In a market saturated with sub-compact, single stack 9mm pistols, Springfield’s XD-E stands out by adding the simplest tool in the box: a hammer. DA/SA has its fans, but is it a fit in a polymer single stack pistol?
I admit it: I’m terrible at reading owner’s manuals! I pulled the XD-E out of the box and thought I could get right to using it, but couldn’t figure out how to hold the damn thing.
Thankfully Springfield’s molded handy instructions right into the…well…it turns out it’s the handle. The “GripZone®,” if you will. Excellent! All kidding aside, the handle’s coral-like texture hits a sweet spot. It’s sufficiently grippy yet comfortable, on both the hand and the love handle.
Springfield ships the XD-E in their usual GLOCK-shaming hard case with fitted foam insert. The gun comes with two high quality stainless steel magazines — one eight-rounder and one nine-rounder. But wait! There’s more! The Illinois firearms manufacturer also includes extra fiber optic rods (both red and green) and a flush baseplate for the eight-round mag.
The eight-round magazine arrives with a pinky extension installed (as above). Swapping it for the flush baseplate to achieve maximum concealability is a doddle. The extended magazine’s collar effectively and near-seamlessly extends the XD-E’s grip, though the collar can also be removed to make carrying the nine-rounder more discreet.
Controls include a thumb safety that doubles as a decocker, a slide stop, a takedown lever, and magazine release.
The safety and mag release are mirrored on the right side of the gun. This may make lefties happy, but I’m not a lefty. While it pales in comparison to the problems suffered by southpaws on a daily basis, the XD-E’s ambi controls rubbed me the wrong way. Quite literally.
Using my normal shooting grip, I couldn’t decock the gun with my strong hand thumb; the right-side lever hit my knuckle. I had to completely open up my grip to provide the necessary clearance, or just power the lever down with my left hand instead. Another issue . . .
With a proper firing grip, my right hand wanted to prevent the magazine release from protruding any farther out the right side of the frame. This isn’t conducive to ejecting a magazine. I had to relax my grip to provide room for the ambi side of the release to stick out. To be fair, I’ve encountered this problem on other pistols with truly ambidextrous magazine releases.
That said, whether you encounter either issue above will depend on your personal hand size and shape, and exactly where and how you grip the GripZone®.
For the first couple hundred rounds, when I depressed the XD-E’s magazine release, it stayed depressed. Now that it’s broken in, the problem has disappeared, and it has never caused an issue. With any sort of decently confident mag insertion it popped right back into place and held onto the new magazine. Insert the mag gently, though, and it would fall right back out.
While I’m sure a wet sneeze would have cured the “problem,” this isn’t a part I typically clean and lube when I take a new gun out of the box.
Shooters with hand strength-issues note: the XD-E’s slide is remarkably easy to rack; the handgun‘s hammer provides additional recoil spring strength during the gun’s operation. Then again, that assumes you manually cock the skeletonized hammer first. With the hammer down, the slide is much more standard in the amount of pull required to rack it.
As with all Springfield XDs, the XD-E’s slide is very tall. While the “Posi-Wedge Serrations” don’t take up a lot of real estate, and look about as aggressive as a peeved Pekinese, they’re extremely effective.
With the hammer down and the trigger in double-action mode, reaching the trigger can be a show-stopper. For large-handed shooters, it’s a non-issue. For the medium- and small-handed among us, the Springfield XD-E’s trigger is either so far from the backstrap that a fingertip can barely reach it, or completely unreachable.
The XD-E’s trigger is more sharply curved than RF’s favorite Israeli supermodel. And it sits a long way forward inside the trigger guard. Though you can cram your finger between the frame and the curved part of the trigger — where one’s finger should go — the XD-E’s design naturally places the finger on the trigger’s leading edge.
After firing a bunch of double action shots — working with a trigger pull of about 11.5 pounds — the bottom of my finger was getting a tad raw. Boo-boo aside, it doesn’t “feel” quite right for the finger to be on the leading edge of the trigger. Luckily, the XD-E serves up a surprisingly smooth trigger pull that increases in resistance (“stacks”) just before the break.
In single action, with the preset trigger closer to the grip, the XD-E’s trigger is significantly more pleasant and controllable. There’s a bit of slack followed by a fairly decent break at about five pounds. The XD-E’s gas pedal can’t compete with Springfield’s 1911s, but it’s better than most out-of-the-box CZ 75s, though not quite as good as a typical SIG.
The XD-E’s loaded chamber indicator flag sticks up out of the top of the slide when a round is in the pipe. Combined with an external hammer and a manual thumb safety, the gun’s status is never in doubt.
