Pocket Pals Polished To Perfection!
Two years ago when the first XD-S .45’s rolled out from Springfield Armory, they were an instant hit with XD pistol fans. Finally, they had a true “coat-pocket cannon”-sized XD. Thanks to an extremely well-designed frame and new texturing, they proved to be eminently shootable, even with stout .45 ACP loads rocketing out of a 3.3″ barrel in a 21.5-ounce gun. Slim and flat with a single-stack mag, safe, reliable and reasonably priced, the first wave of demand for the new XD-S all but swamped Springfield.
Then the second wave hit: Non-XD shooters, and those who had a little experience with ’em, but were previously unimpressed. I belonged to that group. They noticed the handy size and easy-carrying weight, picked one up and felt the little cannon’s stability and pointing characteristics. Then all it took was shooting one. They were sold. Truth is, I wouldn’t have looked at the XD-S twice if His Editorial Immenseness hadn’t handed me the assignment as “an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
If you recall — or, go online and read the feature in our digital edition of the March/April 2013 issue — I wound up evaluating the then-unproven XD-S .45, shooting it drill for drill, shot for shot against its biggest brother, the XD 5″ Tactical .45. My crew had picked up the 5″ Tactical for some forgotten reason. I shot it and found it reliable and accurate, but there were no fireworks, no choruses of angels singin’. I didn’t like the fact it twisted in my hand, shooting rapid-fire groups single-handed. That sent my rat-a-tat strings looping up and to the right. I slid it into the safe where it lay snoozin’ — until that first XD-S arrived.
With its re-engineered grip, further adjustable via changeable inserts, and a lower bore axis, for my money the XD-S shot better and even more accurately at gunfighting distances than Big Bro Tactical — especially in rapid-fire strings! That twisting effect was gone, and the pistol was rock-steady in the hand. Felt recoil was greater than with the 42-ounce Tactical — that’s just physics — but negative recoil effect like muzzle whip and movement was less. We sold the 5″ Tactical, and I ordered an XD-S for myself.
Then the 9mm variant came out, and that pleased even more shooters. I didn’t get to shoot one, but that was okay; I was happy with the .45. It did occur to me a 9mm XD-S with a 4″ barrel might be even better. It seems a lot of folks shared that thought and shouted it out to Springfield. Turn around twice and here we are shooting a 4″ barreled 9mm XD-S! Then, unannounced and outta the blue, a 4.0 in .45 ACP arrived! Oh, stop beatin’ me like that! Oh, please don’t throw me in that briar patch! Right.
Same-Same Plus Mo’
I won’t yammer on about the mech-and-tech specs of the 4.0’s much. Essentially they’re exactly the same as the 3.3’s, and enough has been written about them — including, by me. Just a few reminders on points I think are important: The dimensions and geometry of the polymer frame offer a superior grip for hands from small to meathook-large, and the grenade-style texturing really helps lock the pistol in your hand. The curvature of the rear of the frame allows you to get the web of your hand high up under the slide for better control and to maximize the recoil-reducing effect of the low bore axis. The grip safety is shaped and placed so you really can’t miss it, as I’ve occasionally done in the past with 1911 grip safeties.
The combination of the grip safety and longish trigger pull, not to mention the tabbed trigger safety and firing pin block, makes AD’s in your pocket highly unlikely; even if, for example, you managed to get a car key sideways through the trigger guard and you’re spastically fumbling around for your stupid breath mints. If you want to “accidentally” blow chunks of yourself away, you’ll have to work at it. Keep that cannon-pocket uncluttered anyway, okay?
The sights are real steel in dovetail slots and excellent. The front sight is a red-light pipe in a post-topped housing, and the rear is a sloped-front, anti-snag U-notch with twin white dots. The deep, over-wrapped slide serrations make manipulation of the slide fast and certain.
Bottom line: It’s very well-engineered for safe and effective concealed-carry use by a broad spectrum of folks large and small. You can pick up more details from that March/April 2013 feature and Springfield’s website.
A few questions might occur to you, like “How does the added length effect concealability?” And, does it detract from carrying comfort? I’ve found with most handguns, concealability is far less a matter of barrel length than it is about the dimensions of the grip; the butt — and the butt of the XD-S is very slim and short. I could make an applicable human comparison on the concealment problems associated with hiding a bigger butt, but I won’t. I know better. I’ll only say the 4.0’s nestle neatly in the same coat pockets I’ve carried the 3.3″ XD-S in, no problem.
In fact, the added barrel length tends to stabilize the piece in my coat pockets, reducing “wandering” of the muzzle. Riding in an OWB holster, the difference is virtually zip. Carried in an IWB rig, depending on your build, the difference is next to nothing. If you’ve got a thick trunk and low beltline, that extra 7/10″ could poke you in a tender place, but really, if the 3.3 doesn’t do it, I doubt the 4.0 will.
When I carry an XD-S in a pocket or inside the waistband, I use the flush-fit magazine and carry the X-Tension mag as a spare. If carrying in an OWB holster I reverse that setup, as I’ve found the marginal extra length of the butt poses no concealment problem for me — it’s the slim frame width and flatness that counts — and I like having the additional two rounds on board. Weapon height with the flush-fit mag is 4″, and the X-Tension mag only adds 1″, plus, it gives you a full 3-finger grip including your pinky. As for dry weight added by under an inch of barrel and slide, the 3.3’s weigh 21.5 ounces in .45 ACP and 23 ounces in 9mm, and the 4.0’s add just two ounces to both variants. Not bad at all. We’re still talking very light.
