Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield Test

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If you’re looking for a small, light, and (very) powerful CCW, that’s also manageable to shoot, this one is impressive… Read more!

Source: American Rifleman Staff

Ten years ago, Smith & Wesson introduced a line of defensive-oriented semi-automatic pistols that carried the firm’s long-used “Military & Police” (M&P) model identification. Unlike the familiar Model 10 revolver that armed Americans since the last decade of the 19th century, the new M&Ps were 21st century striker-fired, polymer-frame autoloaders with a full range of today’s essential features. The first models were full-size service pistols with double-column magazines chambered in .40 S&W, although 9mm Luger and .45 ACP followed quickly. Undeniably a successful product line, the M&P has been made in numerous variations — from compacts to long slides and, for a while, even in .357 SIG. But of all the variations that have come from the Springfield, Mass., plant, one that stands out is the M&P45 Shield.

The Shield line is a reflection of the current interest in medium-to-small, single-stack, semi-automatic pistols set up for concealed carry or police backup roles. High-capacity magazines are not essential, but serious terminal performance is. The first gun in the Shield line was a 9 mm, followed closely by a .40 S&W. It took a while longer for S&W engineers to adapt the Shield concept to the .45 ACP cartridge, but that gun is now a reality.

With a steel slide riding a polymer frame, the M&P45 Shield is recoil-operated, locking by way of the barrel’s hood engaging the ejection port and unlocking by way of its underlug camming downward after firing as it comes into contact with a steel block in the frame. A captive, dual recoil spring assembly returns the slide to battery.

S&W M&P45

The gun’s substantial .45 ACP chambering and scant 22oz. weight combine to create a pistol that might be a bit difficult to manage were it not for its superior ergonomic design, which makes the pistol eminently shootable. Most shooters, including those with smaller hands, generally take to the Shield grip shape well. In fact, it is probably the most appealing of the little pistol’s virtues. The frame is angled for natural pointability and has a deep pocket for the web of the shooting hand.

Looking at the gun in profile, the curve of the trigger is well below the curve of the pocket on the backstrap. This means that the pistol is nicely shaped for the “back and up” sweep movement of the trigger. The trigger pull is around 5 lbs., and seemed to vary just a bit, though it may level out with time. There is a minimal take-up before trigger pressure actually begins. Trigger reset distance is reasonably short.

With regard to safety features, the M&P45 Shield has an articulated trigger safety and an internal drop safety. Our sample gun also featured a manual thumb safety mounted on the left side of the frame for use by right-handed shooters, although Smith & Wesson offers a variant without the manual safety.

Shield 45 sights
The M&P45 Shield’s steel, drift-adjustable, three-dot sights consist of a square-notch rear and a post front.

Each pistol comes with one 6-round magazine and one 7-rounder — the only difference is in the height of the baseplates. As is the custom with service pistols, most shooters will load the pistol by retracting the slide, inserting a fully loaded magazine and depressing the slide release to chamber the top round. They then remove the magazine to top it off with a single round and replace it in the pistol. For this reason, pistols are commonly described as having a capacity of “six-plus-one” — the magazine carries only six rounds, but after topping off, the gun has a total of seven cartridges onboard. Yet curiously, both M&P45 Shield magazines feature witness holes marked “3, 4, 5, 6 and +1.” Not only is the “+1” denotation nonsensical, it is frustrating when one unsuccessfully attempts to load the “additional” round into the six-round magazine.

Shield 45 magazines
Two magazines come with the .45 ACP-chambered Shield, one with a seven-round capacity and one that holds six. The longer magazine provides additional gripping area for those who prefer.

Finished in a businesslike black Armornite® (slide is stainless steel), the Shield is an impressive little package. The square-notch rear and post front sights feature a three-dot pattern and are drift-adjustable. At the time of the M&P45 Shield’s introduction, the maker pointed out the improved (over earlier Shields) texturing on the gun’s gripping surfaces. S&W has gone to panels of a slightly more aggressive version of what was once termed a “crackle” finish. It works like a charm, serving to anchor the pistol firmly in the hand. This is a very light little pistol that recoils sharply when firing the larger .45 ACP cartridge.

In range testing with a variety of commercial ammunition, there were no malfunctions of any kind. In the absence of proper Ransom Rest inserts, accuracy shooting was done over sandbags on a solid bench. Results are tabulated above and are surprisingly good. Note the reduced velocities of typical 230gr. ammunition, due to the pistol’s shorter barrel.

S&W M&P45

The Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield is a good choice as a daily carry gun. At 22.7 ozs., it isn’t particularly heavy, and would be a good choice as a police backup gun, as well; it is flat and could nicely fit into a pocket or seam in body armor. The M&P45 Shield is quick into action, simple to manage and about as powerful as carry guns get.

S&W M&P45

Visit Smith&Wesson to learn more HERE

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