Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

By Walt Rauch - Last updated: Monday, June 4, 2012 - Save & Share - 47 Comments

Handgun review photo: Left-side thumbnail of S&W M&P Shield.

Editor’s Rating

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Summary: Walt Rauch’s review of and rating for the S&W M&P Shield pistol, including a range report, photos, pricing, specs, user ratings and user comments. (Click here to see all of Rauch’s handgun reviews.)

Editor’s Review

The .40 SW model with the regular magazine.

The author’s 9mm sample Shield with the extended magazine.

While certainly not the first to get into the pocket 9mm semiauto market, Smith & Wesson’s (S&W) entry—the M&P Shield—should prove very troubling to those who believe they have the frontrunner in this contest.

At first, a quick inspection of the M&P Shield showed it to be yet another polymer and steel pocket semiauto. Not so. Here, as the saying goes, looks are deceiving. With this M&P Shield, S&W has struck all the right notes, both those necessary and those desirable, without including any baggage.

I obtained 9mm sample Shield from S&W and have recorded my observations below.

The Details
The M&P Shield is a 19 oz. striker-fired semiauto chambered for either 9mm or .40 SW and holds seven or eight rounds of 9mm and six or seven rounds in .40 SW.

The stainless steel slide and 3.1″ barrel have the Melonite treatment and are black, as is the polymer frame and all small parts. Frame width measure .95″, with a slide width of 1″. Overall length measures 6.1″, while its height comes in at 4.6″.

There’s a manual thumb safety at the top-left side of the frame, with the takedown lever above the trigger guard. The slide catch is rearward of this, and the magazine catch is located behind the lower rear of the ample, rounded trigger guard.

S&W supplies two magazines with the Shield: one flush-fit seven rounder, and an extended body eight rounder. Both have identical removable polymer base plates. The extended magazine wears a polymer collar that fills the otherwise-open area of the magazine where it protrudes from the frame. The collar is a press fit. There are witness holes on both sides of the magazine bodies, numbered 3–7 or 3–8.

The magazine is neither single nor double column; cartridges are staggered until right before then top, where they form a single line from which they feed into the chamber. This setup allows more capacity and positive cartridge feeding without undue lengthening of the frame.

The top of the slide is flat with rounded edges. A visual loaded-chamber indicator is countersunk into the rear of the chamber hood and the forward upper edge of the breech face. S&W terms this the “Type 1 Indicator.” There’s also a Type 2 indicator, which is a similarly-positioned moveable arm that raises above the slide when a cartridge is chambered. S&W included two different types because some states mandate a tactile loaded-chamber device. Such laws sometimes also require a magazine disconnect, which is provided where such laws apply. These were not present with my sample gun.

The three-white-dot sighting system affords a good sight picture. Sight adjustment is done with the front sight and for windage only. The sight must be moved laterally in its dovetail slot. The rear sight body is shaped to allow snag-free removal from pocket, purse or holster, and the square sight notch, coupled with the squared-up front sight, allowed for good sighting. The gun has a sight radius of 5.3″.

The ejection port is open across the top of the slide and almost completely down the right side. An ample external and spring-powered extractor is located at the port’s lower right rear. Six scalloped and forward-leaning grasping grooves are beneath the rear sight area. A passive firing pin safety is also in the slide.

The slide features two thicknesses. The upper, more narrow portion runs from the top to almost the bottom edge. This narrow area extends back to just above the frame-mounted slide catch. The lower forward edges of the slide face are angled inward, which helps in holstering the pistol. The striker-retaining backplate is nicely pebbled, reducing thumb slippage if you are trained to press on the rear of the slide while reholstering.

The slide’s left side is marked “M&P 9 Shield” up front and features the S&W logo at the rear, just forward of the six scalloped grasping grooves. On the right, S&W roll marked “Smith & Wesson, Springfield, MA USA.” A white-lettered warning, “CAUTION CAPABLE OF FIRING WITH MAGAZINE REMOVED,” is beneath the ejection port. The caliber designation is stamped “9MM” on the chamber hood. The gun’s serial number is at the top left of the grip area of the frame.

