Smith & Wesson 380 EZ – A “3 in 1” Women’s Gun Review
I’m so excited about this review of the Smith and Wesson M&P EZ Shield .380. Why? I have three reasons. First, I think this gun brings something to the women’s market that really serves the needs of American women gun owners. Second, this review contains feedback from a brand new shooter and intermediate shooter and a more experienced shooter. Bringing each of these three different perspectives into one review to meet you, our follower’s needs. That makes this a three in one review!
Finally, as I have recently undergone emergency spinal surgery and find myself with limited use of my left arm and hand due to nerve damage. I have a new perspective on dealing with physical limitations or disabilities. A topic perhaps given little attention. This is the perfect gun to test with my current physical challenges, perhaps a divine appointment!
Naturally, this review is geared toward women, but this gun offers features that serve the needs of all shooters men, women and youth. Shooters, whom for whatever reason, have challenges with hand strength or upper body weakness, yet want and need a concealed carry defensive gun that they can handle and shoot effectively, accurately and with confidence.
Special thanks to the awesome C2 Tactical Shooting Range in Scottsdale, AZ for letting us do our testing in their state of the art new facility. By the way, one of the things I really appreciate about C2 is their genuine commitment to meeting the needs of women shooters!
Let me introduce our testers
Sarah is a brand new shooter who until this day has never fired a gun. She has only handled my UTM simulated ammunition gun once. She fired her first live rounds with this gun for this review. Isn’t that awesome?
Christine, is fairly new to guns and has had limited training. We have gone to the range together a handful of times so she has some experience live firing and handling a variety of guns safely. She is a young mother growing in her skills to be the best self protector and protector of her family she can be.
Then there is me. I have more extensive training under my belt and years of experience handling and shooting all types of handguns and long guns. Now, I certainly I’m not a shooting champion nor would I consider myself to be some sort of shooting rockstar. Rather, I am a woman perhaps like many of you who purchased a gun for my self protection and have simply trained and worked to be the best she can be.
OK so let’s get started.
I’ve broken this review down into the key areas that most women consider when purchasing a gun. The three of us will provide our feedback in each area, then share our overall thoughts. Below our personal reviews, you will find all the specifications and features listed for this gun.
1. How does the Smith & Wesson 380 EZ feel in my hand?
Brand New Shooter - Sarah When I picked it up, I was actually surprised. The 380 EZ felt really solid! I haven't handled many guns and I assumed the EZ would be very light. I have heard that .380 guns are usually small and light. After picking it up and handling the grip, I could tell that it would be comfortable in my hands, even though my hands are a little larger for a woman. I noticed there was some texture on the grip but it wasn’t uncomfortable.
Intermediate Shooter - Christine When I first saw the gun I thought it was going to be heavy because of its unexpected size for a 380. I thought it would feel like a full sized gun. When I picked it up I was surprised as it was lighter than I expected! On first impression the grip was a good size for my hand. The textured grip felt similar to medium grit sandpaper. I would have liked it to be a little “grittier” because my hands tend to sweaty when shooting. I could reach all the controls with one hand and noticed the thumb safety is ambidextrous. Also, the magazine release button can be switched, which is great for all those lefties out there.
Experienced Shooter - Carrie The first obvious thing about this gun is it’s size. It’s larger than most .380’s. With that, it has an almost full size grip which allowed my entire hand to fit very comfortably. No dangling fingers off the bottom which is common with the average .380 grip. This gives me a very solid firing grip. This is important especially when drawing from concealment as it makes it easy to get the necessary shooting grip instantly. It looks and feels like a 9mm handgun!
The grip also has texture, almost like a sandpaper finish, to provide the shooter the ability to maintain a good grip when the adrenaline is flowing and may be sweating. Personally I would prefer a bit more aggressive stippling on a defensive gun, but this is a personal preference and something that can easily be modified after purchase.
My hand easily fit around the grip, and I have very small hands. Because of the size, there is ample surface area for a very solid two handed grip. Now, with my current weakness and loss of use of two of my fingers in my non-dominant hand, I am forced to shoot single-handed. I typically prefer a grip with some finger grooves as I feel I have an even stronger grip especially when shooting one-handed. But again there are aftermarket solutions such as slide on grips from companies like Hogue.
I found that my dominant hand not only could effectively grip this gun but I could reach all of the controls with ease. This is an important thing to consider. Not just for me with my current physical limitations but for you as well. You too may find yourself without the use of your non-dominant hand for a variety of reasons during a self-defense situation. Perhaps your non-dominant hand is injured during an attack or perhaps you are holding your child and unable to use it. I am a big believer that for a self-defense concealed carry gun you should be able to work all of the controls single-handed.
