CLICK HERE to vote in the Springfield Armory Duel – Range Officer 9mm vs. XD-M 5.25 Competition.
Springfield Armory is having a huge summer contest. It’s called “The Duel.” They’re pitting some of their most popular guns against each other in head-to-head competitions. As part of these promotions, they’re also giving away guns. Each Monday, they’ll announce which gun will be given away later in the week. The first one up for grabs is the XD Sub-Compact. Contestants can submit entries at the Springfield website once an hour, every hour. If you don’t plan on sleeping, that gives you 24 chances a day, every day, until the drawing. In celebration of the Gun-Day giveaway, we’re bringing you a review, so you’ll know what you’re in for if you win.
Springfield Armory introduced the polymer framed XD line more than a decade ago, yet these hard hitting pistols are still popular with shooters who expect reliability, performance, and value. We’re looking at the smallest of the XD line, the XD Sub-Compact. I’ve shot a lot of sub compact guns, and this is one of the most effective I’ve seen.
The XD Sub-Compact
Caliber 9mm (or .40 S&W)
Recoil System Dual Spring w/ Full Length Guide Rod
Trigger 5.5 – 7.7 lbs.
Sights Dovetail Front and Rear (Steel) 3 – Dot
Weight (with Empty Magazine) 26 ozs. w/ Compact Mag, 27 ozs. w/ X-Tension™
Height 4.75″ w/ Compact Mag, 5.5″ w/ X-Tension™
Slide Forged Steel, Melonite® Finish
Barrel 3″ Steel, Melonite®, Hammer Forged
Grip Width 1.20″
Frame Black Polymer
Magazines 13 Round Compact, 16 Round w/ X-Tension
The XD Sub-Compact is one mean little pug. The polymer-framed powerhouse holds 16 rounds of 9mm in its extended magazine, and is still small enough to conceal. But don’t let the Sub-Compact label snow you. This is a hefty little gun. It seems paradoxical, but a fully loaded XD Sub-Compact feels and shoots like a much larger gun.
XD, XD-S, XD(M)?
Let’s get into the obvious comparisons. Springfield Armory makes a number of deceptively similar guns. The XD with its 3 inch barrel looks a lot like the XD-S, with its 3.3 inch barrel. Both are now chambered in 9mm. They’re both purpose driven concealed carry guns, and there’s virtually no difference in the guns’ abilities. The big distinctions are the available calibers and the obvious round counts in the magazines.
The XD-S is a single-stack. This limits its firepower. It is also thin, which increases its ability to be concealed in tight places. Small-framed thin people benefit from the flat profile of the gun. But is that fraction of an inch worth the limitation placed on capacity?
The XD is a double-stack, and the grip is really wide. While this width is great for control, it does make it harder to conceal. If, like me, you are built more like a double-stack .45 than a single-stack anything, concealing an XD is way too easy. I carry an XD-S, but the XD Sub-Compact is much easier for me to use. Looks like I’ll be learning a new gun….
The XDs has a much more aggressive texture on the grip, and the sights are upgraded for deep concealment. The XD has a much less aggressive grip texture, and the sights are less streamlined. Yet, the grip texture doesn’t need to be as aggressive. The girth allows for a better grip, even without the added texture, and the three dot sights get the job done.
At the end of the comparison is a lingering question. The XD-S and the XD Sub-Compact are so similar in size, yet so dissimilar in their respective capacities. Can you conceal the extra width of the XD? If the answer is yes, the benefits will answer the question for you. The added weight makes the XD a more controllable gun. The added capacity means you don’t have to reload quite as often. You won’t have the streamlined sights or a fiber optic front sight, but those seem like extras to me, and not a reason to sacrifice the extra rounds.
And then there’s the comparison to the XD-S’s bigger brother. If you ever carry OWB, the XD(M) is a good choice. The XD(M) functions in exactly the same way as the other XD pistols. When I went to the range for this review, I had an XD Sub-Compact, an XD-S 3.3 in .45 ACP, an XD(M) in 9mm, and an XD-S 4.0 in 9mm. It was a bit of a mess on the bench where we were trying to keep magazines and cartridges organized. Yet on the range, I often forgot which of the double stack XD pistols I was shooting. Especially with the extended magazine on the Sub Compact.
