, it won’t get in the way or get accidentally engaged.

RELATED: Shooting Times M&P Shield Video & Image Gallery

The Shield’s magazine isn’t a true single column magazine—in fact, it is about a cartridge-and-a-half wide, except where it narrows at the top.  I spoke to one of the engineers who told me they didn’t go with a true single column magazine to avoid issues with rim lock.  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.

Each Shield is sold with two magazines, one with a flush baseplate, the other an extended magazine with a grip extension.  In 9mm the magazines hold 7 and 8 rounds respectively, in .40 S&W 6 and 7 rounds.  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.  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 wasn’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.  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 I’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.  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).

The M&P Shield is available for purchase now. MSRP is $449

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.  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 Mike’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.  Look for my full review of this pistol in an upcoming issue of Handguns Magazine!


  • Steveweiser

    I'm sure they'll sell a ton of these. But I would have preferred a slightly larger Bodyguard in 9mm.

  • Andrew

    I can see Steve's point, but I personally didn't like the Bodyguard, but I do love my full size M&P 9mm. I am super excited about this based on the one review I've read (right above).

    • TR3 GUNZ

      I've had mine sine mid April, Bought #2 of 5 that Cabela's had, and I put XS Big Dot Sites and HOLY COW- Wat a Shooter! I really enjoy shooting this pistol, its very reliable 500+ rounds so far and NOT ONE single Mishap.! For the Money -an A+!!

  • Dan McNally

    Looks great. I love the .40 S&W round – have a CZ P-06 that shoots it and have a lot of confidence in it. I may have to handle one of these and see if it is in my future!

  • G26

    Looks very interesting. I carry a Glock 26, which I really like, but sometimes it is a little too big (wide). I could see one of these in my future.

    Also looking for a nice pistol for my wife. I think she might like this one.

  • kyle

    cant tell ya anything till i shoot one, but looks wise its nice

  • Gunpowder&Lead

    I have a full size M&P 40 and have to use the small back strap. Glad to see a compact in 40 that's made in the USA. Just wish it wasn't the size of the medium back strap.
    Have been wanting to get a compact 40. May have to suck it up on grip size ;)

  • Rico

    Hate the bodyguard, love both my MP's. My smallest carry is a sub XDm. I also love the XD line, however the trigger RESET is waaayyy too long. Almost like resetting a DA revolver. Id consider selling the XDm to get the S&W Shield, even if capacity is cut nearly in half. If I want more, Ill carry a slightly bigger handun with more firepower or capacity.

    • Don Bailey

      I love the XD's trigger. I'm not just a real big person, and sometimes I feel like I'm carrying a huge block of plastic and steel, but one thing I'm very comfortable with is the 40 cal. round and shooting it in my personnal weapon. Guess it all comes down to trade offs and what you're willing to live with.

  • Tom

    Just one more damn plastic gun. It looks like a Mattel toy.

    • HST Pain

      Its the current and future way firearms are going to be made Tom, sorry but its something you'll just have to learn to accept.

      • Tom

        Sorry. I won't ever accept a plastic/polymer gun. I'll stick with my series 70 model Commander and my Sig P220.

        • Todd Perkins

          Tom, progress is a good thing!! I love the the 1911 platform but let's face it, it's a little cumber some as a CCW. Since most encounters take place in less than 5 yards, speed of draw and accurate fire will win the day. These "plastic guns" have proven to be the best option for that paradigm.

          • TR3 GUNZ

            Unless you can afford $950 to buy a 3" Kimber- this is an amazing little pistol!

        • Rick

          Can you put your Sig 220 in your pocket?

        • LJTanzer

          Modernism breeds fundamentalism.

    • Mike

      If Browning was still alive, he'd be making a polymer pistol – forward thinker!

    • Eric

      Holy crap, Tom…that's the exact same review/statement you've made in at least 2 other gun forums. Please do some more reading. Learn the difference between "plastic" and "polymer". After 30 years of engineering, gun manufacturers make POLYMER frame guns because they are lighter and stronger (pound for pound) than the steel you are used to carrying. These guns simply dominate every open category of shooting competitions on the planet, are carried by the majority of military and LE personel all over the world, and have proven to be absolutely reliable and extremely durable. If you simply don't like the looks, fine. That's acceptable. But to throw it out because of technology…that's just plain foolish.

      • Eric

        Oh, and by the way…I own the Shield in .40 and it is a freakin' shooter. It is my daily carry piece. I own the M&P .40 full size and also the compact as well. All are great guns. I sincerely hope I can put the Shield's trigger setup in my other guns…it is a better trigger IMHO. Very crisp, less take-up, and feels like it breaks at under the advertised 6+ pounds.

