Recently, I was discussing the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield pistol in a public forum. Yes, I know that was my first mistake. A gentleman opined that, while the Shield was good for discreet concealed carry, it was not accurate beyond “close quarters” range. 

This inspired me to consider, just what is “accurate” enough when it comes to a handgun that is designed to be a fighting tool? It is easy to fall prey to the “average gunfight” statistics. Depending on your source, the “average” lethal force encounter takes place at an extremely close range; from contact distance to three yards. 

You need to be careful betting on averages. The average annual snowfall where I live is 18 to 24 inches. Last year we received better than 72 inches of snow in three months. So much for the average.

The S&W M&P Shield .45 ACP is a worthy concealed carry pistol

Real World Example: Eli Dicken

In December of 2022, a deranged man attempted to commit a mass murder inside the Greenwood Park Mall in Indiana. An armed citizen, Eli Dicken, heard gunfire and immediately drew his pistol and moved toward the threat. 

According to official police reports, Mr. Dicken took cover behind a trash can, braced himself and fired his first 4 rounds from a distance of 42 yards. Two rounds struck the murderer, but he remained on his feet with a rifle in hand. Eli, realizing the threat was still active, moved to close with the killer.  He fired four more rounds from 20 yards away striking the scumbag who then went down to the ground. Dicken continued to advance and saw that the armed killer still held a weapon and was moving, attempting to retreat to cover. Advancing now within 25 feet, Mr. Dicken fired twice more until the murderer ceased to be a threat. 

So much for “averages” and thank the Lord that Mr. Eli Dicken took his firearms training seriously and did not rely on statistics. Let’s consider the Greenwood Mall attack: 42 yards, 20 yards, and 25 feet or just a bit more than 8 yards. The target was a full-sized human silhouette. Can we and should we practice for such scenarios?

M&P Shield 2.0 .45 ACP Accuracy Test

Getting back to the specific discussion of the S&W M&P Shield, I took my personal Shield 2.0 chambered in .45 ACP to the range to test out the hypothesis that the guns were “not accurate” enough. This pistol has the Official SOTG Accur8 Tritium sights from Night Fision. It was for that sight development project that I first purchased the gun. 

For ammunition, I opened up my training ammo can. There was a variety of .45 ACP from Black Hills, Federal, Hornady, Double Tap, Speer, and Wolf. I did not load a specific brand into the gun. Rather, I just grabbed a handful. 

For targets, I put an 8 inch steel plate, to represent a headshot, down range at 15 yards. At 25 yards, I set up a steel half-silhouette target. Both of these targets came from Birchwood Casey. I’m coming up on somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 rounds fired on the silhouette target and am very pleased with it.

My shooting stance would be unsupported, with a two-hand hold on the gun. No time limit. Yes, I had someone film for proof. Starting with a full 7 rounds in the gun I fired four on the “head” target and the remaining three on the half-silhouette. All seven rounds produced a lovely clanging sound.  

Accuracy is Subjective

You might be saying, “Okay, cool guy, what does that prove?” Well, it might not prove anything to you. However, I will say this, modern firearm manufacturing processes hold tolerances to microscopic fractions of inches. Factory stock guns have more inherent mechanical accuracy built into them than the majority of shooters can realize. It is exceedingly rare today for a factory gun to come off the line and not have more mechanical accuracy built in than the person holding it can appreciate. Modern barrel manufacturing processes are better than any time in the history of firearms.

Sure, you might get an ammunition load here and there that has a standard deviation of perhaps 50 to 75 feet per second. (25 fps or less is considered “match grade”) . Even that is not going to alter the accuracy of the gun by that much at realistic distances. 

The most subjective factor in handgun accuracy are the hands that are holding the gun. It is you, my dear readers, who are the “X” factor.  Whether we are discussing the M&P Shield  or any other factory production fighting pistol, how much accuracy can be squeezed out of the gun is up to you. 

Get training and then practice, practice, practice.

Training and Practice

Rather than rely upon the average gunfight being somewhere around contact distance, where you “can’t miss”, it might be a better idea to seek out professional training and then practice, practice, practice.

Many moons ago, my friend and expert firearms instructor Dave Spaulding stated that “Distance favors the skilled shooter.” Let’s face it, that average retarded gangbanger can hit someone at 3 yards. Do you want to be successful and potentially save innocent lives, regardless of the distance? If so, get professional training and practice AND challenge yourself.

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Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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