Glock and Springfield armory at that time owned the striker-fired market in the USA which was increasing compared to its hammer-fired counterparts and Smith and Wesson saw an opportunity to introduce the smith and west M&P to take over lucrative law enforcement contracts and civilian sales.
In our S&W Shield 9mm Review we’re covering an iconic gun on the American concealed carry market. Smith Wesson Shield is a continuation of Smith and Wesson’s previously popular Smith and Wesson M&P series. When Smith Wesson M&P was introduced in 2005 as an alternative to Glock and Springfield Armory handguns it brought competition to a non-competitive market.
In 2012 Smith and Wesson introduced the new Smith and Wesson M&P Shield. The Smith and Wesson M&P Shield was designed not as a duty gun but specifically for concealed carry. In 2012 concealed Carry was booming in the wake of Sandy Hook and the threat of stricter gun laws.
At the time the S&W Shield came in at a price point under $500. Which was well priced and slightly underneath the cost of its full-size duty counterparts. Before the Smith and Wesson Shield, there were two micro nine-millimeter polymer frame striker-fired guns on the market. Those guns were produced by Khar and Walther.
The Khar pistol had been around for a while. But Khar was not a well-known company and the pistol came in at a price point around $800 at that time. So, it did not achieve commercial success in the market. Walther had the same issue.
A fairly well-known brand Walther initially introduced the PPS for around $800. Walther has since reduced the price to be more in line with guns like the Smith and Wesson Shield. But at the time $800 limited the popularity of the Walther PPS to collectors and very serious end-users who were willing to spend the money on the gun.
The Smith and Wesson Shield was the first concealed Carry gun to come in at a price point that was affordable for the average American at that time.
The Smith and Wesson M&P in 9-millimeter comes with a seven-round flush fit magazine and an 8-round extended magazine with a mag sleeve to help avoid over-insertion of the magazine. These magazines are only sold through Smith and Wesson and there are no aftermarket options. That said their reasonable price ranges anywhere from 20 to 35 dollars.
There are also a wide variety of aftermarket extensions for the gun which we will cover later.
The mag well on the Smith and Wesson Shield is not beveled at all. This gun isn’t designed for speed reloads.
One thing to take into account with as short as the grip is on the Smith Wesson M&P. You’ll likely have to take your hand away from the bottom of the grip to fully eject a mag if you have medium to larger size hands.
The grip of the Smith Wesson M&P Shield is in no way modular. In 2012 when it was introduced modularity had not quite become as common as it is today. And on this size gun, it’s still not common to this day. The grip itself feels pretty good in the hand and is similar to the Smith Wesson M&P series except it feels much thinner, so it doesn’t feel quite as good in the hand as the Smith and Wesson full-size guns.
There is a tang towards the top of the firearm and no beavertail. The tang, fortunately, is comfortable. It doesn’t allow you to get a deep grip that high on the gun. Part of this is due to the undercut of the gun as well. It really needs a higher undercut to allow you to get your hand much higher up on the gun.
You could technically get your hand probably a tenth of an inch higher if there were a better undercut. I don’t think modifying the trigger guard on the Smith Wesson M&P Shield would work. The trigger guard doesn’t have enough material to get your hand high enough. Without risking the structural integrity of the gun itself.
The tang of the grip is quite comfortable in the hand. It will work for many sizes of hands considering the shape is nice and rounded with no flat spots; that often can be uncomfortable.
There’s texturing on the Smith and Wesson M&P, on the back strap that extends into a half-moon halfway onto each side of the grip panel. This is in a similar location to where the removable back straps are on the Smith and Wesson M&P. There is also texturing on the front strap.
The texturing itself is a look somewhat similar to the grips on like talon grips that have a rubberized slightly sticky material. But you can obviously feel on the gun that the texturing is made from hard plastic and it’s quite slick. It really doesn’t do much to give you a better grip on the gun.
Now there is the Smith Wesson M&P Shield 2.0 series that has a much better texturing or a much more aggressive texturing I should say. Overall, the feel of the gun isn’t bad. It does feel like they took the ergonomics of a full-size gun and just made the grip thinner. So, it doesn’t feel as good as a lot of its modern contemporaries. The Glock 43x, Glock 48, and the Springfield Armory Hellcat, and the Sig p365 and Sig p365 xl all have better ergonomics.
I have talked to a lot of shooters with very large hands and they do tend to prefer the Smith and Wesson Shield over others.
