Smith & Wesson Performance Center Shield EZ 380

S&W Performance Center Shield EZ 380 by Graham Baates

U.S.A. – -( Before we understand the Performance Center Shield EZ it’s necessary to look at the base model.  The Shield EZ .380 is the pistol many wanted but few asked for.  They didn’t ask because either they didn’t know they wanted it or because their voice was drowned out by the mainstream of the industry.  A pistol that is incredibly easy to rack, easy to load, and easy to shoot.  The intent wasn’t to make the latest and greatest “should have won a military contract” gun, it was to create a pistol for those who perhaps need one the most; first-time buyers and those of lesser physical stature and shooting discipline.

By building the Shield EZ 380 with the browning action instead of straight blowback Smith & Wesson was able to use a lighter slide and softer recoil spring.  As a result the EZ is incredibly easy to rack.  Toss in a reassuring grip safety, clear sights, and magazines that have those nifty loading pegs like a .22lr magazine does and it’s understandable how Smith & Wesson came to the naming conclusion they did.  For a closer look at the construction and features of the Performance Center Shield EZ see the tabletop video below:

To get more familiar with the Performance Center Shield EZ here are the features and specifications as taken directly from the product web page:

• Ported barrel to reduce muzzle flip
• Lightening cuts in slide for reduced weight
• PC flat face, gold colored anodized aluminum trigger
• PC enhanced gold colored anodized aluminum grip safety
• PC ported, Titanium coated, gold finish barrel
• Easy to rack slide
• Performance Center action, crisp, lightweight trigger with tactile and audible trigger reset
• HI-VIZ® Litewave H3™ Tritium/Litepipe Sights
• Tactile loaded chamber indicator (TLCI) – see and feel if there is a round in the chamber
• Picatinny-style rail
• Two easy-to-load, 8-round magazines


  • SKU: 12719
  • Model: Performance Center M&P 380 SHIELD EZ M2.0 Gold Ported Barrel
  • Caliber: 380 Auto
  • Capacity: 8+1
  • Barrel Length: 3.8″ / 9.7 cm
  • Overall Length: 6.9″
  • Front Sight: HI-VIZ® Litewave H3™ Tritium/Litepipe Sights
  • Rear Sight: HI-VIZ® Litewave H3™ Tritium/Litepipe Sights
  • Action: Internal Hammer Fired
  • Weight: 18.5 oz / 524.5g
  • Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
  • Slide Material: Stainless Steel
  • Frame Material: Polymer
  • Slide Finish: Armornite®
  • Frame Finish: Matte Black
  • Purpose: Home Protection, Personal Protection, Recreational Shooting

As you can see, Smith & Wesson included a lot of features that make the EZ easy to operate.  The Performance Center version includes some aesthetic and possible performance upgrades.  The grip safety protrudes slightly more than the original to ensure easier disengagement, the trigger shoe has been replaced with a flat and serrated one, slide lightened, and barrel ported.  Colorful options include gold, silver, and black.  For the purpose of the review we went with gold as the contrast shows better on camera.  I describe the upgrades as possible performance enhancements partially because in our review of the original Shield EZ the gun ran great and immediately became a favorite.  Moreover, although I trust the engineers at Smith & Wesson, altering the reciprocating mass and directional forces of the barrel create an opportunity for the gun to not be as omnivorous with ammunition.

To test how the new format performed we ran our standard battery of tests: Full-magazine plus one (yes, some guns fail here), “What’s for Dinner?”, and then Maddy and I each made a five-shot group form seven yards while collecting our thoughts.  The, “What’s for Dinner?” test involves seeing what the gun can cycle.  We run three rounds of several different types of ammunition.  The first round to see if it will feed from slide lock, upon firing does it cycle the gun enough to pick up the next, and then does the slide lock open when empty.  Technically this test could be accomplished with just two rounds, but a third is tossed in for good measure.  Critics have asked why we don’t use a full magazine of each load.  To start that would increase the cost of these tests exponentially, but the main reason is that would be a test more of the magazine than the gun’s ability to cycle.  In .380acp we shot from 50gr up to 102gr loads.  The results can be seen in the video below.  We also did a slow-motion comparison of the recoil impulse between the original and Performance Center models for both shooters.

Warning: YouTube has deemed that content unsuitable for most advertisers.

On the range the Performance Center Shield EZ proved itself worthy of the Performance Center tittle.  For my larger hands it was a bit slim which tends to cause me to unnecessarily squeeze the pistol and cause my shots to hit a bit left.  This is not the gun’s fault, and were this to be my daily pistols a few range sessions could train it out of me.  In Maddy’s smaller hands it did well and for both of us it proved a very pleasant shooting experience.  The slow motion footage leads me to believe that the porting did little to change shooting dynamics, but the lighter slide resulted in quicker settling of aim after the slide runs home.  Overall I consider the gun a winner, if it’s worth the $103 increase in MSRP over the original is entirely up to you to decide.

G B Guns

About Graham Baates

“Graham Baates” is a pen name used by a 15-year active Army veteran who spent most of his time in the tactical side of the Intelligence community including tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Post-Army Graham spent some time in the local 3-Gun circuit before becoming a full-time NRA Certified defensive handgun instructor and now works as an industry writer while curating a YouTube channel on the side. Visit Graham on Youtube .

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