For years, there has been a simple formula for selecting a concealed carry firearm:
concealable, reliable, affordable: pick any two
The Smith & Wesson Shield pistol looks to change that formula by offering a handgun that is thin, light, ultra-reliable and retails for around $400. The Shield is thin and lightweight, yet offers a lot of features that make it an honest-to-goodness fighting handgun.
The Shield is a member of the company’s M&P (Military and Police) line of firearms. Like the modern line of M&P handguns, the Shield has a polymer frame and uses a striker firing system.
The Shield is available in both 9mm and in .40 S&W calibers. The 9mm version comes with a flush fitting seven round magazine and an extended eight round magazine. The .40-caliber model ships with a flush fitting six round magazine and an extended seven round mag.
One of the most attractive qualities of the new Shield pistols is their relative thinness as compared to other pistols. The frame is only 0.95″ wide, meaning it will be much easier to conceal and carry comfortably in popular inside-the-waistband (IWB) holsters. Additionally, the gun weighs only 19.0 ounces (unloaded), yet retains many of the high-end features from the larger M&P pistols.
For example, unlike some of the tiny pistols on the market, the Shield makes use of very visible sights in a three-dot configuration. Front and rear sights are dovetailed, which will allow for easy replacement. See the accessory section below for information on companies already making replacement sights for the Shield.
The slide and barrel have a black Melonite finish, making them extremely durable. This is the same finish used on the rest of the M&P pistol line.
Other than size, the Shield does have several differences from other pistols in the M&P line. The two most obvious are the standard, manual safety and the lack of interchangeable palm swell grips.
Manual (thumb) safeties have been an option on many of the M&P pistols. Those safeties are not “standard,” and have an appearance closer to a custom 1911-style thumb safety. The manual safety on the Shield is smaller and much more akin to the safety on the Bodyguard 380 pistol. Also, you cannot currently purchase a Shield without this safety. It is not known if a version of the gun without the manual safety will be available in the future.
Interchangeable palm swell grips, or backstraps, is one of the features that has helped Smith & Wesson wrest some of the law enforcement market from Glock in recent years. Yet, the Shield does not have them. According to Smith & Wesson, the addition of the interchangeable backstraps would have made the gun too thick for the design envelope they were working to achieve.
Holsters and Accessories
One of the problems for owners of new guns is the lack of accessories such as sights and holsters. Smith & Wesson worked with several major manufacturers prior to the introduction of the Shield to make sure there would be holsters and other accessories ready to go at launch.
Holster options include models from Uncle Mike’s, BLACKHAWK!, Fobus, Galco and DeSantis. Aftermarket sights are available from XS Sight Systems, Williams Gun Sight Company and HiViz Shooting Systems. There are even lasers available for the Shield from Crimson Trace, LaserMax and LaserLyte.
With holsters and other gear available at launch, the Smith & Wesson Shield becomes even more desirable to people looking for a concealed carry piece.
Why the M&P Shield?
For many years, people have clamored for a reliable and affordable single-stack 9mm pistol for concealed carry. Many people liked the S&W 3913 pistol, a single-stack 9mm from the company’s Third Generation of semi-automatic handguns. But, the 3913 was both heavy and expensive.
With the incredible surge of popularity in the M&P line, Smith & Wesson decided to capitalize on the success of that line and tap the largely unmet demand for a lightweight, thin pistol.
There are other thin 9mm pistols on the market. Kahr Arms has been making reliable single-stack pistols for years. Kahr has even introduced budget-friendly versions of their handguns, including the CW9 and CM9 pistols. Kel-Tec has manufactured some small 9mm pistols, though reports of reliability issues seem to dog them in some of the internet forums. Recently, other companies like Ruger and Taurus have jumped into the market as well.
None of these other companies have really seemed to capture the imagination of the shooting public, however. Time will tell if Smith & Wesson has a runaway sensation with the M&P Shield. Early reports indicate the pistol is selling very well.
Marketing: Internet Tease
Prior to the official release of the M&P Shield, Smith & Wesson launched a heavy marketing campaign aimed at internet users. Using YouTube and Facebook, in addition to their own website, S&W built a great deal of interest in the gun prior to its official introduction at the 2012 NRA show in St. Louis, MO.