The Smith and Wesson Shield comes with just standard metal three-dot sights. They aren’t night sights, but they work; they’re still in a rugged construction which is a good plus. It’s adjustable from windage on the rear and the front. And the rear sight has a set screw. All that said if you’re serious about carrying this gun you’ll likely want to replace them with an aftermarket option. Aftermarket options for the Smith Wesson M&P Shield are absolutely numerous. So, it’s very unlikely you’ll have a problem finding a set of sights to suit your needs.
SW Shield Red Dots
Mounting a red dot to the Smith Wesson M&P Shield just isn’t common. The original version of the Smith Wesson M&P Shield comes in at a very low price point. And by the time red dots were popular, that price point had gone substantially lower. So, people really didn’t feel like spending more than the cost of the gun on mounting a red dot. And there weren’t that many red dots that were thin enough to mount on the gun. Since then, Smith and Wesson have come out with their own red dot mounted options.
Smith and Wesson purchased Crimson Trace and Crimson Trace has a line of electro-optics including a mini red dot that is sized for a gun like the Shield. So, they offer that shield on their four-inch Smith and Wesson M&P pro series guns as an option. That’s probably your best bet and best bang for the money.
If you want to get the gun milled there are people that will do it, but it’s quite an expensive gun to have milled. And there is a roll pin that installs the ejector. So, that’s something that somebody milling the gun for a red dot pistol would have to take into account. They will likely have to mill a separate mount as well. And that can get quite expensive.
S&W Shield 9mm Review Safety
The Smith Wesson M&P Shield comes standard with a hinged trigger guard safety. And the original Shield came with a thumb safety and the original Shield was later offered without the thumb safety variant. The thumb safety was installed in a good position similar to the full-size M&Ps which were based loosely off the 1911 style thumb safety. The safety was very low profile which is the biggest complaint I would have so it was hard to flick off and not ambi.
In the initial years after introduction, the Smith Wesson M&P Shield with the thumb safety was the only model available. Once the non-safety version came out within a couple of years it has become the dominant version on the market, and it’s rare to find a version with the thumb safety.
Now one thing to take into account is the hinged trigger. Personally, I really don’t like it. The way the grip is designed when I try to get a high grip on the Smith Wesson M&P Shield my finger goes very high on the trigger which is not good. Because my finger is pulling the high portion of the trigger, I can’t deactivate the hinge below that deactivating the safety and safely pulling the trigger.
That said, that’s going to be very specific to the hand type of an individual person and there are after-market triggers that use a Glock style trigger safety. And those options are numerous so you can easily switch out the trigger. Again, though this gun is a gun that usually sells for right under three hundred dollars, and at that price point do you really want to invest in a hundred-dollar trigger for a three-hundred-dollar gun?
The thumb safety portion is not ambidextrous, so it really only works for a right-handed shooter. I would suggest getting the version without a safety because I feel it’s just as safe with proper gun handling. And you don’t have to worry about not being able to disengage the safety if you have to shoot the gun with your support hand.
S&W Shield 9mm Review Magazine Release
The magazine release on the Smith Wesson M&P Shield sits right behind the trigger guard like all other common push-button semi-automatic magazine releases. I have medium to full-size hands and I can just perfectly reach that mag release. So, most people with medium to smaller hands will need to break their grip to access that magazine release. There is also a bump behind the magazine release that would keep somebody from inadvertently pressing the magazine release.
The magazine release itself is plastic and the magazine is metal, so that’s something you may want to take into account. That said I haven’t heard of anybody having issues with that design. And as stated before this gun has been around since 2012, so we would have likely heard about it if it were an issue.
The slide stop is located on the left-hand side of the gun and presses up into a divot in the slide when the follower of the magazine presses the slide stop up locking the slide to the rear. It has a rolled textured stamp sheet metal construction that has actually pretty good texture on the slide release itself.
There is a barrel portion of it on the top and then a lower portion on the bottom that makes it very easy for you to press your thumb up to lock the slide to the rear. It’s also somewhat easy to drop from the top because of the texturing. The slide release itself is fairly low profile, so it stays out of the way.
For a small carry gun like this, it’s really well designed, but some people may have issues dropping the slide with this design. And if you’re a left-handed shooter it will be of no use to you. It sits too far back for you to access with your trigger finger.
S&W Shield 9mm Review Overall Ergonomics
The Smith Wesson M&P Shield has decent overall ergonomics. It doesn’t feel the best in the hand compared to more modern options mainly due to the fact it feels like a full-size duty-grade gun that was just thinned down. Some people will like it and if you have larger hands, I think you’ll like it a lot. One major pro of this design is there is quite a distance between the front strap and the back strap. So, it’s fairly easy to get a good grip on this gun when you’re drawing from an IWB SW Shield holster because your middle finger to pinky finger doesn’t have to move that far between your body and the gun to get a good grip. So, it’s a more comfortable gun to draw than other smaller guns like the sig p365 series.
