The new S&W Shield has generated quite a bit of excitement since its announcement at the 2012 NRA Show. At first glance, this self-defense handgun appears to be the you-know-what: diminutive size, 9mm and .40 caliber chambering, light weight, good quality sights and single stack magazine (all features that are highly prized in the sub-compact market). However, I’ve found a couple head-scratchers—I mean features—that leave a dry taste in my mouth on this otherwise promising new pistol . . .
The low hanging fruit of criticism: the Shield’s manual thumb safety. Whether or not one should have a safety on a self-defense handgun is a topic that’s been beaten to death (should’ve come armed). And looks like it’s coming back for more. Meanwhile, I’ll avoid another critique of this less-than-ideal “safety” device. I’m more concerned about the Shield’s extended eight-round magazine.
The 9mm Shield comes with two mags: one seven-rounder and one eight-rounder. The seven-round mag fits flush with the bottom of the grip. The eight-round mag sticks out about 3/4″ and includes a polymer sleeve that fits over the base of the magazine—giving your pinky a little more purchase on the grip of the pistol. As you’d expect, the diminutive Shield feels much better in hand with the eight-round magazine inserted.
The Shield’s sleeve is held in place by friction. The sleeve can slide up the body of the magazine with little effort. If you were to carry one of these extended mags as a spare, it’s possible that the polymer sleeve would move up the body of the magazine. Should a reload be required, seating the spare magazine in the pistol becomes far more challenging. If the sleeve isn’t in its proper place, you have to really whack the magazine to get it to seat and even then it’s not guaranteed it will do so properly.
If you plan on carrying a spare magazine with your Shield, you must use the eight-round magazine. However, carrying the seven-round magazine as your spare causes another problem. Should you need a reload, you’ve now altered the handling characteristics of your pistol—by going from the full grip offered by the eight-round mag to the truncated grip of the seven-round mag (which leaves your pinky dangling).
If you carry a Shield, I recommend that you pick the magazine length that works best for you—and only use that magazine in your pistol. If you choose to carry the pistol with the eight-round magazine as a spare, I would superglue the sleeve to the magazine body or remove the sleeve from the magazine to avoid problems. Because that’s the last thing you need in a concealed carry firearm.
Tim runs the YouTube Military Arms Channel