Self defense isn’t as essential for the strong as it is for the weakest among us. All of us have a right to self-determination and to protect ourselves and the people about whom we care. However, that right is most critical for those that are least able to defend themselves due to age, frailty or ailment.
While many people point to the firearm as the great equalizer, a gun is only useful to someone who can operate it. The latest blastomatic chambered for the current in-vogue manstopper isn’t helpful to someone with diminished hand strength, which is precisely the person who might need it most. Enter the M&P380 Shield EZ from Smith & Wesson; a gun chambered for the .380 ACP cartridge that is ideally suited for people who need protection the most.
From its introduction, the M&P380 Shield EZ has been extremely popular with shooters. Although still compact enough for concealed carry, the pistol is not a micro-sized, pocket pistol. Instead, it has a 3.8-inch barrel and a grip long enough to accommodate a full grip from most hand sizes. Recoil is light, and the slide is effortless to manipulate.
Bottom line: The pistol is comfortable to shoot accurately and manipulate. Many people who otherwise would have difficulty running a defensive pistol find the M&P380 Shield EZ a refreshing alternative.
Building on that success, Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center is taking a crack at improving the already good pistol. Called the Performance Center M&P380 Shield EZ, the new gun offers a variety of enhancements that turn the platform into a truly elegant pistol that remains an excellent choice for self-defense.
Visually, the new Performance Center guns are striking. The grip safety, trigger and barrels are all color matched — black, silver or gold — to deliver a custom look without the need to send the pistol out to a gunsmith. Forward cuts in the slide show off the barrel.
Don’t think this gun is all flash. There are legitimate performance enhancements also. On top, Smith & Wesson upgraded the standard sights to the very bright Hi-Viz Litewave H3 Tritium Litepipe set. These sights combine the use of tritium vials with green fiber optic rods. Rugged steel housings protect the sight assemblies. The tritium is a radioactive isotope that glows in low light while the rods gather ambient light and combine it with the tritium glow. The result is a set of 3-dot sights that are useable in all lighting conditions.
Just under the front sight, you can see the second performance enhancement. Here, Smith & Wesson ported the barrel to mitigate muzzle rise. The less the muzzle jumps, the easier it is for a shooter to get follow up shots on the target. For shooters that are weak or sensitive to recoil, this jump reduction can be a help.
Trigger & More
Then Performance Center installed a flat-faced trigger. A curved trigger is standard, but the flat front feels better to me. The face of the trigger is textured with shallow vertical grooves. These grooves help the finger to stay on trigger while still allowing for some sliding of the finger when pressing the trigger to the rear.
One of the things many people will like is the tuned action. As you press the trigger, there is no grit or stacking. It is a smooth press all the way through. My Lyman trigger gauge measured a consistent 4 pounds, 13 ounces. A physical stop inside the trigger guard prevents over-travel, and the reset is short.
As with the original guns, the magazine in the Performance Center M&P380 Shield EZ holds 8 rounds. If you are not familiar with the design, the magazines have studs on the follower to allow your support hand to reduce the spring pressure for less effort when loading rounds into it. This is yet another nod to folks that have limited hand strength.
Rounding out the Performance Center package is a multi-caliber pistol cleaning kit. It comes in a rigid clamshell case that zippers up for secure storage. While another company might include something like this as a throw-away, Smith & Wesson uses a good quality kit that includes multiple bore brushes, jags, patches and more.
Without any doubt in my mind, the EZ line will be part of the Smith & Wesson catalog for years to come. The new Performance Center M&P Shield 380 EZ is excellent and worth every penny of the $502 suggested retail price. That’s only $100 more than the original M&P380 Shield EZ and you’re getting value that’s worth a lot more.
For more information, please visit Smith-Wesson.com.
Performance Center M&P Shield 380 EZ Specs
- Caliber: .380 ACP
- Barrel: 3.8 inches
- OA Length: 6.9 inches
- Weight: 18.5 ounces
- Grips: polymer
- Sights: HI-VIZ Litewave H3 Tritium Litepipe
- Action: internal hammer fired
- Finish: matte black with black, silver or gold accent
- Capacity: 8+1
- MSRP: $502