S&W M&P Shield 9 Review: CCW Standard or Outdated Carry?

by Justin Fields

July 31, 2020

1 comments

4.4
(18)

Despite a new crop of super compact pistols holding almost twice as many rounds, Smith & Wesson’s M&P Shield remains an outstanding concealed carry handgun.  Check out our review of the 2.0 model.

S&W M&P Shield Specs

  • Caliber 9 mm
  • Sights White 2-Dot (Rear), White Dot (Front)
  • Action Striker-fired
  • Length (Overall) 6.1″
  • Length (Barrel) 3.1″
  • Weight 20.8 oz
  • Safety Thumb safety
  • Capacity 7+1, 8+1

S&W M&P Shield 9 Background

The M&P Shield is a polymer-framed, sub-compact, striker-fired, 9mm pistol.  And thanks to an innovative, semi-staggered magazine, the Shield holds held an additional round or two over competing offerings.

For years it has reigned as one of the most popular pistols on the market.  Not immune to the forces that effect everyone else, I, too fell for the M&P Shield.

I purchased one of these guns and spent some time carrying it as my primary.

The M&P Shield 9 is the carry gun that I have spent the least amount of time carrying, but through no fault of the Shield.  It just happened to be a transitional gun for me, bridging the gap between a double-action revolver and my back-to-roots 1911.

Even though I don’t carry it I still retain my Shield and still consider it my first backup carry gun.

My Shield, and the subject of this review, is the 2.0 version.

The 2.0 version was introduced in 2017 and slightly refreshed the older Shield.  The changes are honestly pretty modest, the most notable of which is an improved trigger.

The newer Shield also has a bit more stippling, and some texture at the muzzle-end of the slide that seems to be purely cosmetic.

There are some good reasons that the Shield has enjoyed such enormous popularity. Let’s look at them.

S&W M&P Shield 9 Features

1 Striker-Fired Trigger

Smooth, crisp trigger pull with short reset.

2 Magazine options

7-round flush-fit or 8-round extended magazines

3 Great fit for CCW

Very slim profile.

4 Quality Pistol Grip

Aggressively textured grip for optimum control.

S&W M&P Shield 9 – Our Take

The S&W M&P Shield 9 has got a lot of different things going for it.  From its reliability to its accuracy or value, this pistol makes for a solid option for anyone looking for a CCW pistol.  And here’s why:

Reliability

Reliability is the most important factor a defensive firearm can possess.  The M&P Shield 9 is well-renowned for being reliable, so it should come as no surprise that I’m going to call it reliable.  Before I began carrying my Shield I ensured it was reliable.  I have fired over 1,200 rounds through mine with zero malfunctions.

One-hundred and fifty of those rounds have been Federal’s 124-grain +P HST hollow-point – a potent carry load. All other rounds have been FMJ ammo, but regardless that’s a pretty admirable track record. I have quite literally (and in recent months) owned Glocks that didn’t make it half that far without a malfunction.

Accuracy

Accuracy is extremely important to me in a concealed carry handgun.  Nearly any handgun has the potential for acceptable accuracy, but not all handguns render that accuracy practical. The M&P Shield is the exception – it is capable of outstanding accuracy.

I love little guns that shoot like big guns, and the Shield is certainly one of those.  I can fairly easily keep a full magazine on an 8” circle at 25 yards with the Shield.  The Shield’s trigger – at least the 2.0 variant’s trigger – is far, far superior to the larger M&P pistols. After some initial take up you find the wall, and with very little perceptible movement it breaks.  Even after dry practicing daily for almost two years with a custom 1911 I still really appreciate the Shield’s trigger.  If only S&W could duplicate it on the other M&P pistols.

The Shield’s sights are good, too.  They are full-size, dovetailed, steel, three-dot sights.  I don’t have any strong feelings one way or another about the three-dots, but the sights themselves are rugged and of an appropriate size, and crisp.  I have purchased a set of Heinie Straight-8s but have yet to install them.  I guess I’ve been a bit lazy because the factory irons are actually pretty good.

Ergonomics

The Shield’s ergonomics are good but not great. The pistol fits my small hand really, really well. I don’t even need the magazine extension to get all four fingers on the pistol, though I realize I might be an outlier. If the grip is too short, the user has the option of using the 8-round magazine, but at the cost of some concealability.

