Smith & Wesson had a great 2016, as the company announced that it doubled its profits over the last year. Part of this has to be due to the introduction of two new semi-auto pistols at two of the firearms industry’s biggest events: SHOT Show and the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits. The guns were the SW22 Victory in .22 LR and the M&P45 Shield in .45 ACP. And while these guns are very different from one another in terms of both appearance and application, each one rounds out its respective market quite nicely. I recently got my hands on both models for testing.

SW22 Victory

SW22 Victory pistol

The new SW22 Victory lives up to its name with match-grade accuracy, fast-targeting sights, comfortable grips with adequate texturing, a 10-round magazine and an attractive stainless steel finish. In testing, the crisp single-action trigger broke right at 3 pounds of pressure.

The SW22 Victory looks very similar to the Ruger rimfire pistols it was designed to compete with. It features similar overall shape contours and utilizes 10-round magazines. The frame, bolt and barrel are all made of stainless steel with a bright satin stainless finish. The barrel is also removable and interchangeable—think Volquartsen.

But the similarities to Ruger’s well-known designs end there. For starters, the SW22 Victory weighs 36 ounces unloaded, whereas the Ruger Mark III weighs 42 ounces. And while the Ruger is drilled and tapped to accept a Weaver-style scope base adapter that can be purchased separately, the SW22 Victory comes with a section of Picatinny-style rail that can be swapped out with the rear sight using a supplied wrench. There’s even a notch cut into the rear of the rail to allow you to use it with the factory-installed front sight.

There’s an old joke that says God came to Bill Ruger in a dream and gave him the idea for the Ruger .22 pistol, but he woke up before God could tell him how to put it back together. A similar joke cannot be told about the new Smith & Wesson. This pistol is much easier to disassemble than the Ruger Mark III; the receiver lifts off the frame with just a few turns of the disassembly screw using the provided wrench. Reassembly is just as easy.

Easy Shooter

SW22 Victory charging handle

Just like a Ruger rimfire, you have to charge the pistol before your first shot by pulling back on the charging handle. Wide serrations on the sides provide plenty of purchase.

As you would expect from any .22- caliber semi-auto, my test sample was easy to load and make ready for the range. Weighing just over 2 pounds and sporting a bull barrel, the SW22 Victory points and balances very well. Combine that with the easy-to-see fiber-optic sights and you’ve got a gun that is an absolute dream to shoot. The recoil was basically nonexistent.

I used Winchester and CCI ammo to run the SW22, and they both fed flawlessly. Even though .22 LR pistols are known for being picky about ammo types, I didn’t have an issue with either of the loads I had on hand. The gun ate up every Winchester and CCI round that I put through it. There were no failures to feed, no stovepipes, and the gun never failed to lock open after the last round.

m&p45 shield sights

Smith & Wesson equips the new M&P45 Shield with low-profile sights sporting extra-large white dots that are easy to pick up.

The gun was a joy to shoot, and I was able to zero it fairly quickly at 25 yards using the gun’s fiber-optic sights. For the first shot, you cock the internal hammer by pulling the bolt’s charging handle. Subsequent shots reset the hammer for you.

I didn’t shoot the gun with an optic because I didn’t have one handy at the range, but I did take the time to switch out the rear sight with the rail section to get a feel for that process. It was quick and easy to swap in the rail, which, as mentioned has a notch that can serve as a rear sight if your optic fails and you have to switch back to iron sights.

The trigger was nice and crisp, breaking at right around 3 pounds. The trigger also had a great reset, and I was able to fire follow-up shots quickly and accurately. I ran out of ammo before I got tired of shooting this gun. If I had more ammo, I would have kept shooting. Using just the fiber-optic sights at 25 yards, my five-shot groups averaged 0.66 and 0.71 inches for the Winchester and CCI loads, respectively.

Any Upgrades?

SW22 Victory barrel

There are already replacement parts for the SW22 from Volquartsen. Two barrels are available—one is made of lightweight carbon fiber and the other is a stainless steel match barrel. Both are designed to utilize a Volquartsen compensator. The company also offers laminated wood target grips featuring finger grooves and rests for the thumb and heel of your hand.

Holster company Triple K offers two different holsters for those who would like to take the gun into the field. S&W also offers some from-the-factory customization in that you can order a model with a threaded barrel or one in Kryptek Highlander. In other words, if you were looking for a .22 LR pistol to customize and compete with, this is a good choice.

This is a great little gun all around. Unless you’re a die-hard Ruger fan, this gun is definitely worth considering. I highly recommend the SW22 Victory to anyone in the market for this kind of handgun.

Shield Specs

s&w m&p45 shield

The M&P45 Shield comes with a flush-fitting six-round magazine as well as an extended, seven-round magazine (shown) with matching texturing.

Smith & Wesson’s M&P Shield line has proven quite successful, with more than 1 million pistols sold in both 9mm and .40 S&W. Now available in .45 ACP, shooters can carry the platform they love in any one of the three most popular chamberings for self-defense.

