Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield EZ M2.0 12436 9mm Luger

We liked the way this pistol handles and operates. Racking the slide is easy enough. The trigger is good and accuracy more than adequate for a pistol of its size. This is a crackerjack all-round defensive handgun.


Recently, Federal introduced a new self-defense pistol chambering, the 30 Super Carry. Some may wonder why we need another cartridge, especially when we cannot obtain older cartridges in the quantity and price we need. As a partial answer, the 30 Super Carry is intended to up the ante in power, energy, velocity, and penetration over the 380 ACP. On the other hand, it is intended to perform as closely to the 9mm as possible, with lighter recoil and more rounds in the magazine. We wanted to see if the 30 SC is a neat trick that we could recommend to Gun Tests readers, or is the new round just tricky marketing.

Our test 9mm Luger rounds were Winchester’s Super-X brand with Silvertip 115-grain bullets, the Hornady American Gunner 124-grain XTP hollowpoints, and Remington’s Golden Saber Bonded 147-grain hollowpoints. The Winchester and Remington rounds retained 100% of their starting weight and penetrated 12 and 18 inches of water respectively. That’s a little low for the Super-X, but on the upside, it grew to a best-of-test eye-popping 0.820-inch expanded width. The American Gunner’s penetration of 20 inches of water is on the high side, but we still grade it highly.

Of course, the 380 ACP and 9mm Luger are well established as self-defense rounds. Compared head to head, the 9mm Luger offers considerable improvement in terminal ballistics over the 380 ACP and is our most widely distributed defense caliber. As such, it is the cartridge for the 30 SC to beat based on performance. On the other hand, for some, recoil is a real concern. So is gun handling and racking the slide efficiently, two aspects where the 9mm Kurz, aka the 9mm Short or 380 ACP, excels. So for those shooters, would the 30 Super Carry offer a viable alternative? To get some data on both comparisons, we looked at the 380 ACP, 9mm Luger, and 30 Super Carry in three nearly-identical Smith & Wesson Shield EZ Rack pistols. We say nearly identical because the markings and weights varied only slightly between the handguns. For all practical purposes, the handguns themselves were identical. We fired them head to head at the range, comparing accuracy and recoil control. We also fired the three calibers in ballistic testing. The difference in sights, handling, and the triggers were minimal. The primary differences were in recoil and bullet performance in water jugs to assess effectiveness on physical targets. Here’s what we found:

Gun Tests Grade: A (OUR PICK)


On average, the 9mm EZ guns are more expensive than the 380 ACP pistol. The 9mm Shield EZ is slightly larger and heavier than the 380 ACP version. The pistol weighs about 2 more ounces. Force needed to rack the slide is slightly higher — but only about a pound heavier. Considering the company kept 9mm recoil controllable, this is an accomplishment. The 9mm EZ is well contoured and comfortable to grasp and fire. We liked the small wings at the end of the slide toward the rear sight that allow easy racking of the slide. They are a nice addition, and some will like to use these outcrops better than they like the slide serrations. At the least, they are a nice little anti-slip device. The 9mm pistol is only slightly larger than the 380 ACP, and we feel there is really no concealment penalty. Further, the much more powerful 9mm handgun will conceal easily in a proper holster.

