There is a constant struggle between capacity and comfort when it comes to concealed carry.
We all want something easy to carry, but many of us want more protection than what the most comfortable handgun can provide, at least when it comes to caliber and capacity. That's where the high-cap shorties come in. You know, the double-stack pistols that have had the frame shortened to make them less likely to print through a shirt or jacket.
Every time I shoot one of the stubby compacts, I can't help but think of Joe Pesci in "Goodfellas." ("You think I'm funny? Do I amuse you?")
I mean, just how are you supposed to hold on to these things? I think we've all established that I'm — in some aspects — not a 21st century guy. My cell phone is too primitive to know what an app is, and the frame of a single-stack pistol is the correct, comfortable and proper design.
Except, those stubby compacts hold more bullets when the grip gets short. So it is with the latest Springfield Armory XD, the Mod.2 Sub-Compact. First introduced in 9mm and .40, here we have the next obvious step.
Starting with the previous version of the XD Sub-Compact, Springfield fussed over pretty much everything. To start, the Mod.2 has a 3.3-inch barrel in .45 ACP, which holds nine rounds in the stubby magazine. A supplied full-size magazine carries 13.
The 9mm and .40 versions have 3-inch barrels, but the rest of the dimensions are unchanged with this new model. Springfield resculpted the slide to make it slimmer for ease of carry. Even while it was made slimmer, the shape of the cocking serrations were changed to give you more tactile grip at the back of the slide.
The Posi-wedge grooves are cut into the slide at the bottom of the cocking serrations recessed panel. Not only do you have the grippy serrations, they are in a shallow pocket that increases the amount of gripping area your hand experiences.
On top of the slide, Springfield Armory added a fiber-optic front sight and a low-profile, no-snag extended rear sight wearing a pair of white dots on it. The bottom rear edge of the rear sight curves down to follow the curve of the slide to offer your eye a cleaner transition to the sight blade and less of a gap to catch your eye between slide and sight.
The frame has likewise been worked over. The first thing to notice is that it's slimmer. By carving away all the excess polymer (not that there was much there to begin with), Springfield made the grip thinner and easier to grasp. It also lifted the beavertail to get your hand higher on the frame and raised the frontstrap at the triggerguard to get that finger higher as well. Lifting the frontstrap is a feature that people often pay a custom gunsmith some coin to do to their 1911s. Springfield makes it a standard feature on the Mod.2 XD.
As one more aspect of the "making it slimmer" features list of the XD Mod.2 Sub-Compact, Springfield shaved the disassembly lever to make it less of an impediment in your holster.
The changes don't stop there (one wonders what is in the water in Geneseo). The company changed the texture of the gripping area of the frame. Called "GripZone," at first I thought it was a step too far. How do you improve a grippy, nonslip frame? Springfield looked at the frame as a surface you grasped not evenly or with the same parts of your hand. After all, if your fingers on the front are doing one thing and the heel of your hand another, should they have the same texture to perform different tasks?
Finally, after much testing and discussion, the GripZone was divided into three areas, Zones 1, 2 and 3. Zone 1 is a medium-aggressive nonslip texture to give you an anti-slip surface without making it feel like you're holding onto a squirming block of coarse sandpaper.
You don't need the maximum nonslip everywhere. Zone 2 is the max-traction area, and Springfield made it as aggressive as it could without it rasping your hand. Where you need the maximum grip is where the Zone 2 texture is laid. Zone 3 is everywhere else, where a nonslip surface would be nice but your hand — sometimes in the draws, sometimes in transitions — might need to be able to slide a bit to adjust and accommodate.
The end result is a grip frame that grabs you where you need it to, doesn't feel like it's trying to shred your hand and lets go when you do. This is all good. I remember going through Gunsite back in the old days with various pistols that had too-sharp checkering and almost shedding a tear each night as I knocked the newly found sharp edges off the frame with a file.
Here's a pistol you can practice hard with and not have your hand be a mass of bandages and tape at the end of the day.
What Springfield didn't change were the aspects of the XD that it had already perfected awhile back. The pistol still has the grip safety on the back of the frame, one that doesn't need an extra speed bump like many 1911s to make sure your hand properly engages it on the draw.
The Mod.2 also has an accessory rail on the front of the frame to park a light, laser or combo unit. The magazine catch is ambidextrous, so there is no need to swap it to one side or the other. The magazines are unchanged, so if you have a supply of XD mags in the correct caliber, they will work in the Mod.2.
The slide is still forged, stainless, heat-treated and Melonite-treated for the utmost in durability. It has the same USA (Ultra Safety Assurance) trigger that XDs have had all along to make it easy to use and still safe.
The end result for those looking for a daily-carry gun is that it is compact, yet easy to shoot. The barrel is under 3½ inches, and the slide is short to match. The grip is short to make it more comfortable to carry and easier to conceal, with the regular (that is, subcompact) magazine bringing the height up to 4¾ inches.
Mine came in the now-usual Springfield Armory hardcase, complete with holster and magazine carrier, and when I shifted the paperwork around, I found a regular magazine as well as one with an extra sleeve on it at the bottom, called the X-tension.
The X-tension magazine is three-quarters of an inch longer, and the sleeve at the bottom matches the contour and texture of the GripZone. The extra tube length adds capacity, and the X-tension adds grip area. Hallelujah, brothers and sisters.
The regular short magazine is so short that in recoil, my last finger slips off the frame, Zones notwithstanding. (This was true at least in the .45 ACP version. The recoil of the 9mm is soft enough that my finger would probably stay, but we all know what caliber I'd opt for and which one I tested.) The longer magazine adds enough length that my last finger stays with the team and keeps the gun from rising as much in recoil.
The capacity wars were settled a long time ago, and we now have a pretty good idea of how many rounds any size pistol will hold in any caliber, which makes the XD Mod.2 so surprising. In its compact size with the regular magazine, it holds 13 rounds of 9mm, nine of .40 and nine of .45 ACP. The regular magazine (extended, if you view the Sub-Compact size as the regular size) holds 16 rounds of 9mm, 12 of .40 and 13 of .45 ACP.
Wait, what did I say? It holds more rounds of .45 than it does of .40? How can this be? Simple: Double-stack magazines can be made either with flat sidewalls or dimpled, ridged sidewalls. The internal width needed is determined by the diameter of the case.
The exterior is determined by the frame size and the starting width of the tube you use as the magazine. It just so happens that the proportions work out in favor of the .45 this time instead of the usual .40.
All I can say is, I'm glad to have this in .45, and even if the numbers were reversed, giving the .40 the usual boost, I'd opt for .45. It's nice when things work to your advantage.
With its weight of 26 ounces empty, you'd expect the XD Mod.2 to be pretty stout in recoil with .45 ACP ammo. The recoil is noticeable but not in the way you'd expect. The width of the frame, the GripZone, distributes felt recoil evenly and widely in your hand, so the smack isn't that bad.
What you notice is muzzle rise. The front sight rises up quickly and quite a ways, but it snaps back down just as fast. Even the hottest loads were not that sharp in recoil, just coming up a bit more than the average ones did.
I was a bit surprised, pleasantly so, by the velocities I found in the chrono testing. You'd expect a barrel that short (3.3 inches here) to be spitting out bullets at slow speeds, especially in the dead of winter. The ammo companies have been doing their part, and Springfield sure doesn't make slow barrels, because the stubby tube on the Mod.2 Sub-Compact gave faster-than-expected velocities for the loads tested.
One aspect of a compact, or subcompact, pistol that a lot of shooters don't pay enough attention to is accuracy. It's not that the pistol can't be accurate; it can. Locked into a machine rest, any of them is more accurate than 99 percent of the shooters shooting them. If you expect to get as much practical accuracy out of a subcompact as you do from your full-size pistol — XD or other — then, boy, do I have a bridge to sell you.
You see, it just isn't possible. The sight radius is the main culprit here, with the sights 2 inches closer together on the subcompact — Mod.2 or other — than they would be on a full-size XD. This may not seem like much, but the difference in sight radius is significant. The .45 subcompact has a radius that is about three-quarters as long as it is on the full-size XD.
The 9mm and .40 have an even greater difference — just under three-quarters of that of the full-size gun. That is a big difference, and while you can overcome it with practice, it will still be an obstacle.
That said, the groups I shot with the XD Mod.2 Sub-Compact were very good indeed. My personal benchmark with a carry gun is whether I can shoot groups that appear on the target to be smaller in diameter than the apparent width of the front sight. With the Mod.2, this was no problem. I had a chance to try some new ammo from Polycase, and it shot very well for being out-of-the-box ammo. The bullets weigh 114 grains and are soft to shoot.
With the Mod.2 as a carry gun, Springfield Armory has done the seemingly impossible. It has made its already-compact, easy-to-carry XD even more compact, slimmer and easier to shoot, and it hasn't given up anything for it. The remaining question is what magazine to carry in it.
The glib answer would be to carry it holstered with the short magazine and have the extra X-tension-equipped magazine as the spare. What I've found through years of carry is that the slide and barrel are the hardest part to live with, not necessarily to conceal but to be comfortable with.
A too-long slide or barrel levers off of my hip, and the top end of the pistol slide or hammer digs into my kidney. I can use a holster that tucks the grips in tight to my body, but I can't change the results of years of weightlifting and martial arts.
For me, the Mod.2 Sub-Compact carry combo would be simple. I'd get another regular-length magazine, maybe not even bother with an X-tension (I'd practice and see if it made any difference in reload times) and pack the Mod.2 with both.
I'd carry the pistol with the X-tension magazine in it and have the spare on the other side. That would give me 13+1 in the pistol and another 13 in the spare. That's 27 rounds of .45 ACP, which is more than a loaded 1911 and two spares would have.
One of these days, my checkbook is going to burst into flames, and Springfield will be the reason why. The XD Mod.2 Sub-Compact? It will be a big seller until the guys at Springfield just can't help themselves and find ways to enhance it even more.