EDC Battle: Springfield Hellcat vs. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus
Everyday carry, or EDC, is not just a phrase, but is a mindset. Carrying a firearm and other “gear” means you have made the conscious decision to defend yourself and your family. With constitutional carry rapidly approaching in Ohio (June 13, 2022 to be exact), the conversation of concealed carry and the handguns that accompany that discussion have increased. Luckily for the consumer, there has never been a time when dealers have as many options as line the shelves today. These options range from the budget conscious, such as the Taurus GX4, to the uber expensive—the Staccato P DPO for instance. Today’s discussion will pit two of the most popular models against each other, the Springfield Hellcat and Smith & Wesson’s M&P Shield Plus.
Springfield’s foray into the concealed carry market really started with the XDS in 45ACP (yes there were other guns that came first). The XDS was eventually chambered in 9mm and Springfield even released a 2.0 version. A relatively revolutionary gun for the time, however, it quickly fell in popularity as other companies advanced the status quo for optimized concealed carry guns. Springfield’s answer was the Hellcat. Built by HS Produkts in Croatia, the Hellcat really does deliver peak performance. Sitting at 4 inches long, 6 inches tall, and barely an inch thick, the Hellcat may seem small, but packs 11 rounds of 9mm into its flush fit magazine. Additional mags can be had in 13 round (which ships with the gun) and 15 round capacity. The increased capacity mags also create a longer grip, offering more purchase for those with larger hands.
Springfield’s website shows twelve total offerings of the Hellcat, including the newly released Hellcat Pro. The option looked at for this article is the OSP variation in all black. OSP stands for optical sight pistol, which simply means that a micro red dot sight can be added. The OSP seems to fit most micro compact dot designs including Shield RMSc, JP Enterprises JPoint, and Springfield’s own house brand, the Hex Wasp. Packed in a C&G IWB holster with added wing, the Hellcat carries well, even when fully loaded with 13 plus 1. This is more noticeable when comparing to a larger gun, like the Glock 19 with its 15 plus 1 capacity. The Hellcat isn’t sacrificing much in round count, but is gaining a lot in terms of concealability.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus
Big Blue sent shockwaves in the firearms industry back in 2012 with the introduction of the M&P Shield line of handguns. Some may argue this point, but the Shield was really the first mainstream handgun that targeted the growing concealed carry market. (In many states concealed carry is relatively new. In Ohio, for example, legalized concealed carry did not pass until 2004). It was a single stack, polymer framed gun offered in 9mm and 40 S&W. People flocked to gun counters all over the country for the new gun. For the first handful of years of its existence, the Shield was the best selling concealed carry handgun. But other manufacturers took notice. Glock introduced the 42 and 43, Sig introduced the P365 series of guns, and so on and so forth. The Shield was shrinking in popularity as its competitors offered more and more options. To combat that, Smith introduced an updated version of the Shield, called the Shield Plus.
The Shield Plus increased its capacity to 10 and 13 rounds—compared to 7 and 8 out of the first generation— to put it in line with its competitors. They also updated the trigger with an entirely new trigger shoe and safety. The Shield no longer has a curved shoe that hinged in the middle (a trigger safety). Smith & Wesson went to straight trigger with a middle tigger safety. The new trigger is a tremendous update. The Shield now has a trigger akin to some of the most popular aftermarket options (Apex Tactical comes to mind). Smith also updated the grip texture to that of the M&P 2.0 series (Smith’s full size handgun line). Of course, the Plus has models that are optics ready and seem to be RMSc compatible, though more options may be used. (It is 2022. ALL handguns should come with optic mounting capability from the factory). With these upgrades, Smith is now a major player in the concealed handgun market once again.
Head to Head
Of course when shopping for a new carry gun, people like to look at many different options and see how they feel. Most gun shops, unfortunately, do not offer the ability to shoot them before hand (the Fin included). Having knowledge before is helpful, but finding a shop or salesmen that you can trust is beneficial. Likely, the Hellcat and Shield Plus will be two of the options shown. At a quick glance they are very similar, with large-for-size capacity magazine, optics cuts, flat trigger shoes, and aggressive stippling on the frames. Also, to be quite frank, shooting them is also a similar experience. The geometry and ergonomics of the pistols makes them quite enjoyable to shoot. The recoil is relatively mild for the more svelte guns but some negatives do need to be mentioned. For those that are more inexperienced or have dexterity issues, manipulation of the slide can be difficult. I will say, after a fair amount of shooting, the guns do “break in.” Additionally, the magazines utilize a kind of “stack-and-a-half” system to fit 11 or more rounds in them. To be reliable they must use a strong spring. Getting the last round or two can be a bear, so using a magazine loading assist is sometimes necessary—the one from Uplula is my go to. With that being said, there is a reason these are two very popular options—reliability, concealability, and shootability.
All this into consideration, the “head-to-head” aspect puts this as a wash. The guns are very similar and offer an almost identical feature set. The track record for both handguns is also positive. They have a long-standing following and are immensely popular. So which one should a consumer go with? Honestly, go with the one that “feels” the best and then look at pricing. Many times these two are on sale. Some sales might even come with extras, such as magazines or optics, which is also important when weighing a decision.
This article may have helped or it may have a cluttered the decision making process even more. But that is okay. Choosing to carry a gun is an immensely personal decision. Confidence in the pistol you carry along with how you carry is just as important. No matter what gun is chosen, practice and train with it. Build confidence. Becoming proficient will make whatever gun you choose that much better.