Smith and Wesson SD9

 

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The Smith and Wesson SD9 is a handsome pistol that is a worthy competitor in the polymer pistol arena

 

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.

 

Overview

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

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The author prefers the three dot sights to the Glock stock sights. However,The SD9 sports a slightly higher bore axis, which increases muzzle flip

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

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The SD9 is very similar to the G19/23/32 family of Glocks in size, weight, and disassembly

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.

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A good example of typical accuracy with the SD9. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

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.

 

 

Conclusion

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.

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Smith and Wesson Model 37 AirWeight

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The Model 37 AirWeight fits nicely in even average sized hands

This is the final installment in the three-part series “A Trio of Smiths”

https://thatweirdgunguy.com/2015/08/31/a-trio-of-smiths/

https://thatweirdgunguy.com/2015/09/01/smith-and-wesson-357-magnum/

https://thatweirdgunguy.com/2015/09/03/smith-and-wesson-model-10/

In the early 1950s, the U.S. was engaged in the height of the Korean Conflict. The Air Force was looking for an ideal emergency/survival sidearm to arm their pilots and aircrew with in case of being shot down behind enemy lines. They had a few eccentric survival rifle designs, but no dedicated sidearm for self defense. During WWII, most pilots were armed with either the Colt 1911 or the S&W Victory revolver, which was a war-time modification of the M&P. Both were fine for front line infantry use, but were less than suitable for the Air Force’s mission. For one, weight savings were paramount. The mighty Colt and Smith clock in at 38 and 34 ounces unloaded respectively, which may not seem like a lot, save for on a fighter jet or long range bomber where ounces count.

The new-at-the-time Smith and Wesson Chief’s Special seemed to fit the bill. It was a snub nosed five shot .38 Special built on S&Ws new J-frame that weighed a smidge less than 20 ounces. It seemed about perfect. Unfortunately, the Air Force wanted it more perfect. They requested that S&W use an aluminum frame and cylinder to cut on weight savings. As testing went on, it was apparent that the aluminum cylinder stretched too much under firing to be suitable for use and was replaced with a steel cylinder. The new pistol, designated the AirWeight, was introduced in 1951 and tipped the scales at a mere 13 ounces. It also found a new audience in plain clothes policemen and civilians looking for a light weight back-up weapon. In 1958 S&W changed the moniker to the Model 37.

Owning the Model 37

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The five-shot cylinder and aluminum frame makes an ideal package for concealment

This example is a three-screw made some time in the 1970s. I must admit that this revolver is not mine, but my brother’s personal revolver. It was originally owned by an older gentleman who shot maybe a box of ammo through it over the course of thirty-five years. He decided that he wanted something else, and my brother was able to buy his nearly mint AirWeight for a fraction of its value. The anodizing and bluing is still intact. The lockup is extremely tight, and the hammer spur and trigger’s checkering are still very sharp. So sharp that I cut the tip of my first finger whilst shooting this diminutive revolver. Because of the light weight and aluminum frame, this revolver is not shot often. The trigger breaks crisply at 2 1/2lbs in single action and 10lbs in double action.

A note of caution, it is not advised to shoot +P defensive rounds through the Model 37 because of the aluminum frame. Some may disagree, but I will err on the side of caution, especially as this pistol is on loan.

On the Range

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This classic Smith, like all the others in my possession, has a classic rebounding hammer with fixed firing pin for the ultimate in reliability and safety

On the shooting range, the Model 37 is rather exciting to behold. Reliability is a non-issue with this high quality S&W revolver. At 7 yards, in double-action mode, 2″ groups are regularly produced. At 25 yards, this revolver produced a little better than 9″ groups with 158gr LRN Winchester white box. The short sight radius makes shooting tiny groups unrealistic, but this pistol is not designed for that. It is designed specifically for carrying comfortably and for combat at close range, both of which it performs admirable. The tiny 1 7/8″ barrel does little for ballistics either: the average velocity for all three brands of 158 gr LRN ammo I tried was a modest 698fps.

