There was a little disappointment with our last evaluation of new and used 40 S&W pistols. Reader Old Randy was disappointed because we didn’t include a specific gun. “Nothing on the Smith & Wesson SD40 VE? No love for America’s affordable version of the Glock?” Well, Randy, we have good news and bad news. First the good news: The SD40 VE is a bargain, and it is accurate. The bad news is, it has a trigger that feels like a bag of rusted wrenches, and the rear grip strap took bites out of our shooting hand with every shot. But we get ahead of ourselves.
The other guns in the match-up also have “unique” characteristics, and one we found has a liability. The Taurus G2c has a single-action trigger with re-strike ability that initially felt odd, but we got the hang of it. The Kahr CT40’s single-stack grip was thin and offered hard recoil as a result, and it has a super-long but very smooth trigger pull. Last, the FN FNS-40 seemed just right, with a nice trigger and manageable recoil, but it was flagged for recall by FN. Our evaluators weren’t disappointed with this match-up of 40 S&W pistols, and Old Randy shouldn’t either.
All of these 40-caliber pistols are similar in dimensions and barrel length. The SD40 VE, FN FNS-40, and CT40 sport 4-inch barrels and are, for all intents and purposes, full-size pistols. The G2c is a compact pistol with a 3.25-inch barrel. All of these guns are striker-fired with safeties built into the trigger, and all feature polymer frames. These guns then take different design paths, as you will soon see.
We chose these particular pistols because we wanted to see if we could find a reliable, easy-to-use, and accurate 40 S&W for defense and concealed carry. And we wanted to do it for under $350. The used Kahr and FN top out on the high end of our price range at about $350; the new Taurus and S&W are $271 and $258, respectively.
One thing to remember as the pendulum of popularity has swung toward the 9mm, there are plenty of shooters who have traded in their snappy 40 S&W-chambered guns for shiny new softer-recoiling 9mms. As a result, there are bargains to be had, and, in our opinion, the FN and Kahr are bargains, and there is a reason why they are more expensive than the Taurus and S&W firearms, which we’ll get into.
To assess the field, we assembled factory and handloaded ammo with a variety of bullet weights and types: Hornady Black with a 180-grain XTP bullet, Federal American Eagle with 155-grain FMJ, Remington Golden Saber with a 165-grain BJHP, and a 155-grain JHP handload. Bullets with weights between 155 and 180 grains are the sweet spot for the 40 S&W. We thought this was a good assortment of training and defense loads.
The wider double-stack-magazine pistols — FN, S&W, and Taurus — offered less felt recoil compared to the single-stack pistol by Kahr. The slide pulse of a 40 S&W is a lot different than that of a 9mm. The 40 S&W flings the slide back with force, and the recoil spring does its best to manage that. The S&W and Kahr had a clunkier slide pulse, while FN and Taurus had a smoother slide pulse.
For accuracy testing, we used our range bag as a rest and set targets at 15 yards. Trying to squeeze the trigger of the S&W was a chore, but we soon adapted and tolerated it. The FN’s trigger was the best of all the guns, with the Kahr coming in a close second. The average five-shot group for the these pistols averaged 1.5 to 3.7 inches, which is very serviceable for defense work.
For speed work, we moved the targets to 10 yards and used Thompson Target B27Q-RED Silhouette Qualification targets ($15; ThompsonTarget.com). These targets are full-torso life-size Police B27 and FBI Q center-mass human silhouette targets. We started with our gun at low ready and fired a total of 10 rounds as fast as we could. We loaded two magazines with different round counts so we had to perform a reload during the exercise and didn’t know when we would have to reload. With these guns, following the front sight was fairly easy, so subsequent shots were quick. We did land some hits outside of the center of mass. That typically happened when we swapped guns because the triggers were unique to each pistol, and it took some adjustment to get up to speed.
We concealed-carried the FN, Taurus, and S&W in a Safariland GLS 575 IWB Pro Fit Compact holster ($68; Safariland.com). This is a multi-fit holster, meaning it doesn’t really fit any pistol perfectly but is compatible with a lot of pistols. We used a DeSantis IWB Slim-Tuk Kydex holster with the Kahr and wore it appendix style. All of these guns are comfortable to carry, and the Taurus, due to its size, was the easiest, followed by the thin Kahr.
Here’s the rest of the nitty gritty — and we do mean gritty — on these four 40 S&W striker-fire pistols.
Gun Tests grade: F
The FNS series is, in essence, a striker-fire version of FN’s FNX hammer-fired pistols. FN introduced the FNS series to law enforcement in 2011, and by 2012 released it to the commercial market in 9mm and 40 S&W models. Compact and long-slide variants came out in 2015 and 2013, respectively. LE agencies in Maryland and Arizona adopted the FN pistols at the time. The FNS line appeared in 2018.
|Action||Semi-auto, recoil operated, striker fired|
|Overall Length||7.2 in.|
|Overall Height||5.5 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.5 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||27.5 oz.|
|Weight Loaded||35.3 oz.|
|Barrel||4.0 in.; 1:16 RH twist|
|Capacity||14+1 (double stack)|
|Slide Retraction Effort||22.0 lbs.|
|Frame||Black, polymer, modular rear backstrap|
|Frame Front Strap Height||2.4 in.|
|Frame Back Strap Height||3.7 in.|
|Grip Thickness (max)||1.2 in.|
|Grip Circumference (max)||5.6 in. (arched backstrap module)|
|Sights||Fixed; steel 3-dot|
|Trigger Pull Weight||6.4 lbs.|
|Trigger Span (max)||2.8 in.|
Our sample FNS-40 is a full-size pistol with a black polymer frame and a matte-stainless-steel slide. It came with three 14-round steel magazines. In hand, it felt good and was a natural pointer. The grip girth was comfortable for average-sized hand; not too chunky. The toothy texture on the side grip panels and interchangeable backstrap felt comfortable, just enough gripping adhesion without feeling too abrasive. The front grip strap has fine serrations, which also help manage recoil. Our sample just had the arched backstrap, but a straight backstrap also originally came with new guns. The bottom of the trigger guard is cut for a higher grip, and there is small beavertail. The magazine well is flared for easily funneling magazines home.
The slide stop and magazine-release button are ambidextrous. The slide stop reminded us of a Glock slide stop in size, with a ridge in the polymer frame on either side of it, making it snag-free. It fell right under the pad of the shooting-hand thumb. The teardrop-shaped magazine release is large. We had no issues dumping the magazine using the thumb of either shooting hand. It works well with gloved hands, too. The FNS-40 pistol sports a full dust cover with accessory rail. The large trigger guard allowed use of gloved hands. When gripping the gun, the right-handed testers rested the thumb of their support hands on the take-down lever for a consistent grip.
The trigger is wide and smooth with a slight arch in the center. It requires that the bottom portion of the trigger be pressed to fire the pistol. On average, the trigger pull was 6.4 pounds with a consistent break. We liked it. Reset was short with a distinct trigger-reset sound after each shot.
The slide and the barrel are both constructed of stainless steel. The barrel is hammer forged. A steel recoil rod is used to smooth the recoil pulse. Surface area of the slide is blocky but with large radiused edges, making the gun fairly smooth. The muzzle was tapered so it is easier to reholster the pistol. There are serrations both front and rear, providing good traction to rack the slide and do a press check. The extractor is external and also acts as a loaded-chamber indicator by slightly protruding and showing a red mark that tells the user that a round is in chamber. It can be felt and seen. The ejection port is large so it can cough out 40-caliber cases. Fixed three-dot sights on bases are dovetailed into the slide, which we like because either sight can be tapped left or right a bit to fine-tune them. We would have liked the front dot to be larger and perhaps a different color for more contrast.
The FNS-40 was very pleasant to shoot. Testers either used the pad of their trigger fingers or the first joint on the trigger. Either way, we all were able to control groups downrange. Looking at the range data, the FN was the most accurate pistol in the match up. We attribute this to the fine trigger, grip, adequate sights, and smooth recoil management. Some thought the FNS-40 had recoil similar to a 9mm.
Our best five-shot group at 15 yards, which measured 1.36 inches, came with Hornady Black 180-grain XTPs. Federal American Eagle 155-grain FMJs were second smallest at 1.70 inches. The best group with the 165-grain BJHP Remington Golden Sabers was 2.09 inches. On average, this pistol grouped five shots at 15 yards between 1.53 to 2.27 inches. We found the FNS-40 to be easy to shoot, and in rapid-fire testing, we were able to keep all shots in the center of mass. In our opinion, a used FNS-40 is an excellent defense gun. It may be larger than the Kahr and Taurus, but not by much.
We were happily going to award the FNS-40 an A rating when we discovered an issue. While we were researching aftermarket sights and backstrap modules, we came across an FNS Service Bulletin issued in 2021. Under certain conditions, the FNS could delay fire. According to the Service Bulletin:
“The condition may result after the FNS pistol slide is forced out of battery at a very small and specific distance, such as what might occur if the muzzle end of the slide is pressed against an object, and the trigger is pulled. The pistol functions as designed and does not fire. However, if the condition occurs, one of two scenarios may result: (1) if the trigger is held to the rear, the pistol could delay firing until the time when the slide moves back into battery, or (2) if force is removed from the trigger and the slide moves back into battery, the pistol could fire if jarred. In the unlikely event that scenario (2) occurs, keep the pistol pointed in a safe direction and rack the slide to the rear to reset the pistol. Avoid a “tap, rack, bang” clearing sequence.”
You can find out if your pistol is affected by going to FNAmerica.com/customer-support/. We typed in the serial number of our sample, and sure enough, it is part of the recall. FN will send you a shipping label and replace the striker free of charge. Because our gun was used, we wondered if the previous owner returned it to the factory for the new striker. We duplicated the sequence outlined by the Service Bulletin with an empty pistol and were able to make the pistol delay fire. We will send the pistol to FN and follow up on this story once we receive it.
Our Team Said: We liked everything about the FNS-40 — trigger, grip, accuracy, and smooth recoil. From our perspective, the gun functioned fine, and if we did not know about the Service Bulletin, we would not have suspected an issue with the gun. Unfortunately, the gun as tested is unsafe, so we have to fail it until we receive a modified FNS-40 from the factory. If it is indeed fixed and we verify that, then we’ll change the grade to an A and let you know.
40 S&W Range Data
|Federal American Eagle 155-grain FMJ||Kahr CT40||Taurus G2c||S&W SD40 VE||FN FNS-40|
|Average Velocity||1144 fps||1064 fps||1117 fps||1107 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||451 ft.-lbs.||390 ft.-lbs.||428 ft.-lbs.||422 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||1.56 in.||1.48 in.||2.11 in.||1.70 in.|
|Average Group||2.27 in.||1.75 in.||2.27 in.||1.72 in.|
|Handload 155-grain JHP||Kahr CT40||Taurus G2c||S&W SD40 VE||FN FNS-40|
|Average Velocity||1043 fps||1000 fps||1036 fps||1054 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||374 ft.-lbs.||344 ft.-lbs.||369 ft.-lbs.||382 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||2.19 in.||2.54 in.||1.67 in.||2.13 in.|
|Average Group||2.49 in.||2.70 in.||1.88 in.||2.21 in.|
|Remington Golden Saber 165-grain BJHP||Kahr CT40||Taurus G2c||S&W SD40 VE||FN FNS-40|
|Average Velocity||1058 fps||1017 fps||1071 fps||1068 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||410 ft.-lbs.||379 ft.-lbs.||420 ft.-lbs.||418 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||2.95 in.||3.54 in.||2.80 in.||2.09 in.|
