Somebody in Smith & Wesson’s engineering department must know me. It’s as if they said, “Let’s build a gun for Freeman. We need to provide enough firepower for him to feel comfortable carrying it for personal protection. Let’s help him with his eyesight by putting a laser on it that’s easy to operate. And speaking of easy to operate, you know the trouble he’s been having racking his slide and filling his magazines? Let’s fix that.” And so they did. Of course that’s a fictional scenario, but only the part that has my name in it. They built this gun for folks like me who want to be well-armed but are dealing with physical issues that make it difficult. The EZ designation on this Shield is the real deal. It is easy to rack and filling the magazine without a mag loader is a piece of cake. Another nice touch is the 1911-like grip safety, making a manual thumb safety unnecessary.
This is a different Shield. I know this because I have an M2.0 Shield and I took them both apart to compare. I wanted to know how they made this gun so easy to operate. This Shield could easily be called an M2.5 because it has a different operating system. The EZ Shield is not striker-fired; it has an internal hammer. In essence, it’s single-action only because racking the slide cocks the hammer. The internal safety you would normally call a striker-block safety is a firing pin block safety on this Shield.
All of the M2.0 Shields have an excellent grip texture that allows for a secure grip. S&W’s advertising says the grip texture is optimized to size and recoil, and I’d say that’s about right. The Shield features an 18-degree grip angle, which we all know John Moses Browning figured out long ago was perfect for aligning sights and mitigating recoil. The S&W fish scale pattern cocking serrations are on the rear of the slide with an abbreviated version on the front. This gun has standard three-dot white sights but is also equipped with a Crimson Trace laser attached to the trigger guard and operated by a push-button switch positioned on the front of the grip where it can easily be activated by the middle finger or your shooting hand. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and the Crimson Trace laser comes with a tool for adjusting it for windage and elevation. It comes from the factory adjusted for 50 feet, which left it shooting high at the 10–12 yard distances we were shooting from at the range. It was easy to adjust using the supplied tool for that purpose. The laser’s lithium battery has a life of over four hours. There is also a master on/off switch should you wish to deactivate the laser for some reason.
The 9mm EZ Shield has an overall length of 6.8″ and a height of 4.75″. With the Crimson Trace laser and an empty magazine it weighs 23.8 oz. It ships with two 8-round magazines. The magazines have what seems to me to be a lighter spring than normal for a 9mm, and they have a load-assist tab similar to those on .22 caliber semi-automatic pistols making magazine loading not quite the chore it is on most 9mm pistols when you have hand issues. The trigger is crisp with an average 5 lb. pull on my Lyman gauge. There’s a bit of take-up, but it’s smooth and the break is clean with a tactile reset. The grip safety requires a high, secure grip to activate, but you should be doing that anyway. There is a tactile loaded chamber indicator on top of the slide, something I miss on other M&P handguns.
The EZ Shield’s barrel is 3.65″ long as opposed to the 3″ barrel on the standard M2.0 Shield. The single recoil spring is longer and smaller than the double recoil spring on the standard Shield. The magazine is not compatible with the magazines from other Shields. The slide lock is slightly smaller but is easy to operate. Takedown on the EZ Shield does not require a trigger pull or pushing down a small internal lever to disengage the sear. Just lock the slide back, rotate the takedown lever 90 degrees and push the slide off the front of the frame. The recoil spring is a small, single spring with a strength that is balanced to provide consistent operation of the firearm and easy operation of the slide by people with hand strength issues. My wife and I both fall within that category, and we both found the EZ Shield easy to load, easy to rack and easy to shoot.
Reassembly had me going to the manual to figure out why I couldn’t get the slide to go back on just as easily as it comes off. It turns out that the rear end of the recoil spring assembly is not round. It has flat sides and must be oriented so the flats are on the side and the round portions are in the up and down position as you place the assembly back in position on the barrel. There are a couple of other tips for reassembly. If the hammer is up, push it down and do not depress the grip safety while removing or installing the slide.
Whenever I’m evaluating a gun for a review, I like to put it into the hands of several shooters whenever possible. My perceptions may be somewhat slanted according to my likes and dislikes and having input from others helps with a more objective review. Having more than one gun to evaluate on any given range trip also helps balance perspective. Being in the midst of the COVID-19 shelter-at-home period, several of my family members were more than anxious to head to the country in a private environment and shoot some guns. When it came time to shoot the EZ Shield, I was most interested in my wife’s experience with the gun because she has more hand issues than I do. We are both heavy keyboard users because of our professions and are somewhat convinced that keyboard and mouse use is as much an issue with the chronic pain in our hands as aging. For the past few years, I’ve been concerned that she hadn’t felt comfortable with any gun we have other than a lightweight revolver.
I didn’t try to persuade her to load the Shield’s magazines because in real life she doesn’t have to. She’s got me plus sons and grandsons to load magazines for her. But she’s got to be able to shoot the gun, and when I handed her the loaded Shield to shoot, shoot it she did. With just a bit of coaching from our youngest son who is an NRA Certified Handgun Instructor, she was putting rounds on target quite easily. After shooting the gun a bit, she announced she would like this to be her new carry gun, leaving me trying to figure out the logistics of getting another one for me to carry.
Four of us took turns with the EZ Shield going through several brands of range and defensive ammo. The Shield didn’t seem to care what we fed it. Accuracy was on par for a carry gun and there were no malfunctions of any kind. When it was my turn to shoot, I was just as anxious to try the new Gold Dot Carry Gun ammo as I was the EZ Shield. I didn’t Chrono anything, but I sure was pleased with the groupings I got using the Gold Dot ammo.
The Crimson Trace laser doesn’t interfere at all with carrying the EZ Shield in my Bianchi 101-16 Foldaway holster. The EZ Shield with the Crimson Trace laser also fits easily into an Uncle Mike’s size 16 Sidekick Ambidextrous nylon holster. There’s no doubt in my mind this is a serious personal defense handgun that can easily be carried and up to the challenge should it be needed, whether or not you have hand issues. If you do have hand issues, I urge you to give this gun a try. The S&W engineers must have been working with people just like you and me when they designed this gun.The M&P family of guns is well-respected with models to fit almost any handgun need imaginable. Reliability is well-established and performance on the competitive circuits legendary. This model of the M&P Shield holds special appeal to me because the development team took an existing model that has sold over 3 million units and tweaked it for a new application without jeopardizing any of its existing strengths. Making a light-racking gun presents challenges because the operation of the gun requires that a certain degree of spring tension is present. If you make something really easy for a human to operate, you risk the challenge that cycling of the gun’s action will suffer making it ammunition finicky or even refusing to operate. That does not seem to be the case here. We put the EZ Shield through its paces with no indication that it’s not going to just keep on trucking. Good job, S&W!
The M&P family of guns is well-respected with models to fit almost any handgun need imaginable. Reliability is well-established and performance on the competitive circuits legendary. This model of the M&P Shield holds special appeal to me because the development team took an existing model that has sold over 3 million units and tweaked it for a new application without jeopardizing any of its existing strengths. Making a light-racking gun presents challenges because the operation of the gun requires that a certain degree of spring tension is present. If you make something really easy for a human to operate, you risk the challenge that cycling of the gun’s action will suffer making it ammunition finicky or even refusing to operate. That does not seem to be the case here. We put the EZ Shield through its paces with no indication that it’s not going to just keep on trucking. Good job, S&W!