  • Bill

    04-12-12 just purchased and shot my new 9mm Shield, this is a great gun. Don't comment on something ya haven't shot! This my new carry pistol!!


    • jim

      where do you live. i'm in anderson,sc and our local gun shop they will not have any of the s&w shield until june of this year.

    • right2beararms

      Bill … I'm a lady and have the 9mm full size. I'm wondering how it felt shooting it? with it being smaller more compact, I wonder about the kick etc? When I read the reviews to this Shield, I put my Beretta tomcat up for sale, ASAP! I'd rather have my conceal and my everyday calibur be the same. thanks for any info since you have shot one!

    • Dave

      I'm with Jim below. I've been waiting for sometime now, and my preferred gun store has no idea of when they will be available. Glad to hear it's working out. Can't wait to try myself.

    • Mark Juner

      The shield sucks. I got so pissed how bad it was I took a 20 ton press to it. Glock 30 all the way

  • Gunpowder&Lead

    It says in the article it's the same trigger pull as the other M&Ps at 6.5 lbs. I could have sworn the M&P 40 I have said 4.5lbs in the spec sheet. Guess I'll have to check again.

    Probably not available in smaller markets yet. 9mm listed on Davidson's with ZERO in stock but the 40 is not listed (last I checked).

    • Mike

      It may be the same in #s, but definitely not the same spongy feel and vague reset of my M&P .45!!

  • Jeff

    No love for lefties….

  • Jacques

    Looking forward to trying this out. I'm also looking at the new SIG P938 as a potential small carry 9.

    • allen

      Sig P938 – Great little gun. It is in my pocket more than any other.

      • Jack

        How do you own a P938 9mm? They're not even on shelves yet…

  • Mawguy

    M&P's are fine weapons. Ruger's SR9c has some competition now.

  • Scooter

    How does this compare with the Ruger LCP 38? I, too, have a standard M&P 40 and like it, but looking for something smaller to carry regularly.

    • Jared

      I'm going to guess that it's more on par with the LC9 sizewise than the LCP.

  • Revalg


  • Art Woosley

    Another non event: the release of a less than memorable plastic gun in small caliber.

    How many plastic guns will the public buy?

    Going into any serious gun store, one is overwhelmed with display cases filled with black plastic. Each plastic gun almost indistinguishable from the next.

    • GunToting[Redacted]

      So, your suggestions is "give the people what they don't want?"

    • GunToting[Redacted]

      And… .40SW is a "small" caliber?!?

    • Azzman

      Time to go back under the bridge, troll….if Albuquerque PD, Bernalillo Sheriff's Office, and NM DPS/Highway Patrol can carry the M&P9 and M&P40, it's certainly good enough for civilians…

    • Dan

      there's a guy that torutre tested an MP and put 60,000 rounds though it. the slide cracked before the plastic

    • Baller

      Your mom’s plastic…

  • Alan_T

    I have the full size M&P in .45 ACP ….. it's too bad they aren't offering the M&P Shield with the interchangeable back straps . You would think that in today's market , that would be a given .

    • Jordan

      i agree interchangeable back straps would have been a huge plus for this pistol i own the mp 40 and love the large grip, and since alot of inside the pant holsters have the handle sticking out concealment wouldnt have been affected. Apart from that one issue from what ive read and seen, this compact shield is the best 1 inch carry gun on the market!

  • Bob D

    When are you going to stop wearing Levis. They are anti-gun and anti-american.

    • James Tarr

      You are correct, Bob, they do donate to anti-gun causes. I have a handful of Levis I bought brand new, never worn, at a church garage sale a few years ago, so no money went to them. Admittedly, the name is still on them, but they are wearing out quickly, and the replacements will not be more Levi's.

  • Allen

    If I feel I need the firepower I can get my Sig P220 in my pocket!

    • EATitCNN

      Screw sig. Get with the times why would you conceal carry a gun with a hammer? Any gun with DA/SA is STUPID. WHY would you have one gun with two different hammer pulls? Plus the decocker, etc. RETARDED. TOO MANY PARTS. TOO MANY COMPLICATIONS.


  • S. Craig

    Should do well. This is the pistol everyone has asked Glock to make for years (a compact single-stack). Smith is paying attention to public demand. I carry the M&P40 on duty and it is a pretty good platform. They do have some durability issues with pins backing out and a spongy trigger (and yes they are "tactical Tupperware") but they do what they are supposed to do.

  • Honestd

    They need to compare it to an LC9 that has trigger shortened.

