I’d like to carry a semiauto, but I use a revolver because I just can’t rack a slide.”
If I had a dollar for every shooter I have heard singing this sad song over
the years, I’d be a woman of means and influence.
In days of yore, I might have pointed my doubters – usually women and seniors – toward a SIG P238, a Walther PK 380 or, more recently, a Glock 42. But each of those came with caveats related either to cost (SIGs are pricey), functionality (Walthers are a pain to break down) or useability (for better or worse, beginners are skittish about Glock’s lack of a manual external safety – thankfully, most of them eventually get over that!).
Now, however, I smile slyly and trot out Smith & Wesson’s most recent contribution to the concealed carry market – the M&P 380 EZ.
EARLY REVIEWS OF this slim little handgun expressed shock that Smith & Wesson would serve this particular segment of the gun market (i.e. those who aren’t avid shooters and are simply looking for a “simple” self-defense tool). One reviewer even admitted that he initially thought S&W had designed a solution to “a problem that didn’t even exist.” Clearly, these gun writers have never sold firearms or taught shooting classes, because the EZ achieves the enviable goal of addressing virtually every complaint I have ever heard about semiautos since I began teaching concealed carry classes in 2005 and working behind a gun counter five years later.
The “gun snobs” may look down their noses at the EZ, but those of us trying to teach beginners, women and senior citizens are rejoicing. Just the fact that a gun manufacturer is paying precise attention to this segment’s wants and needs is wonderful – that the gun actually performs as promised is even
A few of the EZ’s notable achievements include a genuinely easy-to-rack slide, a crisp, comfortable trigger pull, a price south of $400, recoil rivaling that of a .22 mag firearm, an easy-to-load magazine featuring
a load assist button like you might see on a .22 LR such as the Ruger SR 22 or the Walther P22, and the added assurance (for those who still need it) of an optional ambidextrous manual safety. It’s like Smith & Wesson actually talked to firearms salespeople and instructors before designing this piece – revolutionary!
AT A RECENT fundamentals class, I had three female students in need of something to shoot. One didn’t own a gun at all; the other two had brought their husband’s J-frames and were miserable shooting them. After complaining about their aching thumbs and less than stellar bullet placement, they borrowed my EZ.
Their shooting – and their attitudes – did an immediate 180. “I can really use this. It doesn’t hurt my hand at all. And look at my grouping,” one student said, proudly pointing to six rounds within a 3-inch circle, nestled snugly center of mass.
The other lady was scribbling down the name of the gun to share with her
husband. “I’ll be back tomorrow to get one,” she said breathlessly. “I’m so
excited to find something I can shoot!” Other students then began inquiring, as well. Even if you have a favorite 9mm or you are hopelessly in love with 1911s (as I am), you cannot help but see the logic and beauty of this versatile little gun. If you’re an instructor, it becomes almost imperative to keep one handy for those inevitable students who lack the strength, confidence or skill to manage a larger caliber or more complex firearm.
For my students who plan to carry, I admonish them to skip the “poodle
shooters” that are microscopic in size but have serious limitations. These
drawbacks include a punishing recoil that prompts most people to avoid
regular range time.
Additionally, the six-round magazine (seven if you get an extension) is not the firepower you want in a serious defensive confrontation.
Truth be told, the EZ’s eight-plus-one also isn’t enough to make me desert
my Glock 19 completely, but it is a compelling option for hot summer
months (when clothing is thinner) and for days when my arthritis is being
especially vocal. And, while I love the Glock 42 and 43, my beginner and
elderly students still struggle with the slide and the recoil in a way that I just haven’t seen with the EZ.
Dare I say that this little firearm could revolutionize the carry industry
and perhaps even help save the Second Amendment? Hyperbole? Perhaps, but
I have seen the reaction of folks who aren’t even sure they like guns and are reasonably certain they never want to carry one. It’s as though the heavens open up, angels sing and a single shaft of divine light bathes the barrel of the M&P as they hold it aloft and experience an epiphany.
“Now I could shoot that – a lot,” one dubious older shooter told me, with a
gleam in her eye. For those who dislike the presence of a manual thumb safety, the EZ still has the assurance of a grip safety.
These devices are most common on 1911-style guns (although Springfield XDs also sport them), and are designed to prevent an accidental discharge if the gun is being bounced around, as 1911s were when carried by cavalry officers in battle. They are only an annoyance if you don’t hold your gun properly, and there is something to be said for a device that forces you to assume proper grip. (However, be aware that, in a fight for your life, you could find yourself in a position that requires you to fire the gun with less than proper form. Not a deal-breaker on this otherwise extraordinary little gun, but something to be mindful of.)
The EZ also has a burst of Picatinny rail, suitable for a laser or light, rear serrations that make the slide even easier to hold onto, and texturing on the grip that keeps it sticky in your hands without leaving divots in your skin.
IN ADDITION TO making the gun available to students in my fundamentals class, I also shared it with an avowed non shooter. Regina Dixon Butler is a 47-year-old environmental engineer who shoots, at most, twice a year. I wouldn’t call her anti-gun, just disinterested. She doesn’t carry and does not share her big sister’s passion for firearms. And she is honest – brutally, painfully honest.
Using Federal RTP rounds (95 grain), she began poking holes in paper at
about 5 yards (the average defensive encounter takes place between 7 to
10 feet, or less). Even with less than perfect form (I kept correcting, she kept reverting), every round she sent down range found its place within center mass. She nodded approvingly at the little gun, but the real enthusiasm burst forth when it was time to reload.
The single stack mag with its handy load assist button was a revelation.
“Wow. This is really easy to load. It doesn’t bother my thumbs at all,” she
said, sliding the magazine into the grip and clicking it in place like a pro. “I think that means more to me than the light recoil.”
She skillfully yanked back on the slide and nodded in admiration as it
slapped backward and forward with ease. But when she raised the gun to fire, nothing happened. I checked to make sure it was in battery and that there hadn’t been a misfeed. Nope, it was her hand position. The grip safety was doing what it was designed to do and was preventing her from firing until she adjusted her grip. Once she did that, the rounds were flying down range again.
After the range session, Regina repeated her praise for the EZ, especially its ease of loading. Her final pronouncement was, “I liked the slide, the sights, and the size of the gun. The recoil was nice, but it was all
those other things that really sold me. Would I shoot it again? Yes, I definitely would.” An understated affirmation on its surface, but a glowing endorsement from someone who has been known to fold her arms stubbornly and say, “No, I have no desire to shoot that gun. I’ll wait in the car, thank you.”
If you have a beginner, a senior, a female or, well, a Regina in your
life, this could be the gun that changes everything.
Editor’s note: Tara Dixon Engel is an NRA-certified instructor, range officer, former gun salesperson, and author of The Handgun Guide for Women (2015 Zenith Press). She is also director of strategic development for the National Association of Chiefs of Police.