Smith & Wesson and Ruger are two of the largest firearms companies in America, and they’ve both released new micro-compact guns to much fanfare this year. I’ve written on the Shield Plus and Max-9 in the past, but today I’m taking them into the concealed carry arena and pairing them against each other. Let’s find out which micro compact is right for you. 

Specs and Feel in the Hand

As micro compacts, both guns are small by nature and each comes with a flush-fit 10-round magazine. With the extended magazines, the Max-9 can bump up to 12 rounds while the Shield Plus holds one over Ruger’s head with a 13-round extended magazine. 

The Shield Plus sports a slightly smaller barrel at 3.1 inches versus the 3.2-inch barrel on the Max-9. That said, the Ruger takes the prize for being shorter, lighter, and slimmer. Check out how all the specs stack up below.

Both guns feel similar in the hand, and they both have grip textures that are comparable. It’s noticeable that the Max-9 is slightly lighter and thinner when you pick them both up. That said, I actually like how the Shield Plus fills the hand a little bit more. I think it adds to the controllability of the pistol, which adds to the accuracy, but more on that in a minute. 

The Max-9 comes red-dot ready, if you’re someone who needs a red dot, while the Shield Plus I got in for review doesn’t have that option. That said, you can either hit up the Performance Center or S&W just announced a Shield Plus that is optic ready.

Ruger Max-9
The Ruger Max-9 is optics-ready and slimmer than the Shield Plus, making it an attractive option for concealed carry. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/

For my money, the Max-9 also has the Shield Plus beat in the slide serration and sights department. It should be noted that the Shield Plus I have is a traditional white three-dot setup, which is perfectly fine and would get the job done. But when compared with the nice fiber-optic sights that come stock on the Max-9, I know which sights I’d rather have. That said, the Shield Plus does have a version with upgraded fiber-optic sights. As for the slide serrations, I find they are a bit more aggressive on the Max-9, especially the forward serrations.

Home on the Range

At this point, I’ve put over 600 rounds through the Shield Plus and, although I did eventually send the Ruger back, I put around 400 rounds through it before doing so. I didn’t have a single malfunction or snafu with either gun, not that I expected one. Both companies have a great reputation for making quality firearms that are reliable. These seem to be no different. They ate a mixture of Winchester and Federal training rounds with no issues whatsoever. 

So, let’s talk triggers and accuracy. This is where the two guns separate for me, and the Shield Plus shows off. In my review of the Shield Plus, I talked about how much Smith & Wesson has improved that trigger. I think it’s one of the best in the micro-compact class. For me, the Shield Plus has a much better trigger than the Max-9 because it features less take-up, a cleaner and crisper break, and a shorter reset. All of this added up to more accurate shots and faster and more reliable follow-up shots. The Shield Plus also sports a flat trigger, which is appealing to me. 

All of this is not to say that the Max-9 has a bad trigger. It’s a perfectly fine trigger, and it's more than capable of getting the job done for concealed carry. But when the two are compared, for me, it’s not even close. The Shield Plus is head and shoulders above the Max-9, and I think it shows in the accuracy for me. I have consistently shot the Shield Plus better from the first mag all the way through having to send the Max-9 back.

Max-9 at range
The first mag out of the Ruger Max-9 from 25 feet. It's a bit more spread out than the Shield Plus below, although its certainly serviceable for concealed carry work. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/
Shield Plus at range
The first mag out of the Shield Plus from 25 feet proved to be much tighter than its Ruger counterpart. A lot of this can be attributed to a really nice trigger in the Shield Plus. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/


What’s Right for You?

Both guns have a similar MSRP, but real-world prices show you can get the Ruger for a little less. The Shield Plus has the advantage in terms of round count and accuracy for me. Plus, I carried an M&P Shield 9 for years, so this was just a natural evolution.

Shooting the Shield Plus
Increased accuracy and speedy follow-up shots made the Shield Plus an easy decision for me. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/

That said, the Max-9 has features like being optics ready and fiber-optic sights. S&W will charge you extra for these if you want them on the Shield Plus. If you’re someone on a budget, then maybe the Ruger Max-9 is the one for you. For me, I chose the Shield Plus because its accuracy and comfort are the biggest factors to consider for carry, this gun did them both best for me.


At the end of the day, I really enjoyed shooting both of these pistols. I shot the Shield Plus better, which is why I still have it and the Max-9 went back to the Vault. Both guns should hold up really well to the demands of daily carry, and either would be a fine choice for your next concealed carry gun. 

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