Firearm: Smith & Wesson M&P Shield9 Plus (MSRP: $553)
Released early in 2021, Smith & Wesson’s M&P9 Shield Plus kinda got lost in the flurry of newly introduced micro-9 mm, double-stack pistols. The previous year, manufacturers were working around the clock simply to clear backorders, so new introductions were few and far between, with most simple line extensions. As 2021 started to loosen up some free time for R&D and new products, a host of companies sought to stake their claim in the market niche popularized by the SIG Sauer P365 and Springfield Armory Hellcat.
Smith & Wesson opted to update the company’s wildly popular Shield semi-auto, expanding the grip section to allow a 10-round flush-fit magazine. This brought the Shield in line with other pistols offering higher capacity, while maintaining the same profile for holster fit and accessories that attached to the trigger guard. From a compatibility and accessory standpoint, this was a simply brilliant move – the Shield has been on the market nearly a decade, so a large number of holsters, lights and lasers are available. Keeping critical dimensions identical allows the Shield Plus to tap into that market, whether for existing Shield owners who upgrade to the higher-capacity version, or simply new owners looking for gear.
Smith & Wesson may have done too good of a job, though, in that the Shield Plus is virtually indistinguishable from the previous version in all but capacity and name. Looking at a standard Shield and a Shield Plus, it is highly unlikely a casual observer could tell them apart without looking at the roll mark on the slide or the revamped trigger—which looks an awful lot like the most popular aftermarket trigger for the Smith & Wesson M&P line. Observing the “gray man” philosophy is great when it comes to carrying concealed; it’s less beneficial when it’s a gun company’s new introduction up for discussion.
Which is a shame, because the Shield Plus has a lot more going for it than just three more rounds. The improved trigger is quite good, almost on a par with Performance Center offerings. Grip texturing is somewhere between the original M&P feel and the “advanced sandpaper” of the M&P M2.0 upgrade. Three-white-dot sights are dovetail-mounted and can be replaced easily if desired. A couple notes about the extended 13-round magazine, though: I’ve heard folks complain that it’s rather difficult to find them anywhere, although I expect that should get better as the buying frenzy subsides. Also, be aware of the potential need to strip the magazine from the pistol when empty, as even medium-size hands may catch on the extended floorplate.
Holster: Dark Star Gear Hitchhiker (MSRP: $85, $95 as configured)
For the holster, we’ve chosen Dark Star Gear’s Hitchhiker for the M&P Shield. While this is a design intended for the original Shield, the dimensions of the Shield Plus mean that the Hitchhiker fits perfectly. Note that the holster is slightly longer than the Shield – this is intentional, as it prevents the holster from rotating along the belt line. We’ve opted for the Dark Wing claw, which keeps the holster close to the body when carried appendix-style. This model has a simple steel clip for attachment to the belt, which allows the holster to not only be put on or taken off quickly and easily, but also makes the rig tuckable.
Single-sheet kydex construction, the ability to carry it appendix or standard inside-the-waistband and exemplary fit and finish make the Dark Star Gear Hitchhiker a strong choice for your Smith & Wesson Shield or Shield Plus. Available in a host of colors, with or without the Dark Wing claw and with different belt-attachment options, the Hitchhiker is also available for select Glock and SIG Sauer pistols.
Knife: True Tactical EDC Knife (MSRP: $34.99)
We’ve discussed the two schools of thought previously regarding knives: There’s the “buy-once-cry-once” school that says paying a little more and getting a quality tool saves time and hassle down the road. There’s a lot of sense in this mentality – who hasn’t bought a cheaper version of pretty much anything that either fell short or straight up fell apart shortly after acquiring it? The other school of thought, especially with knives, is that there’s a higher-than-normal chance you’ll lose, gift or otherwise have to part ways with a pocketknife, so get something inexpensive you can easily replace.
While the True Tactical EDC Knife is squarely in the second camp, with an MSRP less than a box of defensive ammo, it’s hardly a “cheap” knife. The partially serrated, 3 ¼-inch 8Cr13MoV steel blade wears a black oxide finish and opens with an ambidextrous thumb stud. A low-ride steel clip keeps the knife in the pocket, while a frame lock keeps the blade in position when needed. A skeletonized, stainless steel handle with titanium coating houses the closed blade, and a lanyard loop with glass-breaker point rounds out the usefulness of this knife.