The XD-E’s sights were good to me. I like a fiber optic front, and the serrations on both the front and rear of the front sight are a nice touch. I prefer an all-black rear sight but I’m in the minority (3-dot sights are standard for a reason), and it’s nothing a dab of paint wouldn’t cure.
Though the XD-E’s slide is tall — there’s certainly a lot of mass above the hands — the XD-E is a pleasant shooter. I had no problem shooting it rapid-fire, keeping it right on target. For all my sass, the GripZone® is grippy and the gun’s ergonomics git ‘er done.
Weight helps too. The XD-E tips the scales at 25 ounces (1.4 oz more than a Glock 19). The single stack handgun stands five inches tall (0.01″ more than a GLOCK 19). So while the XD-E’s a sub-compact in width (1-inch grip width) and length (6.75 inches), it ain’t exactly a pocket pistol.
Straight out of the box, the first 17 rounds at 15 yards looked like that. I shot one round in double-action and the rest single at a pretty brisk clip.
Another 17 rounds, all double-action this time, and we’re honing in on the XD-E’s handling.
Another 17 rounds, truly rapid-fired now and I’m fairly pleased.
Fast forward a few hundred rounds of mixed ammo later and the XD-E is chugging along nicely. It’s smoothly feeding, firing and ejecting everything I throw at it and it’s doing it one-handed, both strong and weak hand, decocked and fired double-action, single-action, whatever. Then it was time to break out the sandbag and shoot some accuracy groups.
I shot weak 115 grain and +P 115 grain, weak 147 grain and self-defense 147 grain. All four groups were pretty similar in size. Not exactly impressive at 15 yards from a bag, but more than sufficient for the XD-E’s intended role. The fact that group size didn’t open up all that much even under rapid, off-hand fire I think speaks to a fairly easy-to-shoot gun with good sights.
After accuracy testing I went back to blasting away and ran into a squib round — primer-only, as far as I could tell. I hammered the stuck bullet out of the barrel then kept on keeping on. The XD-E ran through 500 rounds with total confidence, from cheap reloads to pricey hollow points.
When it’s time to clean and lube, simply lock the slide back and flip up the takedown lever. Then guide the slide off the front of the frame or simply drop the slide release to launch it off with great fanfare.
From here, it’s really just as you’d expect inside. Fit, finish, and machining show considerable care. Springfield clearly took the effort to highly polish the feed ramp, for instance.
For fans of hammer-fired guns who’ve longed for a skinny DA/SA subcompact handgun, here ya go. You can decock and carry the XD-E hammer-down (safety on or off) for a longer, heavier, safer first trigger pull followed by short, crisp follow-up shots. Or you can cock the hammer manually to skip that long first pull. Or carry the XD-E cocked-and-locked from the get-go.
No matter how you carry it, the Springfield XD-E is a comfortable shooting, reasonably accurate, entirely reliable, concealable firearm. That’s IF you have a large enough hand to reach the trigger (in double action) and don’t mind the shoe’s pointiness.
Specifications: Springfield XD-E
Capacity: One 8-round and one 9-round magazine included
Width: 1″ grip width
Barrel Length: 3.3″
Weight: 25 oz
Operation: DA/SA hammer-fired with manual thumb safety/decocker
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability * * * * *
It feels like a solid, well-made gun and functions like one, too. It easily and confidently cycled a bunch of different ammo right out of the box.
Accuracy * * *
Barely average for a sub-compact, but good enough.
Aesthetics * *
The tall slide with short-ish barrel on a tall-ish frame isn’t a good look. Frankly, that plus the top-half-of-the-slide-only slide serrations reminds me way too much of the Hi-Point C9. From the side or from behind, the XD-E ain’t a looker.
Customize This * * *
Limited aftermarket on this new model, though it comes from the factory with a few magazine options and the ability to switch from red to green fiber optic for the front sight. And there’s a short rail. Some XD-S holsters will fit the -E as well, and plenty of manufacturers have jumped on board and released XD-E specific versions.
Ergonomics * * *
Ergos on the XD-E are very good in general, but the ambi features didn’t work for me. Both the magazine release and the decocker function of the right side safety/decocker got in my way. Plus, there’s that length of pull.
Overall * * *
The XD-E is reliable, but we all expect that in a modern self-defense gun these days. Elsewhere, it checks all the appropriate boxes, though has looks only mama GripZone® could love. If you’ve been waiting for a single-stack, sub-compact DA/SA gun, the XD-E is probably a five-star ticket.
NOTE: Springfield declined TTAG’s requests for a T&E XD-E, so we got one from a dealer. It received the same, honest review as any other firearm without consideration for the Springfield-related political news that TTAG broke this spring.