Is Springfield Armory's slim little pocket rocket the best concealed carry pistol in the world?
We live in the glory days of conceal-carry options. Never before has the market been this full of handguns designed to go everywhere you go; from size, to caliber, to price range, we live in the golden age of personal defense handguns.
In the 80s, the Walther PPK ruled the roost, unless you wanted a revolver. The early 90s saw the introduction of the compact Glock, and just a few years later the gun industry was flooded with .380s designed for pocket carry. Now, polymer-framed, striker-fired compacts are a popular choice, along with compact 1911s and snub-nosed revolvers. With the (literally) hundreds of options, how do you decide what's best? Are great compact handguns strictly for the cost-is-no-object gun buyer, or can even the budget-conscious shopper get a great deal?
Here are some reasons why we think the folks at Springfield may just have produced a winner. No armchair-quarterbacking or borrowing other people's opinions here; this is a real, no holds barred, hands-on review with a real Springfield XD-S that was purchased specifically for concealed carry. Let's get started.
While the XD-S comes in .45ACP and 9mm, both guns are almost identical dimensionally. This review will cover the .45ACP model, but the only size difference is in weight, with the 9mm being slightly heavier.
Springfield XD-S .45
Weight: 21.5 ounces (with an empty magazine)
Width: .95 inches at the slide, .9 inches at the grip
Height: 4.4 inches
Length: 6.3 inches
Barrel Length: 3.3 inches
Capacity: 5+1, 7+1 (7+1, 9+1 for the 9mm)
The Springfield Armory XD-S is a compact, polymer-framed, striker-fired single stack pistol. As far as physical size goes, the XD-S sits right in between traditional compact pistols (like a Glock 30) and true subcompacts like the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard or Ruger LCP. Due to its single stack design, the XD-S has a frame that's less than one inch wide (0.95 inches, to be exact). At 6.3 inches long overall (barrel length is 3.3 in) and only 4.4 inches high, the XD-S is certainly small enough to disappear into a pocket or slide into a purse.
While its 21.5-ounce weight might seem a bit portly when compared to its competition, don't be discouraged--its weight helps it feel authoritative in the hand, yet it's still light enough to be carried comfortably everyday. Besides, lightweight guns aren't always a good thing; most shooters will almost always shoot heavier guns better and more comfortably. While its 5+1 (or 7+1 with extended magazines) capacity in .45 (7+1 or 9+1 with the 9mm model) may discourage some, with the standard mags you have just as many rounds as you would with most revolvers...albeit with much more firepower.
No one buys a gun strictly for the box but if so, the cases that all Springfield XD series pistols come in would make them a top seller. Designed to double as a bomb-proof case (not really), the thing is certainly an impressive piece of work. Large enough to hold a 13" MacBook Pro, this particular case contained the XD-specific holster, double mag pouch, slide lock, interchangeable backstrap, two five-round magazines, two seven-round mags, and (of course) the XD-S pistol.
The pistol itself is also very impressive right out of the box. As we said earlier, it has enough heft to make it feel authoritative without being bulky. The fit and finish are excellent, and the build quality is impressive. The controls are thoughtfully laid out; the mag release is ambidextrous (and extremely positive), the reach to the trigger is comfortable, and the slide release is positioned perfectly for use with the shooting hand (if you're right handed).
There are no shakes and rattles with this gun, and everything fits and functions together as intended. The sights, which are dovetailed front and rear, are equally as impressive. While not true night sights, the fiber optic fronts and white dot rears offer good visibility and fast target acquisition. While the sharp edges on the front sight (the rear sights edges are rounded) aren't ideal, it hasn't caused a hang-up yet. Our test pistol also has a green fiber optic in the front sight instead of the factory red, but this is purely a matter of personal preference.
The only part of this pistol that we're not crazy about, to be honest, is the trigger. This is a post recall gun (some XD-S owners report a negative effect on the trigger quality after the recall work was done), and while trigger effort is comparable to its competitors at 5.5-7.5 pounds, both the feel and reset are definitely not strong points. Trigger travel is a tad long and "mushy," and the reset is equally underwhelming with a long travel and "soft" feel. Stay tuned, however, and we'll see what improvements we can make to make this gun easier to shoot and better to carry.
Disassembling the XD-S for cleaning, while not generally a strong priority in everyday carry pistols, is still a simple procedure. First, remove the magazine and check again to ensure the weapon is not loaded. It would be a good idea to ensure that your work area is free of ammunition. Then rack the slide 5-10 times to ensure the gun is empty, and pull the trigger.
Now you can lock the slide open using the slide release lever. The takedown lever must now be rotated 90 degrees upward. After this, pull the slide slightly to the rear, then slowly allow it to move forward until it stops. Pull the trigger again, then move the slide forward off the frame and remove the barrel and recoil system
That's it. While similar in procedure to other striker-fired pistols, the takedown of an XD-S is about as simple as it gets. Field stripping is as much disassembly as most owners will ever need to do, and it doesn't get any easier.
While not a true pocket pistol, the Springfield XD-S is a perfect compromise, in both size and firepower, between diminutive pocket guns and much heftier compacts. It slides easily into a purse, and standard dress pant pockets conceal the XD-S with ease. It can even fit into larger coat pockets, and when carried inside-the-waistband it absolutely disappears.
This is a true daily carry pistol that still has plenty of firepower if it were ever needed.
This has been a table-top review of the Springfield XD-S in .45ACP. Stay tuned for part two, where we will take our favorite pocket range to the range and see what it's made of.
Be sure as well to send us an email (or comment on social media) about what you'd like to see it do, or any modifications you'd like to hear about.
All photos by Chris Bond