Battle of the Ultra-Compacts: Glock 43 vs. S&W Shield By: Dr. Martin D. Topper

Ultra-Compact 9mm. semi-autos have been flying off the dealer’s shelves lately, and two of the most popular are the new Glock 43 and the S&W Shield.  Although there are a lot of similarities between these guns, there are also some differences that are worth exploring to help prospective buyers make a truly informed choice.

Topper Glock-Shield 6

The four loads tested from the bench were (left to right) the Polycase Inceptor ARX 74 gr. FRN, the Underwood 90 gr. FRN, the G2 100 gr. Civic Duty CHP and the 115 gr. Gorilla Ammunition Silverback CHP.

The Pistols

The pistols chosen for this review are the Glock 43 with aftermarket Trijicon HD sights and the S&W Performance Center Shield which is ported and has night sights.  Both guns are single stack 9mm semi-automatic pistols with polymer frames and steel frame rails.  The Glock is a fraction of an inch longer than the Shield, while the Shield is slightly taller than the Glock.  Both have non-reflective matte black weather-resistant finishes on the slides.  The barrel of the Glock is about .2 inches longer than that of the Shield, but that difference is insignificant, as is the fraction of an ounce difference in their weights.  In short, they are very similar guns which are both designed for deep concealment. In addition, both guns are very well-made inside and out with no irregular edges, poorly conformed parts or tool marks.  Trigger pulls were similar with the Shield’s enhanced Performance Center trigger breaking at 5.5 lbs. and the G43 dropping the striker at 4.75 lbs.

Topper Glock-Shield 2

There are, however, several important differences between the guns which will matter to some buyers.  There are seven and eight round magazines available for the Shield, while the G43 magazines all hold six rounds.  It gives the Shield a longer grip which is better for people with large hands, but the larger grip is more likely to print through clothing.  This particular model of the Shield also has a ported barrel to reduce muzzle rise.  The two ports in the barrel definitely do give the Shield s less muzzle flip than the Glock.


Topper Glock-Shield 7

This 1.04″ 5-shot group was fired by the Shield using Underwood Extreme Defense ammo.

Both pistols were tested at the Flagler Gun Club for accuracy, bullet velocity and reliability with four different loads; G2’s 100 gr. Civic Duty, Gorilla Ammunition’s 115 gr. Silverback, Polycase’s 74 gr. Inceptor ARX and Underwood’s 90 gr. Extreme Defender.  The first two loads are copper hollowpoints and the last two have Fifth Generation fluted round nose (FRN) bullets.  Because these are close range defense guns, five-shot group accuracy was tested at 7 and 15 yards using a two-hand Isosceles stance.  Average accuracy for all four loads with the Shield was 1.7 inch at 7 yards and 4.49 inches at 15 yards.  The average for the G43 was 1.88 inch at 7 yards and 3.03 inches at 15 yards.  Overall the G43 was slightly more accurate.  Velocities are displayed in the attached chart.  The G43 with its polygonal rifling and slightly longer barrel produced about 25-35 feet per second more with each load than did the Shield.  Reliability with both was very good with the exception of the fact that the Shield’s heavy recoil spring prevented the slide from locking open after the last round was fired. This can handicap reload speed. The G43 also sometimes did not go to slidelock.

Topper Glock-Shield 8

This 98-8X 7 yd. 10-shot group was fired by the Performance Center Shield during tactical drills.

Topper Glock-Shield 4

The 9mm.S&W Performance Center Shield tested for this article had a ported barrel and an enhanced trigger, both of which contributed to its excellent handling in tactical drills.

The last test was a drill performed at 7 yards at the Big 3 East Training Center near Daytona Beach. Remington 115 gr. JHP ammo was used and a Competition Electronics timer was used to measure the time it took to take a full step to the side while drawing and fire two aimed shots to center mass.  The average time for five repetitions of the drill and the total score on the target were combined to determine which gun handled the best.  The Shield’s average time was 4.43 seconds and the total score was 99-8X.  The Glock came in at 4.60 seconds. and 97-1X.  Both guns handle very well for close range defensive shooting, but the Shield came out slightly ahead due to its porting and enhanced trigger.


The Shield and G43 are both excellent close-range deep concealment guns.  The choice between them is really a matter of personal choice and will depend upon which one fits and points best in the prospective buyer’s hand, and which gun has the features the buyer finds most appealing.

Bench Performance

S&W Shield Velocity Energy    7 yd. Group 15 yd. Group
Civic Duty 100 gr. CHP 1176 fps. 303 ft. pds.    1.58″ 5.83″
Polycase ARX 74 gr. FRN 1477 fps. 358 ft. pds.    2.34″ 4.83″
Silverback 115 gr. CHP 1005 fps. 258 ft. pds.    2.09″ 3.72″
Underwood 90 gr. FRN 1286 fps. 330 ft. pds.    1.04″ 3.57″
Glock 43 Velocity Energy   7 yd. Group 15 yd. Group
Civic Duty 100 gr. CHP 1197 fps. 318 ft. pds. 1.77″ 3.84″
Polycase ARX 74 gr. FRN 1509 fps. 374 fp. pds. 1.52″ 2.18″
Silverback 115 gr. CHP 1034 fps. 273 ft. pds. 2.24″ 2.99″
Underwood 90gr. FHP 1303 fps. 339 ft. pds. 2.02″ 3.09″

Topper Glock Shield 9

Where to find:

Big 3 East Training Center:

Flagler Gun Club:

G2 Ammunition:

Glock Pistols: www.

Gorilla Silverback Ammunition:

Polycase Ammunition:

Smith and Wesson Pistols:

                                          Underwood Ammunition:



S&W Performance Center Shield:

Caliber:                         9mm. Luger or .40 S&W- 9mm. Tested

Weight:                        18.2 oz. Unloaded

Barrel Length:            3.1″

Sight Radius:               5.3″

Overall Length:          6.1′

Overall Height:           4.6″

Overall Width:            .95″

Frame:                         Polymer with Steel Rail Inserts

Slide:                            Stainless Steel with Matte Black Melonite                                                   Finish

MSRP:                         $600

Glock 43:

Caliber:                         9mm. Luger

Weight:                        17.95 oz. Unloaded

Barrel Length:            3.39″

Sight Radius:               5.1″

Overall Length:          6.1″

Overall Height:           4.25″

Overall Width:            1.02″

Frame:                         Polymer with Steel Rail Inserts

Slide:                            Stainless Steel with Matte Black Melonite                                                   Finish

MSRP:                         $600 (Approximate with Factory Night Sights)


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