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Review: Shield SMSc Red Dot

Not that long ago, the use of reflex/red dot optics on handguns was limited to the realm of competitive and custom guns — and practically none were CCW-ready firearms. These were large handguns and, usually, large optics. So, the fact that red dots on EDC-ready firearms is the norm now is quite remarkable — and in my opinion, due in large part to the launch of the Springfield Armory Hellcat micro 9mm in 2019.

With its compact size, impressive capacity, and the option of an OSP (Optical Sight Pistol) cut slide ready to accept a direct-mounted optic, the Hellcat helped make the use of a red dot on a small, easy-to-carry pistol the new norm. To ensure the best — and lowest — fit possible, the Hellcat’s slide was cut with a footprint designed to accept the popular Shield RMSc/SMSc red dot.

[Don’t miss Justin Opinion’s take on concealed carry red dot use.]

The benefits to this system were not only a precise and consistent fit, but also the ability to direct mount the optic without a plate adapter system. This allows for the very small optic to sit low enough to allow the Hellcat’s U-Dot sights — made up of a large tritium/luminescent front dot and a U-notch “Tactical Rack” rear.

My Choice

I recently decided to upgrade the reflex optic on my personal Hellcat OSP. As the Hellcat OSP is a high-performance carry pistol, I wanted to give it (and myself) every advantage possible.

For obvious reasons, I prefer a small and durable optic that would enhance the capabilities of the Hellcat OSP. I went to the Springfield Armory Webstore to see what reflex optics were available, and found that they offered the Shield SMSc with the 4 MOA red dot option.

For those not familiar with the SMSc, which stands for “Shield Mini Sight Compact”, it is a 1X lightweight and compact reflex/red dot optic. Featuring a lightweight nylon glass-filled polymer body, it shares the same overall size and footprint as the company’s aluminum-bodied RMSc.

The optic weighs just 0.34 oz. and is powered by a single CR2032 battery that fits on the underside of the optic. As noted, it is a direct fit for the Hellcat OSP’s slide, and measures 1.7” long, 1” wide and 0.9” tall. The system runs with an auto-adjust brightness system that ensures it is “always on” and adjusts automatically to the brightness of its surroundings.

The Details

Shield Sights was one of the earliest optic manufacturers to produce popular reflex optics for pistols, and they have a full line of reflex optics for many pistol applications. Whether it’s for competitive shooting or concealed carry, Shield Sights has it covered.

They developed the larger RMS/SMS footprint that has become very popular as an industry standard that many optic manufacturers copy. And the development of the compact RMSc/SMSc footprint only enhanced their prominence in this market.

In my opinion, the Shield SMSc is an ideal reflex optic for concealed carry. Carriers who select optics on their EDC pistols prefer a compact design that is lightweight. It makes no sense to add any more bulk or weight than necessary to a carry pistol.

As noted, the Shield SMSc features a matte black glass-filled nylon polymer body that is lightweight, yet durable. The 1X quartz lens features an anti-reflective, low-parallax, non-color coating.

Weighty Concerns

As I mentioned, the SMSc is an incredibly light reflex optic. Shield Sights said the SMSc optic weighs just 0.34 oz., 0.44 oz. with the battery. On my scale, the SMSc weighed in at just 0.50 oz., with that including the optic, the CR2032 battery and the two smaller screws I used to directly mount the optic on the Hellcat OSP. Yes, one half of one ounce.

It’s not only light, but also very compact. As noted, the overall length of the housing is 1.7”, and the width and the height are both right around 1”. The height is the perfect compact balance between being low enough for carry, but large enough to offer a good-sized window for quick eye-to-red dot target acquisition. 

Backing-Up

Sight alignment is very important with reflex red dot optics. In my opinion, shooters need the comfort of knowing that their pistol’s iron sights are always accessible. Let’s face it — anything that is electronic has the potential of failure. Whether it is a dead battery or an optic malfunction, the shooter needs to be able to acquire the pistol’s sights as a back-up plan.

Certain reflex optics do not offer a direct co-witness with the pistol’s iron sights. I could just imagine a defensive scenario going wrong because the defensive shooter did not have an accurate sight picture. As concealed carriers, we must plan and prepare for any situation that could arise.

