The Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm Shield

The Top Pick for Concealed Carry Permit Holders.

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In the four months I spent working retail sales at the original Vance Outdoors location on Cleveland Avenue, I learned one thing in particular-the 9mm Smith and Wesson M&P Shield semi-automatic pistol was the most popular handgun for concealed carry for civilians and cops that I sold while working there. It outsold, and continues to outsell similar Glock, Springfield Armory and Ruger pistols-all of which are fine handguns in their own right. So what is so special about the Shield?

Let me explain the M&P Shield line a bit. The M&P name, which stands for Military and Police, was introduced over 100 years ago by Smith and Wesson, and applied to their new six-shot medium frame .38 Special double action revolver. In 2005, Smith and Wesson resurrected this moniker, and has created an entire line of handguns and rifles underneath this separate brand.

The Shield name is a series within the M&P brand. The Shield name defines the mission-close range personal protection-a defensive weapon rather than an offensive one.

When lawful permit carry came online in Ohio in 2004, I taught a number of classes through my (believe it or not) college. At that time, the vast majority of students in the classes felt they had to carry the highest capacity handgun they could possibly pack. The same was true of law enforcement officers when we transitioned from six-shot revolvers to semi-automatic pistols like the Glock 17 and Beretta 92 in the 1990's. This was true not only for on-duty carry but off-duty as well-which explains why I carried a Glock 19 off-duty for a number of years. Everyone eventually discovered something. Regularly carrying a pistol with 15 rounds of 9mm ammo aboard is inconvenient.

Fast forward to today. Enough people have realized the same thing-carrying high-capacity can wear on you during all day carry. Thanks in particular to the civilian clamor for slimmer, lighter handguns (and the realization that few gunfights result in high round exchanges) all major manufacturers have introduced lower capacity single stack compact handguns to meet the demand.

The Smith and Wesson Shield series is an exemplar of this type-particularly the 9mm version. Let's look at the features that have made it the most popular choice among those needing a concealed carry handgun.

For starters, the 9mm Shield comes equipped with two magazines-a flush fitting 7 rounder, and an extended 8 rounder, giving the Shield an 8 or 9 round total capacity with a round in the chamber. Let me make a quick point before continuing. I ran into more than one customer in my time in sales who insisted that the only safe way to carry a semi-automatic defensive pistol was with a full magazine and an empty chamber. They felt that if one needed to use the pistol, than they could quickly chamber a round right before shooting-you know, like the Israeli's do. Trust me on this one-all modern self-defense semi-automatics are designed to be carried with a round in the chamber. The Shield is no exception. The military world and the civilian world are two different entities in terms of tactics and mission. Carrying a pistol without a round in the chamber is a tactical disadvantage for cops and civilians alike. Don't do it.

Barrel length of the Shield is only 3.1 inches, and overall length is only 6.1 inches. Of all the factors that go into making a handgun concealable, barrel length and overall length are the most important. A short OAL, combined with a narrow, flat overall profile, make for a low profile for the Shield when worn under covering clothing.

The other important factor in concealment that has nothing to do with the visibility of the handgun is weight. I learned rather quickly (in a few hours actually) many years ago that an all stainless steel 15 shot Smith and Wesson 5906 9mm pistol was a royal pain to lug around concealed. It was particularly uncomfortable in an inside the waistband holster when seated in a movie theatre seat. That was the only time I carried that handgun, which soon found its way back to Vance's to be traded in for something more practical.

Fortunately the polymer framed Shield weighs in at only 20 ounces, making all day carry practical. The shape of the grip, in typical M&P fashion, is very ergonomic and fits the hand naturally, and an appropriate amount of texturing on the grip keeps it from slipping away during firing. The barrel and slide are both stainless steel with an Armornite(r) finish which just about insures rust resistance. The standard finish is black-Flat Dark Earth frames are now available as well. The sights on the basic model is three-dot white. Night sights are also available.

The Shield, like all M&P pistols features an articulating trigger which automatically disengages the safety as the pull is increased, rather than the trigger safety lever that is utilized on other models. I have found the curvature of the Shield trigger very comfortable. Shield triggers are more than sufficiently crisp and easily managed for accurate shooting. Models with a 1911 style manual safety (in addition to the trigger safety) are available for those who wish it.

The Shields, like all M&P pistolss are easily maintained. Takedown is accomplished through an easily manipulated lever on the left side of the frame. It is not necessary to pull the trigger to start the process.

Last year I tested an upgraded Smith and Wesson Performance Center 9mm Shield. The Performance Center models feature barrel porting for reduced muzzle flip, Hi-Viz fiber optic sights, and an even crisper trigger. These enhancements make an excellent pistol even better.

Smith and Wesson really did its homework when it created the M&P and Shield line. They listened to the shooting public in terms of what features they felt would be desirable in these new guns, and the result has been a remarkable success. .40 S&W and .45 ACP models are available as well. I would have loved to have carried a Shield 35 years ago when working undercover narcotics enforcement.

If you want a 9mm Shield, now is the time. Smith is currently offering a $75 mail in rebate until June 30. When combined with the Vance Outdoors sale price of $334.99, your final price is only $259.99, which is very hard to beat. You can also Try it Before you Buy it at the Vance Outdoors Alum Creek location.