Smith & Wesson SD40VE Review: Budget Buy Full Size Self Defense Pistol

by Ben Konie

December 8, 2021



Whether you are a new gun buyer searching for your first self-defense pistol, or a seasoned gun owner, looking for a back-up pistol, the S&W SD40VE may be a good option for you.

Let us just say for the sake of this article, you have decided a .40 caliber is the right choice for your next or first buy. Safety, reliability, comfort, and price all require analysis, to ensure that your decision best reflects what you need and want.

Let’s find out if the SD40VE is right for you.

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S&W SD40VE Specs

  • Capacity 14 (Standard) 15plus (Optional)
  • Caliber .40 S&W
  • Height 5.3 inches
  • Length 7.2 inches
  • Length (Barrel) 4 inches
  • Weight 22.7 oz
  • Trigger Pull 8 lbs.

S&W SD40VE Background

As a replacement of the Sigma series, Smith & Wesson introduced the SD40 in 2012 as a Self Defense (“SD”) pistol. Likewise, Smith & Wesson introduced the SD40VE and considered it the Value Edition (“VE”) in offering consumers another option, at an excellent price point.

The SD40VE is a full size striker fired semi-automatic pistol, with a double action safety trigger, front and rear white dot dove tail sights, lightweight polymer frame, stainless slide and barrel, and an aggressive textured grip.

Designed to be an alternative budget buy in comparison to the Glock 22 and Glock 23; the SD40VE offers similar characteristics with the Glock design, without the Glock price tag. Moreover, the SD series provides the same benefit for buyers and their preferences if the Smith & Wesson M&P series is not for them.

S&W SD40VE Features

S&W SD40VE Features
1 Dovetail Front & Rear Sights

Both front and rear sights are removable to accommodate aftermarket sights of your choice

2 Loaded Chamber Indicator

Indicator window atop the slide, allows the shooter the ability to visually observe if the chamber is loaded

3 Accessory Rail

Picatinny rail affords the shooter to attach lights, lasers, and even a bayonet (which I think is awesomely ridiculous)

4 Double Action Safety Trigger

With no external safety, the self-defense designed trigger acts as the pistols only safety

5 Polymer Frame with a Textured Grip

The frame is lightweight and textured, to include a trigger finger or off hand thumb stippling, as well as a textured grip and aggressive backstrap to improve ergonomics and comfortability

Smith & Wesson SD40VE Review: Our Take

My experience with this pistol began in 2013 and it became the first full size pistol addition to my collection. As a brand new father at that time, I felt compelled to invest in a reliable firearm that would afford me the ability to protect my home and young family. I had my eye out for a  Glock 23 or a Sig Sauer P226, but as a young guy with a family, there was no way I could afford either of those, and buy enough ammo to train with. The SD40VE price tag at the time of $340 attracted me to it, almost immediately. Fast-forward two years, I found a great deal on an S&W M&P Shield 9 and made the switch in making it, my primary conceal carry/self-defense pistol. Even though the SD40VE is no longer my primary self-defense firearm, it still serves with confidence, as my bedside gun of choice.


Overall, I have been pleased with the performance of the SD40VE. As with any firearm, reliability must be considered. This is especially true for any firearm that has the intended use of self-defense. Malfunctions are frustrating enough during training, and drastically more so if your carry gun is not operating optimally, in the event that life is in the balance.

In my eight years of ownership, I discovered the SD40VE operated the best with Remington 180 gr Ultimate Defense ammunition. With nearly 2,000 rounds shot, the malfunctions were rare. The lower grain ammunitions of 135 – 155 gr seemed to be the cause of the malfunctions that I did experience. For instance, while running through a box of 145 gr Fiocchi ammo, the pistol on multiple occasions refused to go back into battery after firing. After switching back to 180 gr, the issue did not repeat itself. However, I am a fervent supporter of experimenting with the different variations and brands of ammo to find out which ammo works best for each particular gun. So don’t be afraid to experiment.

Despite the long and hard trigger pull, (we’ll crack that nut here shortly) I never experienced an issue with the trigger’s functionality.

The mag release operates smoothly, and the location is ergonomically sufficient for a man with average sized hands. Smaller hands may have to adjust slightly by canting the pistol in towards the workspace to reach it. So keep that in mind as it may not be optimal when operating this pistol. In spite of that, I do like the forward deflecting ridge designed to eliminate accidental mag drops. Not only did this feature do as designed, it also afforded me a tactile cue of that sweet spot for my off hand in finding its optimal position while firing.


Considering that the SD40VE was my first full size pistol; it took me a bit longer than it does now to produce tight consistent shot groups. This is at no fault of the SD40VE, but rather encouragement to any new gun owners looking to make a full size pistol their first. Once acclimated to the pistol, I found that marksmanship with the SD40VE was consistent and satisfying.

The feature that truly aided my increased accuracy was the 3 White Dot front and rear sights. Having the visual cue of the 3 aligned white dots while aiming down the sights was of great advantage to me while training. The size of the dots allowed for an easy sight picture and with the sights aligned, the distance between each dot, made finding equidistant alignment a piece of cake.

Moreover, the ability to drift the front sight left or right is another feature I wish more manufacturers would capitalize on.

Now for that dang trigger!

For a self–defense pistol, with no external safety, I understand the safety concerns for designing a relatively long and harder than normal trigger pull. However, this thing is so much that it took some time to get accustomed.

The safety feature on the lower part of the trigger requires 3.5 lbs. of pull, before the entire trigger can be pulled rearward. In these 3.5 lbs. the trigger travel is nearly half of the overall travel to action. From the point in which the safety is deactivated, it then requires 8 total lbs. of pull, to action the trigger and release the striker. The pull is long to say the least and the travel forward to trigger reset, isn’t any better.

The good news is, that there are several options to upgrade this trigger. APEX has a good trigger enhancement option, between $40 and $60 that I used to enhance my own. In which, lowered the overall pull to just around 4 lbs. Tactically and practically speaking, this is great; however, remember there is no external safety. Upgrades to enhance the trigger may degrade elements of safety, and being aware of the take away is absolutely necessary.


The lightweight polymer frame, coupled with the texturing feels quite good in your hand. I would not go as far to say it is the best, or better than a Glock, but it is sufficient and better in my opinion, than the Ruger SR40 for example. 

The texturing works well in keeping positive control while shooting and in finding those tactile cues for that optimal grip. 

The slide is my favorite part of this pistol. Not only does the contrast of the stainless atop the black frame get me going; it also racks back so smoothly. The recoil spring does make a slight compression kind of sound as soon as you start moving the slide to the rear, but you cannot feel it. The slide glides right over the rails with zero catches, snags, or binds every time. 

I also find the vertical serrations on the slide to be sufficient for a three finger and palm grip, to rack it back. It does have a smaller section of the same serrations forward of the ejection port; however, I find these to be an inconsequential aspect of appearance and not of functionality.

Final Thoughts

The SD40VE is a great full size pistol for the money, and I believe it to be its number one attribute. “But it’s a .40 and that caliber is fading away”, you might say. Well, it is becoming less popular, but here is another angle to look at it. As we all have witnessed, during 2020 and 2021, 9mm ammunition has been disappearing off the shelves with .220 Swift speed. However, .40 S&W has routinely been there nearly every time I’ve looked. Therefore, I would suggest that having a pistol that shoots .40 S&W has the potential to be a viable back-up firearm, for when the more popular calibers are in high demand. Not having to crack into your zombie apocalypse reserve of 9mm just to train, would make having a simple and inexpensive pistol worth the space it takes up in your safe.

If you can train through the heavy trigger, or replace it with a lighter one; I believe the SD40VE is a good option, if you have a viable reason for buying one.


Smith & Wesson introduced the SD40VE and considered it the Value Edition (“VE”) in offering consumers another option, at an excellent price point. The SD40VE is a great full size pistol for the money.

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  • Shootability B-
  • Reliability B
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy B
  • Value A

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S&W SD40VE Ammo

Great for the S&W SD40VE

S&W SD40VE Ammo
Cost Per Round
Cabela’s $0.59
Brownells $0.69
Palmetto State Armory $0.58 $0.73

Remington 180 gr Ultimate Defense

Remington .40 180 gr Ultimate Defense
Cost Per Round
Palmetto State Armory $1.21

S&W SD40VE Starter Pack

If you’re looking to pick up a SD40VE, there are a few extra things you’ll probably also want to pick up.

  • Magazines: Having extra magazines is a must for any gun that you own–unless you like wasting time excess time reloading. Pick up some Smith & Wesson 14 round mags over at Brownells or
  • Gun Cleaning Kit: There’s no way you should pick up a new handgun and not keep it well maintained. We’ve got a whole article dedicated to gun cleaning kits to guide you in everything you’ll need to keep your pistol in tip top shape.  
  • Eye Protection: This should go without saying, but you need to invest in some quality shooting glasses. One errant piece of brass, and you’re in for a bad day. Check out our recommendations for the best shooting glasses!
  • Hearing Protection: Let us help you out! We’ve gathered all of our favorites to help you decide what the best hearing protection is for you.

How to Care for your SD40VE

You should be familiar with any handgun you purchase. Processes like how to disassemble, reassemble and care for your purchase well. We’ve found this awesome video that takes you through this process step by step.


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About Ben Konie

Ben is a U.S. Army veteran with 16 years of service under his belt. While in the Army, Ben was a Small Arms Instructor and a Small Unit Tactics Trainer. Ben also enjoys teaching others how to improve their proficiency on the gun and increasing their confidence for when it counts. Most importantly though, he is a Christian, husband, and father of 5.

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