Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ .380 Review: Is My Grandma’s Gun Better Than Yours?
Smith & Wesson’s small .380-caliber M&P Shield EZ is a personal protection pistol designed to be easy to use – hence the “EZ,” get it? It shines for people less familiar with firearms or with weaker hands. However, that does not mean it is not suitable for seasoned veteran shooters. I think it’s just good all around.
To help me with the review, I brought in the target audience, my mother-in-law, Connie. She has been wanting a semi-auto pistol for a while, but because of arthritis in her hands, she cannot manipulate most conventional guns. As you can see, this gun worked very well for her.
Final Verdict: I’m a fan of this gun for both new shooters, shooters with hand-strength/size issues, and concealed carry. But I think it’s great for all shooters, and I could even take it into competition easily.
Let’s break down exactly why…
The first thing most people notice is how easy it is to rack the slide. It is a significant difference. Typically, inexperienced pistol owners have trouble racking and locking the slide back because they have not figured out the proper mechanics and/or have not built the necessary hand strength. Junior and smaller shooters as well as those with a hand injuries or disability may just lack the grip necessary to manipulate a standard pistol. The EZ is a solution to this demographic. Connie could not budge the Glock slide, but she had no problems with the EZ.
The slide only has good rear cocking serrations, but they are very aggressive and give a great purchase. I do wish they extended a little bit farther. The last feature on the slide is a visual and tactile loaded-chamber indicator on top. That's another good addition for newer shooters.
S&W did not just reduce slide racking weight though, they designed the entire pistol to be user friendly. The grip size was reduced to accommodate smaller hands. They did this by using a single-stack magazine. This does lower the capacity to 8+1, but that is still more than a six-shot revolver, which is what is typically recommended for this user group.
The grip is just long enough (with the magazine inserted) for me to get all four fingers on the gun. This gives great recoil control even on a small gun. The grip angle, which is identical to a 1911, allows for a very natural point of aim. The slim grip also makes this gun a fantastic CCW gun. It can just disappear. Finally, the texture is surprisingly good. At first glance, there seems to be very little texture, but when you touch it, it feels like rubber sandpaper even though it’s just polymer.
One uncommon feature is the grip safety. I believe they added this because they used a one-piece trigger instead of a two-piece safety trigger. The Glock-style two-piece trigger is a drop-safety device that keeps the gun from firing when accidently dropped. Without this trigger safety, they needed to include some kind of drop safety, and it seems like they chose the grip safety. I would say it is a good but not great grip safety.
When properly gripping the gun, Connie had no problems deactivating the safety. However, when she loosely gripped the gun, the grip safety did not engage. It is possible to improperly hold the gun and not be able to pull the trigger because the grip safety was not depressed enough. There is a low chance of this, but it's something to consider. An argument can be made that this forces beginners to properly grip the gun before it can be fired.
The trigger pull is solid. There is a short take up, a good amount of creep after the wall, a snapping break, no overtravel, and a medium but quiet reset. This one broke at 5.5 pounds. I think this is a good compromise of being safe to carry but easy to pull for the target audience. I also liked the fact that the overall trigger reach and travel is short. Again, for users with smaller hands or less than a full range of motion, this feature could really help. Connie enjoyed the trigger.
The magazine release is easy to reach due to the slim grip, and mags eject positively. The slide lock is in a good spot, and it’s easy to engage due to the easy-to-rack slide.
The pistol I got also has an ambidextrous, manual safety. Again, for newbies, more safeties are probably better. But shooters unfamiliar with manual safeties will have to practice to get proficient with disengaging this safety. The safety itself is frame mounted like those on the 1911, and it engages with an audible click and positive feel. There is an option to get this pistol without a frame mounted safety. Connie could not actuate the safety because of her thumbs, so she would opt for a model without the manual safety.
This is actually a hammer-fired gun and not a striker-fired one like it appears to be on the outside. Even though there is no exposed hammer, when you look inside, there is a hammer hitting the firing pin. I’m not sure why they designed it this way. It might have to do with the fact that this is also a recoil-operated pistol. Typically, .380 pistols are straight blow back. Recoil-operated pistols are softer shooting, and less recoil is always better for newer or weaker shooters, so I’m glad they went with this action.
One interesting element of the action is the ease of take down for maintenance. All you need to do is lock back the slide, flip down the takedown lever, disengage the slide stop, and then simply remove the slide. There is no need to pull the trigger to field strip the gun. This is a good safety feature, especially for gun owners who are less experienced. The rest of the takedown is exactly like any other conventional pistol.
Sights & Magazine
The sights are the standard three-dot irons. I don’t think much thought was put into these sights. They are adequate, and they work, but they are not my favorite setup because they don’t give the fastest or most precise sight picture.
I do want to highlight one great aspect about the magazines, which was also Connie’s favorite feature. They come with a little tab you can push down while loading to relieve spring tension and making mag loading more enjoyable. I’ve noticed a common complaint among novices is that loading the magazines are difficult. I’ve got iron thumbs from loading, but many students have a hard time. This tab really does make it much easier.
I know this gun is marketed for a specific shooter, but I thoroughly enjoyed running it. It’s surprisingly soft shooting for a lightweight gun. The EZ is very controllable since it’s a .380 ACP. A good trigger and ergonomics make for relatively fast follow-up shots. And with the low recoil, I can shoot it all day long. It had decent accuracy for a small gun – definitely combat effective. Connie absolutely loved it.
The EZ is also light (21.6 ounces loaded), slim, and easily concealable. It’s an excellent carry gun. The S&W pretty much disappears because it’s so slim. Some might say nine rounds is not enough, but cops carried revolvers for years. In real self-defense situations, the statistics show you don’t really need that much ammo. What’s really important is reliability, and the M&P line has proven itself as a dependable option.
I highly recommend this gun for newer shooters and anyone with hand/grip problems. The industry normally disregards this demographic. There really are very few comparable guns on the market. The EZ can be had for around $400 new and even less used.
At this price, I think it is a no-brainer for grip-impaired shooters, but it’s also a serious contender for anyone. It’s fun and easy to carry and shoot. I want one just as a pistol for when I take new people out shooting. No one will have any problems with this gun. It will give new shooters confidence.