Sunday, August 12, 2012

Springfield Armory XDs 45 ACP Range Report and Review Wrap-up

Last January, during the hoopla that is SHOT Show, I got wind of a new single stack 45 ACP from Springfield Armory.  Their spokesperson waxed enthusiastically about the pistol in the many YouTube videos taken during media day.  I remember it being called a "game changer" for Springfield since it was designed specifically for those folks looking for a trim, slim, carry pistol chambered in 45 ACP.  I was interested, but not enough to aggressively pursue tracking one down and paying "new release" top dollar price just so I could be one of the first non-industry people to review it.

Earlier this week I posted that I was graciously offered a new Springfield XDs to review.  I was really looking forward to the opportunity to get the pistol out on the range after spending some time cleaning it and getting familiar with the feel and handling characteristics of the pistol.

On paper, the pistol specifications look great.  I grabbed the latest specs from the Springfield Armory website so I could compare them to my own data.  It's interesting that back in January the original published weight was 29 oz.  This struck me as odd since it was heavier than other single stack 45 polymer pistols on the market, yet only held 5 rounds in the magazine.  That error was corrected and the 21.5 oz weight now published is correct.
WEIGHT 21.5 oz.
BARREL MELONITE® Fully Supported Ramp
with Magazine

Rather than rehash my initial observations from my Un-boxing Review Part 1, you can read that HERE.

It was a great weather day yesterday.  I woke up to find that the weather had turned and the forecast called for clear skies and temperatures in the high 80's rather than the 100's we've been having for the last several weeks.  The winds were also down so I was glad I wouldn't have to battle wind noise in my videos for a change.  I followed my standard pistol review process and it's all in the video below.  There are some key points I'd like to include here that are not covered in depth in the video.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get about a pistol is "how's the recoil?".  Earlier this Summer I invested in a cheap high speed camera that allows me to provide some visual data along with my subjective answers on recoil being "not bad", "painful", or "didn't even notice".  I shoot 5 aimed shots against a 2" x 2" grid board that has a 45 degree red stripe running corner to corner.  I capture a frame from the 3rd shot of the string with the pistol at maximum recoil travel and call that representative of the pistol's recoil.  In the picture below you can see muzzle rise is about 45 degrees, which is really good for a pistol this size that only allows 2 fingers on the grip (my pinky rolls under the magazine baseplate during firing).  There is a slight radial twist to the left which you can also see in the video.  This pistol is very controllable with full power 230 Grain defense loads.

I also do a velocity benchmark to see how much velocity is lost when shooting through a short barreled pistol.  For the test, I used Hornady TAP 200 Grain +P with a published muzzle velocity of 1055 fps.  In our test I measured 916 fps average velocity for the 5 shot string.  That's 373 ft/lbs of energy.  Obviously, you are going to lose some velocity in the shorter 3.3" barrel vs. a service length pistol.  This may have been a bad choice for testing so I'd like to run some different loads through in the future to see if velocity drop would be less significant with other ammo choices.
I tried to keep up with a detailed round count as I worked through the review.  I've got a pretty good idea on the ammo I shot.
20  Winchester White Box 230 Grain FMJ
25  Federal Bulk Pack 230 Grain FMJ
50  Sellier and Bellot 230 Grain FMJ
5   Hornady TAP FPD 200 Grain +P XTP
92 Remington Golden Saber 230 Grain BJHP
I experienced zero malfunctions of any type in testing.  During the video you can see I tried as many different shooting styles as realistically possible.  I also tried all 3 magazines I had on hand.  The pistol responded well to anything I threw at it.

I happened to have a Crimson Trace Rail Master available so I wrapped up the range test with a laser test.  It was great to see that small grouping with the laser attached.  This pistol has plenty of inherent accuracy potential that's just waiting on the shooter to discover.

I knew I was going to like this pistol even before heading out to the range.  It just felt really good to me.  For those that follow my blog, you all know I'm a fan of small pistols.  You may have even noticed a couple small 45s in my group of test pistols that I use in my ballistics testing work.  I really don't NEED another small single stack 45, but I just couldn't help myself when I recapped my range test by proclaiming that "I gotta get one of these".  Really, I think my mind was made up after shooting the first 10 rounds on a target.  If the target below is the worst I will ever be when shooting this pistol, I can only imagine how well I will be able to shoot with it after practicing with it for several months.
 As I transitioned from testing the pistol to learning how to shoot it and discovering if it would be a good carry choice for me, I set up a very basic course of fire and ran thought it several times.  Rather than exclusively using range ammo for these drills, I also used full power defense loads.  When the dust settled, I was really pleased to learn that I could improve my shooting accuracy with a little bit of practice with the pistol.  After this part of the review was done I felt inspired that if I had my own XDs, and spent some time training with it, I would be a better shooter.  Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I'll be picking one of these up anytime soon.  I did see one available yesterday at an on-line seller, but it was out of stock this morning when I checked it again.  If other reviewers are saying similar things about the XDs that I am, I imagine these pistols will be a hot item for quite some time.

