Gun Review: Smith & Wesson M&P380 SHIELD EZ – Take 2

For twenty years now I’ve looked for an arthritis sufferer-friendly pistol for my mom. Without the strength to rack a slide, she can’t operate semi-autos. Add to that her inability to pull a double-action revolver’s trigger — or even cock a revolver without significant difficulty — and her options are pretty limited.

What’s more, she’s not alone when it comes to the less-abled who want a handgun for self-defense. As a long-time instructor, I’ve seen plenty of folks with hand strength issues.

When the folks at one of my local gun stores asked me about the new Smith & Wesson M&P380 SHIELD EZ, I knew only what I’d read in Jeremy’s review. He had test-driven one and given it a rare five-star rating. I spent a lot of time with Jeremy at last year’s NRA Convention and he knows his stuff and writes what he finds – good or bad.

Right away, it had my attention. It felt solidly built, but was light with a smallish grip. I didn’t care for the ambidextrous external safety, but that’s just one of my personal quirks. I’m told it’s also available in a non-external safety version.

S&W also equipped it with a big grip safety that looks intimidating, but I didn’t even notice it when I grabbed the gun.

The grip felt quite comfortable, albeit a tad on the small side for my average-size manpaws. They described it as a “grandma gun” and I could see it filling that role, especially when I felt how easily the slide manipulated.

To make racking the slide easier, the gun has a very mild-mannered recoil spring, and Smith thoughtfully cut the slide to provide LOTS of purchase for a sure grip. And that’s not even counting the beveled cuts at the rear of the slide.

After getting a feel for how easy the gun manipulated, I checked it once more to be sure it was unloaded and then dry-fired it.

“Wow! Nice trigger,” I thought to myself.

Even before I handed it back, I thought to myself, “This is a gun for mom.”

I wanted to put it through its paces to see if it shot as well as it felt. So they hooked me up with their loaner gun. How kind of them, right? The nice people at CI Shooting Sports have a whole wall full of rifles and support-braced pistols that look a lot like short-barrelled rifles, along with a case full of cool handguns for folks to rent. Or try before they buy – or simply just dabble in some really cool new guns with friends.

They might as well as have said, “Here, just take a look at this 4-week-old German Shepherd puppy! All you have to do is just look, okay?” Yeah, I went, looked and Fritz followed me home at eight weeks as a 50th birthday present.  When it comes to new guns though, my lovely bride keeps me on an even shorter leash than the dog.

Here’s how Smith & Wesson describes their new pistol:

Built for personal protection and every-day carry, the M&P380 Shield EZ is chambered in 380 Auto and is designed to be easy to use, featuring an easy-to-rack slide , easy-to-load magazine, and easy-to-clean design. Built for personal and home protection, the innovative M&P380 Shield EZ pistol is the latest addition to the M&P M2.0 family and provides an easy-to-use protection option for both first-time shooters and experienced handgunners alike.

No over-the-top boasts. The new pistol lives up to every word of S&W’s promo. Here’s what I found when I shot it.

Right out of the gate, I liked its light weight. Smith lists it at 18.5 ounces, which would make it fairly unobtrusive for everyday carry. It’s well-balanced and the big (giant?), three-dot, all-white sights are easy to see, even in the modest light on the indoor range using my 50-year-old eyeballs.

Loading the single-stack eight-round magazines came very easy, thanks to the rimfire-style knobs on the sides of the magazine. They make loading a snap. They let you drop loaded rounds into the mag without fighting the spring tension. It’s akin to loading a Ruger .22 target pistol or a Walther P22 magazine.

In other words, the magazines are very novice-shooter friendly. And very friendly for arthritic fingers or those with disabilities.

Yeah, they could have made this gun hold a lot more ammo, but the designers went for ease of use, not maximum lead-throwing capacity.

I ran the Dot Torture drill at five yards. My interest in handgunning involves defensive gun uses and five yards easily encompasses the overwhelming majority of civilian DGUs. Shooting that drill gives me an apples-to-apples opportunity to test a gun for reliability, ease of use, and general handling and compare the results against how I do with my everyday carry GLOCK.