I really love the look and feel of this gun. It’s comfortable in my hand, I can work all of the controls and it’s very well-balanced. It has a polymer frame and a stainless steel slide so it just feels solid but not too heavy.
2. What do I think of the 380 EZ features?
|Brand new shooter - Sarah||All of the controls were really easy to reach and to use. I love that it has so many safety features, which as a new shooter, is really important to me. The magazine popped out of the grip as soon as I touched the release, so that was really nice. I noticed the front sight seemed brighter so I was able to focus on it without much effort. I like the size of the thumb safety because it was easy to press up and down, it was big enough that I could feel without looking at it.|
|Intermediate shooter - Christine||I would say I have average sized hands and the controls were easy for me to reach and to use. The slide lock was easy to flip up, I didn’t find myself having to pull the slide back multiple times just to get it locked like with some other guns. The sights were really nice and bright making it easy to acquire my target quickly. I also noticed that the manual safety was very easy to use one handed I had no trouble reaching them. I’m not used to a grip safety but I didn’t notice it while shooting.|
|Experienced shooter - Carrie||Boy, this gun is loaded with features! If safety features are important to you, this gun has them. It has an obvious loaded chamber indicator so you always know if there is a round in the chamber. The EZ comes with ambidextrous manual safeties and is also available to purchase without them. I didn’t love having safeties on both sides of the gun, they do add to the width which impacts conceal-ability some. The safety was easy to manipulate one handed, I had no trouble engaging or disengaging the safety.
It also has a grip safety which is one of those safety features that some either like or dislike. It provides an added layer of protection against negligent discharges as it must be fully depressed for the trigger to be pulled. The good thing is that it “forces” the shooter to have a solid, tight grip on the gun. However, I have to say that I did not love the design of this grip safety. It has a bit of a protruding lip at the top which I felt against my hand. I wish it were smooth and laid flush with the backstrap.
The magazine release is reversible for left-hand shooters and is very responsive. It gives the magazine a nice push out. I love that, no worries about the magazine not fully ejecting. I also love the sights on this gun. The front sight is so nice and bright white and easy to line up with the rear sites. The rear site is also windage adjustable! As I get older, my vision is not what it used to be and I tend to struggle. I typically find myself having to replace the sights of most guns so that I can easily acquire a quick and solid sight picture. Not with this gun! The longer sight radius on this gun also increases its accuracy, a huge plus and advantage over the typical, and much smaller, .380 guns.
Most reviewers don’t spend too much time on them, but the slide lock has to be one of my favorite features of this gun. As a woman and someone who sees so many other women struggle with engaging and disengaging the slide lock, to have one so easy to use is a dream! On many guns, they are in fact just impossible to work, especially for anyone with weak hands. The EZ locked back so smoothly it was almost effortless. Releasing it was the same.
Another favorite feature of mine is the picatinny rail. This is an uncommon feature on most .380’s but an important feature in a self defense gun. It allows you to mount a flashlight or laser, which are important accessories to consider and not typically an option for a .380 handgun. I think what’s great about this gun is that it brings all of the features and advantages of a typical 9 mm to a .380 but without the increased recoil.
3. What do I think about loading the magazine?
|Brand new shooter - Sarah||For the first few rounds, it was so easy! I was able to load five or six of the rounds without using very much effort. After that, it did get more difficult so I relied more on the assist button. Once on the range, I loaded the magazine a few more times, it seemed to get even easier. I think part of it was because I was getting used to the technique and using the load assist.|
|Intermediate shooter - Christine||Loading was fairly easy. The assist button on the magazine helped me especially when the spring tension started to get tight. I did find that holding the magazine with my dominant hand was a lot easier. I was able to load the full magazine without assistance and there really wasn’t much struggle. I think with time, the loading spring will break in a little bit so it will become even easier.|
|Experienced shooter - Carrie||Loading any magazine can be a real challenge for those with weak hands. Most 380s are fairly easy to load but Smith & Wesson has added a loading assist button to make it even easier. This allows you to slide the button down which releases the spring tension so it’s much easier to load. The greatest feature about these magazines, is their capacity of eight rounds with one in the chamber that gives you nine rounds for your self-defense. Smith & Wesson even gives you two magazines!|
