Concealed carry always involves a certain degree of compromise. Most of us would carry a more powerful pistol or one with a higher if we could adequately conceal it. If you’re like me, at some point, you settled for a subcompact 9mm. And capacity was one of the things I sacrificed for the advantage of having an easily concealable handgun with me all the time. However, this is not the case with the M&P 9 Shield Plus from S&W.
The Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield Plus Optic Ready
For many years, I carried an S&W M&P 9 Shield with an 8+1 capacity. In 2018, Sig Sauer took some of the compromise out of concealed carry when it introduced its then-new P365. Boasting a 10+1 capacity, or 12+1 with the extended magazine, the little gun was just as small as single-stack 9mms.
Now, shooters had a small, lightweight gun with plenty of capacity. Other manufacturers rushed to redesign their micro-compacts to accept higher-capacity magazines.
In March of 2021, Smith & Wesson introduced the brand-new M&P Shield Plus pistols. It boasts several improvements over the original Shield pistol, most notably increased capacity.
Original Shield pistols had a capacity of 8+1 with their single-stack magazines. However, S&W was able to increase the Shield Plus’ capacity to 13+1 with its extended magazine. Likewise, it achieved 10+1 with its flush-fit magazine without any significant increase in the grip’s circumference.
When S&W introduced the Shield Plus, I had received a sample of the S&W M&P Shield a month or so before its official release and found it to be a solid CCW gun. It had an excellent trigger, good sights, and was capable of outstanding accuracy.
The only feature I found missing was an optics plate. After checking with a company official, I found that only the Performance Center Compact Shield was offered with an optics plate and red-dot optic. But it was several hundred dollars more.
At that time, nearly all of their competitors were offering micro-compact 9mm pistols with large-capacity magazines and optics plates. It astounded me that S&W would roll out a new gun minus this feature. Consumers, myself included, now want to have the option of adding a micro red-dot to their gun.
Less than seven months later, while at our publisher’s annual Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous in Victor, Idaho, I had a chance to speak with an S&W employee. He told me that they had made a huge miscalculation by not offering the pistol as read-dot ready.
He also let me know they were about to roll out the Shield Plus 3.1-Inch Optics Ready model. The new pistol is designed to take JPoint and Shield RMS footprint micro-dots. Less than a week after returning home from the Rendezvous, I had a sample of S&W’s newest offering.
A Closer Look at the M&P 9 Shield Plus
True to form, the new Shield Plus 3.1-inch Optics Ready possesses all of the upgrades of the Shield Plus. However, it also includes an optics plate and tritium sights.
One of the most important improvements of the Plus gun is its new trigger. S&W engineers took a page from the aftermarket trigger manufacturers and outfitted the Plus with a flat-face trigger. This seemingly small change makes a huge difference in the user’s ability to shoot the gun accurately and rapidly.
There’s about a quarter-inch of take-up before hitting resistance. In addition, my test sample only required 4 pounds of pressure to break the shot with little overtravel. Reset is short and firm, and that’s exactly what a shooter needs for very fast follow-up shots.
Another nice Plus feature is the texture of the polymer grip. It’s like a very fine stippling and feels almost like emery cloth. It is not as likely to have clothing hang up on it as checkering can. Yet, it provides the user with a secure grip.
S&W even textures the base pad of the extended magazine. In fact, I did nearly all of my shooting with the extended 13-round magazine locked in place. It’s long enough that I can keep all fingers on the frontstrap without my pinky dangling under the base pad.
It gives the Shield Plus the feel of a full-size gun and makes shooting it so much more comfortable. If your main concern is concealment, you can use the 10-round magazine for carry.
Smith & Wesson includes TruGlo night sights on the pistol. The front sight features a florescent orange ring around the tritium vial, so the sight is easy to pick up in any light. The rear sight also possesses tritium vials and is drift adjustable for windage correction.
To test the new pistol, I obtained a sample of the new Crimson Trace RAD Micro Pro with a 5-MOA green dot. Despite its small size, the sight has a recessed and fully multi-coated lens with a large acquisition window.
The CT Radiant Ambient Light Sensor that automatically adjusts the brightness of the aiming dot based on the surrounding light sets it apart from the competition. I did my testing on a bright, cloudless Arizona morning and had no issue at all with the dot “washing out” due to brightness.
Crimson Trace also incorporates a CT Motion Sensor that instantaneously turns the dot on when it senses motion. Likewise, the sight will put itself to sleep after two minutes of inactivity for an approximate 7,000-hour lifespan. By the way, it uses the common and economical CR1632 battery, which you’ll find in any convenience or grocery store.
The sight’s body is machined from tough 7075 aerospace aluminum. And, with an MSRP of just $299, it offers shooters tremendous value for the money.
Installation of the RAD Micro Pro was easy. In fact, I waited until I was at my shooting site to remove the Shield Plus’ optic plate and install the green dot. After installing the battery, I simply placed it in place on the slide and secured it with two screws.
I coarsely adjusted the dot to sit on top of the front sight and fired my first group. From there, I fine-tuned the RAD until it was perfectly centered at 15 yards.
Range Performance of the M&P 9 Shield Plus
Doubletap’s 77-grain solid copper hollow points produced the best five-shot group, measuring just 0.72 inches. It also produced the most energy, churning up 356 fpe from the 3.1-inch barrel. Everything I fired through the pistol grouped nicely, and the aggregate group size was just 0.82 inches.
Two of the loads I fired were common range-type rounds, while the other four were defense rounds, including one rated as a +P. Despite the different bullet nose profiles, overall lengths, and different pressures, everything fed, fired, cycled, and ejected just fine in the Plus. There were no stoppages of any kind to report.
Most holsters made for the original Shield will work with the Shield Plus 3.1-inch Optics Ready pistol. The only caveat to this is if the optic interferes with it. In the case of my AIWB Concealment Express Kydex holster, it did not.
I went through several magazines, drawing and firing at a steel target set out at 15 yards. The green RAD dot was easy to pick up, and my double-taps were fast thanks to the crisp trigger and firm reset.
The Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield Plus Optics Ready pistol has everything a concealed carrier could ask for. From its crisp trigger to its night sights to its amazing accuracy, the Shield Plus Optics Ready gun is designed to perform.
Don’t let S&W’s early misstep dissuade you from taking a hard look at this gun for personal-defense use. Combined with a good carry optic, like Crimson Trace’s RAD Micro Pro, S&W’s Shield Plus Optics Ready pistol will provide you with first-class protection at an affordable price.
For more information, visit Smith-Wesson.com.
SPECIFICATIONS: S&W M&P 9 Shield Plus Optics Ready Specs
|Overall Length:||6.1 inches|
|Weight:||19.4 ounces (empty)|
|Sights:||TruGlo tritium night sights|
|Aguila 124 FMJ||985||0.86|
|Black Hills 115 JHP||1,093||0.74|
|DoubleTap 77 Solid Copper HP||1,443||0.72|
|Federal Action Pistol 150 TSJ||841||0.81|
|Hornady American Gunner 124 +P XTP||1,092||0.90|
|Speer Gold Dot G2 135||1,006||0.87|
Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in feet per second (fps) by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 15 yards.
This article was originally published in the Personal Defense World October/November 2022 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.