Gun Review: Springfield XD-M 3.8 9mm

My mother has a “shit list.” You do NOT want to be on my mother’s shit list. She can make Devil’s Island seem like the Ritz Carlton. And once you’re on my mother’s shit list, you’re on it. It doesn’t matter if you suck up to her like a remora fish on a shark. There’s no coming back. I take the same approach to guns. If a firearm fails, I will never trust the gun again. It’s dead to me. Now clock the video above and imagine how I felt when the slide of my new carry gun, the Springfield XD-M, failed to lock back. The Apollo 13 astronauts were the last people to experience the same sort of sinking feeling about a mechanical malfunction. And yet . . .

Between the time I opened the XD-M’s practical, pride-inducing gun case to the moment I handed the XD-M to Adam to test fire, I’d put more than a thousand rounds through Springfield’s 9mm semi-automatic pistol. All kinds of ammo. All kinds of weather. Hakuna mutata. I didn’t experience a single failure to feed or fire. Just lots of good clean ballistic fun.

During one session, I loaded and fired four magazines–19 bullets apiece—at Mr. Paper Target as fast I could muster. Again, no problem (save financial damage). Every time I shot the XD-M, the handgun’s slide did its job. Just like the magazine, trigger and every other moving part.

So . . . what? Had I bonded so deeply with the XD-M that the gun didn’t want to perform for another master?

As crazy as that sounds—and it sounds plenty damn crazy—my affection for the XD-M ran deep. We’d formed the same sort of bond I’d established with my Carrera 4 after blasting through the Swiss Alps at Warp Factor 10. I trusted the XD-M with my life.

Adam had no idea why the XD-M’s slide failed to engage at the end of his string. Once again, Wayne untied the Gordian knot with a simple tug.

Turns out Adam held the XD-M like a Glock, with his thumbs lined up at the bottom of the Croatian gun’s slide. His right thumb rested on top of the slide release, exerting just enough downwards pressure to stop the Springfield’s slide from locking back.

Once Adam adjusted his grip [Sam's hands shown above], lowering his right thumb into the scalloped plastic hollow provided for the purpose, the XD-M performed flawlessly. And so the Springfield avoided entry onto my liste du merde and resumed its rightful place at the top of the charts.

Equally important, as a Glock refugee, I discovered that I also had to adjust my grip downwards. The readjusted XD-M felt a bit odd in my hands. But once I seated my thumb properly, my shooting improved dramatically. And no wonder.

With the thumb in situ, the XD-M forces you to line up the weapon with the axis of your shooting arm (i.e. it forms a straight line from the gun all the way up your shoulder). At a stroke, the XD-M’s design eliminates a fundamental physiological error afflicting the majority of the amateur shooting population.

To quote Wallace of Wallace and Gromit fame, that IS clever. It’s the same sort of subtle intelligence that informs many—though not every—aspect of the XD-M.

For example, the XD-M’s handle boasts something called Mega-Lock Grip Texture. That’s a fancy way of saying someone got busy with a CAD-CAM computer and created big-ass plastic nubs for the front and back of the XD-M’s grip. The larger checkering supposedly channels off schmutz more efficiently than smaller patterns, and provides better purchase for pistoleros’ palms.

The scope of the texturing is the clever bit. There’s a separate line of XXXL texturing where your fingertips wrap around the grip. Why no one thought of this before is a mystery rivaling the thinking behind the obstinate pin holding the interchangeable “Mould-Tru” back-straps. Awl together now?

Rugged though the grip may be, the XD-M’s still a plastic gun. Training with the rabbi in July, my sweaty hand started slip sliding away. It might have squidged around more with a regular XD’s plain Jane checkering or a Glock’s relatively featureless handle. But there’s still no beating those squishy aftermarket no-slip rubber grips.

And there’s no getting around the fact that the XD-M has one big honking handle. As you might expect from a weapon holding 19 9mm bullets. The magazine’s capacity is a new record, a huge selling point for the sensibly paranoid and a double-edged sword.

On one hand, who doesn’t want more bullets? And when they’re stuffed into Springfield’s beautifully built magazines, the bullet-fest is even more of a no-brainer (perhaps for the perp as well). On the other hand, when you’re wearing the Springfield-provided paddle holster, the XD-M’s gigantic grip prints like the New York Times. If you’re looking for an easily-concealed 9mm carry gun, this ain’t it.

The 3.8″ barrel on the XD-M tested is another conundrum. Upside: shorter “dwell time.” The faster the bullet exits the barrel, the less time you have to screw up your shot. And the gun is marginally easier to conceal than the longer barreled version. Downside: the XD-M 3.8′s shorter barrel’s shorter sight radius, combined with not-my-friend standard issue white dot sights, makes it harder to acquire a target.

