June 2016

40 S&W Shoot Out: Beretta, CZ-USA, Ruger, and SIG Sauer

Looking for value, we tested two new forties against a used model we praised previously and a factory-refurbished handgun. We liked all four, but one was a standout at the range.

40 S&W Shoot Out: Beretta, CZ-USA, Ruger, and SIG Sauer

The double-action-first-shot SIG P226R

Pistols chambered for the 40 S&W round often are the odd man out as the first choice of a citizen contemplating arming himself or herself. Most of us choose the 45 ACP for its terminal performance and the 9mm Luger for capacity. Here, though, this report is in part a continuation of 40-caliber ammunition tests we conducted some years ago. One of our raters has much field experience and favored the 45 ACP and did not give the 40 S&W much attention. 

After empirical testing, he came to the conclusion that the 40 is more like the 45 than the 9mm in terminal ballistics, and that’s a good place to be. This rater also tested compact and subcompact 40-caliber pistols and came away believing that forties lighter and smaller than the Glock 23 are too much for most shooters to handle well. So, it was logical that he gravitated toward service-size 40 S&W handguns as the right fit of cartridge and pistol.

Full-size handguns are among the most common 40 S&W handguns chosen for home and personal defense. They are relatively mild to fire and reliable.

With these facts in mind, we wanted to test four 40-caliber handguns of different configurations to see which one suited our testers the best. Also, we went looking for value, shooting two brand-new guns against veterans which, perhaps, still had some game left in them. The two new guns were a selective-double-action CZ 75B and the double-action-only Ruger SP40, which we found listing around $580 and $569, respectively. The other choices were the double-action first-shot SIG P226R and the double-action first-shot Beretta 96 Vertec Inox, the latter a used model and the former was a factory rebuild offered by SIG Sauer.

The Beretta Model 96 Vertec has received praise from us before, being named a Gun of the Year in 2005 after being evaluated in the April 2005 issue. We said then, “Alloy 40 S&W pistols have a well-earned reputation for packing plenty of power in their lightweight frames, but they are also well-known for being vicious kickers for the training shooter. However, the Model 96 Vertec was an exception.” In particular, we liked the vertical grip design that, combined with the thinner grip panels and short-reach trigger, made the pistol much friendlier to shooters with smaller hands. We liked it because its flat-sided feel and more rectangular shape were easier to index, that is, get in proper alignment faster. This time we tested the stainless version.

Certified Pre-Owned SIG Sauer pistols like the P226R tested here are often traded in by law-enforcement agencies for new SIGs, and the company puts the pre-owned SIG pistols through a stringent Factory Certification process. Each pistol is stripped, refitted with original factory parts where needed, cleaned, lubricated, function tested and hand-inspected by a factory technician. Each Factory Certified pre-owned SIG comes with a one-year warranty and one standard-capacity magazine. The condition of these pistols will vary depending on the amount of wear, such as that caused by a holster and ring wear, and that condition will be reflected in the retail price. Dings and holster wear and ring scratches are not covered under the one-year factory warranty.

We tested a similarly set up CZ 75B previously (May 2009), but chambered in 9mm. In that test we noted the accuracy of the CZ was about 2.5 inches for all shots fired at 15 yards. We also noted the heavy CZ dampened 9mm recoil, and there were no problems with the CZ whatsoever. It appeared to be very well made and built to last. We looked forward to testing the 40 S&W version.

Likewise, we tested a Ruger SR40 previously, most recently in the October 2011 issue. In that review, we said, the SR40 was remarkably underrated, and it might be a plastic gun for people who don’t like plastic guns. We said, “Its slender profile makes it more controllable than most high-capacity guns, and it’s a good candidate for concealed carry, too. We liked having manual safeties even if they weren’t perfect. Though not match grade, we thought the trigger was predictable with a reasonable sense of take-up and overtravel.” That model was the BSR40, with an all-black color scheme and a 15+1 capacity, which is now listed by the company as Model 3471. This new SR40 is Model 3470, still with the same 15+1 capacity, but this time with a brushed-stainless-steel slide.

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