From Acquaintance To Friend

A passing fancy becomes much deeper

The 9mm Shield (left), .45 version (right) — not much difference in size.

Back in 2016 Smith & Wesson introduced the .45 ACP M&P Shield and I tested it for a feature article in this magazine. I already owned the 9mm and .40 S&W versions, but the .45 became my favorite Shield. Five shots in less than 1 1/2″ at 25 yards, three of them 0.30″ apart center to center, with Remington 185-gr. JHP was an eye-opener. The 2.30″ for all five with a “best three” cluster of 0.55″ kept those eyes open. I liked the test sample enough to buy it. I was still a part-time cop then, and passed the sample over to Sgt. John Parsons, who had succeeded me as primary firearms instructor for the department and would be named Chief shortly after I retired in 2017. He liked the .45 Shield so much he ordered one for each of our officers as a backup/plainclothes/administrative uniform weapon, supplementing our uniform issue M&P .45s.

I had found the .45 Shield unerringly reliable, as the department subsequently did across the board. At 21 oz. unloaded, it was exactly the same weight as the old Colt Detective Special snub-nose revolver but held seven to eight rounds (depending on the magazine) of .45 instead of six .38 Special cartridges. Easy to shoot, too. The recoil of the .45 Shield seems to me about the same as the .40 version, which is to say, unexpectedly mild for the size/weight/caliber combination.

I didn’t carry it much, though. I’ve carried full-size and full-weight service handguns all my life and didn’t really need a smaller, lighter one on my hip. I go with the smaller ones only for backup, and for me, the Shields are just a tad big for pocket or ankle carry. In 2019, however, I found an unexpected use for it.

The S&W Shield Family (from top): 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

Another Eye-Opener

My Shield .45 didn’t get too much use until June 2019. My favorite match, The Pin Shoot — known in the 20th Century as the Second Chance Shoot — had been resurrected and now included a Concealed Carry event. The contestant’s pistol had to have a barrel no longer than 3.5″, but still be powerful enough to blow a heavy bowling pin back off a table.

I was miffed the year before when I shot it with a 3.5″ ParaOrdnance LDA .45. Host and match director Rich Davis likes to sing a little ditty to the tune of “Camptown Races” — “It worked all year but not up here, doo-dah, doo-dah.” I fit the profile when my little Para, which had run flawlessly until then, choked on three of the six runs in the 2018 match.

For 2019, I wanted striker-fired reliability for the event, but was stymied. One of my favorite GLOCK 30 .45s? Their barrels were 3.8″ long. Then it hit me: My M&P Shield .45’s barrel is only 3.3″ long! Its 6-lb. trigger sits just right for me to get the crease of the distal joint of my index finger on its center. I took it to the range one more time and was sold.

Long story short — the Shield .45 ran 100 percent, and I came in third in Concealed Carry with a score that would have won the year before. The 21-oz. pistol, totally out-of-the-box, had handled Federal HST 230-gr. +P hollow points with aplomb and actually beat my score with the custom, long-barreled compensated 1911 that I used in the Pin Gun and Space Gun categories. It was the first time I had shot a .45 Shield in a match and it won a prize for me. This more than paid for its purchase price. Hard to argue with that.

S&W M&P Shield .45 with 6-round “concealment” magazine in place.
Mas carries his “on safe” as shown.

Sub-1.5" group from 25-yard bench with Remington 185-gr. JHP. Note the 3-shot cluster.

Talon Grips for Shield .45 have great feel and are easy on bare skin in deep concealed carry.

Carrying The Shield .45

The little Shield had done me a solid, and later in the month I took it along to teach a class in California. Limited to no more than 10-round capacity there, I didn’t feel at all disadvantaged with an 8-shot .45 and two spare magazines.

The spare mags, I confess, were downloaded to six rounds each — with the slide forward a full seven-round Shield magazine has to be really hammered into place and if I needed to perform a tactical reload I figured I’d rather have the old “six for sure” than “seven maybe.” I was reminded how sinfully, decadently comfortable it was to have a 21-oz. pistol on my hip instead of a 39-oz. model holding only one more round of the same ammunition.

I have half a dozen magazines for it, two of the 6-round shorties for deep concealment and four of the extended 7-round ones which give a full grip for all fingers. Kydex holsters from Precision Holster and an IWB from Green Force Tactical give me all the flexibility I need. If I decide to carry it against bare skin beneath an untucked tee or polo shirt, I’ll invest in soft, comfortable Talon grips because the same aggressive S&W factory stippling making it so solid in my hand at the match can chafe against an unprotected side.

For me, the S&W Shield .45 began as a likeable acquaintance. It has earned its upgrade to friend, and I’ll be sharing more companionship with it in the future. I plan to bring it to The Pin Shoot again in 2020.

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