Over the years, I have seen many people struggle with the handgun. Some older folks, and others with limited hand strength, have a difficult time with the revolver. While revolvers are simple enough to handle, the long double-action trigger press challenges some shooters. The Smith and Wesson M&P .380 pistol is the answer they have been looking for.
As an example, I knew a woman about my age well that had suffered a serious injury in a fall. She had courage and worked herself back into shape by lifting weights and constant action. However, she never regained full hand strength and could no longer handle her .38 revolvers. Another purchased a snub nose .38 but simply could not handle the recoil. She adopted a Walther PPK .32—far from ideal for her, but she was able to handle the recoil of the self-loader.
Semi-automatic pistols transfer part of the recoil into energy to work the slide; the recoil spring absorbs some recoil. A self-loader doesn’t have a stiff trigger action—if the pistol is properly designed. Another impediment, however, is that the slide may be difficult to rack. The recoil spring must be compressed as the pistol is loaded by racking the slide.
A 9mm designed to handle +P loads will have a heavy spring. If you are able to handle this type of handgun, a heavy spring is fine. However, many of our brother and sister gun handlers cannot. It is difficult for some folks to chamber a cartridge if the recoil spring is heavy. A person needs a handgun that compliments their abilities, not challenges them unduly.
Smith and Wesson has introduced a pistol based on the MP22 frame. The new Smith and Wesson Military and Police Shield .380 ACP has the modern 2.0 Shield improvements. The slide features well-designed cocking serrations that make for easy racking.
The front of the slide is scalloped to allow easy manipulation. The frame features the new 18 degree grip angle that makes the 2.0 pistols set so well in the hand. You have a good feeling of control with this handgun.
I really like the handling of the Smith and Wesson Shield .380. The pistol isn’t one of the micro-sized .380 pistols introduced during the past decade. The Shield is a full-size .380 you might say, larger than a Walther PPK. The handling and design are reminiscent of the immensely popular Colt 1903 handgun. Going to this size pistol results in a handgun that is easy to handle, comfortable to fire, and with excellent accuracy in offhand fire.
Another feature of the pistol is that the force needed to rack the slide is less than many other handguns. The recoil spring, designed to contain the recoil of the .380 ACP handgun, isn’t as difficult to rack as 9mm-rated handgun springs. The leverage of the slide and recoil spring is good and makes for an easy handling handgun.
Even though I have been handling firearms for several decades, including high-capacity magazine pistols that are sometimes difficult to top off, I still have difficulty with some pistol magazines. I keep the Butler Creek magazine loader handy to load high-capacity 9mm magazines and magazines for the AR-15.
The Smith and Wesson Shield .380 EZ pistol features easy-to-load magazines. These magazines feature a tab on the body that is pulled down to load the magazines. The single-column magazines are easy to load but have plenty of spring pressure to keep the pistol feeding.
Hinged triggers, and triggers with a finger lever safety, are standard for modern pistols. In contrast, the M&P Shield .380 features a single-piece, single action trigger. This trigger allows a clean trigger break. I was pleasantly surprised to find the M&P Shield .380 trigger broke at 5.0 pounds and clean. I like this trigger very much, but a single action trigger demands some form of safety as well.
The Military and Police Shield .380 features a hinged grip safety. This safety must be depressed in order to fire the pistol. The grip safety doesn’t require a great deal of effort, but it does make for a good safety feature. If the pistol is dropped, the grip safety pops out, and the pistol is made safe. There is also a version with the thumb safety of the MP 22.
I prefer a manual safety but can live with the grip safety. I simply obtained the first pistol available and that was the version without the thumb lock safety. As a side note, when John Browning designed the Browning 1910 he tried to convince FN that the grip safety was the only safety needed, but they insisted on a thumb safety as well. The grip safety of the M&P .380 does the job.
The pistol has many advantages in firing. The pistol is larger than some .380 ACP pistols. As I noted earlier, the Smith and Wesson Military and Police Shield .380 is similar in size and conception to the Colt 1903—a handgun that saw a great deal of action ‘back in the day.’ The Shield .380 is easy to use well. The slide is easily racked using only two fingers. The magazines are easily loaded. The three dot white outline sights offer an excellent sight picture.
Ammunition selection is critical with the .380 ACP cartridge. Some pistols are not reliable with a wide range of ammunition. Most pistols should be loaded with only the 90- to 100-grain loads. Light bullet loads, and those that use specialty bullets, do not make for the degree of reliability I like. There simply isn’t a surplus of power.
I began with a lubricated Shield and the affordable Fiocchi 95-grain FMJ loading. I fired 100 cartridges as quickly as my helper and I could load the magazines. I fired at man-sized targets at 5, 7, and 10 yards, and fired from the retention position as well—a sure test of a pistol’s reliability. The pistol never stuttered and provided excellent results.
The magazines were easy load. At 10 yards, I fired a full magazine as quickly as I could recover the sights in recoil. I fired a group less than four inches in diameter. I also fired the Fiocchi 90-grain JHP to the tune of 20 rounds without any problems. This pistol is not only comfortable to fire, it is a fun gun.
At the next range session, I fired a mix of Hornady loads including the Critical Defense, XTP, and American Gunner. These loads proved reliable in the Shield. This time, I fired for absolute accuracy firing off the benchrest. I fired at 15 yards. The average group was 2.0 inches with a single 1.0-inch group with the XTP. A fixed barrel blowback handgun with a single action trigger can be very accurate.
The Smith and Wesson M&P Shield .380 has many good features. The sights are good and trigger is crisp. The pistol is easy to operate. The safety doesn’t require thought to manipulate, just make a firing grip. The pistol is easy to use quickly and those who practice will be delivering accurate fire.
Those with limited hand strength or who have experienced an injury will find the pistol to use well. As for the easy racking slide, we did a side test to determine whether the slide would go out of battery in tightly molded holsters and purse holsters. The answer seems to be that there is plenty of spring pressure to keep the pistol locked into battery. I like this pistol a lot.
What do you think of a .380 ACP pistol with an easy to manipulate the slide? How would you use it? Share your answers in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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