February 24, 2022
Let’s see a show of hands: How many people know—without Googling it—that the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield turns 10 years old next year? Time sure does fly, and this popular S&W design has undergone several modifications and iterations over that decade. Now we have what may be possibly the best one of all: the M&P Shield Plus.
The “plus” part refers to an increase in capacity, from 7+1 and 8+1 rounds to 10+1 and a whopping 13+1 rounds. Engineers accomplished this with a new narrow-neck, double-stack magazine while gaining only 0.15 inch in frame width compared to the other 9mm Shields.
Height is 4.84 inches with the M&P Shield Plus’s 13-round magazine in place and 4.4 inches with the 10-rounder in place. For most people that means you’ll be able to get a full firing grip on the pistol with the big mag in it and sacrifice only a tiny bit of concealability. But in situations where concealment is of prime importance, you’ve still got 10+1 rounds on tap with the flush-fit mag. Magazines have numbered witness holes and orange followers.
The M&P Shield Plus also brings a new grip texture to the game. I own an M&P9 2.0 Compact, and one of the changes it has over the original M&P is the grip texture. It’s aggressive, and you might even say overly so. This texture has never bothered me because the Compact is my primary home defense pistol, and I don’t carry it very often.
The Shield 2.0, which made its debut in 2017, has this same texture, and apparently the company was hearing feedback that it was a bit too much for regular carry. The M&P Shield Plus—which is not part of the 2.0 family—has a slightly toned-down texture. It’s less aggressive than the 2.0s and therefore won’t chew up clothing or abrade skin. At the same time it seems grippier than a Shield .380 EZ sample I was able to compare it to.
One thing you won’t find on the frame is an accessory rail. The only Shield that has a rail is the .380 EZ. But if you want to add an accessory, fear not: Crimson Trace and other companies offer lasers and light/laser combos that attach around the trigger guard.
The M&P Shield Plus also sports a new trigger, one that gets on board with the trend toward flat-face triggers. The idea here is the flat face allows you to move the trigger to the rear in a straighter path than you can with the traditional curved style. It’s not a gimmick; at least for me, it really helps produce a better, more consistent trigger pull, which is so important to accurate handgun shooting.
The slide and 3.1-inch barrel are both Armornite-finished stainless steel. The slide has the 2.0 scale-type serrations front and rear, although to nitpick I always thought the 2.0 front serrations don’t cover enough real estate. But they do help a little for those of us who press-check from the front of the slide.
The rear serrations are terrific. They don’t look all that aggressive, but your hand or fingers will find they offer a lot of purchase regardless of how you manipulate a slide.
Sights are steel three-dot, set in dovetails. If plain white three-dot sights don’t do it for you, there’s also a Performance Center version of the M&P Shield Plus, and it comes with fiber optics. And while the standard Shield Plus has a plain slide, the Performance Center model’s slide is cut for red dots.
While I don’t care for manual safeties on a concealed-carry gun, I know a lot of people do, so I ordered the version with the thumb safety. It’s a great design—unobtrusive enough that it will never snag on clothing during a draw, and at the same time it’s prominent enough you won’t have problems deactivating it with your thumb.
Smith & Wesson uses the same basic design on all of its M&P-series magazine releases, and this serrated teardrop is found on the M&P Shield Plus as well. It’s just the right size for quick, sure activation without any risk of an accidental mag drop.
M&P-series guns have a unique takedown feature. Remove the magazine, lock back the slide and ensure the gun is unloaded. Look down through the ejection port, and just below the ejector you’ll see a small lever flush with the back of the fire-control system. This is the sear deactivation lever.
Take a small screwdriver or similar tool and push the lever down so it sticks out. Rotate the takedown lever on the left side of the frame clockwise, and while controlling the slide with your hand, press down on the slide stop and guide the slide forward and off the gun. The sear deactivation lever is what allows you to remove the slide without pulling the trigger. Reassemble in reverse order.
One feature Smith & Wesson touts on its M&P pistols—and rightly so—is the 18-degree grip angle. While it’s a matter of personal preference, most shooters find this angle to result in a pistol that points naturally, as any 1911 fan can attest. I’ve shot a lot of M&Ps over the years, and this angle suits me to a T—and it was especially so with the M&P Shield Plus.
