I was able to borrow a S&W Shield, and Springfield Armory XDs for a few hours today (it's worth remembering that this would have been illegal if Dianne Feinstein's AWB had passed in 2013). The gun at the bottom right is my Kahr CW9.
This will be a brief evaluation of the Shield and XDs in comparison to my long time carry gun, the CW9. I won't pretend to have a vast amount of trigger time with the Springfield, or S&W. I've only spent one afternoon with the XDs, and a couple of range trips with the Shield.
Soooo.... keep that in mind when reading this review. I have a few thousand rounds through the Kahr, and a mere hour or so with the other two 9mms.
Of course they're all just handguns. This isn't exactly rocket science.
Links to the manufacturers websites/specs are listed below.
Smith & Wesson
I like all of these handguns a lot, and would feel confident relying on any of them. They all shoot well, feel good in the hand, and are easily concealed. All three are great guns, but I have my preferences.
Since these pistols are marketed as concealed carry guns, that will be the topic that I spend most of the time discussing. It is, however, worth noting that all three weapons could easily crossover into the home defense role without any problem. I think that the majority of people could learn to shoot these handguns well, and these weapons have the size (with the extended magazines in place) and capacity to do a decent job as an all purpose pistol.
A gun can be a huge purchase for some families, and many may only be able to afford one firearm for defense. Some buyers will be attracted to handgun that will fit the hand of a husband or wife, and can be easily used for home defense or CCW.
The XDs also feels very comfortable when using the extended magazine. Those with bigger hands may prefer the Springfield as it offers a larger grip than it's competitors (when the 9rnd magazine is in place).
The S&W and Springfield only allow a two finger grip when the 7rnd magazine is used.
In regards to comfort, IMO the Kahr ranks in first place. The S&W comes in second, and the Springfield takes third.
All three feel really good, and it's obvious that the manufacturers put a lot of work into the design of these weapons. The CW9 just fits me best.
As these weapons are intended as carry guns, weight has to be discussed. The SA (Springfield Armory) weighs 23oz with an empty magazine. The Shield comes in at 19oz, followed by the Kahr at just under 18oz.
The XDs feels slightly heavier when comparing the three guns side by side. I suspect that the weight difference would become more apparent when carrying this weapon.
I'll confess, I'm a whiny little bitch when it comes to the weight of my CCW guns. I just don't want a heavy carry gun, and if I'm adding ounces to the total package then I want it to be in ammo capacity.
I'd pick the Kahr, followed by the S&W, and then the XDs.
All of the weapons have good corrosion resistance. The Shield and CW9 get carried a lot, and show no real wear or corrosion. The XDs was only purchased a month ago so time will tell how it holds up. As it's the same Melonite coating as the XD/XDM line, I have faith that it will offer outstanding protection from moisture.
Field stripping seems to be equally easy for both the S&W and Springfield. It's a little more difficult for the Kahr (but not overly challenging).
You don't have to squeeze the trigger in order to take down the Shield. This isn't a huge deal for me, but I understand that the occasional idiot will have a negligent discharge when field stripping a firearm. Some will no doubt appreciate the added safety of not having to squeeze the trigger during the disassembly process.
Advantage S&W. The SA takes second for ease of disassembly, and the Kahr clearly comes in third.
Reliability... the Kahr and Shield get shot a lot, and are extremely reliable with a wide range of ammo. The XDs doesn't have a high enough round count to judge it's reliability. There were no issues in the 50rnds that I put through it (not exactly high praise).
Based upon months of shooting with and talking to the S&W's owner, I'd rank the CW9 and Shield equally. The XDs reliability rating is on hold due to insufficient data at this time.
I didn't notice any real difference in recoil between the Kahr and the XDs (when using the extended magazine in the SA). The Shield felt like it had a little more recoil than the competition. It wasn't obscenely heavy, but it was noticeable.
I've replaced the sights on the Kahr with night sights from Dawson Precision, and the owner of the S&W added the outstanding TruGlo TFOs to his Shield.
