Before COVID, I was saving my pennies to buy the newly released Glock 43x and as I was in my local gun store I found that they were running a sale for the first generation Smith and Wesson M&P Shield in 9mm, it was 230$ and you got a 50$ gift card.
I decided to pick it up as that price was nowhere near the price of a new G43x and I didn’t have a very small carry gun at the time. Although I do plan on picking up a G43x to add to the carry rotation, I have been carrying the Shield daily since.
Recently I was given an opportunity to pick up a Springfield Hellcat for a price that I couldn’t pass up thus giving me an opportunity to compare the two guns against each other in our first ever Carry Gun Comparison.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
The Smith and Wesson M&P Shield was released in 2012 in 9mm and .40S&W. In 2016 Smith and Wesson released the shield in a .45ACP variant. And in 2017, Smith and Wesson updated the M&P pistol line with the M&P 2.0 which included upgrades such as a full-length steel chassis, rough-textured grip and improved trigger.
According to a 2019 article in Shooting Illustrated, “Smith & Wesson announced in mid-June 2019 it has produced and shipped more than three million of its market-leading M&P Shield pistol series, a figure that averages out to greater than 400,000 annually”.
My specific pistol is a first-generation Shield chambered in 9mm with a manual safety. It is bone stock, no fancy night sights, no trigger upgrades, no custom stippling. The gun weighs 1lb 4.7oz unloaded with an unloaded eight-round magazine and 1lb 9.2oz loaded to 8 + 1 rounds with my carry ammunition. According to Wikipedia, the gun measures 0.95 × 4.6 × 6.1 inches and has a 3.1-inch barrel.
- It is thin, making it easy to conceal and comfortable to carry, if a gun is uncomfortable to carry, it won’t get carried so what’s the point?
- Aftermarket and OEM support is huge thus making parts and accessories cheap, at least such is my experience in a pre-COVID environment; for a time I was able to find OEM 8 round magazines for around 15$ a pop.
- The trigger, although not necessarily crisp, is tactile and confident and not drastically heavy.
- Single stack, I am all for the more ammunition the better, although 7/8 rounds is not bad, I wish the pistol could hold ammunition in the double digits.
- The grip length is short. I personally have big hands, but almost everyone that has shot this pistol with me is forced to do the pinky lift when exchanging magazines, I also have a case of the dangling pinky when shooting with the 7 round magazine.
- The grip texture although smooth on the skin or on clothing does not lend itself well to sweaty hands.
The Springfield Hellcat was released in September 2019 chambered in 9mm with variants capable of housing a micro red dot. My particular pistol is the optics ready model although I will be running it with the stock sights. The gun weighs 1lb 2.1oz unloaded with an empty 13 round magazine and 1lb 7.8oz with a full 13 round magazine and one in the chamber. According to Wikipedia, the gun’s dimensions measure 6 x 1 x 4 inches and has a 3-inch barrel.
- 13 rounds, wow what a time to be alive, I never thought that we would be able to see a gun that stuffs this much ammo into such a small package, truly impressed.
- Tritium front sight, although I am not used to the “drop in the bucket” type of sighting system, I do very much like the tritium and luminescent front sight.
- Front slide serrations, I like front slide serrations, although it isn’t a deal-breaker if a gun doesn’t have them, it is definitely a pro when it does.
- The trigger is relatively crisp, although heavy – so it could be a pro or a con.
- The grip is actually just a bit small for my taste, nothing I can’t get used to, but definitely small for my large hands.
- This one is a bit nit-picky, but the trigger guard cuts a bit into my support hand when getting a proper thumbs-forward grip.
- I have to do the pinky lift to change magazines, not a fan of this.
- Magazines are expensive, although this gun has not been out for long so I’m sure with time magazines will become more available.
M&P and Hellcat Side-by-Side Comparison – Clear Winner
- I am more accurate with the Hellcat. The gun feels lighter in recoil, compared to the shield, and the width lends itself nicely to my large hands.
- I have since put about 1000 rounds through both pistols with occasional cleaning and have had no issues with either.
- After carrying both pistols regularly I prefer to carry the Hellcat. The gun is just a bit lighter, even though the gun is wider, I have not noticed any issues with printing compared to the shield.
- The grip texture on the Hellcat is a little more uncomfortable than the Shield as it can be a bit rough.
- I like the capacity of the Hellcat more than that of the Shield.
The M&P Shield is a great gun and it has served me well, but in my opinion the clear winner between the two is the Springfield Hellcat.
I’m currently looking for a new carry gun, so I really appreciate this comparison. I’ve looked at and held the M&P 9 Shield Plus, but haven’t held the Hellcat. I like the feel of the Shield Plus and will probably go with it.
Thank you for your review. I just purchased the HELLCAT. It came with three magazines and a laser sight. Your review is encouraging to me and I look forward to experiencing this gun for myself.
After a year given to each for carry and weekly range trips, i gotta give it to the Hellcat i really wanted to like the shield more but when you take out the brand names and materials i find the hellcat easier to shoot accuratly. The shield plus has a very good trigger however for a gun that is usually carried without a safety that great trigger could be an issue. the hellcat has a heavier trigger with no clean break kind of like a really well made revolver it stages for a bit then bang. and the shield is a little slick toward the front as it has no slide serations on the front. which will be more likely to last 25 years probably the shield but that hellcat will probably make it too.