S&W SD9VE – early impressions

I recently purchased an S&W SD9VE to test and evaluate.  I’ve gotten questions from students about this gun model, and other shooters and trainers have mentioned it as a decent option for defensive handgun buyers on a limited budget.

Some early observations:

1) It fits in my daily carry holster (Raven “Morrigan“) made for an S&W M&P.  I read online that it wouldn’t fit M&P holsters, but the Morrigan has enough flexibility in its design that I’ve been able to use it for my M&P 1.0, a Glock 19, and an M&P Shield without problems.

2) The trigger pull is long and heavy.  Not as long as heavy as a double action revolver, but longer and heavier than the factory trigger on the Glock and M&P models.  My trigger pull gauge only goes up to 8 pounds, and the SD9VE trigger was heavier than that.  Apex makes two parts to upgrade the SD9VE, a spring kit and a flat trigger. I ordered both from Brownells and will write about the install and testing of those parts in the coming weeks.

3) Heavy triggers are harder to shoot.  I lubricated the gun, dry fired for about 10 minutes and then headed outside to run the 3 Seconds or Less test with the gun.  I ran the test from open carry.

I didn’t check the zero of the pistol with the test ammo (124 gr Armscorp JRN) before I ran the test.

I did black out the rear dots on the sights because I strongly dislike “3 dot” sights.

With most guns I can shoot a perfect score (20 hits in the grey part of the target) on the test, using the 3 second par time. Not so with the SD9VE.  From 7 yards, the “2 head shots starting from ready” went wrong. I finished that string in 1.98 seconds (of the available 3 seconds), dropping one shot completely out of the head, low left almost into the body, with the other shot low left into the ‘jaw’ area of the head.

On the one handed strings from 7 yards, I dropped 3 of the 4 rounds below the KRT-2 target, for a score of 16/20 with 3 in the head – good enough to pass at the standards required by our 1st level Defensive Pistol Skills 1 class, but not particularly good overall.  More than likely a less skilled shooter would have found it difficult to shoot.

4) Seeing so many shots trending left on the target caused me to take a closer look at the sights. I shot a 5 shot group on the “B” circle on the target, at 7 yards. That produced a nice group left of the point of aim.

I took a closer look at the slide, and noticed that the front sight was off to the right of center line.

5) The other problem I observed is that the gun did not lock back on the last round of any of the 3 magazines that I used during my testing.  This may not be a gun problem.  If you look at the pistol you’ll see that the slide lock lever is located in a place where a shooter with a high thumbs grip might end up riding the lever, preventing it from moving upward and locking the slide on the last round. I had this problem with the Springfield XD, and it was one of several reasons I stopped shooting and recommending the XD series of pistols to students.


I’m teaching 3 group classes this weekend, and then private class on Tuesday before I head to Firearms Academy of Seattle for the 2018 Northwest Rangemaster Tactical Conference to teach a session of my Historical Handgun courseso the SD9VE will sit in the safe until I return in early August.

Next time I work with the SD9VE, I will adjust the sights to get the gun zeroed, re-run the 3 Seconds or Less test and a few other baseline tests with it, assess the slide lock issue, install the Apex parts, and re-shoot the baseline drills after I install the Apex parts.

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