And the winner is…

Posted: October 16, 2015 in Shooting
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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Smith & Wesson M&P Shield.

The process of finding a quality single stack 9mm concealed carry gun has been surprisingly difficult. But I think I’ve (again) come to a well thought out decision. Let’s recap.

After a couple weeks of research, and irritating my wife in endless conversations, I bought the Springfield XDs. Im still shocked at what a complete failure this gun was. Countless reviews said an equal amount of glowing things about the XDs, and to have it fail so miserably was nothing short of a surprise. Undeterred, I went back to the drawing board. There was one option remaining and that was the Glock 43. As a self disclosed Glock “fan boy” I knew I couldn’t make a complete decision until I had shot it. Fortunately, the public rental range had one in stock, so after dinner a few nights ago, Beth and I went to go try it out.

My impression was this: the Glock 43 is a fine pistol purpose built for the job of concealed carry. We only ran 50 rounds through it, but it never failed and I could shoot one ragged hole at seven yards. My complaints about the pistol are small, but I think important. First, magazine capacity. This has long been the reason I’ve avoided the G43. The six round magazine is just too limiting. Since my initial post, I’ve learned that there are aftermarket extended base plates available which would alleviate this issue, but I have some concerns about the reliability of those parts. Regardless, it’s a solution. Additionally, I noticed that because of its slim profile and light weight, I found the G43 to be snappy. This means that, to me, there was more felt recoil, making it less comfortable to shoot. I think this contests my requirement that my defensive carry gun should be shootable. Could I run it in a 3-400 round class? Sure, but would I love it? Meh, I’m not sure. Lastly, it’s simply more expensive. This isn’t as serious of an issue, but when you’re committing to buying a gun, upgraded sights, at least one extra magazine, and now base plates for those mags, the cost adds up quickly. It’s not a make or break part of the decision making process, just something to consider.

So why the Shield? The gun I shot had two stoppages in two magazines with of shooting, both of them stove pipes. I can’t explain why that happened, but it did. After those two malfunctions, the pistol ran just fine. There are two things I liked more about the Shield than the G43. First, I found the ergonomics of the pistol to be much more comfortable. As I have evolved as a shooter, smaller guns bother me less than they did a few years ago. Having circus freak small hands aids in this, as does a much better grip. The Shield is only 2 oz heavier than the Glock but that little bit of added weight and just slightly larger frame made the gun feel like a softer shooter. Less felt recoil = more shootability. And then there’s the magazine capacity. The Shield ships with a seven and eight round magazine which means no aftermarket parts to bring it up to a more acceptable level. Again, I’m sure those parts work fine, but for a defensive pistol, I’d rather not introduce any possible weakness into the system. The extra round capacity gives the Shield a slightly longer grip than the G43. That means I am able to get a nearly full grip on the gun, which I could not do with the Glock.

So what sucks about the Shield? The trigger. Holy crap that trigger. The free state version isn’t that awful, but I had the extreme misfortune of testing the Massachusetts compliant version. I didn’t have a trigger scale but having owned a Mass compliant M&P trigger in the past, I can tell you it was pulling upwards of ten pounds. That much weight in the trigger adversely affects accuracy, and that is a problem. Of course I wouldn’t buy that model, but it does mean that even the free state version is going to need the Apex trigger kit to get it under control. If I did nothing else, that would still put it ahead of the Glock. That, and I think an upgrade to Trijicon HD Night Sights would be a welcome improvement to its three dot sight picture.

So yeah, about that trigger. It’s not great. I found myself pushing rounds to the right with some degree of flinch. This is mostly me, but I think it’s im some part a result of the heavier trigger. I know, I know Smith says 6.5 pounds, but I don’t buy it. Unlike my short experience shooting the Glock 43, my groups at seven and ten yards were not great. However, after I started to get a feel for the trigger they did tighten up. I had to ask myself today, what is this gun for: bullseye shooting or self defense. These are two very different things. The stock trigger, paired with short sight radius is not going to afford you award winning accuracy over distance. This is just fact. However, inside ten yards in a defensive application, it will serve just fine. My groups at 15 and 20 yards weren’t what you would call spectacular either, but for the first time getting to know this small pistol and its stout trigger, I was relatively pleased.

Having now completed initial testing of the Shield I can draw some conclusions. This afternoons range practice involved 275 rounds of ammunition varying from the super cheap to super expensive. Here’s what I found. One hundred percent reliability. That’s great. Considering the epic failure that was the XDs I was more than happy to see this gun cycle everything I put through it. I say initial testing because I’m a firm believer of at least 500 rounds through a gun before putting it in a holster. So, while I wait on my holster to ship, I’ll get it out to the range a few more times to put it to work.

The only thing left to do is integrate the Shield into my everyday carry system. Updates to follow.

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