I guess where I’m going with this is that these pistols are all very similar, and very effective. The lines between their intended purposes is blurred. On the far end, the XD(M) seems built for competition. On the short end, the XD-S is truly a concealed carry piece. In the middle, the XD pistols and XD(M) variants do it all.
One feature the XD has that the XD-S doesn’t is the striker status indicator, which indicates more than the simple fact that this is a striker fired pistol. The small steel bar extends from the end of the pistol just enough to be seen and felt. There’s no thumb safety, but it does have Springfield’s Ultra Safety Assurance Action Trigger System which is both a mouthful and a lever that rides in the center of the actual trigger. Until that lever is depressed, the trigger won’t move to the rear. And behind that is a grip safety that is automatically depressed when you grip the gun. I’ve yet to find a way to grab the pistol without engaging that safety.
These are both intuitive safeties. There’s also a firing pin block which adds in a third layer. All combine to make a gun that is more impervious to accidental discharge, but one that will function when you need it, without you having to take the extra steps needed to thumb a manual safety.
One of the most interesting features of this pistol is the slide. It is, for lack of a better description, terraced. It is wider at the frame than it is at the top, and, when compared to the XD-S and XD(M) lines, the frames on the XD line are beefier. This gives an empty XD a top heavy, feel. Yet when the gun is loaded, especially with the extended mag, it is ideally balanced. And the extra weight cuts down on some of the snap that defines lighter guns. The XD with a 3 inch barrel has less felt recoil than some of the .380s I’ve shot. This makes it a good option for those who may otherwise shy away from a 9mm because of recoil control issues.
Shooting the XD Sub-Compact
I was introduced to the XD line through the XD-S. Before that, I’d not been drawn to Springfield’s polymer pistols. I’d run many of their 1911s, and knew them to be solid performers. I even carry a Range Officer from time to time. When they launched the XD-S, I was excited to have such a huge round in such a small package, and I jumped on the bandwagon with everyone else. And I really liked what I found. Without even realizing I was doing it, I’d ignored the XD Sub-Compact.
When I decided to review the XD Sub Compact, I didn’t expect any surprises. Yet I’ve been looking at some of the raw video footage from a couple of range trips, and I can see a noticeable difference in the way I shoot the XD. The larger grip allows me to hold down the muzzle flip. It shoots flat. I can pull double taps very quickly. I can pop through a magazine, as fast as I can work the trigger, without ever having to slow down to reset my sights.
While the XD-S is great choice for concealed carry, reloads are more complicated (and more frequent). The double-stack mag on the XD is easy to load. You can drop a mag and pop a new one in just like you can on any typical full-sized duty pistol. The one thing I’d suggest is that you load like you mean it. Hammer the mag home. Just pushing it in casually may not be enough to seat it fully.
The short barrel isn’t going to win any distance competitions. I’ve made shots with the XD-S as far as 100 yards, but it feels like a novelty. At 7 yards, the XD will tear up a target. That’s a polite way of saying it isn’t going to poke one clean hole. Nor do you want it to. Think of it like this. Every distinct hole in a bad guy is going to produce a new wound channel, dramatically increasing stopping power. That’s why people train to shoot double-taps. You don’t want both bullets going into the exact same hole. Two holes are more effective than just one. It doesn’t matter that the XD isn’t going to shoot one ragged hole, this is a pistol meant for self defense. It is meant for close quarters work, and it does its job perfectly. You can use the sights and hit anything within a 2 inch circle, or you can point shoot and hit the center of a torso target.
And the 9mm is still going to provide some impressive performance, even from this short of a barrel. +P loads average about 1,200 FPS. The typical carry loads, depending on weight, come in anywhere from 900 FPS to 1,100 FPS. While it isn’t the full potential of the 9mm round, those numbers aren’t bad.
The XD is a surprising little gun. I hadn’t expected to say that, but the control that the XD offers, even in the Sub-Compact version, makes it a contender for IWB concealed carry. As the pistol has been on the market for a while, there are scores of holster options. In a world that is dominated by thinner-is-better, lighter-is-better, smaller-is-better pistols, the XD makes no concessions. It is unapologetically hefty. In this configuration, the pistol sells for around $450. If you want a little bling, you can dress one up with a stainless slide for a bit more.