Firearm: Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield M2.0 (MSRP: $479)
With the introduction of the SIG Sauer P365 and the Springfield Armory Hellcat, single-stack subcompacts like the Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield M2.0 might seem to have fallen out of favor. When you can have 10 or 11 rounds at the ready rather than the single-stack’s seven, it’s hard to argue when the pistols are all pretty darn close to the same size. All three guns shoot pretty much the same—these are all striker-fired actions, and from the respective factories the triggers are similar. All things being equal, it makes sense to opt for greater capacity.
But, things are not equal. The Shield has been around for nearly a decade. Smith & Wesson has shipped literally millions of them since its introduction. This adds two significant points in favor of the Shield: One, there’s an established aftermarket and support network for upgrades as well as holsters, magazines and other necessities. Two, there’s just a lot more Shields out there. Someone looking for a smaller 9 mm for concealed-carry is just plain more likely to find a Shield in inventory or on a “Used” guns shelf.
Sizewise, the Shield is 6.1 inches long overall with a 3.1 inch barrel and an empty weight of 18.3 ounces. The P365 is less than a third of an inch shorter and half an ounce lighter; the Hellcat is a tenth of an inch shorter—these three guns are functionally the same size. All three will carry and conceal with the same amount of ease. The Shield does have the advantage in price, coming in nearly $100 less than the next-closest competitor, so there’s another point in its favor. Again, it really boils down to three or four more rounds as the only significant difference between the three pistols.
Adding to the Shield’s favor are the M2.0 upgrades, with improvements in the trigger, grip texture and beefed-up frame among just some of the features. Smith & Wesson’s single-stack pistol is as comfortable on the range as it is on the belt—despite the light weight and small size, you can still shoot more than a couple magazines without issue. Ultimately, the end result is a gun that carries well and can be shot well. It’s reliable, has lots of gear available and there’s a lot of them out there. The Shield remains a solid choice for a concealed-carry handgun.
Holster: Vedder Light Tuck (MSRP: $59.99 standard, $67.99 as configured)
As an example of the robust support network for the Shield, we have a Vedder Light Tuck holster for today’s kit. One of the advantages of having been on the market for so long is that a wide variety of manufacturers have time to tool up and make accessories like holsters. Vedder’s Light Tuck offers single-sheet Kydex construction molded specifically for your firearm, a metal clip that can be rotated to change cant and a wide variety of color options. It’s even designed to be tuckable should you need more thorough concealment.
For the holster we have in this kit, there are two additions that add a slight amount to the total cost. The flat dark earth color adds a whopping $3, while the polymer claw attachment adds another $5. These types of projections, often called claws or wings, help push the firearm into the body to minimize printing. In my experience, it’s a worthwhile addition especially when carried in the appendix position.
Flashlight: Pelican 7110 LED (MSRP: $59.95)
Who doesn’t love a small, powerful flashlight that doesn’t break the bank? Pelican’s 7710 LED flashlight offers up to 445 lumens on a single CR123 battery, but can also be powered by a standard AA. The 7110 offers high, medium, low and strobe settings, as well as five different programs by which these settings are varied - whether low to high, high to low, high only and others. There’s even a battery-status indicator that changes from green to amber to red depending on the power remaining.
Sizewise, the 7110 is just about perfect, filling the hand while also fitting easily in a pocket—it even has an attached clip. Operated via a tailcap switch, the 7110 can be activated with a momentary-on single push, or push-to-click for constant on. It can be switched between modes easily and runs up to 13 hours on low setting. Important note: Like many high-output lights, lengthy run times on high setting will produce a noticeable amount of heat.