Smith and Wesson M&P 9 Shield EZ

Smith and Wesson's 'EZ' line of compact semi-automatic pistols designed for personal defense.

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Smith and Wesson manufactures the widest variety of handguns in the world. They are always working to innovate and upgrade their various handgun models to meet what seems to be the ever-changing demands of the shooting public. One category of shooter that Smith and Wesson has taken a major interest in serving are people with limited hand strength-and they are doing so through their "EZ" line of compact semi-automatic pistols designed for personal defense.

The EZ Mission

I tested the first of the EZ line-the M&P .380 Shield EZ- at the Vance Indoor Range last April. It is a splendid pistol that those with hand strength challenges can run totally on their own, without assistance. By "running" a pistol I mean that not only can they accurately and comfortably fire it-they can safely load, unload, and field strip it for cleaning without assistance from others. The Smith and Wesson M&P 9 Shield EZ is a slightly larger pistol that is just as easy to operate as the .380 version, but chambered in a more potent caliber.

M&P 9 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety Specifications

Caliber 9mm
Magazine Capacity 8+1 with load assist tabs - two magazines included
Barrel Length 3.67 inches
Overall Length 6.8 inches
Weight 23.2 ounces
Sights White 3-dot/Fully Adjustable Rear
Action Internal Hammer Fired
Barrel and Slide Stainless Steel with Armornite Finish
Frame Polymer with Picatinny Rail
Safety Grip and Ambidextrous 1911 style Thumb Safety
Magazine Release Reversible

Running the EZ 9

While the M&P 9 Shield EZ is somewhat larger than the original .380, it is still a slim, easily concealable pistol thanks in a large part to the single stack magazine which is used on both guns. Smith and Wesson went single stack with both guns because single stacks are easier to load than double stacks designs.

The EZ 9 and .380 magazines feature "load assist tabs" on either side of the magazine body, which provides leverage to allow you to easily compress the magazine spring and hold the magazine follower down. The end result is that you drop rounds into the magazine, rather than pushing than pushing them down into the magazine with the thumb. I loaded the magazines up with 124 grain Sellier and Bellot 9mm FMJ practice ammo alternating between the traditional thumb pressure method and the load assist tabs. I found the magazines were easy to load to full 8 round capacity using either method.

The slide of the EZ guns feature a raised gripping "ridge" at the rear of the slide on both sides. This ridge improves the grasping point for the thumb and index finger for those of us who use the "slingshot" method for racking the slide. Combined with lightweight recoil spring pressure of the slide, the amount of effort needed to rack the EZ 9 slide to chamber a round is significantly less than that needed on similar sized pistols.

The trigger pull of the 9mm EZ is quite good and reasonably crisp, with a short uptake. For those of you not familiar with a grip safety, it is a seamless automatic safety mechanism that is deactivated by grasping the pistol in a normal shooting grip and reactivated by releasing the grip. The grip safety is used in lieu of the articulating trigger safety found on full size M&P pistol series.

There were no surprises encountered during my test fire. The EZ 9 ran smoothly and was easy to control due to good grip ergonomics and the 18-degree grip angle-which in turn contributed to good accuracy. At 21 feet, firing eight shots, I obtained a 3-inch group with one flier. The other seven rounds were centered in a 1.5-inch cluster.

After firing a few more round I felt settled in with the EZ 9. I moved the target out to 30 feet and loaded a six round magazine and managed to fire a 1.5-inch group. I brought the target back to 15 feet to try some one-handed shooting. I loaded up an eight-round magazine, and quick fired 8 rounds into a 4.5-inch group. Six of those eight rounds landed in a two-inch cluster.

The Smith and Wesson EZ 9 is quite a remarkable pistol, and should about as perfect as it gets for those with diminished hand strength. But don't think of it only as a specialized handgun. The EZ 9 is a great choice for those who are looking for an excellent home defense and concealed carry pistol.