Springfield XD: Striker-Fired Excellence

Marketing is a funny thing. Sometimes it can get folks to buy something they really shouldn’t and sometimes it can help them buy something that they really should but otherwise might not. Such is the case with the Springfield Armory XD series of pistols.

Springfield Armory, the self-proclaimed “oldest name in American firearms” or something like that, is actually a relative newcomer to the industry. Yes, the name is old but unlike the US government-owned armory, these folks haven’t been around for over 100 years. Nevertheless, they make some outstanding guns. I’ve already written about my 1911 TRP and how much I love it. I will shortly be doing a piece on the M1A rifle, also one of my favorites. The funny thing about the XD is that SA doesn’t actually make it. It isn’t even an American design. It is however a fine pistol, deserving of its recent accolades.

In the late 1990’s the Croatian IM Metal Company developed a pistol for the Croatian army. This design was released in 1999 as the HS2000. The pistol made its way to the US in 2000 but it did not sell very well. Late in 2001 S.A. became the sole importer of the pistol and began marketing it as the XD (Extreme Duty) series of pistols. The XD had some very minor design changes but is functionally and cosmetically identical to the HS2000.

I first bought a .45 Tactical and then later an XD9 sub-compact. I liked both pistols very much. At first glance they can be mistaken for Glocks, especially if you don’t look at the grip closely. The slide is very blocky and wide which is in sharp contrast with the grip which is impossibly thin and incredibly comfortable, even with my small hands. In fact, the ergonomics of the pistol are what seems to be the favorite feature among owners everywhere.

Even with the double-stack .45acp rounds inside the grip, my XD45 Tactical was comfortable and easy to handle and shoot, even with one hand. This is a testament to modern polymer technology. The walls of the grip must be very thin but I never noticed any problem, nor have I ever heard of a crack or break in the grip.

In terms of safety, the XD has both a grip safety, like the 1911, and a trigger safety, like the Glock. Later models also have an external thumb safety. There is thankfully no mag disconnect.

The triggers in these pistols are typical of striker-fired guns. Long take-up with short over-travel and reset. Not bad at all but if you want better, Springer Precision can “Springer-ize” the action for you. SA’s custom shop also offers carry/duty and competition action jobs.

I think the XD and its progeny the XDm will be around for a very long time. They are accurate, reliable, easy to field-strip and clean, and above all they are very comfortable to shoot. Lucky for most of us those marketing folks steered us right this time!

In search of the perfect 9mm for USPSA

In the Spring of 2010 I asked my friend Glyn if I could test out some of his 9mm pistols. I had been shooting the Ruger SR9 in USPSA matches for a number of months and although I was doing well with it I wanted to know if there might be a better solution out there. He had several different popular models so I started by handling and then dry firing them. Here’s how that part went:

  • H&K USP 9mm: really not a good fit for my hands and the trigger seemed stiff. The grip was just awkward.
  • Beretta 92FS: too fat in my hand and very heavy. Trigger was OK.
  • Springfield XD9 Tactical: fine ergonomics but the trigger was squishy with a very long take-up and reset.
  • Beretta PX4 Storm: I liked this one a lot. It felt really good, had a good trigger and it looks…well, cool.
  • Smith and Wesson M&P 9: I also liked this one very much. It felt great in my hand and the trigger was excellent.
Berreta PX4 Storm 9mm
Berreta PX4 Storm 9mm

I decided to next try shooting the PX4 and the M&P. Before I discuss that I should clarify something: I have owned several XDs and I had even shot the XD mentioned above for about a week to see how I liked the particular sights on it. (Dawson FO front/BoMar blackout rear). I do like the XD, especially in the larger calibers but the current effort was specifically to find the best gun to run in USPSA Production and frankly the XD (from the factory) just doesn’t get it for me. Yes, Springer triggers are great but that puts the price of the gun fairly high and the trigger and grip safeties are just a nuisance during competition.

Springfield Armory XD9 Tactical

So, out we went to the range. I will say that both the PX4 and the M&P shot really nicely but the M&P seemed to have the edge. I later discovered that the M&P has a very low bore-axis, which probably had a lot to do with my perception. This of course keeps the recoil forces close to the plane of one’s forearms, thereby keeping the muzzle from rising as much. That whole lever principle I guess.

One thing I noticed about the PX4 that I actually did not like was the location of the ambidextrous safety. When I racked the slide those big things were right in the way, which gave my fingers a raking every time I did it. Also, while the pistol is very light and feels wonderful in my hand, it is a bit bulky. But it does look really cool.

In the end I had to say that the M&P was the clear winner. I later went on to see a lot of great Production shooters using that very pistol. I’m not at all surprised.

Smith & Wesson M&P9

I went back to using my SR9 and and continued shooting it at matches (along with my 1911 for Limited/10 occasionally) for about six months but this past week I had the opportunity to buy the very gun I had tested so…I did.

Now, I’ve been accused more than once of being a Ruger-phile, Ruger-centric or perhaps just a shill in general for that company. I will be the first to admit that I have become very fond of a number of Ruger firearms but I will assure the reader that this is purely a matter of coincidence. The purchase of these guns was never done on the basis of the Ruger name but on the basis of either a targeted need or an opportunistic purchase. So, as much fun as I’ve had with the SR9 I have to say at the end of the day that with all the effort and money I have put into making that gun as good as I could for USPSA, the M&P smokes it right out of the proverbial box. Of course the M&P price is substantially higher than the SR9 so it’s not really surprising.

One more thing about the SR9: I still think that for the money it is a great gun for Production class shooters who want a cost-effective gun with which to get started. I also love the SR9c as a CCW gun and don’t see that changing. However, for where I’m at with USPSA I think it’s time to move on to something that suits my development better.

I guess I should mention Glock at this point lest I get the G-men after me 😉 Yes, I’ve shot the G17 and the G34 many times. They are great guns in many respects, especially the 34 but the ergonomics just do not work for me. That grip angle is simply a deal-breaker. I just can’t make my wrists bend forward beyond that classic 17 degree angle common to the 1911 and most other classes of modern auto-loading pistol. If that gun works for you that’s super but please don’t tell me I don’t know what works for me.

So, where does that leave us? Oh yeah, ready to start the M&P adventure!

Stay tuned…