Skip to main content

Polymer Pistol Accuracy

Polymer Pistol Accuracy

Springfield's new XD(M) 3.8 polymer-frame pistol is a prime example of the high accuracy capabilities of today's polymer pistols.

The XD(M) 3.8 is a new, mid-size addition to Springfield's popular XD line. It features a 3.8-inch match barrel housed in a sleek slide with reprofiled slide cuts and should prove to be a great duty and carry gun. It's also set up with a rail under the barrel that will accommodate any number of sighting assist gadgets.

When I first became aware that a polymer-frame pistol was being manufactured, I scoffed. How did anyone expect a plastic pistol to be a success? Who would buy one? What positive attributes could they possibly possess? As happens more frequently than I like to admit, my opinions were misguided. As we know, the polymer-framed semiautomatic pistol rocked the handgunning world and has proven itself as one of the most popular pistols in the world, and for good reason.

There was much skepticism at the onset of the polymer-pistol era, mostly from purists who, like me, couldn't conceive a handgun that wasn't made entirely of steel and wood. Fear of polymer not being able to withstand extensive shooting without excessive wear and fatigue or meltdown resulting from exposure to weather, solvents, and other substances was common.


Of course, we now know that these fears were unfounded. We know that pistols with polymer frames are extremely durable and resistant to wear and tear. The polymer can be shaped into any ergonomic design conceivable, making it simple to adjust to the shooting comforts and tastes to virtually any user. They are lightweight, tough, reliable, and easy to use. No wonder the majority of police forces around the globe are using polymer-framed pistols.


I was issued a polymer gun--a Glock, which I carried for a number of years as a federal investigator. I found the gun to be outstanding in virtually every way. No doubt, these pistols take some getting used to if you grew up shooting a revolver or 1911-style auto pistol, but after some practice, they prove to be a fine everyday carry gun.

I've been advised over the years by various handgun experts that a combat pistol, particularly a polymer-framed pistol, doesn't need to be capable of pinpoint accuracy. The argument, of course, focuses on the point that the majority of handgun fights are conducted within 7 yards; therefore, if the pistol shoots a 4-inch group at 25 yards, its accuracy is acceptable at the shorter distance. Many of these experts are perfectly comfortable with a pistol that shoots no better than 4 inches at 25 yards, and some state that most modern, non-customized polymer guns aren't capable of better accuracy. For the most part, I don't go along with that premise.


The Accuracy Question
I've fired a few modern auto pistols that wouldn't shoot much better than 4 inches at 25 yards, but that's not the norm. After some experimentation with various polymer pistols, I believe good groups can be squeezed out of them without extensive customizing. It's been my experience that many shooters who use polymer guns, particularly law enforcement folks, don't always familiarize themselves with their pistols the way they should. Getting accuracy from a polymer gun requires much practice and repetition, but it's always worth it in the long run.


I've been doing some shooting lately with the new Springfield Armory XD(M) 3.8 semiautomatic pistol. This is a short version of the company's popular XD(M) pistol featuring a 3.8-inch barrel--which places it right between the standard-size XD(M) and the subcompact model. Compact, yet it still has a magazine capacity of 19 rounds. The pistol feels great in my hand, which is one of the key points to getting the most accuracy out of a polymer-framed pistol. If a handgun is uncomfortable for the shooter to grip, accuracy will suffer every time. The XD(M) 3.8 comes with three different grip inserts that can be quickly and easily changed out to fit the shooter's hand--an outstanding concept. I found that the insert that was on the gun from the factory fit my hand quite comfortably.

Break-In Shooting
Any shooter who plans to carry an autoloading pistol, whether a law enforcement officer or someone carrying for self-defense, should shoot the gun extensively prior to trusting their lives and/or the lives of others on it. I believe a pistol should have at least 300 rounds run through it prior to full-time carry in order to check for any potential mechanical problems that might exist with the gun. It's much better to discover a problem at the range than in a bad situation. This practice also helps break in the gun and possibly smooth out any rough edges left over from the manufacturing process.

