One of the great new trends in semiauto pistols is manufacturers have recognized that these pistols can be hard to operate for some people. Smith & Wesson’s solution to this was the M&P380 Shield EZ, a hammer-fired .380 that’s super easy to rack and load. Now the company has made the logical leap to chambering this same pistol in 9mm. Meet the M&P9 Shield EZ.
I am a big fan of the original Shield EZ, and now it’s better because, frankly, I’d rather carry a 9mm than a .380. And with the M&P9 Shield EZ, you get all the benefits of the original design.
One, it’s hammer-fired. This allows designers to use a lighter recoil spring than you’d find in a striker-fired pistol, which in turn makes the slide easier to rack. And it really is. I just received a sample of this new gun (we’ll have a full review in Handguns in an upcoming issue), and even without any break-in firing I can operate the slide with just my forefinger and thumb. Not that I would as a matter of course, but the fact that I can tells you how little racking force is required.
Two other design features contribute to the ease of operation. One, Smith & Wesson’s “fish scale” serration pattern at the rear of the slide is nicely grippy. These serrations taper toward the back of the slide, and then the slide flares at the rear, creating almost a shelf for extra purchase. It’s a great setup.
The “easy” theme extends to the eight-round magazine. It has tabs at the sides, like you’d find on a .22 LR magazine, to aid in depressing the follower while loading. This might seem like a small thing, but I’ve shot with a number of people who have complained about how hard mags can be to load. And for people with compromised hand strength, arthritis, etc. this is a godsend.
The M&P9 Shield EZ features a grip safety and is available with or without a thumb safety—another smart move on Smith & Wesson’s part. I don’t feel the need for a thumb safety on a gun with additional safeties, but my wife, for instance, prefers a thumb safety regardless of the presence of other safeties.
As thumb safeties go, this is a good one. It’s ambidextrous and just large enough for easy operation but not so big it could snag on clothing. The tension is just right.
Speaking of safety, the Shield EZ has a legit loaded-chamber indicator. A lever just behind the ejection port atop the slide protrudes when a round is in the chamber. You can easily see it, and you can easily feel it.
The rest of the controls are well done. The aforementioned grip safety works great, and the reversible magazine release is a sensible size and sticks out just the right amount so it’s simple to activate. The slide lock lever is on the small side—which is certainly what you want for carry—but I found I was able to use it as a release lever with my right/firing thumb fairly easily.
The grip fits my medium-size hands really well. I haven’t had the chance to shoot this new 9mm version, but the combination of the frame’s slight beavertail and the stippling should make this a really controllable 9mm to shoot.
The front of the frame sports a three-slot Picatinny rail for adding a light or laser, and it’s worth noting the M&P9 Shield EZ is available with a red Crimson Trace laser as an option. Sights are white three-dot.
As a 2.0 version, the gun has an improved trigger over earlier M&P guns. The sample on my gun broke at four pounds, five ounces on average. It’s got about an 1/8-inch take-up and some overtravel, and I think it’s a perfectly adequate trigger for a home defense/concealed carry gun.
Overall length of the gun with its 3.675-inch barrel is just under seven inches, and it’s nicely slim at 1.15 inches wide measured at the slide-lock lever—1.46 inches across the ambidextrous safeties. Weight on my sample was 23.1 ounces with empty magazine. Those dimensions make it an excellent carry gun but still should prove a nice-shooting gun.
Yes, the M&P9 Shield EZ has an eight-round capacity while pistols like the SIG P365 and Springfield Hellcat boast more rounds. But those latter guns don’t have the features that make the Shield EZ so easy to work with. Having a bunch of rounds at your disposal is great, but having a pistol that you feel confident operating is just as, if not more, important. At a suggested retail price of just $479, this new pistol is going to appeal to a lot of people.