Read More at Springfield Armory: http://www.springfield-armory.com/xd-s-series/
Buy one on GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=xds
Having had plenty of opportunities to shoot in dark conditions, I’ve become a big, big proponent of equipping carry guns with lasers and ideally lights. Why? Simply put, when you consider the “process” of finding a target in the dark, getting a sight picture, and making a fast hit, there is nothing faster than using a laser. Obviously, the laser won’t help you find a target, but it will help you get on it quickly once you do identify it.
Apparently, the Springfield Armory folks agree. “Our goal with the XD-S® product line has always been to make it the perfect concealed carry pistol,” states Dennis Reese, Springfield Armory® CEO. “Now, through our work with Crimson Trace® we’re adding faster and more reliable target sighting capability. We want to make it easier for our customers to hit their chosen target as quickly as possible while under stress.”
Don’t take my word for it – after the first Crimson Trace Midnight Three Gun Invitational, all top finishers in subsequent years equipped their guns with lasers too because they learned the value. Without getting too much into the weeds here, there are a couple of reasons this configuration works in low light conditions.
When moving and or searching for a target, your handgun probably isn’t going to be in the shooting position, right in front of your face with the sights aligned with your eyeballs. That tends to obstruct your direct and peripheral vision. When it’s time to fire, you’ll most likely have to reposition your gun and acquire a proper sight picture. When using a laser, there is no need to raise the gun to that perfect “iron sight” picture. Wherever the gun is, low, medium, or high, if the laser is on target, you can make a hit. This also can be handy when shooting around barricades like doors, walls, or furniture. There is no need to expose a larger portion of your upper body just to get a proper sight picture.
Laser sighting also tends to support the biological response we all have of focusing on the threat, not on the front sight of the pistol. Yes, training helps overcome that tendency. Playing Devil’s advocate, why fight millions of years of biological programming? If your brain wants to focus on the threat, you can simply let it when using a laser. The aiming point and target are in the same focal plane, so there’s no need to take the focus away from the target and to the front sight.
Last, the laser removes sighting issues related to low light conditions. Night sights are designed to work in the dark, and I have those installed on all of my carry pistols. A laser makes accurate sighting in the dark a nonissue.
Am I advocating ditching the iron or night sights? No, of course, not. I’m simply suggesting the idea of giving yourself additional advantage above and beyond traditional sighting. There’s no reason you can’t continue to use the irons when you have a laser installed.
With all that said, I love that gun manufacturers are offering models ready to go meaning already equipped with a per-fit laser.
The Springfield Armory XD-S with Crimson Trace Laserguard is exactly that. The laser body is designed specifically for this gun – it’s not a bolt on one-size-fits-all rail assembly.
Let’s take a closer look.
The quick tour
First, this new model will initially be available in both 9mm and .45 ACP calibers. As we just covered the new XD-S in .40 caliber here the other day, I’d bet a ham sandwich that we’ll see that configuration with a factory-provided laser before too long. The model I’m testing is the .45 ACP, just for the record, because I’m a glutton for recoil. Well, truthfully, it’s what High Edit-ness sent to me. No matter, I’ve had fun with it.
Like all of the XD-S pistols, this one is a single-stack design. The .45 ACP model remains thin at just .9 inches wide. That makes it easy to conceal, especially inside the waistband. Heck, with a thin hybrid holster you might not even need to buy oversized pants. While we’re talking dimensions, the overall length is 6.3 inches. Height depends on whether you have the flush-fit magazine installed. With the low profile magazine, height is 4.4 inches. When you install the Mid-Mag, which we’ll discuss in a minute, the height moves to five inches. The weight of the .45 ACP model (empty) is 21.5 ounces while the weight of the 9mm model is 23 ounces. Those figures sound backward, but that’s only because the barrels on both have the same exterior diameter. The 9mm has a smaller hole, so there’s more steel weight in the barrel. The larger hollowed out bore in the .45 ACP makes it lighter.
Perhaps owing to its concealed carry design goals, the XD-S with Crimson Trace Laserguard is currently only available in the black frame and black Melonite® slide finish. The interiors are all the same as other XD-S models. The 3.3-inch barrel is hammer forged carbon steel also treated with Melonite®. The 9mm model has a 1:10 right-hand twist rate while the .45 ACP version uses a 1:16 right-hand twist.
Capacity varies by caliber. The .45 ACP model shown here holds five rounds in the flush magazine plus one in the chambers. The Mid-Mag, which extends the grip, adds a sixth round in the magazine. The 9mm holds seven and eight rounds in the same two configurations. The Mid-Mag not only adds capacity, but it lengthens the grip, so you have more to hold onto.
The pistols come with a larger backstrap in case you would like to swap it for the installed one to increase grip circumference. Springfield Armory includes two different Mid-Mag sleeves that mate perfectly to the backstrap you choose. The result is a smooth grip from top to bottom in any configuration.
The included “iron” sights are a fiber optic tube up front and low profile combat sights in the rear. The notch in the rear sight is flanked by white dots on either side. By the way, Springfield Armory uses a common dovetail cut for front and rear sights, so there are plenty of aftermarket options if you want something different. For example, I installed XS Big Dot sights on an XD-S 9mm just to try them out. Just be aware that one of the quirks of XD-family sights is that they are jammed into the dovetails by Superman, who was apparently assisted by the Incredible Hulk. They are in there tight! Unless you have high-grade sight pusher tools, enlist the help of a gunsmith to change out the sights. I guarantee that you’ll butch up your new XD-S is you try to remove the factory sights with a hammer and punch.
About the laser
The included laser is the Crimson Trace Laserguard LG-469. This unit is designed to closely match the color and contour of the XD-S frame. It mounts to the short rail segment up front and has a rib that mates to the single notch in the XD-S rail. The body is contoured under the trigger guard all the way to the top leading edge of the grip. The activation pad is shaped to fit into the exact contours of the grip texture, so it’s all locked firmly in place once installed.
The laser features instinctive activation – the pressure pad on the leading edge of the grip automatically turns the unit on when you take a firing grip. If you want to temporarily deactivate the laser, just lighten up on the pressure of your middle finger on the firing hand. It’s very easy to turn on and off that way.
The red laser is powered by either one 1/3N lithium or two 357 silver oxide batteries, both easy to find at your local drug or big box stores. The beam is pre-sighted at 50 feet from the factory and easily adjustable for windage and elevation using the included tool. At 50 feet, the laser will project a dot of about ½-inch in diameter. Battery life, if run continuously, is about four hours.
Mounting the laser
The laser came tucked away in a custom cut are of the gun case foam insert. The Springfield Armory XD-S specific instructions, battery, and Allen wrench tools came in a separate plastic Ziploc bag. I was a little surprised that the laser was not pre-installed at the factory. If I had to guess, I would assume that it ships uninstalled to preserve the life of the included battery. If the battery was installed, the knocking around during shipping and handling might activate the instinctive activation switch. But that’s just a guess.
Installation was a snap. The two halves of the Crimson Trace Laserguard clamp around the sides of the trigger guard and are stabilized by the single slot in the Picatinny rail. Unlike previous iterations of Laserguards, this one does not attach above the Picatinny rail grooves – it fits into place just below. Also, the Laserguard does not intrude into the interior of the trigger guard. That’s a nice touch as you have as much space for your finger as originally intended. Also, junk inside the trigger guard tends to abrade your trigger finger during recoil.
When I mounted the laser, a quick comparison to the iron sights showed the point of aim a few inches off to the left, but that was easily corrected with the included Allen wrench windage and elevation adjustment tools. I just stabilized the gun, aimed at a spot on a wall 50 feet away, and brought the laser dot back into alignment with the iron sights.
Shooting the XD-S .45 ACP with Crimson Trace Laserguard
To get a subjective feel for this compact little .45, I shot a variety of ammo of different bullet weights. It all functioned perfectly, and I didn’t have any detectable “break in period” issues. Regarding the point of impact variance, the various ammo types grouped similarly in relation to the sights – just above the top of the front sight. At 15 yards, the front sight sits at the six o’clock position of the final group.
Recoil varied (obviously) with the type of load. On the lighter side was the PolyCase Inceptor ARX 114-grain round. These injection molded .45 caliber projectiles cook along at 1,150 feet per second. While the recoil is mellow, the muzzle blast will wake you up a bit. The “standard” 230-grain ammo was stout in terms of recoil but perfectly controllable in the XD-S. Make no mistake, the 9mm is significantly easier to shoot, but isn’t that always the case between .45 and 9mm? Shooting defensive .45 ACP loads from the XD-S is nothing like torching off a .357 Magnum from a snubbie revolver – the XD-S is far more pleasant to shoot. On the “Hello!” front was the Remington HTP. The HTP line is a lower cost defensive ammunition alternative. I’ve tested it in gel, and it performs just as it should in terms of expansion and penetration. However, one area where you will see a difference between the HTP and Remington’s (or anyone else’s) premium ammo is in the powder blend. Good stuff is often blended and/or coated for low-flash and blast. Apparently that’s one of the cost-saving measures in place on the HTP line. The fireball erupting from the XD-S muzzle was quite impressive as was the volume of the muzzle blast. As you’ll see in the next section, that had no negative impact on accuracy, and I can still see, so the fireball didn’t permanently blind me.
Since the whole idea of this gun is the integrated laser, I decided to rely on the laser exclusively for accuracy testing. I shot at my outdoor range, but late in the afternoon, just before dusk, so seeing the red laser dot down range was easy.
I decided to shoot at 15 yards given the concealed carry mission of this pistol and its compact size. I set up targets and went to town, shooting five-shot groups with a variety of ammo. Here’s what I found.
|Ammunition||Average Group Size (inches)|
|Black Hills JHP +P 230-grain||1.32”|
|Federal Range and Target 230-grain||2.12”|
|Polycase Inceptor ARX 114-grain||2.93”|
|Remington HTP 185-grain||1.17”|
|Winchester PDX1 Defender 230-grain||1.80”|
One thing I’ve noticed is that Springfield Armory tends to make accurate guns, and with this XD-S .45 ACP I have no complaints in that department. The sights and point of impact were consistent (and lined up), and groups were excellent for this compact pistol.
Closing thoughts on the new XD-S
I like the idea of the bundle of a custom fit laser with a concealed carry gun. That will be simpler and less expensive for the buyer. I would have liked to see the laser come pre-installed and sighted at the factory. While installation and sighting only took me a couple of minutes, it would be a nicer touch to have that already done.
If you’re one to trust your life to the venerable .45 ACP, then check out the XD-S. It’ll run, provided you give it a stable platform against which it can recoil.