Firearm: Smith & Wesson Shield Plus (MSRP: $553)
Smith & Wesson just introduced the Shield Plus for 2021. At a quick glance, you might not notice the difference between the Plus and the standard Shield M2.0 – they both have the scalloped ridges at the front and rear of the slide to assist in charging the pistol, they both have the same levers in the same places, the texturing on the grip looks the same and they both wear the same sights. So, what makes it different?
A closer look reveals one of the two differences, and it’s a big one: The trigger. Rather than the hinged, curved trigger that has been a hallmark of the M&P series since its inception as a semi-automatic line, the Shield Plus has a bladed-safety trigger. Not only is the shape different, but it has an even more responsive feel than even the upgraded M2.0 trigger. The face of the trigger is flat, rather than curved, so fans of that style trigger will be happy to see the upgrade.
The difference you don’t see at first, though, is an even bigger change than the trigger: The capacity. Rather than the standard seven rounds in the original Shield and Shield M2.0, the Plus has, well, more. Ten rounds are available in the flush-fit magazine for the Shield Plus, with an extended magazine carrying 13 rounds. Remember, in the original version, the extended magazine held eight rounds. This results in a net gain of eight rounds overall – three in the flush-fit, five in the extended. All while keeping the barrel length, overall length and height identical to the original Shield. The overall width is very slightly larger to accommodate the widened magazines, but side-by-side it’s hard to distinguish between the two versions.
It’s pretty clear that Smith & Wesson has been paying attention to the market, with the influx of micro-9 mm pistols with greater capacity than the first entrants into that realm. The Shield Plus allows the company to better compete in the marketplace, at a very slight difference in size and price. The most impressive part, when you stop to think about it, is that Smith & Wesson was savvy enough to carve out some R&D and manufacturing time and effort at a point in time when a lot of companies are working at full capacity just to produce existing firearms. It’s forward-thinking and listens to the market, and that’s a great sign for everyone involved, especially the consumer.
One of the big design parameters for the Shield Plus was to retain as close to the original Shield’s dimensions as possible. Adding only a miniscule increase in width, the Shield Plus should fit pretty much any holster designed for the original Shield. We’ve chosen three holsters that we’ve gotten in for the original Shield or Shield M2.0, and all three have fit the Shield Plus with no issues. We have a hybrid design, a Kydex model and a leather option to cover as many bases as possible.
StealthGear USA Appendix Ventcore (MSRP: $89): Representing the hybrid holster design, the StealthGear USA Ventcore features a Kydex shell bolted to a neoprene backer for comfort. This model is designed for appendix carry, and fits exist for traditional, behind-the-hip inside-the-waistband carry.
Tulster Profile IWB (MSRP: $64.99): Tulster’s Profile is an example of a full-Kydex, single-sheet construction holster with a single plastic clip and minimalist design. The Profile is designed to allow changes in cant that permit it to be used either for appendix or standard IWB carry.
Galco Stow-n-Go (MSRP: $46): The Stow-n-Go by Galco showcases a leather inside-the-waistband holster constructed of steerhide designed for the Shield M2.0. Prominent in the Stow-n-Go design is a metal-reinforced mouth to keep the holster open when reholstering.
Knife: Kershaw Fatback (MSRP: $46.19)
Rounding out today’s kit is Kershaw’s Fatback assisted-opening knife. Featuring a 3.5-inch, 8CR13MoV-steel, modified drop-point blade, the Fatback uses Kershaw’s proprietary Speedsafe assisted-opening mechanism. A flipper projection on the back of the blade opens the knife, while a liner lock holds it open when in use. Glass-filled nylon scales feature ridged sections to help anchor the knife in the hand, with a similar ridge on the back of the blade for the thumb.
Another interesting feature we don’t see that often on a pocketknife is a full range of carry positions. Not only is the Fatback designed for left- or right-pocket carry, but can also be swapped between tip-up and tip-down carry. While slightly oversize compared to other, slimmer pocketknives, the Fatback is still easily carried in a standard pants pocket.