Fist full of Hardball: Why I Carry a Springfield XD-S

The XD-S 4.0

The XD-S 4.0

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It seems like everyone besides 7/11 has come to market recently with a micro-sized carry gun, and in some places (like Baltimore) even they might have their own line. At least they have a rep in the parking lot. I have been licensed to carry for over 10 years, and like many other CCW holders, I have bought my share of NEXT BIG THINGs. I have the footlocker full of holsters to prove it. I started on a full-sized steel 1911. I had a 9mm with sights so small they might as well have not existed. I had the elusive Scandium frame .38 Special revolver. And I think I have finally found my unicorn- Enter the XD-S 4.0.

The XD-S first came to my attention a few years ago when I was still in the Army, teaching some SOF ninjas concealed carry for a semi-permissive environment. One of my students mentioned that his unit was fielding the XD-S. I was intrigued. Military weapons system procurement is such a cluster it is much like watching Congress try and make sausage during an election year, with the sausage donor still on the hoof. We are in the 10th year and 3rd iteration of the “ Joint Combat Pistol” in the military, and at the present rate we should have a new one picked just in time to fight the bug people on Jupiter. Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) weapons procurement does happen, but it is exceedingly rare. I had to know what made this gun so good his unit would go through the pain it must have been to field them.

I went to the local gun shop shortly after to get my hands on one. If you have already burned your gun budget for the year, I strongly encourage you to stay home. I was in love at first touch, so strong that I broke my vow to be done buying carry guns which I had made two years prior. (That is a long streak for me, show some sympathy). What separates the XD-S from the pack? I’m glad you asked, straw man. Allow me to educate you on a pistol that would have Wyatt Earp seething with jealousy.

The XD-S is still large enough to shoot with two hands.

The XD-S is still large enough to shoot with two hands.

The shorter mag holds five rounds. The other holds seven.

The shorter mag holds five rounds. The other holds seven.


CCW guns are, by definition, small and concealable. That’s kind of the point. If I know I’m going to a gunfight, I bring a rifle. And if for some reason the clouds parted and ordained that I HAD to go to a firefight with just a pistol, it would be a double stack 10mm with lights, lasers, and extended mags. My CCW gun’s job is to get my smiling face to the grocery store and back.

The problem with most carry guns is that they are too small. I am not exactly a giant of a man, but I am over six feet tall, with mitts to match. Most carry guns are easier to shoot one-handed, which isn’t exactly great for recoil management or trigger control. The XD-S fits.  It is a small gun, but there is enough of it for me to get both paws on. I also feel like I have a grown up gun when I am shooting. I should mention here, I always carry the extended magazines in my XD-S.

Finding the sight picture on the XD-S is easy, and the added length provides a bit more length in the sight radius.

Finding the sight picture on the XD-S is easy, and the added length provides a bit more length in the sight radius.


Springfield also managed to fit real sights on the XD-S. They are big enough to see and use, but small enough to be snag resistant. This seems to be a novel concept in the CCW gun category, and a big selling point for me. The conventional wisdom might be “FBI/CIA/NSA/ Podunk County, AL after-action statistics say a citizen’s average gun fight distance is 3 feet, so who needs sights?” I do. I need sights.

Often when I travel, the gun I carry concealed is the only one I have. Ever had someone at your hotel room door, convinced they were at the right room? I have, and not cool. Veteran’s retirement and a GunsAmerica paycheck mean I often stay at less than 4-star hotels. For anyone not familiar with the seedier roadside motel life, some pretty nefarious characters inhabit them. If the local meth dealers decide to come through my door with sawed-off shotguns and bad dental work, I would like that fight to be from at least across the room.

It is also worth pointing out that the rules have changed in the last few years. You don’t carry a gun just to protect you; you carry it to protect everyone in some cases. Mass shootings have taught us that retreat may not be an option. If I had to face something like Aurora or Nidal Hassan at Ft. Hood, I’d much rather try with a gun I can shoot to 20 yards.

The trigger safety is one of two external safeties that have to be manipulated before the gun will fire.

The trigger safety is one of two external safeties that have to be manipulated before the gun will fire.


Springfield batted one out of the park with this. The magazine and slide release both feel like nothing was compromised in their design. Big enough to actually use, but neither snags or digs into your skin during carry. A work of art.