Smith & Wesson posted a teaser video on YouTube called “Shield Yourself” in early March 2012. The video emphasized the phrase “Shield Yourself” and people outside of the home defending themselves. Clearly, the tease was for a new CCW pistol called the “Shield.” That video was removed by the company once the gun was formally introduced.
Leading up to the official announcement on April 12, 2012, Smith & Wesson teased their Facebook fans with photos and other tidbits of information about the pistol. For example, the company would show a partial photo of the gun for a very limited amount of time. The scarcity of information helped build interest in the pistol, though the campaign never quite achieved “viral” status.
Caliber: 9mm, .40 S&W
Capacity: 7+1 (9mm), 6+1 (.40 S&W)
Barrel Length: 3.1″
Overall Length: 6.1″
Frame Width: 0.95″
Overall Height: 4.6″
Weight (unloaded): 19 oz
Finish: black Melonite
Factory Rated Trigger Pull: 6.5 pounds
Sight Radius: 5.3″
Additional Shield Photos
M&P Shield Videos
Here is a collection of videos demonstrating the features of the new Shield pistol.
Information on the Shield we got while at the 2012 NRA Show:
Smith & Wesson’s introduction to the Shield:
Jim Scoutten of Shooting USA gives a good overview of the Shield:
NRA Publications put together this video on the new M&P pistol:
Links to more information on the S&W Shield
- Smith & Wesson Shield video from the 2012 NRA show
- Smith & Wesson M&P Shield (photos and details from the 2012 NRA show)
- Leaked photo/info on the M&P Shield
- Smith & Wesson Shield Photos from the NRA Show
- Hints about the new S&W Shield (prior to its official launch)
- First announcement about the new Smith & Wesson Shield (prior to the company issuing a press release)
- Product page for the 9mm Shield
- Product page for the .40 S&W Shield
- Smith & Wesson Shield Holsters
Original Smith & Wesson Shield Press Release
Smith & Wesson® Unveils New M&P Shield Pistol
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., April 12, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ –Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (NASDAQ: SWHC), parent company of Smith & Wesson Corp., a U.S.-based leader in firearm design and manufacturing, today announced the introduction of the company’s newest polymer pistol with the unveiling of the M&P Shield(TM). Available in 9mm and .40 S&W, the new M&P Shield delivers the professional-grade features found in the M&P Pistol Series, in a slim profile.
Smith & Wesson President and CEO, James Debney, said, “The introduction of the M&P Shield demonstrates our commitment to developing new products designed and built to meet professional standards and backed by our reputation for innovation and quality. The M&P Shield, available to both professionals and consumers, delivers simple operation and reliable performance, while adding another high-performance option to our company’s broad line of M&P firearms.”
The M&P Shield utilizes an extremely thin, lightweight, high-strength polymer frame with a black, Melonite® coated stainless steel slide and barrel. Both models are standard with a 3.1-inch barrel, which contributes to an overall length of 6.1 inches and an unloaded weight of 19 ounces. The accuracy of the pistol has been refined with a white dot stainless steel front sight and a white two-dot stainless steel rear sight. The M&P Shield retains familiar operating features including a simple takedown lever, flat profile slide stop, magazine release, and thumb safety. For improved firearm control, the M&P Shield is standard with a fixed textured backstrap and additional texturing at the forward portion of the grip. An extended trigger guard allows for operation with or without gloves.
Internal features of the new M&P Shield mirror the standard M&P Series. Its stainless steel internal chassis reduces flex while providing a stable shooting platform and its low-bore axis helps maintain ease-of-use and a comfortable feel. A passive trigger safety prevents the pistol from firing if dropped and a sear release lever eliminates the need to press the trigger in order to disassemble the firearm. A loaded chamber indicator is located on top of the slide. The M&P Shield is shipped with both an extended and flat magazine offering the ability to customize the length of the grip. The 9mm M&P Shield offers an 8+1 or 7+1 magazine capacity while the .40 S&W M&P Shield is standard with either a 7+1 or 6+1 magazine capacity. The M&P Shield will also be introduced in a California-compliant model. Both the 9mm and .40 S&W M&P Shield have an MSRP of $449 and are available now.
As an added bonus, Smith & Wesson has worked with the industry’s top holster, laser, and after-market sight manufacturers so that owners can immediately personalize their M&P Shield with high quality accessories that are immediately available from various providers.