The Smith & Wesson (SW) M&P Shield has a great reputation as a quality concealed carry handgun, ever since it was introduced in 2012. Recently, a ported barrel version of the Shield was introduced by the SW Performance Center (PC) and I was glad they sent me a ported 9mm Shield to review. I wanted to know the added features of the Ported Shield compared to the original Shield, its 16 versions, and then share my opinions, evaluation, and review of the ported version with you. I was curious about several things with the ported version. Are there any unique or special features? What are the features that make this gun stand out from the original shield and are they worthwhile? How accurate is it? Is the enhanced trigger press noticeably smooth and crisp? What about the trigger reset? Does the porting really help and is it necessary for this concealed carry (CC) handgun? Does the ported version have any real negatives that I can discover for myself? Would this Ported Shield be good to use for CC for me and what affect does the porting really have? What about its price? How do I rate it relative to the other striker-fired carry guns?
To start, I want to give you the Ported Shield’s specifications and then some of its features. Initially, it generally fits my 8 key CC factors and my criteria for my top CC handguns. I evaluate in-depth with specified drills and then rank my Top 21 CC guns in my recently-published book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.” It includes the original Shield, the Smith-Wesson M&P 9C and such guns as the Ruger LC9s, the Sig P938, P320, and P290, the Springfield XDs, Mod 2, and EMP, the H&K P30, the Glock 19 ,26, and 43, the Kimber Solo, Walther PPQ M2, FNS 9 Compact, Kahr CM9, etc.This article is my brief look and report on the M&P Shield-Ported 9mm with just a few of my considerations.
Criteria and Considerations
Below are just 10 of my Criteria and factors for evaluating the Ported Shield and I will apply them for my concealed carry purpose. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that 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, non-porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine. Here are mine:
1. Accuracy and Reliability – Performs well without reoccurring malfunctions and stoppages and results in consistent, accurate target hits with a maximum of a 3″ inch hit group at 7-15 yards for concealed carry;
2. Trigger Press maximum of about 5.5 pounds or so – lessens force applied for less movement & better accuracy- and press that is crisp and identifiable (TRAIN to be Trigger Safe);
3. Trigger with short travel distance (a short travel distance increases the speed the trigger can be fired) and easily identifiable and short reset point; Trigger with a smooth consistent press for every shot (less need to transition between presses & make adjustments);
4. Barrel length of 3.0″-4.5″ (primarily for concealed carry);
5. Sights that are basic & simple (easy to use & see–I like Fiber Optic fronts); fast target acquisition; for my purposes– adjustable for windage; Night Sights for low-light situations;
6. Proper Gun Weight to minimize recoil (I prefer about 25 oz. or less for personal defense);
7. Caliber match to my needs, characteristics & abilities (consider medical & physical limitations); 9mm is my preference;
8. Capacity – adequate for use & feature tradeoffs- usually want at least 8-10 in a 9mm magazine for carry;
9. Ergonomics – Hand Comfort and Grip Fit, controls easy to work and easily accessible; rounded, low-profile;
10. Miscellaneous – Overall Finish, fit, & quality appearance; mag release location; ambidextrous controls; accessory rail as required; excellent customer service with friendly & helpful representatives; ease of disassembly-assembly; Hard Case; Extras (like holster & pouch), etc.
Remember, there are a lot of attributes, pros and cons, and criteria to include and consider and you make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, and defined needs and use.
Ported Shield 9mm FIELD TEST
After shooting the Ported Shield in 9mm and carefully considering its specifications, below are my evaluations for each of my 10 criteria for my concealed carry purpose. Recognize that I am not a top expert shooter by any means and I only shot about 150 rounds through the Ported Shield, so it is not fully broken in. Sig Sauer was nice enough to provide me various high-quality V-Crown 9mm JHP and HP ammo of various weights to test the Ported Shield. I also bought and shot a variety of ammo including: American Eagle 115 grain FMJ, Aquila 124 grain FMJ, and a few commercial
reloads, so I could check for malfunctions and the gun’s ability to digest all quality grades, weights of ammo, and perform well.
I must honestly say that this 9mm M&P Ported Shield has great ergonomics, was very comfortable in my hand, and was accurate and reliable. I had no malfunctions, stoppages, nor any problems at all.The porting did not bother me when shooting it at various retention positions and stances. I shot it late in the day at dusk, not at nighttime. I did not get any metal fragments, any gunshot residue, or a significant amount of lead particulate when shooting it. When I observed students shooting it and when I was up close instructing them, I did not notice the muzzle flash or any observable particulates spewing from the ports, although it certainly was there as with all guns. This was also true with close retention positions and shooting from the hip. I would like the opportunity to shoot it at night for more definitive results and conclusions. For my brief testing time, it proved on the range for me to operate safely, be reliable, and was accurate with very manageable recoil. A student with wrist joint problems even commented that the recoil was not bad and that she could handle it well.
The front of the slide and barrel are ported with V-angled ports and that seemed to help dampen some of the recoil and muzzle flip. I honestly can say for myself that it performed a little better than some of my other similar short-barreled, polymer, lightweight 9mm guns, although most 9mms do not generally have that much recoil anyway.
Some of the common “ported” questions from readers and students: Does a ported gun perform better than a non-ported gun? What are the pros and cons of ported slides/barrels? Is there significant residue, particulate, or flash from the porting? Because of the variety of ported gun models and even the differences among any one ported model, you really have to experience and determine that for yourself (and don’t listen to the stories of other folks or the hearsay.) Determine and decide for yourself by handling and experiencing a ported handgun. Here are some positive things I experienced when shooting the Ported Shield to help demystify porting for me.
