Smith & Wesson’s SD9VE Review [Hands On Tested!]

by David Lane

May 3, 2022

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4.6
(10)

Plastic, fantastic, 9mm, and cheap — these core pillars have driven firearm design since the late 1980s. Smith & Wesson’s SD9VE was their first big splash into the market and remains a solid choice today.

SD9VE Specs

  • Capacity 16+1
  • Caliber 9mm Luger
  • Length (Overall) 7.2″
  • Barrel Length 4″
  • Weight 22.4 oz
  • Trigger Pull 8 lbs

S&W SD9VE Background

Since the late 80’s every firearm company has tried to match or beat Glock’s ultra-reliable line of polymer pistols. Some companies have had better success than others.

Smith & Wesson got into the game in the mid-90’s with the S&W Sigma series of pistols. These… were not great pistols. They were also almost direct copies of Glock, so much so that Glock sued Smith & Wesson for patent infringement. The case was settled out of court in 1997 but the message was clear, Smith & Wesson were naughty.

The Sigma never did very well in the market and wasn’t very liked by people. 

15 years after settling their lawsuits, Smith & Wesson came out with a new line of pistols that were modeled on their Sigma line — but slightly better. Thus was born the SD9VE and SD40VE.

A slightly different grip design, a new coating, a new slide material, a better trigger (THIS is the “better” version?! More on that later.) and the S&W Sigma became the SD VE series in 9mm and .40 S&W.

Value priced, reliable to a fault, and marketed as a cheaper alternative to Glock’s G19 pistol — the SD9VE has a reputation among firearm owners.

S&W SD9VE Features

S&W SD9VE Features
1 3-dot sight picture
  • Easy and simple to use even in low-light
2 16+1 magazine capacity
  • More ammo is always a good thing
3 Front and rear slide serrations
  • Deep-cut serrations make for easy manipulation even when wet
4 Under rail for lights and lasers
  • Great for a defensive pistol, white lights are never a bad idea

S&W SD9VE Gun Models

S&W SD9VE Review – Our Take

My Smith & Wesson SD9VE was the first pistol I ever bought. After college, starting to get into firearms, and the SD9VE was the right price and felt good in my hands.

I remember clearly as I learned basic marksmanship and pistol drills on this gun that I really liked it. It points well, it shoots well, and I felt that I made a lot of progress very quickly learning on it.

It didn’t take long for me to find a few issues I didn’t love such as I needed more grip to it, and while I didn’t understand why the trigger was bad — I read everywhere that it was.

An Apex trigger kit and some Talon grip wrap solved both issues and I ran another few thousand rounds between classes and range sessions.

A year or so later, I moved on to new pistols. I really didn’t pick up that old SD9VE of mine until late last year just for a few rounds of nostalgia. 

Now, as an experienced shooter, I kind of hate this gun. This is not the pistol I remember it to be, and that’s my fault really since I’m not the same shooter.

The trigger is truly horrible, the grip is oddly smooth and provides little in the way of recoil control, and the stock sights are large and blocky.

That said, this was a great pistol for a new shooter. But now with the benefit of experience, I don’t think I would ever carry or use this gun over anything else I own.

But it’s reliable and shoots straight. I’d still trust my life to it.

Reliability

I’ve put a lot of rounds through this pistol over the years, as near as I can tell at least 5,000 but I think closer to 7,000.

In all that time, I can count on one hand the times I’ve had a malfunction. The SD9VE runs and runs hard.

I remember having some limp wrist issues early on, but that was my fault as a new pistol shooter. Once I improved my grip, I never had an issue outside of a couple of odd feed failures and some bad ammo.

Looking inside the SD9VE you can tell why Glock sued them, but that might also be a big part of why it is so insanely reliable.

Ergonomics

What really made the SD9VE attractive to me in the store was the grip angle. I’m one of those people whose hands just work best with a more 1911 style grip and the SD9VE delivered that.

From the angle to the size, the grip just fits my hands perfectly.

As I grew as a shooter I learned to appreciate some of the other ergonomic benefits of the SD9VE like the large beavertail preventing slide-bite, the front serrations, and the textured finger pads on the side of the frame that give me something to push against with my support hand’s thumb.

These might seem like small gains, but put together they are pretty awesome. It’s rare to see all of these features on custom guns, let alone on ultra-cheap budget pistols. 

Accuracy

Fist-sized groups at 15 yards are totally repeatable. There isn’t anything special about that with this tier of pistol, but there isn’t anything wrong with it either.

