CCW Showdown: M&P Shield vs Beretta Apex A1 Carry

If you are looking for a CCW gun, the M&P Shield and Beretta APX A1 Carry are two micro-compact options worth looking at. Both guns have their advantages and disadvantages, making them a good match for a comparison review. Selecting a gun for concealed carry involves a process of research, window shopping, and evaluation. Evaluating the type of weapon that works best for you is one of the biggest factors in the selection process. This is based on several factors that often get overlooked.

Sheild and APX with holsters.
M&P Shield and Beretta APX CCW guns. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
This won’t be an in-depth review of each gun, but we will cover the basics of each pistol to help determine which weapon is right for you. I own and carry both guns when off duty. I’ve run drills at the range with each pistol multiple times, but I headed to the range again for this review. I also want to thank Global Ordnance for providing some Igman 124gr FMJ ammunition for the review.

M&P Shield 2.0

I’ve been around firearms my whole life. I work in law enforcement and I’m a certified firearms instructor and armorer. But like anyone else, I’m still learning, and I sometimes jump to conclusions that are not true. I owned a full-size 9mm M&P nearly a decade ago and didn’t like it. There wasn’t anything wrong with the gun; I just didn’t like the way it shot or how the grip felt in my hand. I was also a poor shot with it as well. Since that day, I’ve often commented on not liking the M&P line of weapons.

M&P Shield 2.0.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 2.0. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
That’s why I almost passed on the opportunity to buy the M&P Shield 2.0 for $300. At the last minute, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. After spending the day on the range, I can say I’ve made an about-face, at least with the Sheild. This was one of the best shooting micro-compact guns I’ve had on the range. The grip is extremely thin and comfortable.

Features of the M&P Shield

I like optics on handguns, but it’s not a deal breaker for me. At the price I found this gun, I didn’t mind it was not complete with an optics-ready slide. There is a manual thumb safety which is also a feature they offer on some models of the Sheild. You can also purchase the M&P Shield with a longer slide, night sights, or green/red laser guard. I like options and Smith & Wesson offers several configurations of the Sheild to choose from. I have the basic model with the option of thumb safety. I don’t really use thumb safeties unless I’m carrying a 1911-style gun.

Shield 2.0 9mm.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 2.0. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
But, the safety on this model is recessed in the frame and doesn’t get in the way, so it doesn’t bother me at all. I like the grip texturing. It’s not too smooth, but it’s also not overly aggressive. The slide release is small and hard to use, but I don’t use slide releases all that much as it is. When carrying a gun for self-defense, I train to pull back on the slide after reloading. A slide release on a compact gun could be hard to find and operate under stress, so, in my opinion, there’s no loss with the smaller release.

The trigger pull and three-dot style sights were a perfect combo with this gun. Once you take up the slack in the trigger, you feel a nice clear breaking point. The trigger is nice and clean. Sometimes you can feel mechanical movement in the trigger, making it a little rough, but overall, the gun was pleasant to shoot and is now in my EDC collection.

M&P Shield Specs:

  • Width: 0.95 in
  • Length: 6.1 in
  • Height: 4.6 in
  • Weight: 20.8 oz
  • Caliber: 9MM
  • Frame Size: Micro-Compcat
  • Capacity: 7,8
  • Action: Striker Fired
  • Barrel Length: 3.1
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Sights: White Dot
  • Optic Ready: No
  • Safety: Thumb/Manual
  • Color/Finish: Black
  • State Compliance: CO, CT, DE, HI, IL, MD, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA
  • Threaded Barrel: No
  • Barrel Materials: Stainless Steel
  • Frame: Polymer
  • Laser: No
  • Number of Magazines: 2

Beretta APX Carry A1

Moving on to the APX Carry A1. I bought this little gun when it was on sale with a $50 factory rebate. Because of the magazine capacity, I hadn’t given it much thought, but the price was too good to pass on. Another thing that appealed to me was the replaceable grip module available from Beretta, similar to the modular systems offered by Grand Power and Sig Sauer.