Once a target is in the XD-M’s sights, you stand an excellent chance of hitting it.

Props to the XD-M’s trigger. The approximately six-pound pull doesn’t offer the “on-off” clean break of a Glock. But the Springfield’s go switch is as smooth as 12-year-0ld Scotch. Springfield claims their Croat-made weapon has the fastest trigger reset in the polymer pistol biz. Suffice it to say, it’s fast enough to send 19 bullets downrange in about four seconds—as gun guru David Kenik from Armed Response demonstrates below.

One of the reasons I traded my baby Glock for the XD-M: I couldn’t press the magazine release without turning the pistol. In contrast, the XD-M’s mag drop button stands proud of the grip, immediately beneath your right thumb. Check for a new mag, dump, reload, assess the situation, continue firing. No grip adjustment and readjustment necessary.

The XD-M’s highly-touted “match grade” barrel is a tremendous advance. For someone. Truth be told, I’m nowhere near a good enough shooter to capitalize on the microscopic differences between a “regular” barrel and one designed, engineered and manufactured for high level competition. All I know is that my XD-M groups are as tight as Tower of Power if I stand still.

In fact, saying the words “match grade” make me a little nervous. The tight tolerances that typify competition-winning firearms are not normally considered appropriate for a combat weapon. As I approach the two thousand round count with no more maintenance than a blow dry and lube (for the XD-M), confidence is high, regardless. And Internet chatter is low. We’ll see how we go.

Meanwhile, the XD-M’s grip safety is my only major beef. It raises an important question: why? No, not “it doesn’t interere with the firing process so why not?” For one thing, a combat gun shouldn’t have any more features than it needs, to reduce the chance of anything going wrong. Second, the XD-M’s grip safety is a PITA for anyone used to a gun without a grip safety. To wit:

To lock back a Glock’s slide, you naturally slide your gun hand down the grip slightly, place your thumb tip solidly underneath the slide lock, angle the pistol slightly for leverage, pull back the slide, press the lever up and lock it. Unless the XD-M’s grip safety is depressed, the slide won’t move more than half an inch (I know the feeling). You have to maintain your grip, pull back the slide and push up the lock with the side of your thumb.

Is this a problem? Only until you realize the required routine. Again, a combat gun needs quirks like a nun needs syphilis. Still, I’m willing to forgive and remember. The XD-M has proven to be a reliable, accurate, bullet-intensive, ergonomically-sound weapon that’s easy to shoot, easy to clean, and easy to love.

My Mother’s never held a gun in her life. She looked at the XD-M yesterday and asked me one question “Is it a modern gun?” “It’s a future classic,” I replied. She nodded, and moved on to other topics. Memo to Springfield Armory: the XD-M may not be approved by Daphne Farago. But it’s not been condemned either. I’d score that a solid win.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Caliber: 9mm
Magazines: Two 19-round, stainless steel
Barrel: 3.8″ steel, Melonite, fully-supported ramp
Sights: Dovetail front and rear (steel) 3-dot
Trigger Pull: 5.5 – 7.7 lbs.
Frame: Black Polymer
Slide: Forged steel
Overall Length: 7″
Height 5.6″
Weight with empty magazine: 27.5 ounces

RATINGS (out of five):

Style * * *
A bit fussy with all the details, and the grip and barrel are out of proportion. It’s the price you pay for clever downsizing.

Ergonomics * * * * *
The XD-M forces you to hold it just so—just so you can hit what you’re aiming it. Once you get used to it, you do.

Reliability * * * * *
1250 rounds and counting; everything and anything, all the time, every time.

Customize This * * * *
The front Picatinny rail accommodates lights and there are plenty of aftermarket goodies by now. You can (and should) swap-out the sights.

Overall Rating * * * *
Not perfect, but close enough for government work. I’d stake my life on it. In fact, I do.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

28 Responses to Gun Review: Springfield XD-M 3.8 9mm

  1. avatarSevesteen says:

    Double action guns can be without a safety, but XD's are single action. They need some sort of external safety–I believe a requirement for import, and for sale in certain jurisdictions. Most single action guns use a thumb safety, XD chose a grip safety instead.

  2. avatarPatrick Carrube says:

    Actually, if I'm not mistaken (I've only had 2 cups of coffee so far this morning) the XD/XDM is considered a "striker fired" pistol (as are Glocks). I do not believe grip safeties are a requirement for importation because wouldn't Glocks need one too? I know at one time the ATF required guns to earn a specific number of “points” to be allowed to be sold in the U.S. I would have to double check to make sure that system is still around. If so, a grip safety may earn Springfield an extra point or two, but I do not think it is required.

