Well, how do you make an already smooth-shooting, popular, and excellent 9mm pistol even better? You let your Performance Center customize it with upgrades like finely-tuned action, flat and crisp trigger, ported barrel, lightning-cuts on the slide, bright green fiber-optic front sight, added silver or gold accents, and other refinements. That is exactly what Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center did with its new M&P9 Shield EZ pistol in 9mm. Performance Center firearms are the best of Smith & Wesson. And they gave the new Shield EZ custom upgrades without a custom price. Models are offered in three color combinations: silver, gold, and black. Here is a summary of a few of the upgrades and features I like in the new Performance Center’s M&P9 Shield EZ 9mm pistol.
Easy Racking Slide with Light Recoil
This new Shield EZ is not a micro-sized pocket pistol, but rather it has a compact-barrel length and long enough grip for a full grip for most hand sizes, along with an easy-racking slide and light recoil. Back in February, 2018 I reviewed the new M&P .380 Shield EZ on this website. It lived up to its design standards of being easy-to-use, easy-to-rack the slide, easy-to-load the magazine, and easy-to-clean. Then in 2019, Smith-Wesson introduced the Shiled EZ in 9mm. Now in late-Summer 2020, they have available the new Performance Center’s M&P 9 Shield EZ in 9mm with upgrades. Both the .380 and 9mm Shield EZ variants are hammer-fired. The original striker-fired version of the M&P 9 Shield in 9mm was introduced in 2012 and was the first M&P Shield to have an improved trigger with positive reset, according to Wikipedia.
Just as with the original M&P 9 Shield EZ, the Performance Center M&P 9 Shield EZ is very easy to rack. “Smooth-as-butter” is a good descriptive term. Those with weak hand strength, arthritic hands, other physical impairments, and medical conditions that inhibit grasping and manipulating the slide will be very pleased with the “EZ” slide racking, loading, and cleaning of this new pistol. The fish-scale cocking serrations at the rear of the slide really help with racking the slide. The slide widens in the rear so shooters can get a firm grasp of the slide to chamber a round. This was not an especially valuable tool for me, but my wife did cartwheels to show her approval of them. The new hammer-fired EZ slide weighs about 10 percent more than the striker-fired one and helps slow the slide’s speed and a lighter recoil spring is used to help racking.
New Shield EZ Hammer-Fired Single Action Compared to Original Shield EZ Striker-Fired Action
The original M&P 9 Shield EZ is a striker-fired pistol, while the new Performance Center M&P 9 Shield EZ has an internal hammer design. The hammer on the new Shield EZ is located low in the frame so the reciprocating slide with lightening cuts can easily cock the pistol without significant resistance and drag, allowing for a speedier racking of the lightweight slide. The Performance Center M&P9 Shield EZ is a single-action semi-automatic. And you probably recall from my reviews over the years here that I prefer the single-action design and practice with it regularly.
Grip Safety and Firing Pin Block Safety
A grip safety is included on all the .380 and 9mm Shield EZ pistols, so carrying them cocked and unlocked is not a concern. The grip safety prevents the pistol from firing unless the shooter grasps it tightly moving the trigger bar to engage the sear. There is also a firing pin block that is disengaged when the grip safety is pressed. And you have your choice of an additional manual safety or not having one on the new Performance Center Shield EZ.
I requested a Shield EZ without a manual safety to review here. The grip safety is large and when the shooter grasps it, it does not completely contract inside the grip so a small part of it sticks out into the palm of the hand. This is a different feel from the .380 EZ I reviewed earlier, but this Performance Center M&P9 Shield EZ was not uncomfortable in my hands, although it was just a little so for another instructor with small hands.
Comfortable Grip Angle
Both the new Performance Center Shield EZ and original M&P 9 Shield EZ have my favorite, the comfortable and convenient 18-degree grip angle, like my 1911s. This is compared to the more-raked Glock, H&K, and Steyr grip angles, for example, of about 22 degrees.
Bright Green Fiber Optic Front Sight
If you have read any of my previous reviews over the years, you know my aging colorblind eyes prefer a bright and green front sight which is easy to pick up in daylight, dusk, and at nighttime. The Performance Center Shield EZ 9mm upgraded sights meet my preferences, with Hi-Viz LITEWAVE H3 sights with bright green fiber optic rods and tritium…. green front and rear sights. This LITEWAVE technology really helps this old codger’s eyes pickup the sights easily, in bright light, and in low light.
