By Dan Kidder
In the world of micro-pistols, the best seller has been the M&P Shield from Smith and Wesson. While the Shield has been a great pistol for concealed carry, the terrible trigger, coupled by a very heavy recoil spring, made the gun a poor fit for those with weaker hands.
In my classes, I will routinely place the Shield in the hands of those with weak hands during weapon manipulation drills, to show how this pistol is not a good fit for everyone. Many students who were considering the pistol decide to go another route because of the difficulty they have hitting the target because of the 8.75+ pound trigger, and because they have difficulty locking back the slide. Those with plenty of hand strength may have trouble with this little pistol as well, but for those who can overcome the recoil spring and the trigger, it is a great carry piece.
As part of Smith & Wesson’s redesign of their entire M&P line, dubbed M&P 2.0, the Shield also received a makeover. One of the major noticeable improvements is the reduction in trigger weight down to 6.5 pounds. This has vastly improved the accuracy of the little gun, especially for those with larger and beefier hands, like me.
Since I have no way of measuring the strength of the recoil spring, I can’t tell you if they have reduced the weight of it, but I can tell you that students have an easier time locking back the slide on the 2.0 than they did the original Shield. Part of this may be the more aggressive grip texture of the polymer frame and part of it may be the addition of scalloped slide serrations on the front edge of the slide, giving a better grip. Even having relatively strong hands, I noticed the difference immediately.
The M&P Shield provides all of the excellent features of the full size and compact M&P, in a thinner single stack configuration. The same low bore axis and 18-degree grip angle provide very little muzzle flip, instead driving recoil straight back, for faster reacquisition of the sights on target. At just under an inch wide and 6.1 inches long, the Shield provides a very concealable pistol in a duty caliber size of either 9mm, .40 SW, or .45 ACP. The 2.0 is not yet available in .45, but I expect that it will soon receive the 2.0 makeover in the near future. Our test gun came in 9mm with an integrated Crimson Trace red laser. While our gun came without an external thumb safety, it is available in 16 different caliber and feature configurations, including a thumb safety, integrated red or green laser, or the addition of an external LaserGuard Pro light/green laser attachment in either 9mm or .40 SW.
The Shield 2.0 comes standard with a flush fitting 7-round magazine and an 8-rounder with a place to rest your pinky finger. For my big hands, I find that extra little bit of grip surface to be very welcome.
In addition to lightening the trigger, it is much smoother now, and SW has removed the roller inside that produced a false reset. The new trigger breaks crisper and resets audibly for rapid follow up shots.
One word of warning with the new model. While the very aggressive grip is awesome in the hand, if you wear it inside the waistband, make sure there is a rash guard between the grip and your skin. The rough texture that keeps it from squirting out of your hand will rub the skin off like sandpaper.
Overall, I was very pleased with the feel of the gun and it performed like a champ, easily feeding and extracting every round I fed it from the Colt 124 grain FMJs to the Winchester white box cheapie ammo, nothing seemed to phase it. It even handled the DoubleTap Defense 115 grain Barnes TAC-XP in +P loading, which is my preferred every day carry ammo, without a hiccup.
For having such a short barrel, at 3.1 inches, accuracy was exceptional. Running the gun through a variety of 5×5 and Dot Torture drills, it performed flawlessly. The excellent steel two-dot sights in the rear and the single steel one-dot sight in the front provided great sight alignment and the very aggressive grip worked to prevent the gun from sliding around in my hand with each shot, so gripping the pistol was very comfortable and secure. The natural point of aim, coupled with the lighter trigger pull and audible and tactile trigger reset, gave me shorter par times and better control of the gun.
If not for the similar manual of arms of this pistol, and the fact that my older original Shield magazines fit in the gun, I would think that I was shooting a completely different make and model of pistol than a Shield. The difference between the 2.0 and the original is that drastic.
Since there is no gun that is a perfect fit for every shooter, it is still a good idea to take anyone you plan on purchasing a gun for with you to the store and see if they can manage locking back the slide and that the grip is the proper size for their hand, but given that I have large hands and the pistol fit well, and the slide was easier to lock than the previous iteration of the gun, it might just be a good fit for a large range of shooters.
The integrated Crimson Trace laser easily activates with the tip of your indexed finger and can be activated from either side of the frame, so you can hit it with the index finger of your support hand or with your trigger finger if it is indexed. It is also fully ambidextrous. Since it is built into the lower polymer receiver of the pistol, there is nothing attached to the outside of the gun to get knocked out of alignment. There are two tiny hex-head set screws that can be adjusted with the included Allen wrench for windage and elevation. I find that matching them to a proper sight picture, co-witnessing them with the iron sights at the desired range, is the quickest way to get them zeroed. A little shooting to verify zero, and you are golden.
The laser does slightly alter the profile of the gun, so if you have a holster for the first generation Shield, it is important to check whether the 2.0 will fit properly. There was enough adjustment in my leather Galco for the new gun to fit, but my custom Kydex AIWB from On Your 6, wouldn’t let the new 2.0 snap into place, and a bit of the trigger was left exposed. Hopefully they will offer a holster for the 2.0 with laser shortly. Non-laser versions should fit into holsters made for the previous version just fine.
Overall, I was very impressed with the Shield 2.0 and since my eyes are getting a little hard of seeing, I appreciate the laser built into the frame for fast targeting. I very much appreciated the smoother and lighter trigger and my big mitts liked the rougher texture for a better grip.
While I have pointed out improvements to the gun, and problems with the previous version, I should state that I have been a big fan of the M&P Shield since it was first released. But even a good gun can be better, and I feel like Smith & Wesson did a great job of improving the things that needed it without messing up a great design. They worked diligently to follow the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” keeping their focus on only the few features that needed to be improved, but maintain what is otherwise an excellent design.