There are three things that you need to win a gunfight: capacity, capacity, and capacity. Ok, that’s not true, but it’s pretty hard to stop a rapist with a gun that just ran dry. Until just a few years ago, having double-digit pain on board meant finding a way to conceal a larger gun–but that is no longer the case. Today it seems that manufacturers are trying to top each other every year, so if you’re in the market for a defensive handgun you are in a terrific spot. One of the latest to step up to the plate is Smith & Wesson, with its newest M&P Shield that packs a whopping 13+1 rounds of 9mm Luger.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, S&W took one of its best sellers and more or less updated it based on customer feedback and market demand. The new pistol is dubbed the “Plus” because it holds more ammunition, and also received a major facelift in the trigger. Aside from that, it retains the footprint of its predecessor nearly identically and even fits the same holsters. It achieves this with a simple redesign of the magazine and magazine well. By changing it from single-stack to a thinly configured double-stack system, the company pulled it off without adding even a quarter-inch of width.
At the range, I gave the gun a once over and compared it to the last version of the M&P Shield to see what was different. The most distinguishable feature other than the “big-boy” capacity was the new trigger. Ask anybody who owns a Shield one and they will be glad to tell you that the Shield is plagued in this area. Some liken it to putting your finger into fresh dog shit. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is not my favorite striker-fired bang switch.
Well, I should say wasn’t, because the new trigger blows away the old one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith starts upgrading more of its line to it. Instead of a hinged setup, the new jobbie features a blade-in-trigger system that was made famous by that “other” gun company (rhymes with cock). Aside from being more familiar it broke at a lighter pull-weight and reset in just one-tenth of an inch. I also liked how they went with a straight bow, which is becoming a fan favorite across all firearms platforms.
The ergonomics of the Smith & Wesson Shield Plus were also greatly improved. The mild palm swells leave a little more to hold on to while that familiar medium-grit grip texture is controllable in the hands and comfortable against dad bod. Even with the flush-fit (10-round) magazine, I was able to get my entire hand on the gun and it shot about as flat as any mid or even full-sized range pistol that I’ve fired. On this particular day, I was using Hornady’s 124-grain American Gunner ammunition and was able to shoot 10-yard groups as small as 1.63” with no five shots landing bigger than 2 inches. Not bad for the first rounds that I grabbed off of the shelf!
Impacts were a bit right but the rear sight is adjustable if it ever gets to bother me that much. Being that the human body doesn’t have scoring rings, I don’t think it really matters, but the perfectionists are free to season to taste. Speaking of sights, the Plus comes standard with a simple three-dot system, but if you order from the Performance Center you can upgrade to night sights and even get the slide milled to accept an optic.
I spend a few more hours with the Shield to see how it performed once it got hot and built up a little fouling. I am happy to report that these conditions did not affect its reliability one bit and the gun fed, fired, and ejected without missing a beat. Aside from running well I also found it just plain fun to shoot. Through impeccable balance and engineering, the Shield Plus recovered instantly and stayed right where I pointed it, making mag dumps a hoot and turning a field of steel into a symphony. If you are looking for a gun that you won’t mind practicing with, this is the one. For more info visit Smith-Wesson.com