It is common in the firearms industry for shooters to wait months or more to obtain a new introduction. Some of the firearms seem made of unobtanium or another rare element. The newest 9mm from Smith and Wesson is an exception.
The M&P9 Shield EZ is being shipped and readily available. This handgun isn’t similar to the original Shield as far as mechanics go, although there is a certain family resemblance. Instead, the 9mm EZ builds on the success of the .380 EZ.
Comparisons to the .380 EZ
I have fired the .380 EZ extensively and find it an excellent handgun in most particulars. The .380 pistol is reliable, low-recoiling and surprisingly accurate. The Walther PK .380 is similar as far as accuracy goes and so is my old Colt 1903.
The EZ pistol features a hammer-fired mechanism and hidden hammer, a distinct departure from the modern polymer-frame, striker-fired handguns. While a firearm is better than tooth-and-nail, I have reservations concerning the .380 ACP cartridge.
The 9mm Luger is much more powerful and crosses the threshold into what I consider effective wound ballistics. The M&P9 EZ does so without excess recoil and very little extra weight.
M&P9 Shield EZ Features and Specifications
Before we get into design, form, function, performance and so forth, let’s take a look at some features and specifications for the M&P9 Shield EZ:
- Safety: Thumb (optional)
- Frame Size: Compact Slim
- Caliber: 9mm
- Action: Internal Hammer Fired
- Capacity: 8+1 Rounds
- Barrel Length: 3.675″
- Front Sight: White Dot
- Rear Sight: White Dot, Adjustable for Windage
- Frame Width: 1.04”
- Overall Height: 5.05”
- Overall Length: 6.85”
- Sight Radius: 5.875”
- Weight: 23.2 ounces
- Barrel Material: Stainless Steel with Armornite® Finish
- Slide Material: Stainless Steel with Armornite® Finish
- Frame Material: Polymer
Design and Ease of Use
The purpose of the original EZ design was to make the pistol easier to use at every level. This means ease of loading the magazines, easy racking of the slide, simple manipulation, simple field-stripping and modest recoil.
The pistol isn’t the smallest it could be, but it is a compact handgun well-suited to personal defense. It is a good size for concealed carry and control in firing. There are many shooters that have difficulty with self-loading pistols. They strain to rack the slide or load a magazine.
The EZ design helps in these important functions. Some have physical limitations and all of us will face old age one day. The magazines feature a thumb assist to help depress the magazine spring. Some magazines are a bit difficult to load and this feature is a big help.
Racking the slide is downright easy. The cocking serrations are well-situated and offer good adhesion. There are bosses at the rear of the cocking serrations to increase leverage. The forward-cocking serrations are so minimal they are not very useful.
Form and Function
The trigger breaks clean after a modest take-up at six pounds. This isn’t a target trigger, but makes a good combat trigger. Trigger break is clean and reset rapid. In common with a number of modern handguns that reset is indistinct—if there is a click. it is nearly imperceptible.
(Although, the wife heard a faint click on reset when she tried the gun. Most shooters over 40 will not hear the reset.)
The frame stippling features excellent abrasion and adhesion. I cannot think of how to improve this texture; it is that well-designed and executed. The slide lock and magazine release are positive in manipulation.
I like the dual ambidextrous safety. A grip safety doesn’t lock the trigger as a 1911 does; rather the trigger is dead—as when applying a Beretta 92 safety, as an example. When the grip safety is disengaged by pressing inward, the trigger is connected.
This is similar to the operation of the HK P7M8. There is a version without the thumb safety. I prefer a safety on a self-loading pistol and especially on a single-action handgun. While the grip safety may be enough, the thumb safety isn’t difficult to disengage quickly.
The sights are high-visibility units with a three-dot white outline.
Performance and Accuracy
Smith and Wesson met its design criteria. The magazines were easily loaded and the cocking serrations and bosses aided in racking the slide. I began the test with Winchester 115-grain FMJ loads. The S&W M&P9 Shield EZ pays a price for easy racking.
This 9mm isn’t a locked breech in the conventional sense, but neither is it a fixed barrel blowback like the PPK. It is a delayed blowback. The result is a snappier recoil than some pistols.
It isn’t anything that a trained shooter will have any problem with; it is simply a consideration. This isn’t the pistol to load with +P. I found that the pistol clears leather quickly, offers real speed and has high hit probability.
I fired the pistol at seven, 10 and 15 yards and found the pistol offers good performance for a compact 9mm. The 18-degree grip angle makes for a good natural point and straight-to-the-rear recoil.
It didn’t take long to go through 160 rounds of ammunition—all without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire or eject.
Absolute accuracy is interesting. The pistol was fired from a solid bench rest at 15 yards. I fired the Winchester FMJ and Hornady Critical Defense, firing two five-shot groups with each. The average of the four five-shot groups was 2.5 inches.
The M&P9 Shield EZ is a good shooter and a good choice for those that need a pistol a bit easier to handle than some of its competitors or Smith’s own Shield 9mm. The pistol field-strips easily and is designed to be cleaned easily.
It all panned out in the test program. The M&P9 Shield EZ is a great handgun that will serve well.
Do you think you’ll try Smith and Wesson’s latest M&P? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.