Hand-Picked Daily GUN DEALS, and Exclusive Coupons Codes >>>

Smith & Wesson Equalizer Review: Best Beginner Pistol?

The Smith & Wesson Equalizer brings easy to use features and reduced recoil to 9mm shooters, but is this pistol good for beginners? We test it out to see.

Recently, Smith & Wesson came out with it’s newest 9mm, the Equalizer, to help folks address the issue of racking and loading their guns.

If I’m being honest, I take for granted how easy it is for me to load magazines or rack a slide, but these simple acts are downright tough for some folks.

One of the main challenges of shooting handguns comes after the shot. Recoil is a crucial part of the process since it allows the weapon to clear the chamber and cycle in the next round.

But it can also be difficult — jerking the gun back, off target, and sometimes even frightening the shooter. Anticipation of that recoil can even cause shooters to jerk the trigger and throw off their shots.

We tested the Smith & Wesson Equalizer out to see if was equal to the task and could actually help fix the issues some shooters have.

So follow along as we walk you through the specs, features, pros/cons, as well as some range results to help you decide if this pistol is right for you.

Table of Contents


Smith & Wesson Equalizer Pros & Cons


  • Easy to operate
  • Light recoil
  • Includes 3 magazines


  • Short grip for big hands

The Bottom Line

We spent a day at the range with the Equalizer and found it to be a pleasant gun to operate. The recoil is light, the slide is easy to manipulate, and you can change the length of the grip by using different magazines.

at GrabAGun

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Smith & Wesson Equalizer Specs & Features


Semi-auto internal hammer
Barrel length
22.9 oz.


Easy-to-rack slide
Optics ready
No trigger pull for disassembly

Source: Smith & Wesson

Equalizer Background

While you can certainly see the heritage of Smith & Wesson all over this gun, the Equalizer is a new model, not necessarily beholding to any previous gun.

That said, it seems a safe bet the spiritual predecessor for the Equalizer might well be the M&P Shield EZ.

Shield EZ 9mm Vs EZ380 next to each other
Shield EZ 9mm and the EZ380 next to each other

Smith & Wesson took the philosophy of the easy-to-use gun and improved upon it with the Equalizer. While the grip angle and look are similar to the EZ, the slide serrations are significantly improved for grip.

Who Is It For?

Being this is a micro-compact, just about anyone could carry and appreciate the Equalizer as an EDC.

However, there was a target audience behind the Equalizer’s design, and I, for one, am glad to see it.

S&W Equalizer serrations

There are folks who struggle with some of the fundamental functions of shooting pistols. Racking the slide, managing recoil, and even loading magazines can present formidable barriers for some shooters.

People with limited grip strength or recoil sensitivity will appreciate the efforts Smith has gone through to enable them to shoot for fun or train.

Moreover, this firearm may empower some shooters to carry defensively, who had not been able to before.


The Equalizer has much in common with the M&P line and other modern semi-auto pistols in that it features a steel slide and polymer grip.

The grip angle is comfortable, and the ovular shape of the grip fits nicely in the palm.

S&W Equalizer shoot right rear

Grip texture is a well-balanced medium — tacky enough to stay in the hand but not so rough as to catch on clothing overly much during a draw.

There is also a slight undercut on the trigger guard, better enabling a high grip.

The beaver tail is modest but sufficient enough to prevent slide bite. I also found the different-sized magazines played a direct role in how much I had to hang onto.

S&W Equalizer shoot right close

With the 15-round mag, the grip length was excellent, whereas, with the flush-fit 10-round mag, my pinky ended up floating in space. The floor plates on each different magazine give the user the option to carry more ammo or create a smaller carry package.

The slide serrations greatly assist with manipulating the slide. Cut deeply and spaced widely, there are five in the rear and three in the front.

S&W Equalizer left side

The sights are sturdy, made of steel, and configured in a white, 3-dot setup. The trigger features a gently curved bow that was comfortable.

Given the internal hammer design, the trigger feels more like a striker-fired gun.

There’s about a millimeter of pre-travel before hitting a wall, then a tiny bit more give before a fairly crisp snap, with the break measuring at an average of 4 pounds 5 ounces on a Lyman Digital Gauge.

How Does It Shoot?

General manipulation of the Equalizer is a piece of cake. The slide moves back easily and isn’t overly stiff, thanks to the efforts from Smith & Wesson.

S&W Equalizer shoot right

This seems to translate well to the mitigation of recoil as well. With a solid grip, I was able to get the gun shooting pretty flatly, making follow-up shots quick.

The trigger is decent on the Equalizer, though it isn’t as good as the M&P 2.0 series, in my opinion. Regardless, once learned, I was able to put together some okay groups using a Bushnell RXS-250.

S&W Equalizer shoot left

Reloads were pretty standard fare, with magazines dropping clearly when called upon to do so. Admittedly, my big hands did cause the smaller mags to hang up.

