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August 11th, 2020

Self-Defense Handguns — Factors to Consider + Two Top Choices

Model 638 smith and wesson revolver airweight
Main photo from NRAILA.org. The NRA supports Second Amendment rights.

Article by AccurateShooter.com Editor-in-Chief
In the last month, a half-dozen acquaintences have asked me about getting a handgun for self-defense at home and while traveling. What is notable is that all of these persons have never owned a handgun before. Moreover, two of the six are pretty staunch liberals who, prior to 2020, thought the Second Amendment was a “historical anachronism” that should be repealed. With the widespread riots and “defund the police” activism, that has all changed. These six people now realize that there are real threats in current society and they may find themselves in a situation where armed self-defense is the only option.

Model 638 smith and wesson revolver airweight

Try Before You Buy — Find a Gun with Good Reliability, Controls, and Ergonomics
These six persons asked for recommendations on handguns. I explained that there was no one “best gun” for every person. I also stressed the importance of training, and of trying various handguns to compare ergonomics, weight, balance, sight arrangement, controls, and trigger pull.

Folks, ergonomics and grip shape DO make a difference. I used to give pistol instruction at a local club. I provided four 9x19mm pistols: Beretta 92, HK USP, SIG P226, and Glock 19. Two-thirds of the students shot best with the SIG P226, and only 10% shot best with the Glock 19. The majority of the students kept “pulling shots” with the Glock, even with a lot of practice. Not so with the SIG P226. I attribute that to lower center of gravity and more ergonomic grip shape/angle.

Caliber Choice — Factors to Consider
We are not going into the long caliber debate today. I have owned semi-auto pistols in .380 ACP, 9x19mm Parabellum, .40 SW, .45 ACP. Each cartridge has its pros and cons. But for a first-time gun owner, looking for a self-defense round, I will recommend the 9mm. It will have noticeably less muzzle flip than the .40 SW, but still carries much more energy than a .380 ACP. I love the .45 ACP for target shooting, but it is more expensive for practice, and there are fewer pistol options. For revolvers, the .357 Magnum is a great defense round, but some of the smaller carry pistols are limited to .38 Special.

Semi-Auto 9mm Carry Gun Recommendation: S&W M&P9 Shield EZ
I have considered a wide range of 9mm carry pistols from Glock, Ruger, SIG Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Taurus, and Walther. There are many very good pistols out there. But what I recommended to my acquaintances was the new Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield EZ 9mm. This gun features a back-strap grip safety and is offered with or without thumb safety. There is also a M&P9 EZ model with built-in Red Laser.

Model 638 smith and wesson revolver airweight

Here are the key reasons I recommended the M&P9 EZ 9mm pistol:

1. Good Accuracy and Balance
2. Integral Grip Safety and optional Thumb Safety
3. Good Ergonomics: 18-degree grip angle for natural point of aim
4. Reasonable 4.5-lb Trigger Pull (some other pistols are 7+ pounds*)
5. Easy-to-Rack Slide
6. Take-Down does NOT require trigger pull (unlike Glock)
7. Availability of built-in laser or accessory rail-mount lights/lasers
8. Good Price: $479.00 base MSRP with $399.99 street price
9. Outstanding Smith & Wesson reliability, warranty, and customer service

This detailed, authoritative M&P9 EZ video review also covers the M&P .380 Shield EZ:

Model 638 smith and wesson revolver airweight

Small Deep Concealment Carry Gun Recommendation — S&W Model 638
I am a big fan of revolvers. I have probably put more rounds through my S&W Model 617 .22 LR revolver than all my other handguns combined. Revolvers are accurate, solidly built, and the shorter-barrel models conceal easily. In addition, revolvers are inherently simple — they can be put into action without racking a slide or dealing with mag latches and the like. I’ve actually seen trainees drop magazines on the ground when they were drawing pistols from holsters — they hit the mag release by accident. If this can happen in a class, it can happen in a threat situation.

Model 638 smith and wesson revolver airweight
S&W Model 638 Airweight from Guns.com.

For concealed carry, I recommend the Smith & Wesson Model 638 revolver. IMPORTANT — the Model 638 has a hammer so it can be shot single-action OR double-action. Having the single-action option is great when a slower, more precisely-aimed shot is needed. Unique among S&W revolvers, the 638’s hammer is shielded — this way the hammer will not snag when the gun is carried in purse or pocket.

As for accuracy, you will be surprised with the Model 638 with good self-defense ammo. Despite the short site radius, the little 1.875″-barreled Model 638 will easily outshoot most self-loading .380 ACPs. With my 638 Airweight, slow-fire, I can put all five rounds inside 2″ at 20 feet with ease.


* Some folks may criticize this S&W Shield 9mm EZ because it lacks a heavy 7-9 pound trigger pull. The thinking is that a heavy DA pull is better for novices. We understand the argument. However, in the real world we found that novices shot much worse with very heavy trigger pulls, even after much training. We believe a 4.5-lb pull is moderate and will actually allow better accuracy for the average shooter. A typical Glock pull-weight is about 5.5-6 pounds.

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November 6th, 2019

Smith & Wesson 9mm Shield Pistol $199.99 with Factory Rebate

Smith Wesson M&P 9mm pistol handguns rebate cash-back Palmetto state armory

If you are looking for a compact carry pistol, consider the Smith & Wesson 9mm M&P Shield. This is a comfortable, well-built gun with a better trigger (in our opinion) than a Glock. S&W products display excellent machining and good fit and finish. Moreover S&W offers a rock-solid warranty. To add extra incentive, Smith and Wesson is now offering a $50 Cash-Back Rebate for purchases of the 9mm M&P Shield through 12/8/2019. This offer also applies to the .380 ACP Shield EZ.

Smith Wesson M&P 9mm pistol handguns rebate cash-back Palmetto state armory

With the $50 Rebate you can get the 9mm M&P Shield for just $199.99 net cost at Palmetto State Armory. Palmetto’s price before rebate is $209.99. Once you receive your $50 pre-paid Credit Card from the manufacturer, that reduces the effective price to just $199.99.

Smith Wesson M&P 9mm pistol handguns rebate cash-back Palmetto state armory

Smith & Wesson 9mm Shield Pistol Evaluations
Is the 9mm M&P Shield 2.0 a good pistol? Here are three helpful video reviews. We think this little pistol offers a very good combination of reliability, concealability, and affordability.

S&W 9mm M&P Shield 1000-Round Review

Jerry Miculek and Julie Golob Demo the Smith & Wesson Shield

S&W 9mm M&P Shield Long-Term (2 Year) Review

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