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Sigma Goes to War

by Stan Trzoniec   |  October 29th, 2010 24

Smith & Wesson’s Sigma Series Allied Forces SW9VE goes on duty in Afghanistan.

Back in 1994 Smith & Wesson launched the Sigma series of semiauto pistols. Initially introduced for the new .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge, the gun found favor in the law enforcement and self-defense markets and was soon also chambered for the 9mm Luger.


The author found the Sigma to be more than adequate for home defense or law enforcement needs.

There is no doubt that the Sigma was made to compete with Glock. This polymer pistol from Austria was taking the handgun world by storm and continues that advance today. Not to be outdone, Smith & Wesson brought out the Sigma and today–after a few changes here and there–it is still a popular gun with law enforcement both here and abroad. Just recently, the Sigma SW9VE was brought on line as an Allied Forces Model SW9VE, with the Afghanistan National Army, National Police and the Border Patrol placing initial and follow-up orders for more than 22,000 of the 9mm-chambered pistols.

This gives us an opportunity to do a quick review of the Sigma, which is one of the more moderately priced handguns in the self/ home-defense category from a well-known name in the industry. The gun is rather boxy and certainly not as handsome as other 9mm handguns such as the Smith & Wesson Model 952. But then again, a person buying this gun is probably looking for firepower and dependability. And in those categories the Sigma has certainly stayed the course of the last 13 years.


SPECIFICATIONS
Sigma SW9VE
MANUFACTURER: www.smith-wesson.com
CALIBERS: 9mm Luger or .40 S&W
BARREL LENGTH: 4 inches
OVERALL LENGTH: 7 1/4 inches
WEIGHT: 25 ounces (unloaded)
CAPACITY: 10+1 or 16+1
GRIPS: Integrated into the frame, checkered
FINISH: Polymer frame, stainless steel slide and barrel
SIGHTS: Fixed rear, front ramp
PRICE: $427

The slide is square right up to the muzzle, where it runs parallel to a frame that houses a molded-in equipment rail for accessories such as a laser sight or flashlight. This slide is made for durability, as it features a through-hardened stainless steel slide and a four-inch barrel. On top of all this it is finished with a matte Melonite finish that is more than adequate for any weather or combat situation you might care to throw at it.

Moving back, you’ll notice a convenient loaded-chamber indicator located at the rear of the barrel. Under stressed conditions, one downward glance assures the operator that he can confidently move forward knowing that the gun is fully loaded and ready to go. There is a ramped front sight with a white-dot insert and a dovetailed rear sight that is adjustable for windage, which has a white dot spanning each side of the well-defined notch.


(Left) The Sigma mechanism uses the barrel-tip design used on most semiautomatic guns using full-house centerfire ammunition. (Center) The trigger has a smooth surface and is articulated in the center, which is much different than that of the competition. (Right) The grips have a modified arched housing, which keeps the gun pointed in a more natural direction. This gun is made for both right- and left-handed shooters. Notice the fine-line checkering and the large magazine bumper.

Operator controls consist of a slide lock and magazine release on the left side of the polymer frame. The slide lock is large enough that you do not have to turn the gun to the left to release the slide. Just by using the ball of the thumb, the slide can be released to go forward with hardly any effort.

The magazine release is large enough to be activated with gloves, and pushing it inward drops the magazine without hesitation. If there is a loading failure or malfunction, the baseplate has enough area in which to grab it and pull it out of the gun.

The one thing that you will notice right away is the nice feel the gun has when you pick it up and use it. Due in part to the 18-degree grip angle, a small arched bulge at the rear of the grip and the handsome checkering, the gun is extremely comfortable to hold and shoot.


(Left) An integral equipment rail is designed to fit many different aftermarket laser sights or lights. (Right) At 10 yards the gun is more than accurate enough for the job for which it was intended. Here is the best group of the morning, with Hornady’s 115-grain FMJ loading. Several five-shot groups averaged around two inches.


10-YARD BENCHREST ACCURACY
AMMO TYPE AVERAGE VELOCITY (fps) AVERAGE GROUP (ins.)
Hornady 115-gr. FMJ 1,010 2.0
CCI Lawman 125-gr. JSP 1,042 3.0
Remington 147-gr. JHP 1,022 2 1/2

The Sigmas are double-action only but do not have a pivoting safety lever on the trigger as does the Glock. Instead, Smith & Wesson uses an articulated trigger to accomplish the full ignition cycle. The trigger will not move unless this lower portion is moved in concert with the upper part. Combined with internal levers and springs, this makes the gun easy to shoot while being safe at rest or in a holster.


Sigma pistols are being offered by Smith & Wesson in a number of interesting kits, to include disaster, knife and light versions.

While the Glock uses a striker that remains in the half-cocked position, the Sigma uses a mechanism that moves the striker from rest to a full rearward position and then releases it to fire the gun. As the gun is fired, the spent case is ejected, the slide goes forward and the process starts all over again. Being double action, the gun has a rather heavy trigger pull, and my test gun registered almost 10 pounds out of the box with more than a half-inch of slack before the sear broke.

Much of the popularity of a handgun like this is its low maintenance, and taking the gun apart is easy and straightforward. The gun comes packaged in a sturdy plastic case with two additional magazines, and for those with specialized needs the Sigma can be purchased in Disaster, Combat Light or Tactical knife kits.

  • Cody Anastasoff

    I picked up one of these last month for my wife but I fell in love with it, great gun. I plan on getting myself the 40 cal. Sigma m&p. I wish trigger was adjustable because at 9.25 pounds it takes some getting used to, I am used to around 5 on this old glock and 4 on my mak 11 but for the price it can't be beat in my opinion all around great gun, my wife loves it also its not so lite where she has a lot of muzzle jump when rapid firing and that's what I was looking for in a gun for her. Personally I love this gun great buy

    • Hermy

      There's a mod to take the 9.25 pull down to 4 on U- Tube. I did it to mine and it works fantastic !!! Involves removing 2 springs. Absolutely no side effects……

    • anthony

      If you take out the two springs out the break isn't very clean but you can get one more spring for the firing pin on eBay for 13 buck about. Very easy I've done 6 sigma guns now and it takes me about 15 mins to do.

  • Matt

    I hit the bulls eye of my target at 10 yards, but don't get consistent shots. Prob. because I'm not use to such a hard trigger pull.

  • JayTea

    I got one at Bass Pro about 4 yrs ago for only $236. First thing I did was put in a lighter, 6lb spring.

  • Mitch

    Cody, i think ur confusing two different product lines within the same company! S&W makes the Sigma series, no doubt. And in .40 S&W as well as other chamberings. But they also make the M&P line. The two models of firearms are not the same. Different price point and different materials. I went with the S&W M&P .40C (for compact). I love this firearm and recomend it all the time. It is a little more expensive then their Sigma line, but IMHO, definitely worth it. It comes with 3 different palm swells which is like having the backstrap individually sized up for your shooting hand. It's a polymer lower and Steel alloy upper. The sights are dovetailed in and adjustable, which again IMHO, makes it a superior weapon. Whatever you do, if you don't "have to buy" the 9mm, go with the .40 S&W. Just my recomendation, pal.

  • diverwcw

    I bought one in 2005 in 9mm and have fired over 1000 rounds through it. It has performed very well with several different brands of ammo including lead reloads and can't recall any issues save one and I think it was operator error. The trigger pull is definitely not for the weak at heart.

  • thesithgunslinger

    I have the SW40VE and after 2000+ rds, I have not had one single FTF. I have used the WWB ammo everytime, and every round has fired. There are very few pistols that I would recommend over a revolver… This is one of them.

  • Derek

    If they just lowered the trigger poundage to, say 7 or 8, they'd sell a ton more of these. It's just too heavy now.

    • Bill

      Good news. You can buy a spring to reduce the heft of that trigger pull from EBay. The cost is $16.00
      and the shipping is free. There is also an instructional video that shows how to replace the spring.
      Go to EBay and search for Smith and Wesson SW9VE. The seller (Shoes-R-Us) lists the spring as
      "Spring to reduce Trigger pull on Smith and Wesson S&W SW40VE SW9VE Sigma" I couldn't pass
      this up at that price.

      • bob

        apex trigger kit for sigma. mine is now 7lbs. same as my m&p shield.

  • jack

    Love this gun

  • james rankin

    Been a police officer for 34 years and the 9mm Sigma is my off duty carry choice. Can carry 16 rounds in a light moderately compact package and it's one of the most dependable pistols that I've ever carried. I've put an estimated 3000 rounds through my Sigma and it has always performed flawlessly. No jams, stove pipes, double feeds, etcetera. I like the heavier trigger pull because I feel that it is actually a litlle bit of an added safety feature. If I discharge the weapon in an off duty gun fight its going to be at 10 to 15 yards in a rapid fire sequence and the heavier trigger won't come into play at all. At 10 to 15 yards in a combat scenario during training the sigma has always been more than accurate. And in conclusion, it's the best deal on the market from a price standpoint… Can't go wrong with the Sigma guy's and I've put thousands of rounds down range…

  • JTJ

    Have had mine about 4 yrs. Flawless. Thousands of rounds and never a jam. Trigger smoothed out and loosened up after about a 1000 Rds. Only problem I had with it is when I first got it. I was conditioned to double and single action revolvers. Did a quick turn and draw and I instinctively went for the hammer with my other hand as I drew and pulled the trigger . There is no hammer… just a slide coming back really fast . It's hard to look cool when your thumbnail is hanging off….

  • alex

    I have owned a .40 cal sigma for about three years now as a home defence pistol. Its defenetly reliable and accurate and not to metion a good option for somone with little experiance with a striker fire. The only thing I would not recomend it for is a concield carry gun due to the lack of a manuel saftey wich I think is sort of dum being a semi auto. Over all though great gun and a good one for teaching beginers to shoot a hand gun.

    • redbarron

      Personally, I don't like a thumb safety on a concealed carry gun. This gun has a "safe action" which means it will not fire unless the trigger is fully depressed. I did the trigger mod on my 9mm Sigma and have put about 700 rounds through it with no malfunctions of any kind. After modifying the trigger, this gun is every bit as good as the Glock 19 which it is designed after for half the price.

  • Bubba

    I have the SW9VE and I find it more than adequate,I've read comments about this pistol all over the internet and most of it is just nit picking by glock snobs.The trigger on mine was fine right out of the box.I would put it up against a glock any day of the week.It is a simple and dependable weapon as it was designed to be.Mine requires very little maintenance.In my opinion,this pistol would be a good value at $400.It came with 2 magazines,I bought 2 more on the internet.They cost $33.apiece,but they are high quality stainless steel.It doesn't have a traditional safety but the people that complain about that knew that before they bought it.I own several other pistols that cost a lot more and my sigma is just as accurate if not more so.I notice in a lot of the forums,the glock snobs are backing off,don't pass up this gun because of the negative comments you read on the internet,I've read some bad reviews on the glock but I own one and it to is a fine weapon.

    • Mike

      I agree with everything you said and there's two ways to look at the trigger,maybe the triggers on other pistols are to light.

  • guest

    I am so afraid of guns-petrified, to be honest, but know that in this day and time I need one to protect myself and children. I have been trying to decide between S&W 38 revolver or 9mm for quite a while. In my thinking, I would not accidently fire multiple shots with a revolver, but on the other hand, I would hate to only have 5-6 bullets in a self defense situation. Finally bought the Sigma 9mm today and went to firing range with husband. I actually did pretty well at range, and I like the hard trigger pull because there is no way I will accidently fire multiple shots by accident. Not carrying with chambered bullet will be my safety. Love the two 16 magazines. I believe I made a good choice! Sharing this just in case there are other gun-shy wives out there like me!

  • Tank

    I might try this one, I hope the reviews are accurate. As far as being afraid of guns goes, I used to be, then I realized a gun, just like car, knife, bat, whatever, is an inainmate object, and therefore not dangerous. THE PERSON WITH THE GUN CAN BE DANGEROUS! Either because they have bad intentions or they don't know what they are doing.

  • 308

    Bought mine 2 years ago. My Glock friend called it the Mock Glock. Whatever, I do know that it always goes bang when I want it to. It is not picky about ammo. I’ve put brass, steel, aluminum, hollows, FMJ and flat nose through it without a flaw. It just works. Better than my Kahr CW45. Oh, did I mention it’s half the price of a Glock 17.

  • Ro Gal

    Bought my Sigma 40F in 1998, and still have it today. Performed wonderfully putting well over 2000 rounds thought it. Wait, I did have one problem, when the recoil spring post cap broke off. S&W sent me a whole new recoil spring gratis. I also bought a 40VE in 2010 and while a decent gun the trigger was too gritty for me. So fast forward to 2013, I now also own a S&W SD40, and this thing rocks! A little different than the 40F in a good way, and much nicer than the 40VE. I love S&W products!

  • Terry Gizzmo

    This firearm is junk, pure and simple
    In the same class as hi point….kel tec

  • MethodMan

    I’ve owned my Sigma SW9VE Allied Forces for two years now and have fired over 600 rounds. I’ve used Winchester 115 grain, NATO FMJ 124 Grain, Federal 115 grain, Tulammo and Monarch’s. STAY AWAY FROM MONARCH’S!!!! Crap bullet!!

    I chose this weapon for home defense and I feel it is adequate for that purpose. You need to go the firing range some to practice with the trigger pull on this gun. But after a few rounds you’ll get use to it. It is not a crap gun like a lot of people will post. AND ITS DEFINITELY NOT A HI-POINT GUN. It is not a cheap gun because of the price. Smith and Wesson has a good reputation and history. I mean AMERICAN HISTORY!! It’s affordable to purchase one. In this economy, if you are needing an affordable weapon, go with this gun. The shots fired from this gun will kill a person the same way a GLOCK or Berreta will do.

    Keep the brash and pointless comments to a minimum.

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