Concealed Carry Perfection? Smith & Wesson’s Shield Plus Takes a Legend to the Next Level – Full Review

Smith & Wesson’s M&P Shield wasn’t the first handgun designed specifically for concealed carry, but it was close. Along with Springfield’s XD(S) and a few others, the Shield helped launch the concealed carry movement from a niche hobby into a mainstream phenomenon.

Smith & Wesson improved on the original design with the Shield 2.0, but the new Shield Plus is by far the biggest step forward.

Like the Sig Sauer P365, the Shield Plus features a hybrid single/double-stack magazine capable of holding 13+1 rounds. This adds five rounds to the original Shield’s carrying capacity without adding to the gun’s width.

I’m not the first gun writer to marvel at the black magic of the hybrid mag design, but that doesn’t make it any less incredible.

Every model of the Shield Plus comes with this additional mag capacity along with optional night sights and a thumb safety. The Performance Center model I tested for this review comes with a four-inch barrel, a Crimson Trace micro-optic, and a ported barrel and slide.

Is it concealed carry perfection? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s without question the culmination of the last 20+ years of development in the market, and you won’t be disappointed with the latest iteration of the now legendary Shield design.

Click here to see standard Shield Plus models.

Click here to see Performance Center Shield Plus models.

Specification of Performance Center M&P 9 SHIELD PLUS CRIMSON TRACE

  • Caliber 9mm Luger
  • Capacity 13+1
  • Optics Yes
  • Safety No Thumb Safety
  • Length 7
  • Front Sight Fiber Optic Green
  • Rear Sight Fiber Optic Red
  • Action Striker Fire
  • Grip Polymer
  • Barrel Material Stainless Steel with Armornite® Finish
  • Slide Material Stainless Steel with Armornite® Finish
  • Frame Material Polymer
  • Slide Finish Matte Black
  • Frame Finish Matte Black
  • Barrel Length 4″ (10.2 cm)
  • Weight 22.6 oz.
  • MSRP $869 (Performance Center) $553 (Base Model)

High-Cap Micro Guns

The Sig Sauer P365 made a huge splash in 2018 because it was the first subcompact carry gun to offer more than an 8-round capacity. Since then, the Springfield Hellcat, the Ruger Max-9, and the Smith & Wesson Shield Plus have followed suit. In case you’re wondering, here’s how each handgun’s magazine stack stacks up against the others:

  • Ruger Max-9: 12+1
  • Springfield Hellcat: 13+1
  • Sig Sauer P365X: 12+1
  • Smith & Wesson Shield Plus: 13+1
13 +1 rounds in a micro-carry gun. Pretty amazing.

Best Upgrades

The Shield M2.0 rolled out with a few nice features, but it wasn’t enough to convince me to upgrade from the original Shield I still carry. The Shield Plus is different. The basic model isn’t much more expensive than my trusty carry gun, but it features several serious upgrades that have me thinking about making the switch.

First and most obviously, the Shield Plus holds five more rounds than the original, adding over 60% to the gun’s carrying capacity. Magazine capacity has always been the biggest knock on micro-carry guns. They’re lighter and more comfortable to conceal, but they’ve historically held far fewer rounds than a compact M&P, for example.

The Plus features greater magazine capacity without changing external dimensions.

The new high-capacity micro guns have all but ended that criticism. Compact guns still hold one or two extra cartridges, but only full-sized handguns can significantly increase that capacity.

Whether five additional rounds will make much difference in a self-defense situation is the subject of another article. But as the old cowboy saying goes, it can’t hurt.

The trigger is the other serious improvement. On both the basic and Performance Center models, the Shield Plus is fitted with a flat-faced black polymer trigger with a metal safety fin. I can’t speak to the Shield M2.0 because I never owned one, but the original Shield came with a crummy, hinged trigger. I swapped mine out for an Apex flat-faced trigger as soon as I could, and I’m glad I did.

The trigger on the Shield Plus is excellent.

The trigger on the Shield Plus rivals the aftermarket Apex system. It features a crisp, consistent 5-pound break after 0.3 inches of take-up and an audible, tactile reset.

You might reasonably argue about the relative benefit of five extra rounds, but no one can argue that a nice trigger increases accuracy. Paired with a Crimson Trace optic, the trigger on the Shield Plus will help even the most inexperienced shooter put shots on target in short order.

Worst Upgrades

I’ll keep this short because the Shield Plus doesn’t have many weaknesses, but I think Smith & Wesson overdid it a bit on the grip texturing. I know folks criticized the original Shield for its slippery grip. I was one of them. I installed a set of Talon grips even before upgrading the trigger.

