Announced last year at the annual NRA meetings, Smith & Wesson expanded the very popular Military & Police line of handguns with the introduction of the Shield: a compact, single-stack pistol designed for concealed carry. The pistol is thin with a 0.95 inches wide frame, and relatively light at 19 ounces (unloaded).
Close observers of the compact pistol market will note that the Shield is not setting any records in width or weight. I believe Smith was looking to achieve a balance of concealability with shootability. There are a lot of tiny pistols on the market with nearly invisible sights, heavy recoil and dubious reliability. I think S&W was willing to go slightly larger to achieve a pistol that would actually perform in the chaos of combat.
The Shield has sights large enough to be seen and in a three-dot configuration. Additionally, the sights are dovetailed, meaning that you can swap out for a set of XS Big Dot sights or fiber optic sights if you so desire.
Chambered in 9mm and .40 S&W, the S&W Shield offers superior stopping power compared to the rash of diminutive .380 ACP pistols that have flooded the market in recent years. While the .380 is better than a sharp stick or harsh word, I definitely feel better served by a 9mm or .40 S&W.
Each gun comes with two magazines: a flush-fitting magazine and an extended magazine. The 9mm pistol holds seven rounds in the flush fitting magazine, while the .40 S&W magazine holds six. The extended magazines hold one additional round.
With a flush-fitting magazine, the Shield gives you eight rounds (7+1) of 9mm on tap. That is plenty of felon repellant for most social situations.
The Shield uses a polymer frame that looks like a chopped version of the larger M&P pistols. Unlike its larger brothers, the Shield’s palm swell grip is not removable. Smith & Wesson stated that to keep the gun as thin as possible, the engineers had to go with a single size grip.
The slide and barrel are both made from stainless steel. The black Melonite finish is the same hard, corrosion resistant finish found on the other M&P pistols.
The trigger on the new Shield looks like the standard M&P trigger, hinged in the middle as a form of safety. However, the feel of the trigger is all new.
One of the complaints I have heard from many M&P owners is that there is a lack of felt reset when letting the trigger out after a shot. S&W addressed this complaint in the M&P by giving the trigger a distinct reset point that can be plainly felt while shooting. It is my understanding that this new trigger is finding its way into the entire M&P handgun line. I do not know if guns can be retrofitted with the new trigger.
The folks from Springfield did one more very good thing with the Shield launch: they got accessory makers early access to the pistols so that holsters, sights and other gear were ready at launch as well.
Because of their willingness to work with others in the industry, holsters from Galco, RKBA, DeSantis, Blackhawk! and Fobus were immediately available. Since then, more have been announced and introduced by other makers.
Lasers and sights are also available from companies that include XS Sights, Crimson Trace, LaserLyte and LaserMax.
Smith & Wesson has a real hit on their hands with the Shield. While there is not a single pistol that is right for everyone, the new Shield appeals to many people. In a recent earnings call, S&W management stated the Shield was a real success for the company.
• Caliber: 9mm, .40 S&W
• Capacity: 7+1 (9mm), 6+1 (.40 S&W)
• Barrel Length: 3.1″
• Overall Length: 6.1″
• Frame Width: 0.95″
• Overall Height: 4.6″
• Weight (unloaded): 19 oz
• Trigger Pull: 6.5 pounds
• MSRP: $449