May 17, 2023
By Tom Beckstrand
I love a good experiment, especially when I can rope my wife into it. Not long ago, our neighbors invited her to a basic handgun class, and she accepted.
Although we’ve been married for over a decade, guns and shooting have never been her thing. I’ll sing her praises in every other aspect of our relationship, but when it comes to guns, she’s “meh” on a good day. It hurts my heart.
She had a blast at the basic handgun course and agreed to attend with those same neighbors the concealed-carry class put on by Triangle Shooting Academy. Successful completion of the course would mean she could get her concealed-carry permit, a goal I’ve had for her since we met. I loaned her a M&P Shield EZ in 9mm for the basic course that she liked well enough. I had a better idea for the concealed-carry course.
The .30 Super Carry
Federal announced the .30 Super Carry (SC) earlier this year and, like every new cartridge announcement, the shooting community greeted it with both excitement and skepticism. The .30 SC fixes a few problems with handgun cartridges smaller than a 9mm: penetration and terminal performance.
The historic go-to for low recoil has been the .380 ACP. This is the same caliber as a 9mm, just with a shorter case and reduced velocity. The problem with the .380 ACP is that it won’t penetrate deep enough for reliable terminal effects. The .380 ACP tops out on penetration with a reliable hollowpoint bullet at about 9 inches. That’s better than throwing rocks and using strong language for self-defense but far from the ideal 12 to 15 inches of expansion the FBI likes to see for duty ammunition. The .380 ACP just doesn’t have enough gunpowder and velocity to push that 9mm-sized bullet deep into ballistic gelatin.
The .30 SC solves this problem by using a bullet that has a smaller diameter but sits between the .380 ACP and 9mm in bullet weight. The .30 SC case is also longer than both the .380 ACP and 9mm, so the increased volume allows for more powder. Where the common 115-grain 9mm bullet has a muzzle velocity of about 1,200 feet per second (fps), the 100-grain Federal HST .30 SC bullet has the same muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps. The 9mm bullet expands to .6 inch in ballistic gel, while the .30 SC expands to .57 inch in ballistic gel.
The numbers say the .30 SC is a great choice for self-defense. It hits like a 9mm but has less recoil and should be easier to shoot. Sure, I could and did shoot both pistols as part of my comparison, but I’m a salty middle-aged guy, and the more important perspective comes in from a new shooter. The .30 SC looks ideal for a new shooter because it doesn’t recoil as much and should be more fun to shoot. The best way for me to verify that would be to get one for my wife to shoot at her concealed-carry class, so that’s what I did.
As luck would have it, my local gun shop had a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ in .30 SC. My wife loved the Shield EZ that she used at the basic handgun class, so this would offer an “apples to apples” comparison of .30 SC versus 9mm. I threw a few greenbacks on the counter and walked out with the new pistol.
The night before the concealed-carry class, my wife asked me to round up a gun and ammunition for her — sure thing. I produced the Shield EZ with a couple of magazines and boxes of ammunition. “Is that the same gun I took to the basic course?” she asked. I told her it was not. It was the same model she used before, so all the controls were the same, but it was in a new caliber. “What’s the difference?” she asked. “This one holds 10 rounds in the magazine and the other one held eight.” I didn’t want her to have any preconceived notions about the .30 SC, so I didn’t say anything more. Turns out, she was happy to have 10-round magazines because the increased capacity meant she wouldn’t have to be reloading for 10-round strings of fire, like last time. Off to class she went.
I arrived just before she began the shooting portion of the class, and she was nervous. The course of fire required shooting 30 rounds from 3, 5, and 7 yards. I was standing behind her while she shot and, once finished with the 3-yard string, she put the gun down and said: “This one is so much easier to shoot than the other.” There is enough difference in recoil between the 9mm and the .30 SC that my wife, unsolicited, made the immediate observation upon shooting it for the first time.
My wife continued on through the course of fire until she fired all 30 rounds. My only input was “slow down!” because she wanted to blaze away at the target. When the shooting qualification of the test was over, she scored 293 out of 300 points. She was thrilled. To be clear, my wife does not go shooting with me and isn’t interested in guns as a hobby. However, she did say just before we left the range: “If we went to the range and we had this gun with us, I would shoot it.” That’s a ringing endorsement coming from her. Up until now, the only pistol she liked to shoot was a suppressed .22 semiauto that she thinks is a blast.
This Is a Big Deal
My quest to find a self-defense pistol for my wife spans our entire marriage. She has seen and handled every appropriate pistol I’ve evaluated since I started writing for gun magazines many moons ago and has been interested in none of them until now. The first thing she does when I hand her one (once she’s checked to make sure it’s unloaded) is pull the slide to the rear and lock it in place. This disqualifies most semiauto pistols immediately because she has to wrestle with them to make it happen. Revolvers suffer a similar fate when she works through the double action.
There are a few reasons she likes this pistol. The first thing she noticed was how easy it was to lock the slide to the rear. This is a signature feature of the M&P EZ pistols, and it’s noticeable. Another feature my wife liked was the grip safety. She’s not a gun enthusiast, so this intuitive and unobtrusive safety is something she likes. As mentioned above, the .30 SC chambering is the star of this show. While my wife liked the M&P EZ in 9mm, she loves it in .30 SC.
I get asked regularly by friends and family alike what gun I recommend for self-defense. My answer varies from one individual to the next based on needs and stated desires. The M&P EZ in .30 SC gets my first pick for new and casual shooters, which is also the biggest shooting demographic out there.
No pistol is easier to load, handle, and shoot than this one. Those neighbors I mentioned earlier in the article? Both the husband and wife want to shoot the pistol seen here because of my wife’s testimonial. They watched her go through the class with it and talked to her about it when class was over. I stayed out of the discussion because I wanted to see what would happen. Now, I’ve got three new converts, one of whom represents the end of lengthy and frustrating search.
If you, too, know of a new or casual shooter interested in self-defense, I highly recommend the S&W M&P Shield EZ in .30 Super Carry. Sure, it’s a new caliber, and no one knows how it will fare in the future. I’ve already bought one gun and will likely pick up a second just because I like the little cartridge. I expect my wife’s experience will not go unnoticed by other shooters and that the enthusiasm for the .30 SC ensures a long life.
M&P Shield EZ Specifications
- Type: Striker-fired semiauto
- Cartridge: .30 Super Carry
- Capacity: 10+1 Rds.
- Barrel: 3.675 In.
- Overall Length: 6.8 In.
- Weight: 1.3 Lbs.
- Grips: Polymer
- Sights: Metal, white dot
- Trigger: 5.2 Lbs.
- Finish: Matte Black
- MSRP: $521
- Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson, smith-wesson.com