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Which Subcompact should you choose, the M&P Shield or Sig P938?

Which Single-Stack 9mm Is Better: Sig P938 Or M&P Shield?

Looking at a new carry gun and narrowed it down to the M&P Shield vs. Sig P938? Both are very fine pistols, and incredibly popular. Both have so many strong points in their favor that a person deciding between the two would have the devil's own job of figuring out which was better to get.

Sig Sauer P938 for concealed carry
The S&W M&P Shield

It's in the details.

You couldn't go wrong with either gun, but it's the differences that will add up to whether one or the other is right for you. Also, you should handle and ideally shoot both guns; that will help you determine which one you like better, as that's the one you should carry.

King Of The Micro 1911s: The Sig Sauer P938

A number of gunmakers have created a micro-frame variant of the 1911 platform, and most would consider the best of them to be the Sig Sauer P938. There are some very good reasons for believing so, too, which has made the P938 one of the most popular carry pistols on the market.

First, the dimensions. The P938 has an overall length of 5.9 inches, with a 3-inch barrel. Overall height is 3.9 inches and width is 1.1 inches at the controls. Unloaded, it weighs 16 ounces.

It's definitely a small pistol, but with a pinky extension magazine it can fit a great many people's hands. Though the gun is small, it holds 6+1 with the flush fit or 7+1 with an extended magazine.

Those attributes are what make the P938 a perennial best-seller. It's very small - though it sits between a mouse gun and a subcompact - and quite light, making it very easy to conceal and carry.

A P938 IWB holster absolutely disappears.

Sig's P938 Blackwood Edition

Sig P938

  • Overall Length: 5.9"
  • Barrel Length: 3"
  • Height: 3.9"
  • Width: 1.1"
  • Unloaded Weight: 16 ounces

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However, it holds up to 7+1 rounds of 9mm, rather than .380 Auto which is more common in micro guns.

S&W M&P Shield Powerhouse

S&W M&P Shield

  • Overall Length: 6.1"
  • Barrel Length: 3.1"
  • Height: 4.6"
  • Width: 0.95"
  • Unloaded Weight: 21.1 ounces

That balance of attributes - the reliability of the 9mm round plus the easy-carrying nature of the P938 - is very attractive. Some might argue that makes it a nearly perfect carry pistol in a lot of ways. You wouldn't have a problem carrying it every single day.

Granted, the Shield is likewise a pint-size powerhouse, with very similar specifications. Barrel length is 3.1 inches, and it runs 6.1 inches long overall. Width is 0.95 inches, a tad narrower. The Shield stands 4.6 inches tall with a flush-fit magazine, however, making it slightly taller through a pinky extension on the P938 brings it roughly equal to the Shield. Weight is 21.1 ounces unloaded, so it does pack a few extra.

Capacity is 7+1, though the Shield does come with an extended magazine that brings capacity up to 8+1.


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Sig P938 Single Action: A Rarity

The thing that makes the decision between the Sig P938 vs S&W Shield a bit more interesting is that the Sig P938 is single-action, rather than striker-fired. The P938, after all, is a 1911-pattern pistol and that 1911 DNA includes the firing mechanism.

The good news, however, is that the P938 (and its smaller sibling, the P238 in .380) lacks a grip safety, so no need to worry on that front. Just like non-micro 1911s, the P938 does have a frame-mounted thumb safety at the rear of the frame, so 1911 fans will have no issues operating the controls.

Sig P938 Disassembled

That said, the Shield can be had with ambidextrous manual safeties as well that actually operate in the same manner (push up to activate) which 1911 fans could easily master the Shield's controls as well.

S&W M&P Shield Disassembled

However, the Shield has an integrated trigger safety in addition to the optional manual safety, which the P938 lacks. Granted, that isn't a feature everyone is looking to have, but it's de rigeur for striker-fired pistols.

That said, the Shield can be carried with the safety on or off; plenty of people carry the latter way. The Sig Sauer P938, on the other hand, presents the typical 1911 options.

You can carry with the hammer down, requiring you to manually decock the pistol after loading but also that the pistol is cocked before firing.

With concealed carry training, it's easily done but some people worry about forgetting to do so in the moment of truth. If you don't practice often, that's something to consider.

Alternately, you can carry "cocked and locked," with the hammer back and safety on. Again, you need to practice regularly enough to make safety deactivation second nature.

The Shield vs P938, Which Is Right For Me?

Which between the S&W Shield vs Sig P938 is right for you? Well, that depends.

Both are perfectly good carry pistols. You can trust your life to either one, either as your everyday CCW or backup gun. The Shield does hold one more round, which is...probably not enough to sway anyone in one direction but is something.

Both are extremely easy to carry and certainly to conceal. Both are easy to shoot, as both are often praised for being far easier to shoot and shoot accurately than the small size of these pistols would suggest.

However, it's the differences that will make add up to one being better than the other. Mere dimensions are close enough so that it won't matter too much in that regard, except that the P938 is a full half-inch shorter. Shooters with larger hands will have more issues with getting good purchase on the Sig compared to the Shield, as the extended magazine on the Shield gives a four-finger grip to all but those with hands like Johnny Bench.

micro 1911 sig sauer p938

So, if you've got bigger hands...try them out, but you might like the Shield a bit better in this regard.

Another item to bear in mind: the manual safety. You can buy a Shield with or without it, and carry with it on or off. Provided you're carrying with a decent concealed carry holster that adequately covers the trigger guard, it's perfectly safe; whether you carry with the safety on is down to your preference. With the P938, you have to choose between uncocked (and some people get leery of manually lowering the hammer) or carrying in Condition One.

Two-Tone FDE Version of the M&P Shield

Some people don't like manual safeties, and the 1911 platform - even the micro version - demands that how you carry is in deference to the manual safety in some way or another.

Another consideration to bear in mind is cost.

The base Sig P938 starts at $760 MSRP, with a number of trim packages available. You might find it in stores for as little as $600, possibly a bit less, but that does come with Sig's attention to detail and craftsmanship, which some people appreciate. After all, not everyone wants a plastic fantastic, and that's definitely what the Shield is.

The Shield, however, can be had for as little as $300 in some stores, though it depends on the trim package. In terms of what you get vs what you pay… the Shield has few equals.

Ultimately, you should try both. The one that feels best is probably the better for you, and that's the one you should get.

When you try these two Subcompacts at the range, use our 8" x 11" target!

We will continuously be adding new target options to our lineup. Check out our complete free printable shooting targets page to see the full selection as they start rolling in.

Sam Hoober

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.