The Smith and Wesson (S&W) Military and Police (M&P) Shield isn’t a new pistol by any means, having been released in 2012. But it still holds its place as one of the most popular single stack carry pistols out there. First released in 9mm and .40 S&W they recently released one in .45 Auto/ACP to round out the collection. The Shield also comes with an attractive price. I picked up mine last year for $300 and that was the best deal running. I’ve seen some offers lately where there is a $75 rebate, it’s a steal at that price.
What first got me thinking about the Shield was a YouTube video. It was a compilation of self-defense shootings caught on camera. While watching it I was thinking to myself “If this happened to me, would I feel adequately armed?” When I needed to deep carry, or was in some other way limited, I would pocket carry a .380 Auto/ACP and spare mag. With a capacity of six in the magazine plus one in the chamber it wasn’t a lot of firepower. The .380 has stopped a lot of bad guys but I didn’t like the idea of facing some of the situations I was watching while carrying one. I needed something I could deep carry but in 9mm. In came the Shield.
My Required Mods
A good trigger is very important to me. The Shield comes with what I would describe as a typical M&P trigger, heavy and squishy. But, having a Smith & Wesson M&P9c with an Apex kit I knew the trigger could be improved dramatically. When I bought my Shield I immediately ordered an ‘Apex Action Enhancement Trigger & Duty/Carry Kit for M&P Shield.’ At $160 it didn’t come cheap but I had faith in the results. It claimed to:
– Reduces trigger pull by approximately 2 lbs.
– Smooth uptake and reset
– Reduces pre-travel
– Reduces over-travel
– Reduced reset
– Center mounted pivoting safety maintains factory safety values
Good sights are another thing I require. I admit I got caught up in the U-notch craze and like them for no better reason than, just because. I ordered a ‘10-8 Performance Shield Rear Sight‘. Next was a new front sight, my choice being a Dawson Precision Tritium front sight, which they don’t seem to carry anymore.
The final thing I needed was a better grip. For that I ordered up a set of TALON Grips, reviewed here, along with some of the extended magazine grips.
I boxed it all up, aside from the grips, and took it to a local gunsmith. I had heard horror stories of trying to install the Apex kits plus I wasn’t really setup for it. $50 for someone else to do it was a bargain in my book. Considering that installing the Apex kit requires removing the rear sight it’s a good time to replace it without incurring additional cost at the ‘smith. The 10-8 sight will probably require some fitting, they run large to accommodate varying tolerances between guns, so don’t be surprised if the ‘smith ends up charging you for it.
The Resulting Trigger
The gunsmith walked out and handed me my pistol to dry-fire. As Apex had said the pull was smoother, had reduced travel and shorter reset but the weight felt almost the same, not the reported 2 pounds lighter. I verified he had installed the Apex springs, which he confirmed he did. I wasn’t feeling the expected difference though. We grabbed a new Shield out of their display case to compare and to both of us the weight felt the same, though the Apex was much better. I thanked him for his work and departed to research the issue further.
After getting home I pulled out my trigger gauge and tested the weight. The trigger pull pre-Apex was 6.5 pounds and it was the same afterwards. I verified, as best I could, the correct parts had been installed. Just in case though I emailed Apex asking their thoughts. They replied asking for pictures of the leftover parts and also what was in the pistol. After supplying the pictures Apex verified everything was indeed correct, I just had a heavier than expected trigger. That left me pretty disappointed.
As someone who prefers a 3.5ish pound trigger in all my pistols the expected 4.5 pounds was doable, but 6.5 was too much for my taste. I played around with the springs and noticed, to my surprise, that the Apex spring was heavier than the stock one. I decided to try the stock version and see what that did to my trigger weight. It brought it down to a much more reasonable 5 pounds and 5 ounces. Still a bit heavier than I’d have liked but I could work with it, and all the safeties were intact. I emailed Apex again and they confirmed their spring was indeed heavier. It should have been a 5-5.5 pound pull with their spring but wasn’t for some reason.
Over the past 8 months of owning it the trigger has become less of an annoyance. I’ve found that the better shooter I become the less I’m concerned about trigger weight. The quality of the trigger is there and that’s more important anyway.
Reliability, Accuracy and Shootability
A carry pistol must be reliable and in the 750 rounds I’ve put through my Shield I haven’t experienced any malfunctions. I’ve shot various 115 grain and 124 grain FMJ through it along with several hundred rounds of my carry ammo, Federal HST 124 grain.
When it comes to discussing accuracy and small pistols it’s different from their larger counterparts. All things being equal a small pistol isn’t inherently less accurate than a large one. Due to their short sight radius, small grip size and heavy trigger they’re less forgiving of shooter error. At the 25 yards and in that I’ve shot the Shield it has proven to be a solid performer. When applying the fundamentals there’s no problem putting all hits into the A-zone.
The Shield isn’t a gun I’d want to learn to shoot with though. The small lightweight frame means more recoil and snap in a shooters hand. For new shooters this can lead to various flinches and such. The same things that make it such a great carry pistol also make it unpleasant to shoot over long periods of time. The Shield in 9mm is more pleasant to shoot than a S&W Bodyguard or Ruger LCP in .380 ACP though.
There’s really only two things I consider downsides to the Shield. The optional thumb safety is pretty well useless. I’ve handled versions with it and it’s difficult to operate, let alone under stress. I know some people who carry their’s with the safety off. Fundamentally this is the same as carrying one without a safety, but from a legal liability standpoint it isn’t. It’s a minor consideration to most but still something worth thinking about.
The only other thing I could think of is the Shield follows the standard M&P takedown procedure. It’s not difficult by any means, just a little annoying compared to most pistols. It’s not really much to complain about but I didn’t want to pull any punches.
Holsters and Accessories
With the flush fitting magazine and cargo pants a person could probably pocket carry the Shield. Other than that you’re going to need a traditional holster. Due to the Shield’s popularity you’re likely to find just about anything you’re looking for. My personal favorite is a $40 kydex tuckable holster I found on eBay, made by Gunner’s Custom Holsters. I wear it in the appendix position with my shirt tucked in, when required. I also took it a step further and lined the back of the holster with moleskin from Comp-Tac.
Even though the Shield doesn’t have a traditional rail there are light and laser options from Streamlight and Viridian. I’m not a laser user but I do love lights on my carry guns. I picked up a Streamlight TLR-6 and found it to be a good performer. I don’t have that many rounds on it so I can’t comment on long-term usage. At only 100 lumens it isn’t the ‘stare into the sun’ brightness of a Fenix PD35 TAC light’s 1,000 lumens. For its size though I can’t complain.
Compared to several of its competitors the Shield has a longer grip. The flush fitting magazines (it comes with one) hold 7-rounds and with my hand size I get plenty of grip to comfortably shoot. Pearce makes a mag extension that increases your available grip but without increasing the pistols heel. Since the heel is typically what prints when carrying in a standard IWB (inside waistband) holster.
There are also extended magazines that hold 8-rounds (it comes with one) and offer the biggest grip surface. Measuring from the bottom of the magazine to the top of the slide the height with the 7-round flush mag is 4.35″ and the 8-round extended mag is 4.8″.
In The End
Given the rebate out there right now I would say you’d be hard pressed to find a better value in a slim carry pistol. Even at the $300 I paid I consider it a solid deal. It has a well-earned reputation and huge following. Considering S&W recently released their M&P M2.0 I’m left wondering what they have in line for the Shield. Given they have Performance Center versions and the downturn in gun sales we may not see something new for a while. I hope that’s wrong though.