Here’s a look at the Springfield Armory XD(m), a fine gun choice.
In a market dominated by tiny handguns, there’s a certain bravado that comes with not only owning, but carrying a pistol that weighs over two pounds loaded, and packs twenty rounds at the ready. It takes some getting used to at first. You stare at your friends salivating over the GLOCK 43 and ask why they’d want to carry a third(ish) the ammo you do. They stare back, hollow eyed.
You grow even more concerned with their desire to try to get a good grip with but a few fingers when they could easily maintain a two-handed kung fu grip with the gun you carry. It’s a weird world out there once you start carrying the XD(m) 4.5 chambered in 9mm.
For lack of a better term, the XD(m) is just a big gun. There’s really no skirting the fact. It is a decidedly full sized handgun. Carrying it around requires a sturdy belt and a good holster. Unless you wear a billowing shirt, this thing prints like crazy, but at some point you stop caring. It’s a dream to shoot as all that weight and size absorbs what little recoil 9mm puts out. But make no mistake, it is svelte in all the right ways too.
Though the grip holds a magazine with nineteen at the ready, it seems barely larger than the double stack magazine that rides inside it. Small handed individuals like yours truly have no trouble reaching the trigger with an appropriate amount of index pad on the trigger shoe. In case the stock ergos dont’ work for you, the XD(m) ships with three replaceable backstraps so that you can fit the gun to your paw. Changing them out isn’t as simple as that of the M&P or GLOCK, but the roll pin that secures the whole thing inspires a great deal of confidence. Most folks only change it once, so it isn’t the end of the world to use a punch and a hammer to make the swap.
As you can clearly see in the picture, the XD(m) is coated in a liberal amount of stipling and grip serrations on both the frame and the slide. These come in handy when your can only get a less than ideal purchase on the gun. If you have achieved operator status, sleep well at night on the pointy end of the spear knowing that you can still get a firm grip on your gun with your hands covered in blood, mud, and grease. For the rest of us, it’s a grippy affair, nuff said.
Southpaws shall rejoice that the XD(m) features a magazine release that’s ambidextrous with no need to “fix” anything out of the box. Pressing the magazine release in either direction will release the magazine. For the times when you aren’t actively releasing a magazine, the button is unobtrusive, and nearly impossible to trip accidentally.
Speaking of grips, keen eyed observers will notice that the XD(m) sports a rather large grip safety. Like the 1911, the XD(m) cannot be fired unless the grip safety has been engaged. In practice, it becomes a non issue as any reasonable grip is enough to disengage the safety and allow you squeeze the trigger.
About that trigger. It seems to have caught a case of NYPDitis as it tripped my scale at a very consistent seven and a half pounds. I happen to own the younger brother of this gun, the 3.8, and the trigger on that gun registers a much lower six pounds. In the real world, that extra pound and a half might as well be a million. Where I found the 3.8 to be a joy to shoot, and very accurate given the slightly shorter barrel length, the 4.5 was the older brother that never quite lived up to his potential. I expected the 4.5 to be every bit as accurate with the hope that it might give me more, but I was sadly disappointed.
No matter how I tried to position myself, no matter how much dry fire practice I did, I just couldn’t ever make the gun produce better than the groups you see above at the ten yard line. That’s still very good accuracy, but the 3.8 always delighted me by chewing up the black dot time after time with its smooth almost double action style pull.
I finally took a kneel, rested the gun on a sandbag and produced the five shot groups above with 115 gr. Winchester white box. Still not stellar, but slightly better than what I did unsupported. I’d hoped that the trigger would break in a bit, but after 500+ rounds, there wasn’t any improvement. The trigger still broke at seven and a half pounds after much stacking.
The accuracy was so disheartening that I truly thought there might be something with me. So I pulled out my RDS equipped M&P 9 and started chewing up the center dot. Ragged hole after ragged hole, and I got my groove back. I switched back to the XD(m) and still had the same problems.
Speaking of things that shot my confidence all to hell while using this gun, a brief note on the slide lock. As you can see in the picture above, the meat of my support hand gets a pretty good purchase on the slide lock. The XD(m) slide lock is a fairly aggressive little tab of metal which makes it great for releasing the slide one handed (which I don’t do), but struck me as particularly cumbersome due to the funk I’ve developed in my support hand grip. You can read all about it here, but this is the first pistol that has not agreed with my high handed support grip.
As you can see in the video above, I have a nasty habit of riding the slide lock with my meaty palm which forces the slide to lock back on every second or third round. This is not a mechanical failure so much as an ergonomic one in my mind. I can use the same craptastic grip on an M&P or GLOCK with no such problems. As a sidenote, the video above does a good job of showing how practically accurate the XD(m) is. It is easily capable of head shots at 10 yards. Like I said, accurate, but not as accurate as I’d expected.
One final note on ergonomics before I move on. I’m of the camp that likes a rear sight with a flat face on the front or even a slight forward cant. This is especially handy for one handed racking of the slide on tables, belts, shoes, or whatever you find closest. The stock rear sight has a very stylish rearward slant that looks great but renders it fairly useless for any of the aforementioned activities.
Ah yes. Those sights. They are totally functional provided you aren’t attached to the white dots. They’ll quickly dissolve and disappear at the first sight of any gun cleaning chemical, a problem I noted in my review of the younger brother to the 4.5. Fresh out of the box, they are bright and crisp in daylight and even the waning hours. If it were a gun I’d fallen in love with, it would have gotten an upgraded set of sights and a trigger enhancement.
