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The first thing I noticed about the Smith & Wesson M&P 45 SHIELD: its width. For a .45ACP pistol, it is exceptionally slim. The thickest portion of the gun — at the slide lock — is only 1.05″ wide. So I slipped it into a quickly made IWB leather holster and went about my day.

shield thin

Not only was it comfortable, but it disappeared in an un-tucked fitted T-Shirt. It even ankle carries well. At the four o’clock position, IWB, no one could tell I was armed. I tried all sorts of normal workday poses to see if it would print. At some point, I realized that the awkward poses my friends were asking me to try were no longer for posterity, and the question of true discrete carry was answered. This is a comfortable, easily concealable, reliable .45ACP handgun.

To keep the gun as slim as possible, all of the Smith & Wesson M&P 45 SHIELD’s controls are small and tucked in close. There’s always a debate on whether it’s a slide lock or a slide release, but on this gun, there’s no debate. You won’t release the lever just using your thumb, at least not quickly and reliably. It’s too small, and too snugly mounted against the frame.

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The slingshot technique is the only reliable reloading technique to get the M&P 45 SHIELD back into battery quickly. The external safety, even though it’s quite small, has no trouble at all disengaging. It manipulates easily, mostly because of the serrations that cover it’s surface, but also because of its position.

Just during my firing, I engaged and disengaged the safety 63 times. Plus a whole bunch just trying it out. Swiping my thumb down to grip, I missed the safety exactly zero times. You can also get this particular gun without the safety, but I like it.

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All of the controls are on the left side on the 45 SHIELD, none on the right. The mag well isn’t beveled in any way. So although the magazines are easy to load and drop freely, the design leaves you with little room for error. Train, train, train.

My first big surprise: the M&P 45 SHIELD’s overall light recoil. The handgun weighs in a couple of ounces lighter than the similar capacity, similarly sized, GLOCK 36. And yet the Smith delivers a fairly soft recoil pulse. Considering how light and thin this gun was, I was expecting a much more punishing experience.

The first time I had seen this gun fired was at the range with a US army armorer, a vet about 80-years-old. He’d just bought the M&P 45 SHIELD for his everyday carry pistol. Normally, I wouldn’t recommended a small gun in a large caliber for such a chronologically advanced man. But I was impressed when he ran through both magazines, pounding the steel at 25 yards in fast fire like it was nothing. I chalked it up to “old man strength” (which is real, BTW).

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The next magazine out was mine. I was pleased to find that the 45 SHIELD fired like a much heavier pistol. I put all of the reliability rounds out the first day; some 440 rounds. Although my hands were a little chafed from the grips, I didn’t feel worn out from the gun. It was easy to keep the front sight down, even in fast fire with the flush magazine.

Surely some of that recoil mitigation is down to the gun’s grip. After all, the gun weighs relatively little and has a fairly high bore axis, with the middle of the bore an inch above thumb. The grip angle is very much a natural pointer for me, and the mediocre sights came right up in line with my eyes every time. But whoever came up with the fine dot texture stippling absolutely nailed it. Even on a humid 90-degree-plus day, the M&P 45 SHIELD’s grip went absolutely nowhere in my hand.

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What I don’t like, and what I was so close to liking: the trigger. The M&P 45 SHIELD has a two-piece hinged set up. Like similar triggers from other gun makers, I’m assuming it’s designed for safety. But it gave me problems during slow fire. 

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If I focused on pulling the trigger straight back, the weight of the trigger drastically increased. In fact, it increased almost to infinity; it wasn’t going anywhere until my finger pulled hard enough to start sliding down the trigger, engaging that hinge in the two-piece trigger design. The result is a halting, two-part break that causes the muzzle to jump and the round to end eight to 12 inches off the mark at 25 yards.

That said, while this was my experience many others have praised the 45 SHIELD’s trigger. It’s certainly better than its standard M&P big brothers (a low bar). And it features a short reset that’s great during rapid fire. Given the groups that I eventually shot with the gun, I was able to train myself around the trigger. And if, like me, you’re in the minority who isn’t a fan, Apex tactical makes a great replacement trigger for the SHIELD line. In short, your mileage may very well vary. 

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The sights are OK. There are a few different options on this gun, and I would highly recommend night sights for any EDC pistol, especially a back-up gun. Unfortunately, that option doesn’t exist on the Smith website. It’s out there for the 9mm and the .40SW, but not the .45ACP. Yet.