In other words, I fired it from strong- and support-hand only grips, traditional isosceles, against multiple targets and bringing it to bear and firing from low ready.

How did it do?

For my first time shooting the pistol, out of 50 rounds, I dropped five rounds from perfect (targets are two-inch circles).  Of late, that’s about normal or maybe one more miss than usual. Yeah, I need a lot more practice. But I won’t blame the M&P EZ for those misses. Those were all me.

Despite the light weight, felt recoil was quite mild with factory full-metal jacket ammunition. I snuck in a few magazines of Hornady Critical Defense JHP and they shot flawlessly and without an appreciable difference in muzzle blast or recoil.

In another string against a little alien target at five yards (above), it made a nice group when firing eight rounds at one round per second (range rules).

I left my fish scale at home, but I’d estimate the trigger broke at about four pounds. The S&W trigger seemed to shoot just a bit heavier (and arguably smoother) than the GLOCK 3.5-pound target trigger I traditionally shoot.

In short:  my specimen came with a very impressive factory trigger. The New York City PD would never allow it, but unlike NYC, we don’t have idiot politicians here telling us we need 32-pound triggers in our handguns to prevent negligent discharges.

The M&P380 SHIELD EZ shot consistently to the left about an inch or so at five yards. I attributed that to the gun.  (And when I shot a second string on a SIG, that gun hit dead-on for me). The rear sights on the are windage (drift) adjustable, but even without tweaking the rear sight, the little gun shot well within minute-of-bad guy.

For those worried about the M&P380 SHIELD EZ’s ability to make hits further down range, I had no problems making center-of-mass hits on a life-sized bad guy at 15 yards. After another reload, and taking my time in aiming and trigger control, the gun continued to impress.

While bearing down for maximum accuracy, I drilled eight good headshots out of eight rounds fired, also at 15 yards. I consider myself about average in shooting ability, so that means you can probably make those same shots with this gun, too  Some serious shooters could probably drill an eyeball at that range with it, but that’s not me.

In a nutshell, in semi-competent hands, this little M&P EZ piece can keep up with its full-sized brethren. For a grandma gun, that says a lot.

The M&P380 SHIELD EZ ships with a pair of eight-round mags and will fire without one in the gun.

Speaking of magazines, it requires a decent strike against the baseplate to seat the mag on a closed slide. If that’s a problem, it can be easily overcome by less-abled users. Simply hold the gun in a firing grip and pressing the base-plate of fully-loaded magazine against a hard surface, and you’ll feel and hear it click into place.

Yes, the .380 only hits with a little over half the energy as a 9mm round. At the same time, Hornady’s modern XTP hollowpoints (and Fiocchi Extrema XTPs where you can find them) deliver some of the best performance in the .380 caliber of defensive ammo. The XTPs perform quite well against soft tissue and pretty consistently deliver 12 inches of penetration in ballistic media, suggesting adequate penetration against two-legged predators. At the same time, they seldom grossly over-penetrate like some .380 Auto self-defense loads – and full metal jacket rounds.

(Tip: Freedom Munitions has XTP .380s, and if you mention TTAG, you save 5%.)

Of course, a good hit with a .380 beats a miss with a .45. For my mom, that .380 will perform far better than the rimfire pistol currently in her nightstand. And any ballistic solution darn sure beats most any non-ballistic or empty-handed options for a seasoned citizen.

The EZ field strips into four pieces relatively easily and intuitively for the firearms-savvy. It goes back together just as easily (I didn’t need to consult any YouTube videos or the manual).

Honestly though, for a lot of users, they’ll likely buy this gun, load it and put in a nightstand somewhere in case the worst happens. And there it shall remain. While that’s suboptimal on several fronts, that’s reality for a lot of folks.

Even so, if grandma picks it up and does her part, the EZ will go bang and deliver hits on target if the worst happens.

