Ultimate CCW 9mm? Smith & Wesson Ported Performance Center Shield—Full Review

Small enough for pocket carry and just barely more than an inch thick, the Shield is easily concealed. Shown equipped with Crimson Trace Laserguard Pro light/laser unit.

For more information, visit https://www.smith-wesson.com/firearms/performance-center-ported-mp-9-shield.

To purchase on GunsAmerica, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Shield%20Ported.

I’m sure that at one point in time, millions of years ago, there were extended arguments around the fire over that most effective weapon for personal defense. I imagine, in the flickering firelight, two fellows named Grog and Urg argue over the merits of a large rock over a sharpened stick. Today, in the modern age, the argument continues.

If one takes the position that the consumer is the best judge of the personal defense weapon, the laurels would go to Smith and Wesson’s Shield. At a recent S&W/Crimson Trace event, I had a chance to spend some range time with the Performance Center Ported Shield, the most recent variant in S&W’s line of Shield concealed carry pistols. During a pre-range time briefing, I learned the Shield enjoys a remarkable ten percent share of the concealed carry market. In a niche with hundreds of available high-quality choices, this is nothing short of amazing.

the Laserguard Pro clamps around the triggerguard area of the lower frame and has a rearward extension with an activation button.

SPECS

  • Chambering: 9mm
  • Barrel: 3.1 inches
  • OA Length: 6.1 inches
  • Weight: 18.2 ounces
  • Grips: Integral
  • Sights: Fiber optic green front and red rear
  • Action: Striker-fired
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 7+1 (8+1)
  • MSRP: $519.00 (Laserguard Pro: $279)

It’s easy to understand this level of popularity when you spend some time with the pistol. With a weight of 18 ounces and a slim and small profile, the Shield is easy to carry and conceal. In 9mm, magazine capacity is a respectable 7+1 with the small magazine and 8+1 with the extended one. The sights are good, the trigger is easy to master, and the Shield is easy to disassemble for maintenance. With quality ammunition it’s almost as reliable as a rock or sharp stick and much, much more effective.

While the standard Shield is an excellent choice for concealed carry, the new Performance Center ported version is a bit better. There were three major improvements in the upgrade. First, the standard three dot sights are upgraded the hi-vis front and rear sights. Two green dots on the rear sight line up with a single red dot on the front and the combination is both fast and easy to see in low light.

The front sight is fiber optic red. The porting allows less muzzle rise allowing for fast re-acquisition of the sights. Image courtesy Smith & Wesson.

Second, the trigger is improved over the standard version. While the standard trigger is more than adequate for a carry gun, the Performance Center trigger has a crisper feel and a more precise break. The third addition is a ported barrel and slide to keep the gun more manageable under recoil. These three features would add considerable cost if done as an aftermarket change, but the difference between the Performance Center version and the standard Shield is only $70.00. Any one of the three improvements would cost more than the difference in price.

With the advent of the striker fired pistol, the practicality of modern concealed carry pistols is remarkable. It’s now possible to have a compact and reliable defensive pistol for less than $500.00 and the current crop of choices far exceed anything available just a few years ago. As an instructor, I’ve trained a lot of shooters who’ve chosen the Shield and I can’t remember a single malfunction during those exercises. In short, the Shield is extraordinarily reliable.

Hands On

This Shield was tested in conjunction with the Crimson Trace Laserguard Pro light/laser combination. The Laserguard Pro mounts to the lower frame and triggerguard area of the Shield with a rearward extension that provides a front-mounted activation switch. Normal gripping of the gun activates the laser/light in four different chosen modes: light/laser, laser only, light only, and flashing light/laser. Changing modes is accomplished by pressing the activation switch and the selector switch for five seconds. There’s also a bottom-mounted switch to turn the unit off. All controls are accessible when the gun is properly held in a two-hand grip.

Laser controls can be managed and changed with the gun in a shooting grip. The mode change button is on the right side and the on/off switch is on the bottom.

The sights on the pistol are fiber optic, with the rear in red and the front in green.

 

The target reflects ten shots deliberate fire at ten yards and seven shots rapid fire at the head using only the laser.

For a small and light 9mm, the Performance Center Shield was remarkably easy to shoot fast. Recoil wasn’t appreciably heavier than a .380 of similar weight.

Having written a book on Concealed Carry, I’m a strong advocate of the use of lasers on defensive pistols because my research indicates that 70% of defensive situations occur in low light conditions. Properly set up, the laser isn’t the primary sighting system but rather a backup sighting system in the event of low light conditions. I set lasers up so the shooter can’t see the laser using a proper sight picture because it’s obscured by the front sight. Adjusted this way, the shooter can’t see the laser when using the sights. The point of impact is only slightly higher if low light conditions require use of the laser. This way, the shooter trains with the sights, but has the laser in the event of a low light defensive situation.

