Smith & Wesson SD40 Semi-Auto Pistol


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

July 18th, 2010




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Smith & Wesson has been having a very good run with their excellent M&P series of semiautomatic pistols. They make these in both full-size for police duty and self defense, along with a compact and a larger M&P Pro version. This is S&W’s top-of-the line polymer-frame auto pistol. For many years now, S&W has also had their Sigma series of pistols, built to sell at a very low price. Glock-like in design and function, but with a more comfortable grip, the Sigma has been a very good pistol for many years now, after a bit of a rocky start many years ago. They are now a very reliable pistol, suffering only from a hard trigger pull, but still offering a lot of pistol for the money. Smith also has a full line of hammer-fired pistols, but the M&P and Sigma lines make up their striker-fired, polymer-framed fighting pistols, but now they have added their Self Defense (SD) line of striker-fired, polymer-framed pistols, and the 40 S&W caliber SD40 is the subject of this piece.

Like the other polymer striker-fired pistols in the S&W stable, the SD has an articulated trigger, and the striker is preset by the action of the slide. In other words, it fires from a partially pre-cocked striker position. Thankfully, the SD40 has no magazine safety, at least not yet, and the weapon can fire with the magazine removed. This is important to some folks, as it keeps the weapon in the fight while changing magazines, if it was not allowed to run all the way to empty. The SD40 has a stainless steel slide for corrosion resistance, and is blackened to a matte finish with Melonite, which is a durable hard-coat finish. The slide finish matches that of the polymer frame very well. The four inch barrel is also finished in black Melonite. Just ahead of the disassembly latches on the frame on both sides is an indented, textured finger rest, in the spot where some trainers recommend resting the trigger finger until ready to fire. I keep mine inside the trigger guard, which often brings chastisement from professional trainers, but that is just the way I do it. I also use the slide lock lever to release the slide after a reload, which also is frowned upon by many trainers, but if the pistol was not meant to be run that way, there would be no need for a slide lock lever. My point is, do what works well for you. The SD40 weighs in at 23 ounces on my scale with an empty magazine in place, and has an overall length of seven and two-tenths inches. The overall height measures five and seven-tenths inches, including rear sight and magazine floorplate.

The SD is often described as a cross between the M&P and Sigma, but I think that is over-simplifying it a bit. That description would mean that the SD is better than the Sigma, but not as good as the M&P, and while the former is a fair description, I think that the latter is not.

I have had a M&P 9mm since they were first introduced back in 2006. It is usually my weapon of choice when traveling by automobile. I keep it right beside me in the door panel, and also often strap on the M&P in a belt holster when a high-capacity auto is desired. The M&P is one of my all-time favorite fighting pistols. However, while differing in a few details, I can find nothing about this new SD40 that would make it less of a pistol than the M&P, except for maybe the price. The SD pistols are priced about forty-eight bucks above the Sigma, and about one-hundred and eighty-nine less than the M&P.

While the SD does not have the interchangeable grip inserts as does the M&P, it does have a very, very comfortable grip, and fits well with everyone who has handled this particular SD pistol. It seems that S&W put a lot of work into designing this grip. The angle seems perfect to my hand. The pistol points naturally, and the surfaces are well-textured. There is no manual safety option on the SD at this time, but none is needed. The pistol has an internal striker safety, which prevents the striker from contacting the firing pin unless the trigger is held to the rear. Also, the trigger has a very smooth pull, releasing with seven and one-half pounds of pressure on the test pistol. Another great feature of the SD is that it comes from the factory with a Trijicon tritium night sight on the front. Thank you. Every fighting pistol should have capability of using in the dark, and putting that night sight on the front is a very worthwhile feature. S&W could have cheaped-out with a set of plastic three-dot sights, but chose to put these excellent all-steel sights on the SD, and thoughtfully put the Trijicon up front. I like a set of three-dot night sights, with the rear also being tritium, but it is really not necessary. Having the front sight only to glow in the dark is enough, and works very well for me. However, should one want tritium in the rear also, the SD uses M&P sights, so changing the rear is no problem at all. But again, just to clarify, I like the sights on the SD perfectly fine as is.

