SEPTEMBER 18, 2012

Editor's Notebook: S&W SD9-VE

By Rich Grassi
The S&W SD9-VE replaces the SIGMA and SD9. This sample was tried with a variety of ammo. Rich Grassi photo.
Last year I made a big deal over the new Smith & Wesson SD9 pistol. A service pistol sized a little to the compact size - roughly in line with the Glock 19 - it's a 16-shot 9mm, polymer frame with a melonite slide. The front sight had a tritium insert (which was dead on mine) and the rear sight had painted-on white dots. The front of the slide has cocking serrations and the SIGMA-like trigger is hinged. The trigger was long, draggy and crunchy with an uncommitted reset. I liked the look, the feel and the idea. That trigger . . . The first ten rounds out of the gun were fired at ten yards in 10 seconds from low ready on an NRA B-8 target repair center. The heavy rough trigger forced me to concentrate. While one hit was out of the black, I shot a 96/100. Since then, Trijicon HD Sights and an Apex Tactical Spring kit have turned that gun around. Now I get ten hits in the black pretty easily. That gun, so modified, has been a more or less constant companion ever since. Like all good things, the SD9 couldn't last. It was situated between the SIGMA and the M&P both in cost and build. Some consumers were confused by the move, some government buyers were absolute bottom dollar obsessed. The question was how to fix the bottom of the line.
Rich Grassi photo
The answer is the SD9 VE. The VE comes from the SIGMA SW9VE line ("value enhanced"?). The SD part of the upgrade includes the standard accessory rail, trigger finger locator pads on both sides of the frame, front and rear cocking serrations and nicely beveled magazine well. The trigger is long and spongy. As to the locators - there are indented, roughened areas just ahead of the slide lock (above the front of the trigger guard). No less an authority than the late Paul Gomez noted it was far better to tell people where to place the trigger finger when it's not on the trigger. S&W gives us a place to place that trigger finger every time. The trigger, while heavy and stagey, was noticeably better than the original SD9 was out-of-the-box.
This Champion B-8 repair center ingested 10 rounds of "The Test," ten more from "Half Test," and a range of one-hand, either hand practice with UMC 147 grain MC ammo. Rich Grassi photo.
At the range, a B-8 repair center from ATK/Champion target was posted. I did some dryfire to acquaint to the trigger, then loaded up. The first trial was "The Test" - from low ready, 10 rounds in ten seconds from 10 yards. Like the original SD9, I had one out of the black. (The objective is to have all ten in the black part of the target.) Scoring it, I had one in the "8" ring and a touching pair in the lower part of the "9," making it 97/100. The original, "more enhanced" gun gave me 96 points in the same situation. From there, I did some work one handed using dominant and less dominant hands, as well as two handed shooting back to fifteen yards. I dropped another into the "9." I'd been marking bullet holes with Sharpie markers, from the Test in red and in this exercise with green. Moving up to five yards, I did the "ten rounds at five yards in 5 seconds," trying to keep all in the black. Another "9" showed up, but everything else was good. (Thanks to Claude Werner for the idea of using different colored markers for different exercises, helping to keep track of where we need work.) Mixed magazines were randomly loaded with ASYM 115 grain TAC-XP +P, Cor-Bon 115 DPX +P, Black Hills 124 grain JHP +P and UMC 147 grain FMC. No stoppages were noted. Here's why I like this gun: For less than $380 suggested retail, you get a 16-shot 9mm with two spare magazines. The gun is reliable, more accurate than the shooter in most cases and, if the trigger is unmanageable for you - it shouldn't be, as this one will go without a trigger kit - spend the ca. $20 with Apex and get to the Apex videos to see how to do the installation. Need a holster? Most holsters that fit the M&P fit this gun. No problem. For home defense, concealed carry, a security job where you provide your own artillery or if you're a cop in a small town that doesn't issue a gun, it's hard to imagine a gun as cost effective as the SD9 VE. Instead of spending more on a fancy gun, get spare magazines and some 9mm and work on your skills.