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A Whole Lotta 9: Springfield XDm 9mm Review

by Patrick Sweeney   |  January 2nd, 2009 5


When the XDm was brand-new, not such a long time ago, I asked Denny Reese about a 9mm version. “How many rounds would it hold; nineteen, twenty?”

“Ahhh, something like that,” was his vague reply. Clearly, Springfield was interested in getting the .40 cal version off to a good start, and that they did. He changed the subject, and I took the hint.

Well, it didn’t take much longer, and here we are with a huge capacity 9mm that you can treat like a normal pistol. Well, normal in the modern sense. In the old days, to have more than-common capacity you had to go with aftermarket magazines–magazines that were longer than the frame. Often they’d be marginally reliable. As 9mm pistols in the old days were not entirely reliable themselves, a few models with dodgy magazines made things worse. Today we expect reliability almost as a birthright. We expect capacity. And we expect all the options while we’re gearing up for the zombie hordes. Well, now we have it, and I for one have to think this whole 9mm vs. .40 vs. .45 thing over again. How did Springfield manage such a feat?

For those of you who have not been paying attention in class, perhaps a brief moment is needed to bring you up to speed on why the XDm is important.

First, they proportioned the magazine tubes of the XD to the XDm for correct stacking when it’s fed 40 S&W cartridges. That provided more room than needed for 9mm, but without the extra width and length in the grip required for .45 ACP cartridges. The 9mm tubes are .40 tubes with vertical ribs stamped into them, to constrict the interior space of the tube for the proper stacking geometry of 9mm rounds. Then, the feed lips were tweaked a bit for the smaller cartridge. As a final observation, we should all give Springfield a hearty round of applause for the magazine baseplate I mean the decision to bend the retainer lips out on the magazine tube, rather than in. In so doing, Springfield made it possible for the aftermarket baseplate manufacturers like Dawson, Grams, Arredondo and Taylor Freelance to expand their offerings. Twenty rounds isn’t enough for you? Then once those makers re-proportion the best-suited extended baseplates in their designs, we’ll have 24-28 rounds of 9mm goodness for our XDm pistols. And unlike the “+2″ baseplates of the past, the baseplates of the makers I mentioned do not come off short of vehicular collision. (They may not have them done yet, so be patient.)

In fact, the only changes Springfield has made to the XDm have been to accommodate the 9mm cartridge. Now, I’d bet the recoil spring is different, and the barrel too. I would have to have the two calibers side-by-side to determine if the slides differ, but I doubt there is much if any difference between them aside from the breechface. Why go to the trouble of changing something that doesn’t need it? Gunsmiths have known for a long time that the 9mm has plenty of energy to work the slide of even a .45 ACP pistol. In fact, the heaver slide makes for a softer-shooting gun.

Which gets us right to the best part of the XDm 9. Well, the best part after “lots and lots of bullets.” This is a soft-shooting gun. When I was talking with Robbie Leatham about the then-new and still-secret XDm in .40 S&W, I mentioned how soft it was with even the snappiest ammo. Well, in 9mm it is positively sedate. First, the hand-filling grip distributes recoil well. Being able to change the backstraps allows you to conform the pistol to your hand, not the other way around. The 9mm has never been all that harsh in recoil, except in the smallest guns, but in the XDm 9 it is even softer. In buzzing my way through several cartons of ammo, I found the most difficult thing to do was fill the magazines. And there, only the last couple of rounds were difficult, due to the sheer volume.

The accuracy of the XDm 9 is easily up to the task of ringing steel plates at long distances. The short-reset trigger allows you to shoot quickly on those short-distance high-speed stages in a practical match, or in real life. And the XDm frame texture means even with 9mm+P or +P+ ammo, your hands won’t be slipping on the frame.

Given the soft recoil of the hot loads, I can only imagine what the competition shooters will do with it. Typically, they shoot heavy bullets at low velocities. In USPSA Production Division, a common load is a 147-grain lead or JHP trundling along at 875 fps. Soft recoil and a short trigger reset should make for super-speed shooting.

Now I’ll admit that the XDm isn’t for everyone. If a 125 at nearly 1,300 fps, or a 115 over that is “too puny” for you, then you’ll just have to move on up. But for those who feel they can deal with anything except armored cars and Hind helicopters when armed with a 9mm, the XDm tops the list. And with 19-round magazines, loading up the XDm9 and putting a spare mag on your belt leaves just enough ammo from a box for someone from a capacity-fearing state like California to load up. If you fill the Springfield-provided magazine belt pouch with two spares, you will have exceeded the ammo found in a standard retail box. If you find yourself in a “social” situation and have need of more ammo, you really should have left your itinerary with your secretary so she could coordinate on-call artillery support.

