When I told my brother-in-law about the release of the XD-S Mod.2 in 9mm, he rolled his eyes. He’s a law enforcement officer and a huge gun enthusiast, and his reaction to Springfield’s announcement might have mirrored yours. Sequels of any kind get a bad rap, especially when the original was a huge success. Remember The Emperor’s New Groove 2? Me neither. How about Jaws: The Revenge? Did you even know they made a Jaws sequel? (They made three.)
Springfield’s XD-S wasn’t the first subcompact striker-fired concealed carry pistol, but for years it’s been among the most popular. It, along with Smith & Wesson’s M&P Shield and a few others, ushered in the modern concealed carry movement, and gun owners have been using the XD-S to protect themselves ever since. The ubiquitous articles and videos highlighting the “Top 5 CCW Pistols” always include Springfield’s offering, and for good reason: the XD-S is reliable, cost-effective, and backed by one of the country’s most trusted manufacturers.
Successful firearm sequels balance “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” with real, value-adding improvements. If a manufacturer re-engineers a popular design like the XD-S, they risk losing those features that made the firearm successful in the first place. But if they don’t improve enough components, “new-and-improved” starts to look suspiciously like “the-same-and-more-expensive.”
Those were my thoughts heading into this review, and I think Springfield managed to balance these two extremes well. I conducted my own comparison and spoke with Springfield’s R&D manager to dissect how the company raised the Mod.2 above its predecessor without losing what made the original design so great.
First, the spec sheet!
MAGAZINES: 1 – 7 round, flush fitting w/grip X-Tension™ / 1 – 9 round, w/X-Tension™, stainless steel
BARREL: 3.3″ hammer forged, steel, Melonite® / 1:16 RH twist
SIGHTS: Pro-Glo™ Tritium/Luminescent front & tactical rack serrated rear (steel)
FRAME: Black polymer with enhanced grip texture
SLIDE: Forged steel, Melonite® Finish
RECOIL SYSTEM: Dual captive recoil spring with full length guide rod
HEIGHT: 4.3″ with flush mag / 4.85″ w/ mag X-Tension™
GRIP WIDTH: .975”
WEIGHT W/ EMPTY MAG: 21.5 ozs w/flush mag / 22.5 ozs w/ mag X-Tension™
Springfield offers two additional Mod.2 models. The standard comes with a fiber-optic front sight instead of the Tritium, which will save you an extra $62 (MSRP: $524). The Viridian model comes with a fiber-optic front sight and a red Viridian laser sight (MSRP: $555).
So, What’s the Difference?
Without further ado, here’s what your $80 will buy if you decided to purchase a Mod.2 over the original.
The Mod.2 package with the Tritium front sight isn’t much of a deal, but the Viridian model will reduce your final bill by nearly $70. The Viridian XD-S costs only $31 more than the standard, but those lasers run around $100. If you want a laser sight, purchasing the Mod.2 Viridian will definitely save you some cheddar.
The real improvement comes in the “tactical rack” rear sight. The shape of the sight body allows the firearm to be racked against a hard surface in the event the shooter cannot utilize both hands. You’ll probably never use this feature, but like the firearm itself, you’ll be happy you have it if you ever need it.
On the Tritium and Viridian models, Springfield also cut the rear sight in a U-shape, which provides a more intuitive sight picture with the round front sight. On the standard and Viridian models, the rear sight includes two white dots.
Springfield made a number of improvements to the grip. First and most obviously, they replaced the grenade-style texturing with a basket-weave pattern. I haven’t used the grenade-style pattern since I replaced the grips on my XD-S, and I like the Mod.2’s better (Clay says the same). Springfield also rounded the edges on the front and rear of the grip and molded unobtrusive finger grooves into the front. You’ll want to hold the Mod.2 for yourself before making a decision, but I think the pistol’s improvements move it in the right direction.
Springfield also redesigned the grip safety to provide more reliable engagement, slightly extended the beaver tail to help control recoil, and changed the grip geometry to allow for a higher grip closer to the bore axis. I’ve never had a problem with the grip safety on my XD-S, but it’s easy to see how the redesign would allow for better engagement in a one-handed self-defense situation. I landed faster follow-up shots with the Mod.2, and that’s at least partially due to the changes in grip geometry.
The trigger also deserves credit for faster shooting, and I think it’s one of the Mod.2’s most significant improvements. I spoke with Springfield’s R&D Manager, Dave Williams, and while he didn’t share Springfield’s secret sauce (“proprietary methods” is the term, I believe), he did explain that they designed the Mod.2’s trigger mechanism to scale around the 9mm platform.
“The XD-S Mod.2 is much more than just a facelift of the original model,” he said. “The mechanism was redesigned to scale around the 9mm platform and provide an enhanced trigger action over the original. Many components were redesigned to accomplish this task.”
I believe him. For a striker-fired CCW, the Mod.2’s trigger is good. After some pre-travel, the trigger on the model I tested broke between 6.5 and 7 pounds with no over-travel. The reset was crisp and tactile.
If you own an original 9mm XD-S, you’ll also notice Springfield shaved a significant chunk from the thickness of the hammer-forged, Melonite-treated barrel. As with the trigger, Williams told me they designed the barrel specifically for the 9mm cartridge, which doesn’t require the heavier barrel used in the older version.
As for barrel life and longevity, Williams said the new feature has been extensively endurance tested to “well past any normal level.” He mentioned that the XD-S is a favorite among rent-to-shoot ranges, and they designed the Mod.2 with that kind of round count in mind. Springfield’s engineers also subjected the Mod.2 to a major torture test (more on that below), and it passed without a single malfunction.
Springfield made some changes to the slide as well. They declined to share details, but I wanted to include these pictures for the benefit of those who wanted a look.
None of these improvements matter if the firearm can’t function as advertised. The XD-S has always been one of the most reliable handguns in its price range, and I worried a redesign would compromise that reliability.
But the engineers at Springfield did their due diligence before taking the Mod.2 to market. They put the new XD-S through a 25,000-round course of fire without a single failure. To put that in perspective, 25,000 rounds fits in 500 50-round boxes of ammunition and costs $4,500 at $0.18/round. If you went to the range every week and shot two 50-round boxes, it would take you nearly 5 years to complete Springfield’s endurance test.
My experience with the pistol was consistent with the company’s claims. I fired 400 rounds using two different Hornady loads without a single malfunction. I loaded the 7, 8, and 9-round magazines to full capacity and even used the limp-wrist test to try to produce a jam. The gun was oiled, but I didn’t clean it—I just pulled it out of the box and started shooting.
Pocket pistol accuracy is less important than reliability but still worth noting. At 15 feet from a bag rest, the gun consistently produced 0.8-1” groups. Works for me.
Finally, while ergonomics improvements have been made, the XDS Mod.2 retains the same great concealability as the original.
Springfield improved the Mod.2 based on one simple premise: to design a 9mm handgun around the cartridge rather than simply shrinking the 45 ACP model to fire a 9mm. The result retains the same reliability and performance while shrinking the grip width, improving the trigger, and lightening the barrel. The improvements aren’t massive, but taken together they add more value to the handgun than you’ll spend over the original. Improved ergonomics, better sights, and longer slide serrations make for a more comfortable shooting experience and, more importantly, better handling in a self-defense situation.
The XD-S Mod.2 is, in other words, a sequel worth the price of admission.