Easy Choice: Smith & Wesson's M&P 9 Shield EZ Pistols

Here's a closer look at two versions of a defensive pistol specifically designed to be easier to operate.

by posted on October 5, 2020
Sw Ez 9
Courtesy smith-wesson.com

In 2018, Smith & Wesson’s .380 ACP M&P 380 Shield EZ series of semi-automatics took an innovative step forward in making defensive handguns more accessible to a broad range of shooting community members. Two of the more challenging aspects of operating a pistol for those who are new to shooting sports, or have lower levels of hand strength, include pulling back the slide and pressing rounds of ammunition into the magazine. The EZ series was designed around making both of those tasks easier while incorporating the popular features of the Shield series of polymer framed defensive pistols.

At the beginning of 2020, Smith & Wesson expanded the EZ series to include 9 mm versions with and without external thumb safeties. Midyear the company announced that M&P 9 Shield EZs would be available in spruced up Performance Center versions with the customer's choice of gold or silver highlights. Here's a closer look at the standard 9 mm EZ and the silver highlighted Performance Center option.

Like the .380 ACP models, the new 9 mm EZ is a concealed-hammer, lock-breech semi-automatic designed for concealed and home defense. It's a compact size, meaning it is large enough to be comfortable to shoot while remaining small enough to be comfortable to carry. The use of an 8-round single stack magazine sacrifices some ammunition capacity in order to provide a slimmer and more comfortable grip profile. 

The beveled slide is made of stainless steel and treated with non-reflective black Armornite finish. The sights are metallic with the rear sight being adjustable for windage. Narrow strips of scalloped texturing are located just behind the muzzle. At the rear of the slide is a full size set of scalloped cocking serrations with raised extensions on both sides. These extensions provide extra purchase when grasping the slide to manually cycle the action.

The 3.675" stainless steel barrel is supported by a single flat wire recoil spring captured on a full-length steel guide rod. The interior components of the pistol have been configured to make the slide feel easier to pull back. It only takes about half as much hand pressure to cycle than other carry-sized 9 mm pistols like the Glock G26, Canik TP9 SC or Walther PPQ SC.

The polymer frame's dust cover sports a 1.25" 3-slot Picatinny accessory rail for light and laser modules. The generous trigger guard houses a M2.0 Tactile single-action trigger with a light, clean trigger pull and an audible reset. The other external controls include a takedown lever and slide stop on the left side of the frame, a reversible magazine release button and a grip safety lever along the back edge of the grip frame. This version of the EZ 9 does not have a magazine safety or an external thumb safety.

The front strap and sides of the grip frame are treated with an enhanced grip texture. It's not as aggressive as some grips but it still has a sand paper feel to it. This type of texturing may not be as comfortable for long practice sessions at the shooting range but it’s just what you're looking for in a defensive situation: a sure, no-slip grip even if your hands are wet or cold. The stainless steel magazines have bright red polymer followers fitted with press-down levers. Pressing the follower down with one hand while loading in fresh cartridges with the other alleviates the knuckle busting discomfort of reloading.

The Performance Center does a nice job of dressing up and tricking out the EZ 9 mm. The slide has been vented to show off the shine of the gold or silver finished bright-polish barrel. The muzzle of the barrel is 0.2" longer than the standard version in order to accommodate a single recoil reduction port. It's one of the smartest porting options I've seen on a carry pistol because it gets the job done without bulking up the pistol or increasing the price with added modifications to the slide.

The standard white 3-dot sights are upgraded to a set of low profile fiber optic night sights. The green fiber optics gather light for a clear, bright sight picture in daylight while a set of Tritium lamps give the sights a visible glow in low light conditions. The rounded polymer trigger is traded out for a flat-face aluminum trigger that's grooved and skeletonized. Flat triggers are favored by those who want to feel the edges of the trigger face for more precise finger placement. The trigger pull was also about 5-oz. lighter than the standard model. The smooth polymer grip safety lever is replaced with a grooved aluminum model for improved purchase.

The Performance Center EZ 9 mm ships with a handy zipper cased cleaning kit in addition to the usual pair of magazines. This version costs around $100 more than the off-the-rack models. But considering that you can pay that much just for a set of night sights, this upgrade package is a bargain!

At the shooting range, I gave both versions of the EZ 9 mm a work out. They proved to be utterly reliable with all of the ammunition tested. There were no hang-ups or problems of any kind. Both triggers were clean and smooth. Loading the magazines and racking the slide were as easy as promised by this model’s name. The slim textured grips were a great fit. The ported barrel of the Performance Center does take the edge off of the felt recoil, bringing it more in line with a .380 ACP pistol of similar size. That being said, the standard model was still moderate and controllable.

Formal bench rested accuracy testing was conducted at 15 yards with the standard version of the EZ 9 mm using Federal Premium ammunition and the new Speer Gold Dot G2 Carry Gun defensive load. The results are shown in the following table:

Smith & Wesson's new M&P 9 Shield EZ M2.0 offerings lived up to their marketing campaign. I'm not the largest gun tester out there, so I appreciate the company's efforts to make the grip a better fit for small frame shooters. The easier operation of the slide and loading of the magazines makes these pistols more accessible but also more enjoyable to work with. I liked both versions of the EZ, so, take your pick!

Specifications
Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson 
Model: M&P 9 Shield EZ M2.0 (SKU:12437)
Action: Internal Hammer Fired Locked Breach Semi-Auto Pistol
Caliber: 9 mm
Slide: Stainless Steel with Matte Black Armornite Finish
Front Sight: Metallic 3-Dot, Rear Drift Adjustable
Barrel: 3.675" Stainless Steel with Matte Black Armornite Finish
Trigger: Polymer Bow, Single Action
Trigger Pull: 4-lbs. 14-oz. (As Tested)
Frame: Black Polymer with Textured Grip
Accessory Rail: 1.25" 3-Slot Picatinny
Grip Safety Lever: Polymer
Magazine Safety: No
Thumb Safety: No (Available on Other Models)
Magazine: Single-Stack
Capacity:  8+1 Rounds
Overall Length: 6.8"
Slide Width: 1.01"
Weight:  23-oz. with Empty Magazine
Accessories: Two Magazines, Rear Sight Adjustment Tool, Cable Lock, Owner's Manual
MSRP: $479

Model: Performance Center M&P 9 Shield EZ M2.0 (SKU:13226)
Action: Internal Hammer Fired Locked Breach Semi-Auto Pistol
Caliber: 9 mm
Slide: Stainless Steel with Matte Black Armornite Finish
Sights: 3-Dot Fiber Optic Night Sights, Rear Drift Adjustable
Barrel: 3.675" Stainless Steel with Extended Recoil Reduction Port
Trigger: Silver Flat Faced Skeletonized Aluminum, Single Action
Trigger Pull:  4-lbs. 9-oz. (As Tested)
Frame: Black Polymer with Textured Grip
Accessory Rail: 1.25" 3-Slot Picatinny
Grip Safety Lever: Silver Finish Grooved Aluminum
Magazine Safety: No
Thumb Safety: No (Available on Other Models)
Magazine: Single-Stack
Capacity:  8+1 Rounds
Overall Length: 6.8"
Slide Width: 1.01"
Weight:  23-oz. with Empty Magazine
Accessories: Performance Center Cleaning Kit, Two Magazines, Rear Sight Adjustment Tool, Cable Lock, Owner's Manual
MSRPl: $588

 

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