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Scaled for Self-Defense: Springfield XD-S 9mm Review

by Patrick Sweeney   |  July 8th, 2013 10


There are people—and companies—who have one good thing, one trick that they work for all they’re worth. Then there are those who are a steady stream of ideas and products that people want and are eager to get. Springfield is one of the latter group. Whether it is making a century-old product (1911s), a half-century-old product (M1As) or something that is of more recent vintage (polymer-frame pistols), they just keep on lifting the curtain on one hot new product after another.

The company’s latest item—the XD-S—is a wake-up call to the world of carry guns—Springfield Armory intends to own it all. I’ve been a fan of the Springfield striker-fired pistols for some time. When the original, the XD, was the offering from Geneseo, Ill., I had Irv Stone III of Bar-Sto build me a multi-use XD. Originally a .40, when he was done with it, it was a .40, a .357 SIG and a 9mm. And while fun and versatile, it was not exactly a carry gun you’d want to have lashed to you all day long.

But Springfield took care of that problem with compact versions of the XD, in 9mm and .40.

Then the company unveiled the XD-M. Where the medium-size XD in 9mm had held 16 rounds, the XD-M holds 19. The change was similar for the .40 and across the various model sizes. You suddenly had more ammo in the same-size package. Who could argue with that? Well, those of us who carry daily, for one. Yes, an XD-M Compact 3.8 in 9mm holds a lot of ammo, but the size required can be a bit of a hassle. While it is surprisingly compact for a 9mm that holds as much ammo as it does, it’s still a bit much on a hot summer day. Or for those of us with too many dirt-bike miles on our backs and knees.

Which leads us back to the 2012 SHOT Show and the unveiling of the XD-S in .45 ACP. The ruling paradigm had been for decades: If it was polymer frame, if it used a striker, it had to be fat and hold half a box of ammo (and, for most shooters, it had to be in 9mm or .40 S&W). While you can’t really call an XD-M of any size “fat,” they still were a tad portly. On the other hand, the single-stack XD-S, in .45 ACP, was as flat as could be. Flatter than a 1911, if you have to know. And the flex of polymer, combined with the shape of the frame, made recoil no big deal, despite the small size and light weight.

So the family of Springfields was turning into the firearms equivalent of the Borg; they were going to be everywhere, and you might as well just get one. But there was a fly in the ointment. The XD-S in .45, while being really compact, had (in the minds of some shooters) a couple of strikes against it. It didn’t hold much ammo, and it would really paste your hands if you fed it serious loads. When I was first testing it, the wonder of such a small, slim package outweighed the work of shooting it. We were all so happy with it, we didn’t care about—or notice—the recoil.

Then I had a chance to have a go with the latest generation of defensive ammo here at the home range, and it became work. In testing the new XD-S 9mm, I matched it up with its big brother in .45 and the XD-M Compact 3.8 in 9mm. The XD-S .45, with the standard magazine, holds five rounds plus one and provides too small a grip for me to get my hands on it. Recoil is sharp. With the extra-length magazine, and its frame-size sleeve, the XD-S .45 became much more manageable. But they are still more hassle than a lot of people who carry are willing to put up with.

Enter the XD-S 9mm. Now, all of a sudden, we have something that is about as easy to stop looking at as Alana De La Garza. The XD-S 9mm is as flat as the .45 version and an ounce or so lighter. But where the .45 holds five rounds, the 9mm holds seven (the extended version holds nine). As flat as it is, packing it all day long will be a lot easier than any double-stack 9mm would be. And with its 3.3-inch barrel, the nose end of the pistol isn’t going to cam off of your hip and jam the tang into your kidney.

The great thing about the XD-S 9mm, besides being so convenient to carry, is that it works just like the rest of the XDm family. And much like the original XD. If you know how to run any of those, you’ll know all you need to about using the XD-S. And when it comes time to take it apart to clean it—and blow out the lint and dust bunnies from daily carry—the XD-S disassembles just like the XD pistols before it; you have to dry-fire your XD-S in order to disassemble it.

But in the XD-S, Springfield went a step further. If you have left the magazine in the frame, you can’t move the disassembly lever. And if you have left the lever in its up, disassembled position, you can’t make a magazine fit home. In other words, you’ve got to remove the magazine to disassemble, and you have to finish assembly before you can get a magazine to fit and lock.

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