SDVE: S&W’s Hidden Gem

Aside from its predecessor, the oft maligned Sigma, few pistols in the enormous Smith & Wesson catalog are so looked down upon as the SDVE series. Thanks mostly, if not entirely, to its trigger.

Designed with a fire control system meant to be transitional from the long rolling pull of a double-action-only service revolver to something shorter, the SDVE’s  trigger seems more akin to that of a wheelgun than what has come to be expected in today’s modern striker-fired pistol. And it’s that heavy, long pull that most shooters cite as the pistol’s primary weakness.

Unfortunately for the SDVE, shooter aversion to the trigger ends up painting that entire model as a less than desirable pistol. An overall negative perception likely reinforced by Smith & Wesson’s extremely affordable $389 suggested retail price point. Because let’s face it, anything that cheaply priced can’t be good, right?

Wrong.

In reality, the SDVE is a very solid and solidly built pistol. And while the M&P, with all its variants, and the M&P Shield, with its monster sales, garner all the gun magazine attention, the SDVE rightfully deserves a spot on the list of top blasters from Smith & Wesson.

It also deserves a spot on any shooter’s “Guns I Haven’t Considered, But Should” list. And here’s what you need to factor in when considering the SDVE.

Quality…
Despite its bargain status, which might suggest the exact opposite, the SDVE is actually a quality built pistol. It’s both durable and remarkably reliable which has a lot to do with how well it’s manufactured. The SDVE is boring in its consistency of performance and, with the exception of its trigger, has legit curb appeal in the retail display case.

Simplicity…
The SDVE is the “King of the No Frills Pistols.” It is essentially just one pistol model offered in either 9mm or 40S&W. The other models you find listed are just state compliant variations of the one pistol. There are no color options beyond the two-tone look. No differing grip texture or frame color options. And it was never going to be a candidate for some signature model or Performance Center roll out. Can you imagine a Jerry Miculek version? No, and neither can Smith & Wesson.

The design itself is equally simplistic, and that again is where the SDVE shines. For the first time gun owner or those fearful of an overly complex assembly/disassembly process, the SDVE is the ideal pistol. It’s a well engineered pistol that avoided falling into the trap of becoming an over-engineered pistol. There are plenty of those out there, and for far more than the SDVE’s $389 MSRP.

Reliability…
Thanks to the simplistic design and the overall quality of the manufactured pistol, the SDVE is actually one of the standout work horses of the Smith & Wesson pistol line. This gun just goes and goes. For all its perceived shortcomings, the SDVE flat-out works. Just ask any SDVE owner.

Accuracy…
What most people miss when shooting the SDVE is the pistol’s inherent accuracy. For those lost on the weight and length of pull of the trigger, it’s easy to miss how accurate the gun is. With its mere 4.00” barrel, the SDVE can shoot circles around the M&P, particularly in 9mm where the lack of dwell time and resulting early unlocking has plagued Smith & Wesson flagship pistol.

With the SDVE, dwell time is not an issue. And when in the hands of a shooter who can manage the long, heavy trigger the SDVE is a tack driver. So much so you could win numerous range bets with it.

Utilitarian…
Combined, these aspects, along with its extremely affordable price, position the SDVE as an amazingly utilitarian pistol. It can go anywhere, take a beating and keep performing. While no gun that was ever called “utilitarian” was considered sexy, if you look past what the SDVE is not for what it is, you’ll discover the perfect truck gun. Or bedside backup. And for many, the ideal carry option.

Trigger…
As the kids say, “but dat trigger, tho.” Yeah, on a scale of 1 to 10 it falls squarely on “Sucks.” For those wanting every striker-fired trigger to be as crisp and short as that of a 1911 (a good one, anyway), the SDVE’s trigger is horrible. However, it’s unfair to compare the trigger to what it is not, and more importantly to what it was never designed to be. But nonetheless, people do.

Fortunately the pistol’s main and only real weakness which holds it back in any popularity contests, can be overcome. Apex offers both an SD Spring Kit (available here for $20.95) and an SD Action Enhancement Trigger (available here for $39.95). Either one can be installed in order to improve the trigger pull, but combined these two aftermarket options deliver a significant upgrade.

The polymer SD Action Enhancement Trigger replaces the factory hinged trigger and features a center mounted pivoting safety. The smooth face trigger with a solid body produces a more comfortable trigger for the shooter’s finger while reducing pre-travel by 20% and over-travel by 10%. The SD Spring Kit reduces trigger pull weight by approximately 2.0 lbs., helping to smooth the pull while also improving the trigger reset.

SD-Chart

These upgrades won’t put the SDVE out ahead of the M&P (an Apex’d one, natch), but they will change your initial opinion of the gun and likely turn it from a gun with a month-to-month lease in your gun safe to one settled in for the long haul.