15-yards, two groups of 5 shots

A major benefit for me was that the SD9VE fits my hands so well and allows for a very natural point of aim. Your mileage may vary, but there is a good chance that you’ll find it works well for you too.

Value

At their lowest, the SD9VE was selling for about $280. Those were the best of times and at that price, it is a must-buy. But in a post-covid world, street prices of around $380 are more common. If that’s all you can afford, this is a solid pistol that you can learn on, defend yourself with, and enjoy for years.

But if you’re able to afford more, I think spending a bit more to get a real Glock would be better in the long run.

If cash is king, the SD9VE still gets the job done.

S&W SD9VE Pros and Cons

  • Inexpensive alternative defensive pistol
  • Ultra-reliable
  • 1911-styled grip angle
  • Front and rear slide serrations
  • Long, mushy trigger
  • Feeble aftermarket support

Report Card

Shootability

This trigger is horrible. Long, mushy, huge reset, this is just a bad trigger in every way. But other than that, I really like shooting this gun. 

B+
Reliability

I’ve run it dirty, wet, dry, and everything in between — it might not be a Glock, but I trust it with my life.

A+
Ergonomics

With a more 1911 style grip, the SD9VE is to me, more comfortable and natural than Glock’s grip angle. Front slide serrations are nice too.

A
Accuracy

For a compact pistol, this is about what I expect. Nothing amazing, but good enough.

B+
Value

In 2017 I paid $340 for my SD9VE in California. I’ve seen them for as low as $280, but that was pre-pandemic. For the average street price of around $380 right now — this is a good buy. But if you can afford the extra $120… maybe a Glock is smarter.

A

Our Grade

A-

Reviewed by David Lane

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 13 Reviews

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S&W SD9VE Ammo

Range Rounds

MagTech-9mm-Ammo

MagTech 9mm 115 GR FMJ Ammo

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Natchez Shooter’s Supply $0.24
Brownells $0.23
Palmetto State Armory $0.34

Best Defense Rounds

Box of Hornady 9mm pistol ammunition

Hornady Critical Defense 115 GR

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Cabela’s $1.24
Midway USA $1.24

S&W SD9VE Starter Pack

So what’s next? Well, if you decide to get the S&W SD9VE , you’re going to need to pick up some must-have basics. Here’s our recommendation for what you need to get started.

  • Gun Cleaning Kit: Otis All Caliber Elite Range Box on Amazon or build your own personalized cleaning kit with premium components.
  • Shooting Glasses: All it takes is one piece of rogue hot brass, and you’ll learn the importance of shooting glasses. But not all glasses are built the same. See our recommendations for the Best Shooting Glasses.
  • Hearing Protection: Firing a gun without wearing proper ear pro can be very dangerous and detrimental to your hearing. Find out the best hearing protection for you in our full length review.
  • Storage: Check our our article on the Best Biometric Gun Safes
  • Targets – If you’re wanting a great resource for shooting practice or zeroing your optics on your optics rifle or pistol, download our FREE Sighting in Targets below.

With the basics outta the way, let’s jump into some cool accessories you might want to consider when purchasing your S&W SD9VE

S&W SD9VE Upgrades and Accessories

There’s a bunch of different options available to accessorize the S&W SD9VE. However, if we had to choose only a few options… Here’s our picks.

S&W SD9VE Accessories

Streamlight TLR-7 Weapon Light
  • White LED produces 500 lumens
  • IPX7 Waterproof
  • Low Profile
Check Amazon
Pineworld Biometric Gun Safe
  • Reliable Biometric Scanner
  • Sturdy and Well Built
  • Cheaper Than Most Biometrics
Check Amazon
Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs
  • Great In-Ear option
  • Custom molded – super easy and comfortable
  • NRR: 31
Check Amazon
S&W SDVE Action Enhancement Kit
  • Reduces pre-travel by 20%
  • Reduces over-travel by 10%
  • Reduces trigger pull weight by approximately 2 pounds from factory
Check Price
TALON Grips Adhesive Pistol Grip
  • Improve your performance
  • US-Patented Gun Grip
  • Install in Minutes
Check Amazon

HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR S&W SD9VE

Not only do you need to keep your firearms safe and secure, you’re also going to need to know how to take care of it. While scouring the internet, we came across this excellent video;

For more info regarding the S&W SD9VE, check out the following resources:

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About David Lane

Learning how to shoot at a young age in the Boy Scouts, David now spends most of his time working on or with firearms. Be it shooting, upgrading, building, tinkering, or writing about them -- sharing his passion and knowledge of firearms with others is an everyday occurrence.

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