Crimson Trace

November 6, 2017

The Retail Shield Project

Purchased through retail channels, this wasn't a "first rodeo" with a S&W M&P Shield. One or another has been used continuously since the line's introduction.
It seemed like a good idea. Firearms prices, as well as ammunition, had plummeted. The breather that the 2nd Amendment types longed for was here.

This was while retail channels were loaded up with various types of firearms. Meanwhile a brisk trade in those guns meant for concealed carry continued. The Smith & Wesson Shield is an example.

It'd been around for years, was well established and, in terms of handling, was clearly the best of the small service caliber pistols. Why did they go on sale? Now it's obvious: the market was softer than in previous years, the advent of the Shield in 45 with interesting features not seen on the 9/40, then the arrival of the M2.0 in the M&P line -- it was a matter of time before Shield M2.0 arrived.

So the idea was to get a Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield through retail channels – at the reduced price and during the rebate period last summer. Add no pieces/parts, just the support gear. Shoot it some every week (or every range trip) and, eventually, carry it.

Document every round fired through it. Check zero with various loads. Shoot benchmarks – asymmetric and standard. Document results.

The objective is to see what a person can expect, buying through retail channels and working out with the gun over a few months. Is "low cost" = shoddy quality? Is it usable, worthwhile to buy, learn and carry?

This opportunity arose because "internet experts," a seeming contradiction in terms, had concluded that the guns had to be junk. There were so many, the price was so low, it just had to be inferior quality.

S&W is a sponsor but they don't buy a privilege of favorable write-ups. I wanted to see how it would go.

The rebate period ended on July 1st and the gun ordered shortly before then. I got the gun through retail channels, examined it, field-stripped it, wiped it down from a remarkable coating of oil, lubed it properly. It checked okay for function including locking open on empty magazine.

I put 35 rounds of Federal Champion "Aluminum" 115 grain FMJ into a Birchwood Casey EZE-Scorer 12"x18" BC IPSC Practice Target. The "A" zone measures about 3 ½" x 6 ¼ " and the "C" zone 6 ½" x 10".

Kept all hits on/in the little "A" zone or in the head box.

Trigger – it was okay, easily managed. Sights – good, visible. Magazines hard to load – the first time. No apparent issues with the gun.

After that first engagement, I'd take the Shield along on nearly every range trip as I worked through a number of projects. It shot "okay." On the "asym" component of my handling drills, I was shooting high at fifty yards – surprisingly – and went three for three at that distance.

That's three hits, two are high, from fifty yards and a 25-yard "B" zone hit that went low -- from a small, single-stack 9mm and Black Hills ammo.
This was with a "more than compact" single-stack 9mm, shooting Black Hills 115 grain EXP hollow-point ammo. At 25 yards, I pulled the "B" zone hit low. The distance shooting was done on the CTS "ABC Zone" steel target. I then got sloppy on the remaining 46 rounds of the state's LE qualification. I scored it at 96%, but I 'round down' on scoring.

After some shooting over several weeks, I sought to take the gun apart.

No soap.

After a little examination and searching for answers on the friendly internet, I found the problem: the takedown lever retaining spring was out of its channel. Now there are field expedient ways to fix that, no doubt – but the fact I found the problem on the internet told me something: others had experienced this issue.

I've used several 9mm Shields since their introduction, including the loaner at the factory for a back-up gun match and I recently shot the 45 Shield. I've had one since shortly after their introduction and had never had this problem. Others clearly have and I now had it.

Time to check S&W's customer service. I called, got a call tag, had some email contact and the gun was returned to me with a couple of weeks removed from our test.

When it returned, the first thing I did was field strip it – just like I had when it was new. No problems.

The Talon Grip material made a difference in terms of grip friction, allowing more control. Holster is the BLACKHAWK! IWB, a surprisingly good holster.
I continued with benchmarks, concentrating on bulls-eye as it's the more demanding accuracy-wise – and while it's a nice size, the Shield is small. I found I was going high and the dispersion was enough to dip the score on one iteration to 269/300. It appeared that my (failing) grip was part of the issue.

I applied the Talon Grips adhesive grip enhancement material. Using the "rubber" texture instead of the granulate gives decent grip friction without hanging up on clothing material.

I also put the gun into the BLACKHAWK! leather inside the waist holster, one with an old school metal clip to keep the holster where it belongs. I was pleasantly surprised by the holster as it stayed open when the gun was drawn.

It was some weeks before I could get the Shield back into the range rotation as there were other projects. I was happy to post a 271/300 on the Vicker's Bulls-eye course with the refitted Shield after having not fired it at all for such a long time. Keeping in mind that I'd fired a number of other guns – rifles as well as handguns – in the interim and the fact that I shot the Vicker's cold (first shots fired on that trip) made the score a pleasant surprise. I later posted a 284 with the M2.0 M&P Compact – a larger, easier-to-shoot gun.

On my latest trip with the Retail Shield, I fired the state qualification course using the IALEFI-Q target, essentially the FBI "Q" with rings in the high center and "head" portion of the "bottle." I used the new Safariland Model 571 GLS "Slim" Pro-Fit holster.

Not particularly easy with a larger gun, the Shield performed quite well on the Vicker's Bullseye course. The Talon Grip material helped a great deal on the one-hand stages -- support hand only and dominant hand only.
The holster has the smallest paddle of any Safariland holster out there – and the rig is slim. It features the "Grip Locking System." When you place the pistol into the holster, it is locked inside. To remove the gun, grip it – which depresses the lock with the top edge of the second knuckle of the middle finger. Easy.

And fast.

The 571 is very slim and an attractive rig for casual concealment. While shooting the course, I threw one round outside the scoring rings but still inside the scoring area. As it was low-left, I call that a trigger-jerk.

As I wait arrival for the factory sample of the M&P9 Shield M2.0, I've assembled some other carry gear for the Retail Shield. That is the subject of an upcoming feature. I'm continuing to work with the gun and will keep you posted.

I was disappointed that it had to go back for a warranty issue. That said, the performance before and since demonstrates that the gun shoots just fine. There have been no stoppages.

- - Rich Grassi