Never have I attempted to make it a secret that I dote on little handguns. Iâ€™ve owned a good many over the years and have carried them as backup guns during my law enforcement career. Iâ€™ve also packed them concealed off-duty. Little pistols are great to throw in a briefcase, a field bag, or a set of saddlebags.
Iâ€™ve carried little guns chambered for a variety of cartridges, including .380 ACP, .38 Special, and 9mm. These calibers are quite capable of handling many situations in which a handgun might be needed, but their efficiency is often questioned by some handgunners. Iâ€™ve never been particularly uncomfortable carrying any of them, but I have occasionally wished I had something with a bit more wallop. Trouble was, coming up with a small handgun that could handle a powerful cartridge like the .45 ACP was an all but impossible task.
Over the years Iâ€™ve had an issue with warming up to the polymer-frame handgun, even though I carried one as a federal investigator for many years. The Glock 9mm I packed never malfunctioned during the many, many rounds I fired through it or over the many miles it rode on my hip. Undoubtedly, it was worth its salt as an everyday carry gun, but eye candy it wasnâ€™t. Iâ€™ve always appreciated firearms that are as beautiful as they are functional, but Iâ€™ve learned that a highly reliable and accurate firearm is essential for everyday carry, regardless of looks.
Fortunately, we now have a highly reliable, compact, and easy to carry and conceal pistol chambered for the .45 ACP, thanks to Springfield Armory. Iâ€™m referring to the single-stack XD-S. And the latest two-tone iteration isnâ€™t all that bad looking, at least to the ST editors. Plus, itâ€™s one flat, thin .45!
Springfield designed the little .45 as a single-stack, easy-to-pack, hideout gun. The magazine is a five-rounder, with a seven-rounder available that features a wraparound grip extension. Even with the short magazine the XD-S is quite comfortable in the hand, but with the seven-round extension, it feels almost like a full-sized pistol. The short grip frame and the very short 3.3-inch barrel make for a very small handgun thatâ€™s perfect for legal concealed carry.
Aside from the small size, the XD-S has features similar to the XD and XD-Mâ€”striker fired, grip safety, low-profile sights, and so on. (See the accompanying list for more details.) In addition, the XD-S features interchangeable backstraps that the shooter can use to change the fit of the grip without making the grip any bulkier.
Some might argue that such a short barrel for the .45 ACP is at a disadvantage due to the loss in velocity. On average, approximately 33 fps is lost per inch of barrel length; therefore, if youâ€™re getting 750 fps out of your 4-inch .45 ACP, you should expect to get about 720 out of the XD-S with the same ammo. My chronograph session proved that the short barrel is no issue when it comes to velocity, at least in my book. I clocked Hornadyâ€™s 200-grain XTP at 752 fps and Black Hillsâ€™s 230-grain JHP at 645 fps. I also shot CorBonâ€™s 200-grain +P loading through the little pistol, and it measured a smoking 997 fps.
Another criticism of the XD-S might be that the five-round magazine with one in the tube just doesnâ€™t provide enough firepower. Iâ€™ve carried revolvers for many years, including as a uniformed state police officer and later as a plainclothes investigator, and at no time did I ever feel under-gunned. Consider that the XD-S can, in most circumstances, be reloaded more quickly than a revolver can, plus the extra magazine is easier to carry than a speedloader or loose cartridges. Obviously, the longer mag provides an eight-shot pistol, which isnâ€™t bad for a petite yet powerful handgun.
The sights on my sample XD-S, as I stated before, are low-profile combat sights. The rear sight features a pair of white dots, and the front sight has a red fiber-optic insert. Iâ€™ve never been a big fan of the three white dots system, so the fiber-optic front sight is a welcome, well, sight, for me. My preference would be no dots on the rear and the red fiber-optic front, but regardless, most shooters will find the setup to be quite satisfactory.
Iâ€™d fired the XD-S at an InterMedia Outdoors editorial roundtable event last spring, but I didnâ€™t really wring it out like I wanted. So I obtained one of the latest versions about a month or so ago, and that gave me the chance to put in more time behind the little single-stack gun. I used several brands of ammunition, including the Black Hills, CorBon, and Hornady loads mentioned above. The pistol felt great in my hands. Iâ€™ve always been fond of thin handguns, and with a slide thatâ€™s 7/8 inch thick, the XD-S is definitely thin. (Overall, itâ€™s exactly 1 inch wide.) Itâ€™s also lightweight. The official specs say it weighs 21.5 ounces unloaded, but my scale weighed it a bit less than that, registering 19 ounces, empty. That might make anyone who is recoil shy think twice about spending significant range time with the XD-S, but worry not. Itâ€™s surprisingly comfortable to shoot.
I started out with a couple of boxes of Black Hills 230-grain JHPs using the extended magazine, and I fired about half a box at a paper target set out at 10 yards. It took a little getting used to, but I was printing very tight groups in no time at all. I then switched to the short magazine, which obviously required an adjustment in grip (basically just holding the pinky underneath the grip.) I found the short magazine to be just fine and continued to produce impressive accuracy.
Later I switched over to the CorBon ammo, and it was definitely snappy! In a lightweight, little pistol like the XD-S, one must expect a little kick with hot ammo, but it wasnâ€™t punishing by any means.
From a sandbag rest, the XD-S performed very well. While itâ€™s obviously not a long-range handgun, the pistol produced pretty tight groups at 15 yards. In fact, the Black Hills ammunition was consistently under 2 inches. The details of that shooting session are listed in the accompanying chart.
All in all, I must say the XD-S is a fine handgun. I let several of my law enforcement cohorts handle and shoot the pistol, and all were equally impressed. One friend and colleague with the local sheriffâ€™s department plans to carry an XD-S on duty as a plainclothes detective after seeing my sample gun. I think itâ€™s a great choice. In fact, it just might be the best compact .45 auto pistol ever made. Only time will tell.
Thanks to Springfield, the .45 ACP pistol has come a long way.