Smith and Wesson’s Big Bore .45 ACP Shield

By Dave Dolbee published on in Firearms, Range Reports

The Smith and Wesson Military and Police Shield is among the most popular carry guns in America. Light, but reliable and accurate, this slim line, single-column magazine pistol has much to recommend. The pistol has been available in 9mm Luger and .40 Smith and Wesson for some time. Recently Smith and Wesson introduced the Military and Police Shield .45 ACP pistol. This got my attention. I carried the Star PD .45 ACP in harrowing times. The Glock 36 .45 is a favorite and the Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Special is another short big bore I like a lot.

Smith and Wesson M&P .45 Shield .45 right profile

The Shield .45 is a compact pistol with much to recommend, including excellent wound potential and reliability.

I had high expectations for the Shield .45. The engineering to manufacture a .45 isn’t the simple fix of strengthening a 9mm frame for the .40 S&W cartridge and changing the barrel. The new pistol is larger and a redesign on the Military and Police Shield handgun. The Shield version of the M&P pistol is intact, but among the changes made is more aggressive abrasion in the grip frame. This texture is a good thing when firing a powerful handgun.

This pistol also features a thumb safety. Some of us feel a self loader without a safety abrogates some of the advantages of the type. Others feel that the long trigger alone is enough of a safety feature. As for pistols with a safety and big bore autos, well, having come this far I will extend my ignorance of anything better a bit further.

The pistol is slim across the slide for a .45, more so than any other slim line .45 I am aware of. The barrel is 3.3 inches long, so do not expect high velocity with a given load but rather expect 50-100 fps less than factory specifications. Overall length is just shy of 6.5 inches. The pistol is supplied with a flush fit six-round magazine and a seven-round extended magazine. The extended magazine is preferred for shooting.

Federal 165-grain Guard Dog bullet

Federal’s 165-grain Guard Dog is a good defense load for short barrel pistols. Recoil is less than 230-grain loads.

The sights are excellent combat sights offering a good sight picture. The pistol features a deep black finished slide over a polymer frame. Weight unloaded is right at 23 ounces. The hinged trigger is a DAO that breaks clean at 5.8 pounds. Reset was rapid. There is a tiny, but effective, trigger stop molded into the frame.

The magazine release was positive in operation. The slide lock is small enough to avoid inadvertent activation but large enough for manipulation. The slanted cocking serrations work well. There is a smaller set of cocking serrations near the front of the slide. They aren’t very useful but they don’t hurt anything.

Field striping the M&P Shield .45 is simple. Be certain the pistol is unloaded, and with the atmosphere of preventive sobriety demanded any firearm, keep your hand away from the muzzle. The slide is racked to the rear, and the takedown lever rotated forward. The slide is released and moved forward off the frame. I was impressed by the spring within a spring technology of the Shield. This would prove to go a long way in controlling recoil.

When handling the pistol, I noted that the grip cross section is thinner than the Glock 36 as an example. This is good for hand fit and trigger reach, but we would see how it translated to firing comfort. I took careful notes. My handwriting fills a notebook with exclamations as I hold the gun in one hand and the pen in the other. In the end, it looks like something scribbled for the family as a ship is sinking. But they are thorough and I prepare to test fire each gun as if I were going to Camp Perry.

Smith and Wesson M&P Shield .45 with slide locked

The Shield .45 proved accurate and reliable with a variety of ammunition.

I collect proper targets and a good mix of ammunition. The size and weight of the handgun indicated, I should choose personal defense loads designed for modest recoil. The wrists are not up to a beating from +P loads. Time is cruel to everything but some of us are singled out for special punishment. No need to add to it.

I chose the Federal 165-grain Guard Dog, Federal 230-grain Hydra Shok, Fiocchi 230-grain FMJ, and Gorilla Ammunition 230-grain JHP loading. The loads demonstrated different firing characteristics but each proved reliable. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject.

The pistol is about an inch taller and longer than the 9mm Shield. The Shield .45 weighs about four more ounces loaded than the 9mm. The .45 ACP isn’t a high pressure number like the 9mm, but it has plenty of momentum. Recoil is a push, at least with standard pressure loads, and requires practice to master. It definitely creates more recoil than the 9mm.

