Smith & Wesson’s M&P Shield pistols have been some of the most popular handguns introduced in the past decade. Single-stack pistols available in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, the guns have struck a chord with many citizens looking for self-defense handguns. The question of why seems fairly simple. Every M&P Shield is thin yet large enough to provide a good grip. They’re easy to shoot and come chambered in the most popular defensive calibers. They’re also very affordable.
Even the best handgun design needs a few accessories to be truly complete. Basic accessories like a holster should be obvious. Others like a laser or light may also come to mind. For the M&P Shield series, there is also a problem with the extended magazines that can be fixed, too. Here is a look at some of the best accessories that you can buy right now for your trusty Shield.
A good holster is an absolutely mandatory item for any pistol you plan on carrying for personal protection. Fortunately, there is a wide range of good ones on the market today for the M&P Shield. One of my favorites is the BlackHawk ARC.
ARC stands for “Appendix Reversible Carry.” In plain English, this is an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster designed to be carried on either side of the body in either the appendix position or just behind the hip. It is made of a soft polymer that is rigid enough to hold its shape but is flexible enough to be much more comfortable than many of the other synthetic rigs currently available.
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You can adjust the belt clip so the gun rides high or low on the belt. Additionally, you can put the clip on either side of the holster so you can use this on the strong or support side of the body. It is an open-top rig that uses the holster molding and belt for very good retention properties.
I’ve had one of these for my own M&P Shield ever since it was introduced by BlackHawk. It is one of my favorite holsters for the gun and, in my opinion, the best holster value available. I’ve found the holster is very secure and conceals the pistol well with a wide range of clothing styles. I prefer to have the gun ride lower in the waistband and behind my strong-side hip. However, I’ve also tried it in the appendix position on both the strong and support sides of my body. The rig works very well for me practically everywhere.
Crimson Trace LL-801G
Crimson Trace is one of the best-known names in supplemental aiming devices with its line of naturally activated lasers. In recent years, the company has branched out and added white lights to its line of self-defense products. For the M&P Shield, Crimson Trace offers a blending of these products in the LL-801G.
This product is one of the company’s Laserguard Pro units: a combination of white light and green laser that mounts to the front of the pistol’s triggerguard. A pressure-activated remote switch rides on the front of the pistol’s grip. When you take a firm grip on the pistol, the unit activates. If you relax your grip, the pressure is taken off of the switch, and it turns off. It takes little training to become accustomed to turning it on and off by grip pressure.
The white light is rated at 150 lumens, and it seems to have a flood affect. This allows you to get a broad view of the immediate area if you activate the light. For a self-defense pistol, this seems to be the right approach. A tight beam that can illuminate a target at 50 yards doesn’t seem to match what the M&P Shield is essentially intended for.
Of course, Crimson Trace gained fame for its lasers. The green laser used in this product is very bright and is daytime visible. Red lasers can wash out in daylight conditions where green lasers are much more visible. The downside is that green lasers tend to take more energy to generate, so the run times tend to be shorter or larger batteries have to be used.
Finding a holster that will work with a light or laser can sometimes be a challenge. Knowing this, Crimson Trace teamed up with Blade-Tech to deliver a package that includes a Klipt holster specially made for the LL-801G. The Klipt is one of my preferred Blade-Tech IWB rigs. With the Crimson Trace unit attached, the Shield rides nicely in this holster. It is not quite as comfortable as the BlackHawk ARC, but it allows you to easily carry the gun with the light/laser unit mounted.
SSA Plan B
One of my only gripes with the Shield is the way the extended magazines are designed for the 9mm and .40 S&W pistols. Essentially, the magazine bodies extend below the grip frame with a sleeve that acts as a spacer between the floorplate and the gun. I’ve run into two problems with this design. First, the sleeve can ride up on a spare magazine and inhibit a reload. Secondly, the sleeve catches on the meat of my hand and prevents the magazine from dropping free during a reload. If you remove the sleeve, you run the risk of breaking the ejector when slamming the magazine home under the stress of training or a real-world self-defense encounter.
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To solve this problem, the Safety Solutions Academy (SSA) has designed a patented system called the Plan B that includes a magazine baseplate and sleeve. Unlike the factory product, the sleeve is attached to the baseplate to prevent it from sliding up the body. Additionally, by using aluminum instead of plastic, SSA was able to eliminate a large part of the sleeve mass that hangs up on the hand during reloading.
Just fixing the problems that the factory design imposed wasn’t good enough for the company. It took things one step further by adding a small ledge along the bottom of the floorplate. This ledge helps you to strip the magazine from the body of the gun should you experience a double-feed malfunction. The ledge is small enough not to affect the overall width of the gun, but it is large enough to help you get a grip on the magazine even when wearing gloves. I’ve got these installed on all of my eight-round extended magazines and highly recommend them for you as well.
Streamlight has always been one of my go-to flashlight companies. In my first year as a rookie cop, I worked an off-duty detail at a rough bar just to earn enough money to buy a Streamlight SL-20 for duty use. Since then, I don’t think a day has gone by that I haven’t used one of the company’s lights. So when it came to mounting a light on my Shield, I was eager to try out the company’s TLR-6.
The TLR-6 is another light/laser combination unit that is designed to be as small as possible while still providing excellent service. The TLR-6 attaches to the triggerguard and activates by tapping the switch on its side. Streamlight opted to use a red laser for aiming here. While a red laser is less visible in the daylight, it also uses less energy than other laser colors. Consequently, the unit can run for about 11 hours on a pair of tiny CR-1/3N batteries.
Streamlight adheres to the ANSI FL-1 flashlight standards and rates this unit with a total light output of 100 lumens. Although the 89-meter beam distance suggests a tight beam, it actually looks to be more of a floodlight shape, making it very good for identifying threats in your home or in a parking lot. If you run the light and laser simultaneously, you will still get an hour of run time.
The Streamlight TLR-6 is lightweight, tipping the scales at a little more than an ounce. As designed, the unit can be dropped into different housings so that one light/laser unit can be paired with a range of pistols from Glock, Sig Sauer, Kahr and Kimber in addition to the Shield. This gives the unit unparalleled flexibility should you ever trade guns. Considering the modest price of the TLR-6, this makes it an incredible value.