Gun Digest

Shield SMSc: Small And Mighty Micro Red Dot

Light, small and affordable, the Shield SMSc might be the ideal red dot for compact pistols.

What Makes The SMSc Ideal For Compact Defensive Pistols:
  • Weighs less than a half-ounce
  • Doesn't have a base plate, thus mounts lower on the slide
  • Co-witnesses with most compact pistol's sights
  • Battery life is three to four years

No doubt you’ve seen articles or videos, or at least heard conversations at your local firearms emporium, about the Springfield Hellcat. If, by some inexplicable reason, this is your first-ever gun magazine, or if you’ve been living the bunker life trying to hide from the election flu or rioters, here’s a brief recap.

The Springfield Hellcat is an ultra-compact, polymer-framed, semi-automatic pistol that’s only 6 inches long and weighs only 18 ounces. It comes with one 11-round magazine and one extended 13-round magazine. It also has a Tritium front sight and a tactical Rack U-Notch rear sight. Depending on the variation, the suggested retail price ranges from $569 to $643.

I’ve spent a couple months working with this pistol and, after more than 500 rounds, I’m impressed. For an ultra-compact 9mm, it’s reasonably comfortable to shoot, plenty accurate for any type of problem you’d ever need to solve with a defensive handgun, and it has proven very reliable. One of the pistol’s most notable features is that it can be had as an optics-ready version, where the rear slide is precut to accept a micro reflex sight.

So there, I’ve given my thumbs up to the Hellcat. In fact, a friend of mine was looking for a compact defensive handgun, and, after some discussion and range time with the Hellcat, it’s the handgun I recommended he purchase. However, as much as I like the Hellcat, it was during my time working with that pistol that I found something I liked even better: the Shield SMSc Micro Red Dot 4 MOA sight.

SMSc Advantage

You can purchase this sight, which attaches directly to the slide of the Hellcat after the plate has been removed, from Springfield for $299. It’s unbelievably small and weighs less than a half-ounce with the battery installed. And, unlike some of the mini-reflex sights, the Sheild SMSc doesn’t have a base plate to hold the battery in place.

A compact handgun like the Hellcat deserves a compact reflex sight, and you won’t find one smaller or lighter than the Shield SMSc.

The top of the slide serves as the base for the sight. This allows the sight to be mounted very low—low enough that you can still see the pistol’s sights through the sight window. This is an exceptional idea: In case the battery is dead or the electronics fail, you can still effectively engage targets. But get this: This sight has a battery life of between three and four years!

We’ve come a tremendously long way from when the first red-dot sights were used on handguns for competition. In fact, while some thought that one day red-dot or reflex sights would be common on defensive handguns, I seriously doubt anyone imagined they’d be this compact. With an IWB holster like the Crucial Concealment Covert IWB ($59.99), you can very comfortably carry the Hellcat with the Sheild SMSc installed, even in the appendix location.

Reflex sights are becoming popular on defensive handguns. They’re also getting lighter and more trustworthy all the time.

In my 2013 book Handgun Training for Personal Protection, I dedicated a chapter to red-dot-style sights. There, I described their primary advantage—you can engage targets with a target/threat focus. What’s meant by that is that you never have to shift your focus from the threat to your sights; you simply put the dot on the target and pull the trigger, just as you would with a red-dot sight on a carbine. It’s the most intuitive sight system available. With not a tremendous amount of practice, I’ve seen shooters reduce engagement times by as much as 10 percent compared to conventional sights. That is, indeed, something of value.

Like laser sights, reflex sights also allow you to keep both eyes open when you shoot. This helps your peripheral vision keep track of things going on around you. However, unlike a laser sight, to accurately shoot a reflex sight you must still bring the pistol—and the sight—up in front of your eyes. The downside of reflex sight systems is that they’re an electrical system that might fail. At least with the Shield SMSc on the Hellcat, if it does fail you can still see your pistol sights.

This Crucible Concealment holster for the Springfield Hellcat fits the pistol even with the Shield SMSc reflex sight installed. Paired together, the three make a great IWB concealed carry package.

Obviously, there are some other considerations with a reflex sight. Light directed at the sight from the front or rear can inhibit your ability to see through the sight window clearly. Your own blood, dirt, or other debris can also get on the lens and do the same thing. Still, like I said in my book, “The future is coming. When it gets here, we will all shoot better and faster.” With advancements in engineering, we’re getting closer to that—reflex sights on handguns—future every day.

Shield SMSc Specs
Light Source: Red light-emitting diode (LED) No laser; completely eye-safe No radioactive materials
Red Dot Size Options: 1MOA, 1/65RING MOA, 4 MOA dot 8 MOA dot
Lens: Reflex x1 (no magnification) Low Parallax Lens Coating Si02 Quartz and Anti-reflection No colored coating, minimizes visible signature
Electronics: Battery One 3V lithium battery, CR2032 Battery Life 1 to 3 years – average use >4 years – dark storage
Brightness Adjustment: Fast Automatic Brightness Range Lowest – Compatible with Night Vision Highest – Visible against the sky in bright daylight
Exterior Housing Material: Glass-filled nylon polymer.
Colour: Matte black
Dimensions (Sight only): (Length x width height) 42x25x23 mm 1.7×1.0x0.9 inches
Weight: 9.68 grams / 0.34 ounces – 12.53 grams / 0.44 ounces with battery
Mount: A wide range of mounts are available.
MSRP: $304.64

For more information on the Shield SMSc, please visit

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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