Those who insist on big-bore handguns for carry are faced with a dilemma: A big bore usually means a big pistol. And when you fit a big bore into a small pistol, you usually end up with something that is not fun to shoot. Smith & Wesson breaks that trend with its M&P Shield in .45 ACP.
S&W has also designed the Shield so that it has a thumb safety — for those who feel a thumb safety is a good thing.
The M&P45 Shield is the newest M&P, and it builds on the proven record of earlier models. The .45 has the same 18-degree grip angle for natural pointing, and it has nothing more than a scaled-up approach to feed .45 ACP. The polymer shell has a pinned locking block and trigger block. The two pinned-in blocks, held tightly by the polymer shell, create the rigid framework for a clean and crisp trigger pull. The listed trigger pull for the M&P45 Shield is 6½ pounds. The one G&A tested was less. We have tested single-action pistols (the Shield is a striker-fired design) that had trigger pulls that were not as clean, crisp or easy to use as this one. The trigger made it easier to extract the M&P45's accuracy potential.
The slide and barrel are precision- machined in-house at S&W's CNC machine centers and then given its Armornite corrosion-resistant finish.
The transverse dovetail sights are steel and have the now-expected three-white-dot arrangement. Should you prefer, there are many aftermarket options for night sights and fiber optics available.
For the M&P45, S&W also added some benefits. First, there is a new non-slip grip texture that is better at keeping a hard-kicking pistol solid in our grip. It also added forward cocking serrations. The Shield is a compact pistol holding a big cartridge, and you want to have all options open when it comes time to work the slide.
Like its smaller brethren, the M&P45 Shield is slim at just 1-inch thick. When we consider the width of a round of .45 ACP, then add in the thickness of a magazine shell, the polymer frame and the working tolerances a magazine must have in order to smoothly fit in and fall out, this 1-inch measurement is amazing.
The magazine is also an interesting subject. At the top it is a normal single-point, single-stack magazine. But shortly below that, S&W has widened it. It isn't a double- stack; it's more of a stack-and-a-half. The end result is an extra cartridge in a mag that would otherwise be low on capacity. The flush-fit magazine holds six rounds and the included extended mag carries seven. The extended magazine also adds enough length that it is possible to get one's entire hand onto the grip. This makes practice and accuracy testing a lot easier. The best carry mode would be to use the extended magazine as the in-the-pistol carry mag and the other as a reload.
The barrel is short at 3.3 inches, but one of the great attributes of the .45 ACP is that it does its work with mass and bullet diameter. It does not lose much velocity. At a light-for-caliber 20½ ounces, the M&P45 Shield is expected to kick. However, recoil was not as bad as we expected. The flex of the polymer shell soaks up much of the recoil, and the expected snap and soreness never happened. This does not mean it is soft to shoot. This new .45 Shield is not for brand-new shooters. It is not for plinking, and expect to bring your A game if you want to build skills with it.
Short guns are not always easy to shoot accurately. Short guns in big calibers can be particularly difficult. This M&P45 Shield proved exceptional and disproves these rules. When the worst group — and one fired with carry ammo — measures less than 3 inches, it is difficult to fault the pistol being tested. It's a shooter!
If you do not feel a thumb safety is needed, then S&W can accommodate your preferences. The M&P45 Shield can be had either way: thumb safety or no thumb safety. It is also available for a reasonable list price of under $500. You know your local gun shop will have it for less than that. It's worth every dollar.