The ergonomics are good, but they’re nothing to brag about. My biggest complaint is the undercut of the trigger guard and how it doesn’t allow you to get your hand as high as I would like up into the tang of the gun. The slide itself is fairly easy to manipulate; it has serrations at the rear and in my opinion, the Smith Wesson M&P offers some of the best serrations on the market.
There are no serrations at the front, and considering when this gun was designed that is not uncommon at all. The serrations at the rear are nice and aggressive; they have a wavy look that frankly sets the gun a little bit ahead of its time from when it was introduced in 2012 and still doesn’t look outdated to this date.
The serrations are positive and effective and you can definitely use them with great effect, but if you have wet hands, they might be an issue for weaker-handed shooters the trigger itself now as we talked about before I’m not a fan of the hinge.
S&W Shield 9mm Review Trigger
If you’re familiar with the FN509 you know it has a similar trigger design and in my opinion, FN executed it better than Smith and Wesson did. If I were to carry a Smith and Wesson product with a hinged trigger, I would likely have it switched out to an aftermarket trigger for my own safety. The last thing I want to do is pull out the gun and not be able to fire it. That said I haven’t talked to as many people that have had this issue as I have. Due to that, I believe the issue is related to the exact size and shape of my hands. So, this is something I would suggest further thoroughly testing before you make a decision on how the trigger will work for you.
Now, as far as the trigger pull itself it has taken up as you disengage the hinge trigger safety. This take-up is fairly light with a little bit of spring in the rear of it. Then you start to hit a little bit of creep before you hit a very hard wall. And then the trigger breaks. And as it’s breaking you can feel a little more creep.
The trigger itself is quite heavy and is heavier than most of its counterparts. This is a defensive carry gun trigger and not a match trigger, so I would keep that in mind when rating the trigger. Again, there are multiple aftermarket options that allow you to improve the trigger pull if that’s what you desire.
Maintaining the Smith and Wesson M&P is quite easy to disassemble the gun you’ll want to lock the slide to the rear by pulling the slide back and pressing up on the slide stop. And then there is a takedown lever in front of the gun that you’ll then need to rotate down 90 degrees. Once that’s done, you’ll look inside the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield from the top of the ejection port and you’ll see a little yellow spring on the back left side of the mag well.
S&W Shield 9mm Review Takedown
You’ll want to take a screwdriver or a punch and pull that yellow spring down, that will disengage the striker and then you can press the slide forward. You can also accomplish the same thing while letting the slide ride forward, holding the gun in battery, and then pulling the trigger to drop the striker.
Smith and Wesson designed the M&P series so that you could take down the gun without having to pull the trigger. Their competitor Glock had a lot of complaints as people considered pulling the trigger to take down the gun a safety hazard. I personally do not consider that a valid safety hazard, but it’s a nice option to have on the Smith Wesson M&P Shield.
Overall, the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield isn’t the best-looking gun- it just looks kind of oddly sized. The dimensions from the outline appear to be pretty fat while the gun itself is fairly thin. It looks like Smith and Wesson literally took the Smith and Wesson M&P 9C at the time, shortened the barrel slightly, and then just pressed it in with a panini press to make it thinner.
Your mileage may vary on the looks but I think the major saving grace is the rear slide serrations the Smith Wesson M&P series use. They add a nice touch that balances out the gun. The slide really has all the looks of the gun with its chamfers and profiling.
S&W Shield 9mm Review Shooting
Shooting the Smith Wesson M&P Shield is probably what you’d expect. The gun has quite a bit of recoil, not a ton of recoil but it’s a small snappy gun. You can definitely still shoot it well, but it’s not an exceptional performer that just stands out amongst the crowd. The heavy trigger pull is something you’ll have to work over and the ergonomics may or may not work for you.
Personally, my biggest downside of the shield is the texturing. You just can’t get enough grip on this gun for it to shoot as well as I’d like. But the upside is the long distance between the front strap and the back strap that does allow me to get a pretty good purchase on the gun, but again I can’t always reliably disengage the hinged trigger on the Smith Wesson M&P Shield.
That means oftentimes what happens is I’m pulling very heavily on the top of the trigger and I have to keep on applying pressure until I’m applying way more pressure than what it would take to break the trigger and my finger eventually slips down and jerks the trigger to the rear.
Again, your mileage may vary with the Smith Wesson M&P Shield, but that’s your mileage. And the good news is this gun isn’t expensive to grab and go out and test. They’re very common and they can be found in almost any gun store.