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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Thanks for the review, Andy. Seems a great choice for those older shooters with arthritis or previous hand injuries. With good quality hollow point Hornady or Speer 95 gr ammo, do you feel this would still not stop threats?
As to your question, that’s entirely dependent on the situation, the clothing, and the marksmanship of the defender; as with any situation. The fact is that .380 ballistics are inferior to 9mm ballistics, and more affected by coats and other clothing. That said, the .380 round is generally considered to be a viable defensive round. In the end, the .380 is better than the no-gun at all.
You should watch this video on YouTube. Might change your opinion on calibers.
Lucas, loved your tag video! After reading this article, I was intrigued in handling one! A friend had bought this exact pistol recently! He showed it to me and I fell in love! So, thank you for an excellent article Andy! A nice video link Lucas! & now, I’m an owner of this .380 EZ! Cant wait to go shooting!
What is the difference between the .380 m&p shield EZ and the ,380 m&p shield EZ 2.0?
I WILL be purchasing one it the other this week
Andy, I’m certainly not questioning your views on the .380 bullets. But, for any might be completely turned off of the .380 round. I bought my wife one of these MP Shield EZ .380 prior to the 9mm and .40 models coming out. I erected a back stop consisting of (3) sheets of 1/2″ plywood. Figured this should stop it. Shot right through that 1″ and a 1/2″ of plywood. I’m currently debating buying the 9mm. But, I sure do love the fact the recoil on this EZ is almost like shooting a .22. Mike C.
I bought my wife this pistol. After getting her brought up to speed on the components and how to use the gun we took it outside for her first dance. We put four rounds through it. First thing I noticed was that the front sight had disappeared. That’s what I said. It’s gone. Can’t find it. What the heck happened.? My wife’s first handgun and this happens. Not a good show for S&W right out of the box.
Same thing happened to me. S&W is sending a front sight and clip…does need better quality inspection before shipping.
Xtp loaded projectiles are best in 380. Thst said hooefully we will come tests soon to see how the longer barreled 380 pistols do
I see all these people asking California complaint. If you live in CA you should know. If not go to a gun store in CA. If they sell it, it’s CA complaint
California does not want people owning guns. That’s why I don’t live in Mohave any more.
Consider also the Ruger LC380. Same concept, better implementation. Cheaper.
my wife bought the Ruger LC9, a similar firearm to Ruger LC380.
S&W 380EZ is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT CONCEPT. Rugers are difficult to rack especially for beginners hence the reason it was designed for EZ operation
I bought this gun because #1 I’m not very experienced with guns so I love all the safety features and #2 I have small hands and cocking normal guns is alot of work for me and usually hurts my fingers. This gun is light weight and easy and perfect for me to learn on. I will say I’m not the greatest shot but I’m good enough to know that the sights are not 100% accurate . Also I had one round get jammed in the chamber my first time shooting it but i think it was the really cheap ammo. Also I keep my gun in my conceal and carry purse and just happened to noticed the magazine came out of the well. I’m rough with my purse and could have pushed on the magazine release button but I didnt like that it could come out so easy. If during an emergency situation I pull my gun and the magazine just falls out I’m in big trouble. I’ve only had it for a week and only shot 16 rounds so I’ll need to update my review later. But again being as inexperienced and learning , I think this is all around a great first hand gun (technically my second 380 but first one I’ve picked out as bought for myself, last gun was given to me)
Your anecdote about the magazine release being pressed and mag coming out seems to suggest that you’re not carrying your pistol in a holster in your purse. Please know that every firearm needs to be in a holster: either a belt holster, a pocket holster, or one made specifically for mount inside of a purse or car. If your pistol is unholstered in your purse, it is a ticking time bomb–one that gets women killed every year. Please make sure to always carry it holstered in your purse. Better yet, never carry in your purse and instead carry on-body. Take care.
Hmmm, a self-admitted inexperienced shooter using cheapo ammo claiming that the sights are inaccurate. What’s really going on here?
I just bought one brand new for my wife. She had 6-8 failure to feed and failure to eject issues (lost count) within the first 50 rnds fired with quality ammo. We couldn’t believe it. Already second guessing the purchase. If I have to ship it back to Smith & Wesson I will just get a refund and never touch another Smith & Wesson. Had another experienced shooter handle the pistol the first thing he said was he had never felt such a rough safety. He said it was super tough to operate the safety compared to any and all of his other firearms. Starting to feel like this gun is just a GIMMICK! :(
What you’re describing sounds like limp-wristing rather than a problem with the gun; provided you cleaned and lubed the gun before shooting it. If you didn’t, then you need to – and you should watch your wife’s hands while she’s shooting. If the gun’s muzzle flips up when it fires, she’s not gripping the pistol strong enough (or improperly). Fix that grip and provide a proper foundation for the gun and I’ll bet that there are no more malfunctions. Hope that helps!
