I recently had an opportunity to play with S&W’s new “Shield” in 9mm. It pretty much is a scaled-down M&P. In other words, it’s a striker-fired pistol with a polymer frame. However, unlike most, the latest S&W offering is stoked by a single-stack magazine. The result is a narrow grip and a pistol that’s much smaller than an M&P double-stack compact model. It’s also bigger than a .380 Bodyguard, placing it within its own unique niche.
By dumb luck, I had my trusty old S&W M-3913 on the range. Laying a Shield beside it we found it was similar in size, but smaller by just a tad. Capacity was the same 8+1 and the latest S&W could possibly be viewed as a polymer alternative. The whole pistol is around 6” long and weighs 19 ounces. It’s just less than 1” thick and certainly a whole lot flatter than a standard-size M&P. Funny thing though; it still has a familiar feel. As such it would make a great companion piece, covering most bases with one standard manual-of-arms.
Unlike most iterations of the full-size M&P line, the Shield will fire with its magazine removed. Two are provided; a flush-bottom 7-shot, and a longer 8-shot with a grip extension. I fired the 8-shot group (see photo) on a miniature B-21 silhouette, offhand at 10 yards. Result: Reasonable accuracy and good control. The sights are very use-able, which helps. The trigger-pull is decent as well. These factors, combined with a practical size that’s small enough to hide but big enough to shoot make the little S&W a good, all-around carry-piece. Overall, it feels good in the hand despite a lack of interchangeable grip inserts.
The Shield disassembles per its larger brethren. You can deactivate the sear by locking the slide to the rear. Visible beneath the breech-face is a small dog-leg wire that can be folded forward and down to cam the sear out of engagement with the striker tail. It’s an alternative to pulling the trigger and something we consider worthwhile. We recently saw a Glock AD when its idiot operator failed to clear the chamber. These things shouldn’t happen but they do. Anyhow, rotating the take-down lever 90 degrees will allow the slide to travel forward and off the frame. The procedure is very simple, and promotes regular maintenance.
The recoil spring is actually two captive units that are fairly stout. You discover this upon retracting the slide. After reassembling the pistol I had a heck of a time latching it open until discovering I wasn’t pulling it all the way rearward. The last bit of travel requires lots of muscle. Loading the magazines is a bit of a chore as well. However, since this pistol is new things may limber up with more use. It has a gimpy little safety reminiscent of small-caliber pocket pistols. I’m thinking it wouldn’t be too hard to master with a bit of practice, but I’m not that fond of it right now. The slide release is manageable but, unlike a full-size M&P, is not ambidextrous. The magazine release is in the same spot, but not reversible. Due to its short size the Shield doesn’t have a dust-cover Picatinny rail section.
S&W joined forces with several manufacturers to ensure accessories and holster options were available when the Shield was announced. This consumer-oriented step results in a street-ready carry package – all for a fairly reasonable price of around $450. The pistol is available in 9mm or .40 and I’m thinking recoil with the latter option would be pretty stout.
The Graduate Shootist