Gun Review: Smith & Wesson SD9 VE

Based on the TTAG reader survey, it looks like our readers want to read more about budget minded guns. As your loyal scribe, I aim to please (pun intended). So before you today, we have the Smith & Wesson SD9 VE. This fine piece is the lowest priced pistola de plastico in the S&W lineup. You might remember some similar looks from their Sigma range of inexpensively priced pistols. Having stripped both guns, I can tell you that the guts look mostly the same between the two. And having shot both of them, I can tell you that the trigger woes the Sigma suffered continue with the SD9 VE. Be not afraid though, as the SD9 VE has many redeeming qualities, too . . .

Appearance, Fit & Finish

Comparing an off the rack M&P to the SD9 VE, it’s plain to see that the VE is the “budget” option. You’ll notice things like the stamped sheet metal slide release and plastic guide rod. But you’ll also notice nicely textured grips and very well finished metal surfaces. The SD ships in a cardboard box, but you get two — yes two — chrome-finished magazines that glide smoothly in the magazine well. Not bad for a low-priced heater.

This is a budget firearm with the “budget” in all the right places. I was hard pressed to find any machine marks, mismatched castings, or any other signs of poor assembly. Yes, it has some budget minded parts, but it’s a very functional, solid firearm.

Ease of Use

The VE has all the bare essentials. There’s the magazine release right where it oughta be. Slide release is there on the driver’s side, and it has two wee little takedown tabs for cleaning. This gun doesn’t have a manual safety or a grip safety. Although you can get it in a MA legal (10.5 lb trigger!!) or low capacity version if you should so choose. Either way, the VE is the literal definition of point and shoot.

Ease of Disassembly

Takedown is extraordinarily easy. Move the slide back a little bit, wiggle the take down tabs, and slip the slide forward. Remove the recoil rod and barrel, and clean as necessary. I received the gun completely dry, and shot it that way. I also shot it dirty and very lubricated. It shoots fine, so if you’re afraid of disassembly, just keep shooting. Or clean it. The VE just doesn’t seem to care.

Handling Characteristics

Truth be told, I still had that bad Sigma taste in my mouth when I found out S&W was shipping the VE to me. So imagine my surprise when I took it out of the box and found it feels good in the hand. Not only is it comfortable, but it points like an Irish Setter. The front sight has a bright, white dot that makes target acquisition a snap. And the grip angle just seemed to suit me perfectly.

The mag release is easy enough to reach as is the slide release. And unlike the M&P 45C I tested a few months back, the slide release actually works. What about those grips? Well I have smaller hands and they’re just fine. Those with huge meat hooks might overwhelm it, and if you have tiny hands you might find it too big. No changeable backstraps here, though, so try before you buy.

Now about that trigger. It’s problematic for two reasons. First, there’s its enormously long travel. Second, it finally breaks at around 8.5 lbs. It’s a long way to go, and weaker shooters will be shaking by the time they get it to go bang. I put about 50 rounds downrange before my forearms started aching. That’s when I called Apex and had them send a spring replacement kit. Factor an extra $20 plus shipping into the cost of the gun and you can rock on down the road with a still long, but very manageable six pound trigger pull.

Accuracy

The SD9 VE is intrinsically accurate, but not practically so. I managed group sizes of just a few inches at 7 yards that really started to open up as the firing rate increased. That little quirk is naturally, thanks to the craptastic trigger. Again, fix the trigger and this is a very capable gun for the entry level pistolero.

Reliability

This gun has been satisfyingly boring on the reliability front. Like Oprah, it doesn’t matter what I feed it, she eats everything. I really wish I had a cool story to tell y’all about double feeds or stovepipes, but I don’t. Dead nuts reliable. I might do an extended test and soak it in motor oil or salt water or pack it with sand to see if I can get it to jam. If so, I’ll let you know.

Versatility

The VE is just a good all around gun. Happy as a range toy, concealed carry piece, or “extra” gun around the house/vehicle. In fact, this is probably going to be my recommendation for someone who wants to get their feet wet with gun ownership. It may be a tad large for summertime carry, but for winter carry with a jacket, you’d be good to go. Or, keep it in your vehicle or nightstand. Hell, for the money you’d spend on a quality 1911, you can keep one in your vehicle and one in your nightstand.

Available Aftermarket Options

From what I’ve read, it appears that Galco, Fobus, and DeSantis are making hoslters for the SD9 VE. Extra mags will cost you $41.82 from S&W. Ouch. It also has a picatinny rail for lasers, lights, and all manner of tacticool doodads. I should also mention that Apex makes a spring kit to fix that nasty trigger issue. Have I mentioned it? Okay, perfect.

Favorite Feature

The VE is a well made budget firearm. Its cheap to buy and cheap to run.

Least Favorite Feature

That nasty-ass trigger. Get if fixed before you fire the first shot.

Specifications: Smith and Wesson SD9 VE
Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 16+1
Action: Striker Fired Action
Barrel Length: 4″ / 10.2 cm
Front Sight: White Dot
Rear Sight: Fixed 2-Dot
Overall Length: 7.2″ / 18.3 cm
Width: 1.29″ / 3.3 cm
Weight: 22.7 oz. / 643 g
Frame Material: Polymer
Slide Material: Stainless Steel
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
MSRP $379. (Local Shop: $330)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Appearance, Fit and Finish:  * * * * 
I’m dinging a star for stamped sheet metal parts and the plastic guide rod. At this price point, though, you can’t have all the things you want, and I get that. But you still can’t bring pieces like that to the table and hope for a five star rating. Otherwise, fit and finish was superb.

Ease of Use: * * * * *
All the control are where they are supposed to be and function they way they should.

Ease of Disassembly: * * * *
You have to do a little sleight of hand to rock the slide back and disengage the takedown tabs. I’d prefer the same system the M&P uses, but again, cost wins out.

Handling: * * * * *
Five stars through and through. The VE is a natural pointer, and feels very comfortable in my mitts.

Accuracy: * * *
Bench rest accuracy is superb, but overall “combat” accuracy sucks thanks to the terrible trigger.

Reliability: * * * * *
I can’t seem to make it fail

Customize This: * * * 
$40+ for magazines! Yeesh. Otherwise, your standard fare applies. A couple holsters out there and a rail to mount stuff on. Some internet forums claim that you can mount M&P sights if you want glow in the dark or high viz additions.

Overall Rating: * * * *
Writing for TTAG has made me kind of a snob when it comes to firearms. I wouldn’t be caught dead with a Freedom Group Marlin, and I damn sure won’t be hoisting a Hi Point anytime soon. But the SD9 VE brought me down a notch. Here’s a dead nuts reliable gun that’s a pleasure to shoot for a touch over three bones. It has one glaring flaw in the trigger — but that’s easily remedied for $20. At that price, you really can’t afford not to buy one. Or four. I’m impressed and I hope the SD9 VE is a big seller for Smith & Wesson.