It is the actual shooting of this pistol that makes it memorable. The thin-wood stocks of the Smith provide a full grip, but they do little to absorb recoil. As a matter of fact, the only thing absorbing recoil is your wrist. During firing the revolver’s butt will climb up and out of your grip, no matter how firm you hold on. During rapid-fire DA firing, the bucking of an otherwise mild .38 Special round will make you rethink some life decisions.  I have fired some rough .500 S&W and .44 Rem Mag loads in my day, but that little Model 37 is downright painful.

Final Thoughts

The Model 37 is a sleek and dandy little pocket pistol. It is 100% reliable, extremely light weight, and combat accurate. It’s ferocity and potency on both ends of the muzzle make for a excellent packing and self-defense option. I may not be able to wring out the best results from this pistol, but it doesn’t make it any less capable of a firearm choice. Plus, it is so darn good looking.

Smith and Wesson Model 10

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This is my second installment in the “A Trio of Smiths” series. https://thatweirdgunguy.com/2015/08/31/a-trio-of-smiths/

https://thatweirdgunguy.com/2015/09/01/smith-and-wesson-357-magnum/ Stay tuned of for the final installment:)

The story of the S&W Model 10 begins somewhere in the Philippines in the 1899. At the time, the US Army was involved in the rebellion going on. As this is a gun article and not a political science piece, lets skip to the good parts. The pistol in use by the Army was the Colt New Army chambered in .38 Colt. Apparently, they were having issues with stopping some of the more motivated Filipinos and drug crazed Moro natives with the anemic .38 Colt chambering.

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The Model 10’s cylinder fits 6 .38 caliber pills nicely. Who could want for more?

As a result, the Ordnance Department released a bunch of Colt 1873 SAAs and 1878 Frontiers chambered in the proven .45 Colt to be used by the Army instead. Smith and Wesson got wind of the issue back home and went about developing a new revolver and chambering. The revolver, called the .38 Hand Ejector of 1899, and chambered in the new .38 Special, was the cat’s meow in terms of cartridges of the day. The Army and the Navy ordered a few thousand of these pistols and in light of the new contract, the name was changed to the Military and Police, or M&P, which still lives on today.

Unfortunately for S&W the US military didn’t get overly interested in their new pistol and instead experimented with a few new automatic pistol designs, eventually settling in 1905 with the cartridge we know now as the .45.ACP, and a few years later in 1911 with the Colt M1911. However, S&W sold millions of these pistols overseas to blossoming new nation-states in need of a reliable and affordable sidearm for their militaries .

On this side of the pond, S&W developed lucrative law enforcement contracts; selling their pistol for issue to entire departments. From its inception, to even today in some small departments, the standard issue pistol found in rigs nation wide was probably the M&P (or Model 10 after 1957) in some variation. While the military retained its fan-boy like status for Colts, the cops at home were packin’ a good ol’ Smith.

Owning the Model 10

My Model 10 is the first revolver I ever bought. I wanted an inexpensive, duty-sized revolver that I could use as my nightstand gun and not have to worry about clearing malfunctions or engaging safeties. I found just that in my Model 10. Right now, it rests with a cylinder-full of Hornady Critical Defense 38 Special +P and a HKS Speedloader with matching armament in my nightstand, ready for action.

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The hammer mounted firing pin provides faultless, reliable ignition. The rebounding hammer also allows for the carrying of six rounds in the cylinder safely.

It is a police trade-in and is missing quite a bit of the finish on one side from being carried in a holster for most of its life. The action is glass smooth from time and well worn with age, it has a few dings and scratches on the frame, but the rifling is still strong, and the cylinder locks up tightly when the hammer is cocked. This particular revolver is a 10-8 with a square butt and a pinned, heavy barrel. It weighs a meaty 34 ounces, not a light weight by anyone’s standard. The single action trigger pull is like snapping a thin glass rod and measures a mere 2 pounds. The double action is a steady, rolling tug that breaks at about 8 ½ pounds. Pointing this pistol, with one or two hands, is instinctive and completely natural. It is one of my favorite shooting pistols. To be honest, I will probably get another identical one to match it.

