Table of Contents
The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 9mm pistol is already a smooth-shooting, excellent 9mm pistol, but Smith & Wesson has refined it with the new Equalizer 9mm pistol. They call it their “Best-performing micro-compact pistol to date.” They build on their fine EZ platform, the optimal 18-degree grip angle for a natural point of aim, and other features while adding other upgrades without a custom price. It keeps a finely-tuned action, flat and crisp trigger, and easy-to-rack slide, among other characteristics, but refines the gun even more, like added capacity, without a custom price. It is not a striker-fired pistol and uses a double-stack magazine for more capacity. The Equalizer focuses on an excellent micro-compact, concealed carry pistol that is easy to conceal and operate, designed for both new and experienced shooters. It is similar in size to the Sig 365XL pistol. For me, its slim profile and small footprint make it ideal for concealed carry. I had to shoot it to confirm my opinions.
Five S&W Equalizer Upgrades and Features
Easy Racking Slide with Light Recoil
This new Equalizer has an easy-racking slide and light recoil. Like its EZ predecessors, it is easy to use, easy to rack the slide, easy to load the magazine, and easy to clean. It is hammer-fired, with a nice trigger and a positive reset. The new Equalizer is very easy to rack, especially with its Wing-like additions at the rear of the slide behind the serrations. Those with weak hand strength, arthritic hands, physical impairments, and medical conditions that inhibit grasping and manipulating the slide will appreciate easy slide racking, loading, and cleaning of this new pistol. This new model has reduced spring tension to make racking the slide manageable for practically anyone. The new easy-to-grip, deep front, and rear slide serrations really do help with racking the slide.
Single-Action, Crisp Hammer-Fired Trigger with Tactile and Audible Reset
This new Equalizer pistol has an internal hammer-designed single-action trigger with a short take-up, clean break, and fast reset for speedy follow-up shots. The trigger is slightly curved, not flat, and not serrated, as shown in the above image. It has convenient tactile and audible reset. The hammer of the new Equalizer is located low in the frame, so the reciprocating slide can easily cock the pistol without significant resistance and drag, allowing for an easier and speedier racking of the slide. I prefer the crisp single-action trigger and design. The Equalizer’s 3.675-inch barrel allows a slightly longer sight radius than most other micro-compact pistols offer, helping accuracy.
As you can see in the above image, a grip safety behind the grip is included on this new Equalizer. The grip safety prevents the pistol from firing unless the shooter grasps it tightly, moving the trigger bar to engage the sear. So, the pistol’s grip must be consciously and firmly depressed by the shooter’s hand to fire the gun. Several shooters like a grip safety, especially some new shooters who want as many safeties as possible and like the large grip safety lever on the backstrap. Generally, a grip safety prevents the trigger from engaging when not fully depressed by the shooter’s hand. But, never rely on any gun’s safety 100 percent of the time since all safeties are mechanical devices and are subject to failure like any automatic moving device. The best safety on any gun is the user or shooter, their brain and thinking process, and their training. The Equalizer has options for a manual thumb safety and without one.
Comfortable Grip and Easy-to-Grab Slide Serrations
New large and easy-to-grab front and rear slide serrations stand out on this micro-compact pistol and help with racking the slide, reminiscent of the serrations on the Beretta APX. Smith & Wesson says the slide serrations “require 35% less force to operate than standard micro-compacts on the market.” The optimized grip texture not only feels comfortable and helps with a solid grip, but it also helps to manage recoil and keeps the same width as the Shield Plus for using its magazines. The enhanced grip texture wraps all the way around the pistol’s grip. The Equalizer has an optic slide cut. The large Wings at the back of the slide significantly help easily rack the slide.
Three Magazines are Included with up to 15 Rounds Capacity & A Speed Loader
Orange Followers are included with the three mags, and the mags hold 10, 13, and 15 rounds. And it is nice that mags are completely interchangeable with the M&P 9 Shield Plus pistol. The Equalizer maximizes the frame space available to give 15 rounds of power. And a quality Maglula Uplula speed loader for the magazines is included to help with fast loading. Shooters looking for the same easy operating system as the earlier EZ series pistols but with greater rounds capacity have the Equalizer as a copacetic option.
