The M&P 45 Shield is Smith & Wesson’s new compact, single-stack pistol chambered in .45 ACP. The 45 Shield is virtually identical to the original Shield in 9mm and .40, with the same design and look and is only slightly larger.
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I have never been a big fan of the M&P Shield, but I’m in the minority. The Shield is one of the most popular pistols and just might be the most popular single-stack pistol for concealed carry, ever. Bringing that popular and proven design to the single-stack .45 class, Smith & Wesson are sure to disrupt, maybe even dominate that category.
I’ve spent a few days shooting the new M&P 45 Shield, including a bit of side-by-side comparison shooting. What follows are my impressions from that experience as well as some technical comparison with popular competitor models.
Why Consider the M&P 45 Shield?
The 45 Shield belongs to a specific category of carry pistols and is not meant to compete with or replace double stacks or pocket pistols. Rather, as a single-stack, slim compact, the 45 Shield is purpose made for when you want to carry a highly concealable .45 that you can hold onto while firing in defense.
The slim frame and slide conceal easily and the grip, even with the flush magazine, is substantial enough to give you good purchase while firing .45 ACP slugs. Some people believe that 6-8 rounds of .45 ACP is better than 7-9 rounds of 9mm. I’m not among them, but if you are I think you should strongly consider the 45 Shield.
M&P 45 Shield Specs:
- Caliber: .45 ACP
- Length: 6.45”
- Height: 4.88” with flush magazine
- Width: .99”
- Barrel: 3.3” stainless steel Armornite™ finish
- Trigger: ~5.5 lb.
- Sights: 3-Dot steel
- Safety: RH-side thumb safety
- Weight: 22.7 oz. w/empty magazine
- Slide: Black, stainless steel Armornite™ finish
- Capacity: 6+1 and 7+1 (extended magazine)
- MSRP: $479
Note that the 45 Shield come with or without an external thumb safety. The model I’m evaluating here had a thumb safety (which I completely ignored, as it is a dangerous liability).
Shooting the M&P 45 Shield
The 230 grain .45 ACP round packs a punch, so when shooting it from a small, thin, and light frame there’s no getting around the fact that it is going to be a bit snappy. Having said that, I found the 45 Shield to be far more comfortable to shoot than I expected. In fact I found it a bit less jarring than shooting my 9mm Glock 43, as even with the bigger kick there is more to hold onto with the 45 Shield. Also, the grip texture was a boon to comfort and controllability. I found the trigger action to be quite good and the pull weight to be pretty standard. Nothing to write home about or complain about here.
For the purpose of this review I shot a few hundred rounds, but all of it was 230 gr. ball ammo. I therefore cannot comment on how it handles defensive rounds. Half was Winchester brown box and half was 230 gr. Armscor. The Armscor was quite a bit hotter than the Winchester, which was revealing when I shot this ammo in the side-by-side comparison with the Springfield XDS (more on that later). The 45 Shield ran just fine and experienced no malfunctions or hiccups.
Comfort, Controllability, and Capacity
The M&P 45 Shield comes with two magazines: a flush magazine that holds 6 rounds and an extended 7-round magazine. The extended magazine makes a good backup, but it makes the grip too long for advisable concealed carry. The six rounds in the flush mag and one in the chamber is pretty good for a single-stack .45 compact.
As mentioned before, the grip texture is quite good. It is more aggressive and covers more surface area than standards M&P Shield grip texture. It makes it quite easy to maintain a good grip when firing strings of several rounds. Missing, however, is the same texturing on the forward thumb position of the frame. This position where the support-hand thumb rests is an important component to recoil management and the slick polymer here does the shooter no favors (*cough* Can you hear me now, Smith & Wesson? *cough*).
I have never been a big fan of the M&P Shield (9mm) in part because the grip always felt a bit too thin for my taste. This 45 Shield frame is only slightly larger and thicker than the standard model, but it is far more comfortable for my hands and seems to handle the .45 round pretty well. In fact I was comfortable shooting 100+ rounds with it in short order during each shooting evaluation session.
Components and Features
The model I used for evaluation came with the external thumb safety, but the M&P website indicates it is available without an external safety. I found the slide lock to be easy to manipulate when I wanted to lock the action open, but it did not get in my way when shooting and it is well positioned for my medium-sized hands (I didn’t accidentally ride it, preventing the slide locking open on the last round of a magazine, as happens with some small pistols). The takedown lever is quite unobtrusive. It is smooth, rounded, and very low-profile on the frame. Well done.
Like the other Shield models, the 45 Shield has the hinged trigger and trigger stop on the bottom of the trigger well. I thought the trigger reset was only a bit too long for my taste. The magazine release, as with all Shield models, is not great, but not terrible either. Also like the other M&P Shield models, the 45 has white 3-dot sights that seem to work just fine for my eyes. You may want to replace them with night sights.
I spent 100 rounds shooting the 45 Shield side-by-side and back-and-forth with the Springfield XDS 45 3.3”. I found the M&P 45 Shield to be more comfortable and slightly more manageable in the firing strings. After 70 rounds or so I had begun to unconsciously compensate for the XDS’ recoil, resulting in hits a bit lower than my intended point of aim. I had no such issue shooting the 45 Shield, perhaps because I was able to get slightly more of my pinky on the grip. I found the 45 Shield to be quite accurate in my hands; shooting 5-round strings in 4 seconds, freehand, with <4” groups at 15 yards. For my money, that’ll suffice for defensive-engagement utility.
For more direct comparison, here is how the M&P Shield 45 measures up against other popular competitors:
|45 Shield||XDS 45||Glock 36||Kahr PM45|
|Weight||22.7 oz||21.05 oz||22.42 oz||19.3 oz|
The 45 Shield is an eminently shootable and concealable, big-bore single stack. The external controls are well designed and unobtrusive and the capacity is as good as one might hope, given the small size. If you like the M&P Shield (and a great many people do) and enjoy .45 ACP, you should warm to the 45 Shield. Shooters will enjoy the grip texture and controllability of this small pistol.
Other than the lack of texturing on the forward frame, and given the purpose and category of pistol we’re talking about here, I can think of nothing substantive to criticize on the 45 Shield. It has a small capacity, but then it is very concealable. It does not hide the thump of the .45 ACP round, but it is less snappy than at least some competitors and, again, it has a small and concealable frame. As for nitpicks, I’ll point out that the small area of serrations on the bottom of the front of the slide are completely useless, and unattractive to boot.
So for rating the M&P 45 Shield…
I think the 45 Shield feels good in the hand, and far better than the 9mm model. The controls are well placed and unobtrusive. The rear slide serrations are excellent.
This is an eminently shootable pistol, though a bit more violent in the hand than, say, a 9mm compact. The grip texture does a good job here.
I found it to be plenty accurate, but the 3.3” barrel is not best suited to great distances. For defensive use, no complaints here.
The 45 Shield has a thin frame that is only .04” wider and only .28” taller than the Shield 9mm. As such, this is a big-bore pistol that can go anywhere with you in any season.
This is a solid and well conceived example of a thin-framed compact in .45 ACP. The M&P Shield is a proven performer and popular success. I have to believe that this big-bore version will do quite well. So long as time bears out its reliability, I think this is the pistol to beat in this particular class. Also, I would tend to trust the quality of Smith & Wesson’s M&P line.
I don’t believe that a thin-framed single-stack is the best way to carry .45 ACP rounds. But for those of you who like the idea of a thin, compact .45 in your belt—especially at only $30 above the Shield 9mm price—this one might be unbeatable.
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