Back in December of 2019, I was brought out to the Smith & Wesson facility in Springfield, for the unveiling of what I would consider being one of the most important handgun releases within the last year – the Smith and Wesson M&P 9 Shield EZ. Designed to be easy to load, operate, and shoot, the Sheild EZ has fast become a favorite pistol for many. Naturally, this led to the pistol being given the Performance Center treatment with upgraded features and a snazzy new look. Smith & Wesson was able to send me out a copy for review and here I’ll give you my thoughts on what went well and what didn’t go so well (for me at least) with the Performance Center upgrades.
TFB Review: Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 9 Shield EZ
For those who are unfamiliar with Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center firearms, the concept is simple: take an already fine product and fine-tune it using a combination of old fashioned hand-tuned tooling and modern technologies for the utmost precision to make a truly top performing firearm. Performance Center firearms exhibit the best that Smith & Wesson has to offer.
The Performance Center M&P 9 Shield EZ is now the latest entry into the Performance Center family and it is in my opinion, a welcome one! Generally, Performance Center firearms find their way into the hands of competitors. One competitor that comes to mind is Jerry Miculek who is a world-renowned speed shooter and who is also known for his extensive use of Smith & Wesson firearms including many from the Performance Center line.
Stock vs Performance Center M&P 9 Shield EZ: What’s the Difference?
Many of you will wonder what exactly has been changed between the standard 9 Shield EZ and the Performance Center 9 Sheild EZ. For starters, we can just take a glance at the pistol and see that many of its features have changed, not just in function but also in form.
Many things look different like the slide which now features lightening cuts that also act as pseudo forward slide serrations. I don’t use forward slide serrations but I do appreciate that the cuts show off the barrel underneath which is a cool feature.
The “ears” on the rear of the slide appear as if they have been slightly enlarged and this is a massive aide to those who have grip strength issues. Finally, the slide also features the unique Performance Center branding and a tactile loaded chamber indicator.
The Ported barrel includes a single port, designed to reduce muzzle flip. In my field experience with the handgun, I did not personally notice any reduction in muzzle flip, however, when shooting in the evening the muzzle flash is much more noticeable and does, in fact, come out in the top so it probably does something.
The high-bright finish on the barrel does get dirty very easily but thankfully it wipes off easily leaving the finish looking almost new. On that note, I really think the pistol looks best in gold, I’m not even a big fan of the color but for some reason, it just works on this particular pistol with the way it is set up and presented. Good job on the designers at the Performance Center on making a great looking pistol.
The new flat-faced trigger is another major departure from the standard bow style trigger. In addition to the flat-faced trigger, the action has been given the Performance Center treatment and it is noticeably better with a nice and light trigger pull along with an overtravel stop meaning trigger resets are quick and short for faster followup shots.
While the trigger pull-weight hasn’t been lightened any compared to the standard version, the trigger overall feels better and looks nice as well – if you’re not a fan of gold the Performance Center pistols also come in silver and black accent colors.
This feature is a bit of an enigma for me. During the testing of the gun, I was able to get about 5 or 6 people out to the range with me to try it out. Everyone unanimously thought the Performance Center 9 Shield EZ looked great, but one issue most of them had was with the grip safety. Compared to the standard grip safety, the Performance center model features an enlarged version. While this is in line with custom competition guns, I found that for me it ended up making the shooting experience a bit of a pain to deal with.
The larger grip safety does not fully compress inside the grip of the pistol meaning there is a significant portion of it that protrudes from the grip and into the web of your hand in between your thumb and index finger. I had both men and women mention this particular feature was uncomfortable to them and they all used a proper high grip which placed their hand right under the beavertail.
Perhaps this feature is to help those who are newer to guns and generally have less proficiency with having a solid grip on the gun reliably depress the grip safety without the need for a full and proper grip. However, this is only my speculation and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about it in the comments.
Performance Center M&P 9 Shield EZ Shooting Experience
As with the standard 9 Sheild EZ, the shooting experience was great. This time, in fact, it was much better due to a select few upgrades I found quite helpful. The first being the upgraded tritium light-pipe sights. These upgraded sights are great regardless of the time of day or sunlight exposure and draw your eyes right into a good sight picture every time.
The trigger as mentioned before is a great asset to the shootability of this upgraded pistol and I think it has to be one of the best factory single-action triggers I’ve tried to date. Most notably the addition of the flat-face to the trigger makes for a clean and crisp break with no overtravel and minimal takeup. This should be expected of single-action triggers in general but I found it particularly helpful when trying to shoot groups at 25 yards.
Finally, we come to the ammunition compatibility. Some have noted that the 9 Shield EZ magazines are unable to accommodate longer types of ammunition, however, I personally did not run into this problem in my tests. I tested the pistol with a wide variety of target, defensive, and standard ball ammo and ran into no problems when loading the magazines.
Normally, when I test a pistol, I use my “mystery box” which contains the remnants of boxes of factory ammunition I didn’t quite finish. I ran a couple of mixed magazines from this box and it ate every single piece of ammunition aside from one – a 165 grain subsonic round (which admittedly only runs in PCCs).
Besides the mystery box, most of the testing was done with Standard 115 grain FMJ, 150 grain Federal Syntech, and 147 grain Federal HST LE. All of these performed excellently in the pistol and I was able to load each magazine to capacity without issue.
Overall I have found my first experience with a Performance Center handgun from Smith & Wesson to be an enjoyable one. While the grip safety issue is a concern for long term shooting, I find it to be an issue that not everyone encounters (maybe I just have weird shaped hands).
I believe the increased cost of the Performance Center version of the gun is entirely warranted as the pistol comes with not only the Performance Center upgrades but a special cleaning kit as well. There is certainly a lot of value in this kit and I’d wholeheartedly recommend this either as a gift to yourself or a gift to a loved one who enjoys shooting and could use the benefits of the 9 Shield EZ pistols.
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