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

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
Apex Polymer SD Action Enhancement Trigger for the Smith & Wesson SDVE Pistol

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.

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    CpowRobertMichael HanlonGuncriticDouglas Recent comment authors
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    Cpow
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    Cpow

    I have had the SVD9VE for about 3 years and love it. No change to trigger or anything. Out of the box you get use to it with practice. I use it in rotation with my shield 9mm. But most of the time I carry the SVD9VE concealed. A great firearm no issues, no frills, straight forward, very reliable, gets the job done.

    Michael Hanlon
    Guest
    Michael Hanlon

    I was a S&W .38 Special owner but found the carry weight was becoming too heavy as I aged. When I went to my CCW training, I had a chance to fire both a Glock and a Berreta. I made the decision to sell my 38 and by the SDVE 9mm for the following reasons: 1. I have small hands and found the grip of the SD was perfect. 2. The trigger pull issue was not an issue. The trigger pull of my double action .38 required more pull on it. The SDVE 8 lib pull actually felt easier. 3.… Read more »

    Guncritic
    Guest
    Guncritic

    Nice review. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this gun.

    Douglas
    Guest
    Douglas

    I have had my S&W sd9ve about a year love it great shooting gun I have no issues with the trigger seems great to me I can nail whatever I point it at well made gun I carry it everyday on my
    Side I don’t ccw because I want any would be bad guys to know I will respond in kind and seeing I am
    Armed may just
    Cause them
    To walk back
    Out

    ty
    Guest
    ty

    Im so confused.
    I research the SDVE , sometimes it comes up..
    other times the the SD9VE comes up.

    Are they the same..? They seem to cross reference.
    Ive heard great things about the SDVE …
    Its on my radar

    Sorry new … and trying to learn

    Tad
    Guest
    Tad

    The sd40ve is a 40 cal. The sd9ve is a 9 mm. Same gun but different cal.

    Robert
    Guest
    Robert

    I have the SD40VE 40 CAL had mines for month before I went to the range and shot it all I can say it’s a great gun to use just gotta get use to it. this is my first 40 excellent gun and choice I have chose

    Miguel Hernandez
    Guest
    Miguel Hernandez

    I was a proud owner of a”Sigma” yes the one with the monster trigger pull. I found no problem with such a trigger once you applied your basic fundamentals of shooting to the gun. On the breaking stages I got a few (3) FTE’s but blame it on cheap Russian ammo. I put the next 3,500 to 4,000 rounds thru it without any hick ups. Reliable? YES!! This weapon now sit’s in my sons house ready to defend and serve. The heavy trigger is their for safety, if you apply your shooting skills you can drive tac’s all day long.… Read more »

    Ryan Ward
    Guest
    Ryan Ward

    I just purchased one in 9mm, obviously the price brought me there as money is tight. I was in a terrible car accident and am out of work. The owner of the store explained it to me and I decided to give it a go. I’ll check how I like the trigger and if I don’t like it I’ll be purchasing your replacement. But honestly I like the revolver DA trigger pull, I don’t care for hair pin triggers. Thanks for the information.

    Brian Slack
    Guest
    Brian Slack

    Update: A year later and all I said about the S&W SD 9 VE still stands true. I did add the Apex trigger earlier this year and wow what a difference. It made an already good gun, Great. The trigger when coupled with the other easy drop in mods really made this pistol Excellent. I often let people at the range try it and every time they are amazed at the ease of use and accuracy out of this “basic” product. The most telling was a gent whom had an S&W M&P 9mm. He shot them side by side and… Read more »

    David H
    Guest
    David H

    40 Cal SDVE is a very reliable gun – haven’t yet had misfire after well over 500+ rounds. Changed quickly to the Apex trigger which greatly improved targeting given the much lower trigger pull and improved trigger “feel”. Can’t recommend it more based on price. My minor quibble is there’s no separate safety apart from the trigger interlock.

    Tad
    Guest
    Tad

    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.

    Bob L
    Guest
    Bob L

    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

    Raymac
    Guest
    Raymac

    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.

    Dean L Frei
    Guest
    Dean L Frei

    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… Read more »

    Brian Slack
    Guest
    Brian Slack

    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.

    Robert Neal
    Guest
    Robert Neal

    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.

    Brian Slack
    Guest
    Brian Slack

    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.

    Laird
    Guest
    Laird

    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!

    Brian Slack
    Guest
    Brian Slack

    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… Read more »

    Peter
    Guest
    Peter

    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… Read more »

    Laird
    Guest
    Laird

    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.

    EthicalPatriot
    Guest
    EthicalPatriot

    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.

    Laird
    Guest
    Laird

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

    EthicalPatriot
    Guest
    EthicalPatriot

    Thank you.

    Roger McKee
    Guest
    Roger McKee

    I love my SW40VE trigger an all awesome gun

    Ray McDermott
    Guest
    Ray McDermott

    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.

    Bob's your uncle
    Guest
    Bob's your uncle

    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… Read more »

    Laird
    Guest
    Laird

    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.

    Cea
    Guest
    Cea

    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.

    Dave
    Guest
    Dave

    “..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.

    Laird
    Guest
    Laird

    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.

    Laird
    Guest
    Laird

    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.

    Don Bailey
    Guest
    Don Bailey

    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.

    Laird
    Guest
    Laird

    Yeah, CCW is not where this pistol shines. I use it as a house gun, while a Sig rides my hip.

    Jorge Norberto Pedace
    Guest
    Jorge Norberto Pedace

    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