We gun people are a hard crew to win over. Most new items that stir the tried and true are met with mixed degrees of acceptance or rejection. Such is the case with the new caliber designed to fit between the .380 and 9mm and claiming to be strong enough to fill the role of a personal protection caliber.
Walk with me through my process of deciding whether it’s a gun and ammo combination that I would be comfortable carrying and recommending. Then, decide whether you agree or not. Smith and Wesson sent me a Shield Plus in 30 Super Carry for this evaluation. The gun arrived in a standard S&W blue box with two magazines — one a flush fit and one extended. Neither would be allowed in California. Externally, the gun looks like a regular Shield.
The 30 Super Carry
One of the objections I have read about the 30 Super Carry was ammo availability and cost. The folks behind this complaint are obviously shopping at the wrong places. True, you can’t expect at this point in the introduction of something brand new to walk into a typical gun store and find the ammunition on the shelf. However, many online providers have at least three brands in stock.
When I found I had a gun on the way, I ordered some Remington HTTP JHP and Gold Dot Personal Protection from three different sources, and it was all delivered within three days. The price per 20 or 25-round boxes of 30 Super Carry self-defense ammo were the same as the price per 20 or 25-round boxes of 9mm self-defense ammo of the same brand.
I wrap my head around new things by comparing them to something existing with which I am familiar. In this case, it was a 9mm Shield M2.0 that I took to a local indoor range to shoot alongside the 30 Super Carry Shield Plus. I hung two sets of targets side-by-side and positioned them at seven yards.
After loading both guns and setting them on the bench was when I had my first “aha!” moment. There were two guns, almost identical, obviously the same size, both loaded to the max with their extended magazines. One of them had nine rounds in it, the other had 17. Did you get that? A Shield, one of the guns we’ve known for several years as a leading entry in the single-stack nine category, is now loaded with almost twice that original capacity.
And those rounds were not .22 cartridges either. They were 7.62mm cartridges. You know the same diameter as the cartridges fired in an AK-47 or an M-60. “But they’re not as heavy.”, you say. No, the typical 7.62×39 cartridge has a bullet weight of 122 grains, and the Speer Gold Dot 30 Super Carry is a 115-grain bullet.
Are you getting this? The 30 Super Carry projectile is nearly the same size as the most common NATO rifle bullet. Of course, the cartridge doesn’t have as much powder and won’t be shot through a barrel pushing it up to 2,400 fps. It does travel at 1,000 to 1,200 fps, depending on the gun. Remember, the rifle bullet typically travels a much longer distance before doing its job and will have lost a lot of its momentum by that point.
At the Range
I started by shooting five rounds from the Shield Plus and five from the Shield. Did I notice a lot of difference in recoil? I can’t say that I noticed any. How about accuracy? Neither pistol was putting rounds in touching holes, but both were putting all five rounds fired in one of those little 4-inch target circles. In other words, if aimed at center mass of an aggressive individual, that individual would have been stopped with either gun.
I continued shooting five round groups, first from one gun and then the other. From a shooting perspective, the only difference I sensed between the guns was one had a better trigger, but it’s a Performance Center Shield. It’s supposed to have a better trigger. The trigger on the Shield Plus becomes flat when the trigger safety is buried and breaks at 6 lbs. No complaints about that trigger at all. I fired 40 rounds that first outing and began looking forward to a weekend outing where I could get feedback from my core shooting group consisting of sons, grandsons, and a friend or two.
While waiting for Saturday to arrive, I spent some time reading and watching what other reviewers had to say about the new caliber. Many claimed it was a solution in need of a problem. From my perspective, if reducing recoil was one of the objectives, forget it. There’s just not that much difference. I got that from other reviewers as well.
I watched multiple online ballistics tests and was impressed by the penetration and expansion of the cartridges in ballistic gel. The impression I got from the various testers was that the 30 Super Carry is very close to the 9mm in penetration and expansion. One thing I thought to compare it with was the .38 Special. Hands down, the 30 Super Carry has better ballistics than the .38 Special — the cartridge cops depended upon for many years.
Five shooters of varying experience levels made up my weekend group of shooters. One was a new shooter, one a casual shooter, and the other two were experienced shooters. I brought my M2.0 PC Shield, an EZ-Rack Shield, and the new CSX for them to shoot and compare with the 30 Super Carry. I asked each shooter to load the Shield Plus 30 Super Carry and one of the other Shields, and shoot them alternately — five shots from one and then five shots from the other, paying attention to recoil and doing their best to get rounds on target. After shooting that exercise, and since everyone had expressed an interest in it, I had them shoot the 9mm CSX along with the 30 Super Carry Shield Plus.
Only one of the five shooters noticed a difference in recoil between the 30 Super Carry and the 9mm Shields. He expressed it as a difference in the push into the heel of his hand. For the rest of us, there wasn’t enough difference that we could quantify it. Our crew agreed with other reviewers who say reduced recoil is not a reason to buy the 30 Super Carry.
However, a reason to consider would be the additional capacity. Everyone loved the extended capacity. Were these shooters concerned about a lack of stopping power? One picked up a 30 Super Carry Gold Dot box and showed me the 115-grain weight asking, “Isn’t this what we shoot in our 9mms?” It is. The 9mm round is shorter and bigger around so it makes a slightly bigger hole. Slightly bigger, but we’ve been using .30 caliber bullets to stop bad guys for a long time.
How about accuracy? Each of my shooters spent time at seven yards shooting 5-shot groups to see if they could create some spectacular targets for me to photograph and put with this article. We got some good ones, but nothing spectacular was produced. My grandson shot 17 rounds into a Splatterburst target that was pretty impressive. All experienced shooters could put five rounds in a heart-sized space from fighting distance, but none of us could put five shots into one ragged hole. That didn’t bother us. The gun gave us what we would need and what we would expect in a typical self-defense scenario.
One of the primary questions being asked is if the cartridge will last. I thought about one hit wonder cartridges of the recent past. Rock Island/Armscor’s TCM9R is one. I love that cartridge, but the only gun I have that shoots it is made by Rock Island, and the only place I’ve ever found any TCM9R ammo is from Armscor. It is still available, and there are reloading supplies for it.
The .357 Maximum cartridge developed by Remington to shoot in revolvers built by Ruger didn’t make it. You can find .357 Maximum cartridges from custom reloaders, or you can reload it yourself, but that’s about it. I’m sure some of our readers can think of others.
I don’t think 30 Super Carry will be in that class. For one thing, Vista Outdoors with its multiple brands can churn out a lot of 30 Super Carry ammo. Also, there are dies, brass, and bullets already in the marketplace.
What about guns? Smith and Wesson is on board, as is Nighthawk Custom. If Smith and Wesson churn out a noticeable number of these guns, it won’t be long before Ruger, Taurus, Springfield, SIG, and others will join it. Then, 30 Super Carry will be a regular member of the lineup. I’m pulling for that to happen, and whether it does or doesn’t, I plan to be a regular user of my 30 Super Carry Shield Plus.
Seventeen rounds in a Shield that weighs 19.3 ounces, is 6.1 inches long, 4.6 inches high and 1.1 inches thick… Think about that and think about all the 30-caliber rounds that have been considered effective threat stoppers. Tell me, what’s not to like?