Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

REVIEW BY DARREN LEE

Smith & Wesson is considered a national treasure by most red-blooded Americans. The company began making guns in 1856 and has been a brand synonymous with quality and reliability ever since. Unlike the big American auto makers, it never had a period of complacency. It has always known that the lives of millions of good men and women through the decades counted on the company’s guns for survival when unprovoked violence came knocking.

In 2005, the company introduced its M&P (Military and Police) line of polymer-framed, semi-automatic pistols to the world. The line was meant to compete with the Glock—the big kid on the block since the 1980s. Without question, the line has been an astounding success. When friends ask me for suggestions regarding a semi-auto pistol purchase, it is always one of only a few I mention. It is good to keep things simple.

Because of the NRA’s good work in legislatures around the country, the concealed carry of firearms for self-defense outside of the home has become common. It is a great thing, at least for anyone who is not a violent predator. In 2012, Smith & Wesson introduced the M&P Shield as a truly small but potent pistol that could be easily and discretely carried in daily life. People can find excuses to leave bigger guns at home. 

The Shield had a capacity of seven rounds in the flush-fitting magazine and eight rounds in the slightly extended version that many owners carried for any necessary reload. A few years ago, the manufacturers of tiny, reliable concealed carry guns upped the ante with significantly increased magazine capacity, and the Shield Plus is Smith & Wesson’s brilliant move into this space.

With no meaningful increase in the overall size of the pistol, magazine capacity has now grown to 10 and 13 rounds, respectively, through what some call a “stack and a half”magazine design.  Counting the round in the chamber, this grows the two-magazine package from 16 rounds in the original Shield to 24 rounds in the appropriately named Shield Plus. For the mathematically challenged like me, this is a 50 percent increase in ammunition available during a life-or-death battle. Yes, I am assuming that everyone carries at least one spare magazine because they should, end of story. 

In all honesty, I carry a second 13-round magazine in my support hand pocket to bring my available ammunition supply to 37 rounds of 9mm +P. Call me paranoid, but I long ago decided that I will do what is needed to face down an active shooter.

Take Stephen Willeford for example, the hero who literally ran to the sound of gunfire in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  He got into a gunfight with the mass murderer and hit him with all six rounds he fired.  Authorities credited him with saving countless lives that day.   “I wish I had fewer rounds of ammo” has never been said by any fight winner in history. The beauty of the Shield Plus is that the owner can be absolutely ready for the worst of circumstances while doing it with the utmost discretion.

The most significant design change from the original Shield, other than magazine shape and capacity, is the trigger. The original trigger had a hinged safety and was necessarily of the traditional curved design. It worked well. The new trigger on the Shield Plus has a nearly flat face, and the hinged safety is replaced by a wide blade safety. Dry firing the gun extensively prior to taking it to the range convinced me that I was going to love this new trigger once I started to burn through rounds on steel targets. I was right. The engineers at Smith & Wesson made some great decisions. 

For the hundreds of thousands of Shield fans already out there, some really good news is that all of the holsters for the Shield still work for the Shield Plus. This is how little the dimensions of the gun changed. The overall width was the only expansion, and that was from .95” to 1.10,” a mere .15” difference that is imperceptible from a practical perspective. The unloaded weight has increased from 18.3 ounces to 20.2 ounces. Again, this is not something that is noticeable when holding the two guns, one in each hand.

A friend who had already shot the Shield Plus told me that he felt that the Plus was more pleasant to shoot, especially with hotter self-defense loads, than the original Shield. Though he may have biased me, I walked away from the range with the same impression. The new gun is a real pleasure to shoot. This could be due to the slight weight increase and increased rear grip area distributing the recoil impulse. Regardless, the recoil from the Shield Plus is easily managed even by the slightest-framed shooters.

When friends ask about their options for concealed carry guns, I will now replace my previous Smith & Wesson Shield recommendation with the Shield Plus. There are a select few I have ever included in my answer. It has been a great option from the beginning, but the serious enhancement to magazine capacity and new trigger design make the great even better.

MSRP: $553. For specs and more details, visit: smith-wesson.com.

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