I really thought my next pistol would have been the XD-S, but I couldn't resist when I found this pistol on the shelf at Academy. I've been deciding on a new EDC, something a bit smaller than my XD45 Compact that would be easier to wear and conceal while I'm on my motorcycle. I saw the leaks about the new Shield a few days ago and watched with interest as more info became available. Single-action trigger - check. Slim profile - check. Real sights - check. Bonus points for it being made in America - check.
One thing is for certain: the $432 I paid at retail the Shield is a great value for a viable concealed self-defense pistol. Some people may gripe about S&W's decision to ship the Shield in a cardboard box, but I welcome the lack of the blue plastic carrying case. Those things just sit in my closet and take up space, but the real point I have to make about the lack of the case's inclusion is that it's a few less bucks that the pistol will cost the consumer. The pistol includes the most important bits: two magazines, one a 7rd flush-fit baseplate and the other a 8rd +1 extended baseplate. The +1 magazine will extend the grip's length by approximately .44".
I've measured the pistol at its widest point (slide lock) and it shows 1.04". The XD-S will be ever so slightly slimmer, but I doubt I'd ever notice the difference between the two while carrying. The length is 6.1", and the height is 4.3" without a magazine inserted. Compared it to my XD45 Compact makes the Shield seem even more ridiculously tiny. That said, do not mistake the Shield for a pocket pistol. While it could be carried in a relatively large pocket, I don't see it excelling in that role. Save that type of carry for the .380-class or smaller pistols.
Smith and Wesson pegs the Shield at 19oz, but doesn't specify if that's with a magazine. From my measurements I get 1.959oz with the 7rd magazine, and 2.346oz with the 8rd magazine. Unfortunately my scales don't want to weigh the Shield on its own, so I can't give an independently verified total weight with empty magazine. Perhaps one day I'll get a decent scale that's made to weigh more than a few ounces at a time.
Moving on, the sights are a low-mount, non-snag, contrast 3-dot arrangement. Not much to say here other than the sight picture is sharp and quite usable, and should serve well when the pistol has to be pressed into service in a time of dire need. The front sight blade is .135" wide, while the rear notch measures .140". The rear notch is square, if you were wondering. Other notable features on the slide are an external extractor, rear cocking serrations in a fish scale pattern and most striking of all - the designers have thoughtfully cut a relief in the back of the barrel hood so that the pistol's operator can observe if there is a round in the chamber, helping to eliminate the need to press-check the pistol to ensure it's in a ready state.
The M&P Shield field-strips a bit differently than the XD and XDm. Drop the sear deactivation lever (shown in below photo, in yellow), rotate take down lever CLOCKWISE, and ride the slide forward. No need to press the trigger to field strip like on the XD. The recoil spring is a captive dual-spring design. Just like on the XD45 Compact, compress the spring and lift out from between the slide and barrel, and then you're clear to lift the barrel up and out of the slide assembly. Speaking of the barrel, if you're wondering it is a standard rifled barrel with traditional lands and grooves - no fancy polygonal rifling here. Again, simplicity in design helps keep costs down!
One deviation from the M&P's standard options is regarding the Shield's backstrap. In this case, there are no interchangable backstraps on the Shield. Personally, this is not a big deal but I'm sure I'd feel differently if the pistol did not feel as good in the hand as it does for me. The grip angle is 18 degrees, and feels like it splits the difference between the ergos of the XD/1911 and the Glock. I'm sure there will be plenty of folks in both camps who cry foul and espouse the benefits of their respective camp's beliefs - whatever. If it feels good and you shoot well with it, just go with it and ignore the knuckleheads.
The trigger - even fresh from the box - is much better than my XD45 Compact. Keep in mind that the XD45c has thousands of rounds through it and I'm quite satisfied with its performance, but the takeup and reset on the Shield is shorter, the break is crisper (though with some gritty creep - a 1911 this is not!), and the trigger just lacks the mushy feel of the XD. S&W pegs the trigger weight of the Shield at 6.5lbs, and my uncalibrated finger agrees with that stat. When I take the Shield out to the range I will try and remember to whip out the old trigger gauge and get a true reading on the trigger pull.
The Shield I purchased came with a manual safety that is pretty small and stiff. I don't believe it could be activated with any confidence under stress, so I will leave my safety disengaged. Also note that this model does not come with the much maligned magazine disconnect safety.
Here's some comparison photos of the Shield next to the XD45 Compact:
That's it for my out of box review. Any questions, or did I miss anything? Want a different picture? Let me know!
UPDATE: Shooting review is up! Info at post #44 (LINK