On the frame, as previously mentioned, there are three operating controls—the horizontally-grooved disassembly lever, slide catch and manual thumb safety—all on the upper left of the frame. Note: You can activate the manual thumb safety even with the trigger pulled and not reset. You can also disassemble and re-assemble the M&P Shield with the manual safety in either position. There is no visual indicator of the safety’s status.

The ejector is on the lower left side on top of the frame. The slide travels on four rails or metal inserts, which are part of the trigger group.

On the M&P Shield, trigger reset is short compared to other pistols of this type. There are two clicks. The first occurs right as you ease up on the pulled trigger; then you hear the second and much more distinct click as you allow the trigger to travel farther forward. This is the striker and sear resetting. You can now fire another shot without any further forward trigger movement.

The author’s sample from the right.

Note the loaded chamber indicator hole on top of the slide.

The trigger is of pivoting design and is in two sections, upper and lower. The two are part of the drop safety (often referred to as a trigger safety), the purpose of which is to prevent the gun from discharging if dropped on a hard surface. In use, when you pull the trigger to fire the gun, you don’t notice the safety system’s operation. Factory specifications show a trigger-pull weight at +/- 6.5 lbs. (more on this later).

The oval and inward-sloping magazine catch is located at the lower rear of the trigger guard. S&W points out on its Web site that the M&P Shield grip angle (slide to frame) measures 18 degrees. The gripping areas are all nicely pebbled. The front and backstrap pebbling is carried over in an arc onto the sides of the frame, on the tip of the magazine catch and onto the lower rear area of the trigger guard. Stippling was even done to the rear of the collar spacer used on the extended magazine. Such attention to detail, which greatly adds to providing an excellent gripping area, is usually only obtained from a custom ‘smith.

The backstrap is extended such that when the flush-plate magazine is locked in the gun, the extension supports the rear of the base plate, which then increases gripping area. This allowed me to take a cramped, almost three-finger grip on the gun—including significant palm support—and definitely helped control muzzle flip.

Disassembly and reassembly of the M&P Shield are simple and quite well explained and illustrated on p. 21-25 of the supplied instruction manual. (The same information for the magazine is on p. 27.) The quick version:

  1. After ensuring the gun is unloaded, lock the slide back;
  2. looking down into the ejection port and below the ejector and left side of the breech face (with the slide directed away from you), you should see a bent, narrow, flat bit of yellow-colored metal pointed upward along the back wall of the frame. This is the sear deactivation lever. With a small tool (or your finger if it will fit), push this lever forward to a horizontal position;

    The Shield disassembled, with both mag types.

    The striker plate features stippling.

  3. pull back slightly to release the slide catch; and
  4. simply move the slide assembly forward and off the receiver.

The slide assembly comes off without resistance because the captive dual recoil spring needs no compression while performing this procedure. The spring does need slight compression to lift it off the barrel, which then comes out down and to the rear of the slide.

Reassemble in reverse order, while noting you don’t have to fumble with the sear deactivation lever to move it back into place because inserting a magazine does so.

Important: How and where do you lubricate the gun? Seven drops of oil are all you need. Illustrated instructions for this are on p. 24. (Note: the striker channel should remain as dry and oil free as possible.).

Range Report
Ted Murphy and I met to run the M&P9 Shield at the Lower Providence Rod & Gun Club in Oaks, Pa. Murphy was greatly interested because he’s been examining pocket 9mms for hot weather use, but I was somewhat apprehensive. My concern was what sort of accuracy I’d get, because when dry firing the gun I found I had to very much lean on the trigger just as it hit its break point. The trigger pull measured at 8.25 lbs. using a Chatillon gauge. Take-up was not a problem, but trigger overtravel looked like it might be, despite the fixed overtravel stop within the trigger guard.

