On occasion, I have been criticized for my admiration of the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. In fact, among my fellow scribes in the firearms media, I may be one of the cartridge’s most ardent fans. So, before we go any further, let me once again state the reasons for this partisanship.
First of all, thanks to the use of modern propellants and high-tech projectiles, the 9mm’s on-target performance has been dramatically improved. Secondly, the cartridge’s size means that pistols chambered for it can be smaller and lighter in weight. In that same regard, its smaller size allows the use of a larger capacity magazines without increasing the girth of the grip. The 9mm also produces less recoil, which makes it a good choice for training new shooters or those who are recoil-shy. And lower levels of recoil mean you can shoot faster and more accurately. Finally, 9mm ammunition is cheaper than most other chamberings, which means you can practice more.
For these reasons and others, the 9mm Parabellum has become the most popular centerfire pistol cartridge in history, and even in the “big-bore loving” U.S., more 9mm ammunition is produced today than any other offering. So, as far as I’m concerned, the 9mm is a win/win situation. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at one of the newest and dare I say most practical compact 9mm pistols I’ve encountered in quite some time: Springfield XD-S 9mm.
In 2012, Springfield Armory introduced an addition to its extensive line of XD and XDM pistols that also happened to be the smallest polymer-framed .45 ACP pistol on the market, the XD-S. This handgun was designed to provide licensed civilians and undercover/off-duty police officers a large-bore pistol that could be easily concealed under light clothing and carried for extended periods of time in complete comfort.
I was lucky enough to obtain an early-production XD-S, and with the enthusiastic assistance of several of my shooting buddies, we ran it through a series of grueling tests to see if it could do what needed to be done. In short, it did. In one day alone, we ran in excess of 600 rounds through it without a single failure to feed, fire or extract. By the time I returned it to the factory, almost 1,400 rounds had been fired through it without any cleaning or maintenance other than normal lubrication—and I was still waiting for the first malfunction.
But, as was to be expected of a pistol of this size, firing large quantities of full-power .45 ACP ammunition proved to be a bit of trial. In fact, it could be downright painful, which led me to opine, “I sure wish they made this in 9mm.” Well, the folks at Springfield must have had the range bugged and heard us, because they introduced the 9mm XD-S in early 2013.
The basis of the 9mm XD-S is a one-piece, polymer frame that has aggressive texturing on the sides, frontstrap and backstraps to provide a secure purchase, even when your hands are wet or wearing gloves, while the portion of the grip behind the ambidextrous magazine release is relieved so you can manipulate it without moving the pistol around in your hand. Oh, and did you Southpaws out there see my reference to “ambidextrous?”
Another user-friendly feature: Inter-changeable backstraps allow the shooter to fit the pistol to their particular hand size. Drifting out a roll pin at the bottom rear of the grip allows them to be changed quickly. Unusual for pistols of this class, Springfield has also equipped the XD-S 9mm with an integral Picatinny rail on the dust cover that allows you to mount tactical lights or lasers. The slide release and takedown levers are mounted almost flush to the frame, so they won’t snag on clothing or gear when drawing the pistol from concealment.
The CNC-machined slide has a Melonite finish and is a mere 0.9 inches wide. The low-mount rear sight is angled so as to not hang up when drawn, and it has two white dots for targeting while the front sight features a red fiber-optic insert. The slide serrations are slightly rounded and extend over the top of the frame to provide a secure purchase when racking the slide.
Breech-locking is accomplished by the barrel hood moving up into and bearing on the front edge of the ejection port. When the pistol is fired, the barrel and slide recoil together a short distance until the barrel is cammed downward, which allows the slide to continue to the rear, extracting and ejecting the spent case. A captive recoil spring unit under the barrel pulls the slide forward, stripping the next round from the magazine and chambering it. When the slide goes into battery, the barrel hood enters the ejection port, locking the two units together.
The XD-S is a striker-fired design with a grip safety and a trigger-block safety on the face of the trigger, both of which can be operated by left- or right-handed shooters. In addition, a firing pin safety and disconnector prevent the pistol from being fired unless the slide is completely in battery, while a loaded-chamber indicator at the rear of the ejection port provides visible and tactile indications of the pistol’s condition. Note: Unlike full-sized XD and XDM pistols, the tail of the XD-S’ striker does not project past the rear of the slide when it is cocked.
