Leading up to the 2012 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits, Smith & Wesson began teasing to a new firearm they would be introducing. Nearly everyone guessed it would be some type of pistol built for concealed carry. They were right.
The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is squarely aimed at the slim pistol market. Striker-fired, this pistol has a polymer frame that comes in at less than an inch wide. It is not the thinnest gun in the category, but it is still very thin and offers respectable firepower and an attractive price.
The Shield can be had in 9mm and in .40 S&W. Both pistols are the same size and cost. The 9mm version ships with two magazines: one is a flush-fitting seven round magazine, while the second is an extended eight round magazine.
The .40 S&W model Shield also ships with two magazines. The flush fitting magazine holds size rounds while the extended magazine holds seven rounds.
MSRP is $449, and “street” prices are running closer to $400. That puts it within the reach of many in the shooting market. A “California compliant” model will be released on a later date.
The slide and 3.1” barrel are both stainless steel and treated with a black Melonite finish. This is the same finish on the larger pistols in the M&P line. The finish is extremely tough and corrosion resistant.
The trigger feel has been upgraded from the prior M&P pistols. The new trigger has an improved feel with a distinctive reset. The improved trigger system is expected to be rolled out to the rest of the M&P line, and I expect that this will be a much-appreciated upgrade.
Sights are a very visible three-dot system. Thankfully, Smith & Wesson did not go to a nearly invisible “bump and notch” design that have been found on some concealed carry pistols lately. However, the sights are dovetailed, which will allow the owner to swap the factory sights to an aftermarket set if he or she so desires.
The gun is part of the M&P, or Military & Police, line of handguns. It clearly resembles the larger pistols in the M&P line, but has two significant differences: a thumb safety and lack of interchangeable palm swell grips.
The M&P line has long offered manual safeties on the duty-sized guns. But, those safeties have always been optional. Standard M&P pistols do not have a thumb safety. The Shield, however, is only available with a manual safety.
The manual safety on the Shield is not the large, sweeping switch found on the larger guns, either. The Shield’s safety is more compact, resembling the safety on the company’s Bodyguard 380 pistol more than anything from the M&P line.
The Shield does not have the swappable palm swell grips that helped the M&P make a name for itself in the law enforcement community. According to Smith & Wesson, including that feature would have required the gun to be much thicker, meaning the Shield would have lost one of its biggest features.
Prior to announcing the new pistol, Smith & Wesson did two things. First, they ramped up production on the pistol months ahead of the announcement. This allowed them to start shipping the gun as soon as it was announced. Within days of the official announcement, customers were already at the range shooting the Shield.
The second thing S&W did was to enter into partnerships with accessory makers ahead of the announcement to ensure that holsters, sights and lasers were all ready to sell at the launch. Early adopters often have to deal with the problem of finding a holster maker for their new pistol. Smith eliminated that problem with this gun.
Holsters from Blackhawk!, DeSantis, Galco, Uncle Mike’s and other companies were ready at the announcement. Additionally, sights from XS Sights, Williams Gun Sight Company and Hi Viz were immediately available, as were lasers from Crimson Trace, LaserMax and LaserLyte.
As with all new products, time will tell if the Shield is a success. However, early buzz about the gun seems to be positive. I expect the gun will sell well. Stay tuned to Guns & Patriots for a review on this gun soon.