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?


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


paul / May 9, 2016 / Random Apex
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  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!

  15. Andrew Gardner - January 15, 2018 @ 3:49 am

    I installed both Apex after market kits on my SD40VE and use it as my everyday carry weapon. The difference it made at the range was amazing

  16. Adrian Pimentel - January 19, 2018 @ 10:28 am

    I would love for you guys to produce a new firing pin. I had one break and it seems it’s an issue with some SD owners. The only option to replace the firing pin, is to send it back to S&W. It’s a well built pistol, but not being able to service it myself has become a drawback.

  17. Sam - January 23, 2018 @ 10:04 am

    Can the trigger upgrades be installed DIY?

  18. paul - January 29, 2018 @ 9:07 am

    Yes. All our kits are designed to be installed by the end user.

  19. Mark S. - February 16, 2018 @ 5:33 pm

    I’m just an average person who wanted a reliable good operating striker fired semi-automatic pistol without paying a high price. After much research I decided that the SD9VE was a match for my criteria. I admit that I had already decided that the Apex trigger and Apex spring kit were going to be must haves for me before purchasing the pistol. After getting the SD9VE home and dry firing it I ordered the Apex upgrades. I have to admit, I’m picky when it comes to trigger pull as I have owned and used a Colt Python since 1980. After my parts came in work began, after watching countless YouTube videos.

    I completely disassembled the SD9VE, polished every surface that would rub against each other or against anything, thoroughly cleaned every part to ensure no residual residue was present, reassembled with the Apex upgrades, and thoroughly lubricated. I had to file one spot on the trigger to get it to break properly (as shown on many of the YouTube videos).

    The difference in dry firing was absolutely amazing! While it’s not perfect (due to S&W design/manufacturing of the trigger bar which creates a little bit of take-up before engagement) it’s a tremendous improvement. I have also upgraded the sights, Guide Rod (and spring), and sear spring. The pistol’s operation is smooth as it can possibly be! I only wish there was an aftermarket trigger bar to make it perfect (in my opinion).

    I haven’t shot a pistol in 12 years so I was excited to head to the range with it. After a quick setting of the new sights I put it to the test. At 25′ my 5 shot grouping was 1.5″, at 50′ my 5 shot grouping was 2″, and at 70′ my 5 shot grouping was 2.5″. I’m completely and thoroughly impressed! Some may say that I have spent as much on this firearm as I would have if I would have just bought a better pistol. They are so wrong! My total expense is $385 (I got an incredible deal on the SD9VE) and 6 hours of my time. If I were to have bought a “better” pistol, I would be out way more than I am. In my opinion, with the upgrades, it is as good or better than pistols hundreds of dollars more. Apex played a major roll in this pistol becomming a great one!!!

  20. TL Henderson - February 17, 2018 @ 11:36 pm

    “Gem” is an understatement. I’ve an LCP 380, a S&W 642 snub-nose, an M&P Shield and a full-sized M&P, along with a 12ga pump shotgun and an AR…And my SD9VE is the only one that goes to the range every time. Despite the trigger, which is why I’m ordering the Apex kits, it’s always dead-on target and a lot of fun to shoot. Well built, fits perfectly, easy to tear down, and never a hiccup. Sure I love my M&PS but this thing is rock solid, surprising when considering the price.

  21. D C - February 26, 2018 @ 6:37 pm

    On the MA compliant models, what increases the trigger pull weight? Does your $20 kit drop these to under 6# too?

  22. William Kirk - March 11, 2018 @ 9:41 am

    I just picked up a SD 9 yesterday and headed to the range. Great pistol! I am used to shooting a longer Glock 35, and hated the couple of times I shot a Glock 19 due to the short barrel. Decided to get SD as a back up, not expecting a lot out of the shorter barrel, but was greatly surprised. After the first magazine I got used to the heavy trigger pull and long reset. There on out it was almost as accurate as my 35. Will be ordering the trigger kits!

