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I owned a Shield once in 9mm. Matter of fact, I even reviewed an older (1.0) 9mm Shield. So, why another Shield review? Well, this one is a 2.0 and is in my favorite caliber, .45 ACP. That makes it worth the effort, in my opinion – they are in essence different guns. Hopefully, you will agree as you read on.
The Shield Story
The Shield is a member of the M&P family of handguns. These guns have a long, illustrious history that began in 1899. I spelled out a fairly detailed history of the M&P line in my original review of the Shield – here’s the specific reference if you want more information on the M&P line. It is an interesting read – not because of my prolific prose but just because these guns were special from the beginning and they are still very popular even after all these years.
The M&P line consists of several pistols and rifles. Matter of fact, one of my future reviews will involve a 9mm subcompact M&P pistol – not a Shield – something I’m really looking forward to. The pistol line was introduced in the summer of 2005. The Shield came about, if my memory serves, as a lesser-expensive, more-easily-concealed single stack gun that shared many features with the full-size M&P family of pistols. The Shield was introduced in 2012 in calibers 9mm and .40 S&W with the .45 version coming along in 2016.
Why A Shield In .45?
A while back, I specifically asked my contact at Smith & Wesson for a Shield in .45 ACP to test. Why not 9mm or .40? As I stated above, I owned one in 9mm a few years ago and wanted to try one in .45. I am partial to that caliber and wanted to see how the small, 20-ounce Shield would fare with it. I also once owned a Kahr CW-45, another lightweight (19.7 ounce) single-stack .45 ACP pistol. It was a very nice gun that was a joy to carry but not so much to shoot, at least with full-power defense loads. Newton was right, as we all know…his Third Law of Motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This effectively translates into a healthy thump in your hand when you pull one of these lightweight’s triggers.
Even so, I wanted the .45 Shield and it finally came in, taking a while given current conditions in the industry. I was grateful to receive it. I have reloaded the old .45 for over 40 years, as has many hundreds of reloaders across the globe. It’s a pretty easy cartridge to load for and forgiving of small variations in its “recipes”. I cast both semi-wadcutter and round-nosed bullets for it. Lee makes an excellent mold for the 200-grain Hensley & Gibbs #68 SWC, and another one that’s a really good cast copy of the factory 230 grain round-nosed “punkin ball” FMJ. I also have Lee’s updated 200-grain tumble-lube SWC – it’s an accurate bullet, like the other two. I endeavor to try all three of these when I shoot .45s, something I look forward to doing with this gun. (I ended up shooting two handloads, not three – see below).
I’m not sure if the foregoing has explained ‘why a Shield in .45’ but hopefully, you get the idea. Why not?
Shield 1.0 Woes And The 2.0 Fix
In its first iteration (the 1.0 version) the grip texturing was practically non-existent but the main issue shooters had with the guns concerned the trigger. It was, to put it charitably, not good. The pull was long and stiff and did not help with the accuracy potential of the guns. That trigger carried down from the full-sized M&Ps to the Shield. Shooters were replacing triggers left and right in the M&P guns. That began to change in 2017 when the 2.0 series of M&Ps was introduced. Improvements included a full-length steel chassis, a much-improved trigger system, small forward slide serrations and a textured grip that was much rougher than the grip texturing on its predecessor. I can vouch for that – as I said, I owned an early Shield (a 1.0 version) and ended up stippling the grip with a pointy soldering iron. I tend to do this to polymer grips that are not rough enough for me, as I like the equivalent of 100-grit sandpaper texturing on my polymer pistols. When I picked up a 2.0 in friend Duane’s gun shop, it almost felt like my stippled earlier version that I owned. The trigger was way better, as well. S&W uses a hinged trigger, unlike Glock and others who use a blade of sorts in the trigger face. Smith and Wesson’s hinged trigger worked well in the earlier guns (albeit a bit rough and heavy) and works even better now that they have modified and lightened its pull weight.
Photos & Features
Let’s take a look at some photos I took of our test gun. I’ll try to point out some salient features that I think makes these guns special.
First off, you know you have something a bit different here. The long box that the gun comes in houses not only the gun but also a cleaning kit.