The stippling on the grip is aggressive and provides a really good grip.  This is a small, lightweight pistol firing 9mm, and being able to hold onto it is important.  I don’t find recoil uncomfortable but it is snappy and sharp. Because of this it may not be the ideal choice for brand new or recoil-shy shooters.

The wavy serrations on the rear of the slide are nice, and are functional for racking the slide.  The “serrations” on the lower quarter of the forward slide are pretty much pointless.  The Shield is also a righty’s gun – the magazine release, while well-designed, is not reversible.  There is also no ambidextrous slide release, or any other appeals to lefties, something that S&W probably should have thought about, considering its recent vintage.

And speaking of the slide “release” …its functionally only a slide “stop.”  With the slide locked to the rear the lever is extremely difficult to actuate.  It would be difficult to overstate the difficulty of releasing my Shield’s slide with the slide stop/release lever.

The 8-Round Magazine Issue

There is one other minor problem with the Shield, and it lies in the 8-round, extended magazine. The longer mags have a sleeve that fits over the body and butts against the baseplate.  It shouldn’t be removed because doing so would allow the mag to be inserted too far into the gun.  Over-inserting the magazine risks bending the ejector.

The problem with the sleeve is that it tends to slide up the magazine.  This is especially true when the magazine is carried upside down, as most magazines are, and as most magazine pouches are designed.  Just slightly out of place the sleeve can prevent the magazine from being inserted – a potentially dangerous situation for the user.

Fortunately there is a fix: the MagFix from Safety Solutions Academy.  This is a replacement sleeve that interlocks with a replacement base pad.  At $35 it’s a bit costly, but I think it is an absolutely imperative upgrade if you intend to carry your Shield – and an extended, 8-round magazine – defensively.

Closing Thoughts

I really, really like the M&P Shield. Mostly I have been pretty tepid on the compact and full-sized M&P handguns but the Shield is an outstanding pistol.  I’ve carried it, and I’d carry it again.  It is extremely compact, extremely reliable, and extremely accurate.  While 7+1 or 8+1 rounds is not quite up to “modern” standards, it’s also nothing to sneeze at.  I haven’t had the opportunity to mess with the Hellcat or the P365, but aside from capacity I’m hard pressed to see how they’d best the venerable Shield.

S&W M&P Shield 9 Pros and Cons

  • Extremely reliable
  • Accurate
  • Very concealable
  • Limited capacity for size
  • Snappy recoil

Report Card

Reliability

I have yet to see a malfunction.

A+
Accuracy

Short, crisp trigger and sharp, metal sights is a winning combination.

A+
Shootability

Good grip and trigger, but a bit snappy in the hand.

A-
Ergonomics

Though snappy and non-ambi, this gun is a very nice shooter in the “subcompact” category.

B
Value

You’ll pay about full price for a great gun…but you can often find it below MSRP

A

Our Grade

A

Reviewed by Justin Fields

Reader’s Grade

TBD

Based on 0 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

M&P Shield 9 Starter Pack

You really can’t go wrong if you’re picking up a new M&P Shield 9–unless you forget to get the bare essentials.  Don’t be that guy and be prepared for your new CCW. 

There are a bunch of great deals and accessories for the S&W M&P Shield 9, and we’ve highlighted a few below that we think are great!

S&W M&P Shield 9 Gun Deals

There’s nothing like picking a new gun at a great deal.  And you’ll definitely find some listed for the M&P Shield 9. You just gotta be quick when snagging these.  They are a popular choice–for obvious reasons–and sell quick.

Disclaimer: These prices are what’s available as of writing this article. Prices and availability may change.

Upgrades and Accessories for the M&P Shield 9

Just because the S&W M&P Shield 9 is a pretty great CCW, that doesn’t mean it can’t get better. Here are three absolute must-haves (or at least things to consider) to ensure that you get the most out of your new Shield 9.

