Smith and Wesson has a well-earned reputation for turning out solid, reliable and sometimes even good looking firearms. This review is not of those well made or solid firearms. The Smith and Wesson Sigma was one of my worst firearms purchases ever. Before you get upset, it was not all bad.
It was 1998, I was 21 and wanted a good handgun for defensive purposes. At the time I was young, dumb and well ready to shoot. The 1911 (read my review of the 1911 here) I already owned was very heavy and harder to carry when combined with a large pack on the long hikes/camp trips (read about backpacking and concealed carry here) I enjoyed taking at this time.
I had heard about the new “porcelain” guns as Hollywood so famously stated, I wanted to try them but did not have the time to wait for the Glock to be ordered. Smith and Wesson had made my favorite revolver used when I was younger, because of this I felt as a name they had to be the best in everything they touched.
Youth, we were all there at some point which makes laughing at modern youth who seem to think they are smarter, much easier. Upon purchase, I looked at it, asked for a box of ammunition and a pass to the indoor range at this location. I neither cleaned it nor did I take it apart or even read the instruction book.
Again, I was in my early 20s, you could not have paid me to take facts over what I knew. Amazingly this cheap clone of the Glock 17 ran very well (read my Glock 19 and Glock 19 comparison here). I ended up shooting almost 300 rounds of expensive indoor range ammunition through the gun that day. (Yes in 1998 the expensive places cost what cheap ammunition costs now, those were the days.
This gun did not fail, I could not get it to fail. Throughout that firearm and my relationship, it ran very well. The action cycled, the gun went bang when the trigger was squeezed. What I never was able to get it to do was be anything more than M.O.M. (if you do not know..ask in the comments) accuracy at danger close distances.
Smith & Wesson SD9VE Video
Basically, it hit a man-sized target generally where you pointed (within 4-7”) every time you squeezed the trigger. Unfortunately, the early Sigma model I purchased, had no ability to adjust the sights and there were no aftermarket parts to remedy this very big problem.
There are other variations that offered a semi-adjustable rear sight. Additionally, there was no accessory rail, which was not a big deal at the time as mounted lights were bulky at best.
Reliability is exceptional with this model from Smith and Wesson. As mentioned above I did run 300 rounds through this firearm, I remember the number because the counter guy said this when I came up for the 6th box. “You seem to like that gun, I hope you know you’re never getting it to hit the target better than it does now.” Obviously, I am not a kid anymore, my memory of the event is probably nicer than he should have been. I may have still been wearing a Garth Brooks special shirt at this point in my life, yeah folks, we have all dressed in ways that cause indigestion in our elders.
Remembering back now, that same sales guy had tried to get me into a Glock instead. I could have saved quite a bit of money doing this at the time. I am now a Glockatarian, though I do not turn my nose at other firearms unless doing so makes for a fun scene.
And no I do not carry 1911s nor do I like 45acp, comment below as to how badly I messed up now? This handgun really did show me why it pays to do realistic research on firearms prior to purchasing.
Squeezing the trigger was at best difficult and long. It felt mushy and the break was similar to a green oak branch, lots of spring and no crispness. Where it shined was reliability and grip comfort. I really did enjoy the grip angle and design. If you can get it sighted in properly and do not mind a mushy trigger, they are not terrible guns.
Obviously, it is essential to maintain your firearm properly (read Do I Need to Clean My Gun If I Haven’t Shot It in A While)…
Smith and Wesson Sigma is an easy gun to clean, it’s actually a bit easier than the Glock series handguns.
- Do a safety check, ensure the gun is unloaded and all ammunition removed from the room
- Pull the slide back about a half an inch or so
- Pull down on both sides of the lever near the front of the slide on the frame
- Let the slide come forward while still holding the levers down
- Release the lever,
- With the firearm pointed in a safe direction, depress the trigger and the slide will come right off the frame
- Remove the spring,
- Remove the barrel
- Clean it thoroughly, and lubricate lightly only 2 or 3 drops of Ballistol on the rail (both sides)
- Reverse the process to put it back together
Run the slide back and forth a few times to ensure full lubrication is achieved. After cleaning it well and lubricating go shoot it. While I would not recommend this firearm as a first or only defensive tool to anyone, it is in fact very reliable and when the sights are on target it is also more than accurate enough for defensive purposes.
Smith and Wesson Sigma line has been re-branded several times due to legal and other concerns. In its current iteration, the Sigma 9mm is known as the SD9VE. The newer model has fixed some of my and many others complaints from the earlier models.
They now come with a better grip and feel. Unfortunately, the rear sight is still fixed (this is bad for any number of reasons) and the trigger is still extremely long, mushy and heavy. Again, if you are new to shooting and do not plan on practicing much heavy long triggers force you to consider your actions and can be a good thing.
Obviously, this does not apply to the readers here. As all of you likely practice daily and take classes or teach them every week. I am a firm believer in set-piece practice or paper punching so as to better understand your own bodily reaction to the noise and pressure involved with shooting.
I also firmly believe that the average individual will never need advanced tactical training as they are not door kickers. In fact, neither are most soldiers and cops. It is better to train in basics that will allow you to gauge threats and understand cover/concealment and movement all of which will serve to save your life and others far quicker than training like the Instagram ninjas that have flooded the market today.
For simple self-defense, the Sigma/SD9VE will function adequately and if you are not able to spend $240 on a Smith and Wesson Shield 9 or $430 on a Smith and Wesson M&P than spending $330 on the Sigma will work for you.
I do believe there are better purchases for that money out there. In fact, the Canik series of handguns (read my Canik review here) has a better trigger, better sights and comes with three magazines a solid holster for the same price from many people.
Of course, you may fall in the, “I only buy murican” approach in which case the Sigma will work for you. Just be aware unless you are okay with settling for an Uncle Mikes holster and buying spare magazines at $40 apiece this may be a choice that is better considered longer?
Again, I cannot find fault in the reliability. It is the trigger and lack of adjustable sights that cause me the most grief with this handgun. Even though most defensive shooting will not require or even need direct sight use, they still need to be properly aligned and or capable of alignment.
As for the trigger, there are several manufacturers that make quality aftermarket springs specifically for lightening and or adding crispness to this trigger. Changing these out can affect the reliability, though in many cases this will not be an issue. Just be sure to purchase quality springs and not eBay specials.
Another issue brought up by some people is the use of a polymer guide rod. I and others who shoot to the tune of thousands of rounds a month at times have never seen one of these fail with normal – heavy use on Glocks and older model Smith and Wesson M&Ps/ Shields.
This does not sway those individuals who without any evidence gladly assert that swapping this guide rod for a stainless one hand carved by their cousin’s sisters aunt will outlast the other. Honestly, I do not see a net benefit in swapping this other than to ensure whoever builds them makes a few bucks selling a rather pointless addition.
I do firmly believe that this review will see some rather interesting feedback. I would like to request that those who write comments refrain from using nonverifiable information as if I respond it will not be kind if you use the “my father’s sisters cousins special forces aunts uncles cop who is swat CIA and Massad…said” approach.
Rather, give some real examples of where I may be wrong. And please understand, I shoot my firearms, as in they do not hit my side unless I have 500 rounds through them just to start.
Free the mind and the body will follow…