For the past several SHOT Shows a new batch of pocket pistols have been unveiled that set the gun buying public on their proverbial heels clambering to see that year's answer to their concealed carry dilemmas. "Pocket Fever" first broke out in the .380 ACP cartridge. Although Kel-tec's P3AT was first out it did not generate the fervor that hit several years later when Ruger came out with their LCP. Once the LCP generated more orders than Ruger could fill countless other manufacturers entered the fray; Diamondback, Kahr, SIG, Taurus, Magnum Research and probably a few more that are escaping my memory.
Once the scarce .380s became commonplace the engineers focused their talents on producing .380 sized 9mm pistols. Kahr had already been producing their PM 9 for many years but it wasn't new and the market was ripe for smaller 9s. When photos of the Kimber Solo hit the internet the public was faced with a handsome and very small 9mm pistol. The prayer for many people had been answered...well almost. Emails to me are still running about 50/50 on people getting one that works. Those that do insist the detractors are not using the ammo specified by Kimber which is premium 124 to 147 grain ammo. Unfortunately I have still experienced jams with said ammunition. Nevertheless Ruger jumped in with their LC9, Diamondback chimed in with their DB9, etc.
This year the two most eagerly awaited pocket protectors are coming from Springfield, with their .45 ACP XDs, and Smith & Wesson with their 9mm Shield.
Smith & Wesson has promised that the 9mm Shield will be followed with a .40 caliber version and Springfield took the opposite approach bringing out the XDs in .45 ACP while promising that .40 caliber and 9mm offerings will forthcoming at a later date.
The Shield has a frame mounted manual safety on the top and rear left side of the pistol right about where you would normally expect a manual safety to be located. Some deride the manual safety as being one more thing to malfunction or one more thing that you might forget about in the moment of life or death stress. Others would assert that they would never place a pistol in their pocket without a manual safety. Here is my take: if you don't like the safety don't use it. If you do like it...there it is! However, remember two things:
1. Any pocket pistol should be carried in a pocket holster designed for that handgun and the holster should cover the trigger to assist in the prevention of the trigger being accidentally engaged.
2. The best safety device resides between your ears not on your handgun.
In comparison to the four handguns being examined in this series (Colt New Agent, S&W Shield, Bersa BP9, and SIG P938) I have given the Shield the moniker of "The 2nd", and here's why:
- It has the second shortest barrel at 3.1 inches
- It has the second shortest overall length at 6.1 inches
- It is the second thinnest pistol at .95 inches wide
- It is the second shortest in overall height at 4.6 inches in height
- It has the second heaviest trigger pull at 6.5 pounds.
The Shield has three white dot sights with the rear sight being drift adjustable for windage. The sights are also easily visible while being low-profile and they have been rounded off to mitigate snagging on a cover garment when drawn from concealment. They are not night sights but someone will come along and fix that in very short order.
Unlike it's bigger brother M&P models the Shield does not have interchangeable backstrap capability. Quite frankly this is just too small of a pistol for them to be worth the effort. I understand the concept of trying to produce smaller and smaller handguns but for me there can be a point of diminishing returns for any handgun thinner than 1 inch with a grip frame that I cannot get all three fingers around. Due to the .95 inch width I stretched a Pachmayr Tactical Grip Glove over abbreviated grip which improved the handling capabilities for me. For those same reasons I also preferred the 8 + 1 magazine with the finger extension over the shorter 7 round magazine.
To me, the heart and soul of any pistol is the trigger action. Unfortunately this is where the M&P series disappoints me. The M&P triggers are not as crisp as trigger on most other striker-fired pistols. The take-up is mushy with some grittiness to it and the trigger reset is difficult to feel requiring that the trigger be released all the way forward before being able to pull it again. This takes additional time and can lead many less experienced shooters to "slap" or more aggressively pull the trigger on follow-up shots resulting in less than desired accuracy.
And "less than desired accuracy" is all that I was able to produce from the Smith & Wesson Shield. All shooting was done at 21 feet because the groups just fell apart for me at 30 feet. Even with a small pocket pistol I like to feel comfortable with the accuracy out to 15 yards. The 115 grain Federal FMJ range loads did not group well at 21 feet.
The Mag-Tech FMJ is not a defensive carry load so no need to sight the pistol in for that ammunition and unfortunately I could not wring a good group out of any defensive ammo including Federal Guard Dog, Hornady Critical Defense or Federal Hydra-Shok. In fact, the only load that I was not embarrassed to publish is this one which was fired with 124 grain Speer Gold Dot Hollowpoints. While there is a decent four shot cluster the rest of the 9 shot group is across the board.
If this was the only pistol of its size I would carry it. It is the right size to always be with me and its accuracy would be fine for the normal field of fire in the environments in which I live, work, play and travel. However...it is not the only 9mm pistol of its size. More to come in the next installment of this series.