Smith and Wesson has long been a supplier of their handy J-frame Chief's Special type revolvers. Going back to the 1940s, these revolvers have been a classic personal defense gun. Now Smith has upped the ante with the same concept, a small, concealable, handgun that will deliver a half dozen or so full-sized rounds when needed. The only thing is, it’s now a semi-automatic pistol and not a revolver. Intro the Smith and Wesson Shield.
The Smith Shield.
The full size S&W M&P is a great combat handgun, but isn't very concealable.
Taking a page from the company's very successful and well-received Military and Police (M&P) pistol, and adding the concept of the old school J-frame's abbreviated grip, frame and barrel, S&W has designed the new M&P Shield pistol. Chambered in either 9mm or .40S&W, this striker-fired pistol is extremely slim (1.05-inch maximum width, about a quarter inch less than a subcompact Glock) and is a good complement to those looking for a CCW piece. For either variant both a flush and a slightly extended magazine that adds another round of ammunition is available. This gives the 9mm either a 7+1 or an 8+1 capacity and the .40S&W variant a 6+1 or a 7+1 capacity. Extensive use of high-tech Zytel polymers gives each version a total weight of just 19-ounces, which compares favorably to the 21.5 ounces empty weight of the "Baby Glock" Model 26 and the 19.5-ounce legacy S&W Model 36 snub-nosed revolver.
Full size but low-profile sights, which are adjustable, provide better aiming points than most pocket guns of the same size. Coupled with a 5.3-inch sight radius over a 3.1 inch barrel and this mouse gun can actually take 25-yard shots if needed.
To cut down on recoil in such a small firearm, the Smith M&P Shield uses a locked-breech, recoil-operated design similar to that of the Ruger LCP with a captive guide rod. For the benefit of those who will no doubt be carrying the firearm in a CCW or UC style, all of the surfaces of the pistol are about as round as they can get. Unlike even smaller .380 offerings like many of the Kel-Tec and Khar pistols, the Shield comes standard with an external slide lock and safety lever.
Pluses and minuses
The Shield is set to retail from Smith at $449 and as so is less than the Glock 26 GenIV's and Ruger's LC9 MSRP but more than that of similar sized Kel-tecs and Kahrs. Unlike many pistols out there sold for the CCW market in mind, the Shield does not have a magazine disconnect safety and will fire without a magazine in the weapon. Many shooters feel this is unsafe; others (myself included) disagree and actually prefer this. The Glock 26 gives a higher magazine capacity, however this magazine size makes the firearm easily available to both CA and MA residents. The trigger pull is slightly heavier (at 6.5-pounds) over the 5.5-pound trigger pull on a Glock series pistol, which is negligible and arguments can be made on the pros and cons of this that are outside the scope of this article. The only stones this writer can throw at the design is that Smith does not currently have a .45ACP offering. If they can produce a .40S&W why not?
If Smith keeps this up, I can see many Shields in the hands of responsible gun owners in the future.