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paul / May 9, 2016 / Random Apex
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Comments

  1. Robert Wilson - August 14, 2016 @ 10:12 am

    I agree. Initially not being able to deal with the long trigger pull to installing both Apex kits and now enjoy shooting the SD9VE and finding it to be very accurate.

  2. Marty Hamilton - January 9, 2017 @ 4:04 pm

    I bought my SD9 VE in July of 2016. Yes, I’m a range lizard. Probably close to 4000 rounds fired with this gun. Also tactical defense classes every Wednesday and shoot another 100 rounds. Had both trigger enhancements done in first month of owning. 2 things – the trigger enhancement is a MUST, both the spring kit AND the SD Polymer Action Enhancement Trigger. I “scientifically” pulled my trigger 5 times using a Bass Pro Shops digital fish weighing device with a spring attached to trigger. 5.1. 5.8. 5.4. 5.9 and 5.1 of pull lbs. Very consistent. Extremely shootable with these 2 changes. Only issue I’ve had is that the “slidestop” assembly sheared off. After that many rounds I must assume that something will go. It is just a stamped piece of cheap metal, but is fully covered under lifetime warranty of gun. Just a week of not shooting while waiting on the mail.

  3. mike thager - March 2, 2017 @ 12:56 pm

    I was wondering if I could order an apex trigger from you for my s&w sd9ve, iam from Oshawa Ontario Canada! Dealer out my way tell me to buy direct from you, do u take orders from canada?

  4. paul - March 6, 2017 @ 3:24 pm

    We do not ship to Canada. You can try ordering thru Brownells.

  5. Dennis Wilson - March 8, 2017 @ 7:00 am

    I really like the gun. I ordered the apex trigger and spring kit before I took possession of the gun. Did however fire a few rounds through it before install. Trigger pull is real close to that of my Glocks now. In the 5 lb area. Tested a gen 3 and gen 4 at the same time using a Lyman trigger pull gauge. Love it now.

    Good job S & W and Apex Tactical.

  6. Jeff - March 11, 2017 @ 7:10 pm

    Paul – i’m in BC and I just got the spring and trigger kits “in stock” within a few days from Aztec Armories in BC, call and ask them for a shipping code for cheaper shipping !

  7. Jack O’Leary - May 7, 2017 @ 8:37 pm

    Bought this firearm in Nov 2016. My first. Have read and been told it has a long and heavy trigger pull. I qualified for my LTC on this firearm with 36 out of 50 rounds thru the X, 24 rounds thru 9 and 8 areas of my target. Have fired 800 plus rounds w/o FTF, FTE issues as well as maintaining my accuracy in shooting where I point. Since there is no external safety on this firearm, the long and heavy pull seems appropriate, (per design) so as with anything else a person needs to become proficient at, it takes practice. Maybe an Apex after market suites another shooter for this firearm, as for me, it works as is.

  8. paul - May 8, 2017 @ 2:38 pm

    Oddly enough, all production guns from major manufacturers work as is.

  9. Matthew Hardy - May 30, 2017 @ 2:13 pm

    I would like to upgrade the barrel to a threaded barrel for a suppressor. Why don’t they have drop in barrels for the SD like they have for the M&P.

  10. paul - June 8, 2017 @ 10:41 am

    We only offer an M&P barrel because the M&P – and not the SDVE – has accuracy issues do to what is commonly referred to as an early unlocking issue. The SDVE is a solidly accurate pistol to start with.

  11. RoverSig - July 8, 2017 @ 4:26 pm

    The SD9/40 now come in a number of variants, greater than mentioned above. There is the standard two-tone SD940VE with a silver-colored stainless slide, but there are at least three other versions of the SD: Black Armornite slide (with FO sights) available only from Academy; black slide (with white dot sights) over a gray frame; and black slide (white dots) over a FDE frame.

    The SD family of pistols are truly a great value for the money. The Apex trigger kit is a very fine addition for many folks, making the pistol easier to shoot well.

  12. Phillip. C. Lamb - August 5, 2017 @ 11:35 pm

    After hearing all the hate speech about the sd9ve, I find it odd mine has always performed perfectly. The trigger doesn’t bother me and it is accurate.

  13. R Wharton - November 4, 2017 @ 4:30 pm

    I just got the trigger and spring replacement, and this is like an entirely new gun for me. Accuracy was certainly an issue; the pull in the original trigger was definitely mushy. Now, I truly feel like I can re-sight the gun immediately after it fires, and in one 150 round outing, I upped my scores on the 7-yard Shooter Tutor targets significantly. Even the 20-yard trial was greatly improved. Thank you for engineering such a simple, moderately priced upgrade!

  14. Erik Brooks - November 21, 2017 @ 1:23 pm

    Wow…remarkable change. I was having major issues with my SD9VE as far as on target goes. I was told that it was most likely the bad trigger that came in the gun. A friend recommended this trigger. Super easy to install and turned my firearm into a tack driver!

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