The Performance Center Shield EZ’s Trigger Press and Reset
The new Shield EZ’s skeletonized trigger is excellent. The Performance Center has tuned the flat trigger and it is very crisp, with a firm and short reset. Its trigger press is less than 5 pounds without much overtravel, as compared to the original Shield EZ’s press of about 5.5 pounds. The new anodized aluminum trigger has a nice tactile and audible click.
Smith & Wesson has improved upon its already top-selling Shield EZ 9mm pistol and I want to explore its features and performance to help you. I wanted to shoot and thoroughly evaluate this hot-off-the-press Shield EZ 9mm to consider it for concealed carry, fun range plinking, and/or home defense. And I especially wanted to see how my wife handled and shot it. You can compare this new Performance Center Shield EZ 9mm review with my handgun analyses, comparisons, and rankings of 21 other concealed carry guns in my book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.”
Initially, I want to give you a summary of the new Shield EZ 9’s Specifications and Features. Then, I give you my 10 criteria that I use to evaluate all guns. Finally, I present my analysis and how I specifically evaluated the gun against each of my 10 criteria to recommend or not recommend it. As always, set your own criteria and priorities, do your own research and check my data, information, etc. with yours, for your very personal selection process. Just a note to remind you that I do not get paid by Smith & Wesson or any gun manufacturer nor receive any sponsor payments or paid incentives for my reviews and comments. I want to objectively give my opinions, evaluations, and comments.
Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P9 Shield EZ 9mm Specifications
|Action||Internal Hammer-Fired; Single Action|
|Barrel Material||Stainless Steel; Ported; Polished High Bright Silver; Armornite Finish|
|Sights||Front & Rear: HI-VIZ Litewave H3 Tritium/Litepipe; Green Fiber Optic Front; 3-Dot; Drift Adjustable Green Rear|
|Slide Material - Type||Stainless Steel; Lightning Cuts; Armornite Finish|
|Frame Material||Polymer; Matte Black; Silver Accents on Grip Safety, Barrel, and Trigger|
|Trigger - Type||Upgraded Flat Single-Action; Short Reset; Performance Center Tuned; Skeletonized and Serrated, Silver Anodized Aluminum|
|Trigger Press||4.80 pounds (as measured over 10 trials with my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull gauge)|
|Magazines - Capacity||8 Rounds; 2 Steel Mags; Load Assist Tab for Easy Loading|
|Weight||23.2 oz, Empty 8-Round Mag|
|Safeties||No Thumb Safety as Tested; Optional: Manual Thumb Safety; Silver, Anodized Aluminum, Serrated Grip Safety; Firing Pin Block|
|Grips||Aggressively-Textured Black Polymer Grips|
|Other||Limited Lifetime Warranty for Original Purchaser Only|
Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P9 Shield EZ 9mm Features
- Easy-to-Rack Slide
- Optimal 18-Degree Grip Angle for Natural Point of Aim
- Crisp, Light, Skeletonized Trigger with Tactile and Audible Short Reset
- Performance Center Tuned Action and Trigger
- Tactile Loaded Chamber Indicator
- Picatinny-Style Accessory Rail
- Reversible Magazine Release
- Lightning Cuts in Slide to Reduce Weight
- Ported Barrel to Reduce Muzzle Flip
- Performance Center Enhanced Silver Anodized-Aluminum and Serrated Grip Safety
- Trigger Face is Serrated and Flat for Solid Contact
- Easy-to-See Steel Front Fiber Optic & Tritium & Rear Tritium Sights
- Very Nice Overall Ergonomics, with Aggressively-Textured and Comfortable M2.0 Thin Grips
- Small Front Serrations and Rear Angled Wavy Cocking Serrations
- Helpful Small but Prominent “Wings” on Rear of Slide to Help with Racking Slide
- Magazines have Load-Assist Tabs to Help Pull Follower Down
- Edges Rounded for Comfort, Smoothness, & for Holstering
- Performance Center Cleaning Kit with a Carry Case Included, with collapsible Rod, Brushes, Jags, etc.
Criteria and Considerations
Here are just 10 of my criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the Performance Center Shield EZ. 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, 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 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.
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.
Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P9 Shield EZ 9mm Range Test
For the Shield EZ 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 Shield EZ 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.
Many thanks to Fiocchi and SinterFIre for providing quality 9mm ammo in various grains and JHP and FMJ types for my testing and evaluation of this EZ. All functioned fine without any malfunctions or failures of any kind. This compact pistol and its fine features were fun to shoot and handle. I appreciate the extra upgrades from the standard EZ, its excellent smooth single-action trigger, its 4.80-pound press, its short reset, fine sights, and its reliability and accuracy. Below are my evaluations for each of my 10 criteria for the Shield EZ. I was considering it for my concealed carry gun rotation and for a home defense gun. I wanted to put the pistol through its paces and check it thoroughly for malfunctions, stoppages, accuracy, reliability, ergonomics, and my other criteria.
General Observations about Field Performance
Here are just some selected impressions of the upgraded Performance Center M&P9 Shield EZ pistol, from my range testing of it.
Reliability and Accuracy
Without any doubt, this gun was reliable, at my range trial. There were no malfunctions or stoppages and overall this pistol performed great. I did not have a single malfunction of any type and it fed all ammo very well.
It digested the different types and grain weights of ammo without any problems, including the Fiocchi 124 grain FMJ (1150 fps) and the Fiocchi 124 grain JHP (1100 fps), the Sig Sauer 124 grain FMJ (1165 fps), and the SinterFire Greenline 100 grain frangible lead-free JHP (1350 fps) rounds. The SinterFire frangible high-velocity ammo performed exceptionally well.
This 3.83″ barreled, 23-ounce pistol and its remarkable crisp trigger were very accurate, had very manageable felt recoil, and slight muzzle rise. The lightning cuts in the slide did help to reduce the weight and helped performance. The ported barrel did help with muzzle flip.
Trigger: Flat-Faced and Single Action
The trigger was a key benefit of this pistol. Its flat serrated characteristic, single action, short reset, and light press combined for exceptional performance and a fun range time. This Performance Center Shield EZ made me look very good and I thoroughly enjoyed shooting it. This hammer-fired gun was accurate and I could easily use it for self-defense and concealed carry. The flat-faced, skeletonized trigger helped me concentrate my finger pressure on the front of the shoe for a straighter press.
Slide Racking, “Wings”, and Hammer-Fired
The “wings” or protruding “ears” on the rear of the slide did help with easily grasping the slide to rack it. Honestly, racking the slide was very easy and did not take much effort. At the range, even a lady shooter with rheumatoid arthritis could rack the slide without problems. The wavy cocking serrations on the rear of the slide helped with racking. The pistol’s internal hammer, as opposed to a striker-fired gun, allows for use of lighter springs which mean less resistance from the slide and less force being required to rack it.
Mags and Load-Assist Tabs
The two, included quality steel mags performed exceptionally well and the single-column mags were easy to load. The mags have Load-Assist Tabs to help pull the Follower down. The mags dropped quickly, freely, and easily from the mag well.
Front and Rear Steel Sights: Tritium and Fiber Optic
The upgraded tritium light-pipe and fiber optic sights are excellent, especially for this aging shooter with colorblind eyes. They really help me pick up the sights more easily no matter whether during the daylight, at dusk, or even evening. My eyes can get a good sight picture whatever the lighting. These Hi-Viz LITEWAVE H3 sights have my favorite green fiber optic rods in a strong steel housing for great daylight help. They have Tritium in front of the fiber optic rods to help at nighttime. In the absence of light, the tritium vial powers the fiber optic glow. The rear sight is drift adjustable to fine-tune the point-of-impact.
Ergonomics and M2.0 Texturing
The overall ergonomics and M2.0 grips were excellent for me and my medium-sized hands and fingers. This gun was very comfortable in my hands and the thin grip and grip texture was just right for me. The M2.0 texturing on the grips is not too heavy nor too light, but just right for me. My hands did not get scraped nor irritated from the texturing. I want to emphasize again that this pistol felt excellent in my hands. Really! The front and rear wavy scalloped serrations helped with racking and, again, the “wings” were magnificent for slide racking.
Holsters for the Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P9 Shield EZ Pistol
The good news is that the Smith & Wesson representative informed me that every holster manufacturer that they work with has said that their standard M&P9 Shield EZ holster will work with the Performance Center model as well. But, I did provide specs for the new Performance Center Shield EZ model to two holster makers.