Action TypeSemi-auto single action, internal hammer fired
Overall Length6.8 in.
Overall Height4.9 in.
Maximum Width1.46 in.
Weight Unloaded20.8 oz.
Weight Loaded26.9 oz.
SlideArmornite-finished stainless steel
Slide Retraction Effort10.5 lbs.
FrameTextured black polymer, 3-slot rail; 18-degree grip angle
Front Strap Height2.4 in.
Rear Strap Height3.5 in.
Grip MaterialTextured black polymer
Grip Thickness (Maximum)1.0 in.
Grip Circumference (Maximum)5.1 in.
Barrel3.675 in.; stainless steel, Armornite finish, tactile loaded-chamber indicator
Magazines(2) 8-rd. detachable boxes
Trigger Pull Weight5.5 lbs., tactile and audible reset
Trigger Span2.8 in.
Front SightFixed post, white dot
Rear SightWindage adjustable, two white dots
Sight Radius5.8 in.
SafetyAmbidextrous safety and grip safety
WarrantyLimited lifetime
Telephone(800) 331-0855
Made InSpringfield, MA
Left to right are expanded 30 Super Carry bullets in the 115-grain Speer Gold Dot load, the 100-grain Remington JHP load, and the 100-grain Federal HST load. We have no complaints about how the bullets performed in water. All three bullets retained 100% of their weight and traveled at least 20 inches into our jug set.

The trigger press on this pistol was very smooth and broke at a clean 5.5 pounds. We fired a good number of Federal American Eagle 9mm during the combat course, making certain every rater had a run with this handgun. The other two pistols, we felt, were basically an alternative to the popular 9mm, and we wanted to get the measure of the 9mm Smith & Wesson. Eventually, we fired 200 cartridges. The 9mm pistol develops as much as 400 foot-pounds of energy. The 380 is much weaker, with few loads coming in at more than 200 foot-pounds of energy.

Expanded Hornady American Gunner 124-grain XTP 9mm bullets.

However, there is a penalty in recoil. The 9mm may have a power factor of 140 to 150. The 380 comes in at about 70 to 90 power factor. So, while we felt the 9mm EZ is a light kicker, every shooter may not feel that way. Every rater is experienced, and while the 9mm S&W is well designed, it certainly kicks more than the 380. But we feel the upcharge in power is more than worth the extra training time. We don’t feel that recoil is a problem until the power factor reaches a 200 rating with lightweight 40 S&W rounds, 45 ACPs, and 357 Magnums. The 9mm version certainly handles well. This pistol features a safety, which some of the raters like better than the no-safety version we fired in the 380 Shield.

Expanded Remington Ultimate Defense 124-grain Golden Saber bullets.

Our Team Said: Accuracy is actually slightly better than either the 380 ACP or 30 SC versions. Statistically, the difference in accuracy is nominal, but also demonstrable. In the end, we find no flies on this pistol. An earlier team found that the 9mm EZ fired low with every load. Ours was well regulated with the test ammunition. All three pistols are accurate. Both the 380 ACP version and the 30 SC broke just under 2 inches for a five-shot 25-yard group, exceptional accuracy. With one load, however, the 9mm sent five shots into only a 1.5-inch group. In the end, this pistol is Our Pick of the three.

380 ACP/9mm Luger/30 Super Carry Performance Data

Bullet Weight (Grains)Chambering, Manufacturer, Brand, and Product NumberAverage Velocity (fps)Standard Deviation (fps)Muzzle Energy (foot-pounds)IPSC Power FactorAverage Accuracy (inches)Expanded Width (inches)Retained Weight (grains)Retained Weight (percentage)Penetration In Water (inches)Gun Tests Grade
60380 ACP Black Hills HoneyBadger D380N420115726178692.20.3660118A
90380 ACP Hornady Critical Defense FTX 9008093412174842.50.590114A
99380 ACP Federal HST P380HST1S96022203952.70.61950.9612A-
102380 ACP Remington Ultimate Defense 2896489930183921.90.591000.9815A
1159mm Luger Winchester Super-X X9MMSHP1180143561361.70.82115112A
1249mm Luger Hornady American Gunner XTP +P 902241214144061502.40.541220.9920A
1479mm Luger Remington Golden Saber Bonded GSB9MMC 1030113461512.20.58147118A
10030 Super Carry Remington JHP R200191202183211202.50.52100120A
10030 Super Carry Federal HST P30HST1S120673231201.90.55100120A
11530 Super Carry Speer Gold Dot 242261GD110512312
Notes: Average Velocity and Standard Deviation readings were obtained by firing five rounds over a Competition Electronics Pro Chrono. Ambient temperature: 70 degrees. Elevation: 776 feet above sea level. l The accuracy figures are the average of three five-shot groups. We fired the test guns from an MTM K Zone rest at 25 yards. l To calculate IPSC power factor, multiply bullet weight in grains by the velocity in fps, then divide by 1000.