Having the laser set up this way also serves as a training aid because it allows me to see the trainee’s wobble area and tell if he or she is aligning the sights properly. I can also see if there’s a problem with recoil anticipation, because the laser will dip just as the trigger breaks.

While many striker fired pistols don’t offer a manual safety, Shields come both ways. The Performance Center Shield has the safety.

The Laserguard Pro’s laser is just above the light and very close to the bore axis. The light is bright enough for shooting within any reasonable defensive distance.

Adding a powerful light to the defensive gun adds another level of functionality. Creating a combined gun, light, and low light sighting system provides the concealed carry citizen with one unit that provides all that’s needed in a deadly force event whether at home or away from home and in any light condition.

Shooting the ported Shield was pleasant for a concealed carry 9mm. Muzzle rise was comparable to a larger and heavier gun and felt recoil was more of a push than a snap. At ten yards, standing in deliberate fire, I shot a ten-shot group that was a ragged hole. Shooting at competition speed at the head of the same target and using the laser, I managed to put three shots into the same hole and all within a reasonable group.

I tested the ported Shield with Winchester Silvertip 115 grain and 124 grain FMJ ammunition. In over 300 rounds of testing and clients trying it in training sessions, there were zero malfunctions, reflecting my past experience with the Shield platform guns. Shooting from a rest at ten yards, I was able to get five shot groups that often measured less than one inch with both loads. Accuracy is certainly acceptable for a concealed carry pistol and the light and laser combination would permit the same level of performance in darkness.

While there are almost as many opinions about what constitutes the best concealment pistol as there are concealed carry permit holders, the Performance Center Shield enhanced with a Laserguard Pro will do almost anything that’s required. It’s easy to shoot, accurate, allows for low light defensive situations and provides adequate power and capacity. In the hands of any competent shooter, it will certainly do the job.

For more information, visit https://www.smith-wesson.com/firearms/performance-center-ported-mp-9-shield.

To purchase on GunsAmerica, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Shield%20Ported.

Having the light as part of the gun allows the defensive citizen a free hand to manage the phone for the 911 call.

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • larry Abrams May 22, 2017, 7:29 am

    One on the way,, Reason.. #1 Better sights, #2 Better trigger. The ports. one on each side. the rest just for looks.. Night blindness, Nope, Probably get a little hot if you shoot from your side.. Lots of research on this little weapon, So if it works and shoots as well as Ive read for the last six months I will ditch my little Kimber that I love because why not carry a weapon that will do the same job for half the price. Just not as pretty..

  • Ron peregrim January 15, 2017, 7:05 pm

    I have the 9 mm ported version and the flash is no worse at night than the non-ported. If you don’t like the ported version then. Don’t buy it. Pretty simple. I’ve carried plenty of different makes of pistols in my 60 years. But this is the gun I carry and trust my life to. My Sig p229 is an excellent gun but the sheild is with me everyday.

  • Robert skinner January 7, 2017, 5:46 pm

    I OWN 135 HANDGUNS , I purchased the ported 9mm and I liked it so much that I purchased the 40 cal today

  • Mark H. January 2, 2017, 9:47 pm

    Surprised. Nobody caught the “GREEN” FRONT sight, NOT red. Unless I ‘just’ went color blind, the REAR are red. Specs are right..caption(s) are wrong. On the S&W ported Shield, totally NOT needed OR useful. Not much recoil w/the 9mm and blinding flash at night is just WRONG for a CCW. A marketing ploy and trying to add the ‘cool’ factor when none is needed, to a NICE SD firearm. I’ll keep mine plain thank you very much..

    • Daniel L March 28, 2017, 8:44 am

      But the shield has a 3.1 inch barrel anyway so your going to get a muzzle flash that is blinding regardless. At least the ports point outward at a V so the flash is directed that way. If having multiple exit paths could potentially help mitigate some of the perceived total flash. Isn’t that how flash hiders work on rifles? Whether the flash comes out the end of the barrel or top and end when you shoot a short barrel weapon you are going to get a blinding flash at night.

  • Bob Nohren January 2, 2017, 11:58 am

    One of the first things I look at is the width of the pistol. I didn’t see it in the “specs”.
    In a warm climate, wearing shorts to work, I stick my CCW in my pants pocket. The slimmer the better.

  • Deadmeat99 January 2, 2017, 11:53 am

    The very definition of gimmick gun. Porting a concealed carry pistol is more detrimental than useful, preventing shots close from the body (isn’t that what the silly laser is intended for?), and eliminating what remaining low light vision you had. The marketing nerds at Crimson Trace and S&W are doing more harm than good for their customers.

