By Ben Findley
Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield review and range test.
USA – -(Ammoland.com)- Since 2012, the Smith & Wesson (SW) M&P Shield has proven to be a very good concealed carry (CC) pistol.
Recently, the SW Performance Center sent me the new ported-barrel version of the Shield for me to Review.
Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield
Like a lot of folks, I was anxious to hold it, try it out, and learn about the porting and see if it met my needs. Some readers and students wanted to compare it with the original version they already owned and make a decision about whether to get the ported model, since they were pleased with the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield they already had. Some asked me to review it, so I was anxious to do that and then report my opinions and evaluation of the ported version to you.
Some questioned the necessity for the ported model and asked some very insightful overall questions.
Are there any unique or different features with this version? What are the features that make this gun stand out from the original Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield and are they worthwhile? How accurate is it? Is the enhanced trigger press noticeably smooth and crisp? What about the trigger reset? Does the porting really help and is it necessary for this concealed carry (CC) handgun? Are there important negatives for it? Would this Ported Shield be good to use for CC for me and what affect does the porting really have? How do I rate it now relative to the other striker-fired carry guns?
First, I want to provide you the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield's specifications and some of its features. Overall, it generally fits my 8 key CC factors and my criteria for my top CC handguns. I evaluate in-depth with specified drills and then rank my Top 21 CC guns in my recently-published book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.” It includes the original Shield and 20 other top carry handguns. Here I present a brief review and report on the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield in 9mm.
Here are just 10 of my Criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the Ported Shield. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, non-porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine.
Here are mine:
- (1) Accuracy and Reliability- Performs well without reoccurring malfunctions and stoppages and results in consistent, accurate target hits with a maximum of a 3″ inch hit group at 7-15 yards for concealed carry;
- (2) Trigger Press maxiumum of about 5.5 pounds or so – lessens force applied for less movement & better accuracy- and press that is crisp and identifiable (TRAIN to be Trigger Safe);
- (3) Trigger with short travel distance (a short travel distance increases the speed the trigger can be fired) and
easily identifiable and short reset point; Trigger with a smooth consistent press for every shot (less need to transition between presses & make adjustments);
- (4) Barrel length of 3.0″-4.5″ (primarily for concealed carry);
- (5) Sights that are basic & simple (easy to use & see–I like Fiber Optic fronts); fast target acquisition; for my purposes– adjustable for windage; Night Sights for low-light situations;
- (6) Proper Gun Weight to minimize recoil (I prefer about 25 oz. or less for personal defense);
- (7) Caliber match to my needs, characteristics & abilities (consider medical & physical limitations); 9mm is my preference;
- (8) Capacity -adequate for use & feature tradeoffs- usually want at least 8-10 in a 9mm magazine for carry;
- (9) Ergonomics – Hand Comfort and Grip Fit, controls easy to work and easily accessible; rounded, low-profile;
- (10) Miscellaneous – Overall Finish, fit, & quality appearance; mag release location; ambidextrous controls;
accessory rail as required; excellent customer service with friendly & helpful representatives; ease of disassembly-assembly; Hard Case; Extras (like holster & pouch), etc.
There are several characteristics, pros and cons, and criteria to include and consider and you make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, and defined needs and use.
RANGE TEST : Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield with Sig Sauer 9mm Elite Performance Ammunition
I shot about 150 rounds of quality Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown ammo in 115, 124, and 147 grain weights in FMJ and JHP rounds through the Ported Shield, so the gun was not fully broken in. Thanks very much to Sig Sauer for providing the Sig Sauer 9mm Elite Performance Ammunition for field test ammo. Below are my evaluations for each of my 10 criteria for my concealed carry purpose. Recognize this old geezer is not a top expert shooter by any means. I wanted to check the Shield for malfunctions and performance with quality ammo in various weights.
Without a doubt, the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield in 9mm has great ergonomics, was very comfortable in my hand, and was accurate and reliable. There were zero malfunctions, stoppages, and problems and the various weights of Sig Sauer ammo performed flawlessly. Shooting at various retention positions and stances at dusk, the porting did not concern me, but I would like to also shoot it at nighttime. When I shot it, I did not notice any metal fragments or gunshot residue on me. Also, when observing up close my students shooting it, I did not notice the muzzle flash or any observable particulates coming from the ports. Shooting it from close retention positions and from the hip did not cause me any problems or concerns. I had zero reliability and performance issues and it was accurate.
The V-angled ports on the front of the slide and barrel seemed to reduce some of the recoil and muzzle flip. It did perform somewhat better than some of my other similar short-barreled, polymer, lightweight 9mm guns. Recognize that most 9mms do not generally have that much recoil anyway.
Rather than read or listen to some of the unfounded and second-hand stories about how porting is not necessary or may burn your shirt off from the flash, answer some of the uncertainties by handling and shooting a ported handgun for yourself. I did and tried to answer for myself such questions as: Does a ported gun perform better than a non-ported gun? What are the pros and cons of ported slides/barrels? Is there significant residue, particulate, or flash from the porting? Because of the variety of ported gun models and even the differences among any one ported model, you really have to experience and determine these answers for yourself. Decide for yourself by handling and experiencing firsthand a ported handgun.
