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Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Review

The Original M&P Shield with flush mag.

Something about the feel of an M&P is like saying hello to an old friend whenever I pick it up. Being a fan of their pistols, I got the Shield for myself so I could have the option to carry something smaller and more concealable.

Shortly after bringing the gun home and taking my wife to the range with that pistol, she decided that it now belonged to her. So, I suppose this could go in the “cons” list of buying this pistol. You might just lose it to your loved one, as I did.

The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is a single stack pistol built with a slimmer profile to increase both concealability and comfort, and is an excellent choice for the armed American citizen.

Cost:

One of the best reasons to purchase the M&P (Military & Police) Shield is the price point. It won’t break your bank with the original Shield having a suggested retail price from Smith & Wesson of $367 and the newer model Shield 2.0 at $479.

This makes the Shield a great option for someone who is brand new to concealed carry and doesn’t have a lot of extra cash to spend. They can get a trustworthy, reliable pistol at a reasonable cost and upgrade it later if they so choose.

Magazines:

Shield with 8-round magazine

The short, slender size of the Shield lends itself well to concealment on smaller framed individuals, while still boasting an 8+1 capacity for 9mm. This isn’t the highest capacity for a pistol in this category, (see this review on the Sig P365) but is still an acceptable round count for a pistol of this size.

The Shield comes with two magazines. One 8-round mag with a grip extender, and one flush-sitting magazine with a 7-round capacity. While the Shield has been claimed against my will, I still carry it on occasion when I need a lower profile pistol.

When I do carry it, I like to have the 8-round magazine inserted because with the 7-rounder, the pinkies of my average sized hands hang off the bottom. This causes the pistol to jump around on me a bit more making it more difficult to control during rapid fire, not to mention less accurate on follow up shots.

In contrast, my hands fit perfectly on the 8-round mag allowing me to maintain a full combat grip. I recommend shooting extensively with both magazines so that you will be able to understand the difference in the grips and how it relates to shooting accurately.

The only time I'd use the shorter magazine is if I were to use the Shield as a B.U.G. (back up gun). In this case I would use the flush fitting magazine in order to decrease the mass of the pistol for better concealability, such as in an ankle holster.

S&W M&P Shield 9mm ShapeShift Ankle Holster by Alien Gear Holsters

The grip extender on the 8 round magazine just slips onto the magazine itself and is held in place by the base plate. There is only a slight amount of friction keeping the magazine extension where it belongs and, in my experience, it can come loose.

This is a small thing, unless you are carrying that magazine as a spare and the extension wiggles down while in your pocket. This could create a situation for a fumbled reload if you need that spare mag in a hurry. I recommend running a thin bead of glue to keep the extender where it belongs.

Carrying a spare magazine is something many people who carry the Shield like to do, due to the lower capacity. Those of us who are used to carrying a full-size pistol as part of our EDC (every day carry), might disapprove of the lower round count to the 15-17 rounds previously available to them.

But, by carrying 9 rounds in the pistol, and another 8 in a spare magazine, the shooter has the same number of rounds available to them as if they were carrying a G19 with a 17-round mag.

Trigger:

I have to say that the trigger on the M&P is my least favorite part. The hinged trigger feels a little spongy and isn’t pleasing to shoot in my opinion. It hits a good wall with a clean break, but there is a little extra travel giving it a mushy feel followed by a long reset.

Trigger Upgrade
Photo: Apex Tactical

That said, I believe it is still perfectly adequate for a combat pistol. I have seen much worse triggers by far. However, my personal preference is to swap out the stock trigger for an aftermarket one. Apex Tactical triggers are my go-to when I have the funds available for a pistol upgrade and are one of the first things I like to improve.

For those who are interested, the stock trigger pull weight is generally between 6-7 lbs.

Sights:

The sights are also nothing to call your mom about. They’re perfectly adequate and will get the job done, but beyond that they aren’t much. One white dot for the front sight and two for the rear sight.

I wouldn’t be so tempted to switch the sights out for aftermarket ones if the metal sights of the M&P series weren’t so sharp. Since I like to carry in the appendix position, I find the sharp-edged sights digging into, and wearing holes in my skin and shirt.