  • Paul Stasky

    I handled one at my local Gander. It felt very much like an M&P version of the Walther PPS, very slim but I felt it was a bit tall.If you don't like safety's it's easy to ignore, but dificult to get off. I really had to shift my grip to do it. The trigger felt light, supposedly the reset is better but I didn't check that. Nice pistol, but not sure it's for me, would like to shoot one, the shame of buying guns, you rarely get to shoot it first.

  • jim gregory


  • Don Bailey

    It looks real good and I like the idea that S&W is made in the U.S. But having said that, it is going to be real hard to get past the XD's. Trigger pull of an XD can fit the skill level of any shooter because for the value, they are the best in my book.

    • EATitCNN

      Lots of people think XDs are made in America because of the Springfield name and whatnot but in reality XDs are made in the Baltic

  • Joel Jaworowski

    This is for Gunpowder&Lead, the grip is narrower so you may not notice that it has a medium backstrap. Reread Jim Tarr's review. He said that with the grip extension mag it felt nearly as long as the full sized grip but narrower. This configuration might be just right for you.

  • dearborndave

    I carry a M&P compact .40 with the Crimson Trace laser grip. I really like the gun but find it a little too wide so I will definitely be getting one of these!

  • Jeepers Creepers

    It is hard to stop a charging bull elephant with a 9mm or .40. But should stop a attacker if you put enough rounds into him.

    • Erik Becker

      …or you could just be accurate and use 1 bullet.

      • EATitCNN

        If you live in a fantasy world where everyone is a crack shot then SURE….
        but there’s REASONS why LEO’s and BADGUYS get into shootouts where they both are less than 20 feet away from eachother and they BOTH EMPTY THEIR MAGS and NOBODY GETS HIT. IRL under stress and pressure of a life or death situation people tend to operate at HALF OF THEIR ABILITY.
        Trust me. All those ‘what ifs” and ‘this is what I’ll do if this ever happens’ goes RIGHT OUT THE WINDOW. You never know how you will react in a gun fight until you are IN ONE. That’s why I like to train under stress!

        Because in REAL LIFE (as in, NOT IN CALL OF DUTY where most internet know it alls get their “facts”) you have to AIM WELL to get rounds on target. It’s harder than folks think.
        Or atleast that’s what I was trained for…. ;)

  • TraderVic

    We went to NRA in St. Louis to look at several other guns. My wife found this one and liked it above the others.

  • Ron

    I bought one from Academy yesterday because I love my other M&Ps. Now I love this one too. Anyone want to buy my PF9? This gun is takking its place as of now.

  • Jack

    I bought my shield on Monday and have fired over 100 rounds and everything was great. Very nice firing weapon. I would recommend this to everyone.

  • G. Garcia

    rimlock? They never had that problem with single stack 3rd gen smiths. The Sig 225 and all single stacks do not have a problem with rimlock because the 9mm is rimless. Also, they could have left off the safety.. Still, it will be a good gun.

  • madstabber

    i'm a fan of the full size m&p this looks like a great product for ccw and the price is right. i think s&w hit a home-run with this one.

  • ChrisCosta

    The shield sucks . The trigger is terrible, heavy as hell, and 20 MOA at 7 yards? just go get a glock 26 and be done with it

    • EATitCNN

      Trigger terrible? 20 moa at 7 yds?
      glock 26??? sure if you want to show the world you’re packing. You can’t conceal glock for sh…
      I’m sure now that you’ve NEVER SHOT A SHIELD.

      I own BOTH A GLOCK 26 and 19, and I hardly pick them up anymore. The shield has a MUCH BETTER TRIGGER than GLOCK OR any of the other M&P guns, so once again, I think you’re full of it.
      THE REAL CHRIS COSTA LIKES M&Ps so nice try. I’m sure you’re nothing like him and probably even play with his action figure.
      Go play some more COD and keep THINKING you know what you’re talking about.
      There’s a REASON LEO’S and SWAT TEAMS are switching their BUG from a 26 to the SHIELD!!!
      Now go do some research before you get yourself and your loved ones KILLED.


  • perry

    the 40 is too pricy go with the 9mm fun and cheap and will put a hurting on a criminal if you need it someday to protect yourself or family

  • phred

    just got my mp shield 40 awesome little gun shoots great right out of the box shot Winchester white box 165 gr and hornady critical duty 175 gr here comes the but….magazines are a pain in the azz to load both 6 and 7 rd its all you can do to push spring down far enough to get last couple in the magazine old guy told me to snip off a little of the springs loaded up both mags to see if it will compress springs a little any other ideas??

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