Specifications: Smith & Wesson M&P EZ .380 Auto

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 8+1 rounds
Action: internal hammer fired, single action
Overall Length: 6.7 inches
Barrel Length: 3.675 inches
Height: 4.98 inches
Width: 1.15 inches (1.43 at widest point across the safeties)
Weight: 18.5 ounces
Sights: white 3-dot sights, rear adjustable for windage
Materials: polymer frame, stainless steel slide and barrel with Armornite Finish
External Safeties: grip safety, tactile loaded chamber indicator, optional ambidextrous thumb safety
MSRP: $399

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability * * * * *
Perfect function, even while dirty.

Accuracy * * * *
The EZ is an accurate shooter that’s easy to shoot. One star off because my specimen shot a little to the left, but you (or your gun shop) can fix that.

Ease of Use * * * * *
The M&P380 Shield EZ makes shooting a pistol pleasant and easy, especially for those with hand strength issues. I could carp about the full mag seating against the closed slide, but that’s just nit-picking.

Trigger * * * * 1/2
The factory trigger on this pistol is amazing – almost comparable to GLOCK’s target trigger for those familiar with that common tweak. No, it’s not a tuned 1911, but this isn’t a Les Baer gun.

Value * * * * *
An semi-auto from a major manufacturer that will work reliably and effectively as a self-defense piece for those without a lot of grip strength and/or small hands? That’s priceless right there. At under $400, that’s very good value.

Overall * * * * *
Smith & Wesson has hit a home run for grandparents everywhere. And those suffering from disabilities caused by injury or illness (such as arthritis or MS). In a world of bold sales claims, the M&P380 SHIELD EZ delivers solid hits with mild recoil. Its ease of use for the less-abled cinches the deal. Bigtime.

Fair disclosure:  In recent days, I’ve read that some hot ammo in the S&W EZ can cause the external safety to actuate on its own when the gun is fired. Smith is offering a no-cost upgrade for guns made before April 4, 2018.  For more on this, visit this link. I shot this gun in late March so it was clearly one of the guns affected. I experienced no malfunctions or spontaneous safety activations with the zippy XTP’s.

comments

  1. avatar Geoff PR says:

    This is good, making one better suited for the less-than-optimally-abled.

    A few bits of skateboard tape on it may help it a bit more…

    1. avatar Madcapp says:

      That pistol is a good idea, in an underserved category, but it suffers from 3 serious design problems…
      1. Grip safety has to go
      2. Manual safety has to go
      3. Magazine safety has to go

      Otherwise, its a great design for the elderly, women, and the recoil sensitive. And its actually big enough to have a reliable feed ramp arrangement…unlike many 380 mouse guns.

      1. avatar Brian says:

        1. Why the grip safety? Have you actually handled one? You don’t ever notice it when you pick it up.
        2. Agreed. For my my mom’s if she doesn’t hold it down with her thumb her knuckle will activate it periodically.
        3. Have you actually read the article? Clearly you haven’t ever picked one up. There is no mag safety.

        1. avatar Inqurying Mind says:

          Nobody notices a grip safety until a pistol won’t fire because the shooter’s hand is not activating it correctly.

          I had a 1911 .22 that a friend of mine could not get to fire half the time. I don’t know if it was the shape of his hand or the way he gripped it, but I never had trouble with it.

          I just consider grip safeties to be superfluous, and I also question why they would put one on a pistol that is apparently being market to people who may have problems with grip strength. It’s like putting a thumb safety on a pistol and marketing it to people without thumbs.

      2. avatar Kenkg says:

        I think the grip safety is the best compromise for a person who will not use the gun frequently. For thise people, simplicity is paramount. My personal preference is a DA/SA for such people but a grip safety meets the simplicity requirement; grip the gun, pull the trigger. With a 3.5 lb SA only trigger, a safety is mandatory, but, IMO, a thumb safety is too easy to forget for an infrequent shooter in a high stress situation.

    2. avatar What I know says:

      No Go Bang Sometimes: M&P 380 SHIELD EZ Manual Thumb Safety

      Smith & Wesson has launched a “consumer advisory” notice for owners of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol, a common concealed-carry sidearm.

  2. avatar Kenneth says:

    Absolutely a glowing report in all respects. Even includes S&W’s press release in full.
    Make sure to keep up TTAG’s ‘honest review without reservations to sponsorship’ policy like the new owners promised, OK?
    Remember, we’re watching you….

