Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol – A Hidden Gem

By Paul Erhardt
Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol Review and product tech tip.

Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol
Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

USA –  -(Ammoland.com)- Aside from its predecessor, the oft maligned Sigma, few pistols in the enormous Smith & Wesson catalog are so looked down upon as the Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol 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.

Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol

In reality, the Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol is a very solid and solidly built pistol. And while the Smith & Wesson M&P Pistol, with all its variants, and the M&P Shield, with its monster sales, garner all the gun magazine attention, the SDVE pistol 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.

Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol 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 Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol is boring in its consistency of performance and, with the exception of its trigger, has legit curb appeal in the retail display case.

Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol 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 Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol 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.

Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol 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 Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol owner.

Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol 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 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.

Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol 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.

Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol, Apex vs Stock Trigger
Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol, Apex vs Stock Trigger

Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol 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 Tactical offers both an SD Spring Kit (available here for $20.95) and an SD Action Enhancement Trigger (available here for $41.95). Either one can be installed in order to improve the trigger pull, but combined these two aftermarket options deliver a significant upgrade.

Apex Polymer SD Action Enhancement Trigger : http://tiny.cc/9wjfby
Apex Polymer SD Action Enhancement Trigger for the Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol: http://tiny.cc/9wjfby

The Apex Tactical 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 Apex Tactical SD Spring Kit reduces trigger pull weight by approximately 2.0 lbs., helping to smooth the pull while also improving the trigger reset.

These upgrade won't put the Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol 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.

  • 25 thoughts on “Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol – A Hidden Gem

    1. EN MI OPINIÓN UN ARMA DE FUEGO DE ESTE TIPO,LO PRIMERO QUE TIENE QUE OFRECER ES SEGURIDAD EN SU EMPUÑE,ESTO ES UN PISTOL GRIP MÁS GRANDE SIN LA AYUDA DEL CARGADOR,Y ADEMÁS UNA
      COLA DE DISPARADOR O GATILLO NO ENGAÑOSA,ESTO ES QUE EL TIRADOR SEPA,HASTA DONDE PUEDE LLEVAR SU DEDO AL OPRIMIRLO SIN ARTILUGIOS MECÁNICOS QUE SON MÁS DE VISTA QUE DE OTRA COSA

    2. I ‘Apexed’ my SD40VE, and it turned into a pretty solid shooter. A little stoning on the sear also improved things markedly – the bar is stamped and ROUGH from the factory.

      1. I bought this same model about fifteen years ago mainly because it didn’t cost very much and I didn’t have a handgun in 40 cal. As it turned out, it was a very nice shooting pistol. I’ve used it for everyone of my CHL renewal range qualifications because of its ease of use and accuracy. Forget about using it for conceal carry though, it does not hide well.

    3. “..combined these two aftermarket options deliver a significant upgrade.”

      So adding two triggers at the same time makes this gun better? Does it then shoot twice as fast?

      Also, SEO much? Good lord, the keyword usage.

      1. It’s a spring kit and a trigger, not two triggers. And yeah, those two upgrades make a world of difference in how it shoots. Though if you don’t want to spring (heh) for the upgrade, you can still improve things a lot by lapping the sear engagement surfaces, which come extremely rough from the factory.

    4. I have an older SW40VE Sigma. I have always thought of this pistol as having a revolver-like trigger. Which is perfect for a defensive pistol. I have fired many tens of thousands of rounds through many different revolvers, so the Sigma trigger is not a problem for me. As a matter of fact, after approx 1k rounds, the trigger was 2lbs lighter on it’s own. I am considering the new Apex trigger assembly. Why? When the trigger is 100% acceptable as it is? Because I like to try different “things” with my pistols. And it cannot hurt either.

    5. I purchased a new SD 9mm VE for $299.00, added a complete Apex trigger kit for $60.00 and for $359.00, have a nice looking, very reliable shooter. This is a great pistol, that I will comfortablely include in my carry rotation that includes my Glock 19, Shield, VP 9mm & Walther PPS.

      1. I purchased mine in .40 for $269 on sale and have added about 2000 rounds of practice ammo through it, a light on the rail, and since it never failed and was accurate as is, I just have it as the night stand weapon as is from the factory. I don’t mind the trigger personally but I did grow up on revolvers. I may try the Apex trigger at some point but I have other weapons with better triggers anyway so I will probably just spend that money on some more .40 rounds and shoot some more.

