I recently purchased two of the new Smith and Wesson EZ380 pistols.
Historically I have discouraged students from carrying or purchasing pistols in .380, because the caliber’s generally poor performance in actual shootings, and its failure to meet FBI minimum test guidelines for defensive ammo. Greg Ellifritz has a good summary of those issues on his blog.
However: every now and then I have a student that has fingers too short, or grip strength too weak, to comfortable shoot and manipulate any 9mm pistol. Years ago I added a Glock 42 to my collection of loaner guns, for use by students in that specific situation. The EZ380 has several features that made it appeal to me, so I bought two of them: one to test and one to have as inventory.
Features I liked
The EZ380 is a single action gun with a hidden hammer. That makes the slide easier to rack than a striker fired or double action pistol. The grip is longer – built to allow most people to get all their fingers on the gun without needing a grip extender base pad on a magazine. The barrel is longer. This gun wasn’t built to be a pocket gun. It was clearly designed to be a larger sized, belt- or purse-carry gun that would be easier to shoot than any of the smaller pocket pistols.
It has a giant grip safety, almost the size of the squeeze-cocking lever on an H&K P7, except on the backstrap instead of the front strap. For someone with arthritis or limited dexterity, that’s a better option than the tiny thumb safeties found on the SIG 238/938 series. I’ve seen many students struggle with the safety on those pistols, some making the bad choice to carry with an empty chamber, finding it easier to rack the slide than to swipe off the safety when drawing from a pocket. The giant grip safety enables the gun to be carried “cocked and locked” without a thumb safety at all.
I thought I was going to like the little “nub” built into the magazine, intended to help users pull the follower down when loading the magazine. It makes the magazine like most magazines for .22 semiauto pistols. I found the nub too small and almost painful to use. However, I’m sure the aftermarket vendors will come up with a solution, as they did for Browning Buckmark magazines.
When trying to use the gun the way it would get used in our Defensive Pistol Skills 1 class, drawing from a holster, doing reloads from mag pouches, I found that the ‘nub’ sticking out of the side of the magazine made the mags drag and hang on every single stack mag pouch I had on hand. That means that mag pouches for the EZ380 will likely have to be a custom design (e.g. hard to find and expensive).
The magazine release is reversible, which is a great feature, allowing right- and left-handed shooters the option to use thumb or trigger finger to press the release, depending on how the release is installed.
The slide lock is only accessible using the right thumb, not ambi like the slide lock on the full size M&P models. Changing the slide lock to work from both sides is the #1 change an EZ380 2.0 model could offer.
A Sight Problem
One of the questions I had was, of course, how good does it shoot? I took both of the EZ380s out to my range and fired some groups, using Winchester white box and Hornady Critical Defense ammo.
With both guns, shooting from benchrest, at 15 yards, the groups were reasonable (3-4″) but off to the left.
When the shots are hitting left for a right handed shooter, my default answer is “it’s the shooter”. I tripled down on attention to trigger control and finally convinced myself that yes, it was the guns. Both of them.
The EZ380 has yet another unique design feature: the rear sight can be drifted left or right by loosening a set screw you access from underneath the sight. Lock the gun open, flip it over, and you can adjust the sight without a vise or a hammer.
However, once I made the sight adjustment, groups moved over to the right closer to where I wanted them.
I’m hoping there will be aftermarket sights on the market for the EZ380, because it comes with the standard 3-dot sights that come on every gun, yet no trainer or top tier shooter likes or recommends.
If you are capable of shooting and handling a 9mm pistol, the EZ380 is not a gun I recommend for you. You’d be far better off with a striker fired, no-thumb-safety 9mm like an M&P Shield or Glock 43. If you are someone that can’t reach the trigger without dragging the frame on any 9mm pistol, because of short fingers, or can’t do basic tasks like fully racking the slide (all the way to the back as far as it will go) or locking the gun open on any 9mm you’ve tried, take a look at the EZ380. It has more positive features and fewer negatives for that type of customer than any other 380 on the market. It’s a pistol that you could use in a “real pistol class” (something beyond the carry permit level).
The final thought is a disclaimer. The EZ380 is a first model year gun, and normally I’m slow to recommend first model year guns. S&W has already done a recall on the EZ380 models that have a thumb safety. The non-thumb-safety models were NOT recalled. Over the next 6 months the EZ380 in my loaner collection will see a lot of use, and I’ll update this post if we encounter any problems with it.