Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm SHIELD EZ – Review

The M&P 9 SHIELD EZ is a fine gun for all users, and especially for those with less hand strength.

Smith & Wesson’s latest addition to the M&P SHIELD lineup is intended to reduce the barriers to shooting a semiautomatic handgun. The M&P 9 SHIELD EZ is touted as easy to use from all perspectives. Many have said it’s ideal for those with lower grip strength, like women and the elderly, but who wouldn’t want a gun that’s easier to use?

The new 9mm SHIELD EZ shoots well, carries well, and its easy-to-load magazine makes a day at the range much more enjoyable.

Note: Let me apologize for using “easy” so frequently. It’s just that it’s the best word for this gun. I wish they had named it something besides “EZ” because I’m tired of saying it — even though it’s an accurate word.

Bigger & Beefier

We’ve got two guns for comparing with the 9 SHIELD EZ: The original 380 SHIELD EZ and the 9 SHIELD. For ease of discussion, let’s call these guns the 9 EZ, the 380 EZ, and the 9 SHIELD.

Bottom to top: 9 EZ, 380 EZ, and 9 SHIELD.

The 9 EZ is the biggest of the lot. As expected for a 9mm compared to a .380, it’s 0.1″ longer, though the barrels are both 3.675″ long. It’s also 0.7″ longer than the 9 SHIELD, and a little taller, too. The 9 EZ is 6.8″ long overall.

Bottom to top: 9 EZ, 380 EZ, and 9 SHIELD.

The 380 EZ weighs 18.5oz, while the 9 EZ weighs 23.2oz. The 9 SHIELD weighs in at 18.3oz. The 9 EZ is the heaviest — its slide alone weighs about 1.5oz more than the slide on the 9 SHIELD (according to my kitchen scale).

This is the bigger 9 EZ with the 9 SHIELD. The 9 EZ weighs 23.2oz

Magazine

The 9 EZ ships with two 8-round magazines. They are particularly easy to load because of a tab connected to the follower. You can pull the tab downward to reduce the upward pressure as you load the next round. You can even rest it flat on a table and drop ammo in.

For anyone who has trouble loading mags, these are truly easy to use and probably the best feature on this gun.

Think about the last time you went to the range: What is the one thing you could really do without? It’s probably the pain of loading magazines and wearing out your thumb. These mags eliminate the pain points of loading mags. They are as easy to load as .22 mags that also usually have tabs. It’d be great if all magazines had this feature.

It ships with two 8-round easy loading magazines. The tabs on the side let you pull the follower downward.

For those with arthritis, it really makes a big difference. My friend used this gun with me and he was amazed that even his pained hands could load it without trouble. The tabs on the 9 EZ are also much better than the round knobs on the 380 EZ mags.

The 9 SHIELD mag on the left only holds 7 rounds to the 9 EZ’s 8.

The magazines also have an indentation at the top corner which helps the ammo load properly. The mags for the 9 SHIELD only hold 7 rounds and are much more difficult to load.

Slide

The slide is the other EZ part of this gun. It is easy to rack. I can do it with thumb and pinky, or just by grabbing anywhere on the top. My friend with arthritis also had no issues working the slide. It’s so easy to use that it looks like those prop guns they use on TV that seem to rack if you breathe across the top.

You can use two fingers to rack this gun, or just place your hand on top of it. It makes you look like a movie star.

The ease is increased with considerate design in the serrations. They look like the classic SHIELD serrations, but the rear serrations are actually cut away deeper into the slide and leave a pronounced ear at the back of the slide that is also easy to grip.

These ears at the back of the serrations make it easy to grip the slide, but they don’t protrude so much as to snag.

There are also scalloped front serrations. They kind of look like a machining mistake at first, but do provide a little grip. They also provide a relief to help when moving the takedown pin.

The slide is stainless steel with Smith & Wesson’s Armornite finish, which is their brand of nitride.

Takedown

Removing the slide and barrel on Smith & Wesson’s M&P 9 SHIELD EZ is easier than on most other handguns. Lock the slide back with the slide catch and push the takedown pin downward. Then pull the slide back a little and it will now slide off the front of the frame.

The takedown pin moves down easily without tools.

Make sure that you’re not depressing the grip safety when you try to remove the slide, or it won’t come off. The safety raises a tab that interferes. Same goes for putting it back on — make sure you’re not engaging the safety.

The slide comes off easily — unless you depress the grip safety.

Even after you let the safety go you might have some issue getting the slide off. I’ve found that just working it back and forth a few times resets whatever was in the way and it’ll come off easily. It really shouldn’t take any amount of force, so don’t push too hard. Just start over without engaging the safety.

The slide, barrel and guide rod come apart easily because the spring is light. It’s also capped onto the guide rod.