Smith & Wesson has included a lot of nice features on the Equalizer pistol, and I want to shoot and thoroughly evaluate this new Equalizer 9mm to consider it for concealed carry, fun range plinking, and/or home defense. You can compare this new Equalizer and its features with my handgun analyses, comparisons, and rankings of 21 other concealed carry guns in my book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.”
First, I want to give you a summary of the new Equalizer’s Specifications and Features. Then, I give you the ten criteria I use to evaluate all guns. Finally, I present my analysis and how I specifically evaluated the gun against each of my ten criteria to recommend or not recommend it. As always, set your own criteria and priorities, do your research and check my data, information, etc., with yours, for your personal selection process. Keep in mind that I do not get paid by Smith & Wesson or any gun manufacturer, nor do I receive sponsor payments or incentives for my reviews and comments. I want to give my opinions, evaluations, and comments objectively.
Smith & Wesson Equalizer 9mm Specifications
Smith & Wesson Equalizer 9mm Features
- Optimal 18-Degree Grip Angle for Natural Point of Aim
- Tactile Loaded Chamber Indicator
- Picatinny-Style Accessory Rail
- Reversible Magazine Release
- Slide Cut for Optics
- Easy-to-See 3 White Dot Sights
- Excellent Overall Ergonomics, with a Thin Profile for Concealed Carry
- Edges Rounded for Comfort, Smoothness, & Holstering
- Disassembles Without Pressing Trigger
- Durable Armornite Corrosion-Resistant Finish
- Maglula Uplula Magazine Speed Loader
Criteria and Considerations
Here are the ten criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the Smith & Wesson Equalizer 9mm pistol. In addition to my criteria, other subjective features may be appealing for some, like a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I must admit that ALL gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want ALL of my criteria to be met. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my ten criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine.
Recognize that there are several features, characteristics, pros and cons, and personal criteria to include and consider, and you make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, defined needs, and use.
I was considering the Equalizer to include in my concealed carry gun rotation. I wanted to put the pistol through its paces and check it thoroughly for malfunctions, stoppages, accuracy, reliability, ergonomics, and my other criteria.
Smith & Wesson Equalizer 9mm Range Test
For the Equalizer range test and evaluation, I headed out to the outdoor Santa Rosa Shooting Center in Pace, Florida, where we train our students and shoot our test guns. I was anxious to shoot the Equalizer and see if it truly met or surpassed all ten of my criteria so that I could help you and myself evaluate this pistol for concealed carry and other purposes.
SinterFire Frangible and Non-Frangible Ammo
Many thanks to SinterFire for providing excellent 9mm ammo in JHP and FMJ types for my testing and evaluation of this Equalizer, about 150 rounds. All functioned fine without any malfunctions or failures of any kind. Their SinterFire Next Generation Monolithic Copper (non-frangible) lead-free FMJ 100 grain ammo and their Special Duty frangible, lead-free Hollow Point 100 grain rounds performed and cycled very well, with no failures to fire and no cycling problems. The Special Duty for self-defense frangible hollow-point rounds have a muzzle velocity of 1,350 feet per second, with a muzzle energy of 405 foot pounds. The Next Generation training FMJ rounds have a muzzle velocity of 1,230 feet per second, with a muzzle energy of 336 foot pounds.
Below I will get specific and give my opinions for each of my ten criteria to support my recommendation for this Equalizer after my hands-on range testing.
Using my 20-second timed Concealed Carry Drill with five circle targets and 15 rounds at 7 yards, accuracy was acceptable for this ole geezer, and my self-defense goal was met. But, shoot it for yourself to make your own decisions based on your abilities and proficiency.
Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 9
The accuracy of the new Equalizer was exceptional for me at 7 yards. All my hits were in the five circles of my “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” and within 20 seconds of my draw. The gun did most of the work, and its rifling put a nice spin on the bullet as it left the barrel and allowed the gases to escape evenly around the base of the bullet. Of course, the 5.50 pound light trigger press of this single-action hammer-fired pistol helped me have less movement and helped my accuracy some. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and fast-fired from the draw.
