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 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
The other new pistol was a Taurus G2c. This is another inexpensive EDC option that offers decent accuracy and compact size. The trigger is unique in that it is a single-action striker fire with double-strike capability. The double strike means the trigger can be pressed again in the event the pistol does not fire from the initial trigger press, similar to a revolver. Our thought was, we tap-and-rack a pistol when the trigger is pulled and it doesn’t go bang. Why would we want double strike capability? Do we really want to unlearn our training? We just might be old dogs not interested in new tricks. Taurus debuted the G2c in 2013, and our guess is with Taurus’s new G3 guns, the G2 series will most likely stick around because it has a lower price point than the G3 series.
|Action||Semi-auto, recoil operated, striker fire|
|Overall Length||6.3 in.|
|Overall Height||5.1 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.2 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||22.0 oz.|
|Weight Loaded||27.6 oz.|
|Barrel||3.2 in.; 1:16 RH twist|
|Capacity||10+1 (double stack)|
|Slide Retraction Effort||17.0 lbs.|
|Frame Front Strap Height||2.2 in.|
|Frame Back Strap Height||3.0 in.|
|Grip Thickness (max)||1.2 in.|
|Grip Circumference (max)||5.3 in.|
|Sights||Adj.; plastic 3-dot|
|Trigger Pull Weight||5.7 lbs.|
|Trigger Span (max)||2.7 in.|
|Manual Safety||Thumb, trigger|
The G2c comes with two steel 10-round double-stack magazines. In hand, the pistol feels good and points naturally.
The slide has rear serrations; we would have like forward serrations, too. On the top side is a loaded-chamber indicator that pops up when a case or cartridge is in the chamber. It can be seen and felt. Three-dot polymer sights are 80s-esque, but usable. The dots are small and the same size, not a lot of contrast. Use your significant other’s hot-red nail polish to paint the front red so that it stands out more. The rear sight is fully adjustable.
The polymer frame feels thin in hand. There is a pebbled texture on the grip side panels and the front and rear grip straps that offers plenty of adhesion with no abrasion. There are divots in the side grip panels that pose as thumb rests, and there are also two divots above the trigger guard that act as support-hand thumb locators. We like these support-hand divots because they force you to create a consistent grip, if you use then as designed.
The slide stop is a tab of stamped steel a la Glock protected by a polymer ridge. We found it easy to use the slide stop during a reload. A manual thumb safety is located directly behind the slide stop, and we found it difficult to consistently sweep it on or off with our thumb. The safety is set up for a right-handed shooter. In reality, if we carried this pistol concealed, we would not use the manual safety.
The G2c breaks down like a Glock so it is super easy and simple. Looking under the slide, we could see two sears built into the mechanism. This gives the G2c the double-strike capability. Dual recoil springs help tame the snap of the 40 S&W round. We found the slide pulse was very smooth with G2c. The plastic guide rod no doubt helps keep the cost down. We’d prefer a steel guide rod. The magazine release is small and serrated. We needed to adjust our grip to drop a mag. The magazines have a lip built into the floor plate, so the gun feels like it has a full-size grip. A Picatinny rail is built into the dust cover.
The steel magazines were hard to load to the last round, but they became easier to load over time.
Going hot, we felt the safety lever in the face of the trigger click as it cleared the frame and allowed the trigger to move rearward. The click was so pronounced we thought the pistol fired but the round did not go off. That was just the initial take up, then we hit the wall. After the wall, we felt the full 5.7 pounds it took to press the trigger, with a bit of grittiness. We eventually learned to manage the trigger, but for some evaluators, it was not to their liking.
Our smallest five-shot group at 15 yards was with Federal American Eagle 155-grain FMJs, which measured 1.48 inches. With the handload and the factory ammo, we averaged 2.70- to 3.3-inch groups. Definitely suitable for defense. In speed shooting, we also had an initial flyer, but we soon learned to manage the trigger and clustered holes in the center of mass. We had zero malfunctions with this gun and that gave us more confidence. Recoil pulse was very smooth.
Our Team Said: You will either like the trigger or not. Our team was evenly divided. We did eke out decent accuracy, and for the cost, we think this would make an adequate EDC gun.
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.|