Smith and Wesson’s Big Bore .45 ACP Shield

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

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.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (17)

  1. I was a Smith Academy graduate back when. Being a revolver shooter (Smith mod 36 was all I owned) to this day, I still carry that little gun. I shot a friend’s Shield in .45 and 9mm and liked the .45 better. Got a real good buy on one. Shoots well, whatever I feed it with zero problems. Do not like the 6rds mag. My only real problem is gun hits 3″ left of poa. Several shooters have same issue with gun. I will move sights and maybe try different trigger. Being a revolver shooter, this gun is one I like… now, just get it to hit poa

  2. I just purchased the M&P Shield .45acp M2.0 and I have already run 500 plus rounds through it, without any problems. Light, slim, and easy to handle. I use the Winchester 45auto 230grain fmj and have not had any issues. The Shield.45 is very accurate at 25-30 as the article states and my grouping is tight, for a first time user of this pistol. That 5, 7, and 10 yards or less distance is why I purchased this pistol and it has not disappointed.Sometimes I shoot from my hip and the recoil is almost nothing, and accurate. As they say, practice makes perfect.
    Well, that is my impression of this pistol, and finally, a good conceal carry pistol.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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..

  6. I’ve been carrying on since they became available. Replaced my 9mm Shield as primary carry and relegated it to my back up. I have “little sissy girl hands” and the larger framed .45’s are a hand full. The Shield fits my hand/grip like a glove and feels it was especially made for me. Some women and small framed men will find the Shield a blessing since the recoil is “mild” compared to other .45 caliber pistols and the grip is superior. My groups aren’t quite as good as a the author’s, but I’m using 70 year old eyes. Everyone’s hands/grip are different so give the Shield .45 a try to see why it is a “best buy”!

  7. I have the Shield in 9mm and .40 S&W (the 9 purchased for the wife as her personal carry). I’ve carried the .40 for a couple of years. I tried the Talon glue-on grips, but went to the small slip-on Hogue when the glue on the Talon started it’s inevitable failure.

    I’d carried a Springfield Micro-compact 1911, but, though the size and functionality was right, it was heavy and hard to make truly accurate hits with. I played around with a second-hand Glock 36, but the PO had done some trigger work on it, and while it was tremendously accurate (especially with the existing Crimson Trace red dot), I just couldn’t get used to the uber-light trigger pull on a CCW pistol. So I’m sold on the Shield.

    When I came across the Shield. 45 at the local G-show recently, I plunked down the credit card immediately.

    I agree with the author on most of his observations. It’s not the .40, and has a noticeable kick, but under combat training conditions, I don’t really notice it. I’ve been feeding it the Federal 230g HydraShoks, but maybe it’s time to try the 165g Guard Dog.

    Great write-up!

  8. I own a Taurus PT145 Pro that is chambered in .45 acp and it is very similar in size to the shield except it has a double stack magazine. I have carried it as my ccw on many occasions and it was very easy to conceal and very comfortable, so the shield will be even easier to carry I imagine since it is somewhat lighter and thinner in the grip. Even with the small size and short barrel, I never had any problem shooting it and actually almost prefer it over longer barreled .45 caliber pistols (I don’t really know why). Accuracy was never a problem either and although I still can shoot better groups with my 1911, the 3 inch barrel on the PT145 proved plenty accurate for its intended purpose. I own several different guns that I use for concealed carry all chambered in different calibers, and I have always liked the .45 and find myself carrying it more and more so I think the .45 shield will be a great success.


  10. The Shield looks very good and SW does make good products and I might carry one someday. I do carry a sub compact 45, the SA XD mod 2 3.3 in barrel. The size is perfect with the flush mag that gives me 10 rounds and a backup Ext. mag with 13 more. It has a 1911 style grip safety. There are a lot of good choices for defensive 45 ammo.

  11. I picked one of these up to try out, seeing as the .45 CCW market tends to get ignored as it is usually comprised of experienced shooters who are harder to please than newbies. My findings were much in line with the author’s, although I have no issue using the flush fit mag and getting all 3 fingers on the grip with no overhang (med-lg sized hands). It is definitely lightweight and disappears when carried (used the Blade-Tech IWB Klipt). I did have to ding it on capacity for 6+1 on board and 7 for spare mag for a total of 14 rounds total. I usually carry either a Sig P220 as my EDC and more recently a Sig P245. With the P200 I have 8 in the mag and I carry 2 spares (24 rnds total). The P245 has only 6+1 in the flush fit mag, but I still carry the 8 rnd P220 mags for spares (yes they fit, just not flush) for a total of 23 rounds. The weight of Sigs and 1911’s never bothered me when carrying and I use only 230 gr loadings (Fiocchi FMJ for almost all my range and competition use). All that said, I would still recommend the Shield in .45 to anyone looking for a CCW .45.

  12. I carried a S&W Model 10 38 spl when i went to work in Law Enforcement this was the issue gun. When i got my first paycheck i bought a Colt Trooper, later i had a S&W model 27 all three were excellent guns. When we transitioned to Semi-auto the depart regulations stated you could buy your on EXCEPT S&W Or Ruger. I chose Glock and for the last 27 My agencies i worked for have changed from 9mm to 40 S&W. I think i like glock because they work like our 38 & 357 pistols with less trigger pull.

  13. Like many, I had a 1911 and a S&W Shield 9mm already. The 1911 was to big for my tastes to conceal carry, and I loved my 9mm Shield for accuracy and size, so going to a Shield 45 ACP was a natural. I also had trouble loading the magazines, so I bought a speed loader to help and got full loads using it. I expect the spring to relax with use. I got the thumb safety model and bought it for my Christmas gift this year. I love it.

  14. The grip texturing on the .45 Shield is a significant change from the rest of the M&P pistol line. It looks to provide a much better grip, and is something that would be a welcome upgrade should S&W opt to retrofit it to the rest of the line.

    Currently, I’m using the rubber grips from Talon to improve the grip texture on my M&P pistols. If S&W offered to convert the texturing for a fee, I’d seriously consider it.

  15. My wife has a 9mm Shield and likes everything but the safety. I agree, the safety is small (tiny even) and hard to operate. She prefers to shoot and carry her 4″ Kimber 1911, but some clothing makes that hard for her to conceal.

    Maybe the safety gets easier with practice, in which case neither of us have practiced enough with that gun. Typically , although we fire other guns, 1911’s are preferred by both of us for range time.

    1. 1911 pistols do make great range guns.

      The safety on the Shield is intended to be optional, and is deliberately low-profile and stiff to prevent it unexpectedly switching off (or on). Snagging is a larger concern for small pistols that might be carried in a pocket than with full-framed pistols that are carried OWB or IWB.

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