The original EZ-Rack Shield was a welcome addition to the concealed carry crowd — especially among those with hand issues making operating a semi-automatic pistol difficult. The more recent offering in the EZ-Rack family, the Equalizer, adds more capacity and some nice enhancements to the concept.
Difficulty in loading magazines and racking a semi-automatic pistol’s slide are something I deal with personally. I have also dealt with helping others when teaching live basic pistol and concealed carry classes. The EZ-Rack Shield was a nice solution, but users wanted more capacity and there was room for improvement in the trigger and slide serrations, not to mention the desire for an optics-ready pistol.
S&W Equalizer Features
Because demand for this new pistol has been high, it took me a while to get my hands on one. When I did, I took it to the range that same afternoon. Handling and shooting the gun affirmed for me there really is a niche in which this gun belongs.
The S&W Equalizer is larger than the original Shield, but smaller than the full-size M&P. It is the same size as the original Shield EZ, which corresponds with the size of other popular guns such as the Springfield Hellcat Pro and the SIG Sauer P365 XL. Those dimensions are: 6.75 inches long, 4.5 inches high, 1.04 inches wide and the weight is 22.9 ounces.
Optics-ready guns of this size are the new norm. There are other features (compared to the Shield EZ) that make for a nice gun. I will start with capacity. This is a double-stack 9mm which ships with 10, 13 and 15-round magazines. The slide is cut for optics that allow the user to mount the most popular micro red dot sights on the market.
The Equalizer is an internal hammer-fired design with a good trigger. It has a clean break at just a little over 5 pounds with a fast reset. The barrel is 3.675 inches long, which provides a nice sight radius for use with iron sights. The sights are white three-dot types, not quite the same rear sight as the other S&W guns. The rear sight is set back to make room for the red dot plate. Both the front and rear sights are drift adjustable.
The S&W Equalizer features a new grip texture and pattern designed to give you more control when firing and more comfort when carrying. I think it’s attractive and it does have enough grit to provide a good, solid grip. When carrying the gun in an IWB holster, I have not experienced any discomfort from the texture.
My gun has the ambidextrous manual safety. The mag release button can be turned around for left-hand shooting. The serrations on the Equalizer’s panel are much bolder and spread apart farther than I’m used to seeing on just about any other gun except the Beretta APX A2.
Although the slide is already easier to rack due to the reduced spring tension, the serrations act as a force multiplier. People who struggle with slide operation will find this gun much to their liking.
Magazine loading isn’t the same easy process as it is with the EZ-Rack Shield, but the supplied Uplula magazine loader makes that chore doable for all but extremely weak-handed shooters. There’s no blade safety on this gun. Instead, it has a grip safety similar to those on 1911 pistols. If you have a proper grip on the gun, this safety will take care of itself. The S&W Equalizer also features a Picatinny rail for a light or laser.
Cleaning and Lubrication
Before heading to the range, I took the gun apart to lubricate it. As it turned out, S&W had shipped this gun well-lubricated. Nevertheless, this process gave me the chance to see how it disassembles for routine maintenance. It turns out it is very simple.
Remove the magazine, triple-check that the gun is clear, lock the slide back, flip the take-down switch down 90 degrees, and push the slide forward off the frame. You cannot depress the grip safety when you push the slide off. That’s it. No special lever to push, so no more pulling the trigger to release the slide.
Once the slide is off, compress and remove the recoil spring. The recoil spring is captive, so it doesn’t come off the recoil spring guide rod. The cap on the end of the guide rod is flat on two sides. When you reinsert the recoil spring assembly, the orientation of that rod is counterintuitive. The flats should be to the side, and the rounded sides facing top and bottom. Reassembly is straightforward — the reverse of how you took the gun apart.
I rounded up some of the latest self-defense ammo from Norma, Federal, SIG Sauer, Hornady, and practice ammo from Blazer and American Quality Ammunition — one of the bulk packs I found on Cheaper Than Dirt’s website — plus some of my own reloads. The target in the range photo that accompanies this article was shot freehand from seven yards with Blazer 115-grain FMJ and was the first full magazine I shot.
I was smiling and wondering if I could keep it up. I had full confidence the gun could, and it did not disappoint. Throughout an afternoon of shooting an estimated 300 rounds, the only failure of any kind I experienced was when one of my reloads didn’t extract. My fault, I should have crimped it.
After giving the Equalizer a pretty good workout, I had a realization. This gun could be a life changer for people who know they should be shooting regularly and carrying a gun they can operate. A firearm that would be enough gun in a defensive encounter. People who don’t carry or do not carry enough gun, because it just hurts to rack a slide or to shoot.
I know some people like that. I’m thinking, if I can just get this gun in their hands and get them to shoot it, it might make a difference in whether they stay current and carry. That also brings up the question for me. I’m what you might say “into guns,” and I have some really cool guns that I like to carry.
These days my rotation includes the Springfield Hellcat Pro and the SIG P365 XL. Both are great guns that I handle well. However, if I’m being honest with myself, I can handle this one a little better. It easily meets my standards as a carry gun.
Specifications and Features
Caliber: 9x19mm Luger
Capacity: 15 Rounds
Barrel: 3.675 inches
White dot sights
Easy Rack slide
Slide cut for optics
Manual thumb safety
Reversible magazine release
Optimal 18-degree grip angle
Front and rear slide serrations
Ships with (3) magazines: 10, 13, and 15 rounds
Maglula UpLula magazine speed loader included
I tried all three magazines while I was shooting and discovered I like the feel of the gun with the 13-round magazine best. Fourteen rounds with a spare magazine in my pocket gives me plenty of confidence. I can easily carry the Equalizer in either of my two favorite carry methods — IWB in a DeSantis Vanquisher holster or OWB in a Bianchi 101 Belt Slide holster.