The Smith and Wesson SD series of pistols can trace its lineage back to the Smith and Wesson Sigma of the early nineties. Back then, S&W was still innovative and was trying to snag some of the market share that was (and is) dominated by Glock. The Sigma was an unattractive pistol that was chambered in both 9mm and 40 S&W, but it seemed to work. The Sigma did have a few LEO contracts based on the proven and past successes of S&W third gen autos and revolvers, but they were soon phased out very quickly in favor of the more enigmatic Austrian pistol.
There were a few legal hassles at first because of the Sigma similarity to the Glock series of pistol, but that doesn’t concern us here. Suffice it to say S&W changed directions with their marketing campaign and the Sigma became the budget-friendly polymer alternative. The Sigma was updated in 2011 with a facelift and the newer and more handsome iterations were coined the SD9 or SD40 depending on chambering.
The SD9 I am reviewing is one of a set of three trainer pistols that we use for our classes in our shop. Out of all the pistols I have ever had trigger time on, I can say that I have the most experience with this particular type.
This is not a pistol I would call a favorite, as a matter of fact, it has some things that I down right dislike in a pistol, but due to our classes, we use them quite a bit. Are they perfect? No, by no means. But they do work. They are accurate enough, and reliable to boot. In some of our classes (depending on the size) we can expend close to 2000 rounds of 9mm in an afternoon between the three of them. I have used them in the pouring rain, the freezing cold, and humid summer. They have been dropped in mud, and snow, and covered in rain water and continued to shoot.
We have had two cases of serious malfunction, both on the same pistol besides basic stovepipes due to “limp wrist” with expended rounds where the pistol would not go into battery, but the slide would not open either. We ended up inserting a dowel into the barrel and sharply beating the case out of the chamber. This was no fault of the pistol but was due, we found to some Winchester factory ammo brass being too long and causing excessive headspace and swelling in the chamber. After a quick once over and a shot of oil in the breech, she ran without a hiccup.
As a warning, you are going to see a lot of comparison to the Glock pistol in the overview. This is not a Glock vs SD9 article, it is simply to help put in perspective some of the features of this pistol. There, I said it.
The SD9 has a two tone finish that makes for a handsome pistol. The grips have different levels of texturing for a more firm gripping surface. The slide has both front and rear serrations that are supposed to assist with racking the slide but the slide serrations, are in my mind, poorly designed. The SD9 comes in at 23 oz, has a 4 inch barrel, and overall is very similar in size and heft to the Glock 19. There is no external safety on the SD9. The trigger, like a Glock, has a trigger safety that is deactivated once the shooter begins to pull the trigger. The trigger weight is a different story. Most Glocks have between 4.5 to 6lb factory triggers. The Smith and Wesson website says the trigger pull on the SD 9 is roughly
8 lbs, and I don’t doubt that. My scale shows an average of 7.75 lbs pull weight between all three of our trainer pistols. That’s a little too heavy for me.
It comes with two 16rd magazines, for those of us who live in God’s Country. The barrel sports a loaded chamber indicator. The fixed three dot sights, are in my opinion better than the dot-in box sights that most Glocks sport, but that is simply my preference. An interesting feature of the SD9 is the textured pad on either side of the frame for placing your trigger finger when not firing.
The one big advantage the SD9 has over the Glock, in my opinion, is the grip contour and angle. In my experience and opinion the SD is a much more comfortable and ergonomic pistol to shoot and carry auto pistols. Also, from what I have seen, new shooters tend to shoot the SD9s better than Glocks. Some people may cry foul on that remark, but oh well.
Disassembly is identical to the Glock. You remove the magazine, ensure the chamber is
unloaded, pull the trigger, pull the slide back about a quarter inch, and pull down on the two locking tabs on either side of the frame and run the slide forward off the rails. Reassemble by running the slide back on the frame rails all the way. Easy peasy.
On the Range
Accuracy with the SD9 is tolerable in most cases and very decent in some. I have difficulty with the triggers on these pistols as they stack considerably, have a smooth face, and are too heavy for my taste. They are also hinged which, unlike a Glock trigger face, tends to pull the whole pistol barrel down and rounds to impact low. Trigger reset point is also much further out than I like for it to be. However if a shooter takes their time and executes a clean trigger pull, they will hit what they are aiming at.
Off a bench, I tried four different types of ammo: some 115 full metal jacket handloads, Blazer Target steel case 115 gr, Winchester 9mm NATO 124 grain, and Hornady Critical Duty 135gr. I found that it shoots to point of aim at 25 yards with most 3 shot groups in the 3-4″ range.
The worst groups were with the handloads at about 5″. The best groups came consistently from the Blazer with the smallest group coming in at 2 3/4″. The fixed three dot sights are large and very easy pick up. I had no trouble seeing them and focusing on the front sight for rapid pairs at 7 and 15 yards.
The Smith and Wesson SD9 is a fine pistol for target practice, self defense, and teaching a new shooter the basics of semi-auto pistol operation. They are comfortable to shoot, have combat-accuracy, and most importantly they are reliable.
The biggest reason we chose these pistols for our classes instead of comparable brands is because of price($389 MSRP, $300 street price), and reputation of the company. They are almost half the cost of Glock and can do just about everything a Glock can. The design has been around for roughly twenty years, and Smith and Wesson keep producing them, so there must be some merit to this budget friendly auto-loader. Do I carry one? No. Would I? Yeah, sure.