If you would like to see the Range Test video, it's included below.

Final Recap
I intentionally avoid reading and watching reviews on pistols that I plan on reviewing.  I like to head into a review without biases that I picked up when watching or reading the work of other reviewers.  Sometimes I just can't help picking up a tid-bit or two from various forums that I read.  Going into the review I basically knew nothing about the XDs other than Rob Leatham's early comments about it.  "Game Changer" just stuck in my head when I remember his description and enthusiasm about the pistol.  I like "game changers" because to me that means innovation and improving the status quo.  This pistol does that, and does it well.

Is the XDs flawless?  Nope.  I did pick up on a few things that I'd like to make you folks aware of.  I found it impossible to chamber a round from a full magazine by slingshotting the slide.  I could only load the chamber by sling shotting if the magazine had 2 or less rounds in it.  The problem is resolved by always loading the chamber by depressing the slide lock.  This is SOP with some other pistol manufacturers and works great with the XDs, but be aware that you may need to change your habits to adjust to the pistol.  It was also very difficult to eject a live round from the chamber with or without the magazine in place.  You could do it, but the ejection port is small and even with a vigorous yank on the slide the round still wants to hang in the ejection port.  This happened with the FMJ and JHPs we were working with.  I say we because the pistol's owner stopped by to see how the review was going and he experienced the same things I did when slingshotting and clearing the chamber.  In fairness, this may improve as the recoil springs take a set over more break in rounds.  Between the two of us the pistol may have 250 total rounds through it at this point.

I found the 5 round magazines to be great for carry, but my pinky didn't have enough purchase for a full 3 finger grip.  Springfield has come out with a 7 round extended magazine that provides plenty of room for all 3 fingers.  I would love to see a 6 round extended magazine.  For me it would be the perfect length to allow me to get all three fingers on the grip while not adding too much more overall length to the grip and possibly spoiling concealability.

So is this XDs a "game changer"?  I think it is.  Shipping with 2 magazines, the XD Gear, factory fiber optic front sight, and two sizes of back straps, you get quite a bit of value for your money.  With this specific XDs, it was so great to be able to pull the pistol out of the box, clean it, and run about 200 issue free rounds through it using every realistic hold I could think of.  A drama free day.  Just like it should be.  Being able to focus on the nuances of the pistol instead of any problems.

Yes, I will get one and I hope Springfield continues to change the game by expanding the line with additional options.  This platform would be dynamite as a 6+1 or 7+1 9mm as long as reliability and shoot-ability stay similar to the 45 version.  Dare we hope they could make it even slimmer than the 45?  Game on!

UPDATE 8/29/2013:  Mandatory Safety Recall Issued on XD-S Pistols.  Read about it here.


  1. Thanks for doing the review. I was able to handle one at a local gun shop and it felt great in the hand. I like the XD, but I have smaller hands and the double stack grip is like hanging onto a 2x4. I am currently trying to decide between the M&P Shield and this gun when it comes out in 9mm.

    1. The same person that let me borrow the XDs is going to let me try his Shield when it comes in. I'd like to try one, and I may even do a review on it. Isn't it great to have so many new choices?!

  2. Great review. I own an XDS and experienced the same issue with 'sling shotting' a round into the chamber. After some experimentation, and looking closer at the shell that fails to chamber (there was a mark on it right before the rim) - I found I wasn't racking the slide far enough back. There is an audible 'click' when the slide is back far enough to chamber a round. The click only happens when a full mag is in the pistol, and I assume the 'click' is the interior of the slide making contact and passing completely over the rim of the shell.

    I'm an experienced shooter - admitting to this is embarrasing, but I find it to not be the guns fault. If you walk the slide back and watch the shell attempt to enter the chamber, you will see the slide didn't go far enough back. After reading more reviews I found several which match my findings.

    I've owned the gun for about 2 weeks now - after 3 or 4 range trips, I no longer have any failure to feed issues, even while sling shotting the slide.

  3. I must have smaller hands, b/c I was able to handle one of these in a shop and I could squeeze my pinky on the grip as well.

    1. I can also squeeze my pinkie onto the grip when at rest. Under fire, the pinkie slips under due to the recoil. With smaller hands, it is indeed possible that you may be able to keep all 3 on the grip during firing.

  4. Great review. Love mine. Try some Federal Classic 185gr in it. It's very accurate and easy on the hands.

  5. Bruce,

    I know you measured the pull weight, but what about the length, crispness and break? How long is the reset?

    E. Rabb

    1. It has a short take-up and a pretty crisp break for a striker fired pistol. If you watch the video at about the 1 minute mark I do the recoil cam thing and you can see I was moving my trigger finger forward much more than was required for the trigger to reset. It has a shorter reset than I am accustomed to. Triggers are a personal preference. Ideally, see if you can find one that you can dry fire