subscribe features columns departments contacts links advertising search
XD
X-Deelicious!
Charles E. Petty
Photos by: Ichiro Nagata

A couple of years ago, a polymer-framed, 9mm pistol appeared from Croatia. It was sold here as the HS-2000. More than a few folks thought it was an improvement over the Glock. That was not a popular sentiment amongst "tupperware" devotees.

The things that made the HS-2000 appealing were a very reasonable price and an assortment of features that were viewed as improvements over other polymer-frame pistols. Then, it was reborn and is now known as the Springfield Armory XD, which stands for X-treme Duty. The premise here is that this is a "duty" pistol, which will be used by law enforcement. My view of the word is slightly different - it is any gun that is used for defense. Doesn't matter who uses it, but there is growing acceptance in the law enforcement family.

Let us define some terms. The XD is a striker fired, short recoil, locked breech, automatic pistol with a polymer frame. It uses the age-old Browning tilting barrel design that is still used today on the majority of autoloading pistols in 9mm or larger calibers. This is a good thing. The design wouldn't still be in use if someone had come up with a better idea.

The term "striker" may not be familiar to all, but it is a very important factor in the design. The striker is analogous to a firing pin, for both of them strike the primer and make the gun go bang, but how they do it is different. If we use a system such as the 1911 for comparison, the firing pin is struck by the hammer, which is powered by the mainspring. There is no direct connection between the firing pin and hammer or any other part of the firing mechanism. When the hammer hits the firing pin it is driven forward against the tension of the firing pin spring.

Strikers work differently. The striker is drawn back against the tension of a spring and held there until it's released to fly forward and strike the primer. They've been around in pistols since the dawn of the 20th century and long before that in bolt action rifles. But when we try to attach ordinary definitions they don't always fit very well. Three terms: single-action, double-action and double-action only are used to define how pistols are fired. They are also a mighty source of confusion. Striker firing mechanisms complicate things a bit, and although we try to make them conform to the same definitions they don't exactly fit. I wish we didn't spend so much time trying to stuff things into pigeonholes.

Some self appointed experts have proclaimed striker firing mechanisms are unsafe because you're running around with a cocked single-action gun. Obviously, their knowledge of firearms, vast though it may be, doesn't include knowledge of virtually all centerfire rifles and shotguns, which have actions that conform, quite precisely, to the single-action definition. Many of them are striker fired too. Look at bolt action rifles and tell me that the firing pin is not a striker. We routinely go afield with shotguns and rifles that are loaded with the safety engaged and think nothing of it. How then, can a striker fired pistol be more or less safe than a bolt-action rifle or pump shotgun with an operating safety?

Is It Or Not?

Some folks call the XD a single-action but say the Glock is double-action only. How they get to that conclusion is beyond me, because there is little difference in how the two guns work. Is it a single-action? Yes, say some. No, say others. Two points come to mind: Does it matter? Who cares? My answer to the first is, not really; and to the second; probably those who have the most to lose from viable competition. I guess it all depends on whose ox is being gored.

 

The most famous single-action auto of all is Mr. Browning's Government Model. Legend has it that someone questioned the "safety" of a cocked and locked 1911. There are a couple of versions of what happened next. The great Col. Cooper is reported to have replied, "This is the safety." The question is whether he was pointing to his trigger finger or brain. Either would have been appropriate. You see, guns hardly ever go off unless a human does something. No firearm is idiot proof and when someone puts their finger on the trigger, pulls and the gun goes bang, it is only doing what it is supposed to. The person, not the gun, is at fault. Of course it is much more face-saving to deny personal responsibility and blame the gun for merely doing what it was supposed to.
There is a degree of controversy over how much the striker spring is "pre-loaded." Critics say since the Glock's is only partially loaded it is safer than those that are fully compressed. Springfield commissioned a study by the prestigious independent consulting firm, Tioga Engineering of Wellsboro, Pa., to compare the systems of the Glock and XD. In both designs, the firing pin block or safety is the key element, but their test showed that a primed case fired 100 percent of the time in a Glock when the striker was released from the 62 percent normal preloaded level.

Some Specifics

The report has a lengthy discussion of definitions and the operation of the Glock and Springfield pistols and comes to the following conclusions:

"1. Neither the Springfield Armory XD nor the Glock 17 qualifies as a single action pistol.
2. Neither the Springfield Armory XD nor the Glock 17 qualifies as a double action pistol.
3. Both the Springfield Armory XD and the Glock 17 will fire if the firing pin is released from the ready or carry position, unless it's intercepted by the automatic firing-pin block.
4. Both the Springfield Armory XD and the Glock 17 are designed with an array of safety features that, if maintained properly, virtually preclude a discharge unless the trigger is pulled or a chambered round cooks off in a fire.
5. From a safety standpoint, there is no basis upon which to choose between the trigger mechanisms of the Springfield Armory XD and the Glock 17 if the force required to pull their respective triggers is similar."

The marketplace for firearms is an amazing venue where lots of companies make a product that is largely unchanged since the 1920s. It's a tough place for a marketing guy who wants to tell you how new and different his stuff is when an objective view says something else. This industry is wont to call something new when it changes colors or shrinks its barrel by half an inch.

Glock revolutionized manufacturing methods and materials, but the mechanics of the gun are unremarkable in the light of history. If we can set aside prejudice and look objectively, it is plain to see that both pistols have much to like. Those who criticize either one do so with little basis in fact.

 

Easy Working

Any manufactured product evolves over time. It is inevitable. When the Glock 17 appeared it was truly revolutionary in the use of polymer materials and the manufacturing methods involved. The striker firing mechanism was not new, nor was the tilting barrel Browning design. It was also ordained, on the day it appeared, that people would try to improve or adapt the principles it established. And, there have been many efforts. Virtually every manufacturer now has some form of polymer frame pistol, and most have some variant of the striker system. I wonder what all the fuss is about.

One thing that sets the XD apart is the addition of a grip safety. Things like magazine and firing pin safeties are called "passive," but a grip safety is "active," which is viewed as a good thing.

Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to shoot HS-2000 and XD pistols in 9mm Luger and .40 S&W. I haven't kept rigid records, but the nines have fired well over 1,000 rounds, and the .40s only a little less. The important observation here is that there have been no malfunctions or stoppages of any kind. There were no signs of wear or anything to indicate an area of concern. In fact, I thought both improved with use - the trigger pulls certainly did.

Everybody wants to know about accuracy and, as you can see from the table, it is better than average for a service pistol. One remarkable observation is the virtually identical results between the nine and 40. But, perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that both pistols did not show a particular preference for one load over another. Very often, this type of test will reveal that a pistol shoots one kind of ammo much better than the rest; but when a gun shoots a wide variety equally well, our ammo selection process is greatly simplified.

 

Ergonomics

Let's look at some other features. As is the rage right now there's a light rail from which to hang stuff. The frame feels good with molded in checkering. Even though there's a high capacity potential, it doesn't feel planklike. The magazine release is truly ambidextrous - just push it either way you wish. It has one of those little trigger safeties that can't hurt, although I'm not sure they do much either.

The frame has no parts molded into the polymer. The forward steel unit has substantial, 1.25" long rails, the barrel seat and feed ramp. It's held in by two solid pins. At the rear is another set of rails, the ejector and trigger mechanism. Directly below is the grip safety, which blocks movement of the sear. The entire assembly is held in place with a single solid pin.

The striker, when cocked, protrudes about .05" from the back of the slide for visual or tactile verification of condition. A loaded-chamber indicator is present, too, in the form of a small lever that is pushed up by the cartridge rim. It protrudes slightly from the top of the slide and is easily seen or felt.

One thing I see as an improvement over most polymer frame pistols is how the XD is field stripped. After checking to be sure it is unloaded, simply lock the slide to the rear and rotate the takedown lever on the left side upward through a slot in the slide. This is different in that there is no manipulation or wiggling required. Just flip the lever up. Release the slide and pull and release the trigger. The slide slips off the front with ease. The compound recoil spring is a captive unit that is easily removed and the barrel lifts out in the typical fashion. That's all the disassembly needed for cleaning.

Some other nuts and bolts stuff. The XD is available in 9mm Luger, .357 SIG, .40 S&W and .45 GAP. It has a 4" barrel and weighs 23 ounces. Trigger pulls ran between 5.5 and 7 pounds. It's furnished with two 10-round magazines, but 15-round 9mm and 12-round .40 S&W magazines are available to law enforcement.

Of course making compact models is all the rage right now, so the XD has been shrunk into a Sub-compact model with a 3.1" barrel. The frame is smaller, too, but still retains the 10+1 magazine capacity. Two things have happened with the shrinking. Weight has been reduced to 20.5 ounces and the grip has shortened to the point that average or larger sized hands are going to be looking for someplace to put the little finger. Of course, when you reduce barrel length and weight, muzzle blast and recoil increase; but it is virtually negligible in the compact nine.

We don't often see pistols getting bigger, but the XD has done that, too. Springfield also has a Tactical model, with a 5" barrel. This time, the weight goes up to 31 ounces and the gun becomes ever so much more "shootable." Everything else is the same, but the 4" gun that is peachy becomes positively loveable with that extra inch. I've never been one to view size or weight as primary factors in gun choices and think it's just as easy to carry a 5" pistol as a 4".

Best?

The most subjective part of any review like this is how it feels to shoot the gun. The grip is comfortable and the hand rides very close to the centerline of the bore. This helps with recoil management. Some mistakenly say this arrangement reduces recoil, but that ain't so. Recoil is a function of weights and velocities, not the position of the hand. Feltrecoil is different for everyone but, for me, both the nine and 40 were comfortable to shoot even with the hottest ammo.
Just lately, I have been able to shoot both the Sub-compact in 9mm and the Tactical model in .40 S&W. My impressions from the original guns still apply and I have to be careful to avoid letting my basic dislike for littleguns color my comments about Springfield's. This one gets no gripes at all.
In 9mm, the hotter +P loads were rather snappy, but the 147s were just fine. In the 5" .40 S&W gun, everything was quite manageable; although, some of the hot 155-grain loads - which I don't like anyhow - were less than fun to shoot. But, with standard 180-grain - or 165s for that matter - the pistol was great fun.

The XDs continue gain fans and support within the law enforcement community. I would not hesitate for a moment to stick either one in my holster and go out on the street again.

One of the pigeonholes that everyone wants us to fill is the one where "BEST" lives. I sure do wish I could too, but the fact is that "best" doesn't exist. I may prefer one gun over another, but that applies only to me. Everyone feels things differently. So, with that said, we are left with a very worthwhile alternative to other polymer frame pistols called the Springfield XD. It is a worthy challenger.

For more information, contact:
Springfield Inc.
www.springfield-armory.com
(800) 680-6866

 

 

Home | Subscribe | Features | Columns | Departments | Contacts | Links | Advertising | Search
© 2005 All Rights Reserved -- Publishers Development Corporation
Site design by SutherlandDesign.com