The big disappointment: the M&P 45 SHIELD’s rear sight, which has a smoothed front ramp. Considering the intended application for the gun, that’s a misstep. This should have been a hooked (Heine-style) or just a flat vertical surface that would allow the user to rack the gun by hooking it on a belt, pocket or whatever.

There’s also a good amount of space between both sides of the front sight while looking through the rear site. I appreciate that on a gun like this, but accuracy does suffer, as you can see on the horizontal spread of my rounds in the accuracy testing. Aftermarket sights are available.

mp-45-shield-25-yard-freehand-group-courtest-thetruthaboutguns-com

Accuracy was very good — once I took account of the trigger. In slow fire at the 25 yard line, off a bag, I was able to score 3” five round groups with a variety of a ammunition with boring consistency. Hornady’s 200gr XTP round gave me a few 2 ¾” groups, but everything I fired was within a quarter of an inch, one way or another, of the 3” mark.

Shooting standing at 50 yards, I easily hit a half-size silhouette with any ammunition I tried.  To put that into context, that’s much better than the stock M&P .40SW and just as good as the M&P C.O.R.E. Performance Center .40 cal I tested last year. Not bad at all for a slimline auto with a just over 3” barrel.

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Another big plus for the 45 SHIELD: reliability. I put 440 rounds through for testing in one day, and then another 60 for accuracy testing the next. I shot Blazer and Winchester 230gr FMJs, Hornady’s 200grain XTPs, Remington Golden Saber 185gr HPs and CAP Arms 230 grain XTPs. Zero failures to feed or to eject. I had one failure to lock back on an empty magazine at number 440. That’s it. As with all of my tests, I lubed the gun when I started, and never cleaned it or disassembled it again until after the test was complete.

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Field stripping and cleaning is window-licker simple. Unload, lock the slide back, slide the take-down lever down, let the slide go forward, pull the trigger, and keep pulling the slide right off. A barrel and a spring and you’re done.

I’m far more impressed with the M&P 45 SHIELD than I am with other M&P pistols. Especially at the price point, it’s a great EDC or backup gun. I’m not a fan of the trigger, but everything else is far better than I would have thought. The recoil profile on such a thin, light gun in .45ACP makes the M&P 45 SHIELD a solid choice for personal self-defense.

Specifications: M&P 45 SHIELD

Caliber: .45ACP
Capacity: 6+1 Rounds
Barrel Length: 3.3” (8.4 cm)
Front Sight: Steel – White Dot
Rear Sight: Steel – White Two Dot
Overall Length: 6.45” (16.4 cm)
Frame Width: .99” (2.5 cm)
Frame with Slide Stop: 1.05” (2.6 cm)
Overall Height: 4.88” with Flush Magazine (11.9 cm)
Grip: Polymer
Weight: 20.5 oz. (581.2 g)
Weight Empty Mag: 2.2 oz. (62.4 g) – 6 Round Magazine
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel – Armornite™ Finish
Slide Material: Stainless Steel – Armornite™ Finish
Frame Material: Polymer
MSRP: $479.00 (easily found cheaper online)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy * * * *
Master the trigger and this gun is the bees knees.  Three-inch groups or slightly better from a striker-fired EDC compact with a 3.3” barrel is great by any standard.

Reliability * * * * ½
It had one failure to lock back on an empty magazine in 500 rounds, so I had to take something off. Take that for what you will.

Customization * * *
No idea why Smith doesn’t have night sights on their website yet, but you can find them, as well as quality trigger upgrades online.  Sights and trigger upgrades are the basics, and are all I would want to touch on this gun. Not much for the southpaws out there.

Comfort and Conceal-ability * * * * *
As long as you’re a righty, this gun hides well, is easy to manipulate, and carries all day long in comfort.

Overall * * * *
If you want to carry a small .45, this gun is a value that’s hard to beat.

49 Responses to Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P 45 SHIELD

  1. Do you use the thumbs forward grip? I do and on my 9×19 Shield I’ve had issues with it not locking back because of my thumb being on the slide lock. Dunno if maybe that was the cause of the one failure to lock back or not. I figured with the Shield .45s slightly larger size it wouldn’t have been an issue.

    I like the shield platform and might pick the .45 up. Mine came with 3 mags and factory night sights, and the factory night sights have a flatter surface that can be Racked on a belt or what have you.

    • I do normally use a thumbs forward grip, but found that grip did not work well with this gun, so I tucked them in on this one.

