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Noir Review | Glock 43 vs. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

Noir Review | Glock 43 vs. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

Some people think micro carry guns like the Glock 43 and M&P Shield are pointless when they can carry a Glock 17 or M&P9 with absolute ease under their Magellan fishing shirts and cargo pants. However, when your go-to attire is an overpriced rag & bone T-shirt and RRL jeans, you beg for guns like the G43 and Shield.

When Smith & Wesson dropped the Shield, it was like Apple released another iPhone. Then the Springfield XD-S came out, but it was in .45 ACP—so pretty much no one cared except diehard Springfield fans and people who believed the .45 ACP was crafted by God himself. Finally Glock released the Glock 43 expecting everyone to swarm after them like a pack of rabid dogs, but they didn’t—at least not everyone. 

Glock was slow to action in releasing the 43. This left a ton of people with no other option but to buy the Shield and live with it without distractions. Unfortunately for Glock, the Shield turned out to be an excellent gun, which resulted in a lot of people giving the G43 the side-eye. 

Looks 

I’d never call a Glock beautiful, but next to the Shield I think it’s the better-looking gun. The Shield isn’t ugly; I just feel that its busy styling overwhelms its small size. Smith & Wesson took the exact same styling from the bigger M&P pistols. This tactical cut-and-paste job ends up making the Shield look like a poorly resized Instagram picture. Glock did the same with the 43, but Glocks have always had a minimalist approach to styling, so the look translates well between different-sized platforms. There’s also something about the 43’s proportions that make the gun less awkward-looking than its bigger Glock counterparts.The Glock 43 went the rugged, utilitarian route with its miniature square grip texture, while the Shield stuck with its plush, comfort-focused granulated material texture. 

Ergonomics

When it comes to ergonomics, each gun takes a different approach. The Glock 43 went the rugged, utilitarian route with its miniature square grip texture, while the Shield stuck with its plush, comfort-focused granulated material texture. When your hands are dry, they both work fine, but when your hand starts to sweat, both textures are inconsequential. Good thing both guns are naturally easy to hold onto. The Glock sits low in your hand, where the Shield feels a bit top-heavy. However, the Shield has a wider grip from trigger to backstrap and longer grip overall, so there’s naturally more to grab. In short, the Shield is the fitness model when she’s not competing and the Glock 43 is the fitness model in full competition mode. Personally, I’m torn—not between two fitness models, but over which gun I think is better ergonomically. The Shield feels better in hand, but I love the high-bore access you get with the Glock.  

Trigger 

I like my triggers like I like my wine. I want a smooth initial impression (take up), a solid evolution (wall) and a relatively light crisp finish (brake). Then follow it up with a nice tactile and audible reset. Recently, I’ve learned that the importance of a definitive reset has been oversold, but that’s a subject for another time. The Glock 43’s trigger has a rather mushy take up, a solid (but not very clean) wall, and a brake that is extremely clean and loud. Glock has the G43’s trigger pull weight listed at 5.5 pounds, but if feels heavier. The Shield has a slightly crunchy take up, due to the two-piece trigger posing as a safety feature. The wall is solid and more defined than the G43, but the brake is teetering on being a little hollow. As far as reset: Ha! What reset? Ironically, Smith & Wesson has the Shield’s trigger pull weight at 6.5 pounds, but it feels lighter than the G43’s trigger. The Shield’s trigger is slightly cleaner than the G43 and easier to stage. That being said, I’m going with the Shield trigger simply because I am forced to pick one. I could easily live happily with either of these decent triggers. 

Features

When it comes to features, both guns are pretty standard. I can’t stand the sights on the Glock. I hate stock Glock sights so much that I would personally walk them over to the depths of hell and throw them in. The safety on the Shield is a point of contention for some, but for me they’re like chopsticks. They’re there, but I don’t know how to use them, so I just ignore them. Could I accidently engage the safety? Yeah. And I could also meet Angela Simmons and she could fall madly in love with me, but the odds are so low it’s easy to ignore them. They both have chamber indicators. The G43’s indicator is visual and tactile, while the Shield’s is only visual.

