Last spring, we got our hands on the XD-E for the first time, an all new concealed carry size gun from Springfield Armory. In a move that many would see as backwards regression in gun design, the E in XD-E stood for External hammer. However, there are many good reasons for this design. You can see our full review of the 9mm version here. I am not going to rehash all the design features, since today we are looking at the same gun, now available in 45 ACP. But I do want to talk specifically about the XD-E family of guns, and some reasons to like it that have occurred to me since the initial release in 9mm.
After the release of the XD-E, I put one in my CCW rotation. That is an easy change to make, since the XD-E has the same footprint as the XD-S, and they fit the same holsters. I have long preferred the XD-S as my carry gun, for a variety of reasons. It is big enough to fight with and shoot well, but still small enough to fit in my pants. It manages recoil well and gives me a capacity of 7+1 in the uber manly 45 ACP. I like both guns, and could not honestly tell you which I prefer. So I can answer the first question I had when I saw the XD-E, “ Why on God’s green earth did they put a hammer on it?”
In a word, safety. Now don’t get your undies in a twist if you carry a striker fired gun with no manual safety. So do I, at least half of the time. Perhaps a better term is the perception of safety. Look, what is good for you might not be good for everyone. We all have our own calculus for acceptable risk, and determining that is your own cross to bear. I use to exit high-performance aircraft while in flight and ride the breach into buildings full of angry armed terrorist that may or may not have been wired to explode, so maybe what I term acceptable risk is actually stupid. And obviously, I mean both the building and the terrorists wired to explode. My point is, everyone has some kind of bias when it comes to firearms. If there was a complete consensus, there would be one company making only one kind of gun. But that is not how the world works. The more people we have carrying guns, the more our rights are protected. We should be totally motivated when a company makes a CCW gun that may actually encourage more people to carry them.
So in a nutshell, all of the reasons to carry the XD-E I might not necessarily agree with. Some of them don’t apply to me specifically. But I can understand why they were done. If nothing else, I feel safe carrying the XD-E for one reason. I can shoot this gun really, really well. It is amazing to shoot, and I recommend you try it. But these arguments are valid as well.
A Double Action/Single Action ( DA/SA) gun has a longer trigger pull for the first round, which means you are less likely to have a negligent discharge. True. If you are in the habit of putting your finger on the trigger before you have a firing solution, I will buy that. Is that an excuse for a Soldier or Policeman? Not even a little bit. But for the guy who owns a gas station and just wants a piece for walking to his car? I find that answer acceptable. Like it or not, most people that buy a gun are never going to get professional training with it. And they aren’t going to burn a pallet of ammo every year staying proficient. Without some serious training, that dude is probably going to be scared when he needs to use his gun. And he might start putting pressure on the trigger before he is sure he needs too. I think it works for everyone if that takes a bit more pull.
While we are talking about the DA/SA trigger, the counter argument is that such a system requires more training to use well. That is also true. Personally, I hate DA/SA on duty weapons. I had to teach a generation of Soldiers on the M9 ( Beretta 92F), so I am not exactly new to this. The problem with DA/SA is that you have to teach two trigger pulls. One for the heavy first shot and a different one for the crisp break of every follow on shot. The first round out of the gate is likely to either be slow or miss. Both are suboptimal in a combat situation. I am not as hard on it in a carry gun for this reason. At typical civilian gunfight ranges, the snapshot from the draw is less likely to be an issue. When I tried the DA trigger fast on a B/C zone from 12 meters, yes, it was difficult. And I chucked some into the berm. How about on a full-size torso at 3 meters? Not a chance. In either case, the drawbacks to a DA/SA system can be overcome with training time. If this is your primary carry gun, I would encourage you to run drills with it.
The real magic of the XD-E system is that the ambi safety is also a decocker. This opens up a lot of options. If you like 1911’s and want to carry cocked and locked ( hammer back), you can do that. The safety is in the same place as a 1911, and is a similar downward press motion. The single action trigger pull on the XD-E is amazing for a gun in this class, it makes hitting things easy. If you are used to striker fired guns or CZ style guns, you can carry safety off hammer forward. This is how we carried the M9 in the Army, and it makes sense. The DA pull is long and heavy enough to count as a safety by itself. If you are new to the game and you want to carry super duper extra mega safe, you can carry hammer forward, safety on. Something for everyone.
Also on the safety front, the backstrap safety from the XD-S family is gone. I like this because I have actually not engaged it on my XD-S, and that is no bueno. For the XD-E, applying the safety actually disengages the trigger completely. You will know immediately if the safety is up, the trigger feels like it is 10 ounces when you press it. Unlike a 1911 however, you can still manipulate the slide with the safety on. This is great, especially for new concealed carriers. First, you can fully load or unload the gun without ever taking the safety off. Actually, you can even disassemble the gun without taking the safety off. We have all seen the new guy, that is afraid his gun is going to go off when the slide goes forward to load. And we were all that new guy one time, even if we were a child. This feature can go a long ways toward making people less afraid of the gun, and that also puts people in our camp.
It also offers another benefit for older people, or anyone else lacking grip strength. With the safety on, once you manually cock the hammer, manipulating the slide becomes much easier. Every shooter feels better knowing they can load or unload their gun at will, and again this helps us win people to our side.
9mm vs .45
So, now that we spilled a gallon of ink on the reasons for the XD-E, what do I think of the guns in 9mm and 45 ACP? That is pretty easy since they are nearly identical. The 9mm is 2 ounces heavier, due to the smaller bore. The 9mm capacity is 8 or 9 +1 depending on the magazine, and the 45 ACP is 6 or 7+1. In a shocking turn of events, the 45 ACP has more recoil. Just like the XD-S, the XD-E does an amazing job of soaking up recoil in a tiny platform. But side by side, the 9mm obviously recoils less. Also, water is wet and the sun rises in the morning. Either is an excellent choice, I will leave the caliber debate to another day. Carry what you are comfortable with.
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