Value Guide: 380 ACP Semi-Auto Pistols

Gun NameIssueGradeComments
CZ 83 380 ACP, $330Jan. 2022ADid not suffer any type of stoppage. It was reliable, well made, and perhaps even overbuilt.
Bersa 380 Thunder Plus THUN380PM15 380 ACP, $352Jan. 2022A-Best Buy. Carries on for the affordable Bersa Thunder. Never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject.
Tisas Fatih B380 F380B 380 ACP, $434Jan. 2022BAn attractive pistol with good fit and finish and good accuracy. It also fired high, which isn’t easy to fix.
Glock 42 UI4250201 380 ACP, $360Nov. 2020A-Best Buy. The Glock 42 handled well and offered the best accuracy of the test.
Colt Government Model MK IV Series 80 380 ACP, $400Nov. 2020A-Because of the Glock’s availability as a current product, we would pick the Glock before the Colt MK IV.
Ruger LCP II No. 3792 380 ACP, $300Nov. 2020BThe Ruger LCP II is reliable, reasonably accurate for short-range use, and not difficult to control.
NAA Guardian 380 ACP, $350Nov. 2020C-This NAA was well made, and its fit and polish were good. Accuracy was poor even for a pocket pistol.
S&W M&P 380 Shield EZ 180023 380 ACP, $384Aug. 2018AThe Shield is EZ-ily among the most useful and attractive 380 ACP pistols we have tested.
Springfield 911 Bi-Tone PG9109S 380 ACP, $559Aug. 2018AThe Springfield 911 is suited to carrying hammer down instead of cocked and locked.
Walther PPK/S 4796006 380 ACP, $700Aug. 2018CNot reliable with a modern load designed to maximize the cartridge. We would not buy the Walther PPK/S.
Rock Island Armory Baby Rock 51912 380 ACP, $356Aug. 2016ACombat shooting with the Baby Rock gave good results. Accuracy was excellent for a pistol this size.
Ruger LCP 3701 380 ACP, $229Aug. 2016B+We would pay more for the LCP Custom, which has better sights and trigger.
Remington RM380 Micro 96454 380 ACP, $341Aug. 2016B-Heavy stacking of the trigger led to poor accuracy. The RM380’s sight regulation was also badly off.
Ruger LCP-C Custom No. 3740 380 ACP, $419Oct. 2015AThe Ruger’s sights and trigger are great improvements over previous versions of the LCP.
Taurus Curve 180CRVL #1-180031L 380 ACP, $380Oct. 2015CThe bottom line is that a pistol without sights isn’t useful, in our opinion. Pass on the Curve.
Kimber Micro Carry Advocate 380 ACP, $796Sep. 2015AThe Kimber was well finished and demonstrated excellent reliability and accuracy.
Browning Black Label 1911-380 051904492 380 ACP, $620Sep. 2015BThe Browning is a reliable handgun with familiar operation. Less accurate than the smaller Kimber.
Glock 42 380 ACP Subcompact Slimline, $480Nov. 2014BWith a Viridian green laser on it, we’d bump up the Glock 42’s grade to an A- and probably buy it.
Kahr CW 380 No. 3833 380 ACP, $419Nov. 2014BWe didn’t like the Kahr’s sights, the short grip, or the long DAO trigger pull.
Colt Mustang XSP Pocketlite O6790 380 ACP, $649Nov. 2014C+The XSP costs a lot of money, and there are many pistols that work better for less money.
SIG Sauer P238 238-380-NBS12 380 ACP, $710Nov. 2014CIts controls should have produced a 1911-like feel, but the P238’s inconsistent trigger pull affected accuracy.

