October 21, 2021

Smith & Wesson Shield M2.0, by Pat Cascio

I’m not going to make any bones about it, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, 1911 fan. No matter what size, or who makes them. And I love my Glocks – I haven’t found one that I don’t especially like. I still remember getting my first Glock 17, back when I lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado in the mid-to-late 1980s. I believe I got my Glock 17 in 1987. I actually went to the Long’s Drugs store there, and they carried a nice selection of handguns at the time. I was planning on buying a  Model 1911 in .45 ACP. However, when I got there, I spied the Glock 17 – never saw one before or even heard of it – once it was in my hands, I forgot all about buying a M1911 at that time.

For many years, I said that I would pick a 1911 in .45 ACP as my one and only handgun, and it is still an outstanding selection. However, I started leaning towards the Glock 19, 9mm handgun. Today, if limited to just one handgun for the rest of my life – heaven forbid – it would be the Glock 19X, 9mm. It just seems to have everything I need and nothing that I don’t need.

Over the past few years, I discovered the Smith & Wesson M&P ine of handguns. I especially love their Shield versions. Those are very compact concealed carry pieces, and I’ve owned – still do – quite a few different versions. And to be sure, S&W has more M&P and M&P Shield variants than you care to count. Honestly, if you are looking for a self-defense handgun, and S&W doesn’t have it – then you don’t need it. I really like the Shield 9mm – very concealable and controllable, as is the slightly larger — but not by much — .45 ACP Shield that I often carry. But I don’t especially like the recoil of the .40 S&W Shield model. One of the great things about the Shield product line is that they are very affordable – depending on which model and sights you desire.

My local sheriff’s department switched to the M&P a few years back, from the Glock, and the deputies I spoke with, all said they preferred the M&P over the Glock – and everyone said they loved the trigger pull on the M&P over the Glock. I can certainly understand that for most of the life of the product line, Glock pistols have had a “mushy” trigger pull, and it takes some getting used to. However, the more recent production Glocks have better trigger pulls. Everyone said that the M&P line would be a Glock “killer”. Well, that hasn’t exactly happened, however, S&W has taken a big chunk of sales from Glock, in both the law enforcement and civilian markets. On average, you can get an M&P for less money, and they have more features at teh various price points.

I picked up my used, but “as-new” M&P Shield M2.0 9mm from my local gun shop that I haunt, and it was only $329. Considering the full list price of $479, that was a bargain. I didn’t even attempt to negotiate the price – it was more than fair. And, when I say this gun was as-new, it truly was. What I like about the M&P is that it comes with four interchangeable backstraps that only take a few minutes to swap out, and one size is sure to fit your hand. This is important because if a gun doesn’t fit your hand, you won’t shoot it as accurately as you’d like – ask my wife, she’s an expert in this regard.

The Specifications

Some of the specs of my M&P Shield 9mm are that it has a 4.25-inch barrel, and that’s about perfect for a duty handgun – and don’t forget, S&W has several M&P lines of pistols. There is the Shield line, as well as the new Compact M&P models, as well as the full-size. And in each line, they have all sorts of sights and safety lever options. Plus, they produce compliant models if you happen to live in one of the less friendly states when it comes to firearm ownership. On this particular model, we have three-dot white sights on the slide. But on other models you can find tritium night sights as well as sights with fiber optics inserts. I like the big, bold three-dot white sights on my sample.

A Little Sandpaper, Perhaps

Like a Glock or a SIG P320, this gun is striker-fired, and we are seeing more and more polymer-framed, striker-fired handguns these days, as opposed to hammer-fired handguns. The slide is stainless steel. But it is coated with a black Armornite finish for a very tactical appearance. The frame, as mentioned I black polymer, however on the new M2.0 version it has a very aggressive “tactical” feel to it – some complain it is too rough on their hands, but I love it. A very simple fix is to take some extra-fine sandpaper, and lightly rub it over these areas, until you get to where you want it to be – not too sharp and not too smooth – do this slowly and lightly, it doesn’t take much to remove the sharpness from these areas.

