It is one of the most desirable handguns on the market today. For concealed carry, it tops most lists for design features. It is currently difficult to find in stock, which makes it all the more popular. Many of the critics raved about its small size and powerful 9mm or .40 caliber options. Most range reports gave it excellent reviews for handling, reliability and accuracy. I patiently awaited my turn to try one out. Admittedly, my expectations were soaring after reading the Internet buzz. When I opened that familiar, blue Smith & Wesson box, I quickly started drawing my own conclusions.
Overall S&W built the gun very well—but not perfect. As expected, they added features consistent with what the concealed carry market demands. The first thing you notice when handling a Shield is how thin it is. Imprinting is a long gone problem since S&W made the slide a very slight .95 inches in width. However, it is a bit thicker than some of its competitors. As a comparison, the Kahr CM9 and Ruger LC9 both measure in at a slightly thinner .90 inches. Still, it seems to have no trouble hiding under clothing, even if it is a bit beefier than some other options.
The Shield is tall. Actually, it is really tall. The Ruger LC9 seemed lanky too, but the Smith & Wesson stretched that crazy height another tenth of an inch. When you hold an M&P Shield, it feels good until you aim down the sight and that erroneous height is more than a little noticeable. If you are more accustomed to squattier guns, you may have some difficulty adjusting. It is by no means a deal breaker, and it didn’t hurt accuracy, but I felt it was worth mentioning.
That Darn Trigger
It creeks. It isn’t like pulling a sled over a rock pile, but its close. The Kahr CM9 has a long heavy trigger too, but it is as smooth as a plate of glass. This thing feels like I’m closing a very small rusty gate. Most double action only handguns are guilty of this too, so it wasn’t surprising that a gun in this price point has a bit of a sordid trigger. Comparatively speaking, I think the trigger pull rests somewhere in the middle of the competition. Since no two handguns, even two of the same model, rarely have exactly the same feel, you might have better luck than I did. However, I will say that I am a huge fan of the safety system built around M&P triggers. They may not be the smoothest, but they get the job done—however this brings me to my next point.
A Thumb Safety
This is perhaps the most famous complaint about the Shield. It has a thumb safety. I’ve been fairly outspoken about my dislike of thumb safeties on carry guns in the past, and I’m not changing my position. However, I do understand why some people would feel better if their gun has an off button. At least Smith & Wesson placed the safety in a good spot. Simply leaving it actuated in the fire position seems to be the way to go. I just hope that after a few thousand rounds it doesn’t start popping out of place when I need it most. I hope I never have to find out.
The Bottom Line
Even with some nit-picky issues, The M&P Shield is an excellent concealed carry handgun overall. As with most things, choosing your CCW is going to boil down to personal preference. There simply isn’t a model that wins out in all categories. However, if you choose an M&P Shield, you could have made a far worse choice.
|GLOCK 26||Kahr CM9||Ruger LC9||M&P 9 Shield||Kel Tec PF-9||Beretta Nano|
|Weight||19.75 oz||14 oz||17.1 oz||19 oz||12.7 oz||18.27 oz|
|Trigger Pull||5.5 lbs||6.5 lbs||5.6 lbs||6.5 lbs||5 lbs||5.7 lbs|
*Larger Magazines Available