  23. paul - March 12, 2018 @ 4:18 pm

    Because of the higher starting point you can only drop so low with the Spring Kit. It will not take you from 10# to 6#. It is approximately a 2# drop with out kit.

  24. Kilr - March 20, 2018 @ 3:33 pm

    Is +P 90gr XD ammo recommended for the SDVE?

  25. Little FR - March 26, 2018 @ 7:44 pm

    I love my SD9VE it is my truck, carry and bedside firearm. Don’t care to beat it around like my 1911 and others.

    After installing both Apex kits. also Stainless guide rod. And loving the trigger for several hundred rounds I began having ftf. Light primer strikes. I cleaned the brass from the striker sleeve (the sd series design flaw) it shot great again until it didn’t.

    So I replaced striker spring with stock unit. (Noting that it wasn’t full of brass when I changed it but had some)

    I stay on top of the cleanings more than ever now but I doubt it would be as necessary.

    Long story short the ‘trigger’ is great. I love the reliability and improved accuracy.

  26. paul - March 27, 2018 @ 8:55 am

    That is a question best directed to Smith & Wesson.

  27. S&W SD9VE – early impressions – Notes from KR
  28. dan b - September 24, 2018 @ 1:35 am

    Picking up an SD40VE, getting a good price for it since it is missing the slide release lever. One of the first thing I plan on doing is installing an Apex Trigger. However, the problem I am having is finding a replacement release lever. Any ideas? Does Apex make one or can someone offer any suggestions?

  29. scott - September 24, 2018 @ 9:08 am

    You would be best off checking with Bornwells or calling smith directly. You might also try Speed Shooter Specialties. We do not have any nor do we have plans to make one.

  30. Harry - September 25, 2018 @ 8:32 pm

    Love my SD9VE. Looking to upgrade to adjustable sights……any recommendations?

  31. P. Rosriguez - September 29, 2018 @ 9:09 pm

    Would like to ordet both the Apex SD spring kit and SD trigger kit upgrades for SDVR. How and whete can I purchase?

  32. paul - October 4, 2018 @ 8:07 am

    107-115 is the Action Enhancement Kit for the SDVE and contains both the trigger and the spring kit. You can purchase it directly from our website or by calling customer service.

  33. paul - October 4, 2018 @ 8:09 am

    Sorry, but no recommendations on an adjustable sight set up for the SDVE.

  34. Dan O - November 2, 2018 @ 8:33 am

    Absolutely agree…
    The sd9ve is my favorite gun,1000 rounds with no failures..more accurate than my m&p shield,more accurate than my apx centurion..@35ft. (my local indoor ranges max distance) i can shoot a 3″ group..A economy priced,plain wrapper S&W gem..Your right the biggest complaint is the trigger..People need to understand that the “SD” in sd9ve stands for self defense,its pull is heavier to kinda give you that extra split second to decide to pull the trigger or not..kinda a safety feature (kinda lol)..Now as for the weight of the pull it doesnt bother me because i dont have little girly hands..with that said my daughter and other half have problems with the trigger..I have never liked S&W’s hinged triggers on any model..Overall i think upgrading the trigger would be beneficial to the sd9ve..A upgrade allthough to me not needed but one im concidering..excellent firearm !

  35. G.D.L. - December 7, 2018 @ 10:36 pm

    I’ve had 2 of the SD9VE and agree that I do not like the trigger pull or the trigger in general.But I am getting my wife and myself 2 more because I had to sell the others because life happened,but I will change the triggers to Apex and add S.S.Guide rods in both and I honestly think that will make them our favorite pistols of most of the ones We have owned.

  36. Jim - January 20, 2019 @ 5:30 pm

    I bought one of the original all black SD9 when it first came out. Both myself and my USMC veteran son shot the SD9 better than my M&P 9. I sold the M&P and bought another SD9. I’ve since added an SD9VE. I don’t see any need to spend more money for a 9mm.

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