Kramer Handgun Leather makes a high-quality custom Outside-the-Waistband (OWB) Horsehide Leather holster for the new Performance Center Shield EZ 9mm pistol. This holster uses the classic “pancake” design and carries the gun in a “neutral rake” vertical straight up and down position. 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. This holster can be ordered with a forward FBI cant for easy draw. Although designed for concealment, this holster is well suited for home defense, competition, and general range use. It has very nice workmanship, is very comfortable, is extremely durable, and conceals well. It is available in mahogany horsehide and black cowhide. Kramer Handgun Leather holsters wants to offer my readers a 20% Discount off all purchases for their high-quality leather holsters. When ordering, mention Col Ben and/or use the Discount Code “ColBen-USAC20” with no expiration date. If this gun or your desired gun’s make and model is not listed as an option, just manually input it in “Not Seeing Your Gun Model” section.
CrossBreed Holsters’ Outside-the-Waistband (OWB) DropSlide kydex polymer and leather, open-muzzle holster has 1 3/4″ belt loops and is designed to keep your holster tight against your body. The fine leather backer is configured to accommodate a different position of the kydex pocket allowing for a lower-riding holster. The specifically-designed cut of the leather backer allows for a full grip on the firearm when drawing. The holster has a 15-degree forward cant for strongside carry. The extended leather on the bottom side of the holster keeps most long-barreled firearms from rubbing against your clothes and body. The DropSlide is available in these leather options: Black Cowhide, Founder’s Leather, and Natural Tan Horsehide. Kydex options include: Standard Black, FDE, Sniper Grey, OD Green, and Tiffany Blue. There is a Two-Week, Try-It-Free Guarantee and a nice Lifetime Warranty.
Below I will get specific and give my opinions for each of my 10 criteria to support my recommendation for this Performance Center M&P9 Shield EZ, after my hands-on range testing.
Using my 20-second timed Concealed Carry Drill with 5 circle targets and 15 rounds at 7 yards, accuracy was acceptable and my self-defense goal was met. But, shoot it for yourself to make your own decisions, based on your abilities and proficiency.
Range Test Results for each of my 10 Criteria:
1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 9
The accuracy of the new Shield EZ was exceptional for me at 7 yards. All my hits were in the 5 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 remarkable 4.80 pound light trigger press of this single-action hammer-fired pistol helped reduce my movement and helped my accuracy. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and fast-fired from the draw.
2. Trigger Press – Score: 10
The superb trigger press averaged about 4.80 pounds with 10 readings from my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. This was great and helped reduce movement to aid accuracy. The press was just right, not too heavy and not too light for a carry gun for me. I appreciate this short and light trigger press. I prefer that my carry guns have a maximum of 6.5 pounds press or less, so this press was fabulous. I will buy this gun and use it in my carry rotation and probably some for home defense.
3. Trigger – Score: 10
This Shield EZ has a fine flat-faced trigger with a very identifiable click and short reset. The consistency from shot to shot was there for this hammer-fired pistol. Its flat serrated characteristic, single action, short reset, and light press combined for exceptional performance and a fun range time. I really enjoyed shooting this smooth trigger. This hammer-fired gun was accurate and I could easily use it for self-defense and concealed carry. The flat-faced, skeletonized trigger helped me concentrate my finger pressure on the front of the shoe for a straighter press.
4. Barrel Length – Score: 10
The 3.83-inch sturdy stainless steel, ported barrel combined with its polished feed ramp and single-action performance to deliver fine results for me. The steel barrel is highly polished and looks great. The barrel is just a little longer than the standard M&P9 Shield EZ and its 3.67-inch barrel. This extra length helps with lockup at the muzzle and velocity. The barrel has a nice tight fit with the slide. The Armornite finish is nice.
5. Sights – Score: 10
The sights consist of a single, white-dot all-metal front sight and an all-black, serrated square-notch rear sight. The rear sight dovetails into the slide, is drift adjustable, and the sights are compatible with several aftermarket optional Glock sights and several night sights and fiber optics options. I could easily pick up the steel sights in daylight and the black serrated rear sight did help reduce glare, but the sights were more difficult to identify at dark. Of course, I prefer my front bright-green fiber optic and tritium night sights, but this is a value-priced gun. But, the standard sights are decent. Out of the box, the sights were right on.