I find the push of the .45 more comfortable than the snap of the .40. Again, it depends on the load. The .45 ACP doesn’t depend upon bullet velocity or expansion for wound potential but rather diameter and weight. A load that trades bullet weight for control is the Federal 165-grain Guard Dog. Using a hollow nose that collapses to instigate expansion—legal in jurisdictions that prohibit hollow points—the Guard Dog offers modest recoil. My impression was that the .45 Shield isn’t a bear to fire but on the order of the SIG Ultra as an example. It isn’t for beginners but for experienced shooters. The 165-grain bullet shoots slightly low in relation to the point of aim.

DM Bullard IWB holster

The pistol was carried in a DM Bullard IWB. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Loading Magazines

The magazine springs are strong and I had difficulty loading more than three cartridges—especially the 230-grain ball loads. I discovered that it was necessary to load a few rounds and then tap the magazine to seat the cartridges to the rear. Otherwise, the bullet nose would contact the front of the magazine. I conducted firing tests on man-sized targets at 5, 7, and 10 yards.

I used the Fiocchi 230-grain FMJ loading. The Shield came on target quickly. The sights allowed a good sight picture. The two greatest assets of the pistol were the good sights and a smooth, even trigger action. Recoil recovery is slower than with a heavier pistol, but the Shield performed well.

I fired two magazines of Gorilla Ammunition loads at 10 yards. I ate the X-ring out of the target in rapid fire—including a fast magazine dump and reload. Control was excellent. During firing, the greatest recoil was exhibited by the Hydra Shok 230-grain JHP; a proven defense load with much to recommend.

5-Shot Group, 15 Yards

Load Group in Inches
Federal 165-grain Guard Dog 2.9 inches
Federal 230-grain Hydra Shok 3.0 inches
Fiocchi 230-grain FMJ 2.75 inches
Gorilla Ammunition 230-grain JHP 3.2 inches


Grip abrasion on the Smith and Wesson M&P .45 Shield

The gripping area offered good abrasion that resulted in excellent adhesion when firing.

A short-barrel pistol such as the Shield may be surprisingly accurate. However, firing past 25 yards really falls into the stunt category. The time to take the shot and the need for a braced firing position are such that long-range shots are not practical. Just the same, the Shield will hit a threat in the chest every time at 25 yards in skilled hands. To confirm sight regulation, and as a test of absolute accuracy, I fired the pistol for accuracy from a solid bench rest taking my time and managing the trigger. The results follow.

Clearly the Shield is accurate enough for personal defense. The pistol offers a superior firing grip, good action, and sights. The M&P .45 Shield is a winner and a lightweight lifesaver.

Would you carry a lightweight .45? What do you think are the pros and cons of Smith and Wesson’s M&P Shield .45? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (15)

  • deadarmadillo


    I think I’ll keep my 9mm Shield thank you.


  • TW


    I carry the Para Ordnance Nighthawg. .45 with 11 rounds. Small and a real joy to shoot, believe it or not. I can one hand it without a problem, if needed. I thought that it would be a handful and unpleasant to shoot. Was I surprised. It’s really smooth.


  • Gary B


    I own a 45 Shield with a external thumb safety. I have a more accurate 1911 Officer’s model with a 3.5″ barrel, but they are not as friendly to my body in concealed carry. I have a Springfield XDS in 45 that has had a lot of carry duty, It is accurate and easy to shoot, but the flush magazine has only a five round capacity, it does have a spare seven round extended magazine for reload, but so does the Shield. For me and concealed carry close to the body my 45 choices are the Shield or the XDS, I’ll take the extra round. The external safety was the only one available to me at the time and while if I had a choice I would selected the non-safety version, I have most of my history with a external safety. Remembering to flick it off will not be a problem for me and it is very easy for me to do intentionally, but hard to do by accident. I have not yet shot the gun only manipulated it. I don’t expect it to be as kind as the XDS or little 1911 in the recoil department. I will say I can and have carried the XDS as a ‘Pocket’ pistol, in a holster, and it can work well for that method of carry, the Shield 45 is too big for that. Right now I have ‘Belly band for the Shield, but a good (I think) Kydex IWB is on order.


  • Dan


    All of my 45 autos are service sized pistols(some 1911 and some striker fired). I have a 9mm shieldl and I’m going to seriously consider adding the 45 acp to my collection. My one and only 49 cal is a glock 23 and I have no plans to get any more 40 cals. I feel that 45s are more controllable than 40s any how…just my opinion…won’t be getting a shield in 40..


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