The sights on the Springfield beat the factory sights on the Shield, and CW9 in my opinion. Whether you rank the standard sights on the S&W or Kahr higher simply depends upon your preference for the bar over bar or 3 dot style of sights.
Carry guns get exposed to sweat, and moisture on a regular basis. I stated above that I think that all of these polymer framed pistols will do fine in resisting corrosion. There's a couple of other items to be concerned regarding moisture.
The XDs seems to have the "Grippiest" frame. Springfield did a great job on the grip texture. I've always been a fan of the "Mega Lock" frame texture on the XDM, and it's just as good on the XDs. The Shield and Kahr have a decent grip texture, and should allow one to keep a good purchase on the gun. The XDs just shines in this regard.
Sandpaper textured Talon Grips have been added to the Shield, and rubber coated grip tape from Powder River Precision has been an improvement to the CW9.
Note: If you're planning on carrying the weapon against your skin then buy rubber grip tape from either vendor instead of the sandpaper. It will be much more comfortable.
I always mention the slide serrations when reviewing a pistol The reason for this is that I was a long time Browning Hi Power owner. They're expensive guns with absolutely awful slide serrations. Trying racking the slide on a Hi Power with wet or oily hands. It's been a pet peeve of mine for years.
The Kahr and XDs both have very good slide serrations. The Shield's are extremely attractive, but aren't quite as good. I could imagine someone with wet hands having a little more difficulty racking the slide on the Shield. It's not a big difference between the three firearms, but it does exist.
The controls on all of the weapons are easy to reach and operate. It's usually necessary for me to slightly shift my grip in order to hit the magazine release on all three pistols. This is generally true for all of my handguns with the exception of my XDM.
The XDs has an ambidextrous magazine release. Wrong handed individuals take note. The other two weapons do not.
The Springfield has an undercut trigger guard. This is a nice feature that allows you to get a higher grip on the weapon. Gotta love Springfield's attention to detail.
The Springfield Armory XDs has a grip safety. As I have said in the past, I don't mind grip safeties, and while I wouldn't buy a firearm just for this feature some will no doubt appreciate it. Those that have a problem with manual safeties on their handguns should look this over.
The Shield has a manual safety on the right side of the slide, and S&W is now releasing a model without this safety lever. I realize that some believe that every handgun should be exactly like a Glock, but I actually like the manual safety on the Shield. It's well located, has a positive feel (not sloppy or too tight), and is still easy to sweep off when drawing the weapon. I'd prefer this version over the one without the safety lever. To each his own.
Both the XDs and Shield have trigger safeties that are very similar to those found on Glocks (Glock fanboys can rejoice), and other polymer handguns on the market.
All three weapons have internal striker blocks.
The Kahr has a double action only (DAO) trigger. The pull is long and a little heavier than that of the S&W, and Springfield. It's very consistent throughout the pull, and I have no complaints about the DAO trigger on this weapon. Some will like it while others will absolutely despise it. I think that the CW9 has the best DAO trigger that I've seen (and I usually HATE this trigger system).
Both the S&W and Springfield Armory pistols have about 1/4" of creep in their triggers before they break. The pull on the Shield is noticeably lighter that that of the XDs.
I will mention that the Kahr, as expected, has the longest trigger reset.
None of the weapons have a magazine safety.
In the interest of brevity, I briefly covered the safety features of these weapons. I strongly suggest that you read the manual for these handguns before shooting/carrying them. Don't assume that you know how the safeties operate just because these firearms look similar to others that you've handled. It is probably a wonderful idea to read what the manufacturer says before putting their pistol in your pocket, or on your belt. Your "Junk" will thank you.
The XDs has a 9rnd extended magazine that adds a lot of extra room to the grip. Even those with large hands should have plenty to hold onto (did that sound weird?).
I don't think that the Kahr does very well with pocket carry when using the standard 7rnd magazine. It would obviously be worse when trying the 8rnd mag.
Both the Shield and Springfield fit easily into a pocket when using the 7rnd magazines (although the XDs is a bit heavy).