This sample weighs in at only 27.8-ounces. However it feels much lighter than that. I believe this is due to how well-balanced the pistol is. It just feels great in my hands. This model does not have a manual safety – but you can get a model with a manual safety if you prefer one – I don’t. There is also an ambidextrous slide release on it – a great feature. The trigger is hinged, and it has no blade safety in the middle of the trigger. I actually prefer this feature of the Glock blade safety in the middle of the trigger. In any event, there are several internal safeties as well, and this gun can’t fire unless the trigger is pulled.

There is a versatile three-position Picatinny rail on the dust cover, for attaching lights and/or lasers. Some pistols, no matter the size, only have one rail position for placing accessories. The slide has nice “wavy” features on the rear sides for chambering a round, and very small scalloped features on the front of the slide – unless you do a lot of press checking, I think they are more decorative than anything. There is also a massive external extractor in the slide and it should extract the hardest empty cases or loaded rounds to come out of the chamber. The trigger guard is rounded. I actually like that a whole lot better than the squared trigger guards.

To take down the M&P for cleaning, there is a lever on the left side of the frame, and you simply remove the magazine, lock the slide open, and there is a small lever inside the frame that you press down, and then slowly release the slide and it comes off the frame – no need to pull the trigger to get the slide off – another nice and safe feature.

Speaking of the trigger, it has a very nice trigger pull that measured out at 6 pounds, but it feels lighter than that. And, there is a very short trigger reset, and that is both tactile and audible. You can hear and feel the trigger reset. The first versions of the M&P had a gritty trigger pull, and you couldn’t hardly feel that it reset, so the M2.0 version is much better in this respect. The magazine release is large enough, so you shouldn’t miss a reload.

I carried the M&P in a parts holster from Blackhawk Products – it was their leg platform, with a belt holster – they were out of stock on the belt holster set-up that I wanted. When walking the logging roads in my area, I don’t mind open carry and the thigh holster from Blackhawk is my preferred method of carrying. I also tested some 30-round polymer mags from ETS. In my experience these magazines have outstandingly-good feeding and they are easy to load, as well. During a tactical situation, I would carry three or four of these 30-round mags in a thigh mag pouch on my weak side, and on a strong side thigh holster, I would have the M&P and two 17-round mags for spares mounted on it. The gun comes with two 17-round magazines.

Our Shooting Tests

The proof is in the shooting, and this gun can shoot. And it is an easy gun to shoot – not as much recoil as you’d expect, even with hot-stepping +P loads. The nice folks at Black Hills Ammunition keep me supplied in ammo for my articles, without them, there wouldn’t be any firearms articles – period! I have everything type of 9mm ammo Black Hills produces, 115-grain JHP +P, 124-grain JHP +P, 115-grain FMJ, 115-grain EXP (Extra Power) HP, 124-grain JHP, 115-grain Barnes Tac-XP +P (an all-copper hollow point bullet), their HoneyBadger 100-grain +P all-copper fluted bullet and their sub-sonic HoneyBadger load, as well.

I tested this gun before the current Coronavirus pandemic, and I had two volunteer shooters helping me. In all, we burned through more than 500 rounds of Black Hills ammo, and the gun never missed a beat. Both shooters loved the way it felt in their hands, too. We used the two provided factory magazines, as well as the ETS magazines. We “killed” all manner or rocks, fallen trees and other targets, before I got down to some accuracy testing. All of the paper target testing was done at 25-yards, over the hood of my pick-up truck, with the gun resting on a small padded rest. This is one that I normally use for resting rifles.

The overall winner with the M&P Shield M2.0 9mm was the 124-gr JHP load. I shot several targets with each type of ammo, I was getting easy 3-inch groups. No other ammo exceeded 4-inches and most were right in there at 3.5-inches, the M&P didn’t really like one type of ammo over another, so long as I did my part. I recorded the best groups from each ammo. And, with more practice and patience, I know I could bring those groups down even a little bit more.

There isn’t anything I didn’t like about this 9mm M&P duty-sized gun, and if I were in law enforcement again – I wouldn’t hesitate to carry it. And, if something happened and I couldn’t have my Glock 19X for an end of the world handgun, then I would grab this M&P and never look back. Check one of the many models out at your local gun shop.

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