  • Franke2 January 2, 2017, 10:56 am

    Why not just go with a 380 and not have to deal with the muzzle flash and blast of this one? Seems like the down range ballistics would net out about the same without the above issues.
    Regarding the Crimson Trace unit, I have one with the light only and really like it but have the same issue as one of the other comments; that there is a big lacking of holsters for pistols with the many choices of weapon lights.
    Regarding lasers, not a fan for two reasons. 1st. if there is no time to aim a weapon, put your eyes on the point of impact you want and your hands will follow remarkably well. 2nd. The first thing you learn in a situation where your weapon is drawn and you are containing the other person(s) is to watch their hands. You can’t do that well when you are watching the bouncing red light. I don’t have one for these reasons.

  • Jason Bostick January 2, 2017, 10:11 am

    I’d have liked to some chrono numbers in this gun vs the non-ported version. I’ve seen too many videos of defensive ammo not working as advertised in shorter barreled pistols. Porting and slowing down the bullet even further can’t be good for hollow point expansion.

  • Jim Schmidt January 2, 2017, 9:56 am

    Jorge Amselle!

    Why are writing under this stage name? You afraid the Arfcom people will send on comments about your support for Hillary?

  • Tom Walker January 2, 2017, 9:11 am

    I have the Performance Center S&W Ported 9mm Shield with the Crimson Trace light/laser.

    What holster would you recommend?

  • Bill West January 2, 2017, 7:31 am

    A good review. While this is not my preference for CCW I read it to keep abreast of changes. Many appear to critical of the reveiw and the pistol particularly the porting.

  • Jay H. January 2, 2017, 6:45 am

    I think that if I had a nickel for every time some gun writer (or his publisher) declared some new thing to be the “ultimate this” or the “ultimate that”, I could have retired about 11 years ago. STOP DOING THAT! It makes me think you’re on the take.

    .. and I agree with the comment above questioning the need to port a 9mm defensive firearm. Porting the 9mm Shield (which is as well built and reliable as any small 9mm on the market) solves a problem that doesn’t exist. No need to open the top of the slide, which will allow dirt inside or port the barrel, which will dirty up the inside of the slide when the gun is fired. Hey S&W…why don’t you consider keeping the marketing geeks OUT of the shop?!?

  • Mark Anderson January 2, 2017, 4:13 am

    I have the Performance Center Shield in 9mm. I bought after one of my students let me try their’s out. It is spot on for accuracy and when shooting from retention I was not sprayed with particulants because the angle of the porting. The trigger breaks like glass and my night vision wasn’t affected using low flash ammunition. I put a LaserMax laser on the pistol but only use it for demo purposes as I find a laser distracting. My Walther PPS has been replaced as my EDC gun.

  • Mark Anderson January 2, 2017, 4:11 am

    I have the Performance Center Shield in 9mm. I bought after one of my students let me try their’s out. It is spot on for accuracy and when shooting from retention I was not sprayed with particulants because the angle of the porting. The trigger breaks like glass and my night vision wasn’t affected using low flash ammunition. I put a LaserMax laser on the pistol but only use it for demo purposes as I find a laser distracting. My Walther PPS has been replaced as my EDC gun.

  • SuperG December 30, 2016, 11:26 am

    Not your traditional GOA review. Usually it is a video with an obnoxious acid rock intro, then a guy who lives in the past and bring up his military service, while he mugs for the camera. I like this new format of just the facts. But why on earth do you need to port a 9mm? There isn’t that much kick to begin with, and if you think there is, go with a .380. Be sure to use low flash ammo if you get this, as regular ammo with destroy your night vision. And if you are more concerned about combat and not killing paper, put some XS sights on it too. Way quicker target acquisition.

  • Mark N. December 29, 2016, 2:13 am

    Why would anyone port a defensive firearm? A competition gun or a fun gun is one thing, but a ported barrel will make follow up shots impossible after nightfall due to flash blindness. Other than that, the S&W is a properly popular CCW handgun, but the porting is a mistake, IMHO, and really not necessary. Sure, my little 1 lb Kahr has a snap to it, but after a few hundred rounds it is no big deal, especially at bad breath ranges, to keep the muzzle on target.

  • Tom Horn December 28, 2016, 5:56 pm

    Whoa! Got excitied there for a moment by the link to this article, “Ultimate CCW 9mm? S&W.” Thought they were refering to the S&W Performance Center 986: https://www.smith-wesson.com/firearms/performance-center-model-986-25-barrel

    Nevermind. Just another attempt to improve the Shield.

    • Brian B. March 12, 2017, 8:00 pm

      It always amazes me as in the comments above…that 90% of those who comment on “porting” issues have never fired or even handled a ported weapon. The myths of night blinding, particles in your face, and other such nonsense are just that, myths from a bygone era. If you don’t like porting then don’t buy one. But getting hi-viz sights, a tuned trigger package, and porting for a mere $70 more than a standard shield? That is a great deal…and a mighty fine looking weapon!

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