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.
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".
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.
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