Shooting This Shield
I was impressed with my older 9mm Shield I had – it was fairly accurate with both factory loads (remember those?) and my handloads. It came with two magazines, one with a flush base plate and the other with an extension for an extra round. This gun is no different. The 6-rounder fits flush, but you have the option of carrying one more round in the extended 7-round mag. In terms of reliability, how the gun shot was magazine-independent – it didn’t matter which one I used, they both fed rounds fine and did everything they needed to… well, almost. I did have one very strange occurrence – the very last Fiocchi round that I shot in the 7-round mag missed the chamber and “porpoised” up. I dropped the mag and re-loaded it…no problem after that. I’m not sure why that happened, but brand-new guns sometimes need a bit of shooting in order to work as intended.
I need to single out the trigger here. I was used to my old, 1.0-version Shield’s trigger. Imagine the smile on my face when I picked up this Shield, cleared it and dry-fired it. The pull weight of not quite three and a half pounds was tied to a very crisp break, with only .187-inch take-up and zero creep. You can sure tell that this is a Performance Center gun. That trigger alone should contribute to your accuracy with this gun. It was truly amazing.
In terms of ammo, my selection of .45 ACP factory ammo is lame right now – I’m sure you feel my pain. So, I shot what I had available in .45 factory stuff, plus a couple of handloads that have performed well for me in the past, with just about any .45.
Here are some 15-yard targets I shot:
Not too bad, discounting the flyer. The potential is there, at least. More experimentation is needed but the Shield generally liked my cast bullets and fed them well.
Not too bad, except for the one flyer again. This bullet has probably been fired more times in competitions than any other .45 ACP cast bullet. Jeff Cooper was a big proponent and used a lot of them.
This is more like it. Fiocchi makes good ammo… it has been reasonably-priced and reliable for me. (Of course, right now is not a good time to judge ammo availability but the other two factors still hold true).
If I were to keep this gun, these targets would make me want to investigate the loads I shot here further. The accuracy of each is not bad and would bear further development. The handloader in me never wants to give up finding the best load for each gun, and this Shield is no exception.
Recoil and the Shield
The .45 ACP is not exactly a wrist-thumper in terms of recoil, but it will be forever linked to the 1911 platform. Most of those guns weigh in around 36 to 40 ounces and do help to soak up some of the recoil that this old cartridge can generate. Moving a 230-grain FMJ bullet to just under 900 f.p.s. doesn’t exactly generate the recoil of, say, a 10mm out of a 30-ounce pistol but it sure can get your attention when fired from a 20-ounce pistol.
My old 9mm Shield did alright in the recoil category. I was remembering those days as I shot this .45. It is (to put it mildly) different as it should be, going from a 9mm to a .45 in a light pistol. Is it a palm-whacker? No. (I tend to reserve the “palm-whacker” description for shooting .357 Magnums out of a 20-ounce snub-nosed revolver). No, it didn’t whack my palm, but it surely did get my attention.
Having said that, the recoil wasn’t what you might expect from a 20-ounce polymer-framed pistol. Maybe that poly frame helped to soak up some recoil – I’ve read that before but have no way of scientifically proving or disproving it. Anyway, the gun was controllable and kept its sights on target, for the most part. One single gun modification that might handle felt recoil better is a ported barrel. Let’s explore barrel porting in a bit more detail…
The Performance Center Angle: Ported Barrel
Our test gun comes from the vaunted Smith & Wesson Performance Center. This respected area of the S&W company has turned out many different upgraded and custom revolvers, semi-autos, rifles and other items over the years. One of that Center’s upgrades to the Shield is barrel porting. In my opinion, one of this Shield‘s two most prominent, beneficial Performance Center upgrades is that ported barrel. The trigger is the other one.
I reviewed, a while back, a Taurus 692 .357/.38/9mm revolver with a ported barrel – it was amazing how much that “hole-y” barrel reduced felt recoil. This porting thing is good but also carries with it some special conditions. I truly like shooting ported guns but might hesitate to carry one. The problem, like the solution, is the porting. Porting is great for reducing felt recoil but it doesn’t do so well where noise and flash are concerned. The flaming gases that escape upwards tend to add to the muzzle flash, and the noise can be greater (depending on the gun). I would not like to be in a darkened scenario and have to fire a ported-barrel handgun of most any type. I would likely be temporarily near blinded. Another point along similar lines is what happens when you fire a very-short-barreled .357 Magnum revolver…mucho flash. At any rate, these are points to consider when it comes to wanting to explore recoil reduction in your new Shield. I will reiterate, however, that the porting did reduce felt recoil.
