Gun Test: Smith & Wesson SD40
By Richard Johnson of GunsHolstersAndGear.com
The best value in handguns for sale today is the Smith & Wesson SD40. I know that is a bold statement, and many of you will balk at such an absolute proclamation. Keep reading the review and let me explain…
The Smith & Wesson SD40 is a striker-fired, polymer framed pistol that falls between the Sigma and M&P lines of handguns in terms of price and features. While S&W publicly states the SD line is a completely separate entity from their other lines, the SD40 definitely shares some of the parts and features of the Sigma and M&P series.
The SD40 is chambered in .40 S&W while the SD9 is chambered for the 9mm cartridge. Both the SD40 and SD9 are available in “standard” capacity and “low” capacity. Smith & Wesson gets a huge “attaboy” for correctly pointing out that standard capacity magazines are not high capacity magazines.
The S&W SD40 holds 14 cartridges in the magazine (10 in the low capacity magus), while the SD9 holds 16 rounds. Both the SD40 and SD9 ship with two stainless steel magazines. The magazines have visual inspection holes on both sides allowing the user to quickly assess how many rounds are loaded.
It is my understanding that the SD magazines are interchangeable with the Sigma magazines. I strongly suspect this is true, but I did not have any Sigma magazines on hand to test this. The floorplates may be different, but numerous reports I have received indicates both types of magus will run in both guns.
The fit and finish of the SD40 is excellent. For the price of the SD40, I expected some minor tool marks and other imperfections, yet I could find none. Even the inside parts on the SD40 looked very good.
The stainless steel slide is coated with a black Melonite finish. Melonite is the same finish used on the Smith & Wesson M&P pistols, and in my experience it has worked every bit as good as the Tennifer finish found on the Glock pistols.
S&W does not list a hardness rating for the SD40, but does for the M&P line. Assuming this was not merely an oversight, I would infer that the M&P receives additional metal treatment that the SD does not. (I am not an expert on metallurgy, so if someone has insight on this, please post in the comments.)
The SD40 is easy to grip and manipulate. The pistol has a moderate amount of checkering in the front strap and back strap. The sides of the grip frame are also textured.
The grip sides swell slightly, providing some fill for the hand, while the high part of the grip is slightly recessed. This allows the shooter to get the right amount of finger on the trigger without having to twist his or her hand around the frame. I was very impressed by the grip and feel of the gun.
There are serrations on the slide fore and aft of the ejection port. The serrations are not “fish gills” or other finely laid pattern. Rather the slide serrations are widely spaced and seem taller than on other pistols. They are very easy to grasp when conducting reload or malfunction drills. The forward serrations are adequate for press checks if you chose to use them for that purpose.
Sights on the SD40 are a simple, yet effective design. The front sight is a tritium night sight. The rear sight is a notched black with two white dots. In daylight conditions I found the design worked well. For low light conditions, I found the design was excellent.
Some may argue that tritium in the front sight only was a cost-cutting measure. That argument may be correct. However, I prefer a glowing front sight only as opposed to glowing sights front and rear. Under extreme stress in real low light conditions, the eye is much more likely to be confused by multiple glowing dots. On the other hand, a single glowing dot is easy to pick up and use.
Both the front and rear sights are dovetailed, allowing for easy replacement of one or both should you want to. The rear sight is marked “M&P” suggesting from which existing S&W line the sights are coming.
The SD40 has an accessory rail allowing the addition of a white light, laser or other accessory.
The magazine release button is easy to access and functions well. There is a small ridge that allows the thumb of the right hand (assuming you are shooting with your right hand) to rest above the magazine release. This ridge protects the magazine release from accidentally being pressed.
The magazine release is not ambidextrous or reversible. Likewise, the slide stop is designed for righties only.
The SD40 has a loaded chamber indicator that is essential a hole on top of the chamber that allows the shooter to see that a cartridge is in there. This design is essentially the same as what is built into the M&P line.
Field stripping the SD40 is easy and identical to the Sigma, which is the same as the Glock. With an empty chamber (please double check), press the trigger to decock the striker. Retract the slide slightly while pulling down on both sides of the takedown catch, and then push the slide forward and off of the frame.
The SD40 uses a captive recoil spring, so no worries about a spring or guide rod flying across the room.
The Smith & Wesson SD40 was 100% reliable during my review time on the range. I tested the gun with more than 10 different kinds of ammunition, and put more than 500 rounds through the pistol over several trips to the range.
The gun was easy to shoot and did not rub or wear on the hand in any unusual places. Recoil was very manageable and all but the most inexperienced shooters should be able to run this gun without any problems.
Accuracy was excellent at all ranges up to 25 yards. Paper plates at 25 yards were no problem, with very tight groups at closer ranges.
I found the sights easy to use in outdoor, daylight conditions.
I have only a few minor complaints about the SD40. Frankly, they aren’t terribly concerning but they are worth mentioning.
The trigger on the SD40 is not the smoothest I have ever felt. It isn’t the worst, but it is not very good. It is somewhat heavy and long if compared to a M&P or Glock. However, it is not as heavy as the Sigma and markedly better than the double action trigger on the CZ P-07 Duty.
The trigger is consistent from shot to shot, which is to be expected. I observed a certain amount of improvement with the shooting and dry firing I did.
I don’t hate the trigger, and found it did not hinder my accuracy at all. But, it is not as nice as what is found on other, more expensive pistols.
The SD40 has a textured area on the frame, below the slide and forward of the trigger. This is supposed to be a reference point for where the shooter can lay his or her finger when not shooting. It’s not a bad idea, but it is too far forward for me to use. I suppose that’s my fault, not the gun’s. However, that does lead me to the next point…
The SD40 is not adaptable to different shooters. The pistol does not have interchangeable backstraps. Nor does it have reversible or ambidextrous controls. So, even though the gun fits me perfectly well (other than the finger thing mentioned above), it will not fit everyone the same way.
As I stated at the start of this review, the Smith & Wesson SD40 is the best handgun value on the market. It is a very reliable handgun with a variety of self-defense oriented features.
The pistol is chambered in a serious caliber and is a good size for both concealed carry and home defense. The gun is large enough to shoot comfortably for long range sessions and should prove more than up to the task of shooting in IDPA competition.
Sure, the gun isn’t perfect. You can get a better trigger by spending more money, which you may want to do. However, you can’t beat the overall quality of this gun for this price. The MSRP is $459, but you can buy the SD40 for about $375 online. I daresay you cannot find a better gun at this price.
Keep in mind that for your money you are also getting the backing of a major company in the firearms industry. Smith & Wesson customer service is the same whether you need help with a SD40 or a custom S&W 625 “Miculek Special.”
Editor’s note: Welcome to Richard Johnson as a contributing author to The Daily Caller Guns & Gear section. Richard is one of my favorite gun writers because he is tough on gear and tells you straight up what he thinks. Please visit his site GunsHolstersAndGear.com~ Mike P. editor G&G