The 9 round 9mm M&P Shield (Farnam class review)

On Dec 2, 2017 I traveled to El Paso, Texas to take 1 day handgun class with legendary trainer John Farnam of Defense Training International.  I used the class as an opportunity to train with my M&P Shield, running all the different magazine configurations I’ve been evaluating for the past few months.  There are many ways to turn an M&P Shield into a practical 9+1 round carry gun.

Shield 9 round 9mm Magazine Options

The standard comes with a 7 round flush fit magazine and an 8 round magazine with a plastic sleeve that provides a little more room for all your fingers on the frame.

There are a number of magazine basepad alternatives and replacement spring and follower kits available.  I purchased several of them and have been using them all in practice, and during the Farnam class.  This picture shows all of them, sorted by overall length.

The shortest one is the factory 7 round mag.  This is handy when I pocket carry the Shield.  With all the other variants, the grip of the gun is just too long for practical pocket carry, even in pants with large pocket openings like my favorite Propper pants. (I like the Propper pants because they are 4-pocket pants that can be worn anywhere dress pants or khakis can be worn, without the extra pockets that cargo or tactical pants have.  They have larger pocket openings that make pocket carry of guns, larger phones, tourniquets and other stuff much easier.)

Another way to make a 9 round Shield magazine is to put the MagGuts +2 kit on a 7 round magazine. This option creates the slimmest 9 round magazine of all the variants I’ve been working with.

Next shown is a Glock 19 magazine for comparison.  The Shield with an 8 round factory mag is basically the same length as a Glock 19, which holds twice as many rounds and is 0.8″ longer in barrel length but wider (thicker) than the Shield.

One of the first aftermarket solutions was the Plan B base pad made by the Safety Solutions Academy. It goes on the 8 round magazine and is a better option than the factory plastic sleeve.  On SSA’s owner Paul Carlson’s recommendation, I purchased a MagGuts +1 spring/follower kit, making a 9-round Plan B magazine.

The Plan B magazine is basically the same length as the factory 8 round mag, which is shown to the right of the Plan B magazine.

Taylor Freelance makes a +1 base pad that uses the factory spring. It works on both the 7 and 8 round magazine.  I put one on an 8 round mag, making another 9-round Shield 9mm magazine.

Next in line is a full size 17 round M&P magazine.

ProMag makes a 10 round magazine for the 9mm Shield.  I bought a few of these thinking they might be handy to use as training mags in classes or loaner mags for students bringing Shield guns to classes designed for higher capacity guns.  The first batch of 3 mags I got had feeding problems and I could not reliably get 10 rounds in them.  The replacement mags I got back from ProMag were incredibly difficult to get 10 rounds in, but run reliably with loaded with 9.  These mags are longer a full size M&P 17 round mag.

Running the 9 round mags in class

I had originally been scheduled to take a 2 day vehicle defense long gun class with John in Victoria, Texas in October 2017, but Hurricane Harvey disrupted my plans, and everything in Victoria.  The hotel and the range were both damaged by the flood.  John was returning to El Paso in December to teach a one day basic/intermediate pistol class, so I decided to divert my tuition to that course, which would give me an opportunity to see John teach the kind of students I frequently work with on the range.  I’ve known John for years, as he’s attended and observed my sessions at the annual Rangemaster Tactical Conferences, and I’ve attended his classroom lectures.  I had never seen him present his live fire curriculum, and as part of my Historical Handgun course development, I wanted to go to the “root of the tree” to see it the way he teaches it, rather than just reading about it in his books.  John’s been a trainer for 40 years, and his ideas have been influential on many in the training industry.

The range was actually in New Mexico, just across the Texas/New Mexico border, and the US/Mexico border, not far from a large Border Patrol station.  It was a public range out in the desert, with fine sand on the ground, so any mag dropped to the ground was likely to get sand in it.  Because of that, John encouraged people to do reloads with retention. Mostly I let my mags fall to the ground to see if the sand would cause malfunctions.  To my surprise and delight I had zero malfunctions in almost 500 rounds fired that day.

The class included a mix of drills shot on paper and rotating reactive steel targets.

The rotating steel targets were more challenging for those of us with lower capacity guns, as they often took more than 7-8 hits of 9mm to generate enough kinetic energy to rotate the target all the way around.  The rotators are a standard target used in DTI classes, but I had never shot that particular target type before.  Spinning the flipper requires accuracy and timing, as you have to assess the correct time to hit the plate, when it’s moving the correct direction.  The mental challenge of target assessment this target provides was great, and I may get one of these for my own range.

Signed Books

In preparation for training with John I picked up copies of several of his books to add to my library. I collect signed copies of books written by firearms trainers, and this was my opportunity to get John to sign all of his books for my collection.  One of the books I got (a 1st edition copy of his Farnam Method of Defensive Handgunning) had already been signed by him.  It appeared to be a signed copy that had at one time belonged to his mother, based on the inscription.  I brought the book with me to class, and he agreed that it likely was a copy he had given to her that had been sold in an estate sale.  I gave the book back to him and he’s going to replace it with a signed copy of the most current edition.

He’s well known for the excellent content in his DTI quips column, which he’s written for more than 20 years.  A collection of Quips from the late 90s and early 2000’s was collected in a book, Guns and Warriors, Vol 1.   His wife Vicki is frequently a co-instructor in his classes, and has been an active trainer for many decades. Her book (co-written with Diane Nicholl), Teaching Women to Shoot, remains an important and useful book for those teaching defensive pistol skills.


I’ve shot my Shield a lot, but never 500 rounds in one session.  The Farnam class required drawing, shooting on the move, lots of reloads, one handed shooting — a good test of usability and reliability of any defensive firearm.  All the guns used by students in class worked well (a few SIG DA/SA guns, many  Glocks, one Beretta APX, my Shield), and I had no malfunctions or problems with any of the magazine configurations I used, each providing 9 round capacity in the little Shield. By far my favorite for carry is the 7 round mag with the Magguts +2.