As with a number of handguns I’ve received lately, the XDm was on my doorstep before I knew it was on the way. (Sort of like some relatives, but the firearm was met with much greater enthusiasm.) The box contained the cased XDm and a fistful of spare magazines. The standard case for the XDm line is a special Pelican case in which the foam insert has been cut to store the pistol, two extra mags, spare backstraps, the holster mag pouch and the magazine loader. Oh, and the now-ubiquitous lock that the government saddles us with. As a bonus, the foam insert is paired one side is for the pistol and mags; the other holds the holster and mag pouch. If you want, you can swap out the holster side and cut the foam for more magazines, a cleaning kit, or whatever you can fit into the case.

In shooting the XDm 9, I found it was quite accurate. Long-gone are the days of 9mm pistols being considered mere bullet-hoses–good for blasting cheap surplus ammo into the dirt. Now they are expected to be, and are, as accurate as any other pistol or caliber. And so it is with the XDm 9. The match barrel provides as much velocity boost for the 9mm as you can expect, short of going up to a bigger pistol (but one with less capacity) like the 1911. The match barrel is ramped and fully supports the case, so regular use of +P or +P+ ammo will elicit a yawn from your XDm 9. That is, if an inanimate object can express sentiment “that all you got?”

The Melonite treatment of the slide and barrel produce a surface so hard and durable, you would have to exceed all common sense in reloading (like using your brother-in-law’s loads) to stress it. But please don’t. The reloading manuals have an upper limit for a reason. The slide comes in either matte stainless or stainless with a blackened finish. I imagine someone, somewhere will send their XDm out to have the slide hard-chromed. Fair warning when you do that, you will be plating your slide with a material softer than the surface of the slide itself. Saying Melonite is harder than sin is like saying a Ferrari is faster than a Ford Fiesta. The Melonite process creates a hard surface with greater lubricity. A cheap file might be in the upper 50s on the Rockwell “C” scale. A good file will be mid-60. The Melonite process creates a surface that can be in the upper 70s in hardness. Plate it if you want to, but you aren’t making it harder.

In my customary new gun ritual, I took the XDM 9 apart and checked it over, cleaned it off and ran a patch down the bore. I then lubed it with Gunzilla, a new product here at Gun Abuse Central. In the modern world of non-petroleum chemistry, Gunzilla has come up with a plant-based lubricant that lacks not only petroleum, but water. I figured I’d give it a try, and apply it to the XDm 9 before I then ran a whole bunch of ammo through it.

Along with the XDm, a new laser sight arrived. Viridian makes green lasers, and green has several advantages over red. First, our eyes are a lot more sensitive to green than red light.  Second, when the sun is out, the flood of other colors can overwhelm the red of standard lasers, and make them appear dimmer than their measured output. Green also appears (at least in my testing) to show up better against a variety of backgrounds. If green is so good, why red? Simple red was the first, and easiest color to manage.

Once I cleaned the XDm 9, I bolted the Viridian Universal X5 laser/tactical light on, and left it on while I subjected the XDm 9 to the ammo at hand.

In doing what high-volume endurance shooting I could on a cold, rainy pair of weekdays, I worked over the club’s steel plates pretty thoroughly, and spent altogether too much time plinking at the 100 yard line. At no time did I have even the brief impression of a malfunction. The XDm 9 ground through the ammunition I had on hand with IRS-like implacability. The sights came zeroed, so I didn’t have to do any adjusting. The laser didn’t lose its zero, and the light worked despite the recoil and my dropping it once in the cold rain while checking the fit. I can report from practical field testing that dropping a Viridian X5 onto a concrete pad, and then kicking it 15 feet to hit a 4×4 post when trying to pick it up, has no adverse effects. It didn’t lose zero, the light still works, and the buttons all perform as designed.

Once I’d finished a couple of thousand rounds, I took the XDm 9 apart, and found that I could easily wipe the bulk of the powder residue off the parts with a cleaning cloth. As an old petroleum chemist I had my doubts, but the results were clear Gunzilla did the job.

So did the XDm 9 . You thought the capacity wars were done; they’ve only just begun.

Got zombies? Springfield's new XDm 9 raises the ceiling on the "hi-cap" concept.

  • Rooster

    write something better then!

  • Josh

    Just bought this gun for home protection. I was thinking of my wife and the fact she hasn't handled guns often, but after her shooting a few rounds and to see her have no problem witht the recoil i knew that we had made a great purchase. I am even thinking of buying the .45 verson for myself.

  • Ryan

    I am considering buying one of these for target practice. I am interested in finding the most accurate 9mm I can. Would you recommend this series with a 5.25″ barrel, or is there a different model that is easily customizable you would recommend first?

  • Ross

    Geez, Ryan, six months waiting for an answer. These guys get right on it, don’t they. I know some that will help. If you wish respond and I will set you up with some more cooperative people

  • Josh

    Considering this was posted January 2nd of 2009 I doubt people are still checking an article that is over 5 years old…

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