As with all XD-series pistols, the XD-S 9mm uses Springfield’s Ultra Safety Assurance (USA) trigger, but it has been modified to provide a shorter take-up, crisper let-off, reduced overtravel and a short reset.
The early-production XD-S 9mm I received for testing came in a padded carrying case with two seven-round magazines, an interchangeable backstrap (one came installed on the gun), a holster, a magazine pouch, replacement fiber-optic inserts, a lock and an owner’s manual. Springfield also sent along a couple of optional nine-round magazines. These extended magazines are fitted with sleeves that approximate the outside diameter of the grip frame.
A few days later, I traveled to the Trigger Time Training Facility in Carthage, North Carolina, where my first task was to test the pistol’s reliability by running 20 rounds of each of three brands of ammunition through it. This expenditure of ammunition resulted in my tearing up the dirt on the backstop—and nothing else. The XD-S 9mm ran like a top.
Accuracy testing was conducted from an MTM K-Zone rest at 10 yards, and I was pleased to see that the pistol printed more or less to point of aim with the three brands of ammo I used. As with many of the 9mm pistols I’ve tested recently, the Springfield XD-S showed a preference for heavier, slower-moving bullets, and the Speer 147-grain load printed the tightest groups, with the best measuring a pleasing 1.4 inches.
After chronographing was completed, I belted on the holster that came with the pistol and ran it through a series of off-hand drills at 5 and 7 yards. From 7 yards, I drew the pistol and fired two rounds (double-tap) on each target. I then reholstered and repeated the drill five times, performing combat reloads as necessary. Next, I moved to 5 yards, drew the XD-S, and fired four rounds on each target with an unsupported (one-handed) grip. After this, I also reloaded. Then, staying at 5 yards, I drew the pistol, switched it to my weak hand, and fired four rounds on each target. I reloaded and repeated this last stage. After these drills, I used up the rest of the ammo to engage steel targets on the 25-yard backstop. Despite the pistol’s short sight radius and light weight, this proved easier than I had expected, and I managed to rack up a pleasing ratio of “clangs to bangs” over the next half-hour.
These drills allowed me to make a number of observations about the pistol. First of all, it proved 100 percent reliable with the approximately 250 rounds I ran through it that afternoon. And while it didn’t make holes in the target as large as the .45-caliber XD-S I tested last year, I was able to make a lot of smaller ones in all the right places fast.
I found the USA trigger much to my liking. It had a bit of take-up before it broke crisply at—according to my RCBS trigger pull scale—6.5 pounds. Also, I could feel and hear the trigger reset, which I find useful when making precise shots.
I really liked the sighting arrangement, which happens to be the same setup I have on most of my personal-protection and competition pistols. The red fiber-optic front sight seems to reach out and grab your attention. I for one am pleased to see more and more manufacturers fitting such sights to their pistols, as they provide fast sight alignment, target acquisition and transitioning, especially in less-than-ideal light conditions.
Depending on the load fired, recoil could be rather snappy, but thanks to the pistol’s excellent ergonomics, a moderately sized grip tang and the checkering on the grip, I found the pistol very controllable and fast; it was easy to make fast, accurate follow-up shots.
While the nine-round magazine com-promised concealability by adding approximately 1 inch to the height of the pistol, it provided a full three-finger grip, which went a long way toward improving recoil control. My suggestion would be to carry the pistol with a seven-round magazine and use a nine-rounder for a reload. However, if your mode of dress provides sufficient concealment, I would consider buying several nine-round magazines and useingthem exclusively.
I can only voice one complaint about Springfield’s newest pistol, and that is that both magazines were difficult to load to capacity. I would like to suggest that the company provide a magazine-loading tool with it like its does with its other XD-series pistols.
The 9mm XD-S has been serving as my regular carry gun for a couple of weeks now, and my opinion of it con-tinues to grow. The paddle holster that came with the pistol holds it close to the body, so there is no signature under a light jacket, and positions it correctly for easy access and a smooth presentation. In fact, it has proven to be such a practical CCW gun that I’m sure it’s going to be difficult to return it back to the factory at the end of the trial period.
In conclusion, I feel it’s safe to say that Springfield Armory has another winner in the XD-S 9mm. If you’re looking for an extremely compact pistol that is easy to use, easy to carry and capable of firing all the full-power 9mm ammunition you might care to run through it, you’re not going to be sorry if the XD-S 9mm is your choice. For more information, call 800-680-6866 or visit springfield-armory.com.