But the Shield Plus uses true skateboard tape. Especially rough grip texturing can be helpful if the gun or your hands are wet, but there’s a balance. Too little grip and the gun might slip; too much, and the texturing can be painful after a full day at the range.

Gloves can solve this problem, and hand rash is a non-factor in a self-defense situation. So, maybe it’s not a big deal. But I noticed the rough texturing, and it may rub a bit when it’s carried all day.

The Plus’s grip texturing feels like true skateboard tape.

Another thing I wanted to mention: Smith & Wesson, if you’re reading this, can you please design a Shield with a light rail? I know, there are companies that make handgun lights specifically for the Shield. But they wouldn’t have to do that if Shields came with a standard Picatinny rail like nearly every other handgun.

At the Range

None of this is to say the Shield Plus is unpleasant to shoot. Quite the contrary.

The Shield’s ergonomics have always been great, and the Plus’s contours are identical. I had no trouble transitioning from the old school Shield to the newer model when I took it to the range last week. As you can see, the dimensions between the two firearms are identical. The Performance Center model I tested is fitted with a longer barrel, but the grip and rear portion of the handgun is the same.

Shooting the Shield plus is a pleasure.

The excellent trigger adds to the Shield Plus’s shootability. A crisp, consistent trigger allows a shooter to fire off rounds without disturbing the sights, and this trigger is no different. Hitting shots from 10-25 yards wasn’t difficult at all, especially with the Crimson Trace micro-optic.

Speaking of the optic, it’s great. The Crimson Trace 1500 features a 5 MOA red dot, a low-profile design, and an auto-on function that automatically powers on the dot and adjusts the brightness. Automatic brightness adjustment could be a problem in low-light conditions with a flashlight, but when I tested this scenario, I didn’t have any trouble seeing the dot.

The slide is milled specifically for the Crimson Trace optic, which means you won’t be able to fit it with your favorite micro-red dot without an aftermarket plate. The good news is that if you like the CT optic, you don’t have to deal with sketchy mounting systems. The optic screws right into the slide for a super-secure fit.

The optic also features a trough, which allows it to co-witness with the high-visibility fiber optics sights.

The Performance Center Shield Plus can be had with a great Crimson Trace optic.

I’m sorry to say that none of these features are available on the standard Shield Plus models. Smith & Wesson does offer night sights with the basic models, but the optics-ready slide is only available on the Performance Center versions.

Back to the range.

If you haven’t yet taken the plunge and invested in a handgun optic, I’d encourage you to do so. The technology is now reliable enough that the U.S. military may soon be adopting it. I’m always amazed at how much better I shoot with a handgun optic. Finding the damn thing takes some getting used to, but once you overcome that hurdle, the visual feedback of the red dot helps you stay on target, transition between targets, and diagnose any flinching immediately.

I found the same to be true with the Shield Plus. The optic stayed securely mounted and allowed me to hit targets out of the box.

It also helps with pinpoint accuracy. I shot several different kinds of Hornady 9mm ammunition from a Ransom Multi Cal. Steady Rest, and I was pleased with the results.

At 10 yards, the Shield Plus posted consistent groups in the 0.65” range with both the Hornady American Gunner +P and Custom 124-grain loads.

The gun seemed to prefer these 124-grain +P loads from Hornady. (Velocity: 1171)

At 25 yards, the gun seemed to prefer the 124-grain American Gunner loads, posting a sub-2.5” and a sub-2” group. Group sizes expanded somewhat with the 115-grain and 147-grain pills, but it still threw up a 2.6” group with the 115-grain American Gunner rounds. For a concealed carry gun—heck, for most semi-auto handguns—this is great accuracy.

One last thing: the ported barrel and slide look cool, but I’m not convinced of their practical benefits. I get the concept. In theory, gasses escaping from the ports will reduce muzzle rise and allow for quicker follow-up shots. The Shield Plus is easy to shoot quickly, but I think that has more to do with the trigger and the aggressive grip texturing than anything else.

Ported barrels and slides also introduce the danger of injury when shooting from the hip. While not recommended for precision accuracy (contrary to old cowboy movies), shooting from retention is a valuable self-defense skill. With a ported barrel and slide, hot gasses pointed upward may injure the victim of an attack, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re going for in that scenario.

Ported barrels look cool, but I’m not convinced they’re a good upgrade on a carry gun.

The good news is that Smith & Wesson offers the Performance Center Shield Plus with and without the ported barrel. I’d leave it off your order, and it’ll save you $30.