1. The porting did seem to reduce the muzzle rise when I shot it, which allowed me faster follow-up shots;
2. Porting the top of just about any slide/barrel redirects some of the hot, expanding gases in a different direction which affects the recoil force. The angling of the ports helped redirect the residue away from me and I was not bothered by any possible flash or residue. I did notice the front portion of the ported slide did have just slightly more residue than some of my other 9mm guns, but not a problem at all. And I did experience somewhat less recoil (not significantly with this short 3.1″ barrel) with the Ported Shield;
3. The porting of the barrel and slide did seem to help keep the front of the gun down when shooting and helped me keep my sights on target better. Perhaps, due to the muzzle not rising as sharply. I liked shooting the somewhat heavier 124 grain and hollow point loads.
4. Without a doubt, it was somewhat easier than some of my non-ported guns on my weak carpal-tunnel wrist condition. But, not sure if there was that much of a difference to be significant, given the usual low 9mm recoil.
5. CAUTION: Be careful when shooting a ported barrel/slide from a retention position near your body or from a close combat stance, since the hot gases, powder, and particulate under pressure might cause injuries from that particular gun.
For the rounds I shot with it, the Ported Shield impressed me as a quality, very accurate, and very reliable carry gun, with a nice comfortable grip and very nice fiber optic sights.
At the range, I shot my first 3 mags loaded with 8 rounds each at 7 yards in fast fire and all hits were in the 7 to 10 rings. This old codger was pleased with the 3-inch groups over several distances and knows they were primarily due to the gun itself and not his shooting expertise. Below are hits on one of my targets at 7 yards from my range field testing of the Ported Shield. It was an accurate gun.
Field Test Results for Each of my 10 Criteria:
1. The Accuracy of the Ported Shield was very good for me at distances of 7, 10, and 15 yards, given my aging eyesight. The gun did most of the work and my groups at each of the distances were about 3.0-3.5 inches or less for the first time I ever fired the gun “out of the box.” I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and shot various 115 grain FMJ and 124 grain FMJ ammo. I also shot hollow points which I preferred… 10.
2. The Trigger Press out of the box for this new, not broken-in gun averaged about 6.5 pounds, with 3 readings with my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. This was within the manufacturer’s specifications and was acceptable, but I am spoiled and accustomed to my lighter 1911s and other single-action presses and wanted closer to their light and short presses. Some of my similar guns have lighter presses and I analyze and compare them in my recent book. The trigger press was crisp and felt good. After more break-in time, the press will get even better… 9.
3. The Trigger had a short travel distance and identifiable reset, was smooth, and felt very nice. My shots were consistent each time and I liked the fine travel distance and reset. The reset was very tactile and identifiable. The trigger gave me consistency from shot-to-shot. It was an excellent shooter and I really enjoyed shooting it… 10.
4. The 3.1-inch Barrel with the ported slide and lightening cuts helped control muzzle flip and the recoil, as well as making the gun very concealable. The recoil was very manageable and controllable… 9.
5. The Fiber-Optic front and rear sights were very nice and helped my sight acquisition. Although I am red color blind and was not helped by the red rear fiber optics, the green front sights really made the sights stand out and helped me get a quick sight picture… 10.
6. The polymer frame with the ported slide made the overall weight less and the near 19 ounce unloaded weight was fine for a concealed carry gun… 9.
7. The 9mm Caliber in the Ported Shield was pleasant to shoot and made recoil very manageable. It handled all the brands, weights, and qualities of ammo without any malfunctions or stoppages… 10.
8. The 7 and 8-round Capacities of the two different included 9mm mags were acceptable, given the small size of the Shield. The 8-rounder is not best for CC, so carry an extra mag with the 7 rounder. There are tradeoffs… 9.
9. The Ergonomics of the Shield were very exceptional and comfortable. My medium-sized hands fit just right and the grip texture helped me have a firm and solid purchase. It felt great in my hands. I could easily reach all the controls like the magazine release, manual safety, and slide lock lever, without turning the gun or adjusting my grip… 10.
10. Miscellaneous. I disassembled, re-assembled, and cleaned the Ported Shield before I shot it and I did not have to press the trigger to do it. At first, I did have trouble reassembling the gun because it was so very stiff and tight and the slide lock would not engage. I called their helpful customer service and we tried various things, but I just had to oil it some more and keep trying to muscle the slide lock lever in place for reassembly. It was embarassing, but I did finally reassemble it. I did notice after shooting it, it loosened up considerably and I very easily reassembled it. The price of the gun is kept reasonable, partly due to shipping it in a box and not with a hard case or other accessories… 8.
Total Points = 94 out of 100 Possible.
I definitely RECOMMEND this handgun for one of your concealed carry guns, especially because of the fiber optic sights and great trigger. Its reliability, excellent ergonomics, great trigger, reduced muzzle flip with the ported barrel, and accuracy were very impressive to me. This is just my personal opinion, so try it for yourself. This gun is a very good consideration for concealed carry. Decide for yourself if the porting is necessary and about its considerations for carry, but recognize the benefits of the excellent enhanced trigger and fiber optic sights.
I hope this review of the Ported Shield, single-stack 9mm has helped you gain some information you did not previously have. Consider that this is just my point of view with limited live-range fire and using only 150 rounds of various ammo. Like always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what features are important to you ahead of your range time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds. Remember, safety first always.
Photos by Author.
Contact Smith & Wesson for M&P Ported Shield: www.Smith-Wesson.com; 1-800-331-0852.
Contact Sig Sauer for Elite V-Crown 9mm FMJ & JHP ammo: www.SigSauer.com; 1-603-418-8102.
* 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.
© 2016 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.