We used this pistol quite a bit on the set of “Handguns & Defensive Weapons,” and I had the chance to shoot it a lot there and at my home range. You can see the bench accuracy results in the accompanying chart. I thought it was impressive, especially since I’m not a great handgun bench shooter. But where it really strutted its stuff was in drills.
I ran several, including the 2-2-4-2-2 drill described elsewhere in this issue. What I learned is how fast and accurate you can really shoot this pistol at defensive distances. I used Safariland’s 5198 holster, which has a top cut that allows the muzzle to clear the holster quickly, and the Shield Plus’s grip proved easy to grab hold of and achieve proper hand position right away.
The pistol gets on target quickly, and the white sight dots are fast to align. The grip texture is Goldilocks-right, and the pistol stayed put in my hand in both one-handed and two-handed shooting.
The trigger is excellent. Like I said, the flat-face trigger design allows for a straighter pull, and the reset is nice and short. Between accuracy testing, the drills I did at home and the use it saw during filming, the pistol never malfunctioned.
My everyday carry gun is a SIG P365, the pioneer in the micro-compact, high-capacity pistol category, so I think a comparison between the two is valid. I shoot the P365 better than I do any pistol I own, including full-size guns, and I have to say the Shield Plus rivals it. For one thing, I like the Smith’s trigger better, both because of the flat face and the pull itself, which is much crisper than the SIG’s.
Being slightly larger overall, especially in the grip, the Shield Plus is easier to maintain a grip on when both pistols are outfitted with their largest capacity magazines. (Worthy of note, the SIG’s 12-round mag is an add-on extra, while the Smith’s 13-rounder comes with the gun.) With the standard 10-rounders, grip is about the same for me—two fingers plus a tiny bit of real estate for my pinky to hang onto.
At 20.2 ounces, the Shield Plus is 2.4 ounces heavier than the P365 and therefore a bit less snappy with stout loads. Weight cuts both ways, of course. Heavier is nice for shooting but not as nice for carry, but it’s not as if a 20.2-ounce gun is going to be a pain to wear all day.
Same goes for size. The SIG tapes out at 5.8 inches long overall and 4.3 inches high; the Shield Plus is 6.1 inches long and 4.6 inches high. Width is a wash. So while the Smith is slightly larger, it’s still a really small pistol, and with dimensions like that you’re not going to have problems keeping it hidden. It’s an easy gun to dress around.
I like the SIG’s X-Ray 3 day/night sights better than the Smith’s plain white three-dot setup, and when you look at the suggested retail prices of both pistols, the SIG is a better deal in this regard. You’re paying about $50 more for the SIG pistol, and upgrading the Smith’s sights to day/night or night sights would cost you more than that. Not a lot, but more.
Today there are a lot more options in this size/capacity category than just these two. In fact, we ran a comparison chart in the previous issue in conjunction with an article on the Taurus GX4.
I goofed on the M&P Shield Plus price in that chart, using the Performance Center price instead of the standard model by mistake, but had I not screwed that up, you would’ve seen that the Shield Plus falls in the middle of the micro-compact price range. (I redid the chart data, and you can see it in “Front Focus” on page 4 of this issue.)
Whether you’re budget-minded or not, I think the M&P Shield Plus has a lot to commend it. It’s a great-shooting, 100-percent reliable gun with all the capacity you could want, in a package that’s easy to conceal and comfortable to carry. If I didn’t already own a P365, I would buy this Shield Plus test sample in a heartbeat, make it my everyday carry gun and never look back.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus Specifications
- Type: striker-fired semiauto centerfire CALIBER: 9mm
- Capacity: 10+1, 13+1
- Barrel: 3.1 in. Armornite-finished stainless
- OAL/Height/Width: 6.1/4.6/0.94 in. WEIGHT: 20. oz.
- Construction: Armornite-finished stainless steel slide, polymer frame
- Trigger: flat-faced; 4 lb., 10 oz. pull (measured)
- Sights: steel three-dot
- Price: $553
- Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson, smith-wesson.com