Trigger Press – Score: 9
The trigger press averaged about 5.50 pounds with ten readings from my Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. This was acceptable and helped reduce movement to aid accuracy, but I prefer a lighter trigger press for my single-action handguns. But, of course, this pistol is not broken in yet. I prefer that my carry guns have a maximum of 6.5 pounds press or less, so this press was in my acceptable range, but I expected it to be lighter. The reset was moderately short. I will probably buy this gun and use it in my carry rotation.
Trigger – Score: 10
This Equalizer has a fine, slightly curved, and smooth, without serrations, trigger with a very identifiable click and somewhat short reset. However, I personally prefer a flat-faced trigger with serrations, but this one works very well. The consistency from shot to shot was there for this hammer-fired pistol. Its single action, somewhat short reset, and somewhat light press combined for a nice performance and a fun range time. I enjoyed shooting this smooth trigger. This hammer-fired gun was accurate enough to get the job done, and I could use it for self-defense and concealed carry.
Barrel Length – Score: 9
The 3.675-inch sturdy Stainless Steel Barrel, combined with its polished feed ramp and single-action performance to deliver fine results for me. The steel barrel is rugged and looks great. The little extra length helps with lockup at the muzzle and with velocity. The barrel has a nice tight fit with the slide. The Armornite finish is nice.
Sights – Score: 9
The iron sights consist of a single, white-dot all-metal front sight and an all-metal white two-dot rear sight. I could easily pick up the steel sights in daylight, but the sights were more difficult to identify at dusk and in the dark. Of course, I prefer my front bright-green fiber optic and tritium night sights. But, the standard iron sights are decent, and out of the box, they were right on. I requested an Equalizer with a micro red dot sight, but none were available. Note that the optic cut uses a modified Shield cut, so it can direct mount many optics with the Shield SMS footprint. But, if you want to use an optic with any other footprint, you will need to buy an adapter plate.
Proper Gun Weight – Score: 9
The Equalizer’s overall 22.9 ounce unloaded weight works for me for all-day concealed carry. The gun’s weight, trigger, solid grip, and slide serrations all combined for fine performance and helped mitigate felt recoil, muzzle flip, and handling. The gun’s fine smooth trigger contributed a lot to these results.
Caliber – Score: 10
Overall, it was very easy and comfortable to handle and shoot this 9mm pistol. I could easily manage this 9mm caliber’s felt recoil. However, while my wife is more sensitive to felt recoil, she had no problems at all handling, manipulating, and shooting this exceptional Equalizer and its EZ operations. And she was accurate with it.
Capacity – Score: 10
Glad to see the load-assist tabs on the magazines were eliminated on this Equalizer since I prefer that the mags hold more rounds instead. Up to 15 rounds capacity for the Equalizer is a significant jump in rounds, and I like that. I understand that holding more rounds might make the pistol somewhat more difficult for some to load because of the added mag spring tension. But, this gun does have the “EZ” characteristics and advantages of racking and slide manipulation. And magazine loading is not that difficult for most shooters. Yes, three steel mags are included as standard.
Ergonomics – Score: 9
The Ergonomics of the Equalizer 9mm are superb. Form, function, and fit were splendid, especially given the decent price point. It sits low in the hand for shooting, and it was very comfortable for me to hold in my medium-sized hands. The new, slightly aggressive grip texturing on all panels helped me firmly grasp the pistol and control it. The texture was not too gritty and not under-texturized. The grip’s body width was nice and thin at only 1.04 inches. This felt great and helped me to acquire a firm and comfortable grip. I was able to reach and operate all the controls easily.
Miscellaneous – Score: 10
The Equalizer has a helpful visual Loaded Chamber Indicator on top of the slide. The included quality Maglula Uplula Speed Loader was a welcome and helpful addition. The moderately-aggressive grip texturing makes the pistol feel great in the hands, and they are not too aggressively textured but just right for me. The magazine release is reversible. The Picatinny-style equipment rail for a light or laser, the durable Armornite corrosion-resistant finish, and disassembly without pulling the trigger were also favorable extras.
TIP: Do NOT press nor engage the Grip Safety (even partially) when disassembling or assembling the Equalizer because it will completely lock up and not function.
Best to grip it by the sides when disassembling or assembling, as this author discovered.