    1. avatar Dan Zimmerman says:

      Two reviewers shot the same model and gave their independent opinions, coming from two different perspectives.

      Also, Smith & Wesson is not an advertiser here.

      Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And a good gun is just a good gun.

      1. avatar Wade says:

        Fair enough Dan. You are ok.

      2. avatar What I know says:

        No Go Bang Sometimes: M&P 380 SHIELD EZ Manual Thumb Safety

        Smith & Wesson has launched a “consumer advisory” notice for owners of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol, a common concealed-carry sidearm.

  3. avatar FedUp says:

    I’d expect recoil to be VERY mild in a 380 that weighs 5oz more than a Colt Mustang. It’s even heavier than my soft recoiling 9mm P938.

    With decent weight and a soft recoil spring, does it handle limp-wristing well?

    1. avatar CJ in KC says:

      My wife has had a P238 for a few years now and she is a terrible limp wrister jamming up the works on it. I wondered the same thing but she has had no fails yet on the couple of hundred or so she’s put through the EZ. We’ll see after a she gets a few hundred more through it.

    2. avatar What I know says:

      No Go Bang Sometimes: M&P 380 SHIELD EZ Manual Thumb Safety

      Smith & Wesson has launched a “consumer advisory” notice for owners of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol, a common concealed-carry sidearm.

      1. avatar DrRJP says:

        Quit spamming this discussion, moron.

      2. avatar Stevewonderful says:

        In the case of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety, however, the company has found ‘that in very rare circumstances,’ ammunition that produces a high level of felt recoil can cause the manual safety to move from the Fire position to the Safe position during firing. That means your Shield unexpectedly might not go bang after it’s fired.
        So, as of April 4, 2018, Smith has engineered the manual safety so that it will be less susceptible to the influence of ammunition weight, velocity, and loads.
        Any M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol produced before April 4 is eligible for a no-cost upgrade.

  4. avatar CJ in KC says:

    My wife bought one a few weeks ago and it too shot way left out of the box. After some adjustment it shot fine. She was very happy to be able to finally rack a slide on a gun larger than her P238. Everything John wrote about the ease of the slide, quality of the trigger, and ability to load the mags is spot on. It is a great gun.

    1. avatar What I know says:

      No Go Bang Sometimes: M&P 380 SHIELD EZ Manual Thumb Safety

      Smith & Wesson has launched a “consumer advisory” notice for owners of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol, a common concealed-carry sidearm.

      1. avatar Stevewonderful says:

        In the case of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety, however, the company has found ‘that in very rare circumstances,’ ammunition that produces a high level of felt recoil can cause the manual safety to move from the Fire position to the Safe position during firing. That means your Shield unexpectedly might not go bang after it’s fired.
        So, as of April 4, 2018, Smith has engineered the manual safety so that it will be less susceptible to the influence of ammunition weight, velocity, and loads.
        Any M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol produced before April 4 is eligible for a no-cost upgrade.

  5. avatar Mack Bolan says:

    This is begging for a follow up review from Grandma.

    1. avatar Bloving says:

      Uh, right?
      John, you said it was for Mom but we didn’t get her input at all…
      I think a trip to the range with Mom and another review you two can write together would answer the real questions we need – does it work in the hand it was meant for?
      Besides, a Mom and Son article would be kinda sweet…
      🤠

      1. avatar 80 D says:

        …and Mothers Day is around the corner.

      2. avatar Just Sayin says:

        Oo, nice call with a great suggestion.
        My mom’s 80 next month.
        Hmmmmm…

        Got one for my wife three weeks ago.
        She has OA in both hands/wrists.
        Of all my attempts with my, uh-hum, collection, THIS is the first pistol AND shooting experience where she smiled & laughed !!
        She ended up the last half of the session shooting strong hand only at 10yds and was nailing it into a paper plate. That’s excellent for a newbie.
        This 380EZ model is going to do very well for S&W.
        And it will bring new POTG into the fold.

