It seems that today’s conceal carry culture can’t ingest enough small “pocket” sized pistols. People demanded a .380acp from Glock, they got the 42. When the 9mm crowd cried out, Glock brought them the 43. But a few years prior, to either of these firearms even being conceived, Smith and Wesson began cementing its foothold in the small pistol market with the advent of the Shield, under the M&P Series.
The Shield was initially released in a 40 S&W and 9mm, with a delayed release a few years later of the 45acp. There was a slow taking to the Shield, upon its initial release. Previous to the Shield the small 9mm/40 S&W market had been dominated by the Ruger LC series and the likes of the Kel-Tec 3P8T. While these firearms were good, they were hard to shoot, because of size and recoil. Additionally most of these sized firearms were double action only hammer fired weapons. This meant, for the most part, that these firearms were difficult to shoot, making them more of an experience/expert type firearm. (Now before you flame me for that statement, most people will not invest the time or effort necessary to effectively run a double action only firearm. If you feel different, feel free to bring your DAO to the range and we will gladly run some training.) What differentiated the Shield, from those other firearms, is that fact the shield is a true striker fired weapon. It works, acts, looks like it’s big brother. It contains the same internal safeties and trigger mechanism. It contains the same internal striker system.
So without further delay, let’s look at the Shield. In un-boxing the Shield one will see they get both a seven and eight round magazine. Now, one round doesn’t sound like much, but when it comes to gripping the pistol those of us with big hands find that little bit of extra space a much welcome relief. From there you will see the sights are pretty typical steel ramped rear with steel front, both containing the very ineffective three dot system. (Don’t worry all mfg. use these style sights.) You will also find the warranty card and most likely some form of a lock, as required by law. Initial impression of the shield is the grip is thin, the firearm has very boxy proportions, and its feels about like most compact firearms. Point ability seems to be moderate to above average, as even with my larger than normal hands I’m able to ascertain a complete firing grip on the pistol. Grip is not a challenge, as long as you’re gripping from front to back as you’re suppose to versus around as most shooters try.
My initial range session started at one of our Oklahoma Shooting Skills class 2. To run the class I had purchased my ever faithful holster, Keepers Lite by Keepers Concealment. I was running some home grown 124grain 9mm and, for my preference, I blacked out the rear sight with a permanent magic marker. My first few shots I found myself shooting just slightly left. (I attributed this to my grip which is another article.) Upon realizing with I was doing, and correcting said problem, the Shield delivered as good as I could shoot. Initially I thought I would encounter a significant amount of felt recoil, as I’m accustom to shooting Glock a 17 or Glock 19. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. Even shooting my faster loads, the Shield shot and felt very similar to my Glock 19. Recoil was noticeable, but not unmanageable. With the eight round magazine installed, I’m able to get a full firing grip on the stock, without feeling like my hand is being crushed. Reloads were done with easy, although I did have to break my grip just a little so I wouldn’t catch my fat hand in the magazine well. Reaching the magazine release was done with ease, as I’m sure I was doing a little bit of the “Glock Flip”. As I continued to shoot, the little Shield seemed to warm up and we started to meld better, allowing for more speed and accuracy. The more I shot the Shield, the more comfortable and impressed I was becoming. On this particular range session I probably put 100 rounds downrange, at about 5-10 yards. My grouping was everything that I would have expected from either my G17 or G19. The combination of the holster and firearm, the Shield quickly become my daily off duty carry.
As a conclusion I see the Shield as a very viable alternative for any shooter. In particular I love the Shield as an option for those with small hands, and maybe not as strong arm strength. I affectionately say the Shield is a little gun that someone for got to tell it was little. So far mine has eaten every reload I’ve fed it. It has also eaten all the defensive rounds, in particular the Ranger T and Gold Dot both 124 grain +p. The single stack configuration makes for smaller fingers and hands easier to get into a proper shooting grip. The single stack also allows for a thinner profile, approximately 3/4 the width of my G19, which makes concealment slightly easier on smaller framed people. Last the Shield has been on the market about 3 years longer than say the Glock 42 and 43. This means that there are A LOT of accessories, in particular holsters, in the market. All these factors make for, what I consider, a top choice for a conceal pistol.
Fast forward eight months, my Shield is still my favorite off duty carry. I recently was taking a three day rifle class and had opportunity to shoot the shield out to 90 yards. You can see, in the video, I had no problems consistently striking the steel silhouette.