Solid Concealed Carry Pistol: S&W’s PC M&P 380 Shield EZ M2.0

Performance Center version of this popular handgun comes with 3.8” ported barrel to reduce muzzle flip and slide cuts to reduce weight

Smith & Wesson 380 Shield EZ
Because of its ample grip and light recoil, this gun can deliver fast and accurate follow-up shots.Smith & Wesson

With the number of concealed-carry permit holders in this country rapidly approaching 20 million, firearms manufacturers are scrambling to find the right compact carry-gun recipe to appeal to a broad range of shooters. Smith & Wesson has been at the forefront of this competition, and its M&P Shield pistols rank among the most popular sidearms with CCW holders. In 2018, the M&P line grew to include the 380 Shield EZ.

As the name indicates, the M&P 380 Shield EZ is chambered in .380 ACP, one of the most popular personal-defense cartridges on the market. But unlike most .380s, the Smith & Wesson isn’t a sub-compact pistol. It comes with a larger grip than most of its competitors, which allows it to hold eight rounds in the magazine. That added size, along with a 3.675-inch barrel, makes the M&P 380 Shield EZ much more accurate and manageable to shoot than really small .380s. The added barrel length wrings more velocity and energy from defensive .380 loads than most shorter-barreled guns. And even though it’s larger than most competing .380s, the M&P 380 Shield EZ is smaller and lighter than many single-stack, striker-­fired 9mm carry guns.

This balance of compact size and shootability made the M&P 380 Shield EZ an instant success with concealed-carry permit holders. Now, Smith & Wesson’s Performance Shop is offering a hot-rod version of the 380 Shield EZ, with some significant upgrades over the standard version.

More of a Good Thing

The new Performance Center M&P 380 Shield EZ M2.0 comes with 3.8-inch PC ported barrel that helps reduce muzzle flip, and lightning cuts on the slide help reduce overall gun weight. It also features a PC flat-front trigger, an enhanced anodized aluminum grip safety, upgraded HiViz Litewave H3 Tritium/Litepipe sights, and a special Performance Center–branded cleaning kit. There are also three barrel color options (silver, gold, and black), and these guns come with color-matched triggers and grip safeties.

On the Range

One of the primary complaints new shooters levy against semi-auto handguns is that the slide’s guide rod springs are too heavy for them to manipulate. They won’t find that to be the case with the Smith & Wesson. In addition, aggressive slide serrations allow for positive purchase on the slide. All the controls are well laid out and user-friendly. The serrated slide stop extends far enough from the frame as to be easily accessible without the risk of it hanging up during a draw. Shooters who prefer a manual safety on their carry gun—and there are many who do—will find that the wide, ambidextrous thumb safety is easy to find and operate. The trigger pull is rather long, but light and smooth to the break. And the reversible, oval magazine release is tucked neatly into the frame just aft of the trigger guard, where it can be easily accessed without the risk of inadvertent mag drops.

Smith & Wesson bills the Performance Center M&P 380 EZ as a soft-shooting pistol, and this gun lives up to that promise. The grip is rather large, but that extra space allows you to keep the gun planted when you’re shooting. As with the slide, the force required to compress the magazine spring is minimal, so it’s easy to top off the mag with that last round.

At the range, I found that the pistol was very manageable and capable of fast follow-up shots. The grip is quite narrow, but it fills the hand without being too large, and the texturing is mild but effective.

The accuracy was very good for a .380 ACP and on-par with larger-caliber carry guns with barrels of similar length. The best groups from the three loads tested measured under 2 inches, but the average for all three loads was between 2 and 3 inches when fired from a fixed rest at 25 yards. The 380 EZ’s trigger has a long but light take-up and broke at an average weight of 4.8 pounds. SRP: $502. (