Springfield recently introduced their popular semiautomatic XD-M pistol chambered in 10mm Auto, a fact that jerked more than one spontaneous “Hallelujah!” from the lips of savvy shooters across the nation.
To understand just why this is such a big deal, let’s first take a look at the 10mm Auto cartridge. After all, the XD-M has been available in 9mm Luger, .40 S&W and .45 Auto for years, and many shooters figure that spectrum adequately covers almost every shooting need.
Although the 10mm Auto is sometimes said to have been the love child of the FBI and commissioned after the infamous Miami Shootout of 1986, that’s erroneous. The cartridge was in fact Col. Jeff Cooper’s conception, and it was originally launched in 1983 by Norma, three years before the FBI learned the hard way about the lack of power in its standard-issue sidearms.
Delightfully, the 10mm’s parent cartridge case is the obsolete, vintage .30 Remington — a bottlenecked, rimless semiauto rifle cartridge. Cooper originally cut it down to a fraction shy of 1 inch and loaded it with .38-40 bullets. Currently, SAAMI lists 37,500 psi as the 10mm Auto’s maximum operating pressure.
Originally, full-power loads pushed 180-grain bullets in the neighborhood of 1,300 feet per second (fps). Contrast that to 9mm loads firing 124-grain bullets at about 1,100 fps and .45 Auto loads pushing 230-grain bullets at around 890 fps. That’s a big difference.
In a glorious move, after agonizing self-scrutiny of its fighting tools and the results of the notorious event in Miami, the Bureau adopted the 10mm in 1989. The choice was sound but short-lived. Agents struggled with the cartridge’s admittedly zesty recoil. A shortened, downloaded version — the .40 S&W — was eventually inspired by the FBI and introduced by Smith & Wesson.
Unfortunately, the .40 had little reason to exist and little staying power. It only lasted the short decades it did because of its widespread adoption by U.S. law enforcement (LE). As LE discovered that premium, expanding 9mm bullets do just about everything a .40-caliber version does with more magazine capacity and less recoil, the .40 S&W languished. Sales have become so slow that my local gunshop will not take a .40 S&W-caliber firearm in trade.
Lest I’m accused of digressing, the .40 S&W’s demise actually is pertinent to this article. It’s caused, in great part, by a resurgence of the 10mm, which is a far better performer and not only has solid reasons to exist, it performs certain tasks better than any other semiauto cartridge on the market.
Until 2018, 10mm enthusiasts had two readily available, well-proven pistol choices: Glocks and 1911s. Yes, SIG Sauer offered it’s outstanding P220 starting in 2015 and various semi-vintage models such as the Bren Ten and S&W 1076 could be found, but for the most part, 10mm shooters were either 1911 or Glock fans.
There are plenty of 1911s chambered in 10mm, but for those that came down on the polymer-framed, high-capacity side of the fence, there was Glock, Glock and Glock.
Not that there’s anything wrong with Glock 10mms. On the contrary, they are superb pistols, and the company offers several variations in size and capacity.
However, options are always welcomed, and Springfield leaped into a ripe market. Polymer-frame guns tend to be less expensive than any quality 1911, hold roughly twice as many shots, weigh less and can be cheerfully used and abused without hurting them.
A Utah highway patrolman once said to me, “When you’re sliding along a cinderblock wall in the dark and the butt of your Glock scrapes against it, you don’t cringe like you would if it was a nice 1911.”
The Springfield Option
Two versions are available: a 4.5-inch barreled, standard slide with a fixed rear sight and a 5.25-inch barreled, ported slide (that reduces weight to nearly as light as the 4.5-inch version) with an adjustable rear sight.
These are hand-filling pistols. They’re not petite, nor should they be. The 10mm recoils with gusto, and a full-size handle makes that recoil easier to control.
That’s not to say that the XD-M 10s feel chunky, but rather the opposite. For a fist-filling, full-size pistol, they’re surprisingly svelte in the hand.