The XD-S comes with what I feel is the best trigger for a carry gun I have ever had. This is not a race gun; it’s built for work. The trigger has about a quarter inch of take up, then a reasonably crisp break. The weight is heavy enough that it isn’t going to surprise you, but not so heavy as to be difficult to shoot.


Finally, the fun part! I must confess, I cheated a little in this review. When the 4.0 came up for review, I jumped on it. But my carry gun for a year prior to this had already been the XD-S 3.3. Both guns are in .45 ACP for an apples to apples comparison. 230-grain hardball is sporty out of a small gun–that’s just physics.

The XD-S handles it surprisingly well, though. The grenade checkering on the frame helps you keep your grip, and the dual recoil spring system absorbs a lot of the energy. You will know you are shooting, but it is a very controllable package, all things considered. I shot 300 rounds for this review in one day, and my hands felt fine at the end.

3.3 vs 4.0

The 4 inch XD-S is, predictably, slightly easier to shoot due to its slightly longer sight radius. I said easier, not more accurate. All the things I did with the 4″, I could repeat with my 3.3″. The sight radius is just a wee bit more forgiving. The weight difference, 3 ounces, also gives the 4″ a slight edge for shooting. That is roughly the same as adding a tungsten guide rod to a full-size gun, with the weight exactly where you want it, up front.

Holsters from Jackson Leatherworks.

Holsters from Jackson Leather Works.

And always carry a spare.

And always carry a spare.

Having both guns and holsters made by the same manufacturer (Jackson Leather Works) helps. You do feel that extra ¾ inside the waistband, but it’s not much different. Both are great guns. Either is a win. Given my frame size, if I had it to do over again, I would buy the 4.0. I lose almost nothing in concealability, and gain a bit more slide. But the difference is not enough for me to trade in my 3.3.

Lastly, I had two very similar guns for a limited time, and I was at the Mad Max range known as TDSA (Texas Defensive Shooting Academy). Did I resist the temptation to waste 16 rounds of ammo going pistols akimbo like this was Play station land? Not a chance!

The extra length on the 4.0".

The extra length on the 4.0″.

Another angle.

Another angle.

Boxed for travel.

Boxed for travel.

About the author (in his own words): I served in two branches of service, the USMC and the Army. In Mother Corps, I was in the infantry, a Scout/ Sniper, and a Recon Marine. I spent my last year on the all-expenses-paid-cruise-ship USS Nassau, culminating with the invasion of Iraq.

In the Army, I was a Green Beret, with most of my career spent in 3rd Special Forces Group. I was an Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) Communications SGT, Intelligence SGT, and finally Team SGT. I was in a Direct Action unit, and I spent time on both the assault and sniper sides of the house. My last assignment I taught Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat and Low Visibility Operator for 3 years. I retired in 2013.

In addition to blasting peoples’ faces off, I have shot a lot of paper/steel as a competitor. I have shot most of the major 3 gun matches on the circuit, and currently hold a Master Rating in USPSA production. I don’t shoot IDPA because they don’t make a fishing vest in Barrel Chested Freedom Fighter size. When I’m not writing for GunsAmerica, I teach gunfighting through my company Off The Reservation, and occasionally run my mouth via Facebook.

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website,

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  • Steve July 13, 2019, 11:49 am

    Have EDC the XDs-9mm now for close to five years. Every 90 days the weapon and mags are used to qualify with and weapon is cleaned and charged with fresh ammo. I’m a General Contractor and this weapon is on my side all day everyday. In attics, crawl spaces and dirty dusty job sites. Not one problem with this weapon ever. Even went for a swim in a commercial building with a broken water main with it on my hip. A fast clean and Italian Tactical gun oil followed with fresh ammo and we be live. Going to pickup a new XDs Mod2 this week as my EDC is looking real beat up but still shoots great.

  • Jim April 5, 2018, 9:41 am

    The guy’s proud of blowing faces off? I suppose he’s proud because he was defending “freedom.” This is why American gun owners have the reputation of being psychotic.

  • TM July 7, 2017, 10:13 am

    Ever tried the new XDe? Out of the box, fifty rounds into a two inch circle at eight yards, free-hand and old eyes. Some double taps included.
    A sweet shooting gun that has all the features I like (Safety, de-cocker and hammer). I know, a lot of you guys don’t like that. I have been shooting for over sixty-five years, including military service (SIG P210 and STGW57), and I do. It’s my last and best carry gun, small and unobtrusive. Give it a try, with the 9rd mag!

