When it comes to single stack 9mm guns designed for concealed carry, the Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield and the Glock 43 stand out as probably the two best selling guns in this category. Along with that, they are both from proven companies with great reliability. Both guns have huge following, and any time you try to decide a winner, you’ll offend one group of fan-boys.
So today, I’m going to try to be as objective as possible and pick a winner; although some things will always be subjective. Things like comfort, aesthetics, and to an extent, concealability, and accuracy can all be at least someone subjective.
I’m breaking this comparison down into ten different sections. After each section, I’ll grade each gun on a scale of 1 to 10. When we’re all done, I’ll tally up the scores and see who the winner is!
We’ll start with a very subjective, but very important category. People want to feel good about what their gun looks like. Just like a pair of shoes, a watch, or a new purse. Your CCW becomes an accessory to your daily outfit.
While similar in size, the two guns have a completely different look. The Glock 43 is a little more streamlined, pretty much like all Glocks. Some people love that, some people hate it. I personally like the simplicity of the design, especially for IWB carry. The fewer things that are poking me in the side, the better!
The Shield is also an attractive gun. I think it looks a little “stubby”, especially with the extended magazine, but that’s really the only complaint I have. It definitely has more character when you compare it to the Glock 43, so again, it’s really what you like the best.
Glock 43: 8, M&P Shield: 7
Fit & Finish
This is another subjective area, and this is one that’s tough to decide. Both Smith & Wesson and Glock make excellent quality firearms for mass production. Sure, they’re not as nice as a custom, hand-built 1911, but for what they are, both the Shield and G43 are very nice. I’m calling this one a tie.
Glock 43: 7, M&P Shield: 7
Ease of Use
Most striker fired hand guns are pretty similar, and these two are no exception. Both disassemble in almost the exact same manor. The only difference being that with the Shield, you must turn down and actual take down lever. With the Glock, you pull down the 2 tabs on either side of the slide to release it. In personal experience, the simplicity of the Glock gives it just a slight edge.
Next, I like the mag release on the M&P Shield better than the Glock. No real reasoning besides it just feels better to me, and it works better with my hands. Your mileage may vary depending on your preferences. So for me, both guns have one feature that stand out, while both are overall, extremely easy to use. You guessed it, it’s a tie.
Glock 43: 9, M&P Shield: 9
Handling (Weight, Balance, Ergos)
These 2 heavyweights in the light-weight, single stack 9mm class share a lot of handling characteristics. When it comes to weight, the Glock edges out the Shield by just a few ounces, both loaded and unloaded. The M&P Shield still only weighs 19 oz. (empty), so it’s by far on par with other guns in this class.
The 2 guns also have a similar balance in your hand, which is very nice overall. Since they’re both such short guns (just over 6 in), all of the weight of the guns is very close to the center of your palm, and there’s no struggle whatsoever to try to balance either gun while aiming.
Ergos is an area that is a tough subject in this class of pistols. They’re designed to be as small as possible, and that, inherently causes a few issues. The first, and most obvious, is the length of the grip. While the overall height is one of the most important dimensions to keep small for concealability, it is completely counter intuitive for ergonomics. With the factory, flush mount magazines, my pinky finger hangs off the bottom of both grips. With the factory, extended magazines, I can barely get a full grip on the Shield, but my pinky still hangs about half way off of the Glock 43 mag.
The last, and biggest ergonomic issue, for me at least, is the recoil. In this category, the Shield wins hands down. Neither gun is particularly good, but the G43, for whatever reason, puts out a lot more recoil than its Smith & Wesson counterpart.
Glock 43: 6, M&P Shield: 7
Both guns in this comparison are specifically designed to be a concealed carry pistol. Both also hit this mark extremely well. Before the Glock 43 came out, the M&P Shield really took over and was the gun everyone else was trying to be in the single-stack, sub-compact 9mm category. When Glock finally released the 43 to compete in that market, it quickly became the Shield’s biggest competitor. Sure, there are tons of other options in this category, but it seems like it always comes down to these two, especially when you go by the volume of units out there.