IWB or OWB carry is easy with all three weapons.
|3" Orange Centers|
|3" Orange Centers - One flyer per mag on the right target|
|3" Orange Center|
That's a pretty pathetic looking target on the left. I hate it when I shoot up all of my plates before taking pics.
If it wasn't for the flyer at the lower right, that really would have been a great group.
There are 10 rnds on each target above. Two magazines with 5 rounds each were shot at the targets. Both the extended and standard mags were used with the Shield, and XDs.
I've been shooting the Kahr CW9 for years, and have run several magazines through the Shield on 3 different range trips with the weapon's owner. I really expected to shoot both guns much better than the Springfield. It was surprising that the XDs was the easiest handgun to shoot accurately. I had to work a little harder to shoot the S&W (almost) as good as the SA pistol.
The Kahr was shot a little faster than the other two weapons, but I'm not using that as an excuse for the better group on the Springfield's target. The XDs just shoots better.
BTW, the Shield's owner tends to shoot the CW9 better than his own weapon.
They're all very close, but I would rank them: XDs, Kahr, Shield for accuracy.
All three weapons have loaded chamber indicators. The S&W has a hole that you look through, while the CW9 and XDs have an indicator that sits up in the center of the slide. I prefer this as you can both visually and physically check it.
It's not at all unusual for the slide on my XDM to fail to lock to the rear on an empty magazine. This is because when I'm shooting with a thumbs forward grip, I usually have a thumb on top of the slide lock.
I've found that I have the same issue when shooting the XDs.
All three weapons seem to be priced in the $400-$450 range in my area, but there's a great deal of difference in how the firearms are packaged.
Edit: Prices have changed a bit since I first posted this review. The Kahr averages close to $400 in my area, but I've seen it as low at $340. The Shield usually sells for $390, and the XDs is at least $500. The post recall pricing on the Springfield has changed quite a bit, and I haven't seen their essentials package in my area yet.
The Kahr comes with one magazine.
The S&W has two magazines included with the weapon.
The Springfield comes with 3 magazines, a decent Kydex holster, and a fairly decent Kydex magazine pouch. The black plastic case is pretty nice for a gun case, but if you're like me, you'll never use it for anything regardless of how nice it is (two XDM cases buried in the back of the closet). The holster and mag pouch may not be my first choice for CCW, but you could make them work until something better is purchased. The SA is a helluva bargain when you consider all of the extras that are included. It also has better factory sights than the other two weapons.
Soooo... if money was not an issue then what would I pick?
The Kahr wins. I like the trigger system for a carry gun, the grip is comfortable, it conceals well, is light weight for the size, and is both accurate and reliable.
While I really like the Shield, I don't shoot it as well as the Kahr. It has a bit more recoil, and is slightly heavier. There is an advantage (over the CW9) for some buyers in being able to pocket carry this gun. It is the smallest weapon, and if size were the highest priority then I would pick the S&W.
I carry IWB so that is irrelevant to me. Since both guns have 8rnd magazines they are equal in capacity.
As for the XDs, do you remember when I said that weight matters to me? The 23oz is a deal breaker. This gun comes in last in spite of the outstanding accuracy and higher capacity, because I'm likely to leave a boat anchor (Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration) at home.
If money is an issue, then the XDs wins hands down. All three are good guns, but the total XDs package is too good of a bargain to pass up for those on a tight budget.
Long story short, you can't go wrong with any of these handguns.
|XDs with 7rnd magazine inserted|
|XDs with 9rn mag inserted|
|Shield with TruGlo TFO sights|
|Shield with 8rnd mag inserted &Talon Grips|
|Shield with 7rnd mag inserted and Talon Grips|
A full review of the Kahr and more pics can be found here.
More gun and knife reviews on this blog can be found here.
Update: It's Sept 2017. I still own the Kahr CW9, and love the gun. Most people that try my CW9 at the range have a problem with the DAO trigger.
I broke down, and bought a Shield this summer. S&W dropped the price, and I picked one up for about $225 on sale. That's an amazing price for a great gun. I still prefer the Kahr in a side by side comparison.