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Ayoob: Why You’re Wrong About the XD

A few years ago I was on break while we were shooting the IDPA National Championship and a competitor came up to me and asked angrily, “Why do you trash the Springfield XD?” I simply pulled back my Armadillo vest so he could see my XD-M 5.25 in its Comp-Tac holster, smiled, and said “You’ve got the wrong gun writer.”

While the Springfield Armory XD has acquired some detractors in the quarter century or so it has been around, I beg to differ. Springfield Armory’s Dave Williams and Rob Leatham quickly saw the potential of the Croatian design, and these two definitely know their way around a pistol.

Features

But why does a pistol with good performance have these detractors? Some hated the XD’s grip safety. I personally thought it added one more layer of safety to a striker-fired pistol: holster it with your thumb on the back of the slide (where you can also feel as well as see the loaded chamber indicator, another safety feature) and you activate the grip safety. If something like a too-narrow safety strap or a fold of clothing gets into the trigger guard and onto the trigger face, the XD holstered this way won’t discharge like other guns would.

I noticed on the range that people who failed to activate the grip safety invariably had their thumb too high; the more you lift your thumb, the more you pull the web of the hand away from the backstrap of the grip.

I liked the trigger. Some target shooters claimed it was “mushy,” but I felt it was ideal for a defensive pistol. It has a long take-up with palpable resistance and then a smooth, rolling sear release sort of like a double-action revolver in microcosm. This is less conducive to unintended discharges, and more conducive to a surprise break without anticipation when firing an intentional shot.

XD Reliability

Over the years I shot the various iterations of the XD as they came out. These were in 9mm, .40, and .45 ACP of course, but also the rarer .357 Auto and .45 GAP versions. All were reliable.

For many years I’ve been the Personal Protection Market columnist for Shooting Industry magazine, an assignment that takes me to gun shops and commercial ranges all over the country. Whenever I’m at a facility that rents guns for the range — all of which keep tight maintenance records on their rental guns — I always ask how the various makes and models are standing up in terms of reliability and frequency of repair. Without exception, those in charge told me that XDs and XD-Ms were impressive in terms of reliability. 

When my wife and I took the Bill Rogers School Advanced Class, we found it was the Ph.D exam for what our friend Andy Stanford dubbed “surgical speed shooting.” The target arrays were multiple 8” disks at various distances, sometimes with as little as one-half second exposures. There was certainly no time to clear malfunctions. We were required to use lead-free primers, which aren’t as reliable as standard, and the more-expensive gun I started with on the first morning just couldn’t consistently “bust the caps.”

I switched to my XD-M 5.25” from the Springfield Custom Shop, and voila: working out of a Comp-Tac holster for all the complicated drills (including one-hand only with either hand, reloading likewise) the XD-M got me a passing score. That class runs about 2,500 rounds. It went through all those difficult lead-free 9mms without a single misfire or other malfunction.

And without maintenance, too. I knew the gun had had several hundred rounds without cleaning before I threw it in the gun case for the trip to Rogers, and once I was shooting figured I’d just keep going without cleaning or even lubrication to see how it stood up. It stood up.

Shortly after passing that demanding test with it and returning home, I took the same XD-M to a USPSA match. I was already too old and slow to hope to win the overall contest, but the XD-M 5.25” won me the top score in the single stand-and-shoot stage, The Standards. I finally cleaned it after that, now well past 3,000 rounds, but I suspect it could have kept going.

Model for Model

I visited Springfield Armory and shot the XD-M 5.25” with Dave Williams when it first came out. That long barrel gave the pistol a wand-like handling quality that just rang a bell with me, and I used it a lot for match shooting thereafter. I won High Senior (read: high geezer) at the Citrus Challenge IDPA match with it, and shot it in the 9mm events at my favorite match of all time, The Pin Shoot in Michigan. A more sophisticated take on the original XD, the XD-M shares that first gun’s reliability, as noted above.

My wife and I each have one of the 5” barrel 45XDLE pistols chambered for the mostly short-lived .45 GAP round. This allows 200- and 230-gr. .452” diameter bullets from a gun whose frame is built around the shorter 9mm round, which gives more reach to the trigger. My petite wife’s short fingers are happy with it. So are my fingers, which prefer the leverage afforded by placing the index finger on the trigger at the distal joint. She uses .45 GAP for regular pin shoots, where the heavy tenpins have to be blasted three feet back off the table.

The fact is, even the large-frame XD series guns give more trigger reach than their main competitors in the polymer .45 ACP and 10mm Auto marketplace. That along with the other XD features appealed to me when the XD45 was first introduced long ago, and I wound up with four of them. One each short barrel and long barrel in standard configuration, the shorter one of which won me top score overall at an IDPA match in Central Florida on its first outing, firing handloads made by my shooting buddy Steve Sager.

I’m not the only XD aficionado out there. My shooting buddy John Strayer has won several State and Regional IDPA Championships, most often with his Custom Shop XD-M decorated with distinctive streaks of blue fire. I’ve been at matches where folks spotted John and said something like, “There’s John Strayer and the Blue Flame. I guess the best we can hope for is second place.”

Conclusion

Time marches on, and so does Springfield Armory technology. Will the new Echelon fully replace the XD series in their line-up? All I can say is that nothing’s going to replace the 9mm, 10mm, and .45 XD pistols in my gun safe.

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