Springfield Armory has taken their mastery of small gun ergonomics in a new direction with the release of the XD-E. The E stands for external hammer, which is a feature many people look for in a carry gun. If you are in the “don’t trust strikers” crowd, this gun was absolutely made for you.
- Chambering: 9mm
- Barrel: 3.3 inches
- OA Length: 6.75 inches
- Weight: 23 oz
- Frame: Polymer
- Sights: Fiber Optic front, low profile rear
- Finish: Melonite
- Capacity: 9+1, 8+1
- MSRP: $519
The XD-E was made to be used as a carry gun. The easiest comparison is to its older brother, the XD-S. This is a snap for me, since the XD-S has been my carry gun for almost four years. Both have a 3.3 inch barrel and the slides are the same width, one inch. This will probably be the only time you are happy to be sporting one inch in your pants. The XD-E features an external hammer as the name implies, and works as a double action/single action (DA/SA) trigger system. The XD-E also features a combination safety and decocker. Push down for decocking, and push up to lock the safety on. The XD-E can be carried in single action or double action mode with the safety engaged, or in DA with the safety off. The hammer can also be manually cocked with the safety already on. The other primary difference in frame from the XD-S is the grip. Gone is the grenade-style checkering, which was extremely aggressive. In its place is much lighter basketweave-style checkering on the front and back straps. Also gone, which I am very happy about, is the grip safety. With paws my size, I have failed to engage that before on my XD-S.
So why these changes, and why go to a DA/SA trigger system? I think it has a lot to do with who buys CCW guns. Some people think that a long trigger pull on the first shot is both safer and less likely to end in legal liability. I come from the “keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to fire” school, but I also have the benefit of a lot of practice ammo from the taxpayers. One might even say, a metric grundle of that practice ammo. The DA trigger on the XD-E is certainly a long trigger pull, and it takes some force. In fact, one of my few complaints about the gun would be how far forward the trigger sets in DA mode. It’s a little odd for me, but smaller handed individuals really have to reach for it. Off The Reservation 6 is 5’2”, and she was less than impressed by how she had to reach for the trigger. The single-action trigger is predictably much better and is pretty crisp by carry gun standards.
One place the DA/SA system absolutely shines is in manual of arms for newer shooters. Some people are just never going to trust sticking a locked and loaded striker-fired gun in their pants. And let’s be honest about a “trigger safety.” That doesn’t really count. This is a comfort and peace of mind issue, and there’s nothing wrong with it. If you insist on a mechanical safety, that is your prerogative. My issue with the safety on most carry guns before this was that they are too small. The one for the XD-E is big enough to use reliably, and old hat for you 1911 shooters. Same place, same motion. Unlike a 1911 though, on the XD-E you can move the slide with the safety engaged. That means for a new shooter, you can load and press check the XD-E without ever putting the gun into a mode that could result in a negligent discharge.
Also a huge benefit to those with less upper body strength, the slide is easier to rack. Springfield Armory calls this a Low Effort Slide, or L.E.S. You can put the safety on, manually cock the hammer, load the pistol, and decock if you choose to carry hammer down. This results in a 27% reduction in force needed to move the slide, and should make some of our readers’ lives a lot easier. The decocker/safety is ambidextrous, as is the magazine release. On that same issue of safety, you can fully disassemble the XD-E with the safety engaged, and never need to touch the trigger.
The XD-E retains the steel sights of the XDS, with a fiber optic front and white dots in the rear. Something I just thought about opening the box on the XD-E, seeing the spare fiber optic rods that are included. In four years of carry, not only have I never even considered changing the sights out, I have never changed the fiber optic. These just work, unlike some guns where you have them switched before you even leave the gun store. It might be nice to see Springfield Armory offer a factory tritium option, but I am not complaining about the standard model. The fiber optic rod on the front is larger than most, making it a cinch to pick up in a hurry.
The slide and all the metal parts are melonited, which is a fantastic finish for a CCW gun. Tough as nails and corrosion resistant, you will really appreciate that if you live in the Southeast and carry in the summer. The safety/decocker is slightly larger than the slide release on this gun, and they are spaced far enough apart you won’t mistake one for the other. Not once in shooting this gun have I missed the safety when I remembered I needed to disengage it (striker fired habits die hard).
Springfield opted to first release the XD-E in 9mm, a departure from the XD-S which came first in .45 ACP. I think this also is deliberate to push this gun toward shooters with less grip strength. The magazines are single stack, which gives you 8+1 or 9+1 depending on the magazine. The “magazine X-Tension” also gives you a bit more grip space for your fingers, which I prefer. I have often wondered with my XD-S, if I had purchased later, what caliber I would choose. I don’t feel outgunned with 9mm, and certainly in these smaller guns I am faster with it. Training ammo is cheaper, and you can get a longer training day in before you need to soak your hands in ice water.
The real question with any new gun is, how does it shoot. I have said many times before that I liked my XD-S because I found it the perfect balance of small enough to conceal, and big enough to fight with. I can actually get two hands on the gun, it has real sights instead of a suggestion of which way to point, and I don’t feel like I have a boat anchor shoved in my underwear. The XD-E fits exactly this same bill. And it shoots like a house on fire. This is a gun you absolutely have to shoot to appreciate. My first six shots with the gun, I melted down a plate rack starting in DA mode. This was faster than I could do with my XD-S, and faster with a carry gun than I would have thought possible. I shot hundreds of rounds with this gun, and it continued to impress all day long. The recoil system categorically eats 9mm recoil, and with the SA trigger you can burn it down at a speed that is almost magic. If you have a local gun store with rental guns, I hope this one makes it to the counter soon.
Between us girls, I wasn’t excited when the Springfield guys told us it was an external hammer gun. I am jaded on DA/SA guns from years of having to teach Army guys two trigger pulls on the M9. But shooting this gun changed my opinion quickly. If you are thinking about a new CCW gun, shoot this one first.
For more information, visit http://www.springfield-armory.com/xde-series/.