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« What the Heck is the Difference Between "Good" and "Very Good"? | Main | A Tough Little Rifle: the SKS »

October 21, 2004

Review of the Smith and Wesson SW9VE

I saw one of these little compact guns during a recent trip to the range. It interested me so much that I borrowed one and put it through it's paces.


It's been 10 years since S&W introduced it's Sigma line of firearms. These are a series of light, polymer-frame guns that very closely resemble Glocks. The SW9VE is an improved version of the Sigma line that was first introduced in 1999.

The improvements are a more comfortable grip with extra checkering, an enlarged ejection port to improve reliability, and the addition of an accessory rail on the frame under the barrel. The entire length of the gun was also shortened by 1/2 inch to make it more suitable for concealed carry.

And that's what this gun is for. Like many polymer frame guns, the most impressive feature is it's light weight. (25 ounces empty.) This insures that it will be one of the most comfortable guns to carry for long periods.

The general shape of the firearm is also carefully engineered to fill the role of emergency, go-anywhere gun. The profile is very smooth, with no sharp edges to catch on clothing or the edge of a holster and hang up an emergency draw. The grip is comfortable, and the checkering is deep enough to prevent the gun from sliding around even in sweaty hands.

The sights are the excellent fixed 3-dot versions that are now standard on all S&W pistols. Sight visibility is very good.

The "V" in the model number refers to a no-frills version of the improved Sigma. Originally it was supposed to mean that the slide and barrel were to be manufactured from less-expensive carbon steel while stainless steel was to be utilized in the more expensive standard models. This was puzzling to me since the slide most definitely was stainless steel, even though SW9VE was clearly stamped on it. Oh, well. I suppose S&W changed something and I didn't hear about it.

The gun is available in 3 calibers. They are the 9X19, 40S&W and .380 ACP.

I fired 180 rounds through the gun that I borrowed. 50 rounds were reloads bought at the range, 50 were 115 gr. Winchester Silvertips, 40 rounds of 115 gr. Cor-Bon +P, and 40 rounds of 124 gr. Remington Golden Saber. The gun functioned flawlessly with no stoppages or jams.

Accuracy was good but not stellar. I achieved around 2.5" groups at 15 feet from a standing, unsupported position. (I was, of course, taking my own sweet time about it.) This isn't bad from a gun that I've never fired before, and it's certainly more than adequate for defensive purposes. I'm sure that I would improve if I was able to get used to the gun.

Recoil was managable with all the loads, but the Cor-Bon rounds were rather startling. The higher velocity ammo would make the light-framed gun jump around more than I like. Again, this simply isn't anything that would cause me any problems if I took the time to practice but it might cause new shooters to balk.

Just a little disclaimer. I've had to work with a large variety of guns due to the firearms class I run. This means that I really don't notice triggers too much. As long as they make the gun go bang I'm pretty much happy with them. But I also realize that many people out there pay a great deal of attention to the way the trigger feels. How smooth it travels, how crisp it releases when the gun is fired, stuff like that. So I made an effort to examine how the trigger functioned in the SW9VE. (Oh, the sacrifices I make for you guys!)

The trigger wasn't anything to write home about. Since the trigger cocks and then releases the internal striker every time the gun is fired, you're not going to find one of those crisp actions that 1911 fans are so fond of. Still, and I have to stress this, there's nothing wrong with it. It was comfortable enough, even if it had a very long way to travel every time the gun was fired, but if you want something that feels like a glass rod breaking you're in for a big disappointment.

SRP for these guys is less than $400.00 USD. It's a good value for the money if you want a reliable, no-nonsense gun for comfortable concealed carry. Since that's exactly what S&W designed the guns for I'd have to say that they did a good job.

Posted by James Rummel