The “EZ9” first appeared on the cover of Guns & Ammo’s February 2020 issue and has since become a top seller for Smith & Wesson with a retail price of $419. It’s a single-stack 9mm with a capacity of eight-plus-one rounds.
Before S&W introduced the M&P380 Shield EZ in 2018, there were not a lot of options for gun owners wanting a semiautomatic pistol that was easy to rack and easy to load. In fact, only the Walther CCP that first appeared on the cover of Guns & Ammo’s November 2014 cover offers comparable dexterity requirements, ergonomics and capacity, and currently has an MSRP of $469. (Ironically, Walther introduced a .380 ACP-chambered variant in 2019 to take the CCP platform into S&W’s territory.)
Regardless of caliber, the Shield EZ series is, for lack of a better description, easy to rack, easy to load and easy to shoot. It’s an excellent pistol for young shooters and the elderly, or those with grip-strength challenges, but its popularity is also being attributed to the fact that the general population who simply likes how it feels and doesn’t want to fumble with a gun while trying to shoot it.
It didn’t take long for the custom-shop wizards at the Performance Center (PC) to pull a few samples off of the production line to tweak on.
At first glance, people will see that the PC M&P9 Shield EZ is available with gold, black and silver parts to include the barrel, trigger and grip safety, but that’s not what’s truly worth noting. Look past the color and you’ll see that the trigger is new with a flat face and three circles that will conjure memories of Model 1911s used in competition with Videki-style triggers installed. The flat face offers a great platform that makes this pistol feel more like a competition pistol capable of being more accurate than a standard model.
The barrel on the PC version of the M&P9 Shield EZ is also ported to mitigate muzzle rise. It makes for a flat-shooting pistol and easy-to-manage recoil control. The ported slide also enhances the pistol’s appearance of high-end custom pistols such as those coming from ZEV and Ed Brown. (Those “in the know,” however, will remember that the Performance Center has been offering ported slides long before it was trendy. Don’t forget the Performance Center SW1911.)
Most of all, the Performance Center is known for tuning actions. After all, making good guns shoot great is how Smith & Wesson’s custom shop came into existence. The round PC logo is a recognizable hallmark for one-off accuracy and performance.
Seeing the PC M&P9 Shield EZ’s accuracy is first achieved by properly aligning the Hi-Viz Litewave H3 tritium-powered Litepipe front and rear sights. The sight steel housings fully encapsulate the fiber-optic rods that produce a bright dot. Even as light conditions change, the benefit of a fiber optic sight is that the intensity appears to perfectly adjust with the ambient light source. In the absence of light, the tritium vial within powers the fiber optic glow. Regardless of surrounding light, you’re always staring at the same sight size and configuration. Consistency is great for accuracy.
Triggers also affect a person’s ability to shoot any pistol accurately, and it’s not just the weight of the draw stroke. The PC M&P9 Shield EZ features a worked-over trigger that operates a low, frame-mounted internal hammer system, which is one trick engineers developed to achieve the gun’s easy-to-rack slide. Once the hammer falls, the back of the trigger hits an overtravel stop molded into the frame of the pistol to eliminate the squishy feeling experienced other polymer-framed guns are known for. Combined with the flat face, the trigger feels great through 3½ to 4 pounds of pressure. At the range, the combination of the Performance Center-tuned action, barrel, sights, flat trigger and ergonomics rewarded us with a couple of 1.5-inch groups using 124- and 147-grain ammunition with the average five-shot group measuring just under 2 inches from a bench at 25 yards. Shooting standing unsupported from 15 to 25 yards, experienced shooters will find that the PC version of the Shield EZ is a 2- to 3-inch gun all day.
The barrel is the last piece of the accuracy puzzle. It measures 3.83 inches, is made of stainless steel and given an Armornite finish (like the slide) when ordered in black. (The gold model features a titanium-coated finish while the silver stainless barrel is natural and highly polished.) The barrel is a bit longer than the standard M&P9 Shield EZ, which has a 3.67-inch barrel and perhaps improves lockup at the muzzle. Despite the tight fight, the slide doesn’t feel like it’s dragging on the barrel when racking the slide like it can on the Walther CCP.
Besides the low-mounted internal hammer, lightweight slide and recoil spring assembly, the pistol is also encouraging to manipulate for the control the M2.0 texturing surrounding the thin-feeling grip (a trait of the original Shield), the serrated controls, and wonderfully scales for the front and rear touchpoints on the slide. And we can’t forget to point out the little wings at the back of the slide that are pronounced for racking over the top or like a sling shot. All of these details add up to describe the pistol’s EZ name.
The PC M&P9 Shield EZ arrives in a blue cardboard box marked “Performance Center by Smith & Wesson.” The box is reminiscent of the classic blue boxes a Smith & Wesson handgun would come with new and makes me realize that the brand hasn’t lost sight of its heritage. However, the PC-branded cleaning kit, in its semi-rig carry case, was never offered in those older boxes. The collapsible cleaning rod with rotating T-handle is a nice touch, and there are bronze bore brushes, nylon jags and slotted tips to clean any handgun in .22 caliber to .45, so the cleaning kit is really a welcome bonus.
Inside the box are two eight-round stainless-steel magazines that are also “easy.” With two tabs used to assist a user in pulling down the follower, it requires so little effort in load either mag to capacity. Though some would prefer a pistol with a larger capacity, doing so would have made the magazine more difficult to load because there would be additional magazine spring tension to overcome. That’s just not what this model pistol is all about, and for a similarly sized handgun that holds more rounds, you’d be directed to consider the M&P9 Compact with 4-inch barrel and 15-plus-one round capacity.
Rather, the M&P9 Shield EZ has its place among Smith & Wesson’s long list of products and storied legacy. It’s expanded participation in shooting to the broadest audience and offers an affordable, reliable and accurate solution for those once challenged physically by the prospect of manipulating or carrying a semiautomatic. The Performance Center made it even better.
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield EZ
- Type: Internal hammer fired, recoil operated, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 8+1 rds.
- Barrel Length: 3.83 in.
- Overall Length: 7 in.
- Height: 4.85 in.
- Weight: 1 lbs., 7.2 oz.
- Materials: Stainless steel (slide and barrel); polymer (frame)
- Finish: Armornite, black; titanium nitride (gold); polished (stainless steel)
- Grip: M2.0 textured polymer, 18-deg. angle
- Trigger: 4 lbs. (tested)
- Sights: Hi-Viz Litewave H3 tritium/litepipe, three-dot, drift adj.
- Safety: Manual thumb lever (optional)
- MSRP: $588
- Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson, 800-331-0852, smith-wesson.com