The barrel and guide rod come out easily and since the spring is so light, you won’t feel like it’s going to fly across the room. The spring is capped on both ends on the guide rod so it can’t come off. It’s also easy to compress to reassemble. The guide rod is keyed so it nestles in place on the bottom of the barrel.

Rear interior of the slide. That screw is for adjusting the rear sight.

Remember not to engage the safety when you try to put the slide back on or it won’t work. I keep saying this because I’ve seen other reviewers who continually had a hard time with it.

The front interior of the slide.

The only other issue you might have reassembling the gun is if you pulled the trigger while the slide was off. That will release the hammer, which will be sticking up and block the slide. Just reset it with your finger and it’ll be fine.

This is the internal hammer in the decocked position. It needs to be cocked before replacing the slide.
Just slide the whole thing back on without engaging the grip safety.

On the 9 EZ I didn’t need to use the rim of a case or a screwdriver or anything to push it down the takedown lever.

Barrel

The barrel on the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 SHIELD EZ is made of stainless steel with the company’s Armornite finish for durability. It is 3.675″ long, the same length as the 380 EZ barrel. The smaller 9 SHIELD’s barrel is just 3.1″ long.

The 9 EZ barrel above with the 9 SHIELD barrel below.
The barrel is stainless steel with Armornite finish.

Trigger & Safety

The trigger on the 9 EZ is surprisingly good. The 9 SHIELD is a striker-fired pistol, and looking at the 9 EZ you’d expect the same. But it is actually a hammer-fired gun. That means the trigger is much better than you’d expect from a striker-fired gun.

The trigger is better than expected on this hammer-fired gun. It breaks consistently at 5lbs.

It’s a two-stage trigger and it breaks fairly crisply, though it has a little bit of creep. I weighed the pull and its ten-shot averaged was 4.9oz and was always within .2oz of 5lbs. There’s a bumper molded in the frame to stop its backward travel.

This button pops to indicate there’s a round in the chamber.

Because it’s a hammer-fired gun, there is not the option for a trigger safety. Instead, the 9 EZ comes standard with a grip safety. The safety pivots at the base of the tang instead of the top like a 1911. Some people don’t like grip safeties, but this one has worked each time I’ve held it firmly in a firing grip. If I’m holding it in anything less than a ready-to-shoot grip it often won’t drop the hammer. There’s another model with an additional thumb safety but it also has the grip safety.

The grip safety pivots at the base instead of the top. There’s another model with an additional thumb safety.

Frame & Grip

The frame on the M&P 9 SHIELD EZ is polymer with steel components. The serial number is on a plate mounted under the barrel with some cutouts to reveal it. The grip is stippled aggressively, but it’s not so rough that you feel like it’ll wear out your clothes.

The serial number is mounted on a steel plate in the polymer frame with cutouts, and there’s a molded 1913 rail.

The magazine release is a steel button and it can be swapped to the right side for left-handed shooters. Either-handed shooters can take advantage of the 18-degree grip angle, which S&W feels will help you naturally bring the gun up on target.

Under the barrel, there’s a 1913 rail for accessories. Smith & Wesson also offers the pistol with an included Crimson Trace laser for an additional hundred bucks.

There’s an option to buy the gun with a Crimson Trace laser installed. Photo S&W.

Sights

Front and rear sights are dovetailed into the slide whereas the front sight on the 380 EZ was pinned in place. They all white dots and the rear sight is surrounded by serrations to reduce glare when the sun is behind you. They are both adjustable for windage.

The front sight on the 9 EZ is adjustable for windage, whereas on the 380 EZ it was fixed.
The rear sights are surrounded by serrations to reduce glare.

Fit and Finish

The machine work on the slide is crisp both inside and out while the nitride finish on the slide is flawless. It all feels tight and well made. The difference between this and a cheaper gun would be seen immediately in the quality of the finish.

The lines and edges between the slide and the frame meld well.

The polymer of the frame is also finished well. The color is uniform and the seams fit tightly. You can detect the seams but they don’t have pronounced ridges like some polymer guns. Even up under the beavertail you’ll never notice the seam with your hand’s sensitive web between thumb and forefinger.

This gun is finished well. Besides the grip safety, it looks good, too.

Aesthetically, the chamfers and radiuses on the slide look good. The carry cuts on the slide meld into the polymer on the frame well. As I mentioned above, the scalloped front serrations look out of place. The grip safety ruins the line of the rear of the grip and makes the silhouette look blocky like a Soviet gun, but it looks good in your hand.

Shootability

I’ve already discussed all the ways this gun makes it easy to get ready to shoot, but it’s also easy to shoot. Compared to the 9 SHIELD, the 9 EZ has a lower bore axis. All the movement is lower and closer to your grip, which helps reduce the muzzle rise when you shoot.

