Gun Test: Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield
By Brian McCombie, Gun Digest
Smith & Wesson’s new M&P45 Shield packs the firepower of the potent .45 Auto cartridge into the manufacturer’s classic single-stack carry pistol.
First introduced in 2012, the M&P Shield line of pistols has been a huge success for Smith & Wesson, with the company selling 1 million Shields by November 2015. Slim and trim, the single-stack 9mm and .40 S&W models are a favorite with concealed carriers. But if there was one complaint, it was that the Shield wasn’t available in a larger caliber. Until now.
At the NRA Annual Meetings, Smith & Wesson launched the M&P45 Shield chambered in .45 ACP. It is a bit heavier than previous models but has essentially the same proportions as its smaller-caliber cousins.
“We were often asked at trade and consumer shows, ‘When are you coming out with a Shield in 45?’” said Jan Mladek, Smith & Wesson’s director of marketing. “Listening to our consumers, combined with our own market research, made it clear that we needed to develop an M&P Shield to chamber the popular .45 Auto.”
I received a 45 Shield for testing and can say without hesitation that it is accurate and reliable. It will be on many people’s short list for carry, especially for those who want a smaller pistol with the ability to pack 6+1 or 7+1 rounds of the mighty .45 ACP.
For accuracy and function testing, the .45 Auto ammunition brands I used were American Eagle’s Syntech 230-grain FMJ, Creedmoor Ammunition 230-gr. FMJ, and Remington UMC 230-grain FMJ.
Also, for general shooting practice and functionality, I added two more .45 ACP loads to the mix: Dynamic Research Technologies 150-grain HP frangible and SRPS Team Never Quit Ammunition’s 155-grain HP frangible.
With well over 300 rounds through the M&P45 Shield, I experienced zero malfunctions. Every round fed fine and ejected positively; the slide stayed open when each magazine was empty.
The slide and the barrel on the .45 Shield are both stainless steel and are finished in black Armornite, a very durable and corrosion-resistant finish. The M&P45 Shield came with two seven-round magazines, one a flush-fit model, the other an extended model.
Once I began firing the pistol, the first thing I really noticed was the texture on the pistol’s butt. As Mladek told me, “The 45 Shield has a new, more aggressive texture compared to our other Shield models, and it was developed for the heavier recoil of the .45 Auto round.”
I find the recoil on most mid-sized 9mm and .40 S&W’s snappy — sharp and mostly up — including Shields. The recoil on the M&P45 Shield is more substantial than these smaller calibers, of course! Yet, it’s more of a shove back into the hand versus the snappy up-pulse of the 9mm and .40 S&W Shields. The new texturing on the .45 Shield grabs the skin of the hand in a way that directs the recoil more or less straight back toward the forearm.
Of course, there is muzzle flip. You are firing a .45 Auto load out of a 3.3-inch barrel, after all. But that texturing helps you get back on target quite fast.
Much of my range work with the new Shield was done in temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s, with very high humidity. Sweaty hands didn’t affect the superior grip on the Shield a bit. I also did my own “water test,” pouring water onto my hand and the butt of the pistol, rubbing the water into the texturing and then popping off two magazines fairly fast. My grip was still rock solid; my hand might as well have been dry.
The M&P Shields were known for pretty good triggers, and Smith & Wesson went one better with the 45 Shield, incorporating a lighter, crisper trigger; the striker-firing system makes for a fast reset, too. The trigger is also hinged, and it won’t pull back unless the tip is first engaged. A Lyman Trigger Pull Gauge measured the Shield’s trigger pull at 5.6 pounds.
The M&P45 Shield can be had with or without a thumb safety. Mine had the safety, and it actually snapped in and out of the safe position with my thumb (not always the case with some semi-autos). The magazine release worked fine, popping out the magazine easily. I found the slide stop a little tough to engage at first. You have to move the slide all the way back to get it to engage, and it takes some practice to time the back movement of the slide with your finger pushing up on the slide stop.
To test accuracy, I did 25-yard shots from a rest, firing five-round groups and printing three to five groups per brand of ammunition. For a short-barrel semi-auto, I thought the accuracy was impressive. This was especially true with the Creedmoor Ammunition, a relative newcomer to the ammo industry, which laid in two five-shot groups at just over 2 inches, one at 1.83 inches, and — the overall winner of all the ammo tested — a 1.49-inch group.
I decided a more complete testing of accuracy would need to include the M&P45 Shield at closer ranges, too, so I did the same five-round groups with the same ammo brands at 10 yards, firing from a rest. Not surprisingly, groups shrunk, by nearly a full inch.
I also used the M&P45 Shield for my daily concealed carry for the better part of a week. I used an inside-the-waistband Sticky Holster (Model MD-4) and tucked it into the small of my back. I found the 45 Shield comfortable to carry. That aggressive texturing also makes it easier to grab onto and withdraw than a number of other carry pistols I have tried.
All in all, the Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield is one fine pistol — slim and concealable, easy to use, accurate and packs that .45 Auto punch. I’ve got nothing against smaller calibers, but if an armed confrontation is coming my way? Well, in that case, I’d much prefer a carry pistol that can launch .45 ACP self-defense loads downrange versus 9mm or even .40 S&W. That’s my personal preference, and it is a comforting one.
Smith & Wesson M&P45 Shield
Type: Semi-auto, striker-fired
Frame Size: Compact Slim
Caliber: .45 Auto
Capacity: 7+1, 6+1
Barrel: 3.3 in., stainless steel, Armornite finish
Overall Length: 6.45 in.
Trigger: 5.6 lbs. (as tested)
Sights: steel, white three dot
Width: 0.99 in.
Height: 4.88 in.
Grip: Polymer, textured
Weight: 20.5 oz. (empty)
Slide: Stainless steel, Armornite finish
Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
Thanks to Gun Digest for this post. Click here to visit GunDigest.com.
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