TOTAL POINTS = 94 (out of 100 possible)
1791 GunLeather makes high-quality, durable Outside-the-Waistband (OWB) and Inside-the-Waistband (IWB) Leather holsters for the new Smith & Wesson Equalizer 9mm pistol. The open-top, Multi-Fit Model BH2.1 belt OWB holster (on the left in the above photo) fits many handgun models, uses the classic “pancake” design, and carries the gun in a neutral rake vertical straight up and down position. And it looks great! The gun rides high on the strong-side hip, and the gun’s butt tucks snugly into the side for maximum concealment. It has fine retention and conceals well. The holster’s nice reinforced throat band makes it extremely durable under hard use. It is handcrafted using premium, 100% certified American heavy native steerhide leather. It has very nice workmanship, is very comfortable, is extremely durable, and conceals well. The Fair Chase IWB holster (on the right above) is made of very soft but durable “wild and ethically-hunted fair chase Whitetail Deer hide. Together with our meticulous handcrafting and superior design, the Fair Chase holster delivers our most comfortable and concealable holster ever.” And I attest that it is a very comfortable, finely made, and concealable holster. These fine beautiful holsters have reinforced stitching to ensure security, quality, and lifetime use. And their holsters have a Lifetime Warranty.
I certainly RECOMMEND this as an outstanding choice for your consideration for a concealed carry gun and for personal protection. This exceptional Equalizer micro-compact 9mm pistol rated high with 94 points out of 100 possible for my above ten criteria. This is an outstanding small, lightweight, easy-shooting, soft-recoiling, easy-racking, and easy-loading pistol for concealed carry, home defense, and fun range plinking. This micro-compact pistol and its fine features were fun to shoot and handle. I especially appreciate the EZ features, its fine smooth single-action trigger, its short reset, and its reliability and accuracy. This makes a very nice concealed carry handgun.
The 15-round capacity for this micro-compact 9mm is a very valuable asset to help defend your life and the lives of loved ones… and there are three included metal mags. The optics cut, Picatinny rail, speed loader, and crisp single-action trigger are favorable extras. I was surprised at how exceptionally well this fine pistol performed and handled. The extra length of its 3.675-inch barrel adds velocity to the bullet, so the bullet’s trajectory will be flatter, the gun will shoot flat, and the bullet will get to the target sooner. The less time the bullet is in the air, the less time wind and gravity have to act upon it, and the bad guy/gal will have less time to escape. And bullet expansion is affected by Velocity. I will probably buy this pistol and add it to my carry rotation.
The internal hammer-designed, single-action trigger has a nice short take-up, clean break, and decent reset for speedy follow-up shots. The trigger is slightly curved, not flat and not serrated, with a convenient tactile and audible reset. The Equalizer’s 3.675-inch barrel allows a slightly longer sight radius than most other micro-compact pistols offer, helping accuracy.
My wife and I were really impressed with the “wings” or protruding “ears” on the rear of the slide and how they did help with easily grasping the slide to rack it. Honestly, racking the slide was very easy and did not take much effort. The pistol’s internal hammer, as opposed to a striker-fired gun, allows for the use of lighter springs which means less resistance from the slide and less force being required to rack it. So, easy to rack the slide and low felt recoil.
Overall, this is an outstanding micro-compact pistol with several excellent features and upgrades. But do your own cost-benefit analysis to decide if this pistol is for you. I cannot know what is best for you or for anyone but myself. For me, however, this gun meets and exceeds my criteria and has fine Form, Fit, and Function, but handle and shoot this pistol to decide for yourself.
I hope this review has helped you gain some information you did not previously have. Consider that these are just my opinions with limited live-range fire. You need to determine for yourself its reliability, accuracy, and personal fit by your own shooting and handling of the gun. Like always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it, if possible. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, what features are important to you, and are you willing to pay for them ahead of your range time. Then critically evaluate the gun yourself per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several given in my book), with various ammo types, over an extended break-in period of at least 500 rounds. Remember, Safety First Always.
Smith & Wesson
Springfield, MA 01104.
Miami, FL 33142.
Kersey, PA 15846.
Photos by Author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only, and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense, and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2022 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at ColBFF@gmail.com.