Smith & Wesson’s Contribution to Everyday Carry (EDC) Guns

On the left, a Shield Plus 30 Super Carry with a full load of ammo. On the right, a standard Shield 9mm with a full load of ammo.

This is an overview of the handguns Smith & Wesson produces that may be suitable for everyday personal carry. The term the industry has derived for this type of firearm is EDC. My professional life, over the past 20 years or so, has involved discovering and writing about these guns as well as teaching people to use them. I won’t be able to cover every configuration of every handgun that S&W offers, but I have personal experience with all the guns listed here.

I’m starting with revolvers. Though carrying a revolver for personal defense fell out of favor when the FBI and many police departments started carrying semi-automatics. In recent years, the revolver has made a comeback. Many people want to be able to defend themselves but don’t particularly want to learn the ins and outs of operating a semi-automatic handgun. Their belief is simple. It worked in the cowboy days, it worked for police for years, it will work for me.

J-Frame Revolvers

S&W Model 60 Lady Smith
The S&W Model 60 Lady Smith is ideally suited for purse, pocket, or belly band carry.

Weighing only 20 ounces, with a length of 5 inches, the Model 60 Lady Smith in .38 Special represents the J-Frame family of revolvers. S&W is currently offering 13 models of J-Frames and within those models, numerous configurations. Those models are 36, 43, 60, 63, 317, 340, 351, 442, 637, 638, 640, and 642. Some of these are characterized by a snag-free enclosed hammer. Most have a 2-inch or shorter barrel.

J-Frames have long been favorites for pocket guns or guns suited for other deep concealment methods. The most popular calibers are .38 Special and .357 Magnum. There are also .22 and .22 WMR models. My wife carries this Model 60 Lady Smith as her EDC.

K-Frame Revolvers

S&W Model 10 K Frame revolver
This S&W Model 10 K Frame revolver was inherited by the author from his father who carried it as a game warden in Mississippi.

My oldest S&W is a revolver that I inherited from my dad. It is a .38 Special Model 10 with a 2-inch barrel. The Model 10 is still in S&W’s catalog with a 4-inch barrel. The Model 10 has been in production since 1899. Mine is a 1963 model that still looks brand new. The Model 10 falls within the K-Frame class. K-Frames exist in seven different models with numerous configurations. Those Models are 10, 17, 19, 48, 66, 617, and 648. Most of these have longer barrel lengths than my Model 10. Four-inch and six-inch barrels are common.

Military & Police Full-Size Semi-Automatic

S&W Full-Size M&P
The S&W Full-Size M&P is used by police in many locations. It also makes a great concealed carry weapon for civilians.

The heart of the Military & Police line is the full-size semi-automatic that is produced in .22LR, 9mm, 40 S&W, and .45 ACP. Dimensions for the 9mm are 8.25 inches long, 5.5 inches high and 1.16 inches wide. The weight is 30 ounces. The M&P M2.0 version delivers some upgrades in trigger, grip, frame, and finish.

The M&P features a low barrel bore axis for reduced muzzle rise and faster aim recovery. The trigger is crisp with a tactile and audible reset. The pistol includes an aggressively textured grip and four interchangeable palm swell inserts for optimal hand-fit and trigger reach. I must tell you, I love shooting the M&Ps so much that I’ve acquired several different versions. One of these is a Viking Tactical model that I have modified.

S&W M&P Viking Tactical

Viking Tactical version of an M&P
This is the Viking Tactical version of an M&P which includes several modifications including sights, trigger, magwell, and magazine base plates.

This is one of my favorite handguns for three reasons:

  1. I already like S&W M&Ps
  2. The trigger on this gun is AWESOME (even if I did install it myself)
  3. The sights are special and easy to see both night and day

That wide magazine baseplate, designed to aid in rapid reloading under stress, detracts a bit from the ease of carrying because it kind of jabs me in the side. There’s no reason why I couldn’t carry the gun with stock magazines, and that’s what I usually do. This is a 9mm pistol with a 17-round magazine, 4.25-inch barrel, full-size polymer frame, VTAC Warrior front and rear sights, durable PVD coated stainless steel slide, and FDE finish. It also has an Apex custom trigger that I installed.

M&P Performance Center M2.0 Ported/C.O.R.E. 

M&P Performance Center M2.0 Ported/C.O.R.E.
The M&P Performance Center M2.0 Ported/C.O.R.E. was one of the first pistols offering an optics mounting system.

This is a gun I obtained for a writing assignment and decided to keep. It’s one of the first guns offering the C.O.R.E. (Competition Optics Ready Equipment). It is readied by S&W’s Performance Center with a tuned action that is very smooth, so it’s quite a gun with Performance Center mods and the ability to mount various red dot optic sights. I put a Crimson Trace red dot on it and use a Galco King Tuk IWB holster to carry it. It is among the larger of S&W’s pistols suited for EDC but with a good holster, most people can carry a gun of this size.