      • Gotcha. I’ve got no issue handling the Shield 9 with the thumbs forward but the gun not locking back every third magazine or so gets annoying. I just don’t want to retrain the way I shoot because the thumbs forward works so well with my work Glock I have to carry every day.

  2. Do you use the thumbs forward grip? I do on my 9×19 Shield and it’s caused some issues with the slide not locking back on the last round due to my thumb riding it.

    I bought mine with factory night sights and 3 mags, and the night sights can be racked on a belt or what have you. Hopefully the .45 night sights are in the same boat when they come around.

  3. While I don’t have anything against manual safeties per se, I find them to be somewhat superfluous on modern striker fired pistols, which usually have two or three internal safeties. My EDC is a M&P40C, which as you might have already guessed, has no magazine or manual safety.

    I find my stock trigger to be adequate, but may upgrade to Apex in the near future. Ditto the sights. One thing at a time, though.

    This pistol has real marketing potential as a backup gun, and it’s got a round up on its most obvious competitor, the Springfield XD-S .45

    Tom

  4. Everybody knows I prefer a revolver. But I do own a couple of semi’s.

    What’s the point in carrying a semi if you’re going to limit yourself to 6+1? Might as well be living in CA. My mak has an 8+1 capacity. And on a striker fired plastic fantastic there’s no need for a manual safety.

    • I’d say

      1 faster reloads, if you carry them
      2 shorter, lighter trigger
      3 won’t blow the thumb off in a hurry
      4 flatter to carry

      As long as the shooter stays off the slide and has decent strength, though.

      YMMV

    • I was going to buy a Shield for myself, but came to this same conclusion, why only carry 8 rounds when I can carry 15 in my G19.

      I was planning on carrying in the same location and in the same method, so what’s the value…. Not much really, because I don’t find carrying my G19 difficult or cumbersome. I’m used to size and weight now.

      That being said, my wife will be getting the Shield 9mm for xmas. I’m hoping she starts carrying more because of it’s smaller size.

      • Glock 19 is quite a bit bigger, but it probably doesn’t matter too much for IWB or OWB carry. If I was doing IWB/OWB, I’d agree with you about the Glock 19 (or something similar).

        The real question is this: Can I pocket carry the Shield .45? I think the answer is probably not. I would love to pocket carry a good shootable .45acp. Since the Shield probably wouldn’t work for that, I’ll just keep carrying my .38 special.

        • You would need enormous pockets. I have carried a 9mm Shield in a cargo pocket with a nylon holster and, yeah, it was too big and heavy. Used to do it all the time with a Kimber Solo though.

          I carry a G26 (IWB, not pocket) for the same argument. I never felt it was any tougher to conceal than a Shield, and 12+1 with a 19 rounder in my left side pocket is tough to beat.

      • Hand size is an important factor. Some of us are hand size challenged and can not handle a double stack anywhere near as well as a single stack. This is my reason for my Colt, Remington, and Kimber .45s (Kimber being my CCW). I carried a government issue .45 in Vietnam, which is nowhere as good as what I have since it was so well broken in. What I learned was that quality (accuracy) is much preferable to quantity. I have applied that view to all the weapons I own although a couple of long guns can be fitted 100 round magazines. Another lesson from Vietnam was loading M-16 magazines with only 17 rounds instead of 20 (we had no 30s). This relieved the magazine spring of stress, and if it took me 17 rounds to hit my target I was in deep crap anyway.

  5. Look at the starboard side of the frame! Neat! And a bunch of room for some serious support hand pressure.

    As a lefty trained on 1911s I appreciate the lack of a slide stop, and a uniform surface.

    • As a lefty, I cannot stand the Shield. Accidental mag drops, weird reaches to press the mag release when you want to drop it, plus all the weird trigger pull stuff JWT already mentioned. If you’re a lefty and size is truly a concern, you can carry the M&P compact line for not that much thicker or heavier than the Shield, in whatever caliber is your preference. A decent carry rig and belt will more than compensate for the difference in thickness and heft.

      • Well, I think we’re built very differently then.

        I never experienced accidental mag drops on any gun, for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it’s that we have different parts on the hand that are meaty, or maybe you have a defective gun.

        I have large hands and long fingers, so no mag release has been a problem. For reference I can reach the mag button easily without shifting the grip on a G21 Gen4 with the largest backstrap.

