Immediately before the holiday break – and the accompanying ice storm – I was summoned to the premises of a licensee to take custody of a variation of the S&W M&P9 Shield. Recently announced, this is a Performance Center gun with the appropriate action work and slide engraving. The sights are fiber optic, red in back green in front.
Likewise, there are lightening ports cut into the top of the slide – 3 on each side, placed at 11 o'clock and 1 o'clock at you look forward from the rear sight. There is a single port cut through each side of the barrel at the same angle. Will a pair of exhaust ports make a difference in muzzle flip?
I have a photo taken by world class photographer Yamil Sued of me firing a 9mm Shield at the S&W Academy indoor range. Using range ball ammo, there is a decent fireball at the muzzle – that's without the Performance Center ports.
As I had a short time to get out and shoot, I quickly grabbed a gear bag and targets and headed to the range. Once there, I quickly set cameras out, stapled up a target and went through the ammo can I brought.
I had a pair of 115 grain loads and a 147 grain load – none of them new, but still good ammunition.
The Performance Center Shield ships with two magazines.
After ensuring the barrel was free from obstructions, I tried the trigger dry. Like other Shields of my acquaintance, this one has no magazine disconnect. The trigger was firm, not heavy, with short travel. I could feel the trigger reset.
Doing an accuracy test in a short time is never a good plan. I found that the heavy bullet load was the accuracy load out of the three loads tried on this first outing. I noted that all rounds shot low for me out of this gun on this trip. The first group fired was from standing, using a post for support. The other two groups were fired from a seated rest. Predictably, the rounds fired from the seated rest fared better.
The gun felt "snappy" on firing, like the slide was going faster than I was accustomed to on the other two Shield 9mm pistols I'd fired. The muzzle flip was relatively flat, but the others in the line seemed to "shoot soft" as well. The blast seemed to be more but that could be bias on my part – as I expected there to be more blast. That said, the ports in the barrel are small and there are two of them – looking at the three slots on the upper part of each side of the slide made me think at first there could be a like number of ports in the barrel.
The HI-VIZ Fiber Optic Sights were plainly visible in the daylight. The front sight has a green tube, the rear sight has a red tube on either side of the notch. Like the other Shield guns, this weighs in at around 19 ounces. The gun ships with one 8-round extended magazine and a 7-round magazine. As Performance Center guns go, the Shield is a bargain at $490 MSRP.
There was little perceptible muzzle flip with the PC Ported Shield.
A number of people would consider the ports problematic on a self-defense pistol. I'm less concerned with the ports than the fiber optic sights. It's not the fragility of the tubes – they're easily enough changed out and the sights still work without the light tubes.
It's my ability to see the sights in adverse lighting conditions. And before I get the tired – and inaccurate – "if it's too dark to see the sights, you can't ID the target" argument, that's just not true. In all my years, I nearly never worked in absolute darkness. There was always some light. When there wasn't enough, I had flashlights. I've been in a number of situations where the available light was on the suspect and all I could see of my sidearm was a dark blob in front of me.
In a target shooting venue, I was at the inaugural Smith & Wesson IDPA Back Up Gun Match and I got a loaner 9mm Shield. It had standard sights. On a number of stages, I could clearly identify the targets, but couldn't see the sights. After a stage, I got to look at the set-up over a team mate's night-sighted gun.
I'd rather have them and not need them than need them and not have them.
This early shooting test leads me to believe that the cuts in the slide could have lightened it to the point that I can perceive the difference in the speed of the slide. Lightening the slide's weight – though according to factory information, the guns all weigh the same – has the effect of lessening recoil, perhaps even more than the ports.
After the short initial shooting test, I went to work on the fifty yard USPSA-sized silhouette. Like other small handguns I've shot on that range, the Shield had no trouble staying on that large target.
I'm going to shoot it more and get you some better data. I'm going to check the weight of the PC slide and barrel with those from a standard Shield on my scales. I also have some gear to try out with the new gun – all in forthcoming issues of the Wire.
Table: Initial Accuracy Test, S&W PC Ported M&P9 Shield
-- Rich Grassi
|Ammunition Brand/Weight/Type ||25 yard five-shot group|
|Hornady 115 gr. XTP ||4"|
|Federal Classic 115 gr. Hi-Shok || 3 1/8"|
|Hornady 147 gr. TAP-FPD ||3 ½"|