4. Racking the slide of the 380 EZ.
|Brand new shooter - Sarah||Racking the slide was extremely easy. I racked the slide by pulling it back and also by pushing out my strong hand, (which I found out is the best technique!). It didn't take a lot of strength or effort to do it either way. I even tried with my arms extended and racked the slide again, and it was just as easy.|
|Intermediate shooter - Christine||The slide was very easy to rack. I could easily do it in close quarters or with my arms extended. There was no struggle at all. Compared to other guns I have handled, this one was like butter. This means the weird finger crunch your trigger finger wants to do when trying to pull back a slide is not there, this helps with keeping your finger out of the trigger guard. Safety first! Like I mentioned above, this along with the great slide lock, made it very easy to lock open when needed. There was good texture on the slide with a little lip at the end which really helped me grip the slide and not have it slip!|
|Experienced shooter - Carrie||Here is where this gun really shines! I’m not sure there are too many other guns out there with a slide this easy to rack. Especially now, with very limited use of my left arm and left hand, I had no trouble racking the slide. I have no use at all of my ring finger and my pinky on my left hand, and my middle finger isn’t so great either. Nevertheless, I was able to easily rack the slide. I must confess that I am currently unable to rack the slide of any of my other handguns. The slide serrations located on the slide behind the ejection port are nice and pronounced enough that I could easily maintain my grasp. It has a flanged ledge at the end of the slide that really provides the ability to easily grasp and rack the slide. LOVE this!!|
5. What was it like shooting the 380 EZ?
|Brand new shooter - Sarah||I have never shot a handgun before so I was a little nervous, but less than I thought I would be. I wasn’t expecting it to be difficult to shoot because the slide and controls were so easy to use, but I did think that my accuracy would be pretty poor. I was surprised that I did so well! |
I was anticipating more recoil, which was part of the reason I was nervous, however, I didn’t notice it much at all. There was recoil and the gun moved up when I shot it but it was easy to get right back on target. The opposite can be said for the noise… I was expecting the shot to make a “pop” sound. It was loud even with earmuffs on! The biggest hurdle I noticed when shooting was making sure that I put enough pressure on the grip safety. I had to be reminded by Carrie to keep the safety depressed a few times after I pulled the trigger and nothing happened. All in all, I think the experience was really positive. I enjoyed shooting this gun and did well with getting my shots on target. I thought shooting would be more difficult and there might be some discomfort but there wasn’t! I’m excited to shoot again!
|Intermediate shooter - Christine||This gun was so easy to shoot. I noticed I was pretty accurate and could really control the muzzle. Aside from my recoil anticipation when I shoot, I had a pretty good grouping! While shooting, I barely felt any recoil. I am working on my trigger press and trying to break my flinching habit. This gun really helped me focus on the trigger because there was not much recoil to anticipate. It was very easy to control the magazine release. The magazine “jumps” out which is nice. There is no question if you pressed the release button hard enough. I also liked the round in the chamber indicator. It was easy to see and an important feature for me.|
|Experienced shooter - Carrie||I have to admit, I was a little nervous to shoot so soon after my surgery. I have been basically lying down and inactive for the past few weeks and unable to use my hand or arm in any significant way, so I am quite weak. I will also confess that the pain in my neck, arm, and hand has been a challenge and I naturally didn’t want to push my limits. |
Here is the great news, loading, racking the slide, and shooting the Smith & Wesson EZ .380 Shield was awesome and I had no difficulty. Even with my weak hand and rather soft insertion of the magazine, it seated with no problem. Shooting one handed, the recoil was extremely easy to handle and I was able to get back on target very quickly. I was able to maintain a solid grip throughout. It really was a joy to shoot. It performed very reliably. I shot Magtech 95 grain FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) .380, Remington UMC 95 grain FMJ .380 and Hornady Critical Defense 990 Grain FTX .380 ammunition with no jams or failure to feeds.
Sarah experienced a misfeed once, but as a brand new shooter, just learning the “how to’s” of proper grip, I have no doubt that the cause was a bit of limp wristing and not the gun.
I did feel the top edge of the grip safety on the web of my hand, which was an annoyance but didn’t interfere with my shooting or cause me any discomfort.
The trigger was very smooth, crisp and did not feel “gritty”. It had a nice 5 lb pull weight which those with arthritis or other hand weakness issues can manage. It had a clean break without too much take up before hitting the break. It has an audible (you can feel it too) and fairly short trigger reset so follow-up shots came quickly. I loved it!
It shot very reliably, I had no issues whatsoever. My shots were a little left, as you will see in the video of my first shots, but that was because I had a little too much finger on the trigger. Once I made the adjustment to my trigger finger placement, it was dead on.
