APRIL 30, 2013

Editor's Notebook: Carrying the S&W Shield

In the last issue of The Outdoor Wire Special Edition: Concealed Carry, we assessed micro-9mm pistols. We're on the cusp of our first Spring installment of the Special Edition on Concealed Carry, which broadcasts to all subscribers on Friday, May 3 - the first day of the NRA Annual Meeting in Houston. It seemed appropriate to take another look at one of the tiny Nines as holsters had arrived that are fits for the single-stack demi-service pistol. The Shield is a different breed in that it's a redo of the M&P service pistol and not an upgrade of a micro-compact pistol.
While the durability of the Shield has been commented on elsewhere by people who clearly have access to more 9mm ammo than do I, the pistol appears to be a legitimate service pistol capable of sustaining heavy use. That doesn't mean the shooter could, though I found the recoil to be remarkably light for the size/weight of the Shield. The first holster we'll examine is the Crossbreed SuperTuck. Like many in the industry, Crossbreed took me by surprise. Mark Craighead took a good idea, coupled it with superior manufacturing and added friendly customer service to take the holster world by storm. They've not been resting on their laurels after Mark's untimely passing either. The SuperTuck is an inside-the-waistband hybrid holster of thin kydex with a natural backer - either cowhide or, as on this sample, horsehide. The SuperTuck, as the name implies, is tuckable - mounting spacers behind the SteelClip clips allow room for a shirt to tuck down over gun, holster and all. The clips are at the extreme leading and trailing edges of the holster, the back of which has a large footprint. This is a big part of why the SuperTuck is so incredibly comfortable to wear. Another SuperTuck built for the S&W SD9 was the constant carry rig on a long road trip with a non-permissive environment involved. Though I had close contact with people during the trip, the full-size 16-shot 9mm, the spare magazine and a five-shot revolver all remained discreetly hidden and worn.
That model didn't have the "Combat Cut," an option on the SuperTuck. With the "Combat Cut, some leather is cut away over the gripping surface of the pistol allowing a better grip as the first part of the draw - something I found to be true with the Combat Cut SuperTuck I had for the Shield. They note that some comfort is lost, I thought it was negligible. It is an important option when you're using the ultra-flat Shield. It's held closely enough that the full-flap backer could well compromise the draw. With the SuperTuck, be mindful that the kydex "pouch" doesn't cover the whole gun and that anything pressing up on the muzzle - the arm of a chair - can dislodge the pistol. The flatness of the Shield diminishes that issue, which wasn't much of a problem with the SD9 in any event. The Galco Stow-N-Go is a lightweight inside-the-pant holster with an injection-molded nylon clip that locks the rig onto the belt. The model for the Shield, RH STO652, has a semi-roughout 'natural' suede type texture and has a slightly reinforced holster mouth. The neutral cant permits carry on the strong side, cross draw or appendix (front of the hip) position.
The Shield, with its thumb safety, is a candidate for this front of the hip carry location - handy when driving, when an embracing arm or a bump-frisk is a possibility. It's also a negative Rule 2 carry location. If you use the thumb safety on the Shield like you do on the 1911, this front of the hip carry could work for you. Extreme caution is necessary in any event. Finally, an outside the waist rig, the Reflex Holster from Uncle Mike's Tactical, in Size 10, was tried. This injection molded kydex holster has Uncle Mike's 'integrated retention technology' for security. You don't have to use the index finger on a panel or button and you don't have to use a thumb to release the gun. You simply have to know how to twist the gun to get a quick draw. Quick it is, secure too. The 'twist' drawstroke is reminiscent of that on the Uncle Mike's Level 3 duty holster of some years ago. The holster is provided with a belt loop attachment and a paddle attachment. I liked the belt loop system enough that I didn't try the paddle. All of these rigs have advantages and disadvantages. When carrying inside the waist band, having clothing get caught up in the re-holstering process is always possible. Wearing such a flat pistol as the Shield makes it tough to get a good grip when the gun is held in tight to the body. The Stow-N-Go is not a good choice for repeated draw-and-reholster attempts as it tends to collapse under the belt. It is comfortable enough and utilitarian enough that - as long as you consider what to do with the gun if you can't reholster it -- it's worth the effort.
The Reflex is secure and fast but makes quite a bit of noise during the draw and the re-holster. Is that a big deal? Usually, no. If you had to draw, the loudest noise will likely be from the Shield. On the reholster, your ears may be ringing enough that the "SNICK" sound will be the least of your worries. Going from extreme discreet carry IWB - Crossbreed and Galco - to the OWB security rig from Uncle Mikes, we now move to off-body carry. In fact, I use this particular rig as a storage unit for the Shield and the solitary spare magazine: Blackhawk Day Planner holster. As noted, this rig carries pistol in a wrap-around pouch as well as a spare magazine in a unit the size of one of the 'day planner' type folios. An elastic cord fitted with a nylon pull tab keeps the pistol inside the pouch and prevents it from flopping around. While I'm not enamored of off-body carry, the Blackhawk Day Planner holster makes a great method of getting the pistol from the room to the cable locked metal bo
10-8 Performance
x in the car when you know you'll be ending up at a location prohibiting armed self defense - in those rare circumstance when you'd go to such a place. I use it also for storage of empty gun and magazines. The Shield is a remarkable little pistol. It fits a niche that was previously not really held. Now that 10-8 Performance is making a replacement rear sight - heavily contoured rear corners, Melonite finished (like the Shield's slide), matches the 10-8 M&P Front Sights and comes in two notch widths - the Shield has really come into its own. --Rich Grassi