Trends in the firearms industry come and go. Recently, the number of ported and compensated pistols has begun to rise. Ported barrels and compensators help vent gasses upward to counteract the felt effects of recoil and muzzle rise. This helps you shoot faster and more accurately.
SIG Sauer, Springfield, and S&W all offer a ported or compensated version of their popular carry pistols. Glock has even reintroduced its compensated “C” line in the 17 and 19 models. One example that performs well is the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield Plus PC with the ported barrel.
The Shield Plus is very reminiscent of the original Shield pistol, but it incorporates a number of improvements. There are both 3-inch and 4-inch variants. A flat face trigger replaces the old hinge design that many complained about. The trigger pull is a crisp and clean 4.5–5 pounds and the short reset is tactile and audible.
The big “Plus” to the new Shield is the improved magazine design and resulting capacity. 10+1 rounds with the flush-fit mag, and 13+1 with the slightly extended magazine. That’s a great reserve of ammunition for a pistol this size. The grip stippling on the Shield Plus works well at providing good traction while shooting, but does not abrade the skin during carry. The fish scale slide serrations look attractive, but could provide more traction. Although, this did not impede my ability to operate the pistol.
The pistol appears well built, with thick slide rails and a sturdy polymer frame. Some plastic fantastics feel cheap; this is not one of those. The slide cycles on the frame smoothly, and all of the moving parts move and operate free of grit.
The Performance Center version features fiber-optic sights and (the subject of this article), a ported barrel. There is also a manual thumb safety on this version. This is not my preference, but it is stiff in operation and can be ignored. Unfortunately, S&W does not offer an optic-ready version of the Shield Plus with the 3-inch ported barrel. A huge miss if you ask me.
This is the variant that makes the most sense to me. It retains its compact design while providing you with barrel porting. The 4-inch Shield Plus is a fine firearm, but it’s a larger, heavier pistol. However, I will say that the extra inch of barrel would hide away easily inside the waistband. I just prefer to have the option of pocket carry.
The Performance Center Shield shoots like a much larger handgun. By that, I mean it produces very little recoil due to the barrel porting. In a gun this size, the porting makes a noticeable difference because of the lighter weight of the pistol.
I didn’t like the red/green fiber-optic sights. I found them to be distracting while shooting. I would have preferred a standard set of night sights or a front fiber-optic and blacked-out rear. Additionally, I don’t believe fiber-optics are the best sighting setup to go with on a ported pistol, as the light tubes tend to be fragile and can crack and fall out with harder use. So far, they have held up. Only time will tell the story of longevity. I may change to night sights, based on personal preference, but this is not a necessary upgrade.
One critique ported/compensated pistols often face, is that the vented gasses and flames will blur your vision and can even blind you if you’re shooting at night or in low light. I won’t say this is impossible, but I think the likelihood is overblown.
The overall size of the Shield Plus feels like the perfect balance between small enough for easy carry and large enough to shoot well. It’s a bit larger than single-stack options such as the Glock 43, and smaller than traditional subcompacts such as the Glock 26. The grip is long enough to fit all your fingers, but not so excessive as to print.
The thin design carries well in the waistband, and the thinner slide results in a lighter weight. This is a hard comparison to make on paper, but one you definitely feel in hand. A 0.1 inch on each side may not seem like much, but it can completely change the feel of the pistol. Thinner handguns are always going to carry easier; they will be more comfortable and print less than thicker counterparts.
When it comes to concealed carry, I like small guns. They don’t have to fit in the palm of my hand or anything, but most days I’m not going to carry a full-size or compact firearm. Fortunately, the ported version of the Shield Plus shoots just as well as a full-size pistol and carries nearly as much ammo too. I feel comfortably well armed with this offering from Smith and Wesson.
I’ve had 2 Shield Plus autos for the last 2 years and have used them ALLOT. Regarding the concerns about the hard to fill magazines? Relax! Use them a bit and they will break in and work perfectly. I promise. As far as the ported barrels? Show stuff. These guns shoot very soft, more like a .380. No need to loose velocity and punch for fear of a nasty kick. Its not there. The ONLY S&W feature I wasn’t 100% pleased with were the fiber optic sights on my 4″ Performance center version. They seemed to really shine and worked well when used in bright sunlight and are completely useless in low light situations. Swapped for Tru-Glo night sights. Problem solved! Oh! And the CT Red dot which comes with some packages is….. JUNK !!! Other than that, get a good quality holster and these autos do CCW duty absolutely perfectly.
