With 17 rounds in the magazine and the confidence that comes from successful practice with it, I feel very comfortable with it on the street.
With an 18-degree grip angle and the now much-copied replaceable grips to modify the grip to the owner's hand, the M&P was a hit with the gun-buying public, and the guns have sold exceedingly well for Smith & Wesson.
But approximating the full size of a Glock 17, the M&P was not something I tried to strap on my side and carry concealed. It is a standard-sized gun, and a bit large to be covered with a shirt or vest in our deeply southern climates.
The subcompact pistols, for the most part, turn me off — the "baby" Glocks (like the Model 26) I find too fat in the grip. Their magazines are double-stacked to stuff enough 9 mm or .40 S&W into the gun to be worthwhile.
Some of the other small 9 mm pistols that approached subcompact sizes like the Ruger LC9, the Taurus 709 Slim and the Kel-Tec PF9 are single-stack and get six to eight rounds of 9 mm in the butt, but have an exceedingly long double-action trigger that can be uncomfortable in execution.
I have experimented with and written about several of these, and enjoyed shooting them all — but none hit that perfect "sweet spot" for which the market had been clamoring.
Enter the new Smith & Wesson Shield. As a friend of mine, a former SWAT team commander and head of narcotics in a mid-sized southern city, so succinctly put it: The S&W Shield "answered the question the whole world has been asking."
A humorous saying a century ago was, "What this country needs is a good 5-cent cigar." A version of this for the shooting fraternity would be, "What this country needs is a good single-stack subcompact in 9 mm with a striker-fired action."
S&W completely reduced the M&P design into a gun that is only a tiny bit larger than the popular Ruger LC9. While I never got really enamored of the LC9, the Ruger SR9c (for compact) in 9 mm has become my go-to for concealed carry.
Striker-fired, it has an exceptional trigger and an extended magazine that allows the same number of rounds — 17 rounds — as its big brother from which it came, the SR9.
The new Shield is smaller and more compact than the SR9c, fitting in a profile that is an inch thick, 6 inches long, and 4 1/2 inches high; in other words, it's palm-sized.
It is striker-fired, so the long trigger pull is not there, and it has a 6 1/2-pound trigger pull — similar in feel and action to Glock triggers.
But unlike Glocks, it is single stack and comes with two magazines. One is a shorty, offering seven plus one loading, and the extended finger-guard version offers eight plus one loading and a better gripping surface that allows a third finger grip on the gun.
In .40 S&W, the capacity in each magazine is reduced by one round.
Weighing in at a svelte 19 ounces, the gun's sights are white, three dot, with a drift-adjustable rear sight. An easily actuated safety is on the left side of the slide, along with a full-sized slide release.
The gun has a polymer frame with a steel chassis molded into it. The slide is stainless with the incredibly hard black Melonite finish that is impervious to about everything but ball-peen hammers.
I could talk all day about the way it carries and shoots, but if you want to see a great demo, go to www.smith-wesson.com and go to the videos on the Shield to watch Jerry Miculek and Julie Golob (both veteran S&W team shooters) put the little gun through its paces.
Shane Evans, a veteran cop/SWAT commander/narcotics head, is now chief investigator for the coroner's office in his mid-sized southern city and carries his Shield daily. He is trying to get enough to outfit his coroner and all his investigators with Shields. He is that enamored of them.
We put his Shield through the paces at a local range a couple of days ago, and the gun shot to point of aim, putting everything we ran through it (without a single malfunction) inside 1 1/2 inches at 15 feet. Since this is strictly a self-defense, up-close-and-personal kind of gun, we didn't think it necessary to shoot at any more distant ranges over sandbags — we were interested in controllability and handling, and the little gun shined for us.
We were both able to do multiple double taps (one to the chest, one to the head), and triple taps (two the chest, one to the head) in rapid time with accurate fire. The trigger is crisp with a quick reset, and the 18-degree grip angle is as comfortable in this smaller version as it is in its big brother.
S&W did not include adjustable grips on this diminutive powerhouse — over 90 percent of their customers prefer and use the "medium" grip panels, so that is what you find on the Shield.
Shane is a talented holster maker (www.evansgunhide.com), and has designed an exceptional belt holster with a magazine pouch for this gun. It makes the gun simply disappear under an outer garment or a shirt that is not tucked in.
Did I like it? Smith & Wesson has faced an increase of 140 percent in backorders over last year across their manufacturing spectrum. According to the marketing firm for S&W, Blue Heron Communications, they "can't make these guns fast enough."
So I am waiting anxiously for my own "writers gun" with which I will commit the cardinal sin of writers by purchasing it and never sending it back. And my daughter has already informed me she wants her own Shield, for her second concealed-carry handgun.
"It's just too much trouble carrying one back and forth from the car to the apartment, Dad. I need the Shield so I can have one in the car, and the .38 revolver in the apartment."
I raised the girl right, yes?