Murphy and I fired Winchester white box 115-grain FMJ and Federal Premium 147-grain HP Hydra-Shok ammo. Circumstances were such that we had to shoot at 12 yards. We shot seated with arms supported on the shooting bench. I found my sights snapping left or right or both with the same shot. Not good for accurate shooting.

Murphy gets three empties into the air at once with the Shield.

I kept getting two or three hits together, then two or three shots wide left or right. Finally, I managed one group of 2.625″ using the Winchester ammo and called it quits. Murphy took over, and using the Federal 147-grain Hydra-Shok ammo, he started well but stacked his hits vertically, with his best group measuring at 3.25″.

We both called it a day. He commented that the white dots in the sights were distracting. I asked about the trigger weight and trigger overtravel. He said they were a bit bothersome, but manageable. The sights or, more correctly, the white dots in the sights, were the problem. Normally, I black them out (I find blacking out the rear two dots helps in precision shooting), but didn’t this time because I hadn’t taken any photos of the pistol and didn’t want to mess up the nice white color of the dots.

Later, while setting up to take the photos, I checked the trigger pull results one more time and was surprised to find the pull weight now at an even 7 lbs. A few days later, after doing the studio work, I went back to the range, this time with the rear white dots blackened. I now had Irv Gill and Joe Mulligan along to get their take on the new gun.

This time we were able to set up at 15 yards. Initially we shot up a mixed bag of ammo, including Remington and Federal 115-grain JRN, some PMC 124-grain JRN, Remington 147-grain bonded JHP Golden Saber and Irv’s 124- and 147-grain JRN lead and 124-grain JHP reloads. My best group was five rounds into 2″ at 15 yards, of which I was quite proud—for a few minutes. Then Mulligan, using some of the Winchester white box 115-grain loads, put seven rounds into a 3″–4″ group at the same distance using the head box of a Warren IDPA training target as his aiming point, and did so shooting two-handed and standing. Gill then quietly filled the extended magazine with his lead reloads and overlaid Mullligan’s hits with eight rounds. They both commented favorably on the Shield.

Later, I again measured the trigger pull, which now breaks at the factory-specified 6.5 lbs. It appears that although this sample 9mm Shield didn’t need a break-in period (nor is such recommended by S&W) and we had no malfunctions, its trigger pull certainly benefitted.

Final Thoughts

Target results at 12 yards (top targets) and 15 yards (bottom target).

In review, I’m 99% sure the S&W M&P Shield is a winner. The final test before crowning the Shield is shooting lots of rounds to see what fails, stops or won’t work, or falls off. It’s a safe bet the worst that will happen is a cross pin walking due to the frame flexing under recoil, as such pins sometimes do just that in existing polymer-frame pistols.

Choosing to label this fine pocket pistol “Shield” is most appropriate, because although the term “shield” has numerous definitions, personal protection is the purpose of a shield. Properly used, the S&W M&P Shield should fulfill this purpose well.

Walt Rauch received a BS degree from Carnegie Tech and completed service as a Special Agent in U.S. Army Intelligence. Rauch was a U.S. Secret Service Special Agent and a Philadelphia, Pa., Warrant Unit Investigator. He now operates a consulting company for defense-weapon and tactical training. Rauch & Company services include expert witness testimony on firearms use and tactics.

Rauch is also a writer and lecturer in the firearms field. He’s published in national and international publications including InterMedia’s Handguns, several Harris Publications specialty magazines, Police and Security News and Cibles (France). He is the author of a book on self-defense, Real-World Survival! What Has Worked For Me, as well as Practically Speaking, a comprehensive guide to IDPA defensive pistol shooting.


The Specs

Caliber Capacity BBL OAL Width Height Weight
9mm 7+1, 8+1 3.1″ 6.1″ .95″ 4.6″ 19 oz.
.40 SW 6+1, 7+1 3.1″ 6.1″ .95″ 4.6″ 19 oz.