Best Accessories for the S&W M&P Shield 9

Upgrades and AccessoriesDetailsCheck Price
Concealment Express IWB Kydex Holster
  • Adjustable Posi-Click Retention and Cant
  • CLAW compatible
  • Made in USA
Check Price
TRUGLO TFX Pro Tritium and Fiber Optic Extreme Sights
  • Glows bright both night and day
  • Front sight different color for better aim
  • TFX sealed capsule for enhanced durability
Check Price
Shield Magfix Combo
  • Provides more secure grip
  • Very durable
  • Slightly extends magazine
Check Price

Best Ammo for Your M&P Shield 9

You’re going to need ammo if you actually intend to shoot your gun.  And let’s face it, if you aren’t actually going to fire the thing…There’s no point in you even getting one.  But here’s the thing. Burning through your “working” or self-defense ammo gets expensive. 

Sure, you’ll want to fire some through your gun to get the feel of the ammunition. But when you’re slinging metal downrange, you’ll definitely want to pick up something much more affordable.

Range Rounds

MagTech 9mm 115 GR FMJ Ammo

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Natchez Shooter’s Supply $0.24
Brownells $0.23
Palmetto State Armory $0.34

Working Ammunition

Barnes 9mm 115 GR Ammo

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Palmetto State Armory $0.92
Natchez Shooter’s Supply $1.15

Other CCW Pistols of Its Class to Check Out

I mentioned above that I hadn’t had the opportunity to get my hands on the P365 or Hellcat, but that doesn’t mean Gun University hasn’t fully vetted them. As a matter of fact, our very own Ryan Cleckner has the P365 as his personal carry gun.  And as for the Hellcat, it scored extremely well around here as well. 

#1 S&W M&P Shield 9

Check Latest Price

  • Reliability A+
  • Accuracy A+
  • Shootability A-
  • Ergonomics B
  • Value A

Our Grade

A

Reviewed by Justin Fields

Reader’s Grade

TBD

Based on 0 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

This is easily one of the most popular CCW pistols on the market today and for good reason.  The Sig P365 is one of those guns where it’s much easier to list what the manufacturer did right as this gun has very little flaw.  It’s a favorite around Gun University because of its ability to…READ MORE

#2 Springfield Hellcat – 9MM

HELLCAT-REVIEW

Check Latest Price

  • Reliability A+
  • Accuracy A
  • Ergonomics A
  • Shooting Experience B
  • Value A-

Our Grade

A-

Reviewed by Justin Fields

Reader’s Grade

TBD

Based on 0 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

When Springfield came out with the Hellcat, we were super stoked to get our hands on it.  And when we did, let’s just say…it didn’t disappoint.  If you were ever unsure in Springfield’s ability to produce top-tier guns, go grab a Hellcat.  You’ll be thanking us later…READ MORE 

How to Care for Your S&W M&P Shield 9

Ensuring that you can properly take down, clean, and reassemble your firearm is all part of being a responsible gun owner.  And taking down the M&P Shield is not as straightforward as you would think.  Fortunately, Garand Thumb released one of the absolute best and simple to follow videos on how to disassemble the pistol.  Yes, the video is a bit older but the principles are still exactly the same.

Important Links and Manuals for Your S&W M&P Shield 9

Need more info on the M&P Shield 9?  Check out the manufacturer’s site, User’s Manual, and these other links to increase your knowledge base.

Rate

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 4.4 / 5. Vote count: 18

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

About Justin Fields

Justin is a former MARSOC Marine, former government contractor, former special operations instructor, current student of paramedicine, author of digital security books, and blogger at SwiftSilentDeadly.com. Justin prides himself on being a generalist with a heavy emphasis in firearms and their employment.

Recent Posts

1 COMMENTS

  1. I am more than happy with my S&W M&P Shield 9. I am a Vietnam Era Marine, 2 yrs Infantry 0311 2 yrs MP 5811. I had to use my weapon as an MP, and that is all I will say about that.I have been carrying a weapon since getting out of the Marines in 1978. I now have, for the past 3 years a carry license, since 1978 I have had to pull my weapon out 3 times, but so far, the same technique I used as an MP to try to deescalate the situation has so far worked. I give the MP 9 an A in EVERY category. At first I had purchased another weapon, but the one thing that a weapon MUST have is a great safety. I have witnessed accidental discharges and ONE is too many, the round has to stop somewhere. The MP 9 safety is a solid click and requires a perfect amount of pressure to unlock, to INSURE that it does not accidentally slide off until YOU want it to. I have been asked why I carry, it is better to have a weapon and NEVER need it, than to need it JUST ONCE… and not have it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *