The chemical company BASF used to have a marketing slogan, “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy – we make a lot of the products you buy better.” The same phrase could easily be applied to Langdon Tactical Technologies (LTT) when it comes to firearms. The company does not produce any firearms of its own, instead, it offers improved and enhanced versions of popular models made by prominent firearms makers.
The most notable has been the Beretta 92, the handgun on which LTT seems to have been built. For those unaware, LTT was founded by Ernest Langdon – a very successful competitive shooter-turned pistol smith, who developed a very consistent technique for improving triggers – starting with the Beretta Model 92. But the Model 92 seldom makes anyone’s short list for potential concealed carry guns, leaving a huge market segment open for the company to harvest. And while there is no shortage of small, polymer-framed modern pistols – the ones that are hammer-fired (Langdon has an affinity for the DA/SA hammer) are few and far between. Enter the Springfield Armory XDE, introduced several years ago to a slightly confused audience. The gun is essentially the hammer-fired version of the enormously popular XDS striker-fired model. That handgun has been reviewed in the archives of the GunsAmerica blog, and I won’t be re-telling that tale here, but one cannot talk about the enhancements without some discussion of the pistol itself.
As mentioned, the XDE is a close sibling to the XDS, which has more than proven itself over the years. The former is slightly larger, in part due to the hammer and necessary linkage, but it remains a single-stack gun. My perception was that the LTT version of the pistol was introduced not long after the production gun came to market, but Langdon corrected my misperception on that, noting that it was nearly eighteen months before the LTT magic was started on it. That magic includes a number of details, but it starts and ends with a fantastic trigger job.
There may be no more subjective topic in firearms than the discussion of what makes a good trigger. For a self-defense handgun, I tend to prefer a trigger that requires a cognitive decision by the operator when that individual is under stress. For most people, that tends to be in the 5 lbs. or greater range. Double-action / single-action pistols are more difficult to quantify because there are two very distinctly different pull weights, as well as the length of travel. And while many of today’s shooters turn their noses up at the DA/SA models, those designs offer arguably the best trigger configuration in a defensive weapon. The heavier and longer first pull of the trigger helps to ensure that a gun drawn under stress still requires the additional decision of the operator to fire a first shot. And remember, this action type was developed and introduced into wide service at the time the semi-auto pistol was gradually replacing the double-action revolver in the duty holster. But, unlike the consistently long and heavy pull of a revolver, the DA/SA pistol has the diversity of subsequent shots being single-action. Consider a scenario where one is forced to use a handgun in defense, and the first pull is long enough and heavy enough to cause the user to deliberately and willfully break the shot – but each shot thereafter is much lighter, with a short stroke. Those follow-up shots can be a bit more precise with the lighter, crisper trigger. I’m not trying to convert anyone to DA/SA, but I do think that too many people dismiss this technology without considering its benefits.
Ernest Langdon is renowned for his work with the DA/SA trigger system and didn’t select the Springfield XDE lightly. One problem associated with most DA/SA pistols is that they tend to be large. The extra linkage for the trigger system, combined with a hammer and its spring usually makes this action type limited to larger, “full sized” handguns. When Springfield Armory introduced the XDE as a true pocket-pistol sized gun, it was worthy of attention. The LTT treatment takes it further – making an already good handgun even better, for those who are looking for something extra. There are many reasons to consider a hammer-fired pistol for everyday carry. In addition to the aforementioned traits of the double-action first pull, there is the ability to carry the gun in Condition One – or “cocked and locked”, as it is often called. This places the hammer fully cocked with a round chambered and the external manual safety on. This is preferred for those who like their first trigger pull to be single-action. Another advantage of the hammer-fired gun is the ability to use the hammer as a safety warning system when holstering the handgun. This is done by placing the strong hand thumb over the hammer as the gun is inserted into the holster, and thus feeling immediately any movement that might be caused by an object pressing the trigger back. This is especially appreciated when carrying appendix style, where a negligent discharge could easily mean serious injury or death.
The Langdon Tactical Treatment
Langdon Tactical starts with a standard XDE from Springfield Armory, and begins transforming it inside and out. It all starts with the trigger – lightening and smoothing the action in traditional Ernest Langdon fashion. The resulting quantifiable results on my copy provides a double action pull of 9 pounds even and single action just over 4 ½ pounds – both based on an average of five pulls with the Lyman digital trigger gauge. The objective of the trigger work is not to create a feather-light competition trigger, but to produce a high-quality trigger in a duty or self-defense gun. This includes the hammer and the hammer spring. The customer is offered a choice of either a 12.0 pound, or slightly heavier 12.7 pound hammer spring. I selected the latter, because it will be compatible with more types of ammo, and the penalty is minimal for trigger pull. Speaking of the hammer, Langdon replaces the stock hammer with a spur-less version that is lower profile and snag free. When fully forward, the hammer all but disappears when viewed in profile. It still bears the raised XDE logo, and if necessary, can still be manually thumb-cocked.
