Smith & Wesson M&P 45 ACP Shield

A very slightly enlarged Shield in the highly popular and powerful .45 ACP cartridge.

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Last month I wrote about how popular the Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm Shield pistol was. Indeed, they continue to fly off the shelves, and with good reason. Compact, reliable, easy to shoot, priced right, and chambered for 9mm Luger cartridge, the M&P Shield is a favorite with civilians and cops alike.

But, there are still a lot of folks out there who firmly believe-FBI studies notwithstanding-that any discussion of self-defense pistols begin and ends with the number 45. Any lesser caliber-even the .40 Smith and Wesson-is a non-starter.

While Smith and Wesson could have rested on its laurels and only produced the M&P Shields in 9mm and .40 calibers, they listened to requests from the shooting public and chambered a very slightly enlarged Shield in the highly popular and powerful .45 ACP cartridge.

I was working the retail sales counter at the Cleveland Avenue location last year when the .45 Shield version hit the shelves, and it too was a popular handgun-although I think most of the people who purchased it were relatively experienced shooters, not first time buyers. This is understandable since the .45 packs 106 years of fearsome reputation behind it-some of it deserved, such as its fight stopping capability-and some undeserved, such as its "vicious" recoil.

Most .45's, when fired from a well-designed handgun like the Colt 1911 (or in this case the M&P Shield .45) with reasonable defensive loads with the same ballistics-but not the same bullet-as the original 230 grain military load, are relatively easy to handle. One of the first handguns my mother ever fired was the Star PD compact 1911 style .45 that I carried while on the narcotics unit. Built with a lightweight aluminum frame, the Star PD was about the same size as the new M&P .45-and my mom was deadly accurate with it! So there is no reason that other folks, even those fairly new to shooting, can't handle the M&P Shield .45-and here's why.

The entire M&P line of handguns is highly focused on ergonomics-which basically means designing pistols around the mechanics of the human hand. This makes then comfortable to hold, and more importantly comfortable to shoot. The M&P .45 Shield is no exception.

Like all Shields, the .45 version utilizes a single stack magazine, which reduces grip width from pistols which have double stack magazines. While single stack magazines have about half the ammunition capacity of similar size double stack magazines, many shooters have come to realize that when it comes to concealment handguns, reducing size and weight is more important than having a mega load of bullets aboard. This explains why every major handgun manufacturer has invested in single stack versions of their product line.

The .45 Shield follows the same pattern as its 9mm and .40 caliber siblings starting with a contoured polymer grip frame stippled all around for an excellent non-slip grip surface and an Armonite coated stainless steel slide and barrel. Barrel length is 3.3 inches compared to the 3.1 inch length of the 9mm and .40 models. Weight is 20 ounces more or less for all three caliber Shields. I think it is pretty impressive that Smith and Wesson was able to contain the .45 ACP in a pistol nearly the same dimensions as its smaller caliber versions. Fixed three dot Tritium night sights were factory mounted on the slide. Plain three dot fixed sights are standard.

Also standard is Smith and Wesson's striker fired operating system. I think that the Smith and Wesson's articulating trigger safety is the most comfortable among all the polymer framed pistols currently on the market. Its curvature is just right and even the heaviest loads send no shock down through it during firing. The trigger pull is short and crisp for this type of handgun and is easily managed. While the test gun I received did not have one, an additional ambidextrous manual safety model is also available.

The Shield's takedown latch is on the left side of the frame and is easy to swing down for the disassembly process. The teardrop shaped magazine release is on the left side of the frame and cannot be switched. The slide release is also on the left side of the frame and sits nearly flush with it.

I tested the .45 Shield from 21 feet at Vance Outdoors Alum Creek indoor range, with three different loads, Winchester 230 grain FMJ Ball, Precision Delta 230 grain FMJ Ball and SIG Elite 185 grain V-Crown self-defense loads.

Three rounds are included with the Shield, which is an excellent deal. Two are extended-holding seven rounds, while the flush fit magazine holds six. All the magazines allowed loading to full capacity.

The .45 Shield was fired straight from the box. The recoil was easily managed from all three loadings, even firing one handed. The sights were prominent and easy to pick up, even when it wasn't dark enough to pick up the Tritium glow. The 185 grain SIG loads provided the most muzzle blast, and the best accuracy. Muzzle velocity of the SIG rounds is rated at 995 FPS, although actual velocity will be lower from the 3.3 inch barrel. I was able to fire a six shot group from a two hand standing position at 21 feet that measured 1 3/4 inches center to center. Groups with the ball ammo were a bit larger, more in the 3 inch range.

There were no failures to fire or feed, even firing one handed. I did note that the slide release was fairly hard to disengage, even in an empty pistol with the magazine removed. If there were a bit of a protrusion on the lever itself it would make its use easier. However, this is not a huge deal for two reasons. These days many shooters don't use the slide release to return the slide into battery. While I do use it for that, one of the pistols I carry on a fairly regular basis-a Walther PPKs-has no release lever on it. It requires manually pulling back the slide fully and releasing it to return it to battery. If I can get used to that technique for the Walther, I certainly could for the Smith.

For those who insist on nothing less than a .45 for defensive work, whether in the home or on the street, the Smith and Wesson M&P .45 Shield is a great option-and these days a great bargain as well. The night sight version without additional safety is priced at $549.99 at Vance Outdoors. However there is a mail in rebate from Smith and Wesson for $75 which drops that price down to $474.99. The standard sight version is on sale at as well for $404.99. Add in the $75 rebate and the price drops down to $329.99, which is frankly pretty amazing. Test fire one at the Alum Creek location's range before buying if you like.