Performance Center Upgrades
This gun is in .45 ACP, obviously. That cartridge’s recoil has been likened to a “push” rather than a hard “slap” like what a 9mm or .40 can do. Whether you subscribe to that theory or not, the ports on this gun helped – the recoil was not bad at all, as I just said. It certainly was less than other .45s I’ve shot over the years. I could see where this gun might be a very good carry gun in terms of shootability. The only downside might be the enhanced, ported-barrel flash described above but I’d think it would be worth it. If you plan on carrying concealed for self defense, make sure to read our comparison of self defense insurance.
Other Performance Center upgrades include the ported slide, sights and improved trigger. The slide ports allow the slide to be just a bit lighter, which in turn helps it to not slam to the rear quite so violently. It also helps the gun’s overall balance, the way it feels in your hand a small amount. This is a very subjective thing – you either like the way it feels or you don’t. I do. The gun holds on target very well for me, at least. As for sights, the night sights really stand out… they were easily seen. And finally, the trigger – wow. I stand by what I said above about this gun’s trigger – it was amazing. Its pull weight and lack of creep was top-notch. It was as though a quality replacement trigger had been installed. These other upgrades may not affect felt recoil, but they sure do work together to make a very nice gun…these factors work together to give you a gun that is reliable, accurate and a joy to carry. Not bad!
|Width:||1.07” at widest point (measured)|
|Capacity:||Two single stack magazines: 1-6 and 1-7 round|
|Safety:||Striker block, loaded chamber port|
|Sights:||Tritium Night Sights|
|Trigger:||3 lbs, 6 oz. average pull weight; .187” take-up, no creep|
|Barrel Material:||Stainless Steel|
|Slide Material:||Stainless Steel|
|Slide Serrations:||“Fish scale” front and rear|
|Grip:||Aggressively-textured grip with an 18° angle|
|Warranty:||Lifetime service policy|
*(S&W) – my measurements, all in ounces.: 19.5, no magazine; 22.1 with empty 7-rd. Mag; 21.7 with empty 6-round mag; 27.2 with loaded 7-round mag, 230-grain FMJ
And, In The End…
(OK, so I’m listening to the Beatles as I type this…Abby Road was quite an album – I still have at least one of the original vinyl records and like the “B” side, where every song is connected, best. OK, so I’m a child of the ‘60s…)
Getting back to the subject at hand, what do I think of this gun? Needless to say, I like it. I would be crazy not to. The gun fits in my hand very well. The eighteen-degree grip angle helps. The overused catchphrase is “its ergonomics are great” or words to that effect. Ergos aside, it works. My support hand slips right into place, where it should and my trigger finger isn’t overly-exercised like it was with the older 1.0 model with that gun’s very heavy pull weight. The night sights are great, but if they’re not your thing, you can get about whatever you want from the factory – from these included night sights to three-white-dot to fiber optics. Another plus is that the gun held on target very well.
If you, like me, enjoy shooting the old .45 and are looking for a new carry gun in that caliber, give this Shield a hard look. You would be in good company – every top-selling concealed-carry gun list I see positions the Shield as one of the best sellers out there. I think that’s at least partially why it took so long for me to get this test gun… many others wanted one, as well. If you take the extra magazine along with you, you will have 13+1 rounds of .45 ACP at your disposal in a single-stack, very concealable gun with a great trigger – not too shabby. Another thing to mention here is that, if something should go wrong with your Shield, Smith and Wesson has some of the best customer service of any manufacturer. You will get a lifetime service policy with your new Shield. I have experienced it, and it is top-notch.
I was sold on the Shield from the time I saw a video of Team Smith & Wesson competitor Julie Golob consistently hitting a small 100-yard target with her 9mm Shield not long after its introduction. She is a very effective spokesperson for Smith and Wesson, not to mention talented. Her work on their shooting team has been phenomenal. I have emailed her in the past about different topics and she has always personally replied in a timely fashion. The point is her excellent reputation, performance and salesmanship has helped the Shield earn its high ranking on sales charts. But… the best shooter in the world couldn’t sell a gun in the numbers the Shield has generated if the gun wasn’t worth it. The gun may have had a bit of a shaky start because of its trigger but has now evolved into one of the best-selling concealed carry guns going, with good reason. I certainly think you could do worse. Please feel free to leave a comment or two below. As always, keep ‘em in the black and stay safe!