For nearly a decade now, Smith & Wesson’s M&P9 Shield has been one of the best, most popular micro-compact concealed carry pistols on the market, and for good reason. TTAG’s most recent Shield review was Dan’s 2018 test drive of the then-new 2.0 flavor, which earned a well-deserved four-and-a-half stars. And guess what? With the release of the M&P9 Shield Plus line it just earned that final half star.
Take everything you love about the Shield series and up the capacity to 10+1 with a flush-fitting magazine and 13+1 with the pinky extension mag (the original Shield held 7+1 and 8+1 rounds, respectively), slightly modify the grip texture so it’s kinder to your love handles, and upgrade the trigger to an incredible level and you’ve got yourself the Shield Plus.
Dan “the hand model” Zimmerman and I test drove the new Shield Plus in its most basic form — no safety, 3-dot sights — but the entire line will be available in “Plus” format.
Four-inch Performance Center model with ported barrel, fiber optic sights, and optic-cut slide with Crimson Trace reflex sight already mounted? Yep.
Between that and the plain Jane 3.1-inch model seen here, effectively every option exists from night sights to fiber optics to optic cut slides, ported and standard barrels, manual thumb safety and no safety, and even 10-pound trigger options for those who prefer a heavier pull on their carry guns (in case you want to miss as much as the NYPD).
As it stands, the trigger on this little guy is quite possibly the best I’ve pulled on any sub-compact carry gun. It’s incredibly crisp with minimal creep, little overtravel, and a short, crisp reset that’s audible and tactile. The trigger safety blade (which has replaced the previous Shield’s center-pivoting trigger shoe) is nice and wide, and comes flush with the rest of the only barely curved trigger face when depressed. The whole trigger package looks and feels great.
Shooting and dry firing back-to-back with a SIG P365 and a Springfield Hellcat, which is upgraded with an aftermarket trigger, mind you, the S&W M&P9 Shield Plus was the hands-down trigger pull quality winner of the group. Crisper and cleaner with less creep than the other two, and with slightly lighter break weight, too, and shorter reset. Fantastic.
Add to that the ergonomic and comfortable, nicely palm-filling grip shape and the dead-on-perfect grip texture, and this bad boy is one hell of a shooter. It’s as planted and fixed in my grip as any factory gun gets.
Despite being a lightweight, micro-compact pistol it made absolutely no attempt whatsoever — not even a hint — to rotate or shift inside of my grip. The Shield Plus is not only well tuned with its action timing and recoil spring design, but the shape and texture of its grip makes it one of the most controllable, best shooting little carry pistols available.
Initially I assumed the grip was going to be a bit wider to fit a fatter magazine, but it isn’t. Smith & Wesson found room for the extra capacity through some combination of a slimmer magazine follower and spring design and/or by opening up the grip frame internally without changing it externally.
Frankly, beyond the slight grip texture tweak, the amazing trigger, and, obviously, the extra rounds of 9x19mm there isn’t much to add to Dan’s late-2018 Shield 2.0 review. The Shield Plus is effectively identical externally and in every other way.
There’s the Shield Plus on the left next to my SIG P365 on the right. Gotta say, the comparison in the photo makes it seem like a bigger difference than it does in real life, but there’s no doubt that the grip itself is bigger. Barely thicker, but it’s a lot longer front-to-rear and it’s taller, too (maybe a half inch longer in the backstrap with a flush-fit magazine).
That extra front-to-back length is part of the reason it shoots so well. It fills a hand better than the teeny little grip on the P365.
Next to the Springfield Hellcat the length is closer. Without a doubt I preferred the rounded shape of the Shield Plus‘ grip to the very block-shaped Hellcat’s grip. The 18-degree grip angle of the Shield Plus and the palm swell are just right, too.
Before we send this loaner gun back to Smith, I’m going to find a holster for it and see how it carries and conceals compared to the P365. I already know I can shoot it like a full-size pistol, but with the longer backstrap and different grip angle I’d like to see how it conceals for me.
There’s no question, of course, that the M&P Shield series has been one of the best-selling (over three million Shields sold according to Smith & Wesson), most popular concealed carry pistol lines on the market for almost a decade now, so we all know darn well that it’s a perfectly concealable little package. I just have to try it…you know…for science.
Should my P365 be scared? Yeah, probably a little. Now that the M&P Shield is back in the arena with a competitive capacity in the form of the Shield Plus, it’s once again a serious contender for my IWB real estate.
Dan and I spent much of the day shooting the S&W M&P9 Shield Plus, and left the range knowing that this is an absolutely fantastic little gun in every way. The Shield left half a star on the table in Dan’s 2018 review, but the Shield Plus just snatched it up with ease.
Specifications: S&W M&P9 Shield Plus
Capacity: 10+1 rounds flush fit, 13+1 extended
Barrel Length: 3.1 inches
Overall Length: 6.1 inches
Width Across Controls: 1.1 inches
Width Exclusive of Controls: 0.94 inches
Height: 4.6 inches
Weight: 17.9 ounces
Sights: white 3-dot (also available with night sights, fiber optic sights, and optics-ready or optics-equipped)
MSRP: $553 (highest-end version with ported barrel and Crimson Trace optic is $925. Find the entire Shield Plus line at Brownells HERE starting, at the time of this writing, at $529)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * *
Ehhh, the Shield line has always struck me as a bit plain Jane. Though I can certainly get behind the four-inch versions with optic and ported barrel. Those look cool. But concealed means concealed, and I’m not going to pick my carry gun based on how pretty it is.
Reliability * * * * *
The Shield line has a solid reputation for reliability, and this straight-from-the-box Shield Plus gave us no reason to think otherwise. It ate four brands and types of ammo with ease.
Ergonomics * * * * *
Fantastic. The grip shape, angle, size, and texture are all great. Likewise, the trigger feels really good on the finger and the slide serrations are grippy but not punishing. If I could change anything I’d just continue the rear slide serrations farther forward.
Customize This * * * *
Not only are there 10 different model variants of Shield Plus at the new line’s launch, but compatibility with “legacy” Shield parts means all sorts of accessories, upgrades, holsters, and more are available on day one.
Shootability * * * * *
This isn’t always a category, but the Shield Plus stood out to me so strongly in this regard that I felt it needed specific recognition in the ratings.
Overall * * * * *
Nailed it. The M&P Shield Plus is a five-star concealed carry pistol no question about it.