The Glock 19 is a legendary gun. And rightly so. Its simplicity, reliability, corrosion resistance, magazine capacity and accuracy have assured its place in the Firearms Hall of Fame (and duty holsters across the world). Personally, I’m not a Glock guy. Despite my best efforts to let the Austrian pistol woo me with its minimalism, I’ve never felt that “love connection.” The first time (and every time) I held a Glock, the ergonomics put me off. It’s too big, it’s too small; the trigger’s too far, too weird . . . it just doesn’t feel right. By extension, I developed an aversion to all polymer pistols. Until the day a friend introduced me to a little Croatian sweetheart known as the HS2000; marketed to U.S. shooters as the Springfield Armory X-treme Duty 9x19mm or XD-9.
At first glance, the original XD bears a strong resemblance to its Austrian counterpart [Glock on top]. The Springfield is another polymer-frame, striker-fired (Remember: A striker-style pistol is neither single- nor double-action), short recoil operated pistol with a trigger safety and a rail on the 4-inch barrel to facilitate the mounting of tactical doodads. Closer examination reveals that the Springfield Armory XD-9 has taken the design to infinity — and back.
The XD-9 incorporates a grip safety, a steel recoil-spring guide and (for us southpaws) ambidextrous magazine-release controls. Unlike the Glock, the XD includes a loaded-chamber indicator and a cocking indicator; safety features allow the operator can ascertain the weapon’s readiness either visually or by feel.
The XD-9 also features front and rear cocking serrations on the slide. There’s generous texturing on the front, sides and back strap of the grip for more positive control under-less-than-ideal (i.e. oh shit) conditions.
Springfield’s dovetailed the three-dot sights securely into the front and rear of the slide. Their visibility is nothing more than merely adequate. Anyone thinking of packing the XD-9 as a daily concealed-carry gun should strongly consider adding a set of aftermarket fiber optic or tritium night sights.
Our test XD-9’s sights were regulated for a 6 o’ clock hold on the target, rather than the point-of-aim/point-of-impact I prefer. Straight from the factory, the weapon had a tendency to shoot to the right. I corrected the problem easily enough with a minor drifting adjustment of the front sight.
Early entries from XD series lacked the corrosion-resistant melonite finish sported by current models. Although the gun was unlikely to turn into a slide-shaped pile of rust atop the frame if exposed to a humid environment, you can’t have enough reliability.
Even so, at the risk of alienating the Glock faithful, arguing over the relative reliability of the Glock and a Springfield is besides the point. The real test is how the weapon feels in the hand. If a shooter is comfortable with a gun, he’ll handle and shoot it with confidence. Which is the key to success is most aspects of shooting.
This is where the XD-9 earned my admiration and, yes, affection.
For me, the Springfield XD-9’s grip angle provides a much more natural point of aim than its Austrian cousin. I always felt I had to accomodate the Glock to get on target. With the XD-9, it’s more of a partnership. The XD feels as though it’s meeting me halfway. I get most of the work done, it finishes the job.
A simple test to determine how well a new pistol works with your natural point of aim: Pick a spot on the wall and close your eyes. Aim the unloaded pistol at the spot. Open your eyes. If your sights line up to your chosen spot, a fair idea whether the ergonomics of the pistol are working with you, or against you.
With the Springfield XD-9, I’m nearly spot on.
As a striker-fired pistol, the XD’s trigger is extremely consistent, as is the reset. There’s plenty of take-up. But the trigger never feels squishy or gritty. The trigger pull is smooth enough to achieve minute-of-bad-guy accuracy even under pressure.
Mag changes are quick and easy, thanks to the drop-free stainless-steel double-column magazines and responsive ambidextrous magazine-release controls. Loading the magazines to their full capacity of 16 rounds requires strong thumbs and an occasional extra firm tap to the base of the mag to ensure it’s fully seated.(Newer models come with a magazine loader.)
The 4-inch duty model XD-9 is surprisingly handy while still being large enough to provide a solid and controllable platform for launching 16+1 rounds of reassurance before reloading. Muzzle flip is negligible. Unlike its larger caliber counterparts, the flip doesn’t become more pronounced as the magazine is emptied. Reloaders are warned: The XD-9 tends to deposit the empty brass in a decidedly random pattern rather than a neat little pile at your feet.
Accuracy is perfectly acceptable at normal defensive handgun ranges and most likely even at extended distances with enough practice. In other words, this is another one of those guns where the gun is more accurate than the shooter.
In the roughly 450 rounds I’ve put through the XD, I’ve encountered zero failures to extract or feed-way stoppages. The two or three malfunctions that I experienced were a direct result of not seating the magazine fully with a firm tap. That’s what I’d call fairly reliable — though the next 10,000 rounds will be the real test. The vast majority of the ammo fired was Winchester NATO 9mm 124gr. FMJ with around 50 rounds of Federal Hydra-shok 147gr. jacketed hollowpoint ammo. The semiautomatic XD-9 shows no particular preference or aversion to any type of ammo.
The XD-9 really shines after the event. To field strip the weapon for cleaning, just drop the magazine, lock the slide back, rotate the takedown lever at the front of the slide upward 90 degrees, and then gently return the slide into battery on an empty chamber. Point the XD in a safe direction, pull the trigger and move the slide forward off the frame. Disassembly from there is a piece of cake.
Not everyone would be better off with an XD than a Glock. Some hands prefer the Glock’s grip, and some shooters feel better just knowing they’re holding a Glock (not to mention the company’s rep for sterling customer service). Fair enough. But if you’re looking for an affordable, high-quality polymer-framed 9mm and [literally] can’t get behind the Glock, the Springfield XD-9 never leaves you with the feeling you’re settling for less. Because you’re not.
SPECIFICATIONS: (Editor’s Note: These specs are for the current model of the XD 4″ FULL SIZE SERVICE MODEL 9MM)
RECOIL SYSTEM: Dual Spring w/ Full Length Guide Rod
SIGHTS: Dovetail Front and Rear (Steel) 3-Dot
WEIGHT: 28 ozs.
SLIDE: Forged Steel, Melonite Finish
BARREL LENGTH: 4″ Hammer Forged, Steel, Melonite/1:10 Twist
OVERALL LENGTH: 7.3″
GRIP WIDTH: 1.20″
FRAME: Black Polymer
MAGAZINES: 2 16-round magazines, Stainless Steel
Style * * *
The XD-9 borrows heavily from Gaston Glock’s innovative approach, but incorporates enough of its own innovation to avoid clone status.
Ergonomics * * * *
From grip angle to the controls, this pistol works well with left or right-handed shooters
Reliability * * * *
Reliability exceeded my expectations.
Customize This * * * * *
Night sights would be a bit of alright, laser sights are an interesting option and there are plenty of flashlights available.
Overall Rating * * * *
Utilitarianism has its own charms.
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