This break-in period is also very important since it allows the shooter to get acquainted with the gun. Extensive firing initially will assist the shooter in getting used to the grip, sight picture, and trigger pull, all essential elements of good accuracy.

Familiarization Practice
Quite often, particularly when transitioning to a striker-fired, polymer pistol from a revolver or other type of auto, shooters have difficulty in getting used to the new trigger--I certainly did when I first started shooting my duty Glock. It is imperative to fire the new gun a great deal to familiarize yourself with the trigger. Begin at your range, preferably shooting at steel plates. Start slow and steady at first, firing several magazines at a short distance to get the feel of the gun. When you start hitting well, move back to 15 or 20 yards and continue firing at a slow pace. Only after getting completely comfortable with slow fire is rapid fire acceptable, and only then if you're able to still concentrate on squeezing the trigger and hitting the plate every time.

After a considerable amount of offhand shooting, the pistol should be fired at a paper target from a bench using a sandbag or other suitable rest. I recommend shooting from 25 yards, though you can choose a distance longer or shorter. Three- to five-shot groups should be fired, using a variety of ammunition. Take deep breaths between shots and concentrate on trigger pull and sight picture. This exercise will not only indicate how accurate the pistol is, but it will also assist you in becoming even more familiar with the gun's trigger pull.

An ambidexterous magazine release button and interchangeable backstraps (three included) make the XD(M) 3.8 easily adaptable to any shooter.

I used the exact sequence described above in doing my initial tests with the Springfield XD(M) 3.8. After firing a considerable amount of ammo offhand at a steel plate, I thought I had the trigger pull down. When I moved to the benchrest, I found that the concentrated, slow squeeze felt completely different. It was necessary for me to fire a number of groups from the bench until I became used to the slow trigger squeeze. When that happened, my groups became smaller. When I initially started shooting the XD from the bench, my three-shot groups averaged 3 inches or so. After a good deal of practice, I fired a 1.5-inch group using Speer Gold Dot 124-grain hollowpoints. It took some time that afternoon and a lot of ammunition, but it paid off in the end.

After a little practice, the author was able to shoot this 1.5-inch group from the 25-yard bench using Speer Gold Dot 124-grain hollowpoints.

Sight Systems
Yet another important factor in getting the most accuracy out of your pistol are the sights. I find that certain popular sighting systems don't work well for me, though they may be fine for others. The factory three-dot system on the Springfield XD(M) 3.8 is very popular, but the white dots are recessed in the sight blades, and I find them distracting in certain light.

With a pistol not fitted with night sights (all combat pistols should be), I prefer all black sights, serrated. If you have accuracy issues with your pistol and have gone through the previously described steps, ponder your sights. If you're not comfortable with them, consider changing to a different system. Clearly, many police departments might not allow this modification, and if not, you had better just get used to the factory sights by shooting more.

The XD(M) 3.8 9mm features a three-white-dot sighting system. Note also the grip-activated safety, ala the 1911, and the outstanding backstrap system, which provides shooters with three different sizes of backstraps to give the pistol a custom feel for virtually any shooter.

Ammo Preference
There are many reasons certain pistols prefer certain ammunition. Some make good sense and some don't. Without delving into them, let me just say that in order to maximize the accuracy of your polymer-framed auto, you'll need to experiment with a number of different loads to determine which ones your gun prefers. You should test as many different brands and bullet weights as you can afford. I know ammo is pricey, but maximizing your pistol's accuracy and reliability is essential, especially if lives are depending on it. Once you've determined the brand and bullet weights you like and the gun is 100-percent reliable with, fire from the bench at 25 yards on paper. I highly recommend shooting several three-shot groups with each load. You'll quickly determine which load your pistol likes the best. If possible, stick with that load. Again, many law enforcement agencies have their own ideas about what load is mandatory to carry on duty. If so, determine how well that load shoots in your pistol, but keep practicing with the one it prefers if it's not the issued stuff. Knowing that your pistol has accuracy potential will help build confidence, regardless of the load you're shooting.

