Handguns

S&W Equalizer 9mm – An Improvement to the EZ-Rack

Smith and Wesson Equalizer 9mm semi-automatic handgun, right profile

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.

Smith and Wesson Equalizer 9mm semi-automatic handgun, left profile
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.

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.

S&W Shield EZ Rask, left and Equalizer (right)
An original Shield EZ-Rack (left), and the Equalizer (right). Although similar in size and internal operation, the Equalizer has numerous small design changes that set it apart.

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.

Field stripped Smith and Wesson Equalizer 9mm semi-automatic pistol
Takedown for cleaning follows a familiar path, if you’ve cleaned other S&W handguns. Remove the magazine, clear the gun, lock the slide back, flip the take-down switch down 90 degrees, and push the slide forward off the frame.

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.

Smith and Wesson Equalizer 9mm semi-automatic handgun with 10-,13-, and 15-round magazines
The S&W Equalizer ships with one each 10, 13 and 15-round magazines and an UpLula magazine loader.

Range Testing

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.

Smith and Wesson Equalizer 9mm semi-automatic handgun with a box of Blazer ammo on a bullseye target
This target was shot freehand from seven yards with Blazer 115-grain FMJ. It was the first full magazine the author shot.

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
Grip safety
Front and rear slide serrations
Ships with (3) magazines: 10, 13, and 15 rounds
Maglula UpLula magazine speed loader included
Black

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.

What’s your thoughts on the new S&W Equalizer? Is another new gun from Smith & Wesson worth trying? Would having one of these change your practice and carry habits? Share your answer in the comment section.

  • S&W Equalizer Equalizer in a DeSantis Vanquisher IWB holster
  • white 3-dot sights on the the Equalizer pistol
  • Field stripped Smith and Wesson Equalizer 9mm semi-automatic pistol
  • Smith and Wesson Equalizer 9mm semi-automatic handgun with a box of Blazer ammo on a bullseye target
  • Smith and Wesson Equalizer 9mm semi-automatic handgun, left profile
  • Smith and Wesson Equalizer 9mm semi-automatic handgun with 10-,13-, and 15-round magazines
  • S&W Shield EZ Rask, left and Equalizer (right)
  • Smith and Wesson Equalizer 9mm semi-automatic handgun, right profile
  • Three semi-automatic handguns

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 (17)

  1. @Larry, doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong. Lock slide back, rotate takedown lever 90 degrees, pull slide to rear to unlock and slide the slide forward and off in one quick motion.. If you can, pull slide back and lock it, rotate takedown lever back up, return slide to battery, pull trigger… then try again. Never had a problem with my grandma’s EZ .380. My Shield Plus has hung on occasion but that’s a different firing system. As far as the Equalizer itself, meh… it’s interesting but the grip safety turns me off, too 1911-ish. I do like the slide serrations though, wish Smith would use those on the Shield Plus. Have mentioned it to them and they have taken it under advisement. Would make racking the Shield Plus a lot easier compared to their fish scale serrations because of the Pluses stiff recoil spring.

  2. I recently purchased a smith and Wesson equalizer,I haven’t been able to get to the range due to my being sick but I have been dry firing with a laser. I decided to field strip it to lean and lube, I locked the slide open, rotated the takedown lever down,pulled the slide to the rear until the slide stop disconnected , then pushed the slide forward to the closed position. The slide then locked up and will not move. What did I do wrong?

  3. 400 + rounds & I love my Equalizer, bought it as a birthday present for myself, 83 years young. Going to the range in the morning.

  4. It is absolutely fabulous through 300rds. Perfect size, an excellent do it all size thats small enough to be carried comfortably, big enough to pull bedside duty Good capacity, Easy operation, 1913 Rail, 3 Magazines, UpLula Loader, Optic Ready (407k/507k,EPS carry) direct fit, Decent trigger(reset could be better IMO), Magazine congruency with the Shield Plus! (I own 2). I purchased one thinking I’d end up selling or gifting it to my father. After putting a 507k and a TLR7A on it, I took to the range to sight-in. Pistol shot great as well, noticeably softer than both of my Shield Pluses, one of those is comped even. Thru about 300rds (200 or so Win UMC 124gr. and 100 or so various JHP rounds (mostly 124 & 147gr), the Equalizer and it’s magazines were perfect. Not a single issue to speak of. I’m very happy with it. I didn’t need a new CC, or the ‘LiteRack’ ability. But I found one.

  5. I’ve been looking into purchasing either the SW Equalizer or the Hellcat Pro.
    This is a great review but doesn’t make it easier to decide.

  6. I have nerve and tendon issues, and while not old, my grip can be unreliable. I obtained one of these, and while it’ll take me time to shoot clean, I’m very happy. A “keeper”.

  7. Been carrying a Kahr P9 for about 26 years. It’s equipped with a finger grip activation button that requires nothing more than a good secure grip. I had to give up my Para Ordinance Officers Model Size LDA.45 acp 7 shot magazine due to weight and an old back injury. Have looked at all the new subcompacts but haven’t handled one yet except for a Shield single column mag and an early S.& w. EZ which fit well but had a limited ammo capacity. I believe I could live with the slightly larger size Equalizer and grip safety. This will require serious consideration after I handle one. It will reiire a laser sight as my 74 yo eyes ain’t what they used to be.The price is right as well.

  8. Been carrying a Kahr P9 for about 26 years. It’s equipped with a finger grip activation button that requires nothing more than a good secure grip. I had to give up my Para Ordinance Officers Model Size LDA.45 acp 7 shot magazine due to weight and an old back injury. Have looked at all the new subcompacts but haven’t handled one yet except for a Shield single column mag and an early S.& w. EZ which fit well but had a limited ammo capacity. I believe I could live with the slightly larger size Equalizer and grip safety. This will require serious consideration after I handle one. It will reiire a laser sight as my 74 yo eyes ain’t what they used to be.The price is right as well.?”

  9. I think the Equalizer is the best carry gun that has ever been made . I will get my 3 Daughters who do carry one of these . I just wonder why most makers dont include the small ears at the rear of the slide to help in racking . As you get older it just makes it easier . I love that it comes with the 3 different size mags and a Great loader . I just cant say enough good things about it . I love that it has 3 safetys . The trigger , grip safety and thumb safety . The only thing i would like to see on this pistol is a red dimple on the slide that is visable when thumb safety is in the off position . S&W are great firearms but should really check with me before final design is approved . T.Brooks

  10. Excellent review covered almost all aspects. Would like to know the 5 shot group size averages and what is the MSRP?

    1. Richard,

      Articles live online for years. Five years or more after publication we get calls complaining that the price in the article does not match what’s online and they take it out on customer service. As a result, there are links in the article so you can easily check price, but we do not publish it in the article. ~Dave

  11. I recently bought a shield+9mm and I’m having problems with the magazine coming out every time I put it in my holster can some one help me with this issue thanks in advance.

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