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: B+
Kahr launched the full-size value-priced CT series in 2014, and the company still makes the 380 Auto, 9mm, and 45 Auto models. The 40 S&W was dropped in 2019 as popularity for the 40 S&W waned.
|Action||Semi-auto, short recoil-operated locked breech, striker fired|
|Trigger||Trigger cocking, double action only|
|Overall Length||6.5 in.|
|Overall Height||5.1 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.1 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||23.9 oz.|
|Weight Loaded||27.8 oz.|
|Barrel||4.0 in., 1:16 RH twist|
|Capacity||7+1 (single stack)|
|Slide||Matte stainless steel|
|Slide Retraction Effort||16.0 lbs.|
|Frame Front Strap Height||2.4 in.|
|Frame Back Strap Height||3.3 in.|
|Grip Thickness (max)||0.9 in.|
|Grip Circumference (max)||5.0 in.|
|Sights||Fixed; dot front, bar notch rear|
|Trigger Pull Weight||6.0 lbs.|
|Trigger Span||2.4 in.|
|Safety||Cocking cam trigger, striker block|
The CT series features a full-size polymer frame with a matte-stainless-steel slide. It has that dated two-tone-finish look. It is a locked-breech, striker-fired pistol. Kahr’s unique trigger, which has a long smooth pull, cocks and fires the gun. Unlike the other striker-fires in the test, there is no preload on the striker. A passive striker block in the Kahr prevents the pistol from firing should it be accidentally dropped. There is not a magazine disconnect, so it can be fired without a magazine. The CT series also features a traditionally rifled barrel in lieu of the Lothar Walther match-grade barrels used in Kahr’s PT series. The cosmetics, namely the slide, are also simplified to reduce cost.
In hand, the CT40 feels thin. All the edges are rounded, so the pistol is smooth on the outside, perfect for EDC. The muzzle is chiseled for easier reholstering. The matte-stainless-steel slide has rear serrations only. We would have liked forward serrations. It takes about 16 pounds of effort to rack the slide. Still, we found it easy to manipulate the CT40.
The rear sight is drift adjustable and has a notch with a bar, which contrasts nicely with the dot front sight. The sights are polymer. The sights are basic and easy to use. We liked them.
The polymer frame has a pebble texture on the side grip panels. On the front and rear grip straps is a coarse, square texture that does not eat the flesh of your palm during recoil. This is how texture should be done for the snappy 40 S&W. The grip angle is about 18 degrees, so it is a natural pointer. There is no accessory rail on the CT40, but we didn’t miss it.
The slide stop is MIM produced and has serrations. We found it easy to operate for a right-handed shooter. The small magazine button is oval shaped and serrated. We needed to adjust our grip to dump the magazine. The trigger is curved, wide, and smooth faced. Pressing it requires a long stroke, but it is smooth and very consistent. We like the trigger, especially for an EDC gun. We would hate this trigger on a target pistol. The trigger guard is slightly undercut for a higher grip on the CT40, and that’s a good thing, especially with the 40 Smith & Wesson cartridge’s recoil.
The seven-round magazine is made with a stainless-steel body, and the polymer floor plate forms a lip on which your small finger may rest. The magazine is easy to load, even to the seventh round. More magazines ($48; ShopKahrFirearmsGroup.com) are available, and we’d buy more if we owned this gun.
When we went hot, we noticed the Kahr’s recoil pulse with the snappy 40 S&W was not as smooth as with the FN. The recoil spring is heavy, and there is a steel guide rod. We also noticed more felt recoil in the palm of our hand due to the thin, single-stack grip.
The best accuracy was with 155-grain FMJ Federal American Eagles, with a 1.56-inch five-shot group at 15 yards. The average accuracy spectrum ranged from 2.49 to 3.17 inches. The CT40 had good accuracy. Moving to the speed test, we found the CT40 allowed us to get back on target fast. During recoil and after the trigger reset, we began to preload the trigger, and as we recovered from recoil and the front sight moved across the target, we quickly finished the press to fire the round. The trigger pull was very long, similar to a double-action revolver trigger. The initial take-up was short before we hit the wall, then we felt the long, smooth press. The break was consistent, and we could anticipate it. We threw the first shot on the Silhouette Qualification target to the outside edge, but soon got the hang of the trigger. The Kahr worked flawlessly.
Our Team Said: The CT40 carried well concealed because it was thin. We forgot we were carrying the CT40. We thought the 40 S&W in the lightweight CT40 would slap us around, but the Kahr helped manage the recoil. We would have liked front slide serrations and a support-hand memory pad molded into the frame for a more consistent grip. We would use this as an EDC gun if you can find one at a reasonable price.
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.|