6. How difficult was it to take apart?
|Brand new shooter - Sarah||This was my first time taking a gun down and I was really intimidated. But honestly, it wasn't that hard! All I did was lock the slide open, move a lever, and then slid the top half off. After taking it apart, the spring and barrel came right out. Putting it together was not as easy for me. It took a little practice but even without any experience, I was able to handle all the steps.|
|Intermediate shooter - Christine||This gun was incredibly easy to take down. Everything was very straightforward and simple. No trying to get the slide in just the right spot to take it off. One flip of a switch and it slid off with ease! One thing to note, when putting the slide spring back in, is the tip is oval and must be aligned properly to compress the spring to get it back in. Once I figured this out, the reassembly was so fast and easy! Another great thing, is when pulling the slide back to lock it there is no struggle.|
|Experienced shooter - Carrie||Taking down a gun can be a bit intimidating to many newer shooters, but I honestly believe there’s no better way to get to know your gun than to take it apart and put it back together again. I remember my first time, I was so nervous and petrified that I would break something or would not be able to put it back together correctly. I was convinced that I would somehow ruin the gun in the process. Of course, with practice I learned I could do it. Honestly, some guns require complicated, difficult, or awkward steps to take it down and I now have a keen appreciation for simple takedowns. This can be extremely challenging for people with hand issues.|
Not the case with the EZ. In fact it was extremely simple. I especially appreciated the fact that it does not require a pull of the trigger before removing the slide. I know we all are as careful as possible to verify that our guns are unloaded before takedown and cleaning. Heaven forbid we somehow neglect to remove a round from the chamber. Not having to press the trigger removes the risk of a negligent discharge altogether. Kudos to Smith & Wesson!
7. What are your final thoughts
|Brand New Shooter - Sarah||I think Smith & Wesson did a great job with the EZ! I had never really handled a gun before so I don’t have much experience for comparison. I think this is the perfect gun for a beginner or someone who is afraid of shooting thanks to the user-friendly controls and the ease of use (racking the slide was especially comfortable). Having Carrie with me to walk me through the process and remind me of safety precautions was extremely helpful and the simplicity of the gun made the whole process even easier.
My only issue was the grip safety. When I wasn’t focusing on it, there were a few times that I pulled the trigger and nothing happened. I had to remind myself to tighten my grip to fully press the grip safety in when I shot. I do think that once you are used to the gun, it will become second nature. Even with my lack of experience and initial nervousness, I had a really great time!
|Intermediate shooter - Christine||Easy to shoot, easy to shoot, easy to shoot! I know now why they named it EZ! I think I would benefit a lot from this gun in fine tuning my skills. It would allow me to really focus on shooting and not be distracted by recoil or having to work difficult controls. The time on the range flew by!|
|Experienced shooter - Carrie||Besides the joy of getting out and shooting with some amazing women after some tough weeks, the Smith and Wesson EZ .380 Shield was a real joy! Honestly, with my current physical limitations, I couldn’t have picked a better gun to shoot. It is loaded with features and is so darn easy to use. It truly solves some of the most common and frustrating challenges many women and those with physical limitations struggle with and perhaps is a game changer for many people.
I would like to thank Smith & Wesson for designing a gun with the needs of shooters with limited upper body and hand strength in mind. I have been advocating for such designs and am thrilled to see a company truly listening to the needs of its customers. This gun is a “Game Changer”
We even let our photographer, Andrew give it a try! I think he loved it too!
Let’s go over the specifications and what the gun comes with.
The 380 EZ shield comes in a standard cardboard box with the user manual, a cable lock as all handguns now, the gun which is wrapped in a padded bag to prevent any scratching during transit and 2 magazines!
Features and Specifications
• Easy to rack slide.
• Crisp, light trigger with tactile and audible trigger reset.
• Includes (2) Easy to Load 8-Round M&P380 Shield magazines.
• Grip safety - grip pistol to fire.
• Windage adjustable, white dot rear sight (tool included).
• Can disassemble without pulling trigger.
• Grip texture optimized to size and recoil.
• Tactile loaded chamber indicator (TLCI) - can see and feel if there is
a round in the chamber.
• Available with or without ambidextrous, manual thumb safety.
• Picatinny-style equipment rail for lights or lasers.
• Perfect size for nightstand or carry, or a day at the range.
• Reversible magazine release.
• Thin and lightweight - can be comfortably carried all day.
• Optimal 18-degree grip angle for natural point of aim.
• Armornite® durable corrosion resistant finish.
• Caliber: 380 Auto
• Capacity: 8+1
• Barrel Length: 3.675" / 9.3 cm
• Overall Length: 6.7"
• Front Sight: White Dot
• Rear Sight: Adjustable White Dot
• Action: Internal Hammer Fired
• Grip: Polymer
• Weight: 18.5 oz / 524.5g
• Barrel Material: Stainless Steel - Armornite® Finish
• Slide Material: Stainless Steel - Armornite® Finish
• Frame Material: Polymer
• Purpose: Concealed Carry, Home Protection, Personal Protection, State Compliance
Ready to get yours? Below is a good deal from a trusted source, Brownells.