Today's feature is the first of our special reports from the 2012 NRA Annual Meetings now underway in St. Louis, Missouri.
Even before the doors open to the membership, the National Rifle Association's 2012 Annual Meeting is already underway. This morning, the NRA's honoring people who have been special supporters of the Second Amendment and the NRA. One of those people being honored is Bob Morrison, former CEO of Taurus USA.
Bob was one of the very first people to support the Outdoor Wire, In the ten years since our first having met, we've not always agreed, but he's become one of the industry people I'm proud to call a good friend.
My personal congratulations, Bob. You've earned the accolades.
And there's a new handgun being announced into the market this morning, and I'm thinking it's going to be earning accolades as well. In this morning's news section, Smith & Wesson officially launches the newest member of their Military and Police line,
The M&P Shield is the smallest member of the M&P pistol line, but the diminutive pistol -at least in 9mm - is not a problem to shoot. It's comfortable, controllable and (below) accurate. Jim Shepherd photos.
the new ultra-compact Shield.
Smith & Wesson has been working on a small polymer subcompact to flesh out their M&P line - and get into the lucrative smaller pistol marketplace. Having spent some time with the gun, I'm thinking the gun - and the unified rollout campaign that begins today, will have consumers thinking one thought: "want one."
First, the basics on the Shield. It's small ( 6.1 inches long, 4.5 inches high) light (16.3 ounces), thin (.96 of an inch - at its widest point), accurate (more on that in a minute) and controllable - at least in 9mm. I've not shot the .40 caliber version, but the considerably higher pressures of the .40 will undoubtedly give the gun recoils that might charitably be called "sharp".
That's not the case in the 9mm. In fact, the little gun was easy to manage in a variety of drills, ranging from slow fire accuracy drills to three-shot failure drills and moving/shooting box drills. For me, it's very accurate-especially for a very small, light gun. I made repeated shots on silhouettes while moving at ranges from seven to twenty yards. Standing at seven yards, the gun consistently grouped beyond my personal expectations.
I attribute that accuracy to a couple of factors. Neither are the rampaging accuracy of the shooter.
First, the trigger might be the best of the entire M&P pistol line. It's crisp, short and quick to reset. That makes a smooth draw and easy squeeze - the formula for breaking a good shot. It's also one of the keys to being able to shoot either strong or off-side accurately.
It also has very good standard sights. I also shot a different slide with new X-S sights and found them to be even better for my aging eyes. With standard dovetail cuts, putting the sights of your choice on the Shield won't be a major gunsmithing job.
Two magazines, a flush model and an extended grip unit are included, giving you an option in carry capacities from 7+1 to 8+1, or 6+1 and 7+1 in the 9mm and .40 S&W calibers, respectively.
My personal preference is to the shorter magazine in the holster and the extended grip mag in the backup pouch. It helps maintain the compact profile of the gun and minimize "printing" when carrying in a belt holster.
It also doesn't hurt my feelings that I'm not buying a gun and then immediately having to drop another $20-40 dollars for a second magazine. Just my opinion, but I think every semiauto should ship with a pair of magazines.
The Shield has the M&P line's eighteen degree grip angle -for me, it makes aiming the Shield as simple as simply pointing at the target. Smith & Wesson polymer pistol manager Shaun Phelan says that grip angle - along with the smooth trigger- is why the gun simply seems to shoot better than the vast majority of subcompacts out there today.
"We've spent a lot of time on this one," he told me while touring S&W's Springfield, Massachusetts manufacturing facilities. Touring the plant where the Shields were already in production two weeks ago, it was obvious everyone realized this was an important gun for the company.
With today's launch, Smith & Wesson is also letting us know they're not going to risk driving potential customers away with a splashy launch and products that trail demand by months. Thousands of Shields were ready-to-ship during our I tour. Today, those guns are on their way out to distributors and dealers. In fact, larger dealers should have Shields on their shelves tomorrow.
And it's not going to be a search-and-rescue mission to find working holsters and accessories. Holsters from Galco, DeSantis, Fobus, Uncle Mike's and Pistol Wear are ready-to-go. Ditto sights from Hi-Vis, Williams and X-S as well as lasers from Laserlyte, Lasermax, and Crimson Trace.
In fact, Mike Barham from Galco has already delivered what I call my "dream rig" for the Shield and my full-sized M&P in 9mm. A dual shoulder holster rig that allows me to easily carry the full-size 9mm under my left arm and the Shield under my right arm in the backup position. I'm working on how to best incorporate the new Galco rig with my normal Ruger LCP in a trouser pocket and a North American Arms .22 Mag "somewhere" on me (anywhere from an outer jacket to an ankle holster).
In the upper photo you see a cutaway of Ruger's standard 22-45 pistol. The second photo (below) shows how Ruger engineers have used aluminum in conjunction with steel to make a smaller, lighter barrel. Ruger photos.
Speaking of new - we also have the latest on another development in a venerable Ruger handgun, their 22-45 rimfire. The newest pistol features an aluminum upper assembly to bring the weight of the pistol down without a loss of durability or accuracy.
Crimson Trace will also be showing both green and red lasers for both polymer and 1911 handguns for the first time, and we're looking forward to checking out new offerings from Kahr, Secure Firearms Products, and many others.
And there will be another quiet announcement this morning that may be of interest to many of our readers.
Launching May 1, 2012
The Armed Citizen Alliance (ACA) will formally announce its May 1, 2012 launch date. We can't give any more details prior to the official launch, but we've been aware of the development of this new organization from its inception. I believe it's positioned to be a vital service to the entire community of armed Americans-and the firearms industry as a whole.
We'll have the full story on May 1, but you can check their website out for yourself at: www.armedcitizenalliance.com
All our editors are are on the ground here in St. Louis and checking out the happenings. We'll have a summary report for you in next week's editions of the Outdoor, Shooting, Tactical and Dealer wires.
As always, we'll keep you posted.