The magazines seated nicely each time and fed reliably. They also locked back consistently each time I ran the Equalizer dry.

S&W Equalizer follower

I also appreciated Smith & Wesson included high visibility followers, as well as round count windows in the bodies of the magazines.

One other noteworthy observation was the Uplula sold with the Equalizer. This is another enabling piece of kit that helps people with loading magazines.

S&W Equalizer Uplula

I found that while loading the last one or two rounds, the mags were so stiff the tool was required to carry full capacity.

9mm Ammo in Stock

Cost Per Round
Free shipping

What Sets the Equalizer Apart?

Clearly, the biggest difference with the Equalizer is multiple features designed to make this gun easier to manipulate and shoot.

The recoil spring tension is somehow reduced without affecting overall reliability.

S&W Equalizer reload kneeling

The serrations offer ample purchase and make it that much easier to grab and rack the slide. This applies to loading the weapon and reloading it as well.

Smith & Wesson Equalizer By the Numbers



The reduced recoil helps with flatter shots, making follow-ups pretty easy but the trigger takes some getting used to.



Over the course of approximately 500 rounds there were zero malfunctions.



This is a new firearm so there isn't a great deal of aftermarket support yet. You can choose from an array of optics and add accessories to the front rail though.



The ergonomics were good, and designed to fit a wide variety of folks comfortably.



At a price around $500, this is a good value, particularly for folks who will benefit from the Equalizer's accommodations.



Final Verdict

Smith & Wesson has a winner on their hands with the Equalizer, and I applaud their efforts to reach people who would otherwise struggle to shoot handguns.

After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.

S&W Equalizer magazines

The right to defend yourself should not be blocked by an inability to manipulate a slide or stuff magazines.

Those who fall into this category, regardless of the reasons why, should take a look at the Equalizer.

at GrabAGun

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Do you think the Smith & Wesson Equalizer works well as your EDC? Let us know in the comments below! Head to the 9 Best Concealed Carry Guns in 2023 for even more CCW guns!

The Best Gun Deals, Coupons and Finds

Subscribe to Pew Pew Tactical's sales and deals email.

23 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Debra Sedars

    Would this be a good gun for a leftie?

    May 13, 2023 11:41 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Marj Law

      Yes. I shoot with either hand.

      May 14, 2023 7:16 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      You bet!

      May 16, 2023 2:15 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Cheryl D Maggi

    I'm a beginner and while I love my .380 PC, this one is a winner for me. I'm still getting used to it, but it feels comfortable in my hand. It's a winner for me.

    May 13, 2023 1:39 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      That's great Cheryl, glad you found something that works for you!

      May 16, 2023 2:17 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Randolph Bordner

    I have carried for many years and have owned/own multiple types of handguns. I bought the Equalizer a few months ago and it is one of my favorite handguns. I found the accuracy good and can highly recommend this pistol.

    May 12, 2023 12:28 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      Hey Randolph, thanks for sharing your experience!

      May 12, 2023 3:59 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    My wife has small hands and the Equalizer fit her hands perfectly which has not been the case in many instances. I shot the pistol at 25 yards and got consistent hits in the 8,9,10 rings of a B8 target. Shooting 20 rounds most were 9,10 rings. For me this was very acceptable accuracy for an out of the box pistol. She loves the pistol and we put a red dot on it for competition.

    May 12, 2023 9:03 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      Hey Greg, that's good shooting! I'm glad your wife likes the Equalizer. Does she have any issues with the grip safety? Some other commenters have suggested that might be an issue.

      May 12, 2023 4:00 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    My wife and I have never had a problem with the grip safety on my wife's EZ. My wife loves her 380 EZ. With lighter recoil, this might be a great opportunity for her to step up to the 9mm. Thanks for the review.

    May 12, 2023 7:37 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      I think it's definitely worth a try, and you're welcome!

      May 12, 2023 9:00 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David SIEGEL

      Pistols seem to have babies as I own them. First pistol was a S&W MP9c. I won an MP380EZ when I would have preferred the MP9EZ as ammo is easier to find and sometimes it is cheaper. Truth perhaps it is me, I don't see much difference in recoil.
      More recently I bought the MP9 2.0. My eyes are not what they once were. The longer sight radius makes it easier to see. The mags also fit my MP9C and it comes with a spacer to fit the 17 round mag. Not the same size, I had to purchase an adapter to fit the 17 round mag to my MP 9C

      May 13, 2023 8:05 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Sean Curtis

        It's like that David! An old detective I used to work with had a philosophy of only buying black guns to keep his wife from knowing.

        May 16, 2023 2:19 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Well, I keep my EZ in my golf bag. It’s always in a “pocket style” holster, in another wise empty pocket of the bag, by itself. No matter how careful I am putting the bag in my trunk, placing it on a cart, leaning it up against a rack, the manual safety lever often manages to disengage itself. It’s happened with several other pistols I’ve carried in there as well. I’d imagine this could be a common occurrence if carried in a purse. I’m extremely happy it has a grip safety. Maybe my hands are just more callused or rough but I don’t even notice it.

