Beretta and Smith & Wesson are rolling out red dot-ready versions of their recently released concealed-carry pistols with the new APX A1 Carry and the M&P Shield Plus O.R. Both are already popular options for everyday carry, now ready-made for optics.
While there are smaller and lighter pistols on the market, most of those are chambered for .380 ACP. These are for people who want a compact and handy pistol that’s still chambered for 9mm Luger.
And while they’re both polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols like most of the guns that make up today’s carry market, they each take a different approach to their designs. While the M&P Shield Plus is part of the wave of micro-compact pistols, the APX A1 Carry, like the original Shield, is a fraction of an inch thinner and a couple of ounces lighter when loaded.
The tradeoff is absolute capacity. The M&P Shield Plus, with its staggered-stack magazine, holds a full 10+1 rounds of 9mm with a flush magazine. The APX A1 Carry by comparison is only 6+1. Even with extended magazines, there’s a gap with the Shield Plus holding 13+1 and the A1 Carry holding just 8+1.
Still, the slight advantage in thickness and weight, in particular loaded weight, makes a difference for people who need to pare down to the absolute minimum in order to dress around their handgun. The A1 Carry also has a slightly shorter barrel and more compact slide assembly compared to the Shield Plus.
The Shield Plus, with a 3.1-inch barrel, measures in at just over 6 inches long, while the A1 Carry measures only 5.6 inches long with a 3-inch barrel.
The extra length of the Shield’s slide doesn’t go to waste, however. While the Shield Plus Optics Ready can host an optic and iron sights, the A1 Carry rear sight is dovetailed into the optics blanking plate, which needs to be removed in order to install a red dot sight.
Another big difference between the two pistols is that the M&P Shield Plus is available with an optional manual thumb safety. Both come standard with passive trigger safeties in addition to internal safeties and both have reduced-snag frames without accessory rails.
The M&P Shield Plus Optics Ready comes standard with orange ring tritium night sights which makes it a little more expensive, with an MSRP of $595. The Beretta APX A1 Carry, with standard sights, is priced more competitively at $449, and is also available in black, flat dark earth, olive drab green and wolf grey.