There are multiple ways to approach concealed carry. You can go the minimalist route and tuck away a .380 (or an even smaller caliber like a .25 ACP) and simply hope for the best. You can pay close attention to your wardrobe and attempt to conceal a full-sized handgun or a larger compact. Or you can go with a gun that’s built specifically for concealed carry. The Springfield Armory XD-S is built for those who want a full-sized caliber in an easily concealed package. The XD-S 4.0 in .45 ACP looks, performs and presents like much larger pistol. With its four-inch barrel, it isn’t a backup gun. Yet it isn’t as obtrusive as most duty weapons. For those of us who only carry one handgun, the XD-S is a great choice.
Springfield seems to be slowly filling in the gaps. The XD-S in 4.0, in either 9mm or .45 ACP, is bigger than the 3.3-inch versions and thinner than the double-stack XD line. The XD Compact in .45 ACP has a 4.04-inch barrel and holds ten rounds of .45 ACP. When comparing the whole family tree, at least within the same calibers, the XD Compact and the XD-S 4.0 seem to cover a lot of the same ground. The real distinction is the width. The single stack XD-S pistol fits very flush against your hip and hides well. The XD Compact, though, won’t run dry quite as quickly.
The XD-S 4.0 in .45 ACP is likely to weigh a touch less than the 9mm version (as they remove a little bit more from the barrel to accommodate the larger round). The 9mm weighs in at 25 ounces, empty. The XD-S 4.0s are seven inches long and built on the exact same frame as the 3.3 inch XDS. The trigger pull is advertised to be between 5.5 and 7.5 pounds. This one came in at 7.2 pounds.
Many who carry polymer framed pistols lament the material’s lack of texture. A smooth piece of aluminum or steel will still provide more grip than some textured polymers. If I knew more about physics, I’d talk about the coefficient of kinetic friction. I don’t. I do know that a seemingly textured piece of polymer can still feel slick, especially when wet. The XD-S’s frame has a pattern of jagged rectangles that bite into your hand like knobby tire treads and allow the small gun to be held confidently.
The only external safety features are built into the trigger and the grip. That may be one or two more safeties than some would like, but it is an effective combination for concealed carry. There’s no additional manual safety to drop as you present the gun. The trigger safety and grip safety combination, especially on the 3.3-inch XD-S, make pocket carry more reliable but are naturally disengaged when the gun is gripped. That said, the 4.0 isn’t going to fit in many pockets.
Why a 4.0?
The existing XD-S line has a 3.3 inch barrel. What would the additional .7 of an inch do for the gun? The most immediate answer seems to be velocity. Handgun rounds are often tested from five-inch barrels. The longer the barrels allow for more powder to combust behind the bullet, pushing it out faster. Adding less than an inch of barrel can eek out a bit more punch, and that’s important for a round that’s as lethargic as the .45 ACP.
There’s a good resource out there for those really looking for concrete numbers. Ballistics By The Inch. The site compiles data by taking chronograph readings from a wide variety of ammunition types. They start with 18-inch barrels, and document the results (as they chop off an inch at a time) all the way down to two inches.
BBTI’s methodology is more scientific than most of us will ever get. When looking at a three-inch fixed barrel (one without a blowback action behind it), you can expect velocities somewhere near the 900 fps range. That’s decent for a .45 ACP. Add an extra inch, and velocities climb up to closer to the 1,000 fps range. Not a huge difference, but not bad. If you average them out, it comes out to about 100 fps more.
Hornady’s 185 grain XTP averaged 926 fps from this 4.0. This (or their Critical Defense) is my preferred spring and summer carry load. The XTP is advertised at 970 fps from a five-inch barrel. Critical Defense .45 ACP is a bit hotter than that (1,000 fps), and the Critical Duty is even punchier (220 grains at 975 fps).
Velocity is one feature, but capacity is often more of a concern. Ever since the XD-S’s initial launch, some have questioned the rather limited capacity of the single stack magazine. The smaller of the two magazines that ship with the 4.0 only holds five rounds. With one in the barrel, the 4.0 gets the same gas mileage as most snub-nosed revolvers. I’m not one to complain. A four-inch .45 ACP will produce more foot-pounds of force than a two-inch .357 Magnum. And it will be easier to conceal. Still, there are those not willing to sacrifice capacity, and the XD-S is clearly not for them.
