U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a Smith and Wesson fanboy. I try to be upfront with who I am because I think you are smart people and will figure it out anyway. Besides that, I personally despise pretense.
If you haven’t read my earlier articles… The first handgun I fired as a boy was my Dad’s Smith & Wesson .357 – It was equal parts respect and love at first blast!
My loyalty is tied both to my heritage and my long-term-experience, but it isn’t blind loyalty. There aren’t many things more American than Smith & Wesson and in my experience. (Get outta here with your apple pie and baseball.) More importantly, there aren’t many products more proven then M&P pistols.
Most days there’s either a first-generation Smith & Wesson Pro Shield in 9mm (with an apex trigger) or a 642 J frame revolver (with Wilson combat springs) riding around on my left ankle. They are my favorite back up guns.
Well, truth be told the 340 and 340pd are my favorites but alas, I don’t have one in the stable currently.
I find the Shield to be one of the most intuitively shootable small handguns on the market. It performs much more like a full-size gun than one would imagine. Most small guns are far from appropriate for beginner shooters, the Shield, on the other hand, is a nearly perfect blend between small enough to carry and large enough to use effectively. This one has been riding around in an outstanding skeleton holster from Phlster. We did have to make a couple of small cuts to make room for the optic but it's worked out well.
Beyond that— the design is purpose-built— it’s reliable and tough— should the need arise you can bet your life on it.
As my friend James Yeager, the MFCEO of Tactical Response said back in 2012— “This is the smallest fighting pistol ever made.” That’s high praise indeed from Mr. Yeager as he doesn’t use the term “fighting pistol” loosely.
Under an inch wide, less than 20 oz, 8+1 capacity, in such a streamlined package for concealment and range time– this gun rocks.
I’ve always appreciated longer slides. A longer sight radius has consistently proven helpful and as anyone that’s shot with me can tell you— I need all the help I can get!
So it was a foregone conclusion, when the Shield came out in a 4-inch iteration I was gonna be on it like white on rice. I reached out to my friends at Smith and Wesson and they were good enough to send a sample for test and evaluation.
They sent out the optics ready model and low and behold it already had an optic on it. The 4MOA red dot is from Shield and is polymer but very similar to their RMSc I’d prefer the metal version but at this price point who’s complaining?
Let’s get to that price point. I’d equate this handgun’s arrival to companies like Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti coming on the scene in the US. These new luxury cars could be purchased with all the bells and whistles at prices sometimes lower than their more pedestrian counterparts. This was due to standardization. For example, if you’d priced out a Honda Accord with leather, sunroof, power everything, etc— all the bells and whistles and then go look at an Acura TL with the same features you’d be shocked. Why the similar price tag? The Acura’s all had those same features but you had to pay for each addition with the Honda.
In the same way, if you bought say a Glock 48 and paid for an optics cut, a set of sights, a red dot, and an improved trigger you’d have some sticker shock but with the Performance Center Smith you get comparable custom features standardized— compare that street sticker price and you’ll smile all the way to the bank.
If you were walking away with significantly less gun it wouldn’t matter but the M&P is a true shooter and with Mag Guts and Samson’s available spring sets to increase your magazine capacity the Shield is a legit contender for serious and comfortable daily carry.
In fact, Sig & Springfield both have optics ready packages fitting a similar nitch. They too offer an outstanding price point due to standardization.
Now, let’s get into the down and dirty. Over months of evaluation, the 4” Shield has proven to do everything my trusty ankle rig has done for years– only a bit more easily.
The trigger feels really nice my seat of the pants estimate says it breaks at around 5 to 5 1/2 lbs. The fiber optic sights are great— they've proven durable enough and they’re super easy to pick up. The action has been tuned by the Performance Center and though the difference is subtle it’s noteworthy. The grip is aggressive and positive. Not too aggressive to carry but perfect for retention. Check out my old sweaty, muddy, bloody video if you haven’t already. I've thrown all kinds of ammo at it without issue. I continue to develop familiarity with that interesting round from Fort Scott Munitions— the 9mm 115GR TUI.
Other features that Smith promotes include front cocking serrations, an embedded stainless steel chassis for longevity, the trigger’s tactile reset, the flush and extended magazine options included, and their durable Armonite corrosion-resistant finish.
After months of testing, this little gun has been a consistent performer. I’ve wanted to like fancier guns more but the Shield just outperforms most of the guns I shoot in its class. I like the G48 a lot— in fact, I often carry one but it’s hard to justify. I’ve spent significantly more on the G48 and though I’m quite happy with it I’m just not sure it’s better than this package from Smith. Perhaps in the future, I’ll do a shoot-out video to make a final personal call.
I’ve recommended and even given Shield’s to family and friends that I care deeply for and I carry one personally often— there’s no higher praise than that.
About Brian (Rev) Norris:
Brian (Rev) Norris, in addition to writing and talking guns and gear via video, is a pastor (hence the “Rev”) who specializes in mentoring young men in the urban context. If he catches a moment of free time, you’ll likely find him enjoying his family or heading to the range on his motorcycle. Brian has enjoyed the shooting sports since his father introduced them to him as a child. He’s an outdoorsman who enjoys life to the full.