By Justin Opinion
Springfield Armory is announcing a new variant of the XD-S for 2014. It is the logical next step in the evolution of the sensationally popular XD-S sub-compact format. No, it’s not a new caliber offering – it is a new barrel length! Springfield has stretched the 3.3” barrel just ever so much to an even 4 inches. Why is this significant? For starters – recoil. I obtained my copy of the XD-S in 2012 in the initial offering of .45 ACP. If you have ever fired that gun, you know that it has some “personality” to it. Simple physics I’m afraid. Less size and weight of the handgun means more felt recoil for the shooter. The 2013 introduction of the 9mm version was welcomed by many because of the reduced pressures of that round, but it still has some snap. A 4” offering of this same gun adds weight where it is needed most – out at the muzzle. This helps reduce felt recoil. The XDS-9 4.0 also has a longer sight radius; adding ¾” to the length of the slide allows Springfield to push the front sight further forward by that same distance. This translates to a more accurate sight picture and better shots. Small errors in aiming are more noticeable, and therefore easier to correct with a longer sight radius.
Although the accessory rail is the same length, there is more usable space beneath the muzzle. This may accommodate some devices like mounted lights or lasers that would previously have been subjected to muzzle blast.
Balance and reduced muzzle lift. Yes, muzzle lift is a direct result of recoil, and I already talked about recoil – but the balance of the gun along with reduced muzzle lift allow for much faster, more accurate follow-up shots. This is a far more important element than many might consider, keeping in mind that the designed purpose of this handgun is personal protection. Because the extra ¾” and 2 oz. of slide and barrel are added to the front of the pistol, it is like hanging a counter-weight on the front of the XD-S. The simple physics of it mandate that the pistol will remain flatter – and during my shooting that was immediately apparent.
Like many, I had assumed that the next iteration of the XD-S we saw would be the 3.3” chambered in .40 S&W. After all, it was common knowledge almost immediately that the three intended calibers were .45ACP, 9mm, and .40 S&W, and we’ve seen the first two. After receiving this gun and studying it a bit, I developed my own opinions about why this is the next XD-S, but I also had the opportunity to speak with Rob Leatham at Springfield and get his perspective. Rob indicated that while we may still see the XD-S in .40 S&W, there does not seem to be the market demand for that caliber that exists for 9mm and .45ACP. The apparent void in the marketplace, according to Leatham, was for a carry gun that was easily and comfortably concealed, in a significant caliber, but not punishing to shoot. “Too many new shooters are handed the smallest, lightest handgun available”, says Rob, “but this is a mistake. The assault to their senses and the painful recoil scare them away.” I agree and have seen it happen, and no doubt, you have too. It is sad indeed to lose a potential new shooting enthusiast because of a bad first experience. The goal with the development of the 4-inch XD-S was to create a 9mm pistol that is just as easy and comfortable to conceal as its smaller sister, yet one that you can take to the range and shoot all day. I shot the 3.3” and the 4” side by side, and I say ‘mission accomplished’.
I put somewhere between 150-200 rounds down range with this pistol. The difference between the 3.3 and the 4.0 was obvious with the first trigger pull. The 4-inch version absorbs more of the energy, resulting in less muzzle lift and less felt recoil. And when I used the extended magazine, which effectively turns the grip into a single-stack XDM, it was downright comfortable and pleasant. I shot a combination of several brands of 115 grain FMJ target hardball and a couple of popular self-defense rounds. The gun fed and fired everything without a hitch – no failures or even hiccups of any kind. 4.0 performed well with a variety of ammo.
Because the gun was brand new, it did break in a bit while I tested it. My initial groups were still quite respectable at 10 yards, easily keeping inside five inches (even with the few flyers). After 50 or so rounds though, the groups shrunk by almost half to tight three-inch groups. This was freehand shooting, mind you – no bench or bag rest. So, a better shooter will almost certainly have better results. I think this gun is capable of making a single ragged hole out to at least 15 yards – in the right hands.
The 4.0 measured slightly lower at an average of 6 lbs. 11 oz. versus 6 lbs. 15.5 oz. for the 3.3 – but the difference was indistinguishable when shooting. Personally, I find the post-upgrade trigger in the XD-S to be a bit smoother with a crisper break than it had originally, and the 4.0 comes out of the box with the upgrade. The captured dual spring and guide rod assembly is also identical for the 4”. Because the frames of these pistols are identical in every way, expect the same feel and ergonomics. The triggers felt the same to me.
The 4.0 comes in traditional Springfield Armory fashion, packaged with a paddle holster and double mag pouch, along with one flush-fit and one extended magazine. Capacities are the same, 7+1 and 9+1 respectively.
The 4.0 will also fit every holster you own for the 3.3, provided it is the open-toe style to allow the added length. I have several holsters for my XD-S 3.3 .45ACP that the 4.0 slipped into perfectly. The pistol is comfortable to carry all day IWB. I didn’t notice the additional ¾” of length at all. The XD-S 4.0 really does strike the magic balance between everyday carry (EDC), home defense and training gun. If I didn’t already have an XD-S, this is the one I’d want. Actually, I want one
of these too!
Springfield indicated that the 4.0 should be in stores as early as February 2014, and the MSRP is identical to the 3.3” at $599 for black and $669 for the bi-tone.