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Springfield 3.8 XDm Compact Review

by Patrick Sweeney   |  June 24th, 2011 21

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.

Multiple-Use Magazines
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.

Power Factoring
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.

The author found the 3.8 Compact’s recoil comparable to a lightweight, Commander-size 1911. The larger backstrap surface distributes the force over a larger area of your hand.

  • gary

    I was so thrilled with my compact XDm, I have given 1 to my daughter as a house warming gift and now have 2 to myself. I did however change out the sights on all to the Advange Tactical Sighting system. For old eyes these sights are awesome. I can hold a 2 inch grouping at 25 feet consistently with this weapon of choice for carry. My daughter also likes the compact, and the sights. This auto is one to look at up close and personal when on the market for a compact carry choice. Awesome little package.

  • Dail

    And now it comes in 45ACP and carries 14 rounds.

  • JP Hammond

    Got one in .40SW when I got a XDs the other day. shoot them both yesterday and they were very very nice. The fiber optic front on the 45 is a nice bonus. Can not go wrong with either!

  • MFF

    I got mine about a year ago. Put over 1000 rounds, very accurate. I was luck as Springfield sent me twice the "Gear up" acessories, so now I have 8 mas in total,

  • Roadking

    After much research that included this article I purchased the 9mm version of the XDm 3.8 compact. I'm very pleased. This firearm fits well in the grip and has not failed at all. Great package with all accessories included. No regrets what so ever!

  • Michael in Michigan

    Having owned the 4.5 XDm's in both 9mm and 45, when I wanted to purchase a new pistol for concealed carry, I purchased the 3.8 compact. The fact that I would use the 9mm full capacity mags in the gun and that when I had purchased the 4.5" XDm and got the deal with the extra mags from Springfield made getting this gun make perfect sense! It shoots like a dream, I get almost as good of groupings with the 3.8" as I do with my full sized XDm. Similarly I purchased the XDS as well, and that little gun did not disappoint. Having purchased many different brands of pistols at this point, I have decided to standardize any new purchases by first looking to Springfield Armory and the XDm line. At this point I have put well over 1000 rounds through the 3.8 and it just seems to get better over time and with more use. Way to go Springfield! You make amazing products that this gun owner and buyer will continue to buy for years to come!

    P.S. – Next comes the 3.8 compact in 45! Can't wait to shoot that!

  • jeremy bowlin

    Guys and Gals i have owned hundreds of firearms. way more then i can remember. I have carried a few dozen different hand guns. From kimbers,colts,smith&wessons,glocks you name it i have probably shot it owned it or carried it. I just decided to give my CW9 KAHR to the wife since she just got her CCW permit. So shopping i went for another glock to carry. I could not find what i wanted during this time of crazy gun sales so i started researching. i read a little on the M&P and the springfield XDM 3.8 in 9mm. I finally got to put my hands on a few pistols and the one that felt like it was another limb of the human body was the 3.8 XDM. Took it home and started really checking it out. Very nice trigger on the xdm. Lot better then a glock ever thought about having. smooth operation threw out the weapon. nice fit and finish all the way around. Took it out to do some shooting and i was very impressed. Super accurate. It will out shoot the kimbers and colts that i have paid twice the money for. Recoil is neal to none if your recoil shy this is the pistol for you. Its not as noise is not near as bad as a 1911 or glock neither. Function while chambering a round a round is smooth and fast. Unlike the colt defenders i have had. This is a very well thought out pistol. Im a very picky guy when it comes to anything i buy. and i have to say i am very pleased with the XDM 3.8 in 9mm. I will have a couple other XDm in the real near future plus i will have a Xds as well. Springfield you guys have came up with a perfect pistol that i would put my life on if god forbid it ever came to that. I have no worries that this pistol will function anytime and everytime. Cant say enough good about this gun. If your looking for a IWB holster look no farther then the crossbreed IWB. Blows Galcos IWB kingtuk out of the warter. the crossbreed is very comfy and dont dig in your side at anytime any position. I will never fully trust a colt,kimber,or smith ever again had Fail to feed with several of each. I can trust my XDm thanks springfield.

  • John

    I bought my XDm .40 about a year ago after much research and am very pleased with the purchase. Not only is the gun extremely accurate, the trigger pull and performance is second to none. I use it as my CCW of choice and also use the crossbreed holster which is also fantastic. I haven't found anything else out there that an all around perfect weapon as the XDm regarless of the caliber. My wife loves my .40 so much that we have decided to get her the 9mm version.

    • Dana

      Doesn't the .40 convert to the 9mm, so all you would have to buy is another barrel right?

  • jason

    I would really like to purchase an xdm compact 3.8 9mm bi-tone. All the dealers in my area cannot get one right now. Does anyone know where I can get one from? (eastern IA)

    • Dennis

      Wish you luck I can't find anything that's decent either its a real expensive gun or a real cheap gun. Would love to find a XDM 3.8 9mm.

    • Joe

      Jason… I just purchased the XDm .40 S&W from BW Outfitters in Anita, IA (west central Iowa). I'm in the Kansas City area, so it will be shipped through my FFL here, but they were listing more online at gunbroker.com. I didn't shop for 9 mm models, but I'd start there if I were you. Good luck finding what you are looking for.

    • jason

      thanks guys. i placed an order with b&b shooting in eastern iowa today. when they get one in, i'm first in line.
      jason

  • julio d garcia

    i bought one for my wife after some serious researching, i picked the xd sc, the capacity, the size and not so small that it would be uncomfortable to shoot, we put some night sights and a ct laser, it has such a nice trigger and the weight of the slide makes it so ez to shoot, i always been a glock man but now i wish i could trade my g 26 for her gun but she hates the grip of my glock, but between you and me i luv the grip on her xd.

  • duster

    traded my pm45 for xmmcompact 40 3.8 like the gun haven’t shot it yet hope I made the right choice

  • Officer

    OI Have the XD and love it. So I bought the XDm compact to carry off duty and love it even more. I put my life on this gun that means a lot .

  • Timothy N

    Just Ordered Mine On 12/27/2013, Can’t Wait Till It Comes In!!!

  • Ox

    I love my 40 it is a great gun. I picked mine up on 12/31/13 and have already put over 400 rounds thru it with NO problems what so ever . I did buy 2 more 16 round mags for it so I don’t have to reload as often. Cleaning of it is a snap easy to break down and clean. I dad bought the 9mm version and loves it.

  • Chad Meyer

    I’m a 1911 guy and had zero use for plastic pistols. I bought a near-new XDM 3.8 .40 from a friend who needed some quick cash for $400. I intended to flip it for a $100 profit or so since the local Cabela’s was selling them for $650 at the time. Six months later I’ve still got it. I’ve only fired it a few times but I really like it. Coming as a package deal with all the basic accessories is a real bonus. I’ll still never own a Glock but I’ll probably never sell my XDM.

  • http://gotchickens.blogspot.com Heidi E

    I bought my first handgun in 2013. It was an XDM 9mm 3.5 and I do not regret that decision for one moment. I have only one issue with it, it needs a lever safety just above the hand grip like a 1911, in my opinion. My husband believes that it is not a “safe” conceal carry firearm due to the lack of the lever safety. It’s his opinion, and he has a lot of them but in that one I agree that it needs an LS. :-)

    Other than that, I LOVE my handgun though!! :-) Never had any jams (which I cannot say for the Taurus 380. That is the worst gun I’ve ever bought, & jams REPEATEDLY).

    Could I use the photo in this post as a comment photo??

    • Josh

      My first handgun was purchased in 2013 too and it was an XDM 3.5 as well! I love it too! Great handgun I will never sell it! :)

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