|Average Group||3.00 in.||3.79 in.||2.84 in.||2.27 in.|
|Hornady Black 180-grain XTP||Kahr CT40||Taurus G2c||S&W SD40 VE||FN FNS-40|
|Average Velocity||961 fps||892 fps||935 fps||951 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||369 ft.-lbs.||318 ft.-lbs.||349 ft.-lbs.||362 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||2.85 in.||3.18 in.||2.64 in.||1.36 in.|
|Average Group||3.17 in.||3.33 in.||2.67 in.||1.53 in.|
Value Guide: 40 S&W & 10mm Handgun Rankings
|Springfield Armory 1911 Ronin PX9121L 10mm Auto, $799||Nov. 2021||A||Best Buy. This Ronin is a no-nonsense 1911 with a good, sights, trigger, reliability, and accuracy.|
|Kimber Rapide Black Ice 3000387 10mm Auto, $1499||Nov. 2021||A-||The Rapide Black Ice is a near-custom version of a full-size 1911 platform chambered in 10mm.|
|Rock Island Pro Match Ultra 6” 52008 10mm Auto, $1199||Nov. 2021||A-||Offers excellent accuracy, a decent trigger and sights, and added heft with the 6-inch barrel.|
|Smith & Wesson M&P40 M2.0 11522 40 S&W, $581||Oct. 2021||A||Best Buy. The 18-degree grip angle made the M&P M2.0 feel natural. The trigger was very consistent.|
|Glock G23 Gen5 PA235S203 40 S&W, $700||Oct. 2021||A||Recoil management was excellent. We like the flared magwell, front slide serrations, and improved trigger.|
|Heckler & Koch P30S-V3 81000127 40 S&W, $859||Oct. 2021||A-||The P30 is the benchmark for a DA/SA-style pistol with an excellent grip and sights and good accuracy.|
|SIG Sauer P239 23940BSS 40 S&W, $600||Oct. 2021||A-||Recoil was controllable and accuracy was good. The design felt dated, but we’d buy a used P239.|
|Springfield Armory XD-M 5.25 10mm Auto, $681||Sept. 2020||A-||Best Buy. To take backpacking, the XD-M and its 16-round payload might well be our choice.|
|Colt Delta Elite 02020RG 10mm Auto, $1134||Sept. 2020||A-||When we were firing the Buffalo Bore stompers, we were just fine with the Colt’s smooth front strap.|
|SIG Sauer Tacops 10mm Auto 1911R-10-TACOPS, $1050||Sept. 2020||B/A-||Had extraction issues. SIG fixed the problem, so we upgraded its marks to include customer service.|
|Lone Wolf TWL-S Frame/Gray Man Slide 10mm, $884||Aug. 2020||A||The Grey Man G20 is a handful. The small grip made this pistol easier to conceal. Trigger was excellent.|
|Springfield XD-S 3.3-Inch XDS93340BE 40 S&W, $378||Sept. 2019||A||Best Buy. Completely reliable, accurate enough for personal defense. Useful trigger and good sights.|
|Kahr CW40 CW4043 40 S&W, $301||Sept. 2019||B||A well-made and reliable handgun, despite a number of corners being cut to offer the pistol at a low price.|
|SIG Sauer P224 SAS 224-40-SAS2B 40 S&W, $800||Sept. 2019||B||A compact pistol with a short barrel and grip that takes some getting used to, yet excellent accuracy.|
|Taurus G2C 1-G2C4031-10O 40 S&W, $250||Sept. 2019||B||An upgrade over the original, with superior grip treatment and a new matte-finished slide.|
|Smith & Wesson Shield 180020 40 S&W, $337||Sept. 2019||D/D||We tested two Shields, one with a safety and one without. The 180020 with safety short-cycled. The 10034 non-safety Shield had a failing trigger return spring that caused a stoppage.|
|Glock G40 Gen4 MOS 10mm Auto, $706||Mar. 2019||A||Longer sight radius and ability to mount a red dot made the G40 a contender for top dog in the test.|
|Springfield 1911 RO Elite Operator 10mm Auto, $1145||Mar. 2019||A||Well adapted for the 10mm cartridge. We like the sights and love the trigger. Grip texture is a bit raspy.|
|Springfield Armory XDM 10mm Auto, $779||Mar. 2019||A||Best Buy. Great ergonomics, nice grip angle, modular grip strap, crisp trigger, nice sights. Reasonable cost.|
|Glock G35 Gen3 PI3530103 40 S&W, $560||Jul. 2017||A||The G35 in 40 S&W is a good competition pistol. A 9mm barrel makes it more affordable to shoot.|