Smith & Wesson Shield

Smith & Wesson conceived and designed the M&P Shield as a handgun for concealed carry. Their initial marketing for the M&P Shield upon its introduction to the market in 2012 – “Shield Yourself” – underscored this point. But what is it about this handgun that persuaded over one million Americans to purchase one for themselves?

It’s easy to conceal, for starters. S&W didn’t invent the polymer frame (that distinction belongs to Gaston Glock), but like many other firearm manufacturers they would fully embrace a feature which lightens a handgun so noticeably. The M&P 9 Shield, chambered for 9mm, tips the scale at a meager 20.8 ounces. The M&P 40 Shield, chambered for 40 S&W, boasts essentially the same light weight. Compare that to a 39 ounce 1911 and the advantage is obvious (although the Glock 19 does weigh roughly the same as an M&P Shield).

Using the Shield for Self-Defense

The M&P Shield’s advantages as a carry weapon don’t end with its weight. The pistol’s standard 3.1” barrel and 6.1” overall length makes it low-profile as well as convenient to holster inside the pants, as opposed to wearing bulkier and more obvious outside the waistband holster.

The Shield is the first M&P pistol to include a trigger with positive reset, which effectively decreases the amount of time the shooter must wait for the trigger to return to position so they can fire the next shot. (Any feature which facilitates rapid, accurate fire is necessarily good when it comes to self-defense.) The M&P Shield’s design also makes disassembly possible without actually pulling the trigger, which could prevent a negligent discharge while cleaning.

Furthermore, the M&P Shield’s striker-fire action means the handgun has relatively fewer moving parts, a lighter overall weight, and most importantly no hammer that can snag on clothing during a fast draw. A striker-fire handgun also decreases the risk of accidental discharge after the first shot is fired – a potentially great advantage if you must defend yourself while innocent bystanders are nearby.

But this slim, reliable and affordably priced handgun is not without its downsides. The most obvious among these is the limited ammo capacity common to all compact handguns. With a standard magazine that can store only six or seven rounds, the S&W Shield pales in comparison to something like the Glock 17 which holds at least 17 rounds. The S&W Shield is also often criticized for its trigger pull, which is relatively heavy and mushy feeling, its stiff recoil springs which can complicate racking the slide in a hurry, and its needlessly narrow front sight.

But in all honesty, these are nitpicky critiques. The market has spoken, and the M&P Shield is here to stay. It is a perfectly valid choice for personal protection – especially if you prefer an American-made handgun.

Best Ammo for Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

The M&P Shield is not a picky handgun. Whether it is chambered for 9mm, 40 S&W or some other cartridge, it should easily run through any FMJ training ammunition. (Do take care that many handguns are likely to fail to feed, fire and extract more frequently when it comes to steel-cased ammo.)

If you want to ensure the smoothest possible performance at the range, then any manufacturer’s brass-cased FMJ ammo is a good place to start. We prefer Federal American Eagle, Winchester USA, Speer Lawman, Prvi Partizan & Sellier & Bellot’s ammunition for regular target practice.

What Weight Bullet?

The M&P Shield is not too fussy when it comes to bullet weights, either. Many shooters prefer a lighter bullet weight for a compact handgun, as it can help to reduce felt recoil. To that end, you may find it more comfortable and easy to fire 115 grain 9mm ammo (or 165 grain 40 S&W ammo). But heavier bullets are fine as well – personal preference is most important to determining the bullet weight you should pick for self-defense.

For self-defense, we always find ourselves recommending the same two brands regardless of which type or caliber of pistol we’re talking about: Speer Gold Dot and Federal HST. Both of these high-quality and reliable cartridges deliver the accuracy you need to effectively neutralize a threat, the weight retention that is necessary for deep penetration of soft tissue, and the uniform terminal expansion which deals a wide and debilitating wound cavity.

If Speer Gold Dot or Federal HST are unavailable, you’ll do just fine with any other mid to high-quality JHP ammo on the market. Hornady, Winchester, Sierra, SIG Sauer, Browning, Remington, and several other manufacturers all make perfectly serviceable self-defense ammo for the M&P Shield!

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