My brother went through a phase where he tried all of the smallest semi-automatic pocket pistols that weren’t made by Kel-Tec. They tended to have nightmarishly long trigger pulls, but they worked, and they were compact. The exotic bottlenecked NAA calibers were difficult to handload.
The Kel-Tec P32 fascinated me, but their reputation for poor quality plastic steered me away. I had a Beretta Tomcat for a while, but it wasn’t terribly reliable. This was before the Ruger LCP.
The two of us dreamed of designing our own super-compact pocket pistol around the .32 ACP caliber, but we also recognized the power limitations of .32 ACP. I began to speculate on the possibilities of straight-walled .32 caliber cartridge that was longer. The small head diameter allows for compactness and capacity, but the .32 ACP is unnecessarily short. A longer cartridge with the overall length of a 9x19mm would not require the grip size to be sacrificed.
We found a couple things that were close: the .30 Pedersen and the 7.92x24mm VBR. However, none of these were quite ideal, and none of them were readily available. The .30 Pedersen (aka 7.65x20mm, aka 7.65mm Long) was designed to be used in the M1903 adapted with a Pedersen device, but it is nowhere near as long as a 9x19mm. The 7.92x24mm VBR was a more modern experiment to shorten the .30 Carbine, but it was a bit too large in both dimensions for my purposes (OAL and base diameter), and the company who tried it is already defunct.
However, Federal has recently introduced the .30 Super Carry cartridge. The .30 Super Carry is a perfect execution of my goal. It’s OAL is identical to the 9x19mm, and the head diameter is actually smaller than the semi-rimmed .32 ACP. It is specified for a modern pressure, 45,000 PSI, which offers the opportunity to come close to the performance of 9x19mm. Importantly, it is an offering with the backing of at least four ammunition manufacturers at this time.
Smith & Wesson Shield
At the time of this writing, the only major* firearm manufacturer producing pistols in this caliber is Smith & Wesson. They have two models with four part numbers available in .30 Super Carry: the Shield Plus and the Shield EZ, both of which are available with or without a manual thumb safety.
(Nighthawk Custom is selling 1911-pattern pistols in .30 Super Carry, but I don’t consider them a major manufacturer, and their product costs an order of magnitude more.)
The Plus and the EZ look very similar, but they have significant differences. The Plus uses double-stack magazines with 13 or 16 round capacities, while the EZ uses a “stack and a half” 10 round magazine. The Plus is striker fired, which is safer for carrying, and has an automatic trigger safety, while the EZ is hammer fired with a standard trigger. The EZ is so named because of its easy to rack slide. The Plus slide is cut for optics (red dot sight), while the EZ’s slide is not. The EZ also has an under barrel accessory rail, while the Plus does not. The Plus comes with tritium night sights, while the EZ has white dot sights. The Plus has smaller dimensions, has a 3.1″ barrel, and weighs 19.3 ounces, while the EZ is a little larger, has a 3.675″ barrel, and weighs 21.6 ounces. There are subjective differences in ergonomics.
Overall, the features of the Shield Plus make it the better choice for carrying. However, the easier to rack slide of the EZ could be very important to someone with low grip strength. I strongly recommend the versions without a manual thumb safety for personal defense.
I was looking for a range gun, so I chose the EZ.
The trigger on the EZ isn’t great. After the take-up, it is very mushy, and then it breaks at what is currently* measuring right at 6 pounds. I can see at least three parts in the firing mechanism that flex or shift under the pressure of the trigger pull to contribute to the mushiness. I can barely feel the reset, and despite S&W’s claim on their web site, I can only hear the reset in a quiet room without hearing protection. I’m hoping the trigger pull will lighten a little after it breaks in.
(* Before I had fired it, the trigger pull measured 8 pounds. At the range, I noticed that it didn’t seem that bad, and I decided the experience must be different with live rounds. Then I dry fired it again when I was back at home, and it still seemed lighter. So I measured it again, and it is now at 6 pounds. It’s true that guns, especially semi-auto handguns, tend to run better after they have been broken in, but I’ve only put 40 rounds through this one so far.)
Recoil is fine. Maybe just a little lighter than 9x19mm, but the difference was just barely perceptible when comparing to the Glock 19 I brought to the range.
So far, I have only fired Federal Premium 100 gr. HST in this gun. The accuracy is alright, I guess. The 10-round group I was most careful with measured 4⅛” at 7 yds, tending toward a vertical spread. Apart from a stray spark or two, there was no muzzle flash. As I said, the perceived recoil was just a hair less than 9x19mm.
I have boxes of Remington HTP and Speed Gold Dot on order.