While Springfield Armory was originally known for its extensive line of 1911-A1 pistols and M1A1 rifles, in the 1990s the company decided to break into the burgeoning polymer pistol market and saw what it needed in a striker-fired pistol made by IM Metal of Croatia. After some minor changes, it was introduced to the American market as the Springfield Armory “Xtreme Duty” pistol, better known as simply the XD.

The XD proved popular with civilians, law enforcement agencies and competitive shooters, leading Springfield to introduce the XDM and XD-S series with improved ergonomics and a better trigger. Today, Springfield’s website lists no fewer than 34 members of the XD family in subcompact, compact, full-sized, long-slide and competition models available in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

But, as those of us familiar with the XD breed can tell you, the compact and subcompact pistols labor under one, might we say, disadvantage—their width. Yes, XD pistols tend to be a bit wide for concealed carry. While this is not normally a problem when carried in a belt holster under a roomy coat or jacket, it can be problematic if you prefer IWB, pocket, ankle or handbag carry. As several manufacturers have recently introduced compact polymer-framed pistols with slimmer dimensions, Springfield decided to offer a competitive product. Enter the Springfield XD-E.

Exceptional XD-E

The Springfield XD-E is a combination of both old and new pistol design features, the “new” being its polymer frame with aggressive GripZone checkering on the sides, front- and backstraps that provides a secure purchase, even with wet or oily hands or when wearing gloves. As on other XD-type pistols, the XD-E comes standard with an ambidextrous magazine release and, unique among pistols of this class, a Picatinny rail that allows you to mount tactical lights or lasers. The slide release and takedown levers are serrated for positive manipulations and mounted close to the frame so as not to snag on clothing or gear when the Springfield pistol is quickly drawn from concealment.

The CNC-machined slide has a Melonite finish and is fitted with a red fiber-optic front sight and a low-profile rear sight for target acquisitions and transitioning. Breech locking is accomplished by the barrel hood moving up into and bearing on the front edge of the ejection port. When fired, the barrel and slide recoil together a short distance before the barrel is cammed downward, allowing the slide to continue to the rear, extracting and ejecting the spent case. A dual recoil spring assembly located under the barrel then pulls the slide forward, stripping the next round out of the magazine and chambering it. As the slide goes into battery, the barrel is pulled upward, and its hood enters the ejection port, locking the two units together.

The steel slide reciprocates on four steel rails, one pair on the internal locking block and another pair on the hammer housing at the rear of the frame. Wait a minute, did I just say “hammer?”

Up until this point, all XD pistols were striker-fired, but the XD-E uses an external hammer to ignite cartridges. There are those persons who like to know the condition of their pistol at first glance. Most striker-fired designs feature some sort of external indicator that tells you if the pistol is cocked and ready to fire—or not. These are generally small and require one to look closely or actually feel them, whereas with an external hammer, you can instantly see your pistol’s condition.

Acknowledging the external hammer leads us to two more of the XD-E’s features that differentiate it from its older cousins: the trigger and safeties. Unlike the XD series with their Ultra Safety Assurance (USA) triggers, the XD-E features a traditional double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger, which allows the shooter to fire the first shot with a rather long DA trigger stroke while subsequent rounds are fired in SA mode. The DA trigger pull on the pistol I received displayed some “new gun” stiffness, but I feel that it will improve with use. The SA trigger pull broke with exactly 5.25 pounds of pressure, which I feel is just about right on a handgun intended for close-range personal defense or even police service.

Of course, when you are done firing, you are left with a pistol with a cocked hammer. For this reason, unlike the XD pistols’ grip and trigger safeties, the XD-E is fitted with an ambidextrous thumb safety that allows you to carry the pistol in “cocked and locked” mode or, when pushed all the way down, safely drops the hammer on a loaded chamber and returns the trigger to DA mode. Note: The safety can be applied with the hammer cocked or forward.

In addition, the XD-E has a passive firing pin safety that can only be deactivated by a full stroke of the trigger, a disconnector that prevents firing if the slide is out of battery and a loaded-chamber indicator on top of the slide at the rear of the ejection port.

The XD-E’s concealed-carry bona fides are enhanced by its short 6.75-inch length, an unloaded weight of only 25 ounces and—surprise—a width of only 1 inch. Much of this reduction in girth is accomplished by simply using a single-stack magazine. The pistol comes with one 8-round magazine and a spare X-Tension mag that holds nine rounds.

Driving Tacks

As longtime fans of XD pistols, my wife, Becky, and I were anxious to get to the range and run the new XD-E through its paces.

We performed the mandatory accuracy testing from an MTM K-Zone rest at a measured 15 yards with five different brands of 9mm ammo, producing a series of well-centered groups ranging from 1.5 to 3 inches in size. Kudos went to Winchester’s 147-grain Win3Gun load, which put five shots into three holes, all in the 10 ring.

Instead of perforating the usual cardboard combat targets, we decided on a different means of gauging how the XD-E performed off-hand. Accordingly, we moved over to the next berm, where my club had recently installed a steel plate dueling tree.

Starting with nine rounds in the pistol, I engaged the swinging plates from 8 yards. The XD-E’s sights were fast to acquire and provided a clear sight picture, and the pistol’s ergonomics were above reproach, greatly enhancing my recoil control. While I would like to tell readers that I never needed more than six rounds to swing the half-dozen plates across to the other side of the stand, I will admit (somewhat grudgingly) that on a few occasions I left one hanging there, apparently immoveable it seemed. Sigh.

By day’s end, we had run approx-imately 250 rounds through the Springfield pistol and experienced only one malfunction when the sixth round out of the first magazine fired hung up on the feed ramp. After that, the XD-E ran with boring regularity.

As is my usual practice, I plan to use the XD-E as my regular carry gun for the next week at the time of this writing. Because of its slim dimensions, and ensconced in a Galco Yaqui Slide belt holster, it fits flat against my body, preventing any printing, even under light clothing. I’m sure it will make a most comforting companion.

If you are a fan of traditional DA/SA pistols, you are going to find the new Springfield XD-E fills the bill to perfection. Now I wonder how long it will be before we see a .40-caliber XD-E.

Springfield XD-E Specs

Caliber: 9mm
Barrel: 3.3 inches
OA Length: 6.75 inches
Weight: 25 ounces (empty)
Grip: Polymer
Sights: Fiber-optic front, two-dot rear
Action: DA/SA
Finish: Matte black
Capacity: 8+1, 9+1
MSRP: $519

Springfield XD-E Performance

Load Velocity Accuracy
Federal 135 Hydra-Shok 1,047 1.80
Federal American Eagle 115 Syntech 1,119 2.00
Hornady 124 Steel Match HAP 1,128 1.90
Precision Delta 115 FMJ 1,139 2.00
Winchester 147 Win3Gun FMJ 952 1.50

*Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 15 yards. 

For more information, visit

This article was originally published in “Handguns Buyer’s Guide” 2018. To order a copy, visit

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