@rockit, sorta, the Shield Plus is something. If the grip texture is wonky on the Plus, check out the SD series.
S&W might just pay attention.
If holding a ported handgun closer to the body because you don’t want the attacker to grab your outstretched arm/gun, the ported muzzle flash can and will blast right up in your own face. Tilting the gun slightly away from your body may minimize this effect. Try this at your range and see for yourself but don’t forget to wear your safety glasses.
With modern technology, having the ability to change out grip panels, I don’t understand why S&W doesn’t offer texture options, like say Hogue panels, or something other than their standard super aggressive texture, which for me is a deal breaker. Doesn’t matter how great the S&W is, I cannot get past the super aggressive texture. Old dry hands, gets the skin peeled off, they are painful, and so just not interested.
Earl – Yes, I agree with your observation. The last rounds are usually a problem, the 13th being the hardest by far. I use a Maglula and it still can be difficult to get that 13th (or 15th) round into the magazine. I find it depends somewhat upon what ammo you are loading. But it is likely that the springs are a bit too stiff. They will become softer after many reloads.
Meh… ported barrels and slides are fine for range toys. Glocks, no. S&W shield plus but no ported stuff. Get lint in it. 😆
Bought one for my wife who is small and has arthritis in her hands. She loves it, whereas a 9MM just overwhelms her.
I already own (2) Shield’s in .40 Cal. just wanted to know if there is an aftermarket ported barrel(s) and ported uppers available to update the two, that I already own?
The only problem I have with the S&W Shield Plus is the 13 round magazines are that even with a hand loader you have a hard time getting the last two or three rounds in is very difficult. I feel that the magazine spring could be a little less strong or the magazine could be a touch longer to make it just a little easier to load all 13 rounds. Maybe mine will get better with time.
I’m in my seventies and I own a ported S&W M&P 40 Shield Performance Center M2.0 it’s a very nice fairly light easy to shoot small pistol. The porting does help one to get back into the sight picture after firing. Since the pistol is light the recoil is heaver than a full size M&P but I find it manageable. I was trained to shoot with a one handed grip and still prefer one handed shooting therefore I can shoot around 50 rounds at each range session before my hand and arm are tired to the point it effects my ability to operate this little pistol. It;s short barrel and limited distance between the sights effects one ability to aim and shoot meaning training in its use is essential to using it effectively. A trained user should be able to hit a man sized target in the vital areas at 15 to 20 yards without a problem. I find It’s a very effective concealed carry weapon for a senior citizen like myself.
I absolutely love my ported Performance Center Shield. My “go to” carry gun used to be a 3913 Lady Smith. It always concealed fairly well but I had always wished that it was a little bit lighter and shorter. Then came along the Shield. It was/is the perfect CCW pistol for me. I wholeheartedly agree with your observation of how well it fits/feels in your hand. The Shield draws and points on target very quickly for me. Follow up shots are also quick and intuitive. When shooting USPSA, I will shoot a second round with my Shield if there is time and my times are always just fractions of a second behind my times when using a full size M&P 9 or my Sig X5 Legion. OBTW, I really like the fiber optic sights very much and have not had any issues through 10 years of hard but non-abusive use.
I know opinions will vary with different hand sizes, body shapes, and personal preferences, but this is ONLY CCW that I carry. I actually have 2 just to make sure one of them is always where I need it.
I’ve owned this exact model of the Shield Plus since it shipped. I already owned the earlier model 2.0. I was not a prolific shooter during the past few years but began to ‘re-train’ myself during Covid. I liked the Shield 2.0 very much and was fairly proficient at the range. But when I bought this ‘upgraded’ Plus ported Performance Ctr version, it was an immense improvement…over a good gun.
As stated in the article, it’s very comfortable to shoot and can be carried without discomfort.
I did replace the fiber-optic sights with Trijicon Tritium night sights for the reasons discussed above.
Not cheap but another significant improvement. And now that there are 15 round mags available, it’s as close to the perfect all-purpose firearm for home and carry. From 6 to 10 yards when loaded with Federal Syntech Subsonic 150 grain ammo, it’s quiet with negligible felt recoil. I’m also ‘lights’ out accurate with it. I can routinely and repeatedly fire 13 round sub 2 MOA groups from max carry distance of 24 to 30 feet. It’s an excellent firearm that will give you confidence. Highly recommended!