Smith & Wesson debuted their newest addition to the M&P Shield line at the NRA Show in Louisville, KY earlier this year. The latest Shield, chambered in .45 ACP, answered the call of many Smith fans looking for more firepower on a familiar platform.
Though the .45 ACP model is an upgraded take on the classic Shield design, many Smith fans wondered if it would live up to the quality they’ve come to expect from the M&P Shield family. I set to find out:
Nuts and bolts
A popular choice among concealed carriers, the Shield gives shooters a low-profile, slim frame matched with reliability and affordability. The .45 ACP version seems to tow that same line as the 9mm and .40 models.
Weighing in at 20 ounces and with an overall length of just under 6.5 inches, the Shield features an all-black polymer frame matched with a stainless steel Armornite Finish.
The slide is a dream to manipulate. Even with smaller hands, I found it easy to grip and rip. Serrations on the slide offer excellent leverage when racking with the hand or just a few fingers.
Atop the slide sit white sights in a three-dot configuration. The white stands out nicely against the black frame and offers enough pop for efficient acquisition.
A mechanical thumb switch rests alongside the left side of the gun for shooters that feel safer with a traditional safety. The safety moves with ease and can easily be flicked with the thumb for quick shooting.
Also accessible is the magazine release, situated just below the trigger guard. Button depression can be achieved without adjusting grip and the nicely tuned release button efficiently ejects magazines with ease.
The striker-fired pistol comes with an included 6+1 standard, flush magazine as well as an extended 7+1. Both innards of the magazines are colored orange. The fluorescent color stands out against the matte black, helping shooters visually confirm an empty mag. While coloring the inside of a magazine is nothing new (Taurus opted for yellow with their PT 709 series), it’s a subtle, but much appreciated addition.
While the Shield boasts a better trigger than Smiths of the past, I still found it a tad mushy for my liking. I will concede it is ridiculously smooth but I prefer a nice, crisp trigger pull and the Shield lacked that attentiveness.
Fit and feel
As a petite shooter, finding guns to fit my micro-sized hands challenges me on a frequent basis. Having handled Smith & Wesson’s .22 M&P, I knew the Shield would fit well if it was anything like its compatriot. Sure enough, the .45 felt like a perfect fit.
If you err on the side of large, Smith & Wesson has you covered with an extended magazine so no pinky is left hanging.
While we’re talking grip, let’s talk texturing. Smith upgraded the grip frame, extending the beveled texture around the entire grip area. While I appreciate some stippling to resist my sweaty palm slips, I found the .45’s texture a little too aggressive for my liking.
After just one magazine’s worth of ammo, my palms were bright red and painfully raw. I found myself needing breaks in between magazines because the friction between the grip and my hand hurt.
I’ve handled and shot the 9mm version of the Shield and never had an issue. I assume the company, in an effort to compete with other company’s “grip zones,” added a little more oomph to that area.
I know some of my readers would tell me to “man up,” but if it’s not comfortable to shoot it’s not getting shot. I’d appreciate a toned-down version that continues to see the texture extended around the grip; but with less abrasiveness.
Aside from pairing well with smaller hands, the Shield’s thin frame gives it an edge over other guns in terms of concealment. Inside the appendix pocket of my Can Can Hip Hugger holster, I was able to stow the Shield with little to no printing. It rode well in both the AIWB and IWB-behind the hip setups.
Big round, small gun
On the range, the Shield is a beast. Powerfully throwing rounds downrange at the target, it’s a formidable opponent. For an experienced shooter ready to handle big recoil on a small platform, it proves no issue. For a new to intermediate shooter, however, the big round-small gun dilemma is very much apparent.
During my testing, I had two recoil induced malfunctions. Both occurred in the last five minutes of my time at the range. I was tired and I’ll admit, my grip became sloppy and loose. Sure enough that loose grip crept up problematically by causing a failure to eject–a common issue when good grip is lacking. My second run at the range ended the same as the first–a sloppy grip and a malfunction.
While I wouldn’t categorize this as a failure on the gun’s part, it’s worth noting. Newer shooters who either lack the strength or haven’t been properly instructed on correct grip may feel like the gun malfunctions. Alternatively, those that don’t practice with their carry gun frequently might induce a malfunction in a self-defense situation should they lack a solid grip. Again, it’s not the gun’s fault but shooters should ensure they can handle the punch of a .45 before committing.
Smith & Wesson struck a delicate balance between incorporating what shooters loved about the 9mm and .40 models and integrating new aspects into the .45. Though I wasn’t a fan of the aggressive texturing or the trigger, the new Shield has many other facets that make it an excellent, concealable gun for .45 fans.
Shooters looking for the reliability and size of the Shield but with a little more kick will find the .45 version right up their alley.
The .M&P Shield in .45 ACP retails for the mid-range price of $479.