LAS VEGAS -- Smith & Wesson showed off its new easy-racking 9mm pistol at SHOT Show 2020, designed for shooters who struggle with pulling the slide to the rear on traditional semi-automatics.
The new 9mm M&P 9 Shield EZ is the latest addition to the popular Shield line, which was first introduced in 2012. Smith & Wesson has sold more than three million Shield pistols, which come in 9mm, .40 and .45 caliber. But comments from customers with less hand strength prompted the gunmaker to first introduce a .380 version of the Shield EZ in 2018.
Despite the higher caliber, the more powerful 9mm Shield EZ is still much easier to rack, or pull the slide to the rear, than other semi-autos in the same caliber, said Matt Spafford, spokesman for Smith & Wesson.
"The whole point of the EZ design is to make it easy to use," Spafford said. "This gun is specifically designed to be easy to rack."
Related: SHOT Show 2020 Full Coverage
The EZ features an internal hammer-fired design rather than a striker-fired design like the traditional M&P line.
"Having an easy-to-rack slide was really important to the design of this gun, so to be able to achieve that, that was the system that worked best," Spafford said. "It can be more difficult, especially in a smaller gun, to rack a slide in a striker-fired pistol."
The EZ also has a pronounced ledge on each side of the rear of the slide that "allows you to get a really good purchase on that slide so you can rack it back," he said.
The most noticeable feature of the EZ line is the grip safety that protrudes from the rear of the grip, so the pistol will not fire unless the safety is fully depressed.
"If you get a proper grip on this firearm, you don't even know it's there," Spafford said. "It also acts as a drop safety. It's the only way the gun will function. It's a great safety feature to have on this gun."
For shooters who want additional safeguards, Smith & Wesson offers an optional thumb-lever safety.
The pistol is also designed with a tiny ramp on the top of the slide that raises slightly when a round is chambered, so shooters can quickly feel to see if the gun is fully loaded, even in the dark, Spafford said.
The M&P 9 Shield EZ has an eight-round, single stack magazine, but the frame and the grip are slightly beefier than the traditional Shield, so it's "comfortable and easy to shoot," he added.
The 9mm Shield EZ is also available with a Crimson Trace red laser for quick aiming in low-light conditions. The standard model retails for $479, and the Crimson Trace model sells for $575.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.