If you’re planning to carry the Shield concealed, I recommend having your local gunsmith change out sights to something a little more CCW friendly.

The sloped rear sight of the Shield

The rear sight is also sloped, which could prevent you from being able to rack the slide off your belt or another surface during one handed reloads. This is of course very situational, but something to consider if you’re into that kind of thing.

Since I carry the Shield on a limited basis, I haven’t bothered with any upgrades yet. But when I get around to it, I plan on doing the sights first, for comfort, then the trigger.

Safety:

The Smith and Wesson M&P Shield can be purchased with or without a manual thumb safety. If you’re unsure whether you want an additional safety, I would recommend purchasing the Shield with the safety installed and then removing it after if you decide you don't need it.

If you do decide to remove the safety, there will be a little slot exposed where the safety had been. For some of the larger models in the S&W M&P line, you can purchase a “Manual Safety Frame Plug” to fill this gap. But if there is anyone producing these plugs for the Shield, I don’t know of them.

The plug is not a requirement and is purely a cosmetic detail which will not affect the function of your pistol.

You can have your gunsmith do this if you want, but You Tube videos abound and I found it simple enough to do myself. I imagine there are some arguments against doing this, however I can't think of a profound enough reason to make this an issue for me.

There is a “Chamber Check” window where it is possible to see if a round is loaded in the chamber instead of doing a press check. The window is located on the top of the slide where the slide connects with the chamber.

You can mostly disregard this window altogether as I have never, not once, used it to see if I have a round in the chamber. Mostly, because the “window” is so small it’s difficult to see anything unless there is a lot of direct light. But also, because a press check is a more reliable way to ensure my pistol is loaded when I pick it up.

Ergonomics:

I like Glocks. I think they are a wonderful addition to anyone’s arsenal. But I don’t Love them. The grip angle and ergonomics of the M&P series of pistols is better in my opinion and the 18-degree grip angle falls smoothly into my natural point of aim, which makes the pistol feel more of an extension of my arm.

Everyone is different, but you can do much worse than a Shield.

The slide lock and magazine release are both easy to reach with the thumb. However, I find a reasonable amount of difficulty locating the slide release when working on reloads because it’s so small and difficult to activate. I tend to fumble it almost every time, so for that reason I stick with the way I first learned by just running the slide.

Smith & Wesson hasn’t forgotten about those shooters who are left handed and added the ability to move the magazine release to the right side of the pistol.

The small size of the pistol means it doesn’t weigh much, just 20.8 oz. This lighter weight means the 9mm feels a little snappier when shooting. But, due to the amount of grip available, it’s completely manageable.

Caliber:

The Shield is offered in all the most common defensive pistol calibers. Mine is chambered in 9mm like almost all of my handguns, but also available are the .40, .45, and even .380.

Keep in mind that the felt recoil will be higher with the larger calibers of the .40 and .45 since the Shield is a lighter firearm, and a lower round count available with a maximum capacity of 7+1 with the grip extension.

Options for upgrades.

Since the Shield is such a popular choice for concealed carry, there are a number of companies offering upgrades for your pistol. In addition to the already discussed aftermarket triggers and sights, magazine base plates for an additional few rounds, and custom colored mag releases are also available from companies such as HYVE.

Shield upgrades by HYVE. Photo: Pinterest

Recommended Holsters:

I recently reviewed holsters produced by L.A.G. Tactical and highly recommend the Appendix MK II. However, since this pistol is so popular, you should have little trouble finding a holster from your favorite Kydex bender.

This is a great pistol to carry around the house, or in situations where you may, or may not be wearing a belt. For this reason, one of my favorite ways to carry my Shield is in the Brave Response Appendix Holster. It may appear to be low tech compared to some of the shiny Kydex products out there, but it’s one of the most comfortable ways to carry the Shield concealed.

Other holsters that would work well for the Shield:

  1. Stealth Gear Ventcore AIWB
  2. Sticky Holsters
  3. Mission First Tactical IWB Appendix Holster

Light Options:

The Shield doesn’t have any rails underneath the barrel to allow the addition of a light or laser. For this reason, there are only a few companies that produce a light that attaches around the trigger guard.

