Home Defender - - Con­tents - TEXT AND PHO­TOS BY TER­RILL HOFF­MAN

Al­ways look­ing to im­prove, we test out the new M&P Shield and it’s safe to say that we’d bet our lives on it.

With its Power & Ac­cu­racy, the M&P 45 Shield is an Ex­cel­lent Choice for Self-De­fense

Al­ways striv­ing to im­prove, it should come as no sur­prise that Smith & Wes­son would be quick to do a fol­low up on its M&P Shield. Af­ter all, it has only been a hair over a decade since the re­birth of its Mil­i­tary & Po­lice (M&P) moniker and its line of poly­mer hand­guns.

Just years ago, the com­pany in­creased the M&P prod­uct line with the ad­di­tion of a com­pact pis­tol, the Shield. This hand­gun be­came so pop­u­lar in the con­cealed-carry mar­ket that S&W’s Per­for­mance Cen­ter got into the act this past year with its up­graded Ported Shield. What should be a sur­prise is this lat­est M&P Shield is paired with the .45 ACP—a car­tridge nor­mally re­stricted to full-sized duty weapons.

If you are won­der­ing if this change in cal­ibers is enough to take another look at the Shield, just con­sider a few ba­sic facts. The .45 ACP has long ruled as king of the de­fen­sive com­bat rounds, but com­pact pis­tols such as the Shield have mainly been the home of the 9mm Luger and .380 ACP. At the same time, Smith & Wes­son has served the Amer­i­can hand­gun mar­ket since 1852. When the com­pany speaks, the shoot­ing pub­lic lis­tens. The M&P .45 Shield was an­nounced at this year’s NRA An­nual Meet­ings and was draw­ing a crowd around the S&W booth.


The Shield is a com­pact, semi-au­to­matic, striker-fired hand­gun with a poly­mer frame and stain­less-steel slide. By the size and cal­ibers of these guns, it is easy to see they were devel­oped with con­cealed carry in mind.

The new M&P 45 Shield has main­tained the com­pact size and is only 0.99 inch wide, un­less you want to mea­sure right at the slide stop, where it ex­pands to 1.05 inches. For what it is worth, that is only 0.04 inch wider than the 9mm model. The 6.45-inch over­all length and 4.88-inch height, keeps this new gun right in line with the 6.10-inch length and 4.60-inch height of the 9mm. The bar­rel on this small

.45 has been in­creased by 0.20 inch to 3.30 inches.

You have to give S&W credit for be­ing able to main­tain these diminu­tive sizes when you con­sider the di­men­sional changes be­tween the 9mm Luger and the .45 ACP car­tridges. The 9mm has a case head size of 0.39 inch, which is ex­panded to 0.48 inch for the .45 ACP.

The weight of this firearm is only 20.5 ounces, but that will in­crease once you load it up with eight rounds of

.45 ACP. One of the two mag­a­zines sup­plied with the pis­tol has a base­plate that is 0.38 inch longer, al­low­ing for a 7-plus-1 ca­pac­ity. The shorter mag­a­zine de­creases the ca­pac­ity to 6-plus-1, and it also di­min­ishes the grip­ping sur­face of the pis­tol.

With the mas­sive trend to striker-fired pis­tols, one of the big­gest com­plaints has been re­gard­ing the qual­ity of the trig­gers. The most com­mon phrase when talk­ing about this fea­ture has been “mushy,” and I have yet to find a bet­ter de­scrip­tion. How­ever, the Per­for­mance Cen­ter 9mm I tested had a de­cent trig­ger, and the sam­ple .45 Shield was sim­i­lar. The pull weight came in a few pounds heav­ier, at around 6 pounds, but it had a solid break­ing point af­ter about 0.13 inch of takeup.

“With one five-shot

group, I was able to drop the over­all spread down to

1.88 inches.”

The .45 Shield main­tains the 18-de­gree grip an­gle typ­i­cal for all Shield mod­els, but the tex­tur­ing on the grip has been re­fined to al­most re­sem­ble sand­pa­per. I did not find it un­com­fort­able, and it did im­prove my shoot­ing grip dur­ing test­ing. When the longer mag­a­zine was in­serted, the over­all grip was al­most per­fect for my medium-sized hands.

Al­though the slide and bar­rel are both fab­ri­cated from stain­less steel, they are fin­ished in a non-re­flec­tive, black Ar­mor­nite fin­ish. The scal­lop-pat­terned cock­ing ser­ra­tions on the rear of the slide are car­ried over from the other Shield mod­els, but on this model there is a sin­gle row of ser­ra­tions on both sides of the front of the slide.

The sights are a set of snag-less fixed sights, with one white dot in the front blade and two dots in the rear sight.

The sam­ple .45 Shield came with a thumb safety mounted on the left rear of the frame, but this pis­tol can be or­dered with or with­out this fea­ture. I don’t mind say­ing that I fa­vor hav­ing this safety, and my only com­plaint is that it is not am­bidex­trous. On sec­ond thought, I re­ally don’t care if it is am­bidex­trous or not. I want a left-handed safety!


So far, the mi­nor changes to this pis­tol over any other Shield may not seem like much, but the true dif­fer­ence be­comes ap­par­ent once it is car­ried to the range. No one will ever mis­take a .45 ACP round for a 9mm or .380 ACP. That fact will hold true no mat­ter if you’re be­hind the gun or in front of it when it is fired.

One de­tail I no­ticed while test­ing the Per­for­mance Cen­ter Ported Shield is the mag­a­zine springs for these pis­tols are rather stiff. It is all you can do to load them to ca­pac­ity with­out hav­ing to set them against a desk and forc­ing that last round in place. This time I was ready. As soon as the sam­ple gun came in, I loaded both mag­a­zines and let them sit for a few days. Af­ter this pe­riod of let­ting the springs set, it was eas­ier to reload both of the mag­a­zines.