6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 9
The Shield EZ’s overall 23.2 ounces unloaded weight works for me for all-day concealed carry. The gun’s weight, trigger, porting, and lightning cuts all combined for fine performance and helped mitigate felt recoil, muzzle flip, and handling. The gun’s great trigger, porting and lightning cuts probably contributed more to these results, however.
7. 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 Shield EZ pistol. And she was accurate with it.
8. Capacity – Score: 8
There are two load-assist tabs on the magazines to help easily pull down the follower when loading the mags. Nice touch, but I would like to see the mags hold more rounds than the 8 capacity. I understand that holding more rounds would make the pistol more difficult to load because of the added mag spring tension. And this is marketed as an “EZ” pistol and includes two 8-round high-quality steel magazines. I think it needs to be designed with one more round in the mag, perhaps two. And this may not be feasible from an engineering perspective without some tradeoffs, but other somewhat similar pistols hold more. I feel I need more rounds than in this pistol. But again, I understand the goal of an “EZ” racking and loading pistol.
9. Ergonomics – Score: 9
The ergonomics of the Shield EZ 9mm are superb. Form, function, and fit were splendid, especially given the low 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 aggressive grip texturing on all six 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 easily reach and operate all the controls.
10. Miscellaneous – Score: 10
The M&P9 EZ has a helpful visual loaded chamber indicator on top of the slide. The quality cleaning kit which is included is a nice extra. The M2.0 grip features make the pistol feel great in the hands and they are not too aggressively textured, but just right for me.
A female instructor said that the grip safety did not feel comfortable for her small hands. It does not fully compress inside the grip and some of it protrudes from the grip. She said the grip safety did not extend up high enough on the backstrap close to the beavertail to help her get the highest possible grip on the mainspring housing. So she had a slight pinching of the skin between her thumb and shooting finger, from the point where the grip safety ends just below the beavertail. Perhaps, the grip safety needs to extend upward a little more for those with smaller hands… or round and smooth it more. But, I did not notice this concern with my medium-sized hands and do not have any complaints at all about this. The mag release is reversible. The slide nose is beveled to help holstering. The added 6 very small, forward slide serrations are not necessary nor useful for me. As always before shooting any new gun, I disassembled, lubed and cleaned, and re-assembled the Shield EZ before I shot it. Takedown is easy, but be certain to first remove the mag and then check the chamber both visually and tactilely that the gun is unloaded. The trigger does not have to be pressed for field stripping.
SAFETY NOTE #1: This M&P9 Shield EZ pistol is designed to be able to fire when the magazine is removed. So if there is a loaded round in the chamber, it will fire if the grip safety is depressed and the trigger is pressed.
SAFETY NOTE #2: Keep your face and hands away from the barrel and slide ports during firing of this Shield EZ pistol, since hot gas and particles will be forced out during use and may cause injury and/or damage.
Total Points = 95
This exceptional M&P9 Shield EZ compact 9mm rated very high with 95 points out of 100 Possible, for my above 10 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. I was surprised at how exceptionally well this fine pistol performed and handled. I certainly RECOMMEND this as an outstanding choice for your consideration for a concealed carry gun and for personal protection. I will buy this pistol and it will be in my carry rotation.
The flat-faced and tuned trigger was a major strength of this pistol. Its flat serrated characteristic, single action, short reset, and light press combined for exceptional performance and a fun range time. This Performance Center Shield EZ made me look very good and I thoroughly enjoyed shooting it. This hammer-fired gun was accurate and I could easily use it for self-defense and concealed carry. The flat-faced, skeletonized trigger helped me concentrate my finger pressure on the front of the shoe for a straighter press.
The “wings” or protruding “ears” on the rear of the slide 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 use of lighter springs which mean less resistance from the slide and less force being required to rack it. So easy to rack the slide. And very low recoil.
Overall, this is an outstanding 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. 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.
Springfield, MA 01104
Kramer Handgun Leather Holsters
Tacoma, WA 98411
Springfield, MO 65802
SinterFire Frangible 9mm 100 Grain Ammo
Kersey, PA 15846
Fiocchi USA Ammo
Ozark, MO 65721
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.
© 2020 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 [email protected].