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Smith & Wesson Equalizer Review: Best Beginner Pistol?

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Sometimes 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.

Recently, Smith & Wesson came out with the Equalizer to help folks address these issues. We tested it out to see if was equal to the task.

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

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Smith & Wesson Equalizer Pros & Cons

Pros


  • Easy to operate

  • Light recoil

  • Includes 3 magazines

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.

499

at GrabAGun

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Smith & Wesson Equalizer Specs & Features

Specs

Action

Semi-auto internal hammer

Features


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.

Fit & Feel

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

115gr

$0.28

Free shipping

147gr Hollow Points

$1.27

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.

Smith & Wesson Equalizer Upgrades & Accessories

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.

499

at GrabAGun

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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!

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