S&W Shield VS Sig P365XL – By the Numbers

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.

A day of shooting some tests quickly cuts through “feelings” about how a gun performs.

The Guns

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.


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.

B8 repair center for you to download:B-8 (1)Download


“Virtually Identical” – Mike Goldberg

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.

Optics Ready

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.

This soon to be released HOLOSUN 507K is just brilliant and pushed my purchase.

New! Holosun HS507K Red Dot Sight , Color: Black, Battery Type: CR1632, 15% Off w/ Free S&H

Review: Dark Star Gear Clip-On AIWB for Shield

Tom of Dark Star Gear and I have been friends for several years. Like most internet friendships, I don’t recall exactly how we connected, but it was probably over something non-firearm related that was said on a mutual friend’s Facebook wall, or on a firearms forum about flashlights or something. We hit it off and have been internet bros ever since.

Anyway, fast forward to a few weeks ago and I sent in a request for a quote for, “A clip-on appendix holster for my shield in an obnoxious color, made how you would make one for yourself.” His response was, “I got you, fam”. I didn’t know what that meant until I received a surprise from the postal service last week.

Why I needed it:

I needed a holster to carry my S&W Shield when I was wearing my Gi pants on the way to Jiu Jitsu, mowing the yard in shorts, running for beer, filling up at the gas station, and so on. Sometimes a sturdy belt is too much trouble. Some days I can’t even be bothered to put on pants. I’m that lazy. The color scheme is because I like to offend the multicam crowd. Toxic Green Houndstooth fit the bill and was a pleasant surprise.

I appreciate the utility of a belt-looped holster for ultimate security and retention when you’re being lifted up and slammed by your holster in training (or in da streetz).

ShivWorks ECQC grounded evolution. The gear grindhouse.

Sometimes the convenience of a clip-on holster can’t be beat. The failure point for clip-on holsters is usually the clip itself. There isn’t enough ‘bite’ to grab the material of the pants without a belt, and you end up drawing the pistol and holster as one unit. That’s bad. Tom chose his clip wisely. It has a barb that turns back into the pants material and has gripped every kind of leg covering I own, and it also works with a belt.

Luckily for me, there are guys like Tom who apply good materials, quality components, and an engineer’s touch to carry gear.

This is the Semi-Auto Clip-on IWB/AIWB Holster. I’m not sure if you need to request the extended length or not.

4 things this holster does very well:

  • The spacing resolution of the holes in the vertical adjustment of the clip. They are about .3″ center to center, which makes for nice fine tuning of ride height in the pants.

Three sets of holes spaced close enough to give good adjustment for ride height.
Three sets of holes spaced close enough to give good adjustment for ride height. Middle set of holes used in this photo.

  • The clip has an aggressive bite that grips every pair of pants exceedingly well. Whether gi pants, nylon gym shorts, cargo shorts without a belt, jeans, swim trunks, whatever. The gun comes out, the holster stays. That’s what we want. My testing will be ongoing, but I’ve tried it with all of the above types of garments at least 100 draws in each. Same result every time.

A very bitey clip.

  • A satisfying click when the gun is holstered. The gun has enough retention for running, jumping, and somersaulting. I have video. It won’t shake out when held upside down and jostled. And there is a retention adjustment screw.
  • The holster extends beyond the muzzle of the gun by nearly an inch. Why would you want to make such a tiny gun effectively longer, you ask? Because the shield has much of its weight behind the trigger guard (AKA above the belt-line). Most small-frame pistol clip-on holsters are prone to print significantly more as the belly (#dadbod) presses the grip out, and there is no counter-pressure from the muzzle end against the pubic area to keep it flat behind the waist. By making the holster Glock19 length, Tom has created a longer lever that helps keep the grip flat against the belly, even without a belt. It’s a subtle, but valuable, feature.


If Tom hadn’t insisted that he send me this holster as a gift, I would have gladly paid for it (don’t tell him that). It’s a great design. I’m confident you wouldn’t be disappointed.

I want to set up some force-on-force with this holster to see if I can break it or get it to pop out of my pants in a fight. I’ll report back if any new information comes to light.

Thank you,


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Gear Featured:
Smith and Wesson Shield 9mm
Dark Star Gear
Phlster holster
Ameriglo I-cap sights Orange outline
Apex Sear