Last Shots

Concealed carry firearms have come a long way in the last 20 years. Virtually every major manufacturer offers a carry gun (even Kimber, for goodness sake), and concealed carry practitioners are spoiled for options.

I don’t think there’s a better option than the Shield Plus. It holds as many rounds as any other high-capacity micro gun, and it’s well-built, reliable, and accurate. I had zero malfunctions when I took it to the range, and I could hit whatever I was aiming at.

We’ll likely see greater improvements in the next few years. In this market, gun companies have to keep improving to avoid becoming obsolete. But right now, you can’t do any better than the Smith & Wesson Shield Plus.

Click HERE to see standard Shield Plus models.

Click HERE to see Performance Center Shield Plus models.

***Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE!***

About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

{ 22 comments… add one }
  • John E Butler October 15, 2021, 7:37 pm

    Although it is almost at the very bottom on my list of priorities in a sidearm, you can’t get around the fact that those new Smiths are just butt ugly,
    When they were born, I would have slapped the engineer. Obviously a design by committee. Not a good sign.

  • Zupglick September 24, 2021, 4:08 pm

    Just a couple of months ago, you people were telling us that the Hellfire was the Perfect CCW.

  • KOldman September 21, 2021, 11:53 am

    “The Plus features greater magazine capacity without changing external dimensions.”

    …thats the caption where 2 out of 3 pics show a package with clearly larger dimensions.

    When Sig solidified the micro 9 10+1 as a package in the 365 they created a reference point of compromises that many consider optimal for CC. They shrank the wrapper around that particular barrel/mag cap combo about as tightly as possible. Longer barrels, extended mags, and optics take the micro out of it and almost always creep you up to the sub compact and compact zones, completely defeating the purpose of the “original”micro size concept. I do like upgrades that dont affect the micro size package (triggers, night sights, porting, textures etc) …but all the “upgrades” requiring size increase could just as easily be called downgrades, if micro size is the point. Theres no free lunch if you keep it apples-apples.

  • Rand September 21, 2021, 11:44 am

    I love my original Shield. However, taking a regular M&P with a 4 inch barrel and calling it a Shield (normally 3.1″) for marketing purposes is bit of a stretch for me.

  • Scott September 20, 2021, 9:21 pm

    Can this be compared to a P365 with the 10 round mag?? As the sub-compact designs are gradually increasing to familiar capacities it seems their size starts to look a bit more familiar as well….would anyone else care to see the latest “up-sized sub-compact” compared line by line to the latest “compact”? My Glock 48 was pretty small until I added the MOS, light, and plus 5 floorplate to the 15 round mag…..now it’s big. I am starting to feel like there is no free lunch here…..I would pay big money for all of that cool stuff in 9×19 mm handgun the size of small derringer.

    • KOldman September 21, 2021, 11:58 am

      Forgive my plagiarism in the comment above. completely agree with you.

  • Mark September 20, 2021, 2:51 pm

    A bunch of haters of progress in this thread. A few centuries ago y’all would have been complaining that rifling was a newfangled gimmick. “ If you can’t hit what you’re aiming at with a musket, you need more practice! A couple spirals cut into the barrel ain’t gonna help!!!! ”

  • Shanz September 20, 2021, 2:27 pm

    Love the shield. Very easy pistol to carry all day. Great performance too.

  • paul D. September 20, 2021, 1:52 pm

    The wife just picked up 1 of these cuz she didn’t like the 2.0 4″ Compact & that hallacious hinged trigger. My 2.0 got an immediate ‘facelift’ w/ an Apex FFT, what a difference! Anyway, the NEW Shield + is a great EDC for her. When she’s not takin it out, I most certainly am. Easy to conceal, less weight & bulk than the 2.0 Compact for sure. Now it just needs trijicon sights & she will be ‘purrrrfect’! Thanks S&W!

  • kenneth ELLSWORTH September 20, 2021, 12:56 pm

    First compact 9s now another new 12+ compact 9.. Competition is good for the consumer..so what’s next? Maybe a new cartridge that’s smaller yet affective to reduce weight… It happened in the revolver world ,the 327 magnum is a fine carry piece..

  • 'Punkinball" Johnny September 20, 2021, 10:13 am

    Way to much is made of ‘Round Capacity’. Along the way the ‘spray and pray’ mentality has deeply taken root and unfortunately gun makers in general accommodate this skewed mindset. In the concealed carry environment training dictates ending a threat immediately with minimal rounds expended. Hosing down innocent bystanders with lots of capacity and even a possible reload along the way will have a very poor result. Self defense requirements are a universe away from what is needed in a military combat scenario . The recent events of the past few years having caused unprecedented gun purchases with a lot of untrained shooters who can not and will not become proficient due to ammo shortages makes me cringe and a bit leery about frequenting venues with more than a few patrons….