At first glance, the new M&P45 Shield doesn’t look much different than the 9mm and .40 S&W offerings. But if you look a little closer, you’ll see the addition of front cocking serrations on the slide and a more aggressive grip texture. You’ll also notice that the gun is slightly larger than its 9mm and .40-caliber cousins, but that is to be expected given the larger, more powerful caliber.

The new M&P45 Shield aims to take a bite out of the market area occupied by the Glock 36. Both are single-stack .45 ACP pistols with 6+1 capacities using flush-fit magazines. But the M&P45 Shield is 0.11 inches narrower, 0.55 inches shorter and almost 2 ounces lighter than the Glock 36. If you account for the slide stop, it’s still 0.05 inches narrower. Height is the only dimension where the Glock wins. The M&P45 Shield comes in with a height of 4.88 inches, or 0.12 inches taller than the Glock 36.

It may seem silly to nitpick over tenths of an inch, but if you’re going to be carrying a gun all day every day, every little bit of extra length, width, height and weight can make a big difference. My only complaint about the design is that they stuck with the same sloping design on the rear sight as they did with the 9mm and .40 S&W models. Given that the gun is designed for self-defense, it would have been nice to have a rear sight with a ledge that you could use to rack the slide against a perpendicular surface. Of course, this isn’t a big problem since aftermarket sights are available.

Range Performance

m&p45 shield testing

The new frame texturing helps lock the pistol in your hands despite the .45 ACP recoil, which didn’t prove to be harsh during testing.

Because of this pistol’s diminutive size, I was expecting some painful recoil. Most guns this size chambered in .45 ACP tend to have rather snappy recoil, to say the very least. That’s just physics. After firing the first few rounds, however, I was pleasantly surprised. Shooting the gun wasn’t painful at all. Now, I’m not saying the recoil wasn’t significant, because it was, but it wasn’t as unpleasant as I have experienced with other guns of this size and caliber.

I really like the feel of the new grip texturing. Even though it is more pronounced than on the other M&P Shield models, it wasn’t so aggressive that it hurt to hold and fire the pistol. If you shot the gun all day long, I’m sure the grip texture would take a toll on your hands, but an all-day range session isn’t really what this gun is designed to for.

The gun comes with both a flush-fitting six-round magazine and an extended seven-round magazine. Normally, I have to use an extended magazine to be able to shoot small guns comfortably. I need that extra bit of room to fit my pinky on the frame, but that wasn’t the case with this gun. I was able to get all of my fingers on the gun with the flush-fitting magazine and shot just as well with that setup as I did with the extended magazine.

m&p45 shield sights

Smith & Wesson equips the new M&P45 Shield with low-profile sights sporting extra-large white dots that are easy to pick up.

New guns are going to have stiff magazine springs—that’s a given. However, the springs in these magazines are incredibly tight. I’ve not come across new magazine springs this stiff before, so they were a bit of a bear to load at first, slowing down my range time. Even so, they got better with time and the more I used the magazines, the easier they got to reload. The cocking serrations on the front of the slide are nice to have and do add extra purchase when operating the slide from that position, but their existence isn’t a make-or-break feature for me.

Most of the complaints about the M&P line stem from the hinged, two-piece trigger. Designed to be an extra safety feature, some people find it to be a hindrance when trying to shoot accurately. To be honest, it doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m able to compensate for it and shoot just fine.

I shot Blazer, Remington and Hornady ammunition through the gun. My five-shot groups at 25 yards were entirely satisfactory, with everything measuring less than 4 inches wide. The Hornady ammunition produced the tightest group, which came in at 2.65 inches. This is impressive performance for a gun with such a short barrel—only 3.3 inches—at a distance of 25 yards. Remember, this is a CCW pistol.

With the three types of ammunition I used, there were no stovepipes and the slide never failed to lock back on an empty magazine. I did have one failure to feed, but I chock that up to the likelihood that I was limp-wristing the gun, because it only happened that one time.

Getting it Right

s&w m&p45 pistol

“The M&P45 Shield may be small, but it offers plenty of performance.”

 

This is the newest offering in the M&P Shield line, so it comes as no surprise that aftermarket parts aren’t so easy to find. For example, the 9mm and .40 S&W siblings are available from the factory with tritium night sights. As of October 2016, this is not yet an option for the .45-caliber model. However, aftermarket sights are available. If you don’t like the hinged, two-piece trigger, Apex makes replacement triggers for the other Shield calibers, and it’s likely the .45 version will come soon.

A variety of holster makers are already producing an assortment of options for this gun, so there won’t be anything to stop you from turning this gun into your everyday-carry pistol. Find the make and model that’s right for you and carry away.

Smith & Wesson got it right with this pistol. Shooters who argue over caliber now have no argument against the M&P Shield platform. The M&P45 Shield may be small, but it offers plenty of performance. This pistol makes a great addition to the selection of concealable .45 ACP pistols on the market.

For more information, visit smith-wesson.com or call 800-331-0852.

This article was originally published in ‘Gun Buyer’s Annual’ 2017. To subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.

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