Its tight construction helps with consistent performance.

Overall, this gun is comfortable to shoot over and over again. I have shot several hundred rounds on a few different visits to the range and I can shoot it over and over without discomfort. Being shootable makes it easier to practice a lot and become proficient.

I consistently shot 3″ groups or tighter with the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 SHIELD EZ. My targets were at 7 and 10 yards. All ammo shot about the same for me. Winchester white box 115-grain was just fine. SIG’s 124-grain +P 9mm NATO ammo also shot well. Aguila’s 115-grain cheap stuff didn’t shoot tightly — I was shooting 8″ groups with those.

This gun shoots better than me, and it shoots consistently. I’d say those are two very good characteristics.

This is eight rounds at seven yards. It’s typical of the performance I was getting. This gun shoots better than me. My Editor shot the gun and was getting one hole groups at those distances.

Out of the 850 rounds I’ve shot so far, there hasn’t been even one malfunction. The only problem with this gun is that because the magazines load easily and quickly, you’ll end up spending less time at the range. Better take an extra box of ammo along.

Carryability

It’s not the smallest 9mm out there, but it is a good shooter. At more than an inch thick, it’s thicker than the 9 SHIELD and longer and taller — but it also carries one more round. It’s certainly not a pocket gun, but if you’re planning to use a holster it’s a reasonable option. It may be a little long for appendix carry, but I’ve worn it several days inside the waistband and it’s not bad.

It’s a reasonable carry option. This is Crossbreed’s Reckoning holster (IWB).

Holsters are already available for it. I’ve got the CrossBreed Reckoning. The Reckoning has adjustable tension via the plate that presses on the trigger guard. I like that feature quite a lot.

It’s A Good Option

There are a lot of guns out there, but I think the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 SHIELD EZ deserves your consideration. S&W sees it as a carry gun, a home protection gun, and a good one for shooting at the range. I agree with those uses. The 380 EZ already has several models, including Performance Center versions, and I think we can expect the same for the 9 EZ.

The 9 EZ is simple to use and comfortable to shoot. It’s been reliable and consistent. It’s not too big to carry and its fun to shoot.

If you’re a person with “reduced grip strength” this is a no-brainer. It’s definitely easy on the hands, but it doesn’t compromise in other areas.

The Smith & Wesson M&P 9 SHIELD EZ retails for $479, and the laser version’s MSRP is $575. It is available right now anywhere Smith & Wesson is sold.

You don’t have to have weak hands to enjoy this gun.

Specs

Model: M&P®9 SHIELD™ EZ® Manual Thumb Safety
Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 8+1
Barrel Length: 3.675″ / 9.3 cm
Overall Length: 6.8″
Front Sight: White Dot
Rear Sight: White Dot Adjustable for Windage
Action: Internal Hammer Fired
Grip: Polymer
Weight: 23.2 oz / 657.7g
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel – Armornite® Finish
Slide Material: Stainless Steel – Armornite® Finish
Frame Material: Polymer
Purpose: Concealed Carry, Home Protection, Personal Protection, State Compliance

Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE!

About the author: Levi Sim is an avid hunter, and an increasingly avid shooter. He strives to make delicious and simple recipes from the game he kills. He makes a living as a professional photographer, writer, and photography instructor. Check out his work and he’d love to connect on Instagram: @outdoorslevi

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Cliff Meyer August 21, 2021, 2:25 pm

    I just bought a M&P EZ and how do I fix trigger pinch top and bottom. I am 6′ 0″, 175lbs with normal hands.
    What’s the fix?

  • MB December 28, 2020, 6:24 pm

    The grip safety is partly responsible for the light rack + good trigger weight, lose the grip safety, the difficulty of both goes up quite a bit. Bought the 380EZ for my wife, only gun she can rack. Not a fan of grip safeties either. Don’t own a 1911 because I don’t like grip safeties, but its part of the deal for the 9EZ and 380EZ. WONDERING WHY THIS COMMENT “MODERATED” OUT….

  • Les Thanadequate December 28, 2020, 11:35 am

    I have both guns as well as arthritis in my hands. They are both outstanding pistols. I am a 1911 lover, but age and infirmity have caused me to try something more manageable. Never had a problem with the grip safeties, I would think that if your grip is not firm enough to depress the safety you don’t have a good hold on the gun and you should practice getting a proper “high and tight” grip for good control. Can’t say enough good about these S&W pistols.

  • bill cattell December 28, 2020, 11:18 am

    it would have been nice if S&W didn’t sell guns that were re-called before they were sold , so that the new owner didn’t have to send in his or her new gun to be fixed as son as they got it home.