    2. avatar What I know says:

      No Go Bang Sometimes: M&P 380 SHIELD EZ Manual Thumb Safety

      Smith & Wesson has launched a “consumer advisory” notice for owners of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol, a common concealed-carry sidearm.

      1. avatar Stevewonderful says:

        In the case of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety, however, the company has found ‘that in very rare circumstances,’ ammunition that produces a high level of felt recoil can cause the manual safety to move from the Fire position to the Safe position during firing. That means your Shield unexpectedly might not go bang after it’s fired.
        So, as of April 4, 2018, Smith has engineered the manual safety so that it will be less susceptible to the influence of ammunition weight, velocity, and loads.
        Any M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol produced before April 4 is eligible for a no-cost upgrade.

  6. avatar Nigel the expat says:

    “Of course, a good hit with a .380 beats a miss with a .45. For my mom, that .380 will perform far better than the rimfire pistol currently in her nightstand. ”

    I don’t remember if it was Col. Cooper or not who said:

    1. Gun
    2. Shot placement
    3. Caliber

    If you don’t have a gun, you lose
    If you cannot hit what you are aiming at (ergonomics, flinch anticipation, whatever), you lose

    a .380 you will actually carry/use is better than anything else you won’t.

  7. avatar TommyJay says:

    Sounds like a great gun, but you’d think Smith could trim up the sights before shipping the gun. If they’re not test firing, what happens if a unit fires way high or low when you receive it? Would they replace it?

    1. avatar Rex says:

      You can adjust the rear sight without removing the slide, mark the sight, lock the slide to the rear, loosen the allen screw, adjust sight, tighten allen screw. Like everything else, EZ.

    2. avatar Brian says:

      Why would it shoot high or low? It’s only adjustable for windage, so presumably it can only be off in that dimension.

  8. avatar slimjim9 says:

    Wait, your dog is allowed new guns?

  9. avatar ironicatbest says:

    Hi Point is going to lose some sales to this Smith at that price.

    1. avatar Grump Old Guy says:

      HiPoint is a different market, basically a functioning gun at a rock bottom price, forget looks or size. The EZ seems to be a very nice design for a specific segment who is willing to spend a bit more for something that feels good in the hand, looks good and is easy to use. Have to give +2 to S&W on this. Will look at one for my wife (disabled), but without the manual safety. Only question is HOW DO YOU REVIEW A PISTOL GUESSING ON THE TRIGGER PULL? Anyone serious about gun reviews should have access to a trigger gauge and measure the pull.

  10. avatar Docduracoat says:

    I have no doubt the Smith and Wesson e z .380 is a fine product
    Every example of the shield in various calibers I’ve ever shot is been a great gun
    The competing product to this gun is the Walther PK 380
    8 rounds, safety/decocker and it is a locked breech gun
    That makes it the easiest to rack semi auto I have ever seen!

    1. avatar Kendahl says:

      The PK380 is DA/SA. In SA condition, the trigger is in a comfortable position for me. In DA, it’s a long enough reach that I have to change my grip. If I had one, I would cock it with my support hand thumb for the first shot.

  11. avatar Komradklaus says:

    You keep mentioning grandma, but most reviews I’ve seen this far are by able bodied shooters. I want to hear from a real lfe grandma that the gun is easy to shoot, I already know I’ll have no trouble with it.

  12. avatar What I know says:

    From GUN TEST

    No Go Bang Sometimes: M&P 380 SHIELD EZ Manual Thumb Safety

    Smith & Wesson has launched a “consumer advisory” notice for owners of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol, a common concealed-carry sidearm.

    “It seems the function of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol can be influenced by the type and quality of ammunition used with the pistol,” said Todd Woodard, Editor of Gun Tests Magazine. “Most gun owners realize that’s the case with most firearms.

    “In the case of the M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety, however, the company has found ‘that in very rare circumstances,’ ammunition that produces a high level of felt recoil can cause the manual safety to move from the Fire position to the Safe position during firing. That means your Shield unexpectedly might not go bang after it’s fired. That could be very bad for a concealed-carry gun owner who’s depending on the EZ in a self-defense situation.”