Thanks to the small size of the SMSc, the low direct-mount capability of the Hellcat OSP and the pistol’s U-Dot sights, co-witnessing the Hellcat’s irons with the SMSc is easy to do. Also, the SMSc has a channel cut into the body of the optic that helps facilitate this feature. If for some reason the red dot does not appear, the Hellcat’s iron sights are accessible and ready for action.

[Looking for a red dot alternative? Read Mike Boyle’s examination of the laser vs. red dot options.]

What’s in the Case?

Shield Sights offers everything the user needs in the package to directly mount the SMSc reflex sight to the Springfield Hellcat OSP. The optic comes with a protective rubber cover for storage when the gun/optic is not in use. The optic also comes with two hex wrenches. One is for mounting the optic to the pistol and the other is for adjusting the red dot.

It has an adjustment mini dial for sighting in, two sets of screws for a range of mounting optics, and a single CR2032 battery. The package also includes an optional mounting plate and rubber shims that I did not need due to the direct-mount capability of the Hellcat OSP. Shield Sights also includes a warranty card with a QR code and a couple stickers with the Shield Sights logo. 

Shield SMSc Specifications

  • OPTIC TYPE: Reflex
  • RETICLE: MOA red 4
  • MAGNIFICATION: 1X
  • WEIGHT: 0.57 oz.
  • DIMENSIONS: 1.7” (L), 1.0” (W), 0.9” (H)
  • MOUNT: Shield SMSc/RMSc footprint
  • BODY: Nylon glass-filled polymer
  • OPERATION: Auto-adjusting
  • BATTERY/LIFE: Single CR2032 battery, up to three years of life
  • MSRP: $299.99

Hands-On

I was immediately impressed by the SMSc. Its red dot is incredibly clear and crisp. It has an automatic brightness adjustment, therefore there are no buttons or levers on the housing frame. The auto brightness does all of the work, which simplifies the process for the concealed carrier.

The red dot is very bright in sunny, daylight conditions and is appropriately dim in low-light conditions. Its lowest setting is night vision compatible. Basically, the auto brightness feature takes the guesswork out of the hands of the user. The advantage with auto brightness is the red dot brightness will suit any environment setting.

The Shield SMSc is powered by a single CR2032 battery that installs underneath the housing. The average battery life is between two to three years. At its lowest setting (dark conditions), the battery life is rated at a longer four years or more.

Installation

The Shield Sights SMSc mounts directly on the Springfield Armory Hellcat OSP with no need for the included plate. I used the shorter mounting screws included in the case that protrude below the optic base approximately ⅛ of an inch. It was a perfect fit for the Hellcat OSP.

A special note here: I feel it’s important to add blue Loctite on the mounting screws. Just a couple drops on the mounting screws will keep them tight and in place, even under heavy usage. I used the mounting hex wrench provided in the case to install the Shield SMSc tightly on the Hellcat OSP. All in all, this was a quick and easy process.

Range Time

The Shield Sights SMSc out of the case was not too far off target at approximately 20 yards away. The first few shots grouped a couple inches low, and windage was just a little off to the left. I used the Shield Sights adjustment wrench to make the corrections. With a total of 10 shots fired, the Shield SMSc was sighted in.

It was then time to hit the steel targets. Stationary shooting is fine for confidence building; however, I prefer to transition between targets to get a true feel of a pistol and an optic’s performance. After a couple magazines of shooting, I was transitioning and ringing the 8” steel target rack consistently from 12 yards.

During this range time, I was also able to experience the Shield Sights auto brightness function in action. The range day began with bright sunshine, and then it turned into an overcast and cloudy day. The red dot slightly dimmed with the lower light environment. The auto brightness suited the changing environment perfectly.

Conclusion

Shield Sights produces quality reflex red dot optics for pistols. Their reflex optics have a fine reputation for reliability and ease of use. My goal was to enhance the Springfield Armory Hellcat OSP with an upgraded reflex optic.

My goal was met with the SMSc. I feel the pistol/optic combination was exactly what I was looking to accomplish. In my opinion, the Shield SMSc offers the precise balance of compact form and reliable function. In my estimation, a pistol/optic combination like this is definitely the new EDC norm.

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