If you have been following things firearms-related in the slightest, you know all about the Springfield XDm series. And if you don’t, I have to wonder whether there is a polite way to ask, “What rock have you been living under?”
For those who aren’t up to speed, here you go: The XDm is the latest of the polymer-frame, striker-fired pistols, and it corrects some earlier designs, both Springfield’s and those of competitors. First of all, the slide does not have the proportions of a shoebox; it is angled, geometric, aggressive-looking and fully up to the task of handling any 9mm (or .40) load that comports with SAAMI specs. The angled slide is both easier to pack comfortably and easier to work, as the slide serrations grab back when you get a hold of them.
It is accurate due to the match-dimensioned chamber and bore and the snug, but not excessively tight fit of barrel to slide. Fully hardened, the barrel is not going to wear to a sloppy fit with less than a lifetime’s worth of ammo. Also, the barrel will not throw a hissy fit if you happen to use or load ammo containing lead bullets.
The magazines hold more rounds than comparable polymer-frame pistols. The full-size XDm in 9mm holds 19 rounds in the magazine, with the 20th in the chamber (the .40 version: 16+1). To gain that capacity, the designers did not have to resort to overly large frame dimensions and even found a way to have interchangeable backstraps as well. For you southpaws, the magazine release is fully ambidextrous.
In short, the XDm is everything you’d want in a polymer-frame, striker-fired pistol, and the shooting public has realized that.
Make It Smaller
How could Springfield possibly improve the XDm design? Well, one of the first things a firearms designer learns, once its efforts have gone to the shooting public, is that a lot of customers actually want something else. Make it a full-size, 20-round duty pistol and the cries will ring out, “Make it smaller; we can’t carry it all day.” Make it as small as your design skills allow and you’ll find that others will complain, “Make it bigger; we can’t hold on to it to shoot as well as we’d like.” Split the difference and try to come up with a too-hot, too-cold, Goldilocks-type solution and the results of your compromise efforts will be that both extremes will complain that you’ve left them out.
What to do? Simple: Come up with the XDm 3.8 Compact. The barrel and slide have been shortened, so the barrel is 3.8 inches from breech face to muzzle (hence the numeric designation in the name). On the frame, the bottom of the polymer housing has been shortened to the point that a flush magazine will only hold 13 rounds.
Now, before the complaints roll in (“it doesn’t hold enough rounds,” “it’s too small to shoot well”), Springfield had anticipated this. It could have made the frame even shorter, but it decided not to, as ultra-compacts can be a real bear to hang on to while shooting. Instead, the company made it usefully compact without being micro-framed.
The frame is big enough, but that still reduces capacity, so Springfield designed a sleeve that will slide over a full-length magazine. This fills the gap between the baseplate of the otherwise too long full-capacity magazine and the bottom of the frame of the compact pistol. Voilà! You have the Springfield XDm 3.8, with a full-capacity magazine. Or, if you want, you have the 3.8 Compact in its compact guise.
The 3.8 XDm Compact, with a full-capacity magazine and the X-Tension on it, is the exact same size as the regular 3.8 XDm. Same size, same weight, same capacity, but with one extra: You can decide what size it will be as you need it.
You can have it any way you want it just by swapping magazines. The sleeve has a name: the X-Tension. If you have existing full-length XDm magazines, you can simply get some X-Tensions from Springfield to slide on, and now your existing magazines work in your 3.8 Compact. If you want to go to a match and shoot all the big mags in your full-size XDm, slide off the X-Tensions and your full-size pistol will now accept them. Swap them back and forth—your XDm pistols won’t care, provided, of course, you do not mix your 9mm and .40 magazines. That would be bad; they would not feed well, and you would be disappointed, to say the least.
The XDm 3.8 Compact can be had in all the usual Springfield variants: 9mm or .40, all-black or bi-tone, where the stainless slide is left a brushed, unblackened finish to contrast with the black polymer frame.