MSRP: $449

More Reading
Here are links to our in-depth reviews of other S&W M&P pistols:


Shop for this item at Gander Mountain, SWVA Arms or Blue Ridge Firearms.

Shop for this item at Gander Mountain, SWVA Arms or Blue Ridge Firearms.

Posted in $251-$500, .40 SW, Semiauto, Smith & Wesson, Subcompact • Tags: Top Of Page

47 Responses to “Smith & Wesson M&P Shield”

Comment from mlk18
Time June 4, 2012 at 7:42 pm

In the world on slim compact carry guns, the Shield is the best of the breed. I have owned them all and none of them can compare to the fit, finish, form and function of the Shield. Anyone who rated this less than an 8/9 has obviously never actually owned or shot one.

Pingback from Calling all honest Shield owners
Time June 12, 2012 at 9:54 am

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Comment from dave
Time June 12, 2012 at 10:22 am

I’ve been into guns over 20 years and I’ve never seen a gun with such good praise & reviews As for “Gun of the Year” I think so

Comment from Steve Wood
Time June 12, 2012 at 10:24 am

this is one of the best small guns available. It is very easy to shoot and very accurate. I have about 1000 rounds thru it without a problem.

Comment from Tom Stone
Time June 12, 2012 at 10:30 am

Very accurate for a gun this size and a excellent gun for concealed carry.

Comment from Russ C
Time June 12, 2012 at 11:25 am

I have owned and sold a Kahr CM9 and Beretta Nano due to reliability issues.

I currently pocket carry my Shield everyday and she is flawless with all types of ammo and my 7 yard groups are within an inch.

Shield hands down is the Gun of The Year.

Comment from Edd
Time June 12, 2012 at 11:25 am

Awsome single stack

Comment from Ursel Twing
Time June 12, 2012 at 11:41 am

Perfect small 9mm. A little larger, than a Kahr PM9 with a different style trigger. Double action revolver converts, or true dedicated pocket carry, get the Kahr. All others get the Shield.

Comment from Travis
Time June 12, 2012 at 11:44 am

I have a Glock 19 Gen 4 and an XDM 3.8 Compact yet the Shield is far and away my favorite to shoot. It fits my hand like no other, is extremely well built in all aspects and has an incredibly low amount of recoil for such an easily concealable pistol. If you are on the fence, pick on up, you won’t regret it!

Comment from John McCarthy
Time June 12, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I’ve owned or examined most of the mini and compact pistols and the S&W Shield is by far the best one.

Comment from Joe Flow
Time June 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I’ve owned several of the compact .380s and 9mm guns. While I wish this one were 3-4 ounces lighter and 1/4-1/8th inch shorter in height and length, with a 4lb trigger and no external safety, it REALLY IS the best, most reliable gun for the money. The only guns that compete with it are the polymer Kahrs (more expensive and, IMHO, less reliable/robust) and the Walther PPS (way more expensive and even larger).

The trigger isn’t as bad as some people think–nice break and reset. For concealed carry, it’s great even if I would have preferred no ext. safety and a 4-4.5lb trigger over the 6.5lbs.

Comment from Bob Niederberger
Time June 12, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Great gun! Should be a shoo-in for “Gun of the Year”!

Comment from Aahzz
Time June 12, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Excellent pistol, mine’s completely reliable and accurate.

Comment from Legasat
Time June 12, 2012 at 8:44 pm

First off, this not a pocket pistol. You can carry it there with the right kind of pants, but it is small, slim holster pistol. The trigger has about 1/8th of an inch overtravel. Pretty darn good! Crisp break, decent reset. You 1911 guys rating it down for a “poor” trigger, really need to get out more and shoot something else once in a while. It feeds and shoots everything I have fed it. Reliable, Accurate, comfortable and easy to shoot. It gets a solid 9 for it’s intended purpose.