  • DT December 28, 2020, 10:23 am

    My gosh, The most important aspect of hitting your target is a good grip/purchase. If someone with grip issues can not depress the back strap safety of this handgun, it should not be bought. Any potential buyer would know this prior to completing the sale and could then go with the alternative 380EZ.

  • F. Morrison June 16, 2020, 3:47 pm

    I cannot find a single or double pouch magazine holder for belt attachment that will fit the unique design of the M&P 9mm Shield EZ magazine. The main issue is the EZ loader tabs that stick out of the side of the magazine (which I otherwise love) makes it to wide for most 9mm single-stack magazine pouch holders and the it is too loose in a double-stack pouch. I called S&W but the two places they said to try don’t have anything that is compatible with the 9mm Shield EZ magazine.

    • Ed shoemaker September 7, 2020, 11:22 am

      Tax Shield makes a double pouch that fits the ez 9 mags

  • Don April 6, 2020, 1:21 pm

    I know a ‘seasoned citizen’ lady, very small stature and in mid-80’s who got one of these a few months ago. She doesn’t have trouble loading the mags or working the slide…but that grip safety is a lousy way to go on pistols for these type of folks. I would say out of every magazine, she has three or four attempts to fire that don’t go bang because of the shape of the safety in relation to her hand size. They need to have a bump-out near the middle of the safety that will make it more positive for compromised grippers. Otherwise, I really like these handguns. Seriously considering getting one of these for my wife.

    • Brant White April 10, 2020, 8:27 am

      I totally agree with you on the lousy grip safety spring. My wife and several other school administrators use this gun and can’t stand how stiff the spring on the grip safety is. It’s EZ, except the grip safety. They have to requalify every three months on a tactical shooting proficiency test and will use medical tape to disable the grip safety during this. Due to their weak grip strength, just taping the grip safety increases their accuracy about 25%-30% and reliability of no jams to 100%. No 1911 grip safety has such a stiff spring. I’ve discussed this issue with S&W and if fell on deaf ears. I totally believe the guy at S&W is outta touch with the intent of the gun being EZ to use. His grip is strong and doesn’t see the issue. Once a few older folks or women get in a lawsuit on the inability to fire due to stiff grip safety, maybe they’ll wake up and complete the design properly. I wish someone would make a drop in grip spring solution. It’s an excellent gun other than that stiff grip spring.

  • Ron Pinkowski April 6, 2020, 1:18 pm

    I have both the 380 and9. I had to sell a custom Colt and Sig. because I could no longer rack the slide on either following surgery on both hands and elbows for carpal tunnel deterioration. It left me with little hand and finger strength.
    I bought the 380 shortly after it came out and loved it so much I added the 9 as soon as they were available. They are the only autos I own now. As a younger man, I was amazed that some older friends had difficulty manipulating their handguns. Now I am one.

  • Ej harbet April 6, 2020, 11:28 am

    This gun makes me kinda like smith again. Hard to forget what a crap they took on their revolvers.a picture definition of devolution

  • Dennis Wolfe April 6, 2020, 11:16 am

    Great review on this S&W EZ hand gun. Based on your review and demo I’m convinced I’d like to see this piece in my gun safe. Thank you Levi Sim.

  • Daddio7 April 6, 2020, 10:51 am

    So what makes it easy to rack? I had a Glock 17 that took little effort to rack. My FNS 9 is a bear, made worse because carpel tunnel has left me with little feeling in my left hand. I have to grasp it in my left hand, rack it with my right, and then swap back to hold it.

    • Nathan December 28, 2020, 10:19 am

      My guess is the heavier weight of the slide, which allows a softer spring, combine to make it easy to rack

  • Wil Radford April 6, 2020, 10:18 am

    I teach a lot of first time shooter classes at the range where I work. I have had occasion to shoot both the 380 and 9mm variants of these pistol in recent weeks. In general, I like them. But I do not like the grip safety!. I have seen multiple instances of failures to fire due to the grip safety not being fully pressed with new shooters. This is just one more thing for a new shooter to have to contend with. I would much rather it have a frame/slide safety in its place. That being said, for current shooters with strength issues that need an easy to operate slide, S&W got that part right! I would not recommend this pistol for a first time shooter. The triggers are pretty decent as well, and the sights are good.

  • Mark Adamski April 6, 2020, 10:09 am

    I purchased the 380 EZ 2 months ago for my spouse who has arthritis in her thumbs. Smooth slide action and crisp trigger. The 380 recoils less than several 9 mm we own. An excellent choice for us.

  • Sky Buster April 6, 2020, 10:03 am

    My wife is unable to retract the slide on my G19 but with the .380 EZ she can do so easily.
    Reliablity has been 100% over several hundred rounds. Great little pistol.

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend