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It’s been a few weeks since I last completed A CCW Instructor Chooses A New Carry Gun, Part Two, but I did warn you I take a fair amount of time to evaluate a new carry gun, even if it will be put into a backup role.  Part II left off with a good look at several new holsters from Contact! Concealment and why I selected them and why I had the Paul Howe modification put on every one.  Next, off to the range we go.



It’s been a few weeks since I last completed A CCW Instructor Chooses A New Carry Gun, Part Two, but I did warn you I take a fair amount of time to evaluate a new carry gun, even if it will be put into a backup role.  Part II left off with a good look at several new holsters from Contact! Concealment and why I selected them and why I had the Paul Howe modification put on every one.  Next, off to the range we go.


 


Testing both a new handgun and holster together leaves plenty of room for unknowns but I’m pleased to say the testing was uneventful and couldn’t have been more problem free. 

 

First, with a full magazine of full weight dummy rounds to ensure full carry weight, I violently shook the holstered Smith and Wesson Shield 9mm upside down over a pillow doing my best to dislodge it from the holster.  Using this method I carefully tightened each tension screw on the holster until the holster ‘just’ wouldn’t let go of the 19 ounce Shield. 

 

This is important, you want the ideal tradeoff between tension and retention so the handgun won’t go flying out of the holster if you fall down or have some other unexpected encounter with gravity and staying vertical.  And God forgive if you ever have someone trying to take your firearm from you, you want the holster to provide as much of a deterrent as possible. Take your time with this adjustment and make sure you get it right.  And remember, an ankle holster for instance requires more tension than say a strong side carry holster because of the mechanics of mass.

 

Next on my list is to carefully lay out my gear and ammunition in a logical manner.  I planned to shoot 200 rounds of 147 grain FMJ Winchester White Box to start, followed by a 50 round box of 147 grain Federal Hydra-Shok carry rounds.  There are three reasons for this mix of ammo:

 

1.         Back when ammo was priced reasonably I’d only shoot full carry loads through a deep concealment backup handgun because I didn’t shoot that much of it and I wanted the firearm thoroughly tested.  But today with ammo being in scarce supply and subsequently so expensive I tend to shoot a 4-1 ratio of practice to carry rounds and I do my best to match the grain weight and power level as close as possible.

 

2.         I like 9mm 115g +P as my summer load when people tend to wear lighter clothing and 9mm 147g as my winter load when heavier clothing is the norm.

 

3.         You never want a misfire of any kind, and you can rule out the most common type caused by light primer strikes by practicing with a round known for hard primers.  If your handgun is anywhere near marginal or beyond with regards to a light strike, Winchester White Box will reveal your firearms weakness before any actual carry load that I know of.  If  your weapon constantly sends Winchester White Box downrange without misfires your firearm is in good shape indeed.

 


And once again, with a full magazine of full weight dummy rounds (full spec dummy rounds of the type gunsmiths use to fully check firearm feeding and function can be found here at Brownells) it’s time to practice your draw using your new holster and pistol.  Fully load your firearm with dummy rounds and seat it in the holster you’ve already adjusted the tension on.  Now, wearing your holster and handgun in it’s normal carry position, cover it so it’s concealed like you’d normally be.  If it’s 10f outside that means your jacket will be zipped up like you’d normally have it.  If summer time and you’re using an IWB holster than cover it with your polo shirt. 



And once again, with a full magazine of full weight dummy rounds (full spec dummy rounds of the type gunsmiths use to fully check firearm feeding and function can be found here at Brownells) it’s time to practice your draw using your new holster and pistol.  Fully load your firearm with dummy rounds and seat it in the holster you’ve already adjusted the tension on.  Now, wearing your holster and handgun in it’s normal carry position, cover it so it’s concealed like you’d normally be.  If it’s 10f outside that means your jacket will be zipped up like you’d normally have it.  If summer time and you’re using an IWB holster than cover it with your polo shirt.


 

The idea is to simulate actual carry conditions as much as possible.  If you need to grab the bottom of your shirt and pull it up before each draw, then do it.  Never cheat yourself when it comes to training.  Why in the world someone spends all the money they do on top gear and practice sessions, and then alter any step in the process, is beyond my comprehension.  Just do it right.

 

CAUTION:  Perhaps the most common type of self-inflicted firearms injury is shooting yourself while drawing.  Andy Tailor knew this and it’s why he only gave Barney Fife a single round and told him to carry it on an empty chamber.  Firearms instructors know this and in beginning classes often substitute a loaded firearm for a S.I.R.T. or Airsoft handgun for the drawing part of the class exercise.   Negligent unintended discharges most often come when drawing and immediately putting your finger on the trigger before you’re on target, or re-holstering with your finger still on the trigger.  REMEMBER, only put your finger on the trigger when you’re on target and ready to shoot.  And to remove your finger after firing and before making your firearm safe.

 

Now, break down the steps of the draw into single logical steps.  Sweep your shirt up or your jacket open with your off-hand, put your hand on the butt of your handgun and push down for a good grip, drawing the minimal amount necessary complete a proper grip with your finger off the trigger and on it’s index point, pull completely up and clear of the holster, and now push the handgun out towards your target until you are on target and controlling the situation.  

 

Make as many small steps as possible, and then like a martial artist uses kata’s, practice over and over again until you can do all the steps without fail while keeping your eyes on the threat.  This includes re-holstering and using your thumb to guide the handgun.  Never take your eyes off the threat no matter what.   A smart threat will be waiting for you to expose your weak spot, don’t give them any.  Do this over, and over, and over, and over again.. until it becomes second nature.  This might take one or it might take a hundred sessions, but soon you’ll be able to do without thinking about it, and that should be your goal.   If the time ever comes to draw on a threat you want to be able to keep 100% of your mind on the threat and not need to use 50% of your mind to draw.




Make as many small steps as possible, and then like a martial artist uses kata’s, practice over and over again until you can do all the steps without fail while keeping your eyes on the threat.  This includes re-holstering.  Never take your eyes off the threat no matter what.   A smart threat will be waiting for you to expose your weak spot, don’t give them any.  Do this over, and over, and over, and over again.. until it becomes second nature.  This  might take one or it might take a hundred sessions, but soon you’ll be able to do without thinking about it, and that should be your goal.   If the time ever comes to draw on a threat you want to be able to keep 100% of your mind on the threat and not need to use 50% of your mind to draw.



 


Now it’s time for me to test the new Smith and Wesson Shield.  With four loaded magazines (you did order extra magazines when you ordered your new handgun didn’t you?) I quickly ran them through the handgun at a target 15 feet distant as fast as I feel capable of shooting.  I do this for several reasons, to see how it works out of the box, how I naturally take to the grip and grip angle, a function check, and for a reference point to improve upon.

 

With two loaded magazines I next shoot five 3 round groups braced.  By braced I mean by leaning my shoulder against a post or using the bench to brace while seated.  The purpose here is to determine the handguns accuracy using the sights.  Braced shooting normally reveals a handguns best accuracy.  Adjust the sights and shoot as many groups as necessary to zero your handgun.   For a backup deep cover handgun I’ll typically sight in at 15-21 feet.  I’ll include longer ranges during my practice sessions, but I sight in at 15-21 feet where I’m much more likely to encounter a threat.

 

Next, I used the rest of my ammo practicing my normal drills.  I’ll write a separate article on drills and provide some different ones you might find appealing, but in for this article we’re here to see how well the new Smith and Wesson Shield shoots.

 

So how does it shoot? I was surprised.  Greatly.  First off the accuracy was incredible.  I consistently shot sub-1 inch groups at 15 and 21 feet.  This is very accurate for such a small and light pistol.  Next, I didn’t encounter a single malfunction of any type.  Not a single failure to feed, not a single misfire, not a single stovepipe or even a jam. Everything just worked.  I love it when this happens. 




So how does it shoot? I was surprised.  Greatly.  First off the accuracy was incredible.  I consistently shot sub-1 inch groups at 15 and 21 feet.  This is very accurate for such a small and light pistol.  Next, I didn’t encounter a single malfunction of any type.  Not a single failure to feed, not a single misfire, not a single stovepipe or even a jam. Everything just worked.  I love it when this happens.



 

The trigger was very good but heavy.  Earlier models of the Shield were criticized for feeling gritty and having too much creep and over travel.  Generally a poor trigger.   But this one was smooth, creep and over travel were minimal, and other than the heavy trigger that I won’t feel during times of stress it was perfect.  This would be a good time to read the article on modifications on carry guns. 

 

Ejected brass tended to land on my head with a loose grip, but after catching myself and tightening my grip they landed six feet to my right.  Examination of the spent cases revealed no damage or issues indicating a malfunction or needed adjustment.  Just nice once fired brass that would soon find it’s way into my tumbler.

 

Felt recoil was minimal.  A friend warned me it would be severe, but I didn’t experience this.  It was more than I feel through my Glock 19, but less than my Walther PPK/S .380.  I don’t think felt recoil will discourage anyone from using this pistol.

 

However, before buying one for anyone with weaker hands or strength issues take them to a shop and let them try manipulating the slide.  It’s heavy enough to cause a problem for some with weaker hands and/or arm strength.   And remember, you never want to carry any gun you can’t fully operate on your own.

 

With a smile on my face I loaded my carry rounds into the mags and went through my normal drills.  Usually I feel a difference in felt recoil when going from my practice to carry loads, or a point of aim mismatch, but in this case I didn’t and this is just one of the reasons I search high and low to keep my supplies of Federal Hrdra-shok current, even though it’s been phased out in favor of newer designs.

 

This was one of the most perfect new gun range sessions I’ve ever had.  Smith and Wesson certainly did their homework on the Shield and after reading early reports they’ve also listened to their customers and corrected anything they missed.  I’m still a bit surprised by the accuracy and nice trigger, but then we know these two go together in a big way.

 

The Contact! Concealment AP and SOB holsters worked even better than expected.  Draw tension is minimal compared to  the necessary retention, and draw noise fell to hardly anything using the Paul Howe modification.  I can’t say often enough how much I value the capability to draw discreetly and without bringing attention to myself, and the perfect combination of Contact! Concealment design and quality coupled with the Paul Howe modifications make this more possible than any other design I’ve used.

 

Once home I set the timer and field stripped the Shield and thoroughly cleaned it to the white glove level my police academy and military drill instructors used.  From start to finish it took me only eight minutes. Granted, my bench is well organized, well lighted, and all my cleaning supplies are kept also organized in a single tool chest.. but it still went quickly.  Cleaning and maintaining this particular firearm will be easy.



Once home I set the timer and field stripped the Shield and thoroughly cleaned it to the white glove level my police academy and military drill instructors used.  From start to finish it took me only eight minutes. Granted, my bench is well organized, well lighted, and all my cleaning supplies are kept also organized in a single tool chest.. but it still went quickly.  Cleaning and maintaining this particular firearm will be easy



 

In conclusion I want to say that we naturally want to love everything we buy.  How often does the new sports car buyer or new buyer of a big screen television tell you the seats are uncomfortable or the color is off?  Rarely. Because of “buyers remorse” we often talk ourselves into ignoring faults.. especially if we can’t return it.  But with a firearm used for self-defense there is no room for such nonsense any more than there is for talking yourself into ignoring safety rules or thinking you’re the exception and it won’t happen to you.  With a firearm for self-defense drop your pride, drop your enthusiasm, and instead be critical and methodical in your evaluation to a fault.

 

With that said I have decades of experience buying firearms and by now in my life and training I know what I like, so for me it’s easier than someone just getting into the discipline.  This is why an experienced friend and especially a qualified instructor can help ‘guide’ you towards the right purchase, but only you being your most honest with yourself can make that final decision.

 

The Smith and Wesson Shield performed above and beyond my expectations.  In fact, I bought it for deep concealment and as  a backup for my main carry gun, but I won’t hesitate to use this as a primary hand gun when my dress demands a light and flat package.   I suppose this officially retires my Walther PPK/S .380acp I’ve used for this purpose over the last 32 years.  I wonder what I’ll be buying to replace the Shield 32 years from now?

 

Until next time..