Beretta APX A1 Carry OD Green.
OD Green grip module on my APX A1. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
Beretta offers multiple colors of grip modules, so I purchased the green to replace the FDE (flat dark earth) on mine. I was a little disappointed with the process of replacing the grip module. The grip module change was not simple at all, so keep that in mind. If you don’t plan to change it, then no harm no foul. But I thought I’d better mention it.

I think the grip texture is just a little too aggressive on the APX front and back straps, but that’s just my preference. If you like a strong texture (like sandpaper strong) you will love this grip.

Overall, the slide on the APX Carry is just under an inch, according to the company’s spec sheet. One thing Beretta didn’t do was recess the takedown lever with the frame, so it sticks out considerably on the side of the gun. I don’t mind, though, as it makes it easy to disassemble the pistol.

Features of the Beretta APX Carry

Probably the biggest feature of the APX is the optics-ready slide, straight from the factory. The APX retails for less than the Shield but comes standard with a removable optics plate. This is a great feature for those wanting a budget-friendly optics-ready gun. Beretta uses a trigger safety only with no thumb safety. A short grip is extended with the magazine inserted. Without the extended magazine, it’s a little too short for me, so I just keep the extended mag in it.

Beretta APX A1 Carry.
The trigger control group on the APX A1 Carry. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
When the trigger is pulled, it feels a little rough to me, but it’s by no means a bad trigger. It has a strong breaking point but again, this is a CCW gun, so you don’t want a featherweight trigger. I do like the deep slide serrations on the APX, which are deeper than those on the Shield. This makes it easy to grip when chambering the gun. I wish they had put some dots on the rear sight to make it easier to see. In low-light settings, the rear sights are nearly impossible to find. But again, you also have the option of adding a red dot instead.

  Beretta APX A1 Carry Specs:

  • Model: APX A1 Carry
  • Magazine Capacity: 8
  • Action: Striker-fired
  • Overall Length: 5.63″
  • Barrel Length: 3″
  • Overall Height: 4.17″
  • Overall Width: 0.9″
  • Weight Unloaded: 19.8 oz
  • Frame Material: Polymer Frame
  • Firearm Type: Pistols
  • Frame Size: Micro Compact
  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Activity: Defense
  • Product Segment: Carry
  • Family: APX Family

Shooting and carrying the APX and Shield

Both guns utilize single-stack mags, so they are not good contenders when it comes to high ammo capacity. The FN Reflex and Hellcat are both in the same size category but hold more ammo.  S&W did keep most of the frame on the Shield thinner than other models, however, which makes it easy to conceal. Both guns hold 8 rounds in the extended magazines. That’s about the middle range of what most micro-compact guns hold these days.

As I mentioned earlier, it was on the range that I grew fond of the Shield 2.0. Not that the APX shoots badly, but I shot much better with the M&P. Others like the APX on the range and shoot just fine with it. Both guns cycled well with the ball ammo we put through them. I also fired two mags each of Hornady Critical Defense ammunition without any issues. I do like the sights and triggers on the Sheild a little more. But again, if you’re looking for an affordable CCW gun, the Beretta is priced very well.

Need a CCW gun?
Shooting the M&P Shield 2.0 on the range. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
I carried both guns around for a while and both are sized well for carrying concealed. For the Beretta, I used a plastic IWB (inside-the-waistband) holster with the flush-fitting mag. With the Sheild, I used a Safariland 7371 concealment OWB (outside the waistband holster) with an automatic locking feature. Both guns are popular and easy to find holsters for so there are plenty of options in that area.

And the winner is…

Out of these two compact 9mm handguns, I prefer the M&P Shield over the APX. It took a day on the range before I realized how much I like the Shield, but it’s the clear winner for me. The Beretta name speaks for itself and the APX A1 Carry is a great gun for the price. Either weapon makes a good CCW gun, but for me, the M&P Shield is more comfortable to shoot. I also shot much better with the Shield than the APX. Again, this is based on my preferences. I couldn’t find anything mechanically wrong with either gun.

While both guns are about the same thickness (according to company specs), the Shield is thinner across most of the frame and slide. This was noticeable when carrying them around all day. Check them out and see what you think.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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