Thanks to the full-size grip, the XD-M 10 holds 15 rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber. The magazine release is ambidextrous, too. You don’t have to remove a part and reinstall it on the other side to switch because there’s already a button on each side.
This is particularly nice in a full-size frame that’s large enough that most folks have to shift the pistol in their grasp to access the mag release with their thumb. Instead, shooters can maintain their grasp and drop the magazine using their trigger finger.
In the polymer-pistol world, the primary characteristic that sets the XD line apart from Glock is the grip safety. With roots clear back to John Browning’s 1911, it prevents the pistol from firing until firmly gripped in the shooting hand. Because the grip safety is disengaged when the pistol is grasped, it requires no extra thought — a good thing in a desperate situation.
XDs also have an “Ultra Safety Assurance” trigger-shoe-type safety similar to Glock’s Safe Action trigger. Until the hinged blade set in the center of the trigger is depressed, the trigger can’t fire the gun. It’s subtle but effective, and it helps prevent accidental discharges (ADs) caused by hooking the edge of the trigger on a holster edge. And finally, an internal firing-pin block prevents ADs caused by dropping or anything else.
Three rail-type slots are manufactured into the dust cover forward of the triggerguard and provide a spot to mount a light. It’s a smart move when using the pistol for nighttime home defense or to investigate suspicious sounds outside your tent in bear country.
As an aside, I prefer a quick-detach light that I install when assigning the gun nightstand duty or when I crawl into my tent because I don’t like having the light’s extra weight and bulk when carrying in the backcountry. When unwillingly following steaming piles of bear scat up a wilderness trail, it’s best to keep your gear as simple and snag-free as possible.
An aggressive “Mega-Lock” frame texture provides a nonslip grip even when wet, cold and muddy or bloody, helping tame the recoil of the 10mm. Interchangeable backstraps enable each shooter to finesse the grip to personal hand-fitting preference. A moderate but entirely adequate beavertail-type profile at the top rear of the grip frame prevents slide bite.
Springfield engineered tactile and visible loaded-chamber and cocking indicators into the XD-M design. A small but distinct tab protrudes above the top of the slide just aft of the ejection port while a cartridge is in the chamber, and the silvery rear of the striker protrudes from the back of the slide when cocked.
Deep slide serrations fore and aft on the slide make it easy to grab and function the forged steel slide, even with the stout recoil spring paired with the 10mm cartridge. An ultra-durable, corrosion-resistant Melonite finish protects the slide.
Atop the slide, sights are securely dovetailed in. Both the 4.5- and 5.25-inch versions feature petite front sights fit with red fiber optics, although those on the long-slide version are slightly taller. At the rear, the 4.5-inch version has a stout low-profile “combat” rear sight with serrated matte-black face inset with two white dots, while the 5.25 version has a robust sight that is click-adjustable for both windage and elevation and features a simple, serrated matte-black face without dots.
As mentioned earlier, a massive port is machined into the top front of the 5.25’s slide. There are no corresponding ports in the top of the barrel; its sole purpose is to lighten the pistol. A match-grade barrel inhabits the slide, and it flat-out produces.
XD-Ms are a striker-fired design, so lock time is extremely fast, but triggers have that slightly spongy feel native to the type.
It’s worth noting that Springfield offers a trigger job service for those that want above-par triggers. Check out the sidebar for details.
One other XD-M characteristic that bears mentioning is the ease of disassembly. Simply remove the magazine, lock the slide rearward, rotate the disassembly lever a quarter-turn clockwise and give the slide a slight rearward pull to release the slide-stop lever. Keep ahold of it, because the recoil spring will push the slide forward off the frame.
Lift the recoil spring and barrel out, clean and replace, and whisk the slide back on to the frame. Engage the slide-lock lever, rotate the disassembly lever home and drop the slide. Done.
