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Southpaw Shooter’s Review – Springfield XDS-9mm vs. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm

July 9, 2013

I got a Springfield XDS 9mm as a gift recently.  I wanted to compare it to another pistol that I have a love/hate relationship with, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm.

First, I am a left handed shooter.  This fact usually misses most firearms manufacturers completely.  Left handed people account for roughly 10% of the total population. I practice shooting with both strong and weak hands, and with both eyes.  When firing a rifle I am typically right handed, although I can easily transition to left handed firing. (A feat which gave my Drill Sergeants fits when I was in basic training.)  Right now I carry a Smith & Wesson M&P Compact 9mm. Being in Houston, in the summer time, this can get a bit bulky and difficult to conceal, so I was looking for a smaller pistol.  My wife carries a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm. For a concealed carry firearm, this pistol is nearly perfect.  It is extremely comfortable, there is very little felt recoil, and it is easy enough to conceal that my wife has several different holsters depending on what she is wearing.  When she got another one I quickly “commandeered” it for myself.  I was pleased with it, right up until I had to do a magazine change.  If you are a southpaw, like me, the shield fails at that moment. Some users have managed to find a way to fidget their finger to the magazine release while firing left handed, but not all hands are equal. I was not one of those users. I was unable to change magazines in the Shield safely, so I returned the Shield to my wife. 

Springfield saw an opportunity, and has tried to capitalize on the success of the Shield by introducing a 9mm version of their XDS pistol. Before I considered this purchase, I carefully studied the features of the XDS.  While the Shield has a safety, designed for right handed shooters, it is very small and difficult to manipulate in a time of duress. Most users that I know simply don’t engage the safety if they are carrying. The XDS has a grip safety, similar to a 1911, that works regardless of which hand the pistol is held in.  The safety on the Shield is not ideal, but it also goes unused a majority of the time.  The grip safety on the XDS is almost un-noticeable.

The Shield magazine release is on the left side of the pistol. A proper grip in the left hand may accidentally press your palm against it dropping your magazine when you need it most. The magazine release on the Shield cannot be switched to the other side of the pistol, as you can do with the M&P Compact and M&P full size, and nearly all other semi-automatic firearms in the M&P line.  The XDS Magazine release is ambidextrous from the factory. There is a button on either side of the grip that when depressed will release the magazine.  It is located slightly forward of the magazine release in the Shield, and is not prone to accidental magazine releases.  It is a little bit cumbersome and not ideally located for me, but this is a shooter’s preference item.

Both the Shield and the XDS have two piece triggers. The Shield’s trigger is similar to the other pistols in the M&P line, and Glock triggers. The XDS trigger has a center piece to disengage the trigger safety. Trigger pull on the Shield is crisp, with a nice reset. On the XDS the trigger is not as crisp, and the break point did vary some while I was initially shooting. I have only fired about a hundred or so rounds through the XDS though, so I can’t say it will stay that way. (I did look at a few Glock pistols while I was waiting for the XDS 9 to be released, and sorry Glock lovers, I was not impressed. That trigger had more creep in it than a windowless ‘79 GMC van parked in front of an elementary school with “Free Candy” painted on the side.)

Both the Shield and the XDS have two different size magazines available to them. The short capacity magazine for the XDS holds seven rounds, while the short capacity magazine for the Shield only holds six. The long capacity magazine for each holds an additional round, and has a grip extension feature.  Availability for the long capacity magazine for the XDS is limited right now though, since the pistol is so new.

Both pistols have roughly the same dimensions, so concealment with either should be a breeze with the proper holster.  The XDS comes with two interchangeable backstraps to adjust the grip of the pistol slightly.  The Shield does not. So far between the two, the XDS wins out for lefties. 

Where the Shield shines and the XDS is lacking, is comfort. The grip of the Shield is natural, and extremely comfortable.  The XDS grip on the other hand, is a bit sharp. The front of the grip is a bit too squared off, and the aggressive texturing on the grip in combination with the squared shape of the grip tends to dig into your hands a little bit. The XDS does have quite a bit more “snap” to it when fired. It is not unmanageable, but it is noticeable, and when combined with the overall comfort of the grip, this really is what makes the Shield so popular as a self defense weapon, and a recreational pistol. 

Feature

XDS – 9mm

S&W M&P Shield 9mm

  image image

Ambidextrous Safety

Trigger safety

Ambidextrous Magazine Release

 

Adjustable Backstrap

 

Trigger safety

Trigger feel

 

Total Capacity

Overall comfort

✓✓✓

Ultimately, for a left handed shooter, the XDS is a much better option. It is a nice pistol, and has many features that shooters would appreciate.  It just doesn’t match the extreme comfort level of the Shield however, and that is its downfall.  If the grip was more ergonomic, then the Shield would have some serious competition.  I would very much like to see Smith & Wesson do something with the Shield for us left handed shooters, perhaps remove the safety and make the magazine release similar or identical to the rest of the M&P line where it can be changed over for lefties.  If S&W did that, I would definitely be sold.  Until then, my XDS will take honors as the preferred choice until the temperature cools down again and I can start wearing my M&P compact again.

7 Comments
  1. Gruney permalink

    I have seen instructions on how to reverse the mag release, and it seems pretty similar to the regular M&Ps. You have to move the spring to the side so you can pop out the button assy, then put it in the other way and position the spring to provide tension.

    S&W didn’t put it in the manual leading many to believe it was not possiblS&W didn’t put it in the manual leading many to believe it was not possiblS&W didn’t put it in the manual leading many to believe it was not possiblS&W didn’t put it in the manual leading many to believe it was not possible.

    • Gruney, Thanks for your input. After looking at my wife’s shields very closely, you will notice something about the mag releases. Although the magazine does have the notch in both sides, the shape of the cutout for the button for the mag release is not identical on both sides like it is with other pistols in the M&P line. This small bit makes a big difference. Certain gun smiths might be able to make the change, but I don’t know of any who would. With that small exception, you are correct in that the MAg release is identical to the larger M&P pistols. That small difference though, is the difference between a viable weapon for self defense and a fancy paperweight for me.

  2. Are you still shooting the XDS? I’m an ambi shooter and one thing I noticed about the XDS that I wasn’t crazy about was the takedown lever. It gets in the way when I’m shooting left handed and I’m trying to rest my finger on the frame. Obviously, this is just a matter of comfort and not functionality. Have you experienced this? Maybe I could get used to it.

    Lastly, I’m surprised that you said the XDS has more “snap” to it given that the XDS is both heavier and has a lower bore axis. Is it possible you just need to get used to it? How is it now?

    • I am still shooting the XDs, but admittedly not nearly as often as I should. I do still carry it, but I prefer to carry my M&P Pro. The “snap” I felt might not have been the recoil itself, but the feel of the grip and grip texturing. I would really like to have some “scientific” way to measure the feel of recoil that is consistent, but what is measured is objective, and what is felt is subjective. It all depends on the shooter. I do still love the XDs though, and I still recommend it as a comparable alternative to the Shield for left handed shooters.

      • So I take it the takedown lever doesn’t get in the way of your index finger when it’s resting on the frame?

    • Not at all. It is flush enough that it doesn’t cause an issue for me. If you are having issues, there are other similar pistols you can try, like a Kahr or a CZ. (I haven’t shot either of those, so I can’t say with any expertise.)

      • Thanks. I’m currently carrying the Walther PPS which is probably one of the pistols closest to it. It feels great holding it, but not so much after putting a hundred rounds through it. Thanks again.

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