S&W Performance Center Ported M&P45 Shield: Coming to the Range
The tricked out Shield has a better trigger and features a ported barrel and slide. mfg photo

When Smith & Wesson introduced the M&P Shield pistol in 2012 chambered in two popular CCW calibers, concealed carriers took notice and embraced the compact semi-auto with open arms. How open? As of this month, a million Shield pistols have sold. After all, the pistol provided all the features people love about the full-size M&P, but with shrunken dimensions ideal for concealment.

One could argue that the Shield kicked off a whole category of pistols that are striker-fired, polymer-framed and sized smaller than a sub-compact, but larger than a micro pistol.

Earlier in 2016, S&W released the Shield in .45 ACP with slightly larger overall dimensions to accommodate the fatter cartridge and rounding out the range of self-defense calibers in which the shield is available.

It’s Smith & Wesson’s newest—and biggest—chambering for their extremely popular pistol. But does the .45 ACP handle, carry, and shoot like other Shields? We found out.

M&P45 Shield: Gun Review

As with any small, light handgun chambered for the beefy .45 ACP, it can be a little too much for some shooters to handle comfortably, but there are ways to compensate. Enter the Smith & Wesson Performance Center.

At an industry event held at S&W’s headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts, I was introduced to the upgraded PC M&P45 Shield and couldn’t put it down.

I’m a sucker for the good ol’ fat and slow .45, and i usually shoot better with guns chambered for that round, but I’m also pretty terrible with small handguns. Mixing the two is usually the worst of both worlds to me, but not so with the new Shield.

S&W Performance Center Ported M&P45 Shield: Coming to the Range
The PC M&P45 is available with HI-VIZ fiber optic sights, shown here, or tritium night sights. author photo

Foremost, the PC M&P45 features a ported barrel and slide, which directs gas from the barrel up with every shot, reducing recoil and helping to counter muzzle flip. The PC model also features an enhanced trigger, front cocking serrations, and ships with two magazines: one 7-round mag with an extension that makes the grip more accommodating for larger hands, and one 6-round magazine, which fits flush.

I got to take the new PC M&P45 for a spin at the S&W test range and, for a small large-caliber pistol, it shot like a dream. Follow-up shots were simple at self-defense ranges, especially with the included HI VIZ fiber optic sights, and the ports made the recoil pretty manageable when combined with the excellent, crisp PC trigger.

There are, of course, downsides to having a ported pistol. It wasn’t an issue for me at the range in normal lighting conditions and while wearing ear protection, but in a dark environment in a self-defense situation, the ports will make the little pistol louder and can increase muzzle flash. These effects can be somewhat mitigated with ammo choice. It’s also worth noting that if the gun ever has to be fired from the hip or at extreme close range, the gas released through the ports could hit the shooter in the face or elsewhere, potentially causing burns.

The easy-to-shoot, polymer-framed pistol fills an important niche in the self-defense handgun category.

S&W M&P Shield: Gun Review

The super-rough grip texture might be a problem for inside-the-waistband carriers who aren’t wearing a layer between gun and skin, but when shooting, it’s fantastic for retaining a solid hold with dry, wet, sweaty, or gloved hands. With the extended magazine, the gun is extremely comfortable and stable, making the little Shield feel like a larger pistol in all the right ways.

The Performance Center also makes tweaked versions of the Shield in 9mm and .40 S&W with the same features as the M&P 45, all of which are available now. All chamberings are also available with the HI-VIZ sights or with tritium night sights.

S&W Performance Center Ported M&P45 Shield: Coming to the Range
The author with the new PC M&P45 at the Smith & Wesson test range in Springfield, Massachusetts. author photo


Smith & Wesson Performance Center Ported M&P45 Shield
Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 6+1, 7+1
Barrel Length: 3.3″
Overall Length: 6.5″
Sights: HI-VIZ fiber optic sights or tritium night sights
Action: striker fired
Grip: polymer
Weight: 22.6 ounces
Barrel and Slide Material Stainless Steel
Frame: polymer
Slide finish: Armornite
MSRP: With Night Sights: $742; With HI-VIZ sights: $609