Value Guide: 9mm Luger Handgun Rankings

Gun NameIssueGradeComments
Springfield Armory SA-35 9mm Luger, $699May. 2022ABest Buy. The SA-35 is less expensive, has a better trigger, better sights, and is completely modern.
Browning P35 Hi-Power 9mm Luger, ~$1000May. 2022B+If you want a great historical firearm to collect and shoot, then the Hi-Power is your only choice.
Langdon Tactical LTT Beretta 92X 9mm Luger, $1184Feb. 2022ABest Buy. Trigger action is superb, and all parts fit correctly. Accuracy is excellent.
Kriss Sphinx SDP Compact 9mm Luger, $999Feb. 2022A-A great-handling pistol, accurate, reliable, and with a good trigger action.
SIG Sauer P229 Elite-Compact E29R-9-BSE 9mm Luger, $1313Feb. 2022A-With aftermarket night sights and a flat trigger option, we upgraded the pistol into a superior performer.
SIG Sauer P365 365-9-BXR3 9mm Luger, $599Dec. 2021AOur Pick. Small enough to fit in a pants pocket. Carries 10+1. Felt recoil is less than with a 38 Sp.
Ruger MAX-9 No. 3500 9mm Luger, $544Sep. 2021AOur Pick. This is a sophisticated pistol. No fault with the magazines, capacity, or general accuracy.
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield Plus 13246 9mm Luger, $553Sep. 2021AA step up from a previously 9mm Shield. The new pistol has an improved trigger and greater capacity.
Taurus GX4 1-GX4M931 9mm Luger, $398Sep. 2021A-Best Buy. The Taurus is the most compact, and the Taurus is the only pistol with a changeable backstrap.
Guncrafter Industries Exec.CZ 75B 9mm Luger, $1875Aug. 2021AThe Executive is among the most eye-catching, attractive, and well-finished pistols we have tested.
Beretta/Wilson Combat 92G Centurion 9mm Luger, $1250Aug. 2021AThe Wilson Combat gun is a top choice for tactical and service use. Comes with light rail, 20-round mag.
Browning Hi-Power 9mm Luger, $1860Aug. 2021BCompared to the more modern pistols, the Hi-Power simply isn’t practical.
CZ-USA CZ 75B Omega 91235 9mm Luger, $631Aug. 2021BReliable, accurate, ambidextrous safety, an 18-round magazine, good sights, and is suppressor ready.
Ruger SR1911 6722 9mm Luger, $775June. 2021AOur Pick. The most expensive gun tested. We liked the fit, finish, handling and accuracy.
Tisas Regent BR9 9mm Luger, $558June. 2021A-We like this Tisas rendition. Downside: The cocking effort is severe, which may disqualify it for some.
Citadel M1911A1-CS CIT9MMCSP 9mm Luger, $479June. 2021BBest Buy. Reliable and handles well. Less accuracy than the other pistols. Front sight is too gray.
Zenith Tisas ZIG PCS9 9mm Luger, $549June. 2021DDownsides: Extractor problems and the slide-lock safety wasn’t properly fitted.
Shadow Systems MR920 9mm Luger, $799Apr. 2021AOur Pick. The Shadow Systems Multi Role (MR) pistol is basically an improved Glock 19. Excellent buy.
Sarsilmaz SAR9 9mm Luger, $400Apr. 2021A-Best Buy. Many good features. We would have liked a lighter trigger action.
Tisas Zigana PX-9 9mm Luger, $330Apr. 2021BReliable. Will appeal to those who like the Springfield XD-9. The primary drawback is a heavy trigger.
Ruger American Pro Duty 10 08607 9mm Luger, $579Feb. 2021AOur Pick. $100 more than the others, but it was the most accurate pistol and had surprisingly light recoil.


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