Review: Smith and Wesson SD40


Want to know what is the best value in a defensive handgun?  Take a look at the Smith & Wesson SD40 pistol.  It is a very reliable handgun that fits well in the hand and offers many of the features professionals look for.  The real bonus is the street price on this gun is less than $400.

The SD40 is part of a two gun line, with the SD9 being its counterpart.  The SD stands for “self defense” while the number indicates the caliber.  The pistols are polymer framed and striker fired.

The SD line is an extension of the oft-maligned Sigma series of handguns.  Frankly, I’ve found some of the criticism of the Sigma pistols to be unfounded, as they have always shot well for me.


The SD40 is a full-size handgun, suitable for home defense, private security or police work.  It may be a bit large for concealed carry depending on your needs.  It certainly won’t fit into an ankle holster, but will work in an IWB or belt slide holster with the right cover garment.
As the name SD40 indicates, this gun is chambered in the popular .40 S&W cartridge.  Magazines hold 14 rounds, and low-capacity 10-round mags are available for the more restrictive states.

The pistol has a 4-inch barrel and overall length of 7.2-inches.  Weight, unloaded, is just under 23 ounces. 

The grip is not adjustable like in the company’s M&P line.  The grip is moderately textured on the sides, with more aggressive texturing on the front and backstrap areas.

The way the sights are set up is very interesting.  The front sight is a tritium night sight with white outline.  The rear sight is a two-dot sight without tritium.  I found this arrangement to be very easy to shoot, and there is less visual confusion when shooting in low light conditions. 

The rear sight has a notch cutout, which allows for one-handed cycling to clear a malfunction or when reloading from slide lock.   I find that to be a feature that is often overlooked in many gun designs.

The sights are dovetailed, allowing for easy replacement.

Unlike the M&P pistols, the SD40 does not have reversible or ambidextrous controls.  The slide stop and magazine release are both on the left side of the gun, and there are no provisions for moving them.  Well, at least not without a Dremel tool.

The SD40 has an accessory rail to allow the easy addition of a white light or laser. 
This Smith pistol does not have a magazine disconnect or other external safety. 

Unfortunately, S&W stamped a warning about that into the side of the frame on the right side.  It isn’t a large imprinting, but I hate the look of warning labels stamped on my guns.  At least Smith didn’t put it on the slide.

Range Time

I took the SD40 out to my local range, and spent several fun hours with it.
The gun showed absolute reliability, with no malfunctions of any kind.  Hollowpoints, roundnose, jacketed and even cheap lead bullet loads all functioned perfectly.

I’ve shot a lot of handguns, and have always found the high-pressure .40 S&W rounds to be a little “snappier” than both the 9mm and .45 ACP cartridges.  While still very shootable, the .40 can be a bit much for some people with limited experience or who are particularly recoil sensitive.

That said, I found shooting the SD40 very easy, and without some of the normal snap I have found in other pistols.  Recoil was mild, and both controlled pairs and hammer pairs were no problem.

I live in Florida, and we have very hot, humid weather here.  My hands get really sweaty, and guns can jump around if I don’t have a good grip on the pistol.  Fortunately, the S&W SD40’s grip texture was aggressive enough to allow me to keep hold of the gun easily.

Accuracy was fine.  I generally don’t break out a measuring tape to see what load is getting the tightest groups on a defensive handgun.  All rounds were hitting the paper where I intended.  If I consistently put rounds into center mass at 25 yards, I am satisfied.  With the SD40, I was pleased with the accuracy.

The trigger on the SD40 is a little gritty and a touch long.  The more I shot it, the smoother it got.  But I never got it to the same level as the M&P or Glock.

The SD40 trigger does have a “hard” reset that is much more like a Glock, than an M&P pistol.  I know a lot of people have complained that Smith & Wesson made a mistake with the M&P trigger by not having a hard reset.  The SD40 will not garner the same criticism. 
Home Defense Kit.

Taking the concept of self defense one-step farther, Smith & Wesson is now marketing the SD9 and SD40 pistols in a Home Defense Kit.  If the SD pistol is a good value, then the HD Kits are a fantastic value.

The kits include the SD pistol of your choice plus a S&W branded Micro90 weapon light and a GunVault Nano200 pistol safe box.

The Micro90 is a 90-lumen white light that mounts on the SD40’s accessory rail and has momentary on and constant on modes.  It is lightweight, adding less than 1.5 ounces to the entire package.

The Micro90 runs on a single CR2 battery and has a constant on runtime of two hours.  Using an LED allows the long runtime, and also provides a more true white light as opposed to the yellow tinted light of incandescent bulbs.

The GunVault Nano200 is a lockable metal box designed to safely store a pistol.  It is foam lined to protect your gun and comes with a heavy duty cable for additional security.  The gun box is large enough to store the SD40 pistol with the Micro90 mounted and an extra magazine.

Street prices on the kits are not much more than the SD pistols, often staying below the $450 mark with several vendors pricing around $425. 


The Smith & Wesson SD40 is a reliable handgun designed for self defense.  It has a number of nice features, and can be purchased with a light and lockbox in a relatively inexpensive factory kit.

If you are looking for a high quality gun in the sub-$400 price range, take a serious look at the SD40.  It is one of the best values on the market today.