Durability and reliability are of utmost importance when selecting a firearm, and the XD(m) did not disappoint. Like its little brother, nothing I threw at it including a distinct lack of maintenance slowed it down. I gave up after five hundred rounds of Winchester white box and an entire grab bag of mixed brass case, steel case, JHP, and various other “unknown” ammo types. I never cleaned it during the testing, and while it was downright filthy at the end, it still continued to run. As a sidenote, my shooting buddy Jacob has had a 4.5 for the last few years that goes ~3000 rounds between cleanings. He’s experienced no degradation in reliability using that cleaning schedule and the cheapest steel case 9mm he can get his hands on.
The XD(m) is not immune to abuse though as I found by carrying a Remington 700 in an X-Ray chassis next to it for the duration of the Bushnell Brawl. Due to the way I had the rifle slung, my pistol and my rifle spent all of Sunday fighting with each other. This resulted in some pretty nasty gouges in the X-Ray chassis and some minor scratches in the polymer frame and a scratch or two in the slide. Ultimately, the rifle was worse for the wear.
Disassembly and cleaning is an easy affair and can be done without pulling the trigger like some of the Austrian pistols on the market. Simply lock the slide back, swing the disassembly lever ninety degrees, and slowly release the slide. The whole thing slides off the front, and the barrel, spring, and guide rod can easily be freed from there. The firing pin and spring can be removed if you like, but after 500+ rounds, I found minimal grime around the firing pin, so routine field stripping and cleaning should be adequate.
From the outset, I’d called this a big heavy gun, but I like to back my assertions with some cold hard science. Using my trusty food scale, I pegged the unloaded weight of the 4.5 at 25.15 oz or a touch over a pound and a half.
Add a magazine and 20 rounds of 115 gr ammo and the number jumps to 36.60 oz. At a hair over two and a quarter pounds, that’s a lot of weight to strap to your body and schlep around. A sturdy belt and a stiff holster are almost mandatory, but I managed to appendix carry this every day for several weeks using a DARA IWB and a stiff belt. It isn’t the lightest and most comfortable thing to carry, but like I said, there’s a certain calm that comes with carrying twenty rounds with you every day.
Specifications: Springfield Armory XD(m) 4.5 – 9mm
- Caliber: 9mm
- Recoil System: One Piece Full Length Guide Rod
- Sights: Dovetail Front and Rear (Steel) 3 – Dot
- Weight: (with Empty Magazine) 29 ozs.
- Height: 5.75″
- Slide: Forged Steel, Melonite® Finish
- Barrel: 4.5″ Steel, Melonite®, Hammer Forged
- Length: 7.6″
- Grip Width: 1.18″
- Frame: Black Polymer
- Magazines: 2 – 19 Round, Stainless Steel
- MSRP: $649
- Street Price: <$550
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit & Finish * * * * *
I was pleased to find a flawless finish on both the outside and inside of the XD(m). There were no visible machining marks, assembly marks, scuffs, or otherwise when I pulled it out of the box. The magazines are chromed and slide home easily and freely. All of the controls work as they are supposed to.
Reliability (Mechanical) * * * * * Reliability (In My Hands) * * *
I hate to split a category up (Nick hates it more), but the truth is that this is a very mechanically accurate pistol. Throw it in a ransom rest or another similar jig, and this gun is going to spit bullets hot, cold, dry, or wet. But put it in my hands with a high support grip, and the slide lock engages almost immediately. If I’d experienced this problem with any other pistol, there wouldn’t be another category, but this is the only gun I’ve ever had this problem with.
Accuracy * * *
In the interest of not creating another split category, I’ll say this about that: mechanically, the gun is very accurate. I have no doubt that in the same ransom rest, this thing would continue to stack bullets one atop the other. Unfortunately, it came from the factory with a stout trigger that opens up the groups a bit more, especially for something with “match” inscribed on the side of the barrel.
Ergonomics * * * * *
The XD(m) series are my go to recommendation for people who have small hands. Whereas a GLOCK feels like a brick that shoots bullets, the XD(m) feels like it belongs in my hands. The controls are very easy to get to, and the ambi mag release is a definite plus.
Accessories * * * * *
Unlike the competition, all XD(m) pistols come with a holster, mag carrier, mag loader, and hard sided travel case. I fully recognize that the holster and mag pouches kind of suck compared to what you can go buy on the aftermarket, but I want to give props to Springfield for selling a true kit including the very nice hard sided case which is just fine for usage on the airlines. In the aftermarket, there are plenty of companies making trigger upgrades, sights, and holsters for the XD(m). It may not be as popular as a GLOCK, but parts and accessories are no harder to find than for any other pistol on the market.
Overall * * * *
A gun that goes boom every time is worth at least three stars, especially when it comes to EDC or competition guns. The nits I have around accuracy are really pretty small. The gun is definitively minute of bad guy accurate, and as you can see in the video above, head shots at ten yards at a decent little clip are well within the realm of a mediocre operator. The reliability thing is a mixed bag. I can’t really fault a gunmaker for my stupid grip, but I can fault them for not shaving down the slide lock a bit more, something I would do had I chosen to add the 4.5 to the fleet. For all I know, I may be the only person who has induced that particular failure. Given that, the mediocre trigger knocks a star off of what would be an otherwise perfect review. Five stars are for perfect guns, and the XD(m) 4.5 comes up just a touch short.