Why make a low-capacity, mid-sized pistol chambered in .380? This was my first question when I saw the specs of the 380 Shield EZ. Well, Smith & Wesson are no dummies so there had to be some logic behind their move here. What I found when I got my hands on the gun and a few rounds downrange was that they’ve got something rather interesting here.
The frame is seemingly larger than would be required for this capacity and chambering, but there is a benefit. The capacity is seemingly lower than would be expected for a frame of this size, but there is a benefit. The result is an easy to hold, easy to manipulate, lightweight pistol that shoots a defensive round but feels like a .22 cal gun. Hrm.
Why Consider the M&P 380 Shield EZ?
The M&P 380 Shield EZ is a compact pistol purpose made for carry and for home defense. Though compact, it is longer and taller than the 9mm Shield most of us know, so there is more of the gun to hold onto. One of the primary features of the pistol is its easy-to-rack slide, seemingly tailor made for people without strong hands. Another feature worth consideration is the grip safety; a feature not often found on compact pistols. If you’re someone who values an extra layer of safety, the 380 Sheild EZ might just be the ticket for you. Finally, you might consider this pistol for its appealing price.
The combination of the slightly larger frame and the slightly softer round make this pistol a joy to shoot and very easy with which to be very accurate…all so long as you don’t mind the minimal defensive ballistics of the .380 round.
M&P 380 Shield EZ Specs:
- Caliber: 380 Auto
- Action: Internal hammer fired
- Length: 6.7″
- Height: 4.98”
- Width: 1.15” (1.43” including the slide “wings”)
- Barrel: 3.675” stainless steel Armornite™ finish
- Trigger: ~5lb.
- Sights: 3-Dot steel, adjustable rear
- Safety: Grip safety + available with or without ambi thumb levers
- Weight: 18.5 oz. w/empty magazine
- Slide: stainless steel Armornite™ finish
- Capacity: 8+1
- MSRP: $399
Note that the model I’m evaluating here has ambi thumb safety levers.
Shooting the 380 Shield EZ
Shooting the 380 Shield is like shooting a .22 pistol. No kidding, the recoil impulse is almost nonexistent so the pistol is very easy to control and to maintain a high degree of accuracy. While some .380 pistols are a bit snappy, due to their subcompact configuration, this Shield model has both the size and weight necessary to mitigate all snappiness. This is an easy pistol to shoot.
The frame is larger than a typical Shield, but smaller than, say, the M&P 9. This mid-sized frame offers plenty to hold onto and allows the controls to be very comfortably positioned. I had no problem running the gun for on/off safety, magazine ejection and reloads, and locking the slide back. It all felt very natural and comfortable.
The trigger is actually quite nice and has a very short and crisp reset, but somehow running it fast did not go as smoothly as I thought it should. I did a few strings of rapid fire during which I wasn’t able to keep the gun as still as it seemed I should for being such a soft shooter. I chalk this up to my being familiar with my EDC gun and this slightly altered geometry of this 380 Shield EZ threw a wrench in my gears. Surely with a bit of practice shooting fast drills would become smoother.
Mostly, though, I just enjoyed shooting this gun. No kidding, outside of a precision .22 this is the softest gun I’ve ever shot. So fun.
Comfort, Controllability, & Capacity
The 380 Shield is not at all heavy and lighter than even the smaller Shield 9mm. Though it is named for the Shield, it feels less like that model and more like the M&P 9 in the hand. It’s a single stack gun, but the grip is not overly thin. For my medium-sized hands, it was quite comfortable. And as mentioned earlier, the controls were easy to get to and to manipulate. The 8+1 capacity is a bit low for a .380 of this size, but being a single stack gun keeps the frame width down and facilitates a more concealable gun.
Controlling the 380 Shield EZ is about as easy as it gets. Even older children and new shooters should do quite well keeping this pistol under control.
Components and Features
The 380 Shield EZ looks like a typical striker-fired gun, but it’s not. It has an internal hammer and that brings consequences to both the trigger (smooth) and the recoil spring weight you feel when racking the slide (softer), since there is no striker to load up.
The most conspicuous feature of the 380 Shield EZ is the grip safety. It’s a large component that disappears when the frame is gripped. I found that I never even noticed the grip safety fin so it was a non factor in my working with the gun. The model I used had the ambi thumb safety levers. Though I always believe such components to be useless or even dangerous on a pistol, I did spend time engaging and disengaging the levers during shooting. They seemed stiff enough to be properly tactile and easy enough to manipulate. The 380 Shield EZ can come without the manual safety levers if you prefer that model (and I hope you do).
The sights are 3-dot steel and the rear sight is drift adjustable. I had no trouble picking up the sights and maintaining a good sight picture during shooting strings. The slide has good serrations, but with the addition of some “wings” on the rear of the slide, I guess to assist with slide racking. I found them entirely unnecessary, but they also didn’t get in my way as some similar components on other guns have.
As mentioned before, the trigger is darn good and contributed positively to accurate shooting. I did not measure its weight, but it seemed to break at around 5 – 5.5 pounds. I’m a fan and wish my Glocks had as good a trigger. The frame is nicely textured and plenty comfortable for my medium-sized hands.
Interestingly, the magazines have side tabs very similar to those found on .22 magazines so that you can if you wish pull down to allow for easier loading of rounds into the magazine. I didn’t find the need to do so, but they work just fine.
This is a relatively lightweight pistol that carries relatively lightweight ammo, which amounts to a mid-sized gun that would be very comfortable to carry around concealed all day. Virtually anyone could rack the slide to lock open or to load. The soft-shooting, highly controllable characteristics make shooting the pistol a very appealing prospect. The trigger is excellent and the grip safety offers an unobtrusive layer of mistake prevention. Also, the price is comparatively very nice.
The .380 round is not optimal for defensive use, but it is serviceable; especially during warmer months when clothes are not thickly layered. Eight rounds in the magazine is a bit anemic for a carry gun, especially with such a small caliber and the overall package is a bit large for an 8+1 capacity (only 1 more round than the smaller 9mm model???).
So for rating the M&P 380 Shield EZ…
There is nothing spectacular about this gun’s ergonomics, but it works and feels just fine.
Perhaps the most shootable pistol I’ve ever laid my hands on.
I found it to be very accurate and very easy to maintain that accuracy!
The 380 Shield EZ is thin enough and small enough to conceal quite well, though not as well as its smaller cousin, the M&P Shield 9mm.
Essentially what Smith & Wesson has done here is create an easy to manipulate, easy to shoot, lightweight gun that sacrifices some size and capacity for a soft shooting experience. In my mind, this is not a bad tradeoff as it addresses some issues that plague some shooters and gives them a mildly compromised solution. Good for S&W.
In the end, my only complaint with this package is the .380 round. Everything else is just fine for my money. Eagle Gun Range has the 380 Shield EZ for rent, so take it out for yourself and see what you think.
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