    Some people complain about the grip safeties and some don’t even notice they’re there. For me, on my XDm 40, I don’t notice it, nor do I ever have a problem opening the slide. I come from 1911 world, so we’re used to them. I actually liked the thought of a grip safety when I was first looking at XDs. There is nothing to manipulate and nothing to turn on or off. Grip the pistol, point, and shoot. Sure, in some crazy rare situation where half or your hand is blown off in a raging early-morning gun battle with a determined intruder, you may be unable to properly grip the gun and depress the safety, leaving you unable to defend yourself. Then again, you should have practiced shooting with your weak-hand, so there’s your backup plan should this scenario ever happen. What if both hand are injured? Well, you should have started with a shotgun anyways!

  3. avatarravenchris says:

    I have been curious about this firearm. Your review contains some interesting insights.

  4. avatarPatrick Carrube says:

    One thing I noticed (after looking at the photos again) was Sam's grip. Even after her and Adam adjusted their holds, I think there is much room for improvement. The web of the hand is way below the beavertail. Top-heavy polymer guns (XD/XDM, Glock, HK, etc) tend to rotate or flip backward when fired. A high and tight grip will reduce this, and will help with follow-up shots. Every competition pistol shooter has the "high and tight" grip beat into them by instructors and other competitors.

    • avatarRobert Farago says:

      Excellent point. As I tried to illustrate in my video about drawing from a paddle holster, getting the right grip is the key to all that follows.

      • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

        That is very true – both in a combat situation or in a competitive situation. The problem I have, and the problem I've been getting better and better at, is during a "speed reload". My strong hand tends to tip down upon getting my full grip and I have to spend a fraction of a second adjusting. It sounds minuscule, but fractions of a second add up in competition – more so in a dangerous situation.

  5. avatarRobert Farago says:

    The XD-M's magazine release button is one of the major reasons I ditched my Glock. I can drop the mag while keeping my strong hand on the gun without changing my grip. And brother, I can do it FAST. Have you tried it on the XD?

    Quick aside: after switching back and forth between the XD-M and the Wilson Combat X-TAC, the Springfield's trigger feels absurdly squishy. As it would. Still, interesting experiment—that's got me thinking about a trigger job on the XD-M.

  6. avatarCary Harrison says:

    It's true, the XD/M is a striker-fired pistol, but its cocking action works a bit differently from that of a Glock. In a Glock, the striker spring is not fully compressed when the slide cycles, and the gun is in a sort of "semi-cocked" state. Pulling the trigger back cocks the remainder of the striker spring, thus the mechanism is something in between a single and double action. Half of each, so to speak. On the XD line, the striker is fully withdrawn and the spring is fully compressed with cycling of the slide, so the gun is actually a true single action pistol, it's just that it's fired with a internal striker instead of an external hammer. The fact that it's functionally the same as a 1911 (in that respect) is probably a significant factor in the use of a grip safety.

  7. avatarGrant says:

    As a prospective buyer of this pistol and, an amatuer as well, what is the major difference between the 3.8 9mm and the “compact” version? Is the “compact” version harder to shoot accurately? If I’m not CWC certified and not planning on carrying in public, should I purchase the standard model instead? Thanks for all your help in advance.

    • avatarRobert Farago says:

      The compact version holds less bullets and has a smaller grip. I always recommend a full-size gun for my patients who chew gum (70′s joke).

  8. avatarJezer says:

    Guess that is one advantage of being a lefty, no need to worry about hitting the slide release. As for the grip safety, get the right high grip and you should be fine. Does it need one? IMO probably not since I’ve carried as PPS which is also a striker fire pistol and I feel fine w/o one, but its a feature that they added and has worked for me for almost 2yrs. I guess some people look at safety features first when they buy a gun, I just bought a xdm cause I wanted something besides the cult classic polymer gun, the glock. Thanks for the review

  9. avatarDerek Hagberg says:

    The XDM 3.8 is my first gun!!! I have shot all of 750 round through it to date. It totally takes a beating. Not one misfire or jam!!! It is very easy to disassemble and clean for a beginner. It’s also fun to shoot when it’s so easy to keep a good grouping. The grip and trigger safety’s don’t bother me one bit as a newbe. I haven’t tried the other sizes of removable hand grips supplied with it, because the larger one works great. This is a great pistol!!!

  10. avatarTJ Gillespie says:

    When it come to the slide locking to the rear after firing the last round that has everything to do with the mag and nothing to do with the weapon. The mag is what locks the slide to the rear. So the whole first part about not trusting the weapon or a shit list is kinda crazy because the weapon did not fail you but if you have put a bunch of rounds threw those mags and not taken them apart to clean them or check them over to see if the upper part is bent or the spring could be stretched out or compressed to much from leaving the mag loaded all the time. Or it could be as simple as the mag not being seated properly. Just some things to think about before you say bad things about a gun that actually has no problem.

  11. avatarnate says:

    Plastic, modern gun with a grip safety? Big fail. Maybe SFA should have designed the gun themselves, not just tooled up the HS2000.

    Having to send a gun to SDA with a round in the chamber because the grip safety locked up? Bigger fail.

  12. avatarCCope says:

    Great gun, I carry the 9mm XDM, 3.8 daily and has not failed me once.
    I don’t have some fancy list or a promise that I will do if it does ever fail me, I will just go buy a new one because I like the gun,

  13. avatarCory says:

    Great review. I love my XDM 9mm and agree about the athe stature, not an ideal CC gun.

    I heard Springfield has the new CD-S single stack 45 coming out. I am hoping they also come out with a single stack 9, seems like it might be a perfect carry weapon. Any insight?

    • avatarCCOPE says:

      Word at the local shop is that they will make a single stack 9mm because that is the caliber they sell the most of….. I sure hope so!

    • avatarMichael Christenbury says:

      The holsters that come with the XDs have 9/40/45 marked on them, I think thats a clue!

  14. avatarSl says:

    Lowering your grip is a bad idea, you have less control over recoil leading to slower follow up shots. I keep as my grip as high as possible with thumbs running along the bottom of the slide with no problems, just don’t run your thumbs above the slide release.

    The grip safety is fine, nobody complains about them on a 1911. If this causes someone to view a firearm as a “fail” they need alot more training and practice on proper grip.

  15. avatarRick says:

    This is an excellent gun that points naturally. 20 rounds is a nice number but let’s be real. It’s pretty darn heavy so you need a strong belt to keep the pants up.

  16. avatarCraig Achorn says:

    Just bought a myself a new Springfield XDM 3.8 9mm I hate the waiting period

  17. avatarRandyM says:

    I have everything from pocket-rocket 380′s to a S&W Redhawk 44 mag revolver. My SA XDm 9mm is the most natural feeling, easiest firing and accurate handgun I own. Love it.

  18. avatardennis s. says:

    has anyone noticed that the rear slide rail on the xdm 3.8 compact 9mm is polymer and part of the frame ? my xds has robust steel guide rails front and rear. my economy ruger sr9 has a small steel plate on top of plastic. what up with the xdm 3.8 compact 9mm? is this only on the 9mm or a new manufacturing short cut ? my new xdm 3.8 compact 9mm shoots great but the polymer rear slide rail does not give confidence in long term durabiliy.

  19. avatarydnar0591 . says:

    I would not carry or even have a single action gun like this in my home. With a grip safety and sa an accidental discharge is INEVITABLE.
    This gun was also recalled for accidental misfires, in August of 2013. Release of the slide caused it to misfire inside people’s homes.
    An extremely dangerous weapon to have around.

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      The recall was on the XDs, not the XDm. Accidental discharges are not inevitable, because there’s no such thing, unless the gun fires by itself. The term you’re looking for is negligent discharge, and those are only inevitable if someone is negligent. The gun is not going to go off by itself, it requires outside intervention.

      If you think combining a grip safety with (what you call) single action is dangerous, how do you feel about GLOCKs? A GLOCK is an XDm (or an XDs for that matter) without the grip safety. Do you think GLOCKs are inherently dangerous? More so than a Springfield XD product? If so, how do you account for the tens of thousands of law enforcement officers that carry them every day?

      What do you consider a “safe” weapon to carry or keep around the house?

  20. avatarDan says:

    The XDm 3.8″ compact is my carry gun and I LOVE IT! In compact form you get two choices a compact mag or an xtended mag. To me it is best of both worlds where you an choose full or smaller size for carry.

    I don’t get why a grip safety is such an issue like another poster said no one complains about the 1911′s. The fact it is a single action pistol adding a grip safety should prevent accidental discharges if dropped. There are internal safeties to prevent the single action striker from firing as well as a trigger safety.

    The only issue I had initially was the compact mag didn’t have an angled mag base plate for a better grip for my pinkie finger. I think they could have ditched the wire brush, action lock, or mag loader. For the few extra bucks I would be willing to pay for the extended grip on the compact mag’s base plate and keep all those extras I don’t use.

    I took a 15 year old boy shooting for firing a semi auto pistol he hit 2/5 shots in the red bulls-eye of a silhouette target. The other 3 were very close in the next ring. Pretty darn good shooter for a boy with no semi auto handgun experience.

  21. avataranonymous222 says:

    “A future classic”

    +1

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