        I do like the pistol and for the price I paid I love it. I actually bought it just to see how I liked .40 without breaking the bank. It turned out to be a far better weapon than I anticipated especially for the price.

        1. The spring kit alone will take a couple pounds off the trigger, and is the less expensive upgrade. Any Joe Average can manage that upgrade in less than a half hour. The trigger can be a bit more effort.

    6. Want to hear a true, “LOVE-HATE” relationship?

      I bought and sold this gun THREE TIMES. Why? I loved how it felt but I absolutely hated the trigger.

      At the time, there were no competitors in its price range (quite unlike the most excellent Taurus PT111 G2 that I’ve bought for $199 on two occasions) I got it for the feel and the price. But, I lost the feeling at the range as my trigger finger balked in protest after 50 rounds.

      So, up it went on GunBroker and off it went fairly quickly to an eager buyer.

      The second purchase was made with the intention of installing the Apex spring kit. After realizing that I was installing it backwards (thanks toseveral YouTube videos that addressed this major boo-boo) I thought that I had solved the problem.

      I didn’t like the idea of replacing the stock striker spring with a weaker one (and many user complaints of failure to fire) added regret to my hesitancy – especially since the Apex trigger spring lessened the pull but NOT the travel.

      In a word, “Meh!”

      Back it went on the auction block and even quicker than before it was sold (primarily due to having the apex kit installed)

      They say, “The third time is the charm,” and that maxim was on my mind when I decided to give it one last try.

      {BTW, it was not like I was unarmed during the off periods of this on again/off again relationship. I had bought and sold during the interims, seven other semi-auto pistols (actually six as I got the Walther PPX twice) that ranged from $249 to $399. Such SD9 competitors as the Canik TP9SA, Diamondback DB9, Magnum Research MR9, Walther PPX (2), Smith & Wesson XD (full-size), and lastly, a used Glock 17.

      As another “I-don’t-like-Glock” fans once noted: “It felt like a brick on a stick1” I could not agree more. Not when you put it, head-to-head with the S&W SD9. The SD9 was a natural pointer, like a Beagle. The G17 was more like a Bagel: a handful of bread with a hole in the middle.

      The last (and final) sortee with the SD9 was bought with the intention of going the whole 9 yards: the Apex trigger kit, the Apex SET Trigger, a Galloway Precision Stainless Steel guide rod, a a lighter Galloway Precision recoil spring, and the wider take-down plate.

      After spending the better part of a weekend (and spending the better part of my paycheck) putting together what I hoped was an S&W XD-M (Frankenstein Edition), I asked myself, “WTF was I thinking? No $300 gun is worth that much effort (and that much money) to turn it into something it was never intended to be (and would never be, no matter how many aftermarket afterthoughts went into it).

      So, without even running a round through it (to keep it in its pristine condition), it went back on the leader board and out of my possession in another parking lot exchange.

      The SD9 (and SD40) COULD have been a really great gun. Alas, what I had in my hands (for the last time I would own it) was a firearm that was not greater than the sum of its parts. It’s one thing to have aftermarket parts to improve upon an already good system. It’s quite another to try and fix the gun’s weakest component: that God-forsaken trigger.

      Speaking of the Almighty, thank God that Taurus got its act together with the PT111 G2. They took the original PT111 Millenium that had all sorts of issues and knocked it out of the park with a clear winner that’s head and shoulders above anything in the sub-$400 range of handguns. The fact that it can be hand for less than $300 makes it a must-own, even if you already have the other “contenders” in this crowded price range. BUT, the fact that its normal market price is $260, and its sales price has been $199 on several occasions, makes the decision between buying it or an SD9 an easy choice.

      Some may not like the PT111’s trigger because it is a DA/SA on its first shot with a short reset on subsequent shots. There is a long take-up to get to bang, Yet, unlike the SD9, or anything else in its class, that take-up is not encumbered by a spring! The only time it goes into a true DA mode is during its “Re-strike mode.” If the gun doesn’t ignite the primer on the round in the chamber, simply pull the trigger again to get the desired results.

      For comparison purposes, I’d take the SD9 above a number of other, better-known models, such as the Ruger SD9 & 9E, the Bersa BP9, the Tangofolio Witness, and S&W’s own Shield, even with the horrible trigger because the SD9 does have a number of features that are noteworthy.

      After all, if it didn’t have so many plusses, I would have stopped after buying Gun Number One!