  • Oh45 September 30, 2016, 11:23 am

    I have the XDs in .45. Bought it when they first came out and had to return it during the recall. At first I thought the grip texture was a bit too aggressive. It stayed attached to your palm but wow would it hurt after 100 or more rounds. Solution: Talon rubber grips. Since putting them on this pistol is a real joy to shoot. It’s very accurate for CCW distances and I’ve never had a malfunction of any sort, ammo or gun induced. I can put this gun OWB under a shirt, IWB under a tucked in shirt or in a pocket holster with some pants. A spare mag is a must but that’s a non issue as far as I’m concerned.

  • Roland May 17, 2016, 4:13 pm

    I had an XDS45 4″ until recently. I ended up moving to the XD9 Mod2 4″.
    I know the Grip Zone has been getting a lot of hype but I REALLY like the Mod2 better than the XDS.
    Height and length are about the same (with extended mag) but the Mod2 is slightly thicker which gives me a MUCH better grip.

    I like .45ACP but that caliber in the XDS beat you up if you wanted to spend some time at the range.
    I thought about the XDS9mm in 4″ but for nearly the same size you get so many more rounds in the magazine. 16 rounds in the Mod2 versus I think 9 in the XDS extended mag.

    For me it was an easy decision.

  • Jeremiah May 17, 2016, 4:11 pm

    9mm XDS 3.3 is my EDC. .40 or .45 are ok, but slower to get back on target. 9mm = good enuf for the FBI, good enuf for me, and extended mags carry more ammo, the essential essential in any confrontation.

  • Mark May 16, 2016, 5:23 pm

    Good luck on a CCW in Baltimore.

  • John Kochtoestin May 16, 2016, 5:10 pm

    Bangers Bang. XD’s are tack driving bangers.
    XDm45 3.8 and I are friends.
    Great article.

  • Mark Wynn May 16, 2016, 4:40 pm

    Useful, thorough argument for the writer’s choice. Guess it comes down to one’s personal definition of “concealed carry.” For me, it’s not whether a weapon is compact enough to fit under a jacket instead of open carry outside a jacket. Rather, concealed carry for me is that nobody would know one is carrying unless the weapon were drawn. My Ruger LC-9s fits completely inside a front pocket in its disguising, minimalist holster, or in a compression undershirt with built-in holster under the armpit. If I merely wanted to semi- “conceal” under a jacket or untucked shirt I have a high-rise, paddle holster for my 70 Series Gold Cup. However, that’s not really concealed, in my opinion.

  • Joe Gilbert May 16, 2016, 4:10 pm

    I thought about the XDS a month or so ago, but instead went with an XD Mod 2 subcompact 3″ 9mm in FDE. I wanted the 13+1 in the smaller mag and the 16+1 in the extended mag. I carry it with the flush mag and put the extended one in my strongside front pocket. I really need to get a mag carrier for it though.

    Love my XD.


  • Michael Pamplin May 16, 2016, 2:54 pm

    I loved your review, I have the 3.3 XDS as my CCW and love everything about it! Since the new XDS came out I have been questioning my resolve not to get the new XDS (more ammunition and control equals better results when it becomes necessary). I guess I will have to convince the Boss (Wife) that I absolutely need it to live happily ever after. I have always preferred 45 ACP for it’s ability to hit and they will know they were hit! On the subject of holsters I too have a drawer full of them. Now I swear by the holsters that are being made by Crossbreed, it is the best that I have ever found to date, no pinch no pain and you can’t see the imprint of the gun. You should try it, you’ll like it.

  • Scott Campbell May 16, 2016, 1:28 pm

    Have Gun will Travel Hooye
    Get off the plane.

  • Rob May 16, 2016, 10:53 am

    A very well written article, my thanks to the author for doing a good job writing this and more importantly, serving our Nation.
    My son, a who is a former Marine carries the XDs 3.3 .45 and absolutely loves it. Conversely, as a retired policeman (read; old and broken down) I am most comfortable carrying my trusty Smith & Wesson model 637 38 sp. +P. I promised my wife that I wouldn’t spend anymore money on a handgun. This article is going to make a liar out of me. (Once again)

  • Larry May 16, 2016, 10:10 am

    Nice gun but I’ll stick with my Beretta Storm sub compact 40. It holds ten rounds & fits in the RF pocket of my jeans or shorts.