Comment from Compshoot
Time June 12, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Nuff said…buy one…

Comment from Compshoot
Time June 12, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Another great firearm from s&w

Comment from CCPacker
Time June 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Nay sayers speculate about recoil on the .40. It is a fabricated issue. Solid accuracy. Solid feed and eject. Eats everything.

Comment from CCPacker
Time June 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Good feel. Good trigger. Good grip. Accurate!

Comment from Justanothergunguy
Time June 13, 2012 at 5:15 am

Gun of the year with out a doubt!

Comment from Justanothergunguy
Time June 13, 2012 at 5:16 am

Gun of the year with out a doubt! But what else did you expect from the newest M&P!

Comment from Justanothergunguy
Time June 13, 2012 at 5:17 am

Another 10 vote!

Comment from Chip Pearsall
Time June 13, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I own a 40 Shield and think it’s an exceptional subcompact, and my primary CCW.

Comment from Tom Blewett
Time June 14, 2012 at 1:45 am

I have the 40 Shield and it is the “right size” for summer carry. It is perfect for the average guy who isn’t preparing to take on the Taliban or the Crips or Bloods.

Great size, nice grip with a comfortable trigger reach for small to medium hands and good sights and decent trigger.

It also loves my 40 lead reloads.

Comment from Marc Gibson
Time June 14, 2012 at 10:45 am

Greatest 9 mm to carry and shoot

Comment from S.Luker
Time June 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Bought the 9mm Shield as a replacement for Ruger LC9.

Comment from Michael LaPaglia
Time June 14, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Best M&P in the bunch. I have the 9 shield, the 9C and the 9FS along with a G19, G17, G30 and G34. I carry the 9C and the Shield. The Shield is now my EDC replacing the 9C and sometimes the 30. Trigger is great. Better than the Glocks. Im not sure where people are getting that the trigger has problems unless they are reading the original article on this site and even that author changed his mind at the end of the article.

Well Done.

Comment from Robbie62
Time June 16, 2012 at 9:49 am

The Shield 40 is great for me, I usually carry a Glock 27 during fall, winter and spring and drop back to a B.G. .380 for summer/warm weather carry. I can see the Shield being a year rounder. I had a issue with FTF on the first time I had it at the range, 3 FTF out of 50 rounds. Primer was barely touched on those 3 rounds. BUT I was using some random hand loads. Before I took it to the range the second time, I did a good cleaning of the striker tube, cleaned out an unusual amount of dirty oil residue. 150 rounds this time with factory ammo, and not a single flaw. The more I shot it the better I liked it.

Comment from Justanothergunguy
Time June 25, 2012 at 3:00 am

Best small 9 out there!!!

Comment from Bill
Time June 26, 2012 at 10:59 am

Thin, light, fantastic trigger, great reliability, accurate grouping at 20 yards, light felt-recoil for a 40 (better than my G23!)…the only negative is that I like a more aggressive grip. For its intended purpose of self defense, this is a home run for S&W. My Colt Defender and LC9 have been sitting in the safe for a while now..

Comment from Bill
Time June 26, 2012 at 11:00 am

Forgot to vote..

Comment from Donn
Time June 26, 2012 at 11:34 am

Have 3 M&P’s, full size, Compact and now a Shield. I transitioned from a 1911 so the trigger issue was a non-issue for me, had nothing to compare the M&P trigger to till now. The Shield trigger is much crisper than my other M&P’s. That said, I’m used to all of them and have no trouble shredding the black target rings. Like the others, the Shield went to work right out of the box. Went bang every time I squeezed it off.

Comment from Jimk
Time July 9, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Shield in .40S&W love this gun, More accurate than you would expect, very easy to handle, even with my man size hands.
BTW wife would rather shoot this that FS 9mm

Comment from Mike
Time July 20, 2012 at 11:48 am

Be sure to consider the LaserMax Centerfire laser sight developed for the shield.

