U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- Back in December, I was treated to trip out to the East coast to meet up with the team at Smith and Wesson, and to tour their factory. I was also able to shoot some (as of then) unreleased guns to get an early look. Among them was Smith and Wesson's latest model to the EZ line, the Smith and Wesson Shield 9 EZ. Chambered in 9mm, it took many of the features that made the Shield EZ 380 a success and brought them to bear on the slightly bigger (and vastly more popular) 9mm round. While range time was limited to a couple of hundred rounds with a well-worn test unit, I still came away with a generally positive impression. Reliability was good, accuracy was acceptable (if uninspiring) and the ergonomic choices that lend to the EZ line worked as they were supposed to. Now I have my own T&E model, with more time to see what I can wring out of it.
Let's quickly cover what the EZ is supposed to mean here. The EZ line differentiates from the standard M&P Shield lineup by being easy to rack, easy to load the mags, and easy to shoot. The idea is that not everyone has the hand strength to rack a standard slide, nor the desire to load their own mags if it's a pain in the ass. How many new shooters have you seen be handed a gun that's ready to fire (safely of course)? That's how many learn, and the EZ series is meant to bridge the gap from someone who will shoot, to someone who will own, operate and bear these arms.
The EZ goals are achieved in a couple of ways. The slide is not only serrated but has flared edges at the rear of the slide that reduces the grip strength needed to squeeze the slide. This works and works well. The firing mechanism is an internal hammer, which resists the cocking motion less than a striker-fired assembly does. It is not hard to rack this slide, I can do it with my thumb and ring finger alone. Finally, the magazine has a feature many will recognize from their favorite .22 LR handguns, thumbstuds on the side of the magazine that allow you to control the follower. You can easily depress the follower allowing for easy insertion of the next round while using the strength of your whole hand instead of passing all that force through one thumb. That's a feature I can see a lot of older/more petite shooters appreciating.
Now a quick look at the spec sheet before we retroactively hit the range.
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 8+1
- Barrel length: 3.675″
- Overall length: 6.8″
- Frame: Polymer
- Weight: 23 ounces
- Barrel: Stainless steel with Armornite finish
- Slide: Stainless steel with Armornite finish
- Thumb safety: Factory option
- Action: Internal hammer
- Grip angle: 18°
So off to the range we go. I brought along two types of ammo, Federal's American Eagle 115gr FMJ's and Norma's 108gr Monolithic Hollow Point (MHP).
The American Eagle is a good budget option, and the Norma MHP has really good (consistent, broad) expansion in ballistic gelatin. Shooting took place at 7 yards. I started with the American Eagle, which functioned perfectly through the first 200 rounds. A good start. The best 8-round group looked like this:
The vertical stringing got worse until I finally let up on the firing schedule and let the barrel cool. I switched over to the Norma MHP round and got one group out before running into a problem.
Houston, we have a problem. The MHP round is ever so slightly longer than the FMJ, causing it to bind up in the mag. This wasn't a minor, easy to fix jam up, this was a total fight-stopper. Norma's MHP has fed through every other 9mm gun I have tried (three Glock's, an MP5k, a QC10 PCC, and a 1965 vintage Browning Hi-power) so it's hard to fault the ammo. Perhaps the mags I received are on the tight end of the tolerance scale. Either way, it's information for potential buyers to evaluate and decide upon themselves.
Let's chat a little about the ergonomics of the gun. I really like the aggressive texture on the frame. After the first hundred rounds, my skin cells started accumulating on the frame in a fine white powder. The texture is aggressive enough to help maintain grip, but not so much as to cause discomfort. A good balance. What I didn't like was the grip safety. It doesn't recess all the way into the grip, so when the gun is recoiling it really focuses the backward force into the base of my palm. The recoil is managed well by the recoil spring, but there's still excessive pressure focused on one spot on my hand. I'd like to hear from a few others to see if they have a similar experience with the Smith and Wesson Shield 9 EZ.
This wraps up my “first rounds” article, which will be followed down the road by a more extensive look. I'd like to try 2-3 more types of ammo to see if the magazines bind up with them as well. Accuracy was better with this brand new sample than with the factory high-mileage test model (no surprise). Given the current run on ammo, it may be some time before I get to source more “work” ammo for testing. But when I do, I'll be back with more testing and results. In the meantime, the Smith and Wesson Shield 9 EZ has an MSRP of $479, with a street price closer to $375. Check it out!
About Rex Nanorum
Rex Nanorum is an Alaskan Expatriate living in Oregon with his wife and kids. Growing up on commercial fishing vessels, he found his next adventure with the 2nd Bn, 75th Ranger Regt. After 5 tours to Afghanistan and Iraq, he adventured about the west coast becoming a commercial fisheries and salvage SCUBA diver, rated helicopter pilot instructor (CFII) and personal trainer, before becoming a gear reviewer and writer.”
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