What benefit do you get from that measly extra 7/10″ of an inch? You might get a little boost in velocity; prob’ly not enough to make any difference on target, whether that’s cardboard or crook, paper or perpetrator. You get a longer sight radius, which if you consider it in percentage of length, can be significant.
For me, the most striking difference is in how the 4.0’s point. It’s not something I articulated as an expectation before shooting them, but it quickly became apparent when I commenced snap-shooting drills. Getting on target and staying on target, both in cadenced firing and rapid-fire, was noticeably faster and more certain. Less muzzle flip? The 3.3 didn’t seem to have significant muzzle flip to me, so I can’t nail that down. But anything — and I mean any dang thing — giving me an edge in “rounds on target” without any other negative effects is important to me. Less striking but still notable is improved pointing and sighting at extended ranges. If you have to get stable and go squinty to hit that “piece of a piece” of your target out past the rear bumper of a Greyhound, that 0.7 advantage ain’t “measly” no mo’.
Horrors & Happy-Dances
I was jammed for time. I checked for bore obstructions, and rackin’ the slides, figured they were lubed enough. I was burnin’ daylight and chasing sunset when I got to the range. Right away, I had failures to feed completely into battery with both pistols! Most occurred with the first round up in the mags. Then I had a stovepipe on the last round in a .45 mag. Bitter cursing ensued. Then I tried shooting some groups. Gahhhh! I didn’t have the 2013 notes with me, but it seemed like my best groups were twice the size of those I’d shot with the original XD-S. If I’d had some spray group-tightener I woulda tried it on the targets. Something just wasn’t right. I drove away grittin’ my teeth.
Then I remembered: That original XD-S, one of the first made, had been a demo-gun at “Media Day at the Range” the day before SHOT Show. Uncounted shooters had put hundreds of rounds through it before it was shipped to me. And I had skipped my usual break-in process. Yes, I can be a mallet-head.
I stripped both pistols, cleaned and liberally lubed ’em. Next trip, I pounded 150-plus rounds of mixed ball through each, shootin’ ’em hot ’n’ nasty. I experienced the last malfunction about one-third into that session. I stripped ’em again, swamped them out, sparingly lubed with Slip 2000 EWL, and fired for effect. I got groups that were stupid-tight; almost embarrassing to report – but I will!
Fifteen-yard 5-round groups were shot on 1″ black sticker-dots on white paper, two-handed, no Ransom Rest or hardware; just “rested.” With Nosler Match Grade ammo in the 9mm, I shot a 1″ high by .875″ wide group. From the .45, launching CorBon 160-gr. DPX slugs, I wrung a 1.125″ high by 1″ wide group. It missed being a single 5-round hole by a gnat’s butt. Good ’nuff?
Rapid-fire 5-round strings were shot at 7 yards on Birchwood Casey Eze-Scorer BC-27 reduced-silhouette targets. The noggin is only 3.5″ wide versus a standard human gourd of 7″-plus wide, and the body is just 12″ high by 11″ wide, so you’ve got some decent challenge factor at 7 yards. I was shooting five to the head, reloading and firing five to center mass.
With Hornady Critical Duty loads in 9mm, I shot a head-group measuring 23/4″ high by 2″ wide and a body-group of 2.9″ high by 21/2″. In .45 ACP, shooting stiff Federal Premium HST Tactical 230’s, the best head-group went 3.5″ high by 4.25″ wide, with a center-mass group of virtually the same size. In rapid fire, folks, that kinda performance will settle some hash.
It’s tough to happy-dance whilst balancing on a lunar-lander walker-cane, but I was gettin’ jiggy with it! Above and beyond those sweet groups, the behavior of the pistols had improved significantly. Behavior? It’s hard to express. The actions ran slicker, faster. Even the de rigueur longish 7-pound triggers seemed to settle down and smooth out. Well, have you ever had to dance with a girl who didn’t like you anyway, and thought you were up to no good? Then danced with one who called you “darlin’,” and was already pickin’ out baby-names in her head? Like that.
All the ammo shot for record performed like rock stars. In 9mm, the lineup included Black Hills 115-gr. Tac-XP+P, Hornady’s Critical Duty 135-gr. FlexLock, Nosler 124-gr. Match Grade JHP, and Speer Gold Dot 124-gr. GDHP. All four are premium loads. There was hardly a lick of difference between them in accuracy. Any would make a fine choice for self-defense.
In .45 ACP, we ran CorBon’s 160-gr. DPX “Compact Gun Load” featuring a Barnes solid with a hollowpoint you could sip brandy from; Federal Premium 230-gr. HST Tactical, formerly a well-established law enforcement-only round now available to the public — the same load but with “Tactical” dropped from the packaging. For a change-up, we included my crew’s regular handload for action drills and general range work. We use a 185-gr. lead SWC sold by Bayou Bullets, which is coated with an Australian-developed smooth dry lube that won’t gunk up your automatic case feeder. The CorBon shoots soft and straight; the HST has more punch — because it throws more punch — and our pet “Bayou Load” shoots like a powderpuff.
See the subtitle. That says it all. Note: Break ’em in right and don’t skimp on “rounds downrange.” Practice and train; draws, shooting and reloads, with both magazine lengths. Go for the longer shots you might not have tried with other small pistols — the sights are excellent and the 4″ barrels will accommodate you. Don’t use the slide stop to chamber rounds, the dual springs are stout, so slingshot that puppy! MSRP is around $599, so shop around some for your best deal. Enjoy! Connor OUT
By John Connor
Photos By Chuck Pitman
For more info: https://americanhandgunner.com/company/springfield-armory/, Ph: (800) 680-6866
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