    May 12, 2023 6:26 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      Hey Jon, that's curious. The model we tested did not have an external safety, just a grip safety.

      May 12, 2023 8:59 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        Yes sir, I apologize for a poor explanation. The EZ and the Equalizer are different pistols. I was merely trying to address all the consternation brought up by so many other people regarding the grip safety, which they both have, in similar fashion. I didn’t understand all the negativity. I think it’s great. Thanks for the great writing.

        May 14, 2023 8:48 am
        • Commenter Avatar
          Sean Curtis

          Hey thanks, and no. That was my misunderstanding, thanks for following up. I didn't have any issues with the grip safety but I have to be open to the possibility it might be a problem for others.

          May 16, 2023 2:15 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I have a Performance Center Shield EZ. The only thing that I do not like is the backstrap. The top corners on mine are sharp points that dig into my hand. The main thing that I see different in the Equalizer is the double stack mags.

    May 11, 2023 9:02 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      That's unfortunate. I found the backstrap on the model we tested to be fine.

      May 12, 2023 8:57 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bob G

    The article appears to roll right over the deal breaker feature of this 9, for many folks: The backstrap safety. It changes everything about the initial and subsequent grip. I've spoken to many women about this gun. They reject it due to this feature. I would like to buy this without the backstrap safety. Give me the new M2.0 straight trigger. It has the requisite safety built in, build it with that. Optics Ready. 2 or 3 lug Rail. Same slide force. Very slightly more room between trigger guard and trigger face, 1-2 mm, just a smidge more. Night sights option. New all metal frame option! Perfect!

    May 11, 2023 5:14 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Michael Vandergriend

      You're so right. That backstrap just kills this gun.

      May 11, 2023 6:47 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      Bob, thanks for sharing your experience. I mentioned in the video that I'm not a fan of grip safeties, but I haven't gotten anyone else's feedback on this gun. And I like your suggestions for improvements. I'll pass these along to the folks at Smith & Wesson and with any luck, we'll see subsequent versions with these features.

      May 12, 2023 8:56 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Bob G

        That would be great, Sean. Thanks! The new metal frame from them is the bees knees. So is the quik 'n easy grip change. Fast and solid palm swell changes and sticky sandpaper feel without the harsh indentations in the palm (*cough* CZ P-10C *cough*). The M&P9 M2.0 Metal replaced the Walther F-Series in my line. The F-Series was an incredible fit out of the box. Great easy slide manipulation and trigger reach, everything they advertised. *But*, the deal breaker was the slide mass to frame mass ratio. The F-Series slide is massive, heavy, compared to the featherweight polymer frame. Handling it, you can not tell this by just looking at it. When fired, that slide rocks back in the hand. Plain physics. The solution is S&W's new all metal frame. Night and day difference in being able to control the recoil. The new changeable grips nails it. That grip does not need reposition during firing. Sticky without the 2x4 feel (Glock G19 Fail for me, always repositioning in palm during firing). Feature wise, the Shield Plus is very close. Great sticky grip, Optics Ready, No Thumb Safety. No Grip Safety. Relatively easy rack force. Optional night sights. Controllable recoil. But, no light rail. Put on an aftermarket rail attachment and it intrudes into the trigger guard space, a sub optimal solution. I hope S&W listens to you.

        May 12, 2023 10:27 am
Join the community! Log in
Please provide a valid email address.
Password is required.
Please provide a valid display name.
Please provide a valid email address.
The password should contain at least 8 characters with at least one number or special character.
Please accept in order to continue.
Trouble logging in?
Type your email address and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.
Please provide a valid email.
Type your new password and hit button below to confirm it.
Field is required.
Account already exists
We already have an account registered for email address () which is linked to your Facebook account.
To log in type your Pew Pew Meter password below.
Field is required.
Account already exists
We noticed that you have previously logged in with your Account which is linked to the same email address () - we can link both of your accounts together.
In order to link your accounts, hit button below and log in to your Account with the same email as above.

Account in Pew Pew Meter means more

Check what do you get by creating an account
Check and save your reviews!
Bookmark and compare your favorite firearms
Manage your newsletter subscription
pew pew tactical logo

new here?

Personalize your experience.
Select what level shooter you are!

pew pew tactical logo

level up your gun knowledge

Thanks! We'll send you the latest guides and training tips geared towards your level.

pew pew tactical logo


You'll now receive newsletters of our best articles on techniques, guns & gear.

$47 value

yours free!

targets targets

practice targets

printer icon printable

our 9 favorite targets and drills


practice targets

printer icon printable

enter your email to download

We'll only use the information provided according to our privacy policy.

success icon

Ready to Download

Click below to begin your download

download pdf