“The er­gonomics of the Shield can only be de­scribed as out­stand­ing.”

They even im­proved more af­ter sev­eral ses­sions of shoot­ing them dry and then reload­ing.

There is no doubt this firearm was de­signed as a per­sonal-de­fense weapon, and most of my range time was spent test­ing the at­tributes I would nor­mally ex­pect of such a weapon. Re­li­a­bil­ity is the No. 1 as­pect of any de­fen­sive weapon, and for that rea­son, most of my test­ing was with full-pow­ered, jack­eted hol­low-point car­tridges. Hol­low-point bul­lets have al­ways been the bane of semi-auto hand­guns; if you’re go­ing to have prob­lems with feed­ing, they will usu­ally show up with this type of am­mu­ni­tion.

Not ex­actly know­ing what to ex­pect from this new hand­gun, I fired sev­eral mag­a­zines full of Winch­ester 230-grain JHP, just to get the feel for this weapon. Af­ter just the first few shots fired off-hand, I was some­what sur­prised about how con­trol­lable the hand­gun was. To be sure, I have to give a nod of ap­proval to the S&W de­sign team. The er­gonomics of the Shield can only be de­scribed as out­stand­ing. I was rather pleased with the per­for­mance of the 9mm Ported Shield when I tested it, and this new .45 gave me no rea­son to change my opin­ion of the ba­sic Shield de­sign.

As they say, “Just for jol­lies,” I fired this hand­gun in my typ­i­cal old-school mod­i­fied (left-handed, right eyed) Weaver stance; and then, sin­gle handed, with both my strong hand and weak hand. At times, I ro­tated the hand­gun 90 de­grees right and left, and even fired it up­side down. In other words, I gave this pis­tol every chance I could think of to jam. Af­ter 100 rounds, I just gave up, and I will re­port that this Shield was 100 per­cent re­li­able.

Those rounds were all fired at ei­ther 8-inch metal plates at 20 yards, or at pa­per torso tar­gets at dis­tances of 10 to 15 yards. At times, I would take my time to prop­erly align the sights, and other times, speed was my main goal. Any er­rant shots were com­pletely the fault of the shooter. The sights were quick to align, and the “sand­pa­per” tex­ture on the grip proved to be use­ful in main­tain­ing con­trol of the weapon.

At that point, it took all of my willpower to switch from my off-hand stance to shoot­ing off the bench for a lit­tle se­ri­ous ac­cu­racy test­ing.

That day, I chose two JHP loads from Sig Sauer (200 and 230 grains) and one 185-grain load from Hor­nady (which uses their FTX bul­let) for my test­ing. When com­pared to most com­pa­nies, Sig has not been in the am­mu­ni­tion busi­ness that long, but I have been very pleased with every hand­gun and ri­fle load I have tested. Sig’s 168-grain .308 Match load per­formed so well the week be­fore, I felt com­pelled to email them with my re­sults. This was my first chance to test their .45 ACP loads, and again I was very pleased. At 25 yards, all of my five-shot groups were main­tain­ing a 2.5- to 3.0-inch spread.

Hor­nady’s Crit­i­cal De­fense 185 grain FTX per­for­mance pro­duced sim­i­lar re­sults. With one five-shot group, I was able to drop the over­all spread down

to 1.88 inches. Hor­nady am­mu­ni­tion has never dis­ap­pointed me, and I have found this is a load that can make even me look like a marks­man.


The past decade has seen an in­creased growth in the prac­tice of con­cealed carry, and shoot­ers have been search­ing for just the right weapon. And while the 9mm Shield has proven it­self as a pleas­ant blend be­tween size, ca­pac­ity and power, now we have another vi­able power op­tion and that’s the .45 ACP. For­tu­nately, this power up­grade came about with­out much sac­ri­fice in size or ca­pac­ity.

I was so im­pressed with the Ported Shield from the Per­for­mance Shop that I bought the sam­ple test gun. When com­bined with the Black­hawk A.R.C. hol­ster, it be­came a con­stant com­pan­ion. When I started test­ing the .45 Shield, I had just re­cently added a Crim­son Trace Green laser for low-light sit­u­a­tions.

I can’t buy every firearm I test or my fam­ily would have starved years ago. How­ever, if you are look­ing for my real-life, hon­est opin­ion of the new .45 Shield, let’s just say I’m will­ing to bet my life on it. HD

(Top) The right side of this pis­tol is rather clean and snag-free. The com­plete hand­gun has been de­signed to lessen the chance of hang­ing up on some­thing. There are no sharp cor­ners, and it is com­fort­able to hold and shoot. an ex­cel­lent set of fixed sights. The rear sight has twin white dots to aid in align­ment with the sin­gle dot on the front sight. Dur­ing low light, or when speed is needed, this ar­range­ment is very use­ful.

The “con­trols” for this pis­tol are all in line on the left side of the frame. Left to right, along the top of the frame, you’ll see the take­down lever, slide stop and then the safety.

(Top) The rear ser­ra­tions on this pis­tol have a scal­lop pat­tern that not only look good, but they are also highly func­tional. (Bot­tom) A sin­gle row of scal­lop ser­ra­tions has been added to the front of the slide on the .45 Shield, but this is not a fea­ture I use of­ten.

The take-down pro­ce­dure is the same as the pre­vi­ous Shield mod­els, and nor­mal main­te­nance does not re­quire the pis­tol to be dis­as­sem­bled past this point.

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