Micro-compact semi-autos, with barrels in the three-inch range, have become particularly popular in recent years, especially as a conceal carry option. Although small-frame handguns in such calibers as .380 Auto have been available for a long time, shooters who want a more powerful round have had more limited choices. This review of the Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm describes the features of the smallest, and newest, member of the M&P line-up that offers a full-power caliber in a very small package.
Although the profile is not as blocky as some polymer handguns, the S&W M&P Shield 9mm is obviously one of the modern tribe of semi-autos. The black Zytel polymer frame is matched by the black 68 HRc Melonite finish on the barrel and slide. The action is striker-fired, with a closed-breach (recoil-operated) system. To that extent, it is not appreciably different from other handguns in the M&P series; the quality of the engineering, however, is shown that its features are not compromised by its size.
With a barrel of 3.1 inches and an overall length of 6.1, the S&W M&P Shield 9mm certainly qualifies as a micro compact, but those dimensions aren’t the whole story. With an overall height of 4.6 inches, the grip is generous enough to provide enough room for most hands. What makes this an excellent candidate for a concealed carry handgun, though, are its light weight (just 19 ounces, unloaded) and thin profile of just 0.95 inches.
The narrow frame is achieved by the use of single-stack magazines. Two magazines are supplied with each handgun: a 7-round flat-base and an 8-round magazine with an extended base. When carried with a round in the chamber and the 7-round magazine in the well, the compact profile can be maintained. Carry the 8-round extended magazine as a reload, and a full 16 rounds are available when needed.
Although the Zytel polymer frame does not have replaceable backstraps to adjust the size of the grip, as is the case with the larger-frame M&P models, there is extensive stippling to help the shooter keep firm contact. All edges of the frame are beveled and rounded, so the entire frame is comfortable in the hands and presents few difficulties in carry or drawing. The 18° angle of the grip also gives the shooter a more natural, instinctive point.
Striker-fired handguns have, by nature of their design, an action that takes less effect to fire. The S&W Shield takes this one step further with the quality of its trigger. The pull is factory set to approximately 6.5 pounds; the travel is measured at .300″ from rest, with a .140″ reset. As a result, shooters will not have to fight for control during follow-up shots.
Micro compact pistols are sometimes criticized for being difficult to aim. The S&W Shield helps overcome this challenge with a generous 5.3-inch sight radius. The rear sight is an adjustable two dot with a set screw, while the foresight is a white dot blade, also adjustable for windage. There is no integral rail but, for a micro-compact, one wouldn’t really make any sense.
A left-side thumb safety is standard in this model; unlike other S&W M&P handguns, there is now a “no safety” option. As many others have pointed out, however, there is always the option to simply not use the safety. Moreover, with a loaded chamber view port, a shooter can easily the status of this DAO handgun. Another safety feature is the method of disassembly: a lever inside the magazine well has to be moved before the takedown lever and be rotated and the slide removed. This means that the handgun must be unloaded before it can be cleaned.
Since being released in 2013, the Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm has been widely praised by shooters. Its profile and weight make it a comfortable choice for concealed carry, it is reported to be able to fire any brand or type of ammunition without a hiccup and the quality of its materials is entirely up the high standards of all Smith & Wesson guns. If you’re a fan of micro-compact semi-automatics, consider the S&W Shield for its simple operation and reliable performance.