I absolutely appreciate the advice. After about the third time it happened to her I tried a few mags and the same happened to me as well as my dad. One thing I didn’t do was clean & lube the gun first. Probably a mistake on my part. I just assumed it would function 100 percent straight out of the box. I will pull the slide off and clean and lube the gun. Still a bit skeptical though considering now that I’ve experienced and researched the issues, it seems to be common. Approximately 1 out of every 3 youtube videos I watched showed other shooters having the same issues including “hickok45”. I have also found several forums with discussions of the s & w 380 ez issues. Again, thank you and I will clean & lube the gun well and make sure none of us are limp-wristing and give it another go.
Look up the video hickok45 did on the s & w 380 ez. Look at all the replies on his “Pinned” comment at the top of the comments. This firearm definitely has issues.
Thank you for your advice. Although we didn’t clean and lube the gun before shooting I am still convinced this gun has issues. Look up the video “hickok45” did on the s & w 380 ez. It happened to him 2 or 3 times. Also, look at all the replies on his “Pinned” comment at the top of the comments. This firearm definitely has issues. I’ve also seen several youtube videos and forum discussions where people are having the same issues. I’ve only ever regretted selling a firearm, not buying one but that’s the feeling I’m having at the moment. I’ll clean and lube it and give it another go. Hoping I did t throw $520 down the drain though. Thanks again for your advice and time. Much appreciated.
I saw your comment was over a year old so uoyr not likely to see this but in case someone else cruising the net sees it… dont be frustrated your experience is accurate. I shot several hundred rounds through 2 different firearms and got the same results. Sent one back to s&W for repair, same issue. Several aftermarket mags and springs later i solved the problem. First off the “problem” only happens when firing the next to the last round in the mag. So if you want to recreate it just load 2 rounds in a mag. Second i happens 10% of the time so load 2 rounds in 10 mags and you will likely have it happen ar least once. The problem is with the follower in the magazine. When you fire the next to the last round, there isnt enough purchase on the last round to keep it from ejecting with the spent round. Yes you can fix it by increasing the spring tension but that defeats one of the primary design goals of the gun. Best solution i found was to glue a small patch of 320grit sand paper to the top of the mag follower. In my testing this solved the problem 100% of the time and made the gun completely reliable
I have the 380 ez, after learning not to use steel cased bullets and lubing it correctly it worked well. I did put a shell casing under the spring also and that stopped the fails to feed completely. I put xs sights on it and today 1st 3 shots made one hole . The gun is light with more accuracy for me then the m&p 22. I train for defense and believe less recoil helping provide accuracy along with bullet placement makes this a safe good carry gun in an out side pouch that allows draw and fire in under 2 seconds. One complaint price and at present hard to find amo.
you want a refund????? Clearly your not versed in firearms. You DO NOT GET REFUNDS ON FIREARMS.
if unsure about a firearm rent one first
As I understand it, when the grip safety is not depressed the trigger is completely disconnected and the firing pin block is engaged, That being said, what exactly does the thumb safety do? Does it lock the disengaged trigger?
Was no thimb safety on the one I shot today
The .380 is a vary good defense round. With todays ammo it excels.
Bought one for the wife. I had previously purchased a 9 mm Shield for her. She had difficulty racking the slide and unable to clear malfunctions with the 9mm. The 380 Shield EZ solved all of these issues! She loves it handles very well and shoot accurately.
I normally carry a Shield 40. I was so pleased with her 380 Shield EZ . I purchased a second one for myself! I can put more rounds on target, more accurately in less time than I can the 40 Smith & Wesson.
Just purchased one yesterday at a reputable gun shop/shooting range where they let you test before purchase. This is bar none, the most comfortable firearm I’ve experienced in terms of recoil. I was torn between this and a Taurus 9mm that was comparable in size, but went with this for ease-of-use. I’ll admit that at first I was a little reluctant to purchase as I was in the market for 40-45 caliber, and already own a Glock 17, 9mm. However, this was a truly AWESOME purchase and believe it or not, one of the biggest selling points for me was the easy mag loader which is just wonderful in my opinion. I’m a 37, 265 lb male with a wife who dislikes everything about firearms, so while this purchase is for me…it was also for her and my daughter incase I’m not there and the need is dire. Get some hollows or rip rounds and it’ll get the job done!
Just got one for my wife because of the problem of racking and clearing jams. I fired 150rds of three brands of ammo with no problems. I liked the weapon so much I did not want to give it to her. After she fired it she told me to keep my hands off of it.
After buying a 380 EZ for my wife I had to come back and buy one for myself. As with my Shield, 9c, and full size M&Ps it just fit and was full-on joy to fire. Now my wife finally has a semi-auto she enjoys and is comfortable with as she trains for her LTC and I’ve got a great summer carry pistol that shares many form factor and operational traits with its 9mm cousins. Small wonder Eagle can’t keep’em on the shelf.