On the Range

My Model 10 will eat up any 38 Special load with aplomb, but it absolutely loves the classic 158 grain lead round nose load, mosying along at 750 fps. The fixed sights are perfectly regulated for that loading at 25 yards, and as we will see, absolutely shocked me with how accurate they can be. At 7 yards or less, in double action mode, it is very easy to get one, nice, ragged hole in the x-ring on a B-27. There is very little recoil, so follow up shots are easy to make. There is also very little report. It is by no means a .22 in that sense, but it is a very quiet handgun considering. Shooting the 38 Special in a K-frame is very gratifying; when you pull the trigger, you are rewarded with a mild “POP”, a tensing of the wrist, and then a nice little hole wherever your sights were pointed. This is, in my mind, the perfect handgun to introduce novice shooters to, once they have mastered the .22 rimfire.

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The Model 10 favored the classic 158gr LRN loads with the best groups coming in just under 1.7 inches at 25 yards, measured center to center

I tested three types of ammo in my revolver: Hornady Critical Defense +P 110 gr, Winchester White Box 158gr LRN, and Federal 130gr FMJ. The Hornady had an average velocity of 1112 fps, the Winchester 748 fps, and the Federal 830fps. As I mentioned earlier, the most accurate load was the classic lead Winchester load. This is not a load I would carry for self defense for a myriad of reasons, but it does serve well enough for neutralizing target medium. It was on the bench that this load/revolver combo really surprised me. At 25 yards, I could muster 2” groups with monotonous repeatability. It also shot exactly to point of aim, which was refreshing, considering the frustrations I have had with other fixed sight revolvers.

Final Thoughts

The Model 10 is one of those ubiquitous firearms that has survived a century of hard use and will probably survive another century without much change to the original design, due in part to the low operating pressure of the cartridge it fires and the sturdiness of the design. The other reason is because it works as a whole package. It is an attractive, collectible, rugged, easy to shoot, working pistol. It is at home in the desk drawer, or on the hip; in the truck glove compartment, or the safe. The Model 10 may not be for you, but that is ok, it is just dandy for me.

Smith and Wesson 357 Magnum

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The 357 Magnum goes well with an factory original antique Smith and Wesson shoulder holster and HKS Speedloader

This is the first installment in “A Trio of Smiths” series

https://thatweirdgunguy.com/2015/08/31/a-trio-of-smiths/

Stay tuned:)

In The Roaring Twenties, during the heyday of Prohibition and organized crime, the standard issue law enforcement sidearm was either a Colt, or a Smith and Wesson revolver in .38 Special. With a 158 grain lead round nose bullet lazily frolicking at around 750-800 feet per second, it made for an adequate man stopper, was exceedingly accurate, and had mild recoil. However, it did make for poor penetration, especially in cases of the new fangled bulletproof vests and armored cars that the bad guys had. The alternative for those in law enforcement on the cutting edge was the 1911 in .45 ACP. Unfortunately, its 230 grain slug going a smidgen faster than the 38’s didn’t improve the penetration enough to make a difference.

In light of this, Colt and S&W both got to work on solutions to the problem. In 1929 Colt introduced the .38 Super Automatic. This hot little round, an update to the old 38 ACP and chambered in the 1911, drove a 130 grain full metal patch(jacketed) bullet at a blistering 1300 fps. This made short work of the bulletproof vests and the armored cars of the time. However, most Law Enforcement was mistrustful of semi-auto pistols and required a revolver to be carried by patrol officers. In 1930, Smith and Wesson came up with a solution called the 38-44. This was the 38 Special cartridge loaded with a 158 grain full metal patch bullet flying along at 1150 fps, but chambered in the heavier S-Frame pistol built originally for the .44 Special. There was an obvious problem though, both of these rounds could be chambered in firearms designed for the older and weaker cartridge. Colt and Smith and Wesson both tried to fix that by changing the head stamps on the cartridge rims but people still put 38-44HV rounds in their much weaker K-frame revolvers. Along with help from Elmer Keith, S&W set about to fixing the problem and developing an even hotter round, and hotter pistol.

In 1934-35 S&W introduced a completely new cartridge: the .357 Magnum. This round was 1/8 of an inch longer than a .38 so it could not be chambered in a pistol that was designed for the .38 Special. The new round’s ballistics were originally a 158 grain bullet at 1500 fps! That is roughly double what the humble .38 Special was capable of. They also introduced a new pistol, called the “Registered Magnum” to house the new round. This pistol was, and is, the most desirable of all Smith and Wesson revolvers as it was completely hand made and customizable with a myriad of barrel lengths in ¼ inch increments, grips, finishes, sights, etc. Even though it was introduced in the middle of the Great Depression and was extremely expensive for the time, Smith & Wesson was backlogged with orders for the entirety of time that it produced the Registered Magnum. The Kansas City Police Department issued the Registered Magnum to its officers, and many other law enforcement officers across the United States carried the Registered Magnum. In 1939 Smith & Wesson stopped producing the Registered Magnum and replaced it with the 357 Magnum, which was still the Registered Magnum, but with the lack of customizable features, and standardized for ease of production and economy. In 1955, Smith and Wesson changed how they named revolvers and began using a numeric system instead of the old titular style. The Military and Police became the Model 10, the Chief’s Special became the Model 36, The Highway Patrolman became the Model 28 and the 357 Magnum became the Model 27, etc.

Owning the 357 Magnum

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The rollmark and pinned front sight are clearly observed in this picture

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The classic Smith and Wesson recessed chambers and lockwork are still tight sixty years later

 

My example is a Pre-Model 27, on a 5 screw, S-Frame. It has a 6 ½ inch pinned and ribbed barrel, with pinned front partridge sight. The chambers are recessed as well. All of these features are very desirable in early S&Ws. The best I can figure is that this pistol was probably made somewhere in the early 1950s as it has the second model hammer. The finish, even though it is sixty plus years old, still has a lovely luster. Somebody really did like shooting this pistol because it has a deeply impressed cylinder ring, but the rifling in the barrel is still sharp. The big wheel-gun balances very nicely, and is easy to shoot accurately with one or both hands, despite its 3lb weight when loaded. The trigger breaks at a clean 3 pounds in single action, and about 10lbs in double action. Overall it is probably the most beautiful pistol I have ever shot.

On the Range

“What?!” you are probably thinking. “You still shoot this pistol?” Oh yes, yes indeed. In fact, this revolver is the most accurate pistol that I own. It makes me look good. Too good, in fact.

When I was on Active Duty Some years back, some Army buddies and I would go to a local gun club off post on our time off. I would bring my trusty Smith with me. My buddies would then bet the local patrons, and on one occasion the owner of the establishment, that no one could hit the little green man in the top left corner of a standard B-27 target from the back of this indoor pistol range, which If I recall correctly was about 100 feet, so roughly 33 yards. Some money would exchange hands, the marks would take their turns shooting, almost everyone would miss. Then, I would roll up to the line, drop in one 148 grain match wadcutter in the big cylinder of that Smith, assume a good Weaver stance, and let fly. When the target came back, there would always be a perfectly round hole in the center of that little green man. We would then leave with our fruits of labor.

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This was my smallest group at just under 1.2″ at 25 yards measured center to center. In my haste, I mistakenly wrote down 38 instead of 357 😦

Like I said, I am a middling-to average shot, but when I benched this pistol the other day at the range, only shooting Mags, the largest group I got at 25 yards was a touch over two inches, with the smallest just under 1 and a quarter inches from center to center. No telling what a Match grade 38 Special could do in this behemoth. I shot several types of 357 through the pistol; Hornady 158gr XTP, Federal 158gr JSP, Grizzly 200 gr LNFP, and some handloads with Keith-style 158 gr LNFP. It favored the Federals in this trial, but I have some more playing to do with this pistol.

Final Thoughts

The 357 Magnum is one of those few truly iconic American pistols and I feel very fortunate to be one the few that has a working example. This pistol exudes history and nostalgia, but not so much to have become obsolete. The classic lines, hand tooling, musclecar-like performance, and tank-like reliability make this one a keeper.