        The trigger? Yes I concur. Did I mention I EDC mostly a G21 or at least a G30? 45 FTW no apologies! 🙂

        • As to the accidental mag drops, it was without exception when I had the gun holstered (on my left hip). The mag release button faces out, and if any hard or semi-hard surface presses against it, the mag will pop loose. On the Shield, that mag release button cannot be reversed, opposed to the more ambi-friendly full and compact lines. If you stand up, lean back, whatever… the mag drops loose and hits the floor. I now carry a M&P compact, and have the mag release facing in, with zero accidental mag drops.

    • Not in .45. I was extremely impressed by the XD subcompact in 9mm. But its a little fatter and heavier than this gun.

    • I have shot the XDS 45, and the Glock G36. My carry is now the Shield in 45!

      Like the author stated, its an amazing pistol at $200 more than its price, which is $425 around here. The Shield is more accurate and controllable than the XDS, especially in double taps.

      I had all three pistol at one time. I now only have the XDS and Shield, both in 45. Both carry and conceal very well. I use to carry a Ruger SP101 on my belt. Like others have said, a New York reload is way better than trying to reload a snubnosed revolver under stress. So the 6+1 in the Shield doesn’t worry me. I know I will carry it everywhere, instead of choosing something lighter and smaller due to its size and weight.

      Word to S&W, please offer a 40/9 version of the Shield on the 45s frame! A little higher capacity for those that want it and a much better shooter than the smaller ones.

  6. Is the apex trigger for the 9/40 versions compatible with this model? It’d be cool if it was, but the trigger linkage around the wider mag well may complicate it. Apologies if that’s not the shield’s trigger design; I’m guessing it’s similar to a Glock setup.

    • It isn’t, M&Ps use a sear that pivots like a seesaw when the trigger bar pressed against the face of the seat it pivots down and releases the striker.

      They do still have a trigger bar, but without knowing off hand, I would wager there would probably be issues using one from the 9/40 as the frame is substantially different between those and the 45 version.

      Apex has a website though so I’m sure the answer is easy enough to find.

  7. I engaged my safety about the same 63 times and then it broke so I removed it and filled in the slot with a piece of floppy disk plastic. I bought the opposite gun I wanted because i was inpatient. I should have bought the non safety/ mag disconnect model so no hole and no billboard. I do hate the lawerfication and gaudy white lettering of S-W products.

    • I’m just impressed you still have floppy disks laying around. But what will you do next time you need to install MS-DOS?

  8. I kind of like it. May make go to the dark side and a Smith again.

    Unlike many others I do like the current SD guns and recommend them to folks trying out guns for the first time.

    Once you master an SD trigger (not hard), all the rest are easier. Shoot it like a DA revolver and you’ll do fine.

  9. Slide not locking back on the last round isn’t a failure on the gun’s part, so I will discount that 1/2 star docking. The gun leaves a lot to be desired in the looks, sights and trigger – something the performance center version will address.

    • “Slide not locking back on the last round isn’t a failure on the gun’s part,”
      I’m curious how you diagnosed this.

  10. Cool review, sir!

    I am looking for a CCW piece for my wife. She is 5’1″ and has small hands, and not a ton of grip strength. She hates my Glocks, the Smith 4006s are way too heavy, but she enjoys the Sig 227. Unfortunately the full power American Eagle 230 grain FMJs give her a little more recoil that she likes. Truth be told, I could get her one of these and then carry it myself if she prefers the 9mm. The lack of night sights isn’t my favorite. I like the Apex trigger upgrade in the Shield series.

  11. The fact of the matter is when you start lumping every gun in the easy to hide catagory, it becomes an impossible task to choose one that you can both pocket carry and still has 10+ rounds of 9-45 cal ammo. I carry a Kahr PM9 in my pocket for 7 years now. I have been carrying for close to 5 decades. and you can make any gun fit any role, if you are determined enough.
    I can carry an XDS in my cargo pants, or even a Glock 26 or 19 in certain CCW pants made for carrying a gun.
    It comes down to what you are comfortable with. Pocket guns need to be under 16 ozs, IMHO, you can push 20 if you use Liberty ammo which cuts your round weight in half. But tight jeans are not going to allow you to retrieve the gun fast enough. Unless you get one of those new Cherries holsters that Keanu used in the new John Wick movie, Hides a Glock 19 below the belt line. Google it.