Capacity

As far as capacity straight out of the box, the Shield wins this hands down. It comes with a flush magazine carrying seven rounds and an extended magazine carrying eight. At this point we could shut this whole thing down and call the Shield the better gun based on capacity alone. (At least the way I see it.) Out of the box, the Glock 43 comes with a six-round flush magazine and seven-round extended. Like I said in my review of the Glock 43, that’s unacceptable. However, when fitted with Taran Tactical +1 and +2 base plates, the Glock gets back in the fight with a vengeance. For anyone looking at these micro carry guns, the most important factors are reliability, shootability and concealability, in that order. 

Size and Concealability 

I know comparing a stock M&P Shield to a Glock 43 with extended base plates is totally unfair, but hear me out for a second. For anyone looking at these micro carry guns, the most important factors are reliability, shootability and concealability, in that order. Let’s work our way from the back, starting with concealability. If you don’t care about printing or you open carry, you might as well skip this part. But for people like me who go to extra lengths to hide the fact that we’re carrying, every inch and centimeter matters, especially when we are talking about grip length. 

Compare a Glock 43 fitted with a +1 Taran Tactical base plate to the Shield fitted with the flush magazine, and the Glock is noticeably shorter. Drop the +2 base plate in the Glock 43, and it’s nearly the same size as the Shield with the flush magazine. Drop the extended magazine into the Shield and—you see what I’m getting at. So when it comes to size and concealability, the Glock 43 fitted with Taran Tactical base plates is smaller than the Shield in every way that counts, with the same capacity. 

Shootability 

Shooting small guns is generally a chore, but dammit, these two guns were a joy to shoot. We’ve reached a new era where small guns now shoot way bigger than they are. After spending a considerable amount of time with each of these, one thing is clear: Both of these guns are shooters. They’re not even supposed to be fun to shoot. They’re purpose-driven guns that fill a role in your carry-gun rotation, but I found myself wanting to shoot them over and over again. Between the two, the Shield is the softer-shooting gun, but both do an exceptional job handling the recoil in relation to their size. To me the difference in recoil is marginal, but the Glock 43 has slightly more recoil than the Shield. 

Accuracy 

Flat out, I am more accurate with the Shield at distance than I am with the Glock, and it has everything to do with the damn sights. The stock Glock sights confuse my eyes from time to time, making me less accurate than I would be with a three-dot setup on the Shield. But make no mistake, both guns are capable of good accuracy. With a three-dot setup I feel I would shoot the Glock just as well at distance, but I would still give the edge to the Shield. Here’s the weird thing: When it comes to instinctive shooting, I am better with the Glock.

Moving and Shooting 

In my hands the Glock felt more at home while moving and shooting. The Shield started feeling a little top-heavy, where the Glock’s high-bore access felt much better in my hand during instinctive shooting on the move. Don’t get me wrong: The Shield handled this just fine, but the Glock is like taking a turn at speed in a Ferrari 599 as opposed to a Mercedes S-class coupe. They’re both high-performance cars, one is just better suited for taking turns. I’d trust each of these guns with my life. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Conclusion

In my review of the Glock 43, I ended conflicted about which gun goes with me when I leave the house, the Glock 43 or the Shield? Let me start by saying this: If you’re a new gun buyer and don’t own an M&P or Glock, the Shield is the better gun out of the box. Currently, it’s cheaper, holds more rounds, has less felt recoil, feels great in hand and shoots like a bigger gun. 

However, the gun that goes with me when I leave the house is the Glock 43. Replacing the stock sights, adding extended magazines and (if you must) improving the trigger all make the Glock the better gun in my book. If price were a big issue I would go with the Shield, but I feel the extra money spent on the Glock 43 to increase its capacity and improve the sights is worth making it the gun that it becomes after these upgrades. 

My go-to carry gun is the Glock 26, and the Glock 43 is the 26 cut in half. So for those times when I need a thinner gun, the 43 fits the bill perfectly. With these improvements, the Glock 43 is smaller than the Shield, and I can shoot the 43 as well or better than the Shield at distance with different sights. 

You can’t go wrong with either one of these guns. I’ve had stoppages with both, so neither one is perfect in terms of reliability, but I don’t believe any gun is perfectly reliable. However, I’d trust each of these guns with my life. In the end, that’s all that matters.