One of the biggest benefits of the extra length on the barrel can be felt when wearing the 4.0 inside the waistband. I’ve got a high-ride Multi Holster IWB for the XD-S 3.3. It is a great holster, and it holds the pistol right where I need it, so long as I’m standing up. But I’ve never been one to wear my pants too tight, and I’m not going to be caught dead in skinny-jeans. If I bend over, or sit too quickly, the holster tends to get pushed up. The holster has never come out of my pants, but the 3.3 doesn’t have enough barrel to keep it down. It wants to ride over my belt and out (sort of turning my belt over in the process). It isn’t the fault of the gun or the holster. Both do exactly what they’re designed to do.
The 4.0 has just that much more length. While I haven’t gotten the exact same style holster (yet) to test my theory, I think the extra length will help mitigate that problem. It would be even better to have the whole holster slightly deeper, with more coverage by the waistband. When you’re dealing with guns with this much mass (close to 2 pounds, loaded), and very little real estate, placement is everything. You need to be able to hide it and hold it securely (i.e. sink it deep inside the waistband), and yet be able to access it quickly (which puts the grip above the waistband).
It can get complicated, but it is worth getting right. The XD-S is a hard-hitting pocket rocket. This gun seems smaller than it is. It is thin, compact and not as heavy as many .45s. The extra barrel length of the 4.0 with the narrow grip and the five-round magazine makes for a tremendous IWB gun.
Shooting the XD-S 4.0
I’ve heard some complain about the XD-S’s recoil impulse. As it is compact, there is a sharp muzzle flip. Because it is thin, the XD-S is harder to hold than some full-sized .45s. As someone who reviews a lot of pistols, I don’t mind shooting the 3.3-inch XD-S. It isn’t as sharp as some pocket .380s I’ve shot and much better than derringer-sized guns in 9mm or .45ACP. I’d never even considered the recoil to be a liability until I heard others grousing about it.
The good news is that the 4.0 is even easier on the hands. The extra length and weight make the gun that much less likely to kick. It isn’t going to glide like a steel-framed 1911, but it is easy enough on the hands that you aren’t going to lament practice time. Slap in the extended seven-round magazine and work through basic shooting drills. Put the short mag in and work from concealment. I put more than 200 rounds through this one on its first outing, as fast as I could load magazines, and had no residual pain in my hand or wrist. My split times are marginally faster with the 4.0 than with the original XD-S, too.
And yet…. I’m still not in sync with the pistol. When I really slow down and aim for pinpoint accuracy, I’m pulling left. I’m connecting a good three inches left and as much as five inches low. I can’t pinpoint what I’m doing wrong. My trigger control is good. I’ve got both eyes open. My grip is solid. My stance is effective. I’m pounding the target low and left, consistently.
After running through a couple of boxes, I tacked up new targets and handed the 4.0 to the range master. He carries an original XD-S in .45ACP, so he knows the gun. He lined up exactly where I was and dumped five rounds right in the center of the target. We talked through his grip, pull and sight picture, and he gave the gun back. I shot the rest of the morning, low and left. I think it has something to do with my use of the trigger. When I worked from the holster, my shot placement was fine. But I was point shooting and hitting the trigger emphatically.
The good news is that the 4.0 ate everything and had almost no malfunctions. The slide failed to lock back once. That was it. The gun ate Hornady’s carry loads and American Eagle 230 grain ball, Blazer, even some hand-loads. Nothing failed to feed, and the XDS kicked out the brass into a wide circle perpendicular to the barrel, about eight feet to the right.
Even though I’m not yet bull’s-eye accurate with this 4.0, I am with my original XD-S. I like that gun so much that I own two, one in .45 and one in 9mm. Here’s a story I tell about the XD-S line to anyone who will listen. I was standing on the edge of a deep ravine working on a shotgun review. I’d been shooting (at) clay pigeons that were drifting down, about 100 yards below me, into the muddy silt on a riverbank. The clays landed there, unbroken. From the rim, the little orange spots on the bank were too insulting. They had to be broken. I had a couple of boxes of slugs with me, and I dutifully ran those through the shotgun. The fat slugs came close, but I never connected. The mud just sucked them down. I grew more frustrated as I ran out of ammo. But I had a .45 ACP XD-S on my hip. I pulled out the gun, aimed, fired. The first round hit just low. At that distance, and from that elevation, there was very little hold-over needed. The clays didn’t stand a chance. I nailed them.
That’s how the XD-S line is. It is capable. If I demonstrated anything during the review of this 4.0, it is that the gun is more capable than I am sometimes.
The price on the 4.0s should be the same as guns in the original XD-S line, most of which are selling close to $500. It is a solid investment. I spend too much time in gun stores, and I’ve yet to see a used one for sale.