Tuning Up with the S&W Shield Plus Performance Center
I’ve always been curious about how much better the Performance Center guns were from S&W. So, when the opportunity presented itself to review the S&W Shield Plus and compare it to its Performance Center counterpart, I wasn’t going to let it slip by. Having shot and reviewed the Shield Plus, I was finally going to get the chance to know if the extra time, effort, and money would improve upon the rock-solid design.
Would the Performance Center actually make me perform better? Let’s find out.
On the Outside: What’s Different? What’s the Same?
There are some major differences right off the bat to compare. For starters, the Performance Center gun adds significant length to the gun with an extra 0.9 inches in barrel length and 1.9 inches in overall length. Couple that with the fact that the gun is also 0.5 inches taller once you add the Crimson Trace red dot on top, and it’s tough to still call this a micro-compact. Yet, that is how it comes in, so we’ll roll with it.
There are a few other big noticeable differences between the guns. The grip texture has been significantly upgraded and enhanced in the Performance Center. In fact, the whole frame has. The frame has a very fine, almost grit-type, texture to it. The grip is nicely textured and sticks to the hand even better than the original Shield Plus. This upgrade alone made shooting noticeably nicer for me.
In addition to the upgraded grip texture, the Performance Center also offers fiber-optic sights as a standard feature. This option is available in the Shield Plus as well, but it’s an upgrade you’ll have to pay for. I found these sights to be very nice, especially compared to the standard white three-dot sights of the Shield Plus. I was able to acquire them faster, and they helped to improve my accuracy as well – more on range time in a minute though.
Finally, the Shield Plus I got for testing came with a manual safety, whereas the Performance Center option doesn’t even give you that option. Personally, I like it without the manual safety. I understand why people may want them, but they’re not for me. So, I would rather have a gun without one.
Let’s take a look at the specs to see the other ways these guns differ:
What About the Internals?
Fear not, the upgrades to the Performance Center lineup don’t end at the cosmetic level. The internals have gone through some robust changes as well, which all aid in the pistol’s ability to flat-out shoot.
The biggest difference you’ll notice between the guns is the trigger. Now, in my review of the original Shield Plus, I raved about how I though S&W has done a really great job upgrading the trigger. So, I was a little skeptical that they would be able to take something that was already much improved and further enhance it. My skepticism was wrong. Check out how the two triggers compare in the video below:
S&W absolutely took a good product and made it great. The trigger in the Performance Center is so much smoother, the break is cleaner and crisper, and the reset is shorter. The reset, besides being a great deal shorter, also has a more tactile feel to it. The break is especially clean at the wall, taking very little effort to break through. It has all the feel of a trigger that has been given extra love and polish to make it perform. I would go so far as to say that this is one of the nicer production triggers you’ll feel in a gun under $1,000.
While the triggers may be different the field strip process remains the same, check it out:
The other big thing you’ll notice once you break down the gun is the upgraded guide rod and recoil spring. Paired with the longer barrel, the upgraded recoil spring makes for increased accuracy and softer felt recoil. Speaking of which, the recoil was already very manageable and pleasant in this gun overall.
Initial Range Thoughts
After taking both of these guns to the range, it became apparent that the Performance Center does in fact make me perform better. I initially shot the PC version without the included red dot because I wanted a true apples-to-apples comparison between the two guns. The fiber optics really popped on the target for me and, when mixed with the improved trigger, made for tighter groups than the original Shield Plus.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, I’m not a professional shooter. I’m a perfectly average shot, but both the Shield Plus and especially the Performance Center have made me feel like a better shooter because I shoot so well with them. Further, they’ve both functioned flawlessly.
I’ve put upwards of 300 rounds through the Performance Center, and I’m probably getting closer to the 1,000-round mark on the original Shield Plus. They’ve chewed up everything I’ve fed to them and spit it all out without any issues. I’ve fed them a mixture of old steel-cased practice ammo all the way up through defensive loads like Hornady Critical Defense. Again, not a single issue, and not that I would expected one.
Once I affixed the included Crimson Trace 5-MOA red dot to the top of the slide, I noticed even more of an improvement in accuracy, which I guess shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The red dot is polymer, and the construction felt less than ideal when I first held it. But once I got it on the pistol and actually started taking shots, all of those concerns melted away.
The window and construction are similar in size to that of the Romeo Zero from Sig Sauer. I found that my groups tightened up even more, and I was able to easily install the optic at the range with very little time needed to confirm zero. Overall, this made a great shooting experience even better.
Just like the original, the PC comes with both a flush-fit 10-round magazine and an extended 13-round magazine as well. If there was a small stone to throw at this gun, it’s that I wish the gun would come with an additional extended magazine. Having three magazines right off the bat gives extra options for training – both dry fire and live fire – and it makes owning the gun that much more enjoyable. It’s certainly not an industry standard, but it’s nice when it happens, and I thought that the Performance Center model could’ve benefited from that upgrade.
The other extra bonus that S&W includes with the PC model is the addition of a rather nice cleaning kit. The kit offers a handful of brushes, cleaning pads, etc. It’s not something that was by any means needed, but it was certainly appreciated. I could see this becoming my full-time range cleaning kit, not that I’ve ever been a person to start cleaning my guns on the range, but having one would be beneficial.
Finally, as I mentioned before, the Crimson Trace MRD is included with this purchase as well. You’re optics ready right out of the box. It’s a nice touch for those who don’t want to mess around to find the MRD that works for them. These two are meant for each other and function nicely together.
More Rounds, Same Thoughts
Smith & Wesson has a way of being very consistent, and this Performance Center pistol was no exception to the rule for me. The more I was able to shoot with this gun, the more I appreciated the gun for its trigger and its ability to take easy follow-up shots. Since beginning to shoot this gun, I've been able to experiment with some different optics, and I certainly like the Holosun I have on my S&W M&P M2.0 in 10mm more, but the Crimson Trace certainly is enough to get started. It was certainly enough to get me on target consistently and with little effort, too. So, I shouldn't be too disappointed with the choice. My two big harps on it are the construction quality and battery usage, but if it works it works.
I did happen to have a single malfunction with the Performance Center, but I'd chalk it up to poor ammo quality and storage on my part since I've had a malfunction or two with that same batch of Wolf rather than an issue with the gun. It's been a consistent performer, which could be put to use in a number of different ways.
I was skeptical at first if the Shield Plus Performance Center would actually make the gun perform better for me, but now I know better. The Performance Center is aptly named for a reason. If you’re already a fan of Smith & Wesson, or if you love their new Shield Plus as much as I do, then maybe consider upgrading to the Performance Center version.
Whether you’re looking to add something to break into competition shooting or you’re just looking to upgrade your concealed carry option, the Shield Plus Performance Center might just be for you.