I’ve owned a Smith Shield since they were released in 2012. The shield was a game changer and huge upgrade from the other single stack 9mm guns on the market. My Shield replaced the Kel Tec PF9 that I carried in my engineering job in some manner of deep concealment. In the subsequent years, the micro 9 class of guns exploded and many competitors were introduced. None of them really tickled my fancy enough to justify spending my own money on ‘upgrading’.
Enter the Sig P365XL in June of 2019. It offered features that no other micro 9 had been able to deliver on, and features that I qualitatively perceived as worthy of the upgrade. This post will be sort of an evaluation and comparison in features, performance, costs, and a discussion of the intangibles. I’m basically just trying to justify the purchase to myself and you’re along for the ride.
The guns I’m comparing are different states of ‘upgraded’. The Sig P365XL is bone stock. The gen 1 Smith Shield has been incrementally upgraded over time and I’ll catalog those upgrades here.
The Sig comes with excellent 3-dot tritium night sights, good grip texture, a usable thumb safety (can be had without), a flared magwell (minimize pinching on mag insert), a flat faced trigger, a factory 15(!) round magazine, and has an optics mounting plate. I paid $525 for mine locally. Most of the online vendors have it for full retail of $575.SIG SAUER P365XL 9MM OPTIC READY | Brownells
The shield has several upgrades that I have chosen over the years to make it more usable for me. The stock shield is currently $300 if you’re patient or $400 on any other given day. I added some Ameriglo Pro-Glo sights ($73 currently), APEX sear ($40), TALON grip panel ($20) to aid in the bar of soap feel of the gen 1s, Mag Guts +2 spring/follower upgrade gets me 10+1 in the gun ($32). I feel like all of these upgrades get the shield on par with the P365XL. I, of course, paid full MSRP when it came out in 2012, but I wanted to compare these two guns at current pricing. The grand total is $565 ($465 if you’re patient) in 2020. So we have a gun with similar features, a similar size, 68% of the ammo capacity with aftermarket spring and basepad, and costs $10 less ($110 if you find a deal) than the P365XL. So is it worth saving $10 once we look at performance, features, and ergonomics? Let’s see.S&W M&P Shield 2.0 9mm Pistol With No Safety, Black – 11808
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I put a lot of weight into numbers. That’s the mechanical engineer in me. It’s also what creates my disdain for most gun reviews. I wrote about that here. When I was doing my Hot-Rod J-frame project, I wanted a good way to quantify the performance improvements that various components would deliver in small revolvers. I wanted a way to compare the important attributes of defensive shooting, at realistic self-defense distances, with enough resolution to see trends.
I wanted to look at several aspects of ‘good shooting’ when it comes to my testing. I’m interested in pure accuracy, without the pressure of time. Pure speed, without a strict pressure of accuracy. Lastly, a blend of speed and accuracy/precision. I wanted to use targets that I could print on my printer. I also wanted to keep the total round count under 50 rounds because ammo is expensive and time is limited.
TEST 1: Pure Accuracy Test
10 shots at 15yds on a B8, no time limit
TEST 2: “5 yard Roundup”
four strings of fire, all at 5 yds, shot on B8, each with a time limit of 2.5 seconds.
Scoring is by the rings on the target for the ten shots, equaling a possible 100 points. Hits off of the ten-inch repair center minus ten each. Late hits are five points are deducted per late shot.
String 1: One Shot From the Holster (I used muzzle on table, support hand high on chest. Copying hand position of the draw since my range doesn’t allow holster work)
String 2: Four Shots From the Ready
String 3: Three Shots From Strong-Hand-Only Ready
String 4: Two Shots From Support-Hand-Only Ready
TEST 3: “HITS SUPER SNUB TEST” – B8 repair center, all shot from low ready
10 Yards – 5 shots in 8 seconds. Two hands
5 Yards – 5 shots in 5 seconds. Two hands
3 Yards – 5 shots in 3 seconds. Strong hand only.
TEST 4: As Fast As Possible – Snubbie Bill Drill
5 shots, 5 yards, on full piece of paper, take average split time.
I couldn’t ask for a more evenly matched set of scores. For this to be more meaningful, I’d run the tests at least three times, and with at least three different shooters. But I’d wager that we’d see the scores fall very close to each other after all that. Besides, I don’t have any friends to ask to shoot the tests. So let’s just agree that they are *very* similar when it comes to performance. And it’s no wonder as they have a similar sight radius, similar sight picture, similar grip length, and similar trigger feel. They are similar enough that there isn’t much difference in the performance output.
I’ll be honest. I’ve been waiting to jump on a red dot equipped pistol for the last few years. I was stalling because of rich pricing on the RDS that were quality enough to trust, and because it seemed only full sized striker guns were coming equipped to accept them. I’m not really a striker guy anymore. Nor am I a full sized gun guy much anymore.
This 365XL is sort of a compromise. I’m not happy that it’s a striker gun. But at least it has a usable thumb safety. It is a slim 9 that can be carried in gym shorts. It is an optics ready gun which several companies are making custom slim footprint optics for. It does punch above its weight class in ammo capacity and ‘shootability’. It’s a bigger gun masquerading as a smaller gun. And for me, that was worth trying it out.
As an aside, did you guys hear that SCCY is releasing an optics equipped DAO small 9mm? I hate that I’m interested, but I’m interested.