One of the best options is the TLR-6, which has both a light and a laser in one package. Read about this light and how it compares to other popular CCW weapon lights in this article: Top 5 Weapon Mounted Lights Compared.

M&P Shield with the Streamlight TLR-6 weapon light

Keep in mind that it may be more difficult to find a holster from the company you were planning to buy from if you add a light. Depending on the company, they may not be able to produce a holster specific to your choice of light, so keep that in mind when planning your purchases.

Changes from the Original Shield to the 2.0:

The Shield 2.0 has been out on the market since late 2017 and is the latest in the M&P line of Shields. While I have yet to thoroughly test one of the newer 2.0s, the upgrades for this latest version appear primarily cosmetic.

I know there was some work done to the trigger and I do feel like it is better, however, I still strongly prefer an aftermarket trigger over that of the stock M&P 2.0 trigger.

The stippling pattern and aggressiveness of the grip has been changed and can rub you a little raw if it's against your skin for too long in my experience. The feel of it in the hand is good, but you might want an undershirt between you and the grip for CCW.

Smith & Wesson has also added serrations on the slide near the muzzle. The intent is to allow more grip when performing a press check from that end. But there isn’t nearly enough friction to allow this smoothly, so I perform my press checks the way I always have. From the back … Like a normal person.

The last, more notable difference is in the price, which raises the recommended retail value of the first-generation Shield from $367.00, to $479.00 for the Shield 2.0. A difference of $112 which could easily go into the purchase of a high-quality holster.

The added cost and few differences don’t make me want to run out and purchase the latest Shield, although deals can be found closer to the cost of the original if you look.

If you are thinking of upgrading from the original Shield to the Shield 2.0, rest easy knowing that all your old mags and holsters will still fit your new pistol.

The Shield for Home Defense?

Yes. If it’s all you have, absolutely. But, if you are looking to purchase a pistol for home defense, and not planning on CCW, I don’t think it should be your first choice.

A full-size pistol holding at least double the round count when/if you need it and paired with a good flashlight is a better option. The larger pistol will have less felt recoil and will ultimately perform better for the function of home defense. But the Shield could handle that role if you needed it to.

The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is an excellent choice for CCW and will serve you well. While there is no “perfect pistol” out there. The Shield does a great job of balancing the problems of a combat worthy pistol in a small, easy to conceal package.

The Shield can be found from our favorite firearm retailer for under MSRP, here:

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4 Responses to Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Review

  1. Mike June 19, 2019 at 9:35 am #

    I purchased my m&p .40 a little over a year ago. I reside in Cali for a bit longer, thusly my shield conforms to Cali rules. I carry my .40 daily with 9 loaded. Here in this state, it ccw only as far as I know. I have changed nothing on this pistol, and it works quite well for me. I’m not an expert, nor a novice. I also carry an xd .40 Cali model. I carry the shield more due to less presentation. I carry the s&w in a leather lh iwb holster I purchased from the Holster store. Works quite well. Lastly, if the need should arise I will use my shield for home defense with home defense rounds. If ya gotta use more than 8 or 9 rounds in home, then you better give up! Just a personal observation. But, the m&p shield .40 is a nice pistol as is. And I do have the m&p in 9mm. Good shooters!

  2. GomeznSA June 19, 2019 at 6:04 pm #

    I got really fortunate and picked up a S&W Performance Center Shield a few years back – all of the ‘issues’ mentioned by the author were ‘solved’ by them so I didn’t have to do a thing to it. It already had the trigger job as well as ported barrel and slide. And upgraded sights (fiber optics front and back) – great for a daytime and low light carry but NOT for night time. I too have no desire to rush out and get the new and improved version.
    If anyone is looking to acquire a Shield, look around, there are probably early models available from those who did succumb to the desire for the latest and greatest.

    • Stephan Yoder June 19, 2019 at 8:59 pm #

      What are the chances for an M&P 9 EZ?

  3. barbsskeeter June 20, 2019 at 11:42 am #

    The only problem with the shield is it doesnt convert for lefties other wise great gun.

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