After getting an enthusiastic thumbs-up from a couple of good friends who are nationally known firearm instructors, I picked up a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield in 9mm. Its intended purpose was to replace my snubbies for backup gun duty. The Shield’s 8+1 capacity sure beats the snubby’s diminutive payload, and its striker-fired trigger is far easier to shoot than heavy, double-action-only (DAO) designs. All in all, it seemed to be a win-win scenario.

Upon receipt, I promptly headed to the range. I ran about 300 FMJ rounds and then 100 CorBon DPX rounds through the Shield without a single stoppage. I perform this function test on all my potential carry guns. Guns need to run flawlessly when they’re hot and dirty before they earn a spot in my carry arsenal. Not only did my initial range test show the Shield to be reliable right out of the box, but I found it easy to shoot with minimal snap. I was pleasantly surprised by the M&P Shield’s lack of recoil.

New Sights & Trigger

smith & wesson, smith & wesson m&p shield, m&p shield, apex trigger kit
Apex’s trigger is very smooth.

While I was certainly impressed with the M&P Shield, a few modifications were in order to obtain my idea of pistol perfection. First up was replacing the factory trigger with an Apex Tactical Duty/Carry Kit. Custom triggers offer a smoother pull than typical factory triggers, and the Apex Shield trigger is no exception—the difference is like night and day.

RELATED STORY: Smith & Wesson’s Next-Gen M&P Shield 9mm

If you have no fear of disassembling firearms yourself, installation can be done without a gunsmith. The striker block is located under the Shield’s rear sight, so the rear sight needs to be removed. I used an MGW Sight Mover that I picked up at Brownells.

While a punch and hammer can be used to remove sights, a sight mover eliminates the possibility of marring the pistol’s finish. The MGW Sight Mover is a very sturdy tool that’s made of solid metal. Securing itself to the slide by way of the rails, its threads are very fine and smooth, making precision alignment of a sight easy. This tool works on both the Shield’s front and rear sights for both removal and installation. Since there is a myriad of sight and firearm options, the sight mover is gun-specific, so be sure to order it for the exact gun you’ll work on.

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The I-Dot front features tritium.

I like the three-dot configuration of the Shield’s factory sights for quick, defensive shooting, but I prefer night sights. With the Shield’s rear sight already off for the Apex trigger installation, it was the perfect time to replace the sights as well. Enter the I-Dot sights from AmeriGlo. The I-Dots offer tritium inserts in either green/green or yellow/green configurations. I prefer the front sight to be a different color than the rear, as the color difference makes getting a sight picture faster in low-light conditions.

The I-Dot rear sight is properly angled to enable use of a belt or holster for one-handed reloading. Rather than a rectangular shape, the rear sight notch is curved on the bottom. The rounded shape matches the round front sight dot, which speeds up target acquisitions.

Grip & Mag Upgrades

smith & wesson, smith & wesson m&p shield, m&p shield, talon gun grips
Talon’s add-on grip texturing.

All of my polymer handguns sport some sort of grip enhancement to aid recoil control with slippery hands. For the Shield, I used Talon gun grips. Available in either rubber or granulate textures, Talon’s stick-on grip panels are available for numerous makes and models.

RELATED STORY: Build Your Skill While Having Fun With The S&W M&P22 Compact

Installation is quite easy. The first step is to the clean the grip with the supplied alcohol swab. The grip panel’s paper backing is then removed and the panel is placed on the grip. The instructions state that the grip should then be heated with a heat gun or hair dryer to set the glue. I heated the grip and let it cool three times to be sure the glue affixed properly. The whole process took less than 15 minutes.

smith & wesson, smith & wesson m&p shield, m&p shield, magguts kit
Talon Grips and the MagGuts kit.

MagGuts offers magazine enhancement kits that increase capacity for compact pistols without lengthening the magazine. Available for several pistols, MagGuts add one round of capacity to the magazine through the use of a custom follower and spring along with the addition of a lock plate. While a single round may not seem like much of an increase, nobody ever said that they wished they had less rounds after a gunfight.

Installation consists of replacing the Shield’s factory follower and spring and adding in the MagGuts lock plate. The system is a dual-spring design. The lighter upper spring sits in a cup atop the heavier, bottom spring. The varying spring weights modify the compression ratio, offering proper pressure on the follower from the first to the last round. The 8+1 capacity of the Shield is now 9+1, double that of the snub-nosed revolvers it has replaced in my EDC arsenal!

Everyday Carry

smith & wesson, smith & wesson m&p shield, m&p shield, overland iwb holster
Overland crafted this IWB rig.

My modifications were completed with the installation of Crimson Trace’s Laserguard. Available with either red or green lasers, the Laserguard is installed by sandwiching its body around the triggerguard and fastening it with three Allen bolts. A pressure switch that extends down the frontstrap activates the laser.

Lasers have two primary benefits for defensive firearms. If, under the extreme stress of a lethal encounter, you find your eyes subconsciously ripped from your sights and onto the threat, the laser offers the ability to aim while looking at your target. And second, lasers offer the ability to aim your firearm when you are unable to get a proper sight picture. This might happen in an unusual shooting position or if you need to point the pistol from the side or overhead.

RELATED STORY: 8 Smith & Wesson Compact Defenders

To carry it all around, I contacted Overland Gunleather out of St. Louis in my newly adopted home state of Missouri. Overland is probably the best kept secret in holsters. Its work is beautiful—comparable to the best holster-makers in the market. The company does not advertise, as word of mouth keeps its workbench full. Overland offers several designs in a choice of leathers, including exotics. It can even accommodate firearms with attached lasers. The body of my Shield’s holster is cordovan with its belt loop in black to match my black belt. The inside-the-waistband (IWB) design keeps the gun tight to my body for concealment while still leaving plenty of room to grasp the gun’s grip.

While no gun is perfect for everyone, the modifications and additions I made to this Shield leave nothing to be desired. I have been carrying it as both a primary weapon and as backup and can’t be more pleased with its performance.


Smith & Wesson

AmeriGlo; 470-223-4163

Apex Tactical; 805-528-5250

Brownells; 800-741-0015

Crimson Trace; 800-442-2406


Overland Gunleather

Talon Grips; 970-879-9600

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