M&P 9 M2.0 Metal

all-metal M&P 2.0 in 9mm
The all-metal M&P 2.0 in 9mm is a very attractive gun that carries well in a Galco King Tuk holster.

I told you I like full-size M&Ps. This is one of the most attractive of the breed. With a lightweight and rigid metal frame, 17 rounds of 9mm, night sights, and a trigger that is delightful, this is an M&P that inspires confidence. For me, the extra weight equals a steady platform and decreased recoil. I do feel it when I’m carrying this gun, but it’s a feeling I like. It serves as a reminder that I’m armed.

I know you’re thinking, “This is about carry guns; Where are the little guns?” We’re getting to them. But first, one more — this one is important.

S&W SW1911 SC Commander

SW1911SC E-Series Round Butt Scandium Frame 1911 Commander
The SW1911SC E-Series Round Butt Scandium Frame 1911 Commander is one of the author’s all-time favorite carry guns.

This is what I’d deem my BBQ gun, or the gun I’d wear to show off (if we actually showed off our guns, which we don’t). When I was working at an office, I carried this gun frequently. It’s light, carries well, and is easy to shoot. It’s supposedly made of scandium, but I read that the amount of scandium mixed with aluminum in its frame is rather small. Don’t care. It is a very fine pistol.

How a gun looks is always important, and this one is a cool combination of black and stainless steel that S&W calls duotone. I notice in the current catalog you can also get them in solid black, which is fine looking too. The slide has unusual serrations — they’re like fish scales with a set on both ends. I found them easy on the hands, while providing an excellent purchase for racking the slide or a press check for those of you who like to do them. The ejection port is cut low and beveled. The top of the slide is slightly dished out with a series of vertical cuts going almost the full length of the slide. Their purpose is to reduce glare.

Trijicon night sights are mounted front and rear. An ambidextrous safety adorns the two sides of the slide. It’s not tiny, like a stock 1911 safety, but it’s not one of those honking big ones either. The gun comes with beautiful rosewood grips with the same fish scale pattern as on the slide, plus a nice little diamond with the letter “E” to remind us that this is an Enhanced 1911.

The trigger and hammer are the skeletonized lightweight jobs we all love. The hammer settles nicely into the beavertail when it’s cocked, and the trigger pull is an easy 4.9 pounds, with .0125-inch take-up, and a crisp, clean break.

S&W Performance Center Ported M2.0 Shield

S&W Ported Shield
This S&W Ported Shield represents millions of Shields sold since their introduction.

The Shield is among the best-selling handguns anywhere with millions being sold. They are available in 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP. Each caliber is available with either Tritium Night Sights or Hi Viz sights. For reasons I’m sure make sense to the S&W marketing team, 9mm models have manual thumb safeties, while the .40 S&W and .45 ACP models do not have. Mine is the 9mm with Hi Viz sights. The single front sight is green; the two in back are red.

I am a fan of Tritium night sights, but while shooting the two guns one after the other on the range, I preferred the Hi Viz sights. It was a cloudy day and the dots on the Tritium sights were almost invisible, while the Hi Viz sights stood out clearly.

On all S&W Shield models, the frame is polymer with an embedded stainless-steel chassis system that allows for steel-on-steel contact between the slide and frame. The slide finish is Armornite, a very durable black finish. Total weight of the gun is 18.2 ounces. Included in the package are a flush-fit 7-round magazine and an 8-round extended mag, which adds an extended finger groove.

S&W Shield Plus in .30 Super Carry

Smith and Wesson Shield chambered in 30 Super Carry
This delightful Shield holds 17 rounds of 30 Super Carry ammo — a new round that is ballistically between the 9mm and .380.

I’ve tested this gun and compared it to 9mm Shields. I’m very impressed with how it can carry 16+1 rounds of a caliber that is so close to 9mm in performance that it is difficult to see any difference. The cartridges I’m shooting in both calibers are 115-grain in weight, and the diameter difference between the .30 caliber Super Carry and the 9mm is miniscule.

If the 9mm were to be expressed in caliber, it would be .35 caliber. I’m comfortable with this new caliber as a defensive cartridge and really comfortable with the fact I can carry so many of them in a gun that is the size of a Shield. If you like the Shield, try this one.

S&W EZ-Rack Shield

Smith and Wesson Shield EZ-Rack
Although a member of the Shield family, the EZ-Rack Shield is slightly larger, weighs more, and is internal hammer-fired, rather than striker-fired.

Although this product is labeled as a Shield, the EZ Rack is considerably different. For one thing, it is slightly larger than the Shield (6.7 inches versus 6.1 inches for the Shield), and it weighs approximately 10 ounces more. The key points to this gun, besides having a Crimson Trace laser mounted, are the easy racking slide and the grip safety which works just like on a 1911. This is an internal hammer-fired gun, also.