The barrel on the 3.8 Compact is like all other XDm pistols: stainless steel, with match-dimension bore and chamber, fitted to the slide.
It is also Melonite treated, a surface-hardening treatment that produces a very rust-resistant, hard surface but does not make the part brittle. It also does not, like some hardening processes, risk warpage of the treated part. Your barrel starts straight and remains so even after being made harder.
The hardness and smoothness of the barrel make it (along with traditional rifling) perfectly fine to use with lead bullets. Those of you who reload with cast bullets, or even cast your own, will find the XDm 3.8 Compact as accommodating in their use as all the other XDm pistols are.
The XDm series is perfect for use in Production Division (USPSA or IDPA) as long as you remember to only load them with 10 rounds per magazine for the match. Since the magazines will hold more, it is up to you to count as you load or risk earning a procedural penalty for having too many bullets on tap. Those competitions call for a lot of practice ammo, and many shooters put in their practice with lead-bullet reloads. The XDm 3.8 Compact won’t have a problem there.
You will find, however, that a shorter barrel will cost you some velocity. Not a lot, but if you are loading your own ammo and have a competition load that just barely makes Minor out of a full-size pistol, it may come up short out of the 3.8 Compact. This is a case where having a chronograph—or access to one—is vital. If you load “what the book says” or what your full-size pistol delivers, you’ll risk coming up short in power.
As for defensive ammo, it is all well over the threshold for competition in power, so if you are well heeled enough to shoot factory JHPs, you’ll be fine there. For your carry needs, the 3.8 will trim a bit of velocity compared with your full-size XDm, but not enough that the local felons will notice. While the majority of the ammo I tested produced velocities a bit less than they would have with the 41/2-inch barrel of a full-size XDm, they were still plenty fast enough.
The Speer Gold dots, for example, were still over 1,200 fps, and the various 147-grain loads were all close to 1,000 fps. And as the 9mm requires velocity to do well, that’s a good thing. Accuracy was also right up there. While you may find yourself handicapped if you are in a bullseye match with your XDm 3.8 Compact, you won’t be handicapped in a USPSA, IDPA or even a PPC match.
As seems to happen whenever something new shows up here at Gun Abuse Central, bad weather arrived along with the pistol. Nearly a foot of snow arrived right on the heels of the XDm 3.8, and as a result, all my 9mm empties will have to wait for the spring thaw. (If some club member shows up before I do, he’ll find a brass bonanza.)
I was not expecting—nor did I experience—any problems with the 3.8. It fed, fired, extracted and ejected with metronome-like efficiency. The longer grip was useful with the hotter loads and gave me more leverage to control recoil.
Not that the recoil is bad. The 3.8 Compact, for being compact, is not some featherweight that will hammer and abuse your hand when you shoot it. At 27 ounces empty, it bucks about the same as a lightweight, Commander-size 1911, with the advantage in recoil of the larger surface of the backstrap distributing the force over a larger area of your hand.
While the recoil was not a big deal, the accuracy was. I found it easy to stand under the roof of our range (no need to shovel snow just for a place to shoot) and hammer the 100-yard gong.
A Packable Solution
For daily carry, any holster that works with the XDm 9mm/.40 series will work with the 3.8 Compact, and magazines are magazines, so you have a plethora of choices there as well. Even setting aside the holsters for the XDm with 41/2-inch barrels, Galco has no less than 41 holsters and handbags in which you can park your 3.8 Compact for daily wear.
For maximum concealment and comfort, do what a lot of us have been doing for a long time now: Start with the short mags and have the big ones for reloads. Stepping out with the 9mm XDm 3.8 Compact, you’d have 14 rounds in it and another 38 rounds in a pair of spare, full-capacity magazines. That’s 52 rounds before you have to consider a backup, knife or waiting for the cavalry to arrive. In a .40-caliber version that total is 44 rounds (11+1, with two 16-round magazines).
However you slice it, that’s a whole lot of ammo.