S&W M&P Shield 9 Review: CCW Standard or Outdated Carry?

by Justin Fields

November 22, 2023

4 comments

4.5
(33)

[UPDATED] About 3 years ago, I wrote this S&W M&P Shield 9 review. However, since then, and about a few hundred rounds later, my thoughts on the pistol have changed a bit. To account for this, I’ve come back to the M&P 9 Shield review to update.

As you’ll see, the Smith & Wesson’s M&P Shield is a decent concealed carry gun despite there being a new crop of super compact pistols holding twice as many rounds. However, is it worth the price, and how did my opinion change? That’s what I hope to show you in this updated M&P shield review.

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 Smith and Wesson Shield series is a popular line of sub-compact, polymer-framed semi-automatic pistols designed for concealed carry and personal defense. Introduced in 2012, the Shield quickly gained popularity in the concealed carry market due to its slim profile, reliability, and variety of options to suit different preferences. And thanks to an innovative, semi-staggered magazine, the Shield holds held a few rounds extra over competing offerings.

For years it has reigned as one of the most popular pistols on the market as it is perfect for concealed carry. Smith & Wesson offers different models within the Shield series, such as the original M&P Shield, the M&P Shield 2.0, and versions with added features like integrated laser sights or performance center enhancements for improved triggers and sights. Not immune to the forces that affect 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 Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 2.0 9mm is the concealed 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.

Smith & Wesson introduced the 2.0 version in 2017 and slightly refreshed the older Shield.  The primary difference between the original Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm and the M&P Shield 9mm 2.0 lies in their design and ergonomic improvements.

The 2.0 version features an improved trigger with a lighter pull and a tactile and audible reset, which I find to be a significant upgrade over the original. One of my buddies measured the trigger pull using a trigger pull gauge for both models; the pull on version 2.0 was lowered from 5.2 lbs to 4.4 lbs. The grip texture is also more aggressive in the 2.0 version, providing a firmer hold, which is particularly beneficial in adverse conditions. If you want the thumb safety though, get the 5 inch barrel version of the gun; the 4.25 inch barrel version does not have one.

Additionally, the 2.0 has an updated chassis system that increases the rigidity of the frame, thereby improving the overall shooting experience by reducing flex and torque when firing.

There are some good reasons that the Shield 2.0 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. 

Because it has gotten a lot of praise, I decided to purchase one and test it out. Please note that I have had a couple of Smith & Wesson M&P pistols – as you’ll see from some of my other reviews on the matter. Furthermore, I have written reviews for a multitude of handguns and CCW pistols in the past. I’ll be using that experience as I judge the M&P shield and speaking relatively as I go. So, with that, let’s dive into the M&P Shield and how it performs.

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. It also helps that the Shield is a striker fired pistol.  If only S&W could duplicate it on the other M&P pistols.

I had an issue with the night sights. Mine were a bit askew out of the box, so I had to replace them with some night sights I bought off Amazon.

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.

I did find the size to be a mixed bag though; it is great as a concealed carry gun but it comes with a noticeable recoil, although manageable with practice.

That takedown lever is a game-changer. Seriously, compared to other guns like Glocks, it’s like night and day. The thing’s a breeze to take apart. See, it’s this larger lever that makes disassembly a piece of cake. Unlike those tiny levers on Glocks that can be a pain, especially if your gun’s seen some action and got all dirty, this Shield lever is like a superhero. It gives you a better grip and more leverage, so even if your gun’s covered in gunk, taking it apart for a clean-up is way easier.

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 extended 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

B+

Based on 50 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

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

FAQ for the M&P Shield 9mm 2.0

What are the key features of the M&P Shield 9mm?
Key features include a slim, lightweight design, a short and consistent trigger pull, an aggressive grip texture, and a built-in safety mechanism in the trigger. It comes with two magazines: a seven-round and an eight-round.

Does the M&P Shield 9mm have a safety?
Some models come with a manual thumb safety, while others do not. The choice depends on personal preference. Additionally, all models have a passive trigger safety.

What is the capacity of the M&P Shield 9mm magazines?
The pistol typically comes with two magazines: one with a seven-round capacity and another with an eight-round capacity.

Is the M&P Shield 9mm suitable for beginners?
Its user-friendly design makes it a good choice for beginners, although proper firearm training and familiarization are recommended for all users.

Is the M&P Shield 9mm suitable for left-handed users?
While the magazine release can be reversed for left-handed use, the thumb safety (if present) and slide release are designed primarily for right-handed users.

What is the difference between the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm and the M&P Shield 9mm 2.0?
The M&P Shield 2.0 features an updated trigger with a crisper feel and a more defined reset, an enhanced grip texture for better handling and control, and improved ergonomics for a more comfortable shooting experience compared to the original Shield model.

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

CONCEALMENT EXPRESS IWB KYDEX HOLSTER
  • Adjustable Posi-Click Retention and Cant
  • CLAW compatible
  • Made in USA
Buy on Amazon
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
Buy on Amazon

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 Ammo

MagTech 9mm 115 GR FMJ Ammo

Working Ammunition

Barnes 9mm 115 GR Ammo

Barnes 9mm 115 GR Ammo

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 Sig P365

Sig P365 Featured Image

Sig P365

The Sig P365 set a new definition for what a great concealed carry handgun can be – it quickly became the go-to 9mm for many shooters.

Check Latest Price

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

Our Grade

A+

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 185 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

Springfield Hellcat – 9MM

The Hellcat 9mm, a micro-compact pistol that provides an incredible number of rounds on board, particularly considering how small of a gun it is.

Check Latest Price

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

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 171 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.

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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.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I own a p365, a Hellcat and many others in the past. My M&P Shield 9 is mt favorite. I upgraded to Trijicon night sights because of poor eyesight. Other that it’s a great ccp. Easy to carry and shoot accurately. Recently got shield performance center plus. It also is excellent.

  2. I really like my 9mm Shield and it has become my everyday everywhere carry gun.
    The only drawback I found other than the capacity 8+1 has been the sights. Unfound them to be hard to see esp in low light. However that has been now solved with the addition of Tru GLO TFO sights.
    Overall it’s a fantastic carry pistol.

  3. 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!

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