Great review. I scoured the www and watched several hours of YouTube videos before finally settling on the EZ for my wife. The trade offs expressed in this article are spot on, although I watched several videos that tested the .380 acp in ballistic gelatin against the 9mm using FMJ and the penetration difference was negligible – about 2 inches. My wife has limited hand strength to rack the slide (fix #1); 9mm is too much recoil for her (fix #2); the pistol is large enough to get good accuracy and enjoy at the range and not be “snappy” like a lot of pocket 380s (fix #3); it has several safety features including a grip safety, ambidextrous manual trigger safety, DAO but with a decent pull weight, firing pin safety – did I forget anything (fix #4); and finally it comes in purple (fix #5) – no, it doesn’t but we are cerakoting it.
Actually, its techbically a SAO. The slide resets(cocks) the hammer every time it reciprocates and the trigger releases it only. Thats why it only has a 5 lb trigger pull. If it was double action, it would be twice that as it would have to overcome two different springs.
Recent improvements in bullet technology have brought the much maligned .380 into itself. If you’ve scoffed at this “mouse gun” cartridge it deserves some research and a 2nd look
Very good review of the 380.
For the past year, the S&W Compact 22 has been my EDC. Lots and lots of reasons to carry a 22.
A good sale at the gun shop last week and I test fired the EZ and really loved it. Just a little more pop than the 22. I did not want to get a 9mm and I was really turned off by a lot of the smaller 380s (LCP etc). So I bought the 380 EZ.
I wouldn’t own a gun without the thumb safeties. (My M9 22 and Compact 22 both have them). I really like the magazine safety on the Comapct 22 and I think I will like the grip safety on the EZ as well.
“minimal defensive ballistics of the .380 round”
Any thing 22 and up can kill:
Bought the ez for the wife and she fell in love with is right off. She has very minimal hand straight and had difficulty racking and clearing. Money well spent. Me and 3 others have shot the ez as well and must say where very impressed with its capabilities.
Honestly why does the 9 mm Colt known today as 380 Auto get so much hate? It is 1 mm shorter than the 9 mm Parabellum not to mention looking at ER statistics is regarded as a lethal cartridge. The Walter PPK was first cambered in 9 mm Colt and the precursor to the CIA and indeed in the early days of the CIA the 9 mm Colt was preferred due to it conceal-ability. Indeed many foreign assassinations involving a handgun were this caliber. Ghandi was killed with this round. Finding a reasonably price quality handgun using 9 mm colt was a joy to me for my wife’s pistol. I am quite certain if called to and she chose this particular pistol is quite wonderful for her purposes. The only complaint I have is the price of 9mm/380 Acp ammo today.
I just purchased this gun and would like to know what would be the best ammo brand for the range and or conceal carry.
My wife has physical problems with her hands, and finds it very difficult to rack the slide on my 9mm MP9. But she was able to operate the EZ without difficulty. So I bought her one. I haven’t shot it mysef, but she’s had it to the range and likes it very much.
I bought this gun. It’s the first one with the safety grip.
My first time shooting it, it jammed several times. Or the spent shell was sideways in the slide instead of ejecting. A couple of friends shot 5 rounds through it and didn’t have a problem. Could me not having a firm grip on the gun through out firing cause this to happen ?
Yes, unless you provide a very firm grip and arms as a backstop for the pistol, it will malfunction. This is true of any pistol.
Need to make sure you pull the slider out all the way or it will jam on you!
Probably not… you are likely just fine, i posted a fix for this above. This is a bug in the gun and completely reproducible.
I walked into a gun shop yesterday, totally ignorant of this gun. I told the guy I have arthritis AND peripheral neuropathy, which made shooting my 9mil a chore. He reached in the case and plopped down this baby! It’s like it was made for me. I’m now just snooping around for the best price. I don’t need to compare a lot of guns. This one felt great in my hand. It racks and triggers with ease, just like the review states.
I put 12×12 inch pcs of drywall on each side of 2×4 scrap. Called it a “wall”
Look it to my range, set 7 on a bench.
Loaded a 380 semi with XP Self Def rounds and fired from 6-8 feet.
WENT THROUGH ALL 7 WALLS AND HIT BACKSTOP 75 ft AWAY.
Don’t underestimate the ‘weak’ 380!!
I recently purchased a new 380 Shield EZ only to discover after purchase that the weapon has been recalled by S&W for a potentially defective hammer. Prior to sending it to S&W for repair I cleaned the gun and loaded the magazine with CCW Blazer ammo. The magazine, with 8 rounds, was nearly impossible to load into the handle and required more than a normal palm slap. Once engaged, the first bullet was so tight to the slide as to prevent it from being manually operated in order to chamber a round. S&W in response to my query stated “shoot it some. This will loosen things up a bit and you should be fine.”
Has anyone else experienced a similar problem? This is not my first weapon nor my first time shooting. I have sent the gun back to S&W for the recall repair and included a note about this problem.
Thanks fir your straught firward Pro& con review.To the point.I liked your gun personsl & especially your professional competitive use of many types of weapons to fuel your knowledge in all aspects of this gun.
I have no issues pulling the trigger on a Glock 43x but finds the slides difficult. I’m a new shooter of 105lb with small hands. What’s my bets option please?