The slide is very easy to rack on this gun, and the 8-round magazines are easier to load than most semi-automatics. The Crimson Trace laser is optional. Mine just happened to come with one. The switch is on the grip and activated when you take up the gun with a proper grip.

S&W Equalizer

Smith and Wesson SHield EZ-Rack
The Equalizer spins off the Shield EZ-Rack with more capacity and a lighter slide rack.

The Equalizer uses the same EZ-Rack EZ technology as the EZ-Rack Shield but with some differences. The slide serrations are deeper and wider, and this gun uses standard magazines with 10, 13, and 15-round magazines all being supplied. The Equalizer features a single-action trigger that allows for a short take-up, clean break, and fast reset to make follow-up shots quicker.

The frame includes a picatinny-style rail to mount lights or lasers and a new optic cut pattern that allows the user to mount their choice of sight for enhanced accuracy. The 3.675-inch barrel gives a longer sight radius for increased iron sight precision. The Equalizer also features a new grip texture and pattern that was designed to give you more control when firing and more comfort when carrying.


Smith and wesson CSX
The CSX is not just another black gun. Although it’s small, the aluminum-alloy construction makes it feel substantial.

The CSX is built on an aluminum alloy frame with interchangeable polymer backstraps. Chambered in 9mm, the CSX holds an impressive 12+1 capacity, with an additional 10-round magazine for deeper concealment. It’s a single-action gun designed to be carried locked and loaded. It has ambidextrous safeties and a slide lock. Although it weighs only 19.5 ounces, I find the recoil is manageable. To me, this is one of the best pocket carry guns on the market.

There is a lot to choose from among these offerings. Physical attributes, experience and personal preference all play a role in choosing the gun that will work for you. I would be surprised if you don’t find it here. Which is your favorite or the one we missed? Share your answers in the Comment section.

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
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 (9)

  1. Right now, I’m carrying a S&W M&P Compact .40 on my right hip. I shoot it well and it’s never failed mechanically. The ten round mag makes it legal almost everywhere. It will accept the 15 rounder and I use it at night by the bed. The front night sight has a nice white circle around the tritium dot. I think the trigger is as good as a Glock. I have never changed the grip. It’s just right, but I like the option to change it. I would rather it was a little smaller, but I have one particular holster that pulls it in tight so I can wear a Tee shirt with no problem. I have quite a few handguns including J-frame revolvers, but I really the M&PC. I might like the new Sheild 9mm with the larger mag better though. I’d like to try that. Stay safe.

  2. Decades ago, only revolvers would have interchangeable grips. Even today, numerous different grips are available for revolvers. The use of interchangeable backstraps for pistols is a recent option. Still, not all pistols offer interchangeable backstraps. Note that S&W “J” and “K” frame revolvers are still a viable option for inexperienced shooters, older (Seniors) shooters, and Hikers because of their versatility. A S&W “J” frame, and even a “K” frame, 357 mag revolver can cause serious bad shooting habits, but starting off with target/cowboy 38 loads is a great way to start. Add either CT Laser Grips or conventional aftermarket Grips, and anyone from 10 to 100 can shoot one. That is why revolvers are still relevant today.

  3. ELAD & Bruce. My article was about current production handguns from S&W. No doubt some of the older models were fine but I’ve not experienced any of the models you mentioned.

  4. I would add the Performance Center SW1911 Pro Series in .45 ACP to that list. I love the way it feels in my hand and will almost aim itself when I hold it. It is a joy to hold and to shoot. Add Crimson Trace grips and I cannot think of a better weapon for EDC. This goes with me every time I am carrying. It is Smith’s version of the Officer’s Model. Can’t say enough good things about this weapon. Smith has a 9mm version of this model but a 9 does not trip my trigger. I know what I can expect from the .45.

  5. What …?!?!?! No mention of the model 469? The model specifically made for high capacity concealed carry?!? And I bought an early model 3913 because it was very concealable and reliable and easy to shoot well. I still occasionally switch out between the two depending upon the weather and cover garments.

  6. S&W without question make some of the most beautiful revolvers ever, and some of the most dependable semi-autos. That said: I don’t own any. Take the Model 10, an absolutely beautiful classic in blue, but with the most weird shaped grip ever. It looks rounded, but feels square, and small, in the hand. Feels kind of like a square broomstick. Their semi-autos present a lot of options, however a grip that doesn’t feel like a handful of cut glass in the hand, isn’t among them. I am more a fan of the grippy Hogue texture grip, and one would think by now, either S&W, or Hogue, would offer interchangeable inserts for all the S&W semi-autos by now, especially as common as the S&W’s seem to be. Like a pair of shoes in the store, if it isn’t comfortable to shoot, well then its probably not going to get purchased.

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