By John Taffin, GUNS Magazine
We can know our ABCs and watch our Ps and Qs but for Springfield Armory “X” marks the spot. The Springfield X-guns have been very popular beginning with the XD, then came the XD Compact, the XD Tactical, the XD(M), the XD(M) 3.8, the XD(M) 3.8 Compact, the XD(M) 5.25 Competition, and the XD-S .45 ACP. The beat goes on as the latter, previously only offered in .45 ACP, is now available in 9mm. The “S” stands for single stack. Now why would anyone want a single stack .45, or 9mm for that matter, in these days of high-cap magazines?
I can think of two great reasons, namely a smaller pistol is much easier to conceal than a larger counterpart and is certainly easier to pack all day. Perhaps even more important is the fact the grip frame can fit smaller hands, which have a hard time wrapping around a long, double-stack magazine grip frame. Concealability is also aided by the relatively short 3.3-inch barrel. OK then, why would anyone select a 9mm over a .45 ACP? That is even easier to answer. One word will suffice, namely recoil. I find the XD-S .45 to be a very serious pistol, but one not pleasant to shoot with many loads for an extended time period. The 9mm is also a serious pistol with today’s loads and one that can be shot for long strings of fire with no problems with recoil.
Those who may find the recoil of the .45 XD-S disconcerting and troublesome will find the 9mm much more pleasant to handle. That should mean you will practice more with a small 9 than with a small .45. Too many times I have seen first time shooters going for their concealed weapons permit purchasing a gun they simply cannot handle. The 9mm is exceptionally easy to handle when compared to a .45 or even a small, lightweight .380 which often has nasty recoil. We could also factor in ammunition cost which is significant between the two.
Another very important reason is ammunition availability. As this is written in late March panic buying and hoarding is still very much in practice, however while .45s are hard to find, 9mm ammunition shows up pretty regularly at least enough to keep those in my area shooting. I learned my lesson in the first Gulf War and try never to be caught low on ammunition or reloading components. Even before the Gulf War, way back in the 1970s when it was virtually impossible to find a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum unless you were willing to pay highly inflated prices, and sometimes not even then, someone asked Jeff Cooper where he got his guns. The classic answer was one I have never forgotten: “I don’t get my guns; I’ve got my guns.”
Let’s take a closer look at this latest XD iteration from Springfield Armory. The entire XD-S 9mm is finished in a matte black with the slide and barrel being bathed in a salt bath nitriding process known as Melonite. This is a very tough finish which is highly resistant to corrosion. The matching polymer grip frame is also finished in the same flat black. For most of my shooting life I have preferred sixguns or semi-automatics of blued steel and the capability of accepting custom stocks ofmy own choosing. Modern concealed pistols are for go, not for show, and I am perfectly comfortable keeping my black polymer-framed pistol out of sight and ready for serious situations.
The slide of the XD-S is basically a rectangular shape with the sharp edges on top rounded off. This rounding off is carried out throughout the pistol making it virtually snag free when drawing. Cocking serrations are found on both sides of the slide in front of the rear sight making activating the pistol by loading a cartridge from the magazine easily manageable. Both the front and rear sights are set in dovetails on top of the slide making for ease of windage adjustment. The low-profile sights themselves are excellent consisting of a square-notch rear with two white dots matched up with a square front sight with a red fiber optic insert; the sights are very easy to pick up in a hurry. The rear sight is also rounded on the corners so there are no sharp edges to catch on anything including the lining of a jacket or suitcoat. Retracting the slide reveals a guide rod as well as a barrel, which has a slight bell at the muzzle end to aid in lockup. Looking at some of the groups I was able to shoot, it works.
On the grip frame we find a highly pronounced textured finish on the frontstrap, the backstrap and almost all the way across both sides. This checkering is deep, but not sharp enough to punish the shooting hand resulting in a comfortable but also a very secure grip. The magazine release is located right behind the triggerguard and is ambidextrous and easy to reach. The triggerguard itself is relieved where it meets the grip frame allowing the highest possible gripping of the XD-S 9mm. On the right side of the polymer frame we find two levers. The back one is a slide lock, while the front one is the takedown lever. The grip frame itself with the factory supplied 7-round magazine in place is just slightly over 3 inches in length and only 1 inch in width both of which also aid in concealability.
The XD-S comes with several safety features. It is equipped with what Springfield Armory calls an “Alternate Safety USA Action Trigger System.” This consists of a lever riding in the center of the trigger locking the trigger in place against negligent discharge by either bumping the trigger or dropping the pistol. (In more than 65 years of shooting I’ve never dropped a pistol. I hope I never do! Of course I frequently drop everything else.) The XD-S will not fire unless direct rearward pressure on the trigger face unlocks it. For those who may still be concerned about this type of trigger after nearly 3 decades of use, on the XD-S this safety feature is coupled with a grip safety, which also must be depressed the same time as the front of the trigger. This grip safety rides high and below a very slight grip extension and you must be careful to grip the pistol so the grip safety is naturally pressed. The trigger itself also has a short reset travel allowing quicker follow-up shots.