Range Testing and Field Work
At one point, the XD-M 10mm ran a 10,000-round reliability torture test with no malfunctions, firing Federal’s 180-grain Hydra Shok load. The testers lubed the pistol every 1,000 rounds, changed the recoil spring every 2,000 rounds and ran all 10,000 rounds in two days. Impressive stuff.
I scrounged up a variety of factory ammo ranging from 155-grain Barnes TAC-XPD up to Buffalo Bore’s 220-grain Hard Cast FN and headed to the range. From sandbags, I fired a series of three consecutive five-shot groups for average with five different loads in the 5.25 and six different loads in the 4.5.
Accuracy was impressive, with all loads averaging less than 2.5 inches at 25 yards. Several of the most accurate loads clustered into groups pushing that magical 1-inch mark.
Point of impact (POI) with the fixed-sight 4.5-inch version was ideal, putting shots about 1 inch above the flat top of the front sight at 25 yards. In a pleasant turn of events, POI varied little between the various projectile weights. As for the 5.25 version, it’s adjustable sight made zeroing the pistol easy.
With most ammo tested, the pistols were 100 percent reliable. I did experience a few failures to feed (FTF) with both pistols. In both cases, it was with the two most potent (read high pressure) loads in my repertoire — Federal’s 180-grain Trophy Bonded JSP and Buffalo Bore’s 220-grain Hard Cast FN.
At first I wondered if I was limp-wristing the pistols and inducing the malfunctions, because I was shooting groups with a fairly relaxed grip. However, I still experienced malfunctions after transitioning to a death grip. My guess is that the FTFs are caused by excessive slide speed caused by the max-pressure ammo. No other load of the many tested caused a single issue. Presumably, should one be set on firing maximum-power ammo, installing a heavier recoil spring should resolve the issue. Such springs are available from Wolff Gunsprings (gunsprings.com).
Two of my three malefactor loads are personal go-to 10mm standards. Federal’s 180-grain Trophy Bonded JSP is superbly accurate and is arguably the finest all-purpose 10mm hunting load on the market. Buffalo Bore’s 220-grain Hard Cast FN is debatably the best deep-penetrating 10mm load available and is invariably what I carry when packing a 10mm for backup defense in grizzly or brown-bear country. So, I went ahead and ordered 22-pound Wolff springs.
Built for Bear
A 10mm for grizzly bear, you ask? Indeed. It will not rock a big bear with uncivilized intentions back on its haunches with a single center-mass shot. However, I can shoot it fast and accurately, and a 220-grain hard-cast bullet drives deep and penetrates through heavy bone, including massive brown bear skulls.
My other go-to load is Hornady’s 175-grain Critical Duty ammo. It’s loaded lighter and thus doesn’t offer quite the potency in the field, but for personal protection in suburban areas, it’s awesome. This load enables slightly faster follow-up shots (because of the reduced recoil) and provides best-in-class terminal performance on two-legged predators.
For daily carry in a variety of situations, I obtained two holsters from Galco Gunleather. One is the svelte Silhouette, an abbreviated strong-side hip holster with a thumb break. It’s ideal for either model and packs wonderfully. Plus, it’s concealable beneath just a light jacket. The other is a Miami Classic shoulder holster with double sheath that holds two spare magazines. I like it for those times when my lower back is acting up and anything putting pressure on my hips hurts. Plus, it plays nice with a backpack.
So which 10mm Springfield is right for you? That depends on whether you’d like to hunt with it. If so, by all means opt for the longer-barreled 5.25 version. It provides a little more velocity, and, more importantly, the longer sight radius makes it easier to shoot precisely.
If, on the other hand, your primary plan is to carry a 10mm for personal protection, the 4.5 is arguably better. It’s a shade lighter. Its shorter length makes it easier to draw quickly and allows it to settle on target faster. Its rear sight, being one fixed chunk of steel, is more durable. Keep in mind, it’s too big for everyday concealed carry in light clothing, but for rural and backcountry carry, it’s outstanding.
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