Shooting the SD40 brought no surprises. As expected, the weapon functioned perfectly with a variety of high performance hollowpoint ammunition. The SD40 fed, fired, and ejected perfectly. Loading the magazine was a bit difficult, as it is with any normal-capacity double-stack auto pistol magazine, but was no problem at all using the LULA magazine loader, which I highly recommend. The steel magazines hold fourteen rounds each, and the SD40 comes supplied with two of them.

Accuracy was very good, and the SD40 shot most ammo to point-of-aim for me at twenty-five yards. I did not bench rest the pistol, but shot from a standing position at three, five, seven, fifteen, and twenty-five yards. Keeping every round tightly within the kill zone of a human silhouette target was no problem at all, rapid fire or slow fire. This weapon is built for fighting, and that is how I tested it. The smooth trigger pull and short action striker made hits easy to achieve. The weapon points very naturally for me, better than a Sigma, Glock, or even my familiar M&P. The weapon sits low in the hand for easy control, and the slide is about one-tenth of an inch thinner than the slide on the M&P.

Velocity testing was done at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, on a hot, humid, sunny day. Range temperatures hovered around the ninety-five degree range, with eighty-five percent humidity. Wind conditions were still, with no breeze at all. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second. Bullet weights are listed in grains. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint bullet. DPX is a homogenous copper hollow cavity bullet. PB is Cor-Bon Pow’R Ball, a specialty hollowpoint bullet with a nylon ball inserted into the hollow nose. EPR is a specialty round from Extreme Shock with a polymer ball in the nose of a hollowpoint bullet. FMJ is a full metal jacket bullet. Velocities were recorded at a distance of ten feet from the muzzle.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Cor-Bon DPX 140 1151
Cor-Bon JHP 135 1270
Cor-Bon PB 135 1323
Buffalo Bore JHP 155 1248
Buffalo Bore JHP 180 1052
Buffalo Bore FMJ 180 1073
Extreme Shock EPR 150 1106
Black Hills JHP 180 963.2

All ammo tested turned in respectable velocities from the four inch barrel of the SD40. For social work, I prefer the lighter weight hollowpoints and the specialty DPX, Pow’R Ball, and EPR bullets. Most likely the Pow’R Ball would be my choice for an everyday carry load for self defense.

The SD40 is marketed by S&W towards citizens who carry for self defense and as a weapon to keep in the home. Their advertising calls it “Homeowner’s Insurance”. I like that. It is an excellent weapon for home defense. S&W markets their M&P line towards law enforcement, but I think that the SD pistols could fill that role just as well, and at a lower cost. One hundred and eighty-nine dollars is a substantial savings, especially when considering that the price includes a tritium front sight on the SD, which is not included in the base price of the M&P. The SD40 is also priced less than the Glock and Springfield XD, which are also very good pistols, but do not include tritium front sights in their base prices, which are substantially more than the SD40.The SD is also made in the USA, and those two are not.

The Smith & Wesson SD40 left me impressed. It is a fine weapon, perfectly suited for a self-defense handgun role, at a very competitive price. The SD40 comes in a hard plastic storage case with two stainless steel fourteen-shot magazines, cable lock, and instructions. A low-capacity (ten-shot) magazine version is available as well, for those who live in oppressed jurisdictions. The SD40 is very well finished, made from quality materials, and is made in the USA.

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To order any of the high performance ammunition shown here, go to,, and

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To order the SD40 online, go to

Jeff Quinn


For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to: To buy this gun online, go to:


Pistol comes with a hard case, cable lock, instructions, and two magazines.





Author lubricated the SD40 with Gun Butter grease to keep things running smoothly.







The SD40 fits holsters made for the M&P, such as this Blackhawk Serpa.



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Click pictures for a larger version.


Smith & Wesson SD40 semi-auto pistol.



SD40 (left) compared to M&P (right).



SD40 (bottom) compared to M&P (top).





Striker safety prevents firing unless trigger is pulled.



Grip is well-textured all around for a positive hold.



Disassembly latch.



Slide lock / release lever.



Articulated trigger.



Excellent set of stainless steel sights, with Trijicon tritium insert in front.



Visual loaded-chamber window.



Accessory rail.



Chamber has excellent case head support.



Extractor has plenty of tension.