    • Mark September 20, 2021, 2:45 pm

      You can just load fewer bullets in your magazine so you don’t succumb to the dangerous mentality of people with sense. I would prefer to have them and not need them as opposed to the alternative. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t carry a gun at all since you don’t trust yourself not to spray bullets into innocent civilians. Or is it only everyone else who shouldn’t have standard magazines, you excluded of course.

    • Aquaman September 20, 2021, 6:47 pm

      Military?
      Since when military knows anything about handguns ?
      I was 9 years in the military and I didn’t use a pistol at all!
      Military uses a rifle and again lots of rounds there, why don’t apply the same concept ?
      More rounds won’t replace training, training with more rounds will save your life, CQB you won’t have a chance to reload trust me, I’m from South America and thugs in America are learning from other countries I see America like Brazil (some areas) in 10/15 years
      More rounds, better sights and more training. The laws are against you already

    • Tim September 21, 2021, 4:20 pm

      I was in the military for a long time then I worked in law enforcement and later on the borders. I carried a 1911 for years. Started in law enforcement with a revolver and 18 rounds of ammo on my belt. Years later I got myself a sig P220 in 45Acp and carried 5 mags, one in the gun and 4 on the belt. After I retired I still carried a Smith mod 19 with 2-1/2 bbl and a 1911. The recent events with riots, looting, gang style assaults on restaurant patrons and innocent people just trying to walk or drive down the street has shown me that there is merit to carrying a weapon with increased capacity.

  • survivor50 September 20, 2021, 8:54 am

    At 7″ long… and 22.6 ounces… it isn’t exactly a POCKET PISTOL.

    I guess I could get a IWB appendix rig and have Mr. Johnson move out of the neighborhood… and keep it CONCEALED …

  • Griffendad September 20, 2021, 8:44 am

    I put a Crimson Trace light on this version (without the porting) and it’s the bedside piece. Down the hallway or through the house? It’s great.
    Got the PC 3.1 inch for carry as well. Never looking back. They’re great and shoot very soft for their size. Zero malfunctions.

  • Joe E Johnson September 20, 2021, 8:34 am

    Can you use the larger capacity magazine in the original Shield?

  • Jeremy Reed September 20, 2021, 8:32 am

    Another Tupperware gun without night sights that holds 3/4 of a box of ammo. My guess is you need 14 rounds when your iron sights don’t glow at night. Sad to see Smith and Wesson producing daily carry guns of this quality and without must have not being standard factory options. Save up your money and buy a 1911 Sig.

    • Aquaman September 20, 2021, 6:40 pm

      I’m from South America, also own 1911 (25 of them), my first one was given to me when I got into the military academy to became an officer.
      1911 in the crimes that we facing these days will be totally obsolete!
      Piranha style attacks 4/6 thugs in motorcycle or cars, breaking homes in the middle of the night. I would love to see you with 8 rounds against those numbers,
      Forget about tactical or rapid reload (you in underwear don’t have extra magazines or a holster)
      Hot weather you’ll have to dress in a certain way to hide your weapon,
      To big and heavy, thugs know that in fact 2/3 of police officers in Brazil are killed of duty , and is the country with most police officers killed per year.
      The reality is that high capacity pistols and better sight like reflex in this case are a lot better options unless you are Michulek and then doesn’t matter the gun or the caliber (again he’ll do better with more rounds as well)

    • Aquaman September 20, 2021, 10:36 pm

      I’m from North America small town called New York. And no I did not get my 1911 when I became an officer. I never said you couldn’t carry your Tupperware gun with 14 rounds with a crappy trigger and sights you can’t see in the night or a rail. Contrary to your belief I would rather carry a 10 mm eight round 1911 as my daily concealed carry and feel very comfortable with it on the streets. No that’s probably not going to be the firearm I would protect my family in my own personal house with if an intruder was to break in. I do own a pistol that I think you should consider for your concealed carry it’s an AR platform with a 6 1/2 inch barrel and holds 32 rounds but if you choose to think you need more rounds there are higher capacity magazines available.

  • MeSeaHunt September 20, 2021, 7:50 am

    There IS a better option, it’s named “MAKO”…..

  • Meeester Paul September 20, 2021, 7:30 am

    please add a 40SW Plus

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