One of Smith & Wesson’s latest addition to the concealed-carry handgun market, the M&P380 Shield EZ, has been a popular choice since its 2018 release.
When the latest Shield arrived at my local gun shop, several of the guys working behind the counter asked to handle the new weapon. A hardcore bunch of gun geeks, the M&P380 Shield EZ produced several approving smiles and positive comments. I typically don’t get in a big hurry to test new guns, but handling this pistol gave me an itch that I had to scratch.
Smith & Wesson first introduced the Bodyguard 380 semi-auto and Bodyguard 38 revolver a few years ago. To set these handguns apart from the crowd of concealable pocket pistols, these Bodyguard models came with integral lasers. Now, I’m not a fan of integral lasers, and enough gun buyers were likeminded enough to persuade S&W to release M&P Bodyguards without lasers.
More recently, the company rebooted its entire M&P line with new M2.0 pistols. The ever-popular Shield was also upgraded, and it features several improvements over the original design. I won’t dig into the nitty-gritty of the changes, but suffice it to say that customers spoke and Smith & Wesson listened.
The M&P380 Shield EZ, comes with two single-stack, eight-round magazines. The stainless steel barrel is 3.68 inches long, and S&W finishes it in Armornite for enhanced corrosion resistance. S&W also finished the stainless-steel slide in Armornite. Sitting atop the slide are white-dot sights. The rear sight is adjustable via an Allen wrench.
The slide also has fish-scale-like serrations at the front and rear, with the rearmost set protruding a bit to aid in racking the slide. The front serrations are placed in an interesting location. Some semi-auto shooters are in the habit of “press-checking” their weapons to see if it is loaded. They often cup their support hand over the top of the barrel and push the slide back from the muzzle end to see if a round is in the chamber. The problem with this practice is that it tends to put part of the palm or fingers in the path of the muzzle. The forward slide serrations here, however, are at the bottom edge of the slide, which promotes press-checking the pistol with the support hand underneath the barrel, clear of the muzzle.
The action features an internal hammer-fired design. Many .380 ACP pistols incorporate a straight-blowback design owing to the lower operating pressure of the cartridge. Smith & Wesson, however, wisely opted for a tilting-barrel lockup to handle some of the more powerful .380 ACP loadings without having to beef up the recoil spring. This leads to one of the pistol’s best features: its easy-to-rack slide. I hear a lot of complaints from people with weaker hand strength saying that they don’t like how hard it is to rack the slides on some semi-autos. You won’t have that problem here.
Another key feature of this pistol is safety. The design incorporates a grip safety, just like a 1911. Add to that an ambidextrous thumb safety and this pistol gets high marks. Though frowned upon, pistols of this type often get carried in pockets and purses. It doesn’t take much jostling to disengage a thumb safety. The added precaution of a grip safety makes good sense. The thumb safety, however, is optional but adds greater insurance.
The company made the frame of polymer, which helps cut down on weight. The grip area is textured for traction, and you’ll find a rail up front for adding a light or laser if needed.
Taking It Easy
I tested the M&P380 Shield EZ’s accuracy and reliability by firing various .380 ACP loads. Over two range sessions on different days, I fired about 350 rounds from a steady rest with a target placed 15 yards away.
This pistol had a preference for ammo, with Winchester’s 95-grain PDX1 load coming out on top. This ammo created a five-round cluster that measured only 2.88 inches — the tightest group of all. Next in line were Winchester’s 85-grain Silvertip hollow points, which produced a 2.94-inch best group. This Winchester load, though relatively accurate, didn’t function reliably in this pistol. It failed to feed four times and “stovepiped” twice in 50 rounds. All of the other loads functioned flawlessly. Hornady’s 90-grain Z-MAX ammunition took third place with a 3.77-inch group.
If you are looking for a good candidate for your first carry gun, the M&P380 Shield EZ should be high on your list of consideration. For more information, visit smith-wesson.com.
Smith & Wesson M&P380 Shield EZ
- Caliber: .380 ACP
- Barrel: 3.68″
- OA Length: 6.7″
- Grip: Polymer
- Weight: 18.5 ozs. (empty)
- Sights: Adjustable three-dot
- Action: DAO
- Capacity: 8+1
- MSRP: $399
This article is from the July/August 2018 issue of Combat Handguns Magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.