January 03, 2011
By Jim Wilson
The new XD auto pistol has exciting and unique features, and our Handgun Editor gives it the state-of-the-art award for polymer pistols.
By Sheriff Jim Wilson
Over the past few years, nothing in the handgun industry has blossomed like the use of polymer in manufacturing techniques. Polymer has allowed the industry to manufacture strong, lightweight handguns that are useful in law enforcement and civilian defense applications.
The newest of these polymer-framed pistols is the XD (X-Treme Duty Pistol) series from Springfield, Dept. ST, 420 W. Main St., Geneseo, IL 61254; www.springfieldarmory.com. I recently had the opportunity to test the new Springfield XD 9mm pistol and found that it has some very interesting and useful features that make it stand out among the various other polymer pistols on the market.
The Springfield XD's frame is made from proprietary polymer that has been proven to be a tough, durable, lightweight material. In fact, the XD-9 I tested weighed only about 23 ounces. That's plenty light for a 10-shot, 9mm service pistol, but because of the low bore axis created by the XD's striker-fire design and a comfortable grip design, the pistol's recoil is very manageable despite its light weight.
In addition to the well-designed polymer frame, the XD-9 has a forged, heat-treated, fully machined slide and a hammer-forged barrel. At the very back end of the slide is a cocking indicator that can be easily seen or felt. Fixed, combat three-dot sights are dovetailed into the slide. The slide also has cocking grooves, fore and aft, to facilitate the user's particular charging technique.
The pistol has fully ambidextrous magazine release buttons located just behind the trigger. This magazine release is designed so that the magazine springs free of the pistol to facilitate a speed reload. It also has an oversized slide stop release and takedown lever. The front and back straps are checkered and provide a positive grip even with wet or sweaty hands. And the XD's grip is designed with a slight arch and a narrow configuration that gives a natural, comfortable grip for shooting. If that's not enough, the front of the frame has attachment rails for the addition of a flashlight or laser sight.
The Springfield XD field-strips easily for routine maintenance by simply dropping the magazine, rotating the takedown lever upward, and removing the slide assembly forward off the frame. The barrel and recoil spring assembly can then be removed from the slide, and the magazine's spring and follower can be dismantled by removing the magazine's baseplate.
Like other polymer-framed pistols, the Springfield XD makes use of a safety trigger that incorporates a lever in its center. With other such pistols I've been concerned that this trigger safety might somehow be depressed and the gun fired by accident. Springfield must have shared this concern because it has also incorporated a grip safety into the polymer frame. This grip safety is much shorter and narrower than those found on most 1911 pistols, but it serves the same function. Unlike other polymer pistols, the Springfield XD-9 can only be fired when both the grip safety and the trigger safety are depressed. I think this is a great move and should greatly reduce the number of negligent discharges. The Springfield XD-9 I tested has a barrel length of 4.08 inches and an overall length of 7.2 inches. The pistol was chambered in 9mm, but the XD is also available in .40 S&W and .357 SIG calibers. All civilian pistols will be sold with two 10-round magazines (under military and police contracts the pistol is offered with a 15-round magazine in 9mm and a 12-round magazine in .40 and .357) The suggested retail price for the Springfield XD series is $489.
Extreme Performance From The X-Treme
To test the Springfield XD-9, I gathered up an assortment of 9mm service and defensive ammunition from my ammo shelf. I used the 124-grain FMJ load from Aguila, the 124-grain JHP load from Black Hills, the CCI Blazer 115-grain JHP load, the 125-grain JHP load from Cor-Bon, Federal's 124-grain Hydra-Shok, Pro-Load's 115-grain JHP load, and Winchester's 115-grain Silvertip. Rounding it out, I also included 115-, 124-, and 147-grain JHP factory loads from Hornady. My accuracy and velocity test-shooting was done from a sandbag benchrest at 25 yards, but I also fired several hundred rounds at silhouette targets, beverage cans, and wood blocks. Besides the obvious accuracy tests, I wanted to know how the XD-9 would perform during quick-shooting drills on targets of opportunity.
All of the ammunition that was tested gave good service pistol accuracy. By that I mean that groups averaged anywhere from 2 1/2 to four inches at 25 yards. The smallest average groups, 2 1/2 inches, were obtained with the Aguila 124-grain FMJ, Federal 124-grain Hydra-Shok, and Hornady 115-grain JHP ammunition.
The XD utilizes a safety trigger, an ambidextrous magazine release located just behind the trigger guard, an oversized slide stop, an oversized takedown lever, and the front of the frame has accessory attachment rails.
During the accuracy, defensive, and plinking tests, my Springfield XD-9 functioned flawlessly. I did not have a single failure to feed or eject. There were, however, several occasions when the slide failed to lock open after the last round was fired. During the course of my tests, I found that this would occasionally occur with both of the magazines that were supplied with the pistol. It was only during my defensive shooting that I discovered what the problem was. I was shooting with a high-thumb position, and the slide stop is located far enough back on the frame that my thumb knuckle was engaging it. If you wrap your right thumb down low, as with a DA shooting grip, this problem won't occur. After I discovered this, I never had a problem with the slide locking open during a string of fire.
Overall, I was very impressed with the Springfield XD-9 pistol. I like the ambidextrous magazine release buttons that allow you to operate the pistol with whichever hand gets to it first. The sights are bold and easy to pick up. And the shape of the grip frame is just about perfect for the size of my hand. The addition of the flashlight/laser rails on the front of the polymer frame is also a thoughtful feature and an item that police and military personnel will particularly appreciate.
9mm Semiautomatic Pistol
Model: XD (X-Treme Duty Pistol)
Operation: Single-action, striker-fired autoloader
Caliber: 9mm (.40 S&W and .357 SIG also available)
Barrel length: 4.08 inches
Overall length: 7.2 inches
Weight, empty: 22.88 ounces
Safety: Trigger safety and grip safety
Sights: Fixed three-dot system
Stocks: Integral to polymer frame
Magazine capacity: 10 rounds
Finish: Matte black
The XD's Most Impressive Feature
I am most impressed with the XD's grip safety. In addition to the need to depress the grip safety to fire the handgun, the grip safety also locks the slide so that it can't be cycled unless the grip safety is depressed. The grip safety is an addition that makes a lot of sense, especially in a defensive or law enforcement situation.
When I was a Texas sheriff, I often carried my autoloader stuffed into my waistband in the manner that has come to be called the "Mexican Carry." In the evenings, when called out on an emergency, I would just grab a pistol and stuff it into the waist of my jeans as I ran out the door. It doesn't take much study of the striker-fired polymer pistols to realize that you'd better not do that with many of them. Shoving one of the guns down into your waistband could very well cause the trigger safety to be engaged, discharging the pistol. The addition of the grip safety on Springfield's XD series pistols gives the handgunner some extra options and an added margin of safety.
Springfield tells me that the XD pistols are already available in 9mm and .40 S&W, and by the time you read this, the .357 SIG should also be on dealers' shelves. In my view, Springfield has won the current state-of-the-art award in polymer pistols. The various design features and quality workmanship make the Springfield XD worthy of consideration in any handgunner's battery.