Indeed, wringing the best accuracy out of your polymer combat pistol without major modifications can be as easy as going back to the basics: grip, sight picture, trigger squeeze, and proper breathing techniques. Best yet, getting the most out of your combat pistol just might make you a better all-around shooter.

The author found the Springfield XD(M) 3.8 9mm to be very accurate at the bench, particularly after becoming used to the pistol's trigger pull.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

The Glock 21

The Glock 21

Frank and Tony from Gallery of Guns spice up the Glock test using their non-dominant hands.

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Keith Feeley of Tactical Solutions sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to talk about the new X-Ring Takedown SBR .22LR rifle.

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

We're taking a look at what the Army's Elite Units are using for service rifles and what the future of SOCOM sniping looks like.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The .22 Magnum revolvers are still poppin' and still popular—and some are made for self-defense, while others are built for hunting small game and plinking.Best .22 Magnum Revolvers Available Right Now Handguns

Best .22 Magnum Revolvers Available Right Now

Payton Miller - January 06, 2021

The .22 Magnum revolvers are still poppin' and still popular—and some are made for...

Uberti's 1885 Courteney Stalking Rifle is a classically configured hunting rifle that's equally at home in the big whitetail woods and on the African savannas.Uberti 1885 Courteney Stalking Rifle Review Rifles

Uberti 1885 Courteney Stalking Rifle Review

Joseph von Benedikt - December 14, 2020

Uberti's 1885 Courteney Stalking Rifle is a classically configured hunting rifle that's...

How can a shorter-barrel revolver have higher velocities than a longer-barrel semiauto pistol? Here's why.Revolver vs. Semiauto Pistol: A Ballistic Oddity Handguns

Revolver vs. Semiauto Pistol: A Ballistic Oddity

Allan Jones - May 15, 2019

How can a shorter-barrel revolver have higher velocities than a longer-barrel semiauto pistol?...

This somewhat-odd loading had an interesting history, and much of its reputation was based on assumption.The .38 Special 200-Grain 'Police Load' Ammo

The .38 Special 200-Grain 'Police Load'

Allan Jones - January 20, 2021

This somewhat-odd loading had an interesting history, and much of its reputation was based on...

See More Trending Articles

More Handguns

While most new handguns are chambered for the popular 9mm and .45 ACP, interest in .22 LR and 10mm Auto semiautomatic pistols appears to be resurging. Here's just a taste of the many exciting new handguns for 2020.24 New Handguns for 2020 Handguns

24 New Handguns for 2020

Lane Pearce - June 02, 2020

While most new handguns are chambered for the popular 9mm and .45 ACP, interest in .22 LR and...

The reliable and accurate Browning Buck Mark Plus Vision .22LR features a lightweight, alloy-sleeved, 5.9-inch, steel “Vision” suppressor-ready barrel that comes with a removable muzzle brake.Browning Buck Mark Plus Vision .22LR Handguns

Browning Buck Mark Plus Vision .22LR

Joel J. Hutchcroft - September 14, 2020

The reliable and accurate Browning Buck Mark Plus Vision .22LR features a lightweight,...

It took a long time for Glock to bring out a .22 LR pistol, but it was worth the wait.Glock G44 Rimfire Pistol Review Handguns

Glock G44 Rimfire Pistol Review

Paul Scarlata - August 31, 2020

It took a long time for Glock to bring out a .22 LR pistol, but it was worth the wait.

The new .22 LR Ruger Lite Rack LCP II is an ideal rimfire trainer to the popular .380 ACP LCP II pocket pistol.Ruger Lite Rack LCP II Review Handguns

Ruger Lite Rack LCP II Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - June 01, 2020

The new .22 LR Ruger Lite Rack LCP II is an ideal rimfire trainer to the popular .380 ACP LCP...

See More Handguns

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Shooting Times App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now