Comment from Greg
Time August 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Smooth, honest weapon. I carry it as a EDC backup gun. My primary EDC is a FS9 M&P. Love the trigger. It’s a safe conceal carry gun.

Comment from Jerry Calabrese
Time September 1, 2012 at 8:55 am

Awesome piece of engineering. Cuddos to S&W.

Comment from Cptdenny
Time September 3, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Excellent grouping right out of the box @7 yrds. Went through a box of 50 rounds of .40 FMJ without any issues on its first outing. Pleasantly surprised with its performance and value.

Comment from Fred Williams
Time October 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm

why don’t S&W stop taking any more orders for the shield untill they fill all the orders they have waiting I have one ordered from Jay’s sporting goods in Clare MI. for four mounths now and they do not know when they will get what they have orders for now.

Comment from blinddog
Time May 3, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I give the M&P9 Shield a solid 9.5. The feel of the pistol, the looks, the accuracy and the dependability of this little pistol are just awesome. I bought the M&P Shield to replace a Ruger LC9 and am not disapointed one bit. If you dont like it, you have never shot it!

Comment from Michael R
Time May 13, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Best small 9mm I could find. Trigger breaks in well, fits my hand great, eats everything I feed it, and hits what I shoot at. Disappears under a t-shit in an IWB holster. I don’t believe I’d ever want to pocket carry. Would have given it a 10 except I can’t see the sights well in bad light.

Comment from Jed Henson
Time August 24, 2013 at 10:14 am

S&W has issued a safety alert for the Shield pistol: http://www.smith-wesson.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Category4_750001_750051_791654_-1_757978_757978_image

Pingback from Crimson Trace Laserguard Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Info & Photo | HandgunLasers.net
Time October 15, 2013 at 7:21 am

[…] a polymer trigger guard attachment laser sight with a rubber overmold activation pad for Smith & Wesson’s M&P Shield concealed carry pistol. Features […]

Pingback from LaserMax CenterFire Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Info & Photo | HandgunLasers.net
Time October 15, 2013 at 9:49 am

[…] LaserMax CenterFire Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is a red laser sight for Smith & Wesson M&P Shield pistols that mounts to the frame without changing out parts or altering your weapon. It sits just […]

Comment from Jon
Time October 20, 2013 at 2:51 am

Recall issue. No problems on my gun & I bought mine right when it came out. Curious why xds is so much more popular.
I have no issues regarding the safety on my Shield. Just put it on the off position.

Pingback from LaserLyte TGL S&W M&P Shield Info & Photo | HandgunLasers.net
Time October 24, 2013 at 7:26 am

[…] of 30% glass-filled nylon with steel mounting hardware. It’s suitable for Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, M&P40 and M&P9 pistols. Features […]

Comment from sully v
Time May 13, 2014 at 12:11 am

I am a Glock fanboy, own and EDC/BUG a Glock 26 most of the time. I was looking for a single-stack 9mm for shorts/flip-flop weather and settled on the Shield. It’s a great auto, just as tough and accurate as my Glock. The Shield in 9mm has replaced all of my 5-shot J-frame style revolvers. Great review…thank you.

Comment from Recon Snoopdog
Time August 8, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Great gun 40 shield I was a 45 user and carrier all my life from Vietnam until now. Really like this gun and easy to conceal and fits hand well and light weight compared to 45s. Just buy one you will like it.

Comment from Pat
Time September 7, 2014 at 12:15 am

My 9mm Shield has been my EDC since purchase 18 months ago, close to 1000 rounds fired with no problems. I have found that a Hogue grip shield adds just the right amount of grip surface and smoothing the base of the trigger guard near the mag release improves comfort. Following online instructions I have reduced trigger pull to a smooth 5 lbs. I carry OWB using a pancake holster from Active Pro Gear. It is a great pistol, easy to handle, fire and dissemble.

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