    Should this occur, a company statement says, “You will not be able to fire the next round unless and until the manual safety is reset to the Fire position.”

    m&p ez shield manual thumb safety
    So, as of April 4, 2018, Smith has engineered the manual safety so that it will be less susceptible to the influence of ammunition weight, velocity, and loads, Woodard reported.

    “Any M&P 380 Shield EZ Manual Thumb Safety pistol produced before April 4 is eligible for a no-cost upgrade,” he said.

    To determine if this consumer advisory applies to your pistol, please utilize the serial number verification tool on the company’s consumer advisory page. Click here to navigate to that page.

    Then, Woodard advised, if your pistol is subject to this fix, call Smith & Wesson at (800) 331-0852 or email them at [email protected]. A FedEx return label and shipping instructions to facilitate the return of your M&P 380 Shield EZ pistol will be mailed to you.

    Also, Woodard said it’s worth noting a significant ammunition restriction Smith & Wesson posted in the announcement:

    1. avatar DaveInAK says:

      Geez can you post maybe another 20 times? I don’t think I got your message yet.

  13. avatar What I know says:

    there are people who only see this once, and you have to reply for them to see it

  14. avatar Dave M says:

    For ammo I suggest the Ruger (Polycase) ARX .380; this round provides significantly more power with less recoil. Look up ‘Real Guns’ test of the Ruger LCP II where he does an ammo comparison test also.

    1. avatar DrRJP says:

      ARX is good but it is being phased out. The Lehigh Extreme Defense round is better than the ARX.

      OR, you could go with the G2 RIP and really create some gut guacamole.

      1. avatar Doc Graham says:

        Lehigh Extreme Defender penetrates far deeper and more reliably without over penetration, and creates a wound channel of exponentially greater volume–almost regardless of any barrier. Underwood also also loads the XD bullet it in a +P and a +P+

      2. avatar Gralnok says:

        “Gut Guacamole” Now there’s an interesting visual.

  15. avatar Doc Graham says:

    Calling this a “grandma gun” does it a huge disservice. I am an NRA Instructor in Basic Pistol, Basic Rifle, Personal Protection In The Home, and Personal Protection Outside The Home. The “grandma” thing might carry a negative connotation for some buyers. There are many small women (and some small men), in addition to those with certain disabilities for whom this is the perfect pistol! Even with modified techniques, efficiently racking a slide can be a major concern, even for certain experienced, competitive and tactical shooters. Plus, “grandmas” are cheerfully included! 🙂

    1. avatar DrRJP says:

      When Ruger comes out with a “Grandma gun, ” I’ll be the first to cheer because they have some of the toughest racking semi-autos on the market.

      Hearing that S&W FINALLY made a decent trigger in a poly pistol is also good news. I have not forgiven them yet for installing such a terrible trigger in the SDVE guns I bought (and sold).

  16. avatar Gralnok says:

    Dogs and guns.
    Treat them good, feed them right, take good care of them, and they will be there when you need them. ❤️

  17. avatar Speedo2 says:

    With my EZ380 I’ve experience “last round double ejection”, or more often “last round partial ejection” whereby the last round will somehow stand up vertically (unfired) and block the slide, instead of chambering. . Hickok45 also reported it in one of his recent YouTube videos.

    For me, this FTE (I guess) occurred with both factory and hand loads. It occurred with both factory mags and only at the last cartridge in the mags. However, not all the time; only about once out of 5 mags, on average. It went on a hiatus a couple of weeks ago, but returned the last time I took my EZGeezer to the range. I’ve got no explanation and am hoping to find a fix before this gun gets released to my wife. Any thoughts?

  18. How would you compare the ez vs Glock 42? I bought a 42 for my wife and after shooting it a couple of times, I bought one for myself. Is the ez that much ez-er to handle?
    I don’t get why folks get their shorts in a bunch over manual safeties, if you don’t like it don’t use it, that’s what I’ve done with every gun I’ve owned that had one…just sayin.

    Footnote, the ez just became available in mass.

  19. avatar Just Sayin' says:

    I believe an EZ model is available w/o the thumb safety.

  20. I was looking more for a comparison between the ez and Glock 42

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