m&p compact vs shield

M&P Compact vs Shield. Which Compact S&W Is Best?

Smith and Wesson make some of the best CCW pistols around, and what a number of people come down to is choosing a Smith and Wesson Shield vs M&P Compact. Both guns have their merits, and it would be hard for a person to go wrong with either one.

However, the truth about carry guns is there is no such thing as a perfect pistol; there are instead guns that are more right for you. Which is best between the Shield vs M&P Compact, though?

So…Which Shield and which Compact?!

smith and wesson shield

For the moment, let's presume we're talking about the bog-standard M&P9 Shield M2.0, and the bog standard M&P9 Compact M2.0. The specs are as follows: 


M&P9 Shield M2.0

M&P9Compact M2.0

Barrel length

3.1 inches

4.0 inches

Overall length

6.1 inches

7.25 inches


4.6 inches (w flush mag)

5 inches


0.97 inches

1.3 inches

Unloaded weight

18.3 oz

24 oz

Capacity (9mm)







All other variants just subtract from or add to these figures. The original M&P9 Shield isn't different in dimensions than the M2.0 version and is mostly phased out of production. 

The Shield with a 4-inch barrel adds 0.9 inches in overall length and about 2.5 ounces of weight. 

The Shield Plus adds 1 oz of weight, about 0.2 inches of width in the frame and capacity to 10+1 of 9mm with the flush fit magazine. The 4-inch model adds 0.9 inches of length and 2.5 oz of weight to that. 

The 3.6-inch model of the M&P9 Compact M2.0 deducts 0.4 inches of length from the barrel and the slide. 

The M&P9 Subcompact has the same slide and barrel as the M&P9 Compact M2.0 3.6", but the grip is chopped to accept a 12+1 standard magazine. As a result, height is reduced to 4.98 inches, and unloaded weight remains the same.

So, now that we understand the weights and measurements, let's talk about what might tip you to one of these guns or the other. 

What About The Old M&P9 Compact? 

The previous generation of M&P pistols included an M&P Compact. What if you happened upon one of THOSE at the gun store? There are a few still unsold, and there's probably a few in the used case. 

The old M&P Compact is the same as the new M&P9 Subcompact M2.0. It's the same gun, just with the updated frame and slide, and the updated M2.0 trigger. Otherwise nothing is different. 

In terms of size, it occupies a kind of middle position between a Glock 26-sized gun and a Glock 19-sized gun…just like the previous version.  

What Is M2.0, Anyway? 

For those unaware, Smith and Wesson announced the M2.0 models of the M&P pistols several years ago. 

The M2.0 models were akin to what the car industry calls a "facelift" or a "mid-cycle refresh," meaning a number of updates to the product to make it a little better and stoke a little demand for the new hotness. 

The M2.0 pistols slightly changed the frames, slightly changed the slides, slightly changed how they made the barrels (the original M&P9 was known for some accuracy issues related to barrel lockup) and changed the trigger group. 

While the originals stayed in production at first, they've been slowly phased out. As of mid-2022, the only first-generation M&Ps still in production are a couple of Shield variants.

Enter The Shield Plus

In response to the Sig P365 and Springfield Hellcat (among other pistols) Smith & Wesson has also created the Shield Plus, a double-stack variant of the Shield. 

The Shield Plus also adds a flat blade trigger along with the double-stack capacity, which is 10+1 with the flush-fit magazine and 13+1 with the extended stick in 9mm...but the Shield Plus is also offered in .30 Super Carry, which brings the capacity to 13+1/16+1. 

M&P Compact vs Shield vs Shield Plus

The Shield (be it the original or the M2.0) is lighter and smaller than the M&P9 Compact. That makes it easier to carry, but harder to shoot really well. Small, light guns are more snappy. 

The shorter sight radius makes shooting at 25-yard bullseyes more daunting, but not shooting A-zones at 7 yards unless you're trying to achieve sub-0.2 second splits. 

The M&P9 Compact M2.0, much like a Glock 19, is a compact service pistol. It's got enough meat in the slide to shoot it well, and the M2.0 trigger - while far from a Walther, an HK or a CZ trigger - is very serviceable. 

The Compact also has a rail for adding a light, and will accept a light that's actually worth having on your pistol. It works as a duty gun, competition gun, carry gun, whatever you might use a pistol for. 

The Shield Plus holds more ammunition but isn't meaningfully any different from the standard Shield. It's still a small, snappy pistol. You can tame it a bit by opting for the Performance Center version with a 4-inch barrel, but only so much. 

The M&P Subcompact (the artist formerly known as the M&P Compact) is a little livelier than the M&P9 Compact, but less than the Shield/Plus. 

So…what does this all mean? 

What it means is that you need to consider what you want a pistol for and what your priorities are. 

Some people don't want to fool with anything less than a service-class pistol, but are fine with a compact variant. If you think something like a Glock 19 is as small a gun you want to carry, the M&P Compact is for you. 

It can take a light and is an excellent all-purpose handgun that's just small and light enough to carry. 

By contrast, other people want a handgun that's light, sleek and easy to just throw on and concealed carry without having to think about too much. 

The TL; DR is whichever gun fits what you want it for and you shoot best is the one to get. 

But what do you think? Have you handled or shot both these guns? Do you own both? Let us know in the comments! 

both holsters available for shapeshift!

When you do head to the range, you're going to need a target...but why pay for paper targets if you don't have to? We'll give you as many as you want. Check out our complete free printable shooting targets page to get yours. 

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.