The Glock 43 edges out the Shield in concealability, being slightly shorter in the grip. However, available fire power in a CCW is also extremely important. Unmodified, out of the box, the Shield offers 1 more round in the flush magazine, and it sports 2 more rounds in the extended magazine. For me, the Shield wins the application category based strictly on the 3 round advantage you’d have when carrying with the flush magazine inserted and the extended mag as a backup.
Glock 43: 5, M&P Shield: 6
This is an area that really surprised once I actually did the back-to-back testing. Here’s my testing process, to make this as fair as possible. First, I put up the two targets you see below about 2 feet apart from each other, and I shot from about 7 yards away. I placed 5 rounds each in the flush magazines and also the extended magazine (I actually used the Glock mag with the +3 Taran Tactical extension). Then, I shot each gun with the flush mag (5 rounds), then the extended mags (5 rounds). After that, I repeated that process once more for a total of 20 rounds for each gun. So, these targets were shot at the same time, from the same position, with the same ammo, and under the same conditions. I don’t know how to get more fair than this.
As you can see from the targets, the Glock 43 is the clear winner in the accuracy category WITH THE FACTORY GLOCK SIGHTS!! When I had shot both guns prior to this test, I thought for sure the Shield was going to win, but as you can see. Under the exact same conditions, the Glock 43 wins with accuracy.
Glock 43: 8, M&P Shield: 6
Both the Glock 43 and the M&P Shield have been extremely reliable for me over several hundred rounds each. I haven’t shot thousands of rounds each, but the ONLY failure I’ve got from either gun is actually caught on the footage from the accuracy testing. The Glock had a failure to feed on the last round from the magazine with the Taran extension, so I’m honestly not sure whether to blame the gun or the magazine…
Glock 43: 9, M&P Shield: 10
Price & Value
While neither gun here is a bargain basement, inexpensive gun; at the same time, neither gun is overly expensive. I got an amazing deal on my M&P Shield this year on Black Friday at $299 with free shipping! However, you can usually find them in the $349-379 range. The Glock is a little more expensive, running more around the $450 range. To me, this is a pretty fair price for both of the guns, with the obvious winner being the Shield. The Glock 43 isn’t a “bad” value per se, but when you compare it to the Shield, being so close in all of the reviewed category, and taking in to account that you should probably change the factory sights for an extra $80+, I think the Shield is a better value.
Glock 43: 6, M&P Shield: 8
Favorite & Least Favorite Features
Finally, I don’t have to give a score in this category! Here are the favorite and least favorite features for both guns:
For the Glock 43, my favorite feature is the appearance and concealability of the gun. The gun is very sleek, simple, and smooth. this also helps with the concealability, because there’s nothing poking you in the side. My least favorite feature of the G43 is the amount of recoil you feel with this gun. It’s just not comfortable to shoot for long periods.
I love the overall value of the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield more than anything. You just can’t get another gun in this category, with the reliability, lineage, and reputation of the Smith & Wesson. My least favorite feature for the Shield was it’s poor accuracy performance. I really thought it would perform better.
This was the easiest category to review for this test. Both of these guns have more accessories than you can imagine. That’s the benefit of them both being extremely popular. Whether you need sights, new triggers, slides, magazine extensions, holsters, lights, lasers, etc. Pretty much, if you can think of it, it’s probably available.
Glock 43: 10, M&P Shield: 10
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
And the winner is: the Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield! Edging out the Glock 43 with a composite score of 70 vs. 68. Granted, I’m not a “fan boy” of either brand, and I do like both pistols. Actually, if money is no issue for you, if you remove the “Price & Value” category, it’s a dead heat.
Bottom line, both of these guns are actually really amazing at what they’re intended to do. Before I got my Shield, I absolutely love the Glock 43. After I picked up my Shield, I immediately could see why Smith & Wesson has sold so many of this gun as well. So, if you don’t have the ability to try out both guns, just pick the one you like the looks of the best. I try to be honest and unbiased, because I’m sure not getting paid for this, and the bottom line is that I really think you’d be happy with either gun.
Or, do like me and buy both!