  12. I recently bought the new M&P Shield 45, I really like it. I am not sure if I am the first to notice it, but the slide is a bit rough out of the box. At first it almost felt like a ratchet and it would hang up if I didn’t move the slide fully to the rear. It actually scored the shell casings. I chose not to fire the gun and I sent it back to S&W for repair. S&W told me that the rough feel, caused by a serrated slide (the portion that contacts the shell) is by design (only on the Shield 45) to help extract the shell. Although S&W said they didn’t make any repairs, I did noticed that they had polished off the rough edges of the serrations a bit and the slide no longer hung up. Anyway. for anyone who buys the M&P Shield 45, be aware it may feel a little rough when you pull the slide, but it otherwise shoots very nicely with no issues.

  13. Hi Purchashed one had the guide rod spring come apart after 25 rounds of 230 grain.
    Called Smith talked to Rep sent me a label to send back on their dime. 3 weeks later back via FedEx. Smith makes great guns but what their best at is customer service they truly are number one. For that reason I only own Smith Wesson hand guns. Yes
    They shoot well truly are reliable sent three guns back 40 years out of hundreds and there is somthing to be said about Smith Wesson. Truly a award winning company!
    Unlike some others out there.

  14. “Field stripping and cleaning is window-licker simple. Unload, lock the slide back, slide the take-down lever down, let the slide go forward, pull the trigger, and keep pulling the slide right off. A barrel and a spring and you’re done.”

    You pulled the trigger why?
    It has the same sear deactivation lever as all the other M&P series pistols, no?

  15. I conclude with the author on every point on this gun ! I have fired 500 plus rounds thru this gun . Other than to no lock backs on emptying mags no malfunctions no ftfs the gun just works for me ! And the gun fits my hand there fore I shot it well 7 10 15 yards 2.5 inch groups did not mater what type ammo . It seems like the trigger got lighter after about 300 rounds so I checked it 5.5 to 4.2 pounds 1911 trigger weight doesn’t get any better for me folks ! Enjoyed shooting this gun and carry it iwb and out . It even shoots better than my kimber ultra carry for half the price . Thanks smith K

  16. I purchased the S&W Shield 45 ACP soon after I started seeing them at our local gun stores and was pleasantly surprised at how much more accurately I shoot this pistol vs the Shield 9 or 40. Gone is the horrible trigger break I saw with my other Shields. The 40 has been moved on although we still have the 9 but it’s not in our carry rotation; However the Shield 45 has been added to my rotation. Also no Mag drops here, in fact I don’t think I have ever had a Mag drop on any pistol we have owned and we have had quite a few.

  17. I’d like to get one of the new M&P Shield 45 performance-center models…porting seems like a good idea to help control muzzle flip (effectively, according to other reviews I’ve seen), and the nicer trigger makes it a win-win! 🙂

  18. Great article. I own two Shield .45s. One is the Performance Center with Hi Viz sights. Any of the M&P line night sights out on the market will also fit the Shield .45. I have the truglo tfx pro on mine.

  19. Jon, thanks for the great review!
    For everyday carry, I switched to M&P Shield about a year ago.
    Don’t even think about my Glock 19 as a concealed handgun anymore.
    Shield doesn’t print, but the Glock did (at least for my wear style).

  20. I also own a 45 Shield, and love it. As a matter of fact, I have a Shield in 9, 40, and 45, and I must say, the 45 is my most favorite out of the three calibers. It is my GO TO CCW now. The 9 is really good, the 40, has to much muzzle flip for me, but the 45, is just right. Something about it, it just shoots smoother then the 9 and especially the 40. Just my humble opinion anyway.

  21. I too have all 3 of the shields, as well as a full size and compact in 40 with 9mm conversion barrels. The 45 shield is by far my favorite. If memory serves, I believe they come with different triggers. The lawyer trigger is close to 10 lbs, which is what it sounds like the author is dealing with. Mine is the non-lawyer trigger, and its fine. Haven’t measured it, but I’d say it’s under 5 lbs. Over travel is longer than I like, but IMHO it’s the best factory trigger I’ve found on a striker fire platform. For such a small gun, it’s very accurate, and recoil isn’t any worse than my (much heavier) Officers Model 1911.

    For defensive loads, I highly recommend a load that uses the Barnes DPX projectiles. I’ve tested them in 160gr and 185gr, and they’re the only thing I’ve found so far that reliably expands. On second thought, the Hdy Critical Defense also reliably expanded, but expansion was always under 5/8″ where as the Barnes was always over 3/4″ with some approaching 7/8″ and plenty of penetration.

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