      1. Hey, don’t disrespect the Witness! 😉
        I own one, and utterly adore it. It’s NOT a concealed carry arm, but it has the absolute best out-of-the box trigger I’ve ever experienced. Combine that with solid construction* and a low bore-axis, and it’s become my primary competition sidearm. I’m a huge fan of the CZ75/85, and the Witness is a high-quality version of that platform.

        *Mind you, I have the all-metal version.

        1. I have read great things about the Witness but found that they are hard to get unless one is willing to pay a premium. I won’t! Enjoy your Witness.

          1. Davidson’s ‘Gallery of Guns.’ No premium, and usually a substantial discount, plus an excellent guarantee. 😉

    7. I’ve had a SD9 VE for nearly two years now and continue to be impressed at the Quality and Value it represents. I’ve own/owned dozens of firearms and I honestly was not expecting much from this pistol. It was such a bargain, so I picked it up. I did install the APEX Spring Kit and love it. The trigger is fine the way it is now. This bargain 9mm out shoots guns costing twice as much. The only other addition I made was Talon grip wraps, I tried both the rubberized and the sandpaper and I really like the sandpaper grips. It locks the pistol in your hand and is a substantial improvement to the plastic grip frame. Later, I might swap out the sites, but even now it’s a champ. Many rounds down range and Zero failures to feed, Zero stove pipes and it always returns into battery. In the past, I’ve spent as much as a thousand dollars on a gun that could not make even One of those claims. It’s not uber sexy, but I like the looks and feel of it. It is easily the Best Pistol for the money and IMHO Better than many costing more…AND a Lifetime Warranty? Exactly where is the down side, here? If you want something else buy it, but don’t spout all that Sigma this and Sigma that nonsense. Made in the USA, the Best Value, Performance and Quality for the money. Funny that used to Mean something in These United States of America. Excellent job S&W.

    8. Oh, one other Apex upgrade: Get the wider takedown plate – costs about US$12.00. The plate is maybe 1.5mm wider than the stock plate, is a straight – up drop-in install, and eliminated huge amounts of frustration. Because it only projects as extra 3/4 of a millimeter on each side, it doesn’t introduce a snag risk, but MAN! does it ever make takedown easier!

    9. I agree with Laird, I also had added the extended takedown unit. It works so well I forgot to mention it before. I actually softened the edges on it, just a hair and it works a treat. There, my total cost of up grades were maybe $70 and all were simple do it yourself tasks. The APEX how to videos made it all a snap, Cheers.

    10. I have a S&W SD40 and had an APEX spring kit installed by a gun smith. The pistol has a really smooth trigger and is a delight to shoot. It just goes bang every time you pull the trigger, which is the main thing you need in a self defense firearm.

    11. I just bought a S&W SD 9 yesterday I took it out today and ran 50 rounds through it. I love it I don’t see what all the talk about the trigger is all about I think the trigger is fine. I should say that I traded in my kel tec p 11 on it that trigger was beyond awful. That could explain my ignorance when it comes to the trigger on the sd9. I do have some questions about the apex trigger and springs. Does replacing the factory trigger void the warranty? How about the springs? I’m always for making things better so at some point I may decide to change the trigger and springs but not at the cost of my warranty. Please forgive my ignorance I have never messed with hand guns much other than a few revolvers.

      1. DLF, The mods that are being discussed are simple drop in mods that are completely reversible if desired. They Do Not void the factory warranty. If you were to make frame mods or alter the mechanism, barrel or safeties then you might have an issue. The Apex components have been safely used by thousands of shooters. What they do is smooth up the trigger and lessen the required force required to operate the pistol. I watched the how to videos online and it was easy, just follow the instructions. They made a good pistol a better pistol. Good luck.

    12. I have always loved revolvers until I got my SD40VE. I love this pistol. I read about all the problems with the trigger but to me it was just a matter of getting used to it. You get used to a new car and how it drives, you don’t change how the brakes feel or how it shifts or how it steers. Trust me, It will feel natural as you use it, and you need not spend the money to end up loving it.

    13. Brian Slack; great write-up singing the Praises of the SD9 VE.. it’s good to hear someone praising an excellent American-made product.WELL SAID

    14. I have owned and carried my SD40VE for many years. I qualify with it twice a year. I have never had a problem. The trigger was rough so I used an old forgotten remedy and sprinkled graphite powder in the trigger assembly. Problem solved. With a pancake style high rise holster I am able to carry concealed with no problem. I plan to keep this gun forever.

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