Another safety feature is the loaded chamber indicator which is a very narrow bar just over 1-inch long riding on the slide directly behind the chamber. When there is a round in the chamber the front of this bar is raised slightly allowing you to know the chamber is loaded either by sight or feel. Finally there is the Fail Safe Disassembly feature which, as with other XD pistols, does not allow the takedown lever to be operated if there is a magazine in the pistol, nor can a magazine be inserted if the disassembly lever is down. To takedown the XD-S safely, the magazine should first be removed and then the slide operated to be sure there is not a loaded round present.
The XD-S comes packed in a sturdy polymer case complete with two 7-round magazines, a polymer holster adjustable for tension, and a double magazine pouch also adjustable for tension. Two interchangeable backstraps, which are easily swapped out, are also standard equipment. An extra option is a 9-shot magazine, which comes with two grip extensions again allowing the grip to be tailored to fit the individual hand. When using the standard 7-round magazine my little finger rides under the butt, however the 9-round magazine allows room for all three fingers. If I want maximum concealability I will carry this XD-S with the factory supplied 7-round magazine in place, however if I am wearing clothing that allows it, I will go with the 9-round optional magazine in place backed up by two 7-round magazines in the magazine pouch. I did all of my shooting for groups with the 7-round magazines and they worked just fine. In fact all my shooting was done at 20 yards and a couple of my 5-shot groups got right down to just over 1 inch. That is excellent performance for such a small, short-barreled pistol, especially when it is in my hands.
Ten different 9mm factory loads from four manufacturers were used in testing the XD-S. These included JHPs, JSPs, and FMJs. At no time in the entire testing period were there any failures to feed, fire, or eject. All testing with the factory sights was accomplished at 20 yards and as mentioned groups were very satisfactory for this little pistol.
The most readily available 9mm ammunition locally is Federal’s American Eagle. This load clocks at 1,172 fps and places five shots in 1-1/8 inch at 20 yards. Black Hills 115-grain TAC-XP +P shoots with the same accuracy and a muzzle velocity of 1,157 fps. Right behind these two loads were two more from Black Hills with 1-3/8-inch groups. These were the 115-grain JHP-EXP at 1,260 fps and the 124-grain JHP at 1,062 fps. I would not have any problem choosing any of these loads for everyday carry (or any of the others I tried for that matter). This little pistol performed well above satisfactory with everything.
In writing up the original XD-S in .45 ACP, I related how for many years I carried where it was not legal to carry. I would have preferred to have a .45 ACP 1911 or a .44 or .45 double-action Smith & Wesson, however I could not take the chance of carrying either of them in a belt holster less someone should brush up against me and discover what I should not have had. So with the circumstances it was necessary to carry something much smaller.
In those days, mainly in the 1980s, we did not have near as many choices as we have today when it came to carrying a small but dependable firearm. I went with a J-frame, a Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special .38 with a bobbed hammer and tuned action. Even with its small size compared to the 1911 or N-frame Smith, I also did not feel like I should carry it in my pocket for the same reasons stated above. So it went in the top of my boot. It certainly was harder to access but virtually impossible to detect in those pre-metal detector days. For me, with all the restrictions, the .38 Special Smith & Wesson was not just the best choice, it was the only choice. Actually there was another choice, which came into play infrequently as the cylinder of that Chief’s Special would eventually raise a sore spot on the side of my leg.
When this happened I would trade it off for a while with an AMT .380 Back-Up and hope it was not needed while my leg healed up. Interestingly enough although I was not “legal,” the only other person knowing I was packing was the police officer on duty who was more than happy to know he had an immediate and qualified backup should the unthinkable happen.
More than 30 years ago I was forced by circumstances to go with the small .38. Today, thanks to Springfield Armory, I have two additional excellent choices with the XD-S in either .45 or 9mm. This certainly points up to the excellent engineering going into these pistols when you see how small they actually are and we have the choice of either of the two chamberings. They are exactly the same size and either one fits easily into the top of my boot. The main difference other than chambering is the extra two rounds, which fit into the 9mm magazine compared to the .45 ACP magazine.
I do not like ankle holsters for two reasons, the obvious being they don’t fit over boots, and secondly when I’m wearing moccasins the lack of flexibility in my old body makes the pistol hard to get to; top-of-boot access is much easier. Years ago a Texas sheriff told me he almost got killed trying to access the pistol in his ankle holster. I’ve never forgotten that. An extra added bonus is because the factory removed sharp edges virtually everywhere on the XD-S precludes any soreness with the pistol riding between my leg and the inside of my boot top.
When carrying the .38 Chief Special years ago I had five rounds at my disposal. With the flush-mounted standard magazine in the XD-S I have eight rounds of modern 9mm ammunition plus backup magazines. I’d call that real progress.
Photos By Robbie Barrkman