Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus 9mm, by Pat Cascio

Smith & Wesson has come out with yet another version of their popular Shield 9mm handgun. My first impression, when I read the press release, was a lack of enthusiasm. I thought to myself: “Just another variation.” So, I wasn’t all that fast to jump on this handgun, as I’ve already owned the original, the improved 2.0 version, and the Custom Shop version. Hands down, the S&W Custom Shop version was the absolute best out of the three models. Somehow, at some point, it got away from me. Then again, I’m a habitual gun trader because I don’t have the funds to purchase all the guns I’d like to have. So, when I read about the new and improved “Plus” model, So I thought about it – for a good long time, before getting one. But I now regret the wait!

The new “Plus” version looks very much like the original versions, that is, until you pick it up, and one of the first things you’ll notice is that the stippling on the grip is more aggressive – and I like it a lot. On the original versions, I added some grip tape for a better purchase on the gun. It made a huge difference in the way the gun felt. The “Plus” version is a 10+1 or 13+1 magazine version. Yep, you read that right, this one comes with two magazines, and one holds 10+1 rounds and the second magazine is extended just a little bit, to hold 13+1 rounds. The grip is only slightly larger than that on the original versions. I’m not sure how S&W pulled this off, but it sure works for me. And that extended portion feels a whole lot better in the hands, with the slightly larger circumference.

I believe that S&W sold well over a million of the original 9mm Shield handguns in their first year – that says a lot, and you rarely find any on the used gun market – buyers love them – and they are an outstanding concealed carry piece, to be sure. However, why not carry a handgun that holds more rounds and feels better, than the original versions?

Let’s look at some of the specs on the “Plus” version. First thing I find as an improvement is the flat-faced trigger, after the more aggressive stippling. I’ve come to really appreciate flat-faced triggers on many firearms these days, makes for a more consistent finger placement, and helps with accuracy. The original trigger pulls on the were very gritty and when you released the trigger after firing a shot, you really couldn’t tell if the trigger reset. Well, on this new version, there is a tactile and audible reset. We also have the perfect 18-degree grip angle, and this allows the gun to point naturally when you bring it up to fire. The finish on the slide is Armornite, and it is extremely durable and rust-resistant – something important in a concealed carry handgun.

The slide has the combat-style white three-dot set-up, a single white dot in the front sight and two white dots in the rear sight – very fast to pick up. Plus, you can get other sight variations from S&W as well. I might retrofit a tritium night sight, at some point.

The version of the gun that I have came with a smallish manual safety – I could do without it – but I don’t have to apply it – it really isn’t necessary on a striker-fired handgun with an in-trigger safety, if you ask me. So, I just refrain from using it. The barrel and slide are manufactured out of stainless steel, however both are coated with Armornite coating. The frame is black polymer. The barrel is 3.1-inches long – same as the original version, and the gun weighs in at 20.2-ounces.

I found both the 10-round and 13-round magazines much easier to load than the original M&P mags – nice! Speaking of magazines, I’ve had my “Plus” version for a month now, and no one seems to have any spare magazines for it – this isn’t a good sign. I went through this with another newly-released handgun model, and it took 3.5-months before I got any spare magazines – not good.

Carry and Range Test Results

I’ve only carried this handgun a few times, I have the 13-round magazine in the gun, with one round in the chamber, and the spare 10-round magazine on my opposite side – both loaded with Black Hills Ammunition  100-grain +P ammo – my preferred self-defense load. When I can find some spare mags, I will purchase several of the 13-round magazines and use one of those as my spare mag. I don’t see myself stuffing the gun with the 10-round magazines. However, S&W is ahead of the curve on this. Many states will only allow you to have 10-round magazines, so this gun will ship with two of the 10-round magazines, instead of one 10-round and one 13-round.

I packed the Shield 9mm Plus in an open-top pancake-style black holster, on my right hip – the gun rode tight and high and tight to my side – excellent choice for all-day carry. When I was younger – much younger – I had all my handguns in a holster with a safety (“suicide”) strap when working plain clothes. However, effecting an arrest one day, that ended up with both me and the perpetrator wrestling on the ground. That made me happy I was using a holster with the safety strap. These days, I’m no longer in law enforcement of any type, so I carry my concealed handgun in an open-top holster. Let me say this: I have personally witnessed an officer carrying a handgun in an open-top holster, or no holster at all, and when the arrest went south, and fighting ensued on the ground, I’ve seen the handgun fall out of the holster and go tumbling to the ground – not a good thing.

Let’s get to shooting this new S&W. First of all, the much-improved trigger is simply outstanding. There is no gritty pull at all – unless you are dry-firing it. The trigger is one of the best – maybe not “the” best on a striker-fired handguns, but one of the best. There is a little bit of take-up, and then a very crisp pull and the gun goes bang – every single time. I’m impressed with this trigger pull! And, as mentioned, the reset is short, tactile and you can hear it reset – even with hearing protection on your ears. BTW, the trigger isn’t hinged like it is on the original version – instead, it has the safety lever right in the center of the trigger – and you have to have the proper purchase on it in order to pull it to the rear and fire the gun.

America’s Ammo Woes

We are still in the worst ammo drought in history, and I don’t see an end coming to this drought any time soon. I predict it will be years and years before we start seeing ammo in quantities – or maybe it will last for our lifetimes. Just consider the proposed anti-gun bills being proposed all over the country – and our idiotic lawmakers proposing limits on how much ammo we can purchase or for that matter, how much we can own. I only had Black Hills Ammunition on-hand for my testing, however, I had a decent selection of 9mm to run through this new handgun, including, the Black Hills 115-gr JHP +P, 124-gr. JHP +P, 115-gr FMJ, 115-gr Barnes Tac-XP +P and my favorite 110-gr HoneyBadger +P all copper fluted bullet. Now, while I said I had a good selection of ammo to test in this new pistol, that’s not to say, I had a lot of ammo – just a good selection. In all my shooting, I burned through just a little over 100 rounds of ammo – and it killed me to blast that ammo away.

I placed the target out to 15-yards for my accuracy testing – and that’s a fair distance for such a small 9mm pistol…and I didn’t measure for groups, I simply measured to see if my groups would hit a human-sized head – they did – every single round – some grouped a little better than others. I rested the gun on a big rock, with a padded rest on it.

Without actually measuring the groups, I’d have to say that, the 100-gr HoneyBadger +P load gave me the best accuracy – and even though it is a hot round, there wasn’t any more felt recoil than the standard velocity loads. The 124-gr JHP +P was probably the hottest round. With that, I could feel more recoil, without a doubt.

I had zero malfunctions, nor did I expect any. And, I know I could shrink the groups with more time on the range…but I don’t want to waste any ammo if possible. I’d feel well-armed with the Shield Plus 9mm, with the 13+1 round magazine in the gun and the 10+1 round as my spare. It’s a lot of ammo in a little gun, to be sure.

What’s not to like? Well, the only thing is the lack of spare magazines for it – and I’m on a list to be notified at several online magazine dealers.

It’s hard to tag a price right now on this gun, I paid $499 – but once the gun is out for a little longer, prices will come down, and different versions will be available, too. It’s a winner for Smith & Wesson!