Below are some of the things I experienced when shooting the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield:
- (1) The porting did seem to reduce the muzzle rise when I shot it, which allowed me faster follow-up shots;
- (2) Porting the top of just about any slide/barrel redirects some of the hot, expanding gases in a different direction which affects the recoil force. The angling of the ports helped redirect the residue away from me and I was not bothered by any possible flash or residue. I did notice the front portion of the ported slide did have just slightly more residue than some of my other 9mm guns, but not a problem at all. And I did experience somewhat less recoil (not significantly with this short 3.1″ barrel) with the Ported Shield;
- (3) The porting of the barrel and slide did seem to help keep the front of the gun down when shooting and helped me keep my sights on target better. Perhaps, due to the muzzle not rising as sharply. I liked shooting the somewhat heavier 124 grain and hollow point loads.
- (4) Without a doubt, it was somewhat easier than some of my non-ported guns on my weak carpal-tunnel wrist condition. But, not sure if there was that much of a difference to be significant, given the usual low 9mm recoil.
- (5) CAUTION: Be careful when shooting a ported barrel/slide from a retention position near your body or from a close combat stance, since the hot gases, powder, and particulate under pressure might cause injuries from that particular gun.
Overall after my range experience, the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield impressed me as a quality, very accurate, and very reliable carry gun, with a nice comfortable grip and very nice fiber optic sights.
At the range, I first shot 30 rounds fast fire at 10 yards with tactical mag reloads and all hits but one were in the 7 to 10 rings. I was happy with the 3-3.5 inch group sizes overall. Over several distances it proved to be accurate. Below are hits on one of my targets at 10 yards from my range field testing of the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield.
Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield Range Test Results for Each of my 10 Criteria:
(1) The Accuracy of the Ported Shield was very good for me at distances of 7, 10, and 15 yards, given my aging eyesight. My groups at each of the distances were about 3.0-3.5 inches for the first time I ever fired the gun. Not great, but adequate for me. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and shot Sig Sauer V-Crown 115 grain and 124 grain JHPs and Sig Elite FMJ ammo. I preferred the 124 grain hollow points… 10.
(2) The Trigger Press averaged about 6.5 pounds with 4 readings from my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. This was exactly what the manufacturer indicated, but I wanted a little lighter and shorter press. This is personal preference, but I know some of my recommended carry guns have lighter presses. I analyze and compare them in my recent book. The Ported Shield trigger press was crisp and felt good… 9.
(3) The Trigger had a tactile and very identifiable and consistent reset. I could feel it and it felt very nice and was pronounced. My shots were consistent each time and I could easily recognize the reset point. It was an excellent shooter and I really enjoyed shooting it… 10.
(4) The 3.1-inch Barrel with the ported slide and lightening cuts helped control muzzle flip and the recoil. The narrow width and short barrel helped make the Ported Shield very concealable… 9.
(5) The Fiber-Optic Front and Rear Sights were very nice and helped my sight alignment and sight picture acquisition. The green fiber optic front sights really made them stand out for my weak eyes… 10.
(6) The light ported slide and overall 19 ounce unloaded weight was just right for a concealed carry gun… 9.
(7) It was easy and comfortable to shoot the 9mm Caliber in the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield. Recoil was very easy to control. It digested the various weights of ammo easily without a single malfunction or stoppage… 10.
(8) There were two magazines included one with a 7 round Capacity and one with an 8-round capacity. I wanted a third, but there are tradeoffs for the price. The 8-rounder is not the best for CC, but the 7-rounder is fine and my medium-sized hands were accommodated… 9.
(9) The Ergonomics of the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield were very exceptional. Its small width and narrowness fit my hands great. The grip texture was not too aggressive and was not too smooth, but just right for me to have a firm and solid purchase. I could easily reach all the controls like the magazine release, manual safety, and slide lock lever, without turning the gun or adjusting my grip… 10.
(10) Miscellaneous. As always before shooting any new gun, I disassembled, lubed and cleaned, and re-assembled the Ported Shield before I shot it. It was not necessary to press the trigger to disassemble it. At first, I did have minor trouble reassembling the gun because it was so very stiff and tight and the slide lock would not engage, but I just oiled it more and muscled it together. After shooting it, the Ported Shield did loosen up and I was able to easily reassemble it then. The price of the gun is kept reasonable, partly because it ships in a box, not a hard case. It does not include a holster, mag pouch, third mag, loader or other accessories… 8.
Total Points = 94 out of 100 Possible. I definitely RECOMMEND this handgun for one of your concealed carry guns, especially because of the fiber optic sights and great trigger.
The Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield' reliability, excellent ergonomics, great trigger, reduced muzzle flip with the ported barrel, and accuracy were very impressive to me. This is just my personal opinion, so try it for yourself. I hope this review of the Ported Shield, single-stack 9mm has helped you gain some information you did not previously have. Consider that this is just my point of view with limited live-range fire and using only 150 rounds of ammo. Like always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what features are important to you ahead of your range time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds. Remember, safety first always.
Want to see more of the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield, check out this video from S&W:
- Photos by Author.
- Contact Smith & Wesson for M&P Ported Shield: www.Smith-Wesson.com; 1-800-331-0852.
- Contact Sig Sauer for Elite V-Crown 9mm FMJ & JHP ammo: www.SigSauer.com; 1-603-418-8102.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2016 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected]
About Col Ben Findley
“Col Ben” is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services Special Ops duty and training, and is Air Force qualified as “Expert” in small arms. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor.
Ben recently wrote the book Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection with 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters. His book is endorsed by several organizations and is available on his website at www.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com. Contact him at [email protected]