Gun Review: Springfield Armory Sub-Compact XD

When the Brits first clapped eyes on the Routemaster bus in 1954, they were understandably reluctant to jump on board. The ‘Double Decker” looked decidedly top-heavy. So the Associated Equipment Company filmed an unladen Routemaster tear-assing around a race-track whilst remaining vertical. Fantasia’s dancing hippos looked equally graceful, but point taken. The British subjects (who didn’t really have a choice anyway) clambered on the “London Bus” for the next 61 years. It’s something to keep in mind when you grab a Springfield Sub-Compact XD, a pistol with more than a passing resemblance to a Double Decker . . .

Unlike the UK’s two-story public conveyance, the Springfield Sub-Compact XD is ill-proportioned in all directions. Though glove-friendly, the trigger guard looks like the stretched image on one of those early 16:9 TVs. Without a pinkie extension (pictured), the grip belongs on a half-scale mock-up. Compared to the drop-dead sexy Ruger SR9c, the Springfield Sub-Compact XD is, as the Italians would say, super brutto. Eccoci qua. Here we are. And we are not alone . . .

Here’s a profile of another compact killer: the Glock 26. Compared to the Glock (above), the Sub-Compact XD doesn’t, aesthetically. Of course, neither polymer pistol is what you’d call a beauty queen. Both guns (and Smith & Wesson’s M&P) make a cinder block look like museum-quality sculpture. That said, the Springfield Sub-Compact XD has its advantages over its natural born enemy.

For one thing, the XD’s mag release is ambidextrous; if you’re left-handed, the XD Sub-Compact wins. For another, the Sub-Compact XD has a grip safety. (Debate that amongst yourselves.) A lot of shooters find the Springfield’s grip angle more comfortable than Herr Glock’s Glock. Some gunslingers appreciate the Springfield’s erect nipple (a.ka. the chamber loaded indicator). The Sub-Compact XD also has a rail for a micro-light and carries more ammo than its Austrian rival. How great is that?

I’m not sure. Thirteen rounds (XD) vs. ten bullets (26) doesn’t seem like a life-or-death difference to me. Comparing the 13-round Springfield to an eight-round .45 offers a more compelling comparison. But one thing’s for sure: if you plan on tactical reloads with the XD Sub-Compact, or any sub-compact gun, it’s only a matter of time before you pinch your hand whilst inserting a fresh complement of cartridges.

And when I say “pinch” I mean “cause an injury that may require stitches and leave a lifelong scar” and a dangerous aversion to tactical reloads. Alternatively, you could load-up the Sub-Compact XD with the 15-round magazine (with free! grip extension) and forgag the reloading deal. But then you’d have a gun with a handle only marginally smaller than the full-sized XD’s; a firearm that won’t imperil your palm and holsters nineteen rounds of ballistic reassurance.

All things being equal (which they never are), it’s a moot point. Ask any diehard (they hope) self-defense shooter: accuracy trumps capacity. In the hitting what you aim at department, the Springfield Sub-Compact XD does not disappoint. It really is as good as the Glock 26. Or better.

With its extra weight (26 ounces vs. 20), the Sub-Compact XD manages recoil more confidently than the Glock. Although the Springfield’s bore axis is dramatically higher than its Austrian counterpart, the weight helps settle things down quickly, enabling accurate “follow-up” shots. Truth be told, either gun can be mastered with regular practice. But the heft is an important consideration for a newbie, who probably won’t train more than once a month, whose life might one day depend on accurately firing a 9mm firearm with a short barrel.

The bottom line is the same for either firearm: superb accuracy at combat distances. One-inch groups at six yards are eminently doable. In terms of shooting on the move, the chances of hitting center mass are as good with the Springfield Sub-Compact XD as they are with the baby Glock—or just about any other small(ish) gun you can name.

The Springfield Sub-Compact XD vs. Glock 26 debate is destined to rage amongst the gunnoscenti for years to come. Meanwhile, gun buyers should not get distracted by invidious distinctions. When it comes to reliability, the two firearms stand head and shoulders above their competition .

With simple lubrication and occasional cleaning, the XD will faultlessly fire tens of thousands of rounds, even in the harshest conditions. Rental guns, for example, have processed 250,000 rounds without a hitch. Our sample ate-up and spit-out everything we fed it, from the humblest Blazer to the loftiest Hornady Critical Defense. Over the long term, the Tenifer Plus+ coated XD is a far more solid choice than flashier alternatives (cough Ruger cough).

On the downside, the Springfield Sub-Compact XD really needs that pinkie extension for comfort and control; a cheap upgrade that should be standard-issue. Also, more than a few shooters prefer the Glock’s quick-breaking trigger and lightning fast reset to the Springfield’s relatively mushy go-pedal and long distance reset. And the Sub-Compact’s plastic case is unforgivably Day’s Inn compared to the XD-M’s Ritz Carlton-class carrier.

It’s only a matter of time before the Springfield Sub-Compact XD gets the dash-M treatment. The new Sub-M’s improved grip will be much appreciated in colder climes, and the chevrons on the barrel should help make the design less of a dog’s breakfast. The question is, why bother?

There’s nothing wrong with the current Sub-Compact XD’s ability to accomplish its mission. It’s a dead nuts reliable, more-accurate-than-you-are carry piece. So you might want to wait until the Sub-Compact XD-M hits the shelves and then bargain hard on the “old” Sub-Compact XD. A keenly priced Sub-Compact XD could be just the ticket. Mate.


Caliber: 9x19MM
Magazines: 1 – 13 Round Compact, 1 – 16 Round w/ Grip Extension
Barrel: 3” 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, Melonite Finish
Recoil System: Dual Spring with Full Length Guide rod
Length: 6.25”
Height: 4.75” w/ Compact Mag, 5.5” w/ Extended Mag
Weight w/ Empty: 26 ozs. w/ Compact Mag, Magazine: 27 ozs. w/ Extended Mag


Style *

If it was a dog you’d shave its ass and make it walk backwards.

Ergonomics Carry * * *

A bit heavy, but only a bit. Finding holsters that can accommodate that XXL trigger guard is a bitch, but a 13-round mag makes it good to stow.

Ergonomics Firing * * * * *

A bit snappy, as you’d expect. But the extra weight helps you hit what you’re aiming at and get back on target right quick.

Reliability * * * * *

It’s what allows XD to be spoken in the same sentence as Glock.

Customize this * * *

The mini-rail-enabled flashlight option is welcome, but the lack of suitable holsters makes that a problematic proposition. The sights are sufficient. So . . . what more do you need, really?

Overall Rating * * * *

No beauty queen, but no safe queen either. A practical carry gun upon which you can bet your life.