Moving up to the slide, there are changes to both the practical and the cosmetic. The slide itself is refinished in a sniper gray Cerakote, which adds a touch of distinction to the appearance of the gun. An additional distinction, the LTT logo is usually engraved atop the slide just forward of the rear sight. However, at the time I acquired this pistol that was not being done. I am told the omission of the engraving is temporary and future copies should have it. Mostly practical, but arguably cosmetic as well are the sights that Langdon has chosen for the gun – Ameriglo CAP sights. The front sight has a center of Tritium surrounded by a brilliant orange square. The rear sight is a notched blackout style, save for a small bright orange underscore below the notch. The idea is that the orange line helps you align the orange square of the front sight. I was skeptical to the point of scoffing at this when I received the gun, but during the sessions of range work, I’ll be darned if it didn’t actually help a bit. The secret sauce is that the width of the rear line is exactly the width of the front square and it is, of course, centered. It makes it easier to keep the front sight centered in the notch – much easier than trying to mentally measure the gap on each side while acquiring your target. As to my initial scoffing – I stand humbly corrected! Landon Tactical includes a third 8-round magazine, for a total of three (two 8-rounders and one 9-round with extended baseplate) to complete the list of upgrades. It all comes to you in Springfield Armory’s standard soft case and packaging.
SHOOTING THE XDE
Although it has been on the market for a couple of years, I had never fired a Springfield XDE until I got this one and hit the range. The pistol feels slightly bigger in the hand than its dimensions suggest, but it is a nice combination of thinness and depth. This provides excellent trigger reach to the long-stroke double-action position of the trigger even for smaller hands, while also making an almost perfect opening for the support hand with a thumbs-forward grip. Because the XDE has an ambidextrous safety/decocker, the user has the choice whether to begin double-action or single-action.
The Ameriglo sights are quick to acquire and jump out against everything downrange. They seem to favor a 6 o’clock hold, and make for a great sight picture with no eye strain at all. For its size, the XDE tames recoil very well. This is partly due to the design of the recoil spring system, but also to the ergonomics of the handgun. The shooter’s hand gets a high grip on the pistol with a nicely curved backstrap that guides the web of the hand deep into the tang of the grip and cants the wrist forward comfortably. The bore axis is respectably low for a hammer-fired pistol, and there is very little whipping action to lift the muzzle to excess angles with each cycle of the slide. Because of the aforementioned grip, the mechanics of the shooter’s wrist helps guide the sights right back on target very naturally. I found the LTT XDE an easy gun to shoot, and one that I was able to shoot well right away.
I usually do some accuracy testing with a rested handgun, and give it the best opportunity to do well by removing as much of my influence as possible. But because I was feeling “in the groove” with the LTT XDE, I decided to use a more practical test – offhand shooting at 10 yards with several different loads. I was able to make respectable groups with each load tested. It was here that I learned the appreciation for that orange line under the rear sight notch! It was instrumental in my ability to keep a consistent sight picture for six targets in a row.
JUST MY OPINION
The XDE from Langdon Tactical Technologies is a heck of a shooter. Springfield Armory built a terrific little hammer-fired gun, and Ernest Langdon perfected it. I love seeing these symbiotic relationships in the industry. It is not feasible for Springfield to do a trigger job on a mass production pistol, and yet there is a small market that wants just that. Enter LTT with the expertise to handle the improvements, and the market savvy to know how to select the right guns. This was a match made in heaven. And heaven is what it feels like to shoot. The trigger is smooth with just the right resistance and breaks crisply. Reset to single-action position is short with tactile feedback. There is a bit of take-up getting the trigger back to the wall for the next break, but that is indicative of hammer guns. It’s easy to shoot accurately and fun to shoot rapidly. Not everyone will want to spend an extra $200 for the LTT version of the handgun. But for those who do, the value is no mystery. Langdon does a nice job of combining the pistol smith wizardry and the noticeable upgrades to make this handgun look and feel a cut above. Langdon Tactical thought this out well and provides 95% of everything you could want in an XDE. The missing 5%? That would be a Talon Grip. The native texture is good, but this author has a preference for Talons on nearly everything. But this might be the one upgrade I’m qualified to do myself!