  • thomas ford May 16, 2016, 9:44 am

    I bought the first XDs 45 i found and still love it. Then springfield came out with the XD mod2. Almost he same size but with 9 or 13 rounds of 45 and an even better grip. I made a small modification to my Sneaky Pete to clear a crimson trace laser and I am prepared. I even find it comfortable on my bike. I have other pistols, but the XD mod2 is MY carry.

  • Doug Tally May 16, 2016, 9:27 am

    My first CC was the Khar P45 and I believe due to the non-ergonomic nature of the grip resulted in type 1 fail to feed once ever 2-3 mags. It was every mag when I purchased it. Then after Front Sight (Nevada) training I reduce the problem. Kahr found no problem with it. I was unable to find a rental Kahr when I purchased it so to replace it I would not consider another gun I could not test fire. I rented and purchased the Springfield XDs 3.3 and then the 4″. Not one misfeed or extraction problem of any type… ever and with two more visits to Front Sight. So if you experience the same with any weapon and.they tell you your limp-writing or not holding it correctly… walk away and purchase the XDs, I guarantee you a child can fire this in a .45 with no complaints. Lastly, never, ever purchase a handgun you cannot rent or test fire. When I went back to the store with the Kahr and spoke with another salesman (not the Kahr designated sales guy) he told me… ‘oh-yeah Kahr’s are known for that’. Somehow the Kahr ‘incented’ sales guy that sold it to me forgot to mention same. Your sales person needs to be independant with no incentive to sell one over another. Words of wisdom!

  • Jason Bostick May 16, 2016, 9:15 am

    I liked my XDs .45 3.3″, but had to get rid of it. It blistered my trigger finger and i couldn’t get the right grip on it without the slide stop cutting me as well. Glock 36 turned out to be the answer, but in the end, the extra cost of training with 45acp caught up to me and I ended back in the 9mm game.

    • Doug Tally May 16, 2016, 10:03 am

      You love Glock and you may have an issue with Springfield for which we’re not hearing the whole story. You could not possibly profess the ‘slide stop cut you’ I believe you meant to describe some other part. Your triger finger blister… no knowledge of ever hearing that about any handgun ever made.

      • Ross Bonny September 30, 2016, 1:30 pm

        I have been through Front Sight courses several times with my XDm9 4.0″ and my XD9 sub-compact 3.3″. The trigger on both guns will, after a couple of hundred rounds, cause a blister on my trigger finger. I learned to put a bandaid on the finger before taking on a lot of shooting. Other than that, I consisder both XD’s to be excellent pistols with high reliability and accuracy. I have to look into the Mod 2, the extra rounds interest me.

  • Cyrus May 16, 2016, 7:52 am

    Nice article but I will stick with my HK45c

  • Stern Robert May 16, 2016, 7:11 am

    Years ago I bought the first XD that hit the market. The Beavertail safety drew me to it immediately my question is since this weapon is close to 10 years old is there that much of a difference between The new generations ie:XDS or even the XD M that warrants an upgrade?

    • Mongo May 16, 2016, 8:46 pm

      If your old xd is still accurate and no issues with functioning, no need for an upgrade. That being said, why have one xd when you can have two or more? One for each hand and a backup, hell yeah!!! XD all the way!!!

  • Mfed May 16, 2016, 7:03 am

    Nice guns I have two a .9mm and .45 in 3.3 my only complaint is round count it’s just not enough – sorry

  • Sivispace May 16, 2016, 5:11 am

    I have carried the 3.3 inch in .45 acp for two years in fairly hot environments. Mine is customized with a Powder River Trigger and Trijicon sights. It is incredibly accurate and it carries like it isn’t there.

  • Sivispace May 16, 2016, 5:10 am

    I have carried the 3.3 inch in .45 acp for two years in fairly hot environments. Mine is customized with a Powder River Trigger and Trijicon sights. It is incredibly accurate and it carries like it isn’t there.

  • Erik N May 16, 2016, 3:28 am

    I actually stopped shooting my XDs. For one, there’s something about the ergonomics that killed me. The sights were bang on from a rest, but I nosedived it on every shot I took. And forget followup shots, the .45 from that petite frame just took too long to get back on track. At 3 yards, sure, no problem, but I want a gun that’s more flexible than that.

    Shortly after I stopped carrying it, the Shield and LC9s came out. I got my wife the Shield and me, the LC9s. I did some minor trigger fitment and installation, improved the sights, and took them to the range– first time out I was ringing the -0 zone at 20 yards offhand, every time, and could clear a plate rack just as smooth as butter. So now it sits waiting to become trade stock, despite the 3 other XD series guns I carry and compete with.

  • Nathan Gifford May 11, 2016, 10:32 pm

    I love the XDS. 9 or 45 great conceal carry pistol. Accuracy is great and recoil is remarkable in 45; it is hard to believe you are firing a 45. It makes you wonder what the 9 is like.

    It is so light and with the Off The Grid holster easy to conceal. Cops are amazed how undetectable it is.

    Tip, the 5 round mags are easy to conceal. I have a Gerber multitool sheath and it is perfect for these mags. The logo makes people think it is a multitool not 5 rounds 45 ACP.

    I like the trigger better than the Glocks and they point like 1911s.

    I agree the 4.0 is probably a little better. Still it is a Conceal carry pistol and I can put 5 shots inside a 5″ circle at 40 feet. Either will do the job.

  • Chris D. May 11, 2016, 4:01 pm

    I purchased an XD-s 3.3 in .45ACP two years ago. I love this little pistol. I have been a 1911 stalwart for over 20 years. I still carry my Fusion Custom 1911 Commander on a daily basis. However, there are times when my attire requires that I carry something a bit easier to conceal. On those occasions I carry my XD-s. When I do carry it, it is in a “Sticky Holster” on my right hip. These holsters do not have any sort of clip or band that is exposed when you have your shirt tucked in. If you have never seen one of them, I highly recommend them for the ultimate in concealed carry. There is no tell tale belt loop of clip behind the belt to tip anyone off that you are carrying. Back to the XD-s, I found that mine shot the best with a 200gr Hornady TAP round. The 230gr did not group as tight as the 200gr and there was no need for the added recoil from the 230’s.

  • Mark N. May 11, 2016, 12:44 am

    This was on my list when it was released, but sadly it came out after the “microstamping rule” went into effect, and therefore it cannot be purchased by us commoners.

    • clay martin May 11, 2016, 10:58 am

      We have plenty of real estate for sale in Idaho. I think they issue all Californians a hi capacity mag and a proper magazine release as soon as you get your new drivers license.

  • Hugo May 10, 2016, 12:15 pm

    I bought the XDs .45 as soon as it was introduced and have no regrets. Like my double stack XD’s, it is an all around great pistol…accurate and extremely reliable. Because it is so easy to conceal, it is the gun I carry most frequently. Their customer service is excellent.

  • SuperG May 10, 2016, 11:31 am

    WTF? It’s made in Croatia? So Americans are good enough to buy it, but not make it?

    • Mark N. May 11, 2016, 12:40 am

      Don’t act so surprised. EVERY version of all the various XD series have been and continue to be designed and made in Croatia and imported by Springfield.
      Heck, Springfield started out with the XD, then started importing completed 1911s from Brazil, and still imports some parts from there. Currently, 1911s are all assembled in the US, irrespective of the origin of the parts, and all of their high end 1911s are sourced and built in the US.
      My first handgun was an XD9. It is a well made and extraordinarily reliable firearm, which in the end is all that really matters.

    • John May 17, 2016, 2:32 am

      been made there since the get go

  • Joe May 10, 2016, 10:22 am

    Very informative article with great insight. I’m still more of a G19 type of guy.

    • woody May 16, 2016, 7:18 am


    • Matt May 16, 2016, 11:14 am

      I’m with you. With a spare mag I have 31 rounds and I have never had trouble concealing it in 10+ years of CC.

  • DRAINO May 9, 2016, 7:16 pm

    Great article! Love the Springfield XD pistols….ALL versions. Great handguns. Had some issues with their customer service, but great guns. My personal fav is a bi-tone XD sub-compact in .40 cal. Love this trigger! Good capacity, concealment, control, reliability and caliber. I hope everyone finds a pistol they love as much as I love mine. But I do believe I will look into an XD-S for my next purchase. One can NEVER have too many handguns.

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