Never have I attempted to make it a secret that I dote on little handguns. I’ve owned a good many over the years and have carried them as backup guns during my law enforcement career. I’ve also packed them concealed off-duty. Little pistols are great to throw in a briefcase, a field bag, or a set of saddlebags.
I’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. I’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 I’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 wasn’t. I’ve always appreciated firearms that are as beautiful as they are functional, but I’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. I’m referring to the single-stack XD-S. And the latest two-tone iteration isn’t all that bad looking, at least to the ST editors. Plus, it’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 that’s perfect for legal concealed carry.
Aside from the small size, the XD-S has features similar to the XD and XD-M—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 you’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 Hornady’s 200-grain XTP at 752 fps and Black Hills’s 230-grain JHP at 645 fps. I also shot CorBon’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 doesn’t provide enough firepower. I’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 isn’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. I’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.
I’d fired the XD-S at an InterMedia Outdoors editorial roundtable event last spring, but I didn’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. I’ve always been fond of thin handguns, and with a slide that’s 7/8 inch thick, the XD-S is definitely thin. (Overall, it’s exactly 1 inch wide.) It’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. It’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 wasn’t punishing by any means.
From a sandbag rest, the XD-S performed very well. While it’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 sheriff’s department plans to carry an XD-S on duty as a plainclothes detective after seeing my sample gun. I think it’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.