Thursday, May 15, 2014

Met a S&W Shield for the first time today...

...and impressions were a bit mixed.  To be fair, I did not get to try the trigger, and I can't call any opinion fully considered until I've had a chance to do that.  (The counter-jockey actually responded to my customary request to try the trigger with "I'd rather you didn't", which actually took me a bit by surprise.  I'm pretty rough on most gun-counter types, and with reason, but to their credit, most of them at least recognize that dry-fire does at least no harm to a centerfire, and also that someone who explicitly asks permission is probably not going to then freak you out with something unexpected.  Buncha savages in this town.)

The gun is dimensionally impressive, right in there with the Kahrs for slimness, and the grip frame is quite comfortable.  I don't particularly like the currently trendy magazine-extension-serves-as-the-bottom-of-the-grip-frame approach (just give me a short grip frame and call it done), but this one seems somewhat less offensive than other designs.  Oddly enough, despite the slim grip, the magazine seems to have a slight flare below the feed lips--certainly not a double-column, but there is at least some staggering in there.  Ergonomics of the slide, magazine release, and slide stop seemed perfectly acceptable.  Springs were reasonable.  Sights were good.  Knowing Smith & Wesson, I'm sure it shoots well and is durable enough.

The safety lever was annoying, because it is present but not foolproof.  Now keep in mind, I like the idea of a manual safety, both for weapon retention and as a safety for me.  (Even on a striker-fired pistol that doesn't "need" one.)  I must admit, as I tested it there on the floor, it never failed to come off for me.  But it is really tiny, and doesn't like to swipe on easily.  For a 1911 guy, accustomed to positive snap! sounds and readily-available extended levers that fall very positively under the thumb, the Smith's safety just doesn't instill confidence.  (The Kimber Solo, by contrast, has an excellent safety design.)  Were I to invest in the platform, I would absolutely find a way to extend the lever just enough for positive engagement both ways.  (And with that, we might really have something here.)

And of course I'll have to find another example on which I can examine the trigger, for pull quality, reset length and quality, etc.  I'll admit I'm a bit leery of the hinged (Sigma style) trigger, but people seem to agree it doesn't seem to pose a breakage problem in actual use.  As far as pull quality goes, I expect it will probably be pretty good--hell, most of the examples of this breed seem to have triggers better than the "revolver smooth" that I grew up with.

Will have to see.  With an improved safety and confirmation of a good trigger, the piece might well get serious consideration as a competitor to the Kahr or the XD-S.


MamaLiberty said...

Nice looking gun. Have to see if I can find one to look at. I have zero interest in mechanical "safeties" myself. Carried a revolver for years, and the XD has more than enough "safeties" in the passive mode. One less thing to remember in a crisis.

Did you see my newest article? :)
Self Defense Training Priorities

Kevin Wilmeth said...

I suspect I'd be a lot softer on active safeties if I hadn't hard-wired the 1911 into my hands and mind all those years ago. With such an ergonomic system and enough attention to repetition, it really does become subconscious.

And though it's nothing to depend on, there are cases in which a person's life was spared because his attacker couldn't figure out how to make the gun "go" after successfully getting it away from the defender. A situation horrible to contemplate, for sure, but since working the safety is no problem for me, I certainly don't mind a small possible advantage... :-)

Ultimately, it's a personal thing. For me, active safeties are something I like to have if I can get them, but I don't lose any sleep over their absence, and I'd rather not have anything than have a badly-organized one, such as the one on the perplexing Ruger SR22.

There's nothing wrong with a good revolver, and the new breed of striker-fired pistols (e.g., your XD, my Kahr) are arguably even safer than revolvers or 1911s because of the passive systems built into the design.

Of course, I suspect you'd agree with me that any pistol is safe, if you are, and that no pistol is safe, if you aren't. :-)

Kevin Wilmeth said...

Oh, and yes, I did see your article as well. Nicely done, as usual!

MamaLiberty said...

The only actual "safety" on any gun... or screw driver, kitchen knife, ANYTHING, is the gray matter between the ears of the person holding it or in charge of it.

I've just found this concept a little easier to teach when I can convince students that mechanical safety devices don't change that brutal fact.

I've seen a good number of well seasoned, experienced shooters "forget" to take the manual safety off before the first shot... on the range, with no pressure! I hate to think of them in a crisis situation. That first shot may be all the opportunity they have to live.

As for other "safety" devices, I've found many of them to actually increase the danger. One, they are often unreliable or inoperable, which encourages people to override or disable them. And sometimes the tool itself is seriously more dangerous to use because one's attention is at least partly diverted to the struggle to keep the "safety" device disengaged.

A good example is the use of a switch that must be continuously pushed with a thumb in order for the tool to function. A lot of people don't have that hand strength or dexterity, so the "safety" either makes the tool unusable, or it causes the user to grip it in a less than optimal fashion. I've disabled a few of those switches, but it is difficult and can result in the destruction of the tool instead. Brilliant. sigh

Joel said...

Landlady recently acquired one. I've fired it a little, not extensively.

I guess SA/DA triggers are an acquired taste. She says she likes it: I think it's awful.

But like you said, I'm hardwired for a 1911 trigger and probably can't be pleased.

Kevin Wilmeth said...

Joel: wait, is the Shield actually a DA/SA system? I thought it was a partial-cocking striker fired system like the Kahr/Glock/XD--one trigger pull, rather than two distinctly different ones. (I had assumed that, but since I didn't get to try the trigger, it's worth asking!)

I can't warm to DA/SA at all. The one such design I have (a Tanfoglio CZ75 pattern design in .45ACP) has perfectly acceptable pulls in each mode, but I want one trigger system in a "serious" gun, not two, and since the CZ75 design permits true Condition One carry, I just do that.

Personally, I carry guns with three different types of trigger systems: DAO revolver, SAO auto, and striker-fired "DAO" auto. I trust myself enough to make hits with each. That's enough for me.

Kevin Wilmeth said...

Just to document: I finally was able to test a Shield trigger, and confirmed it is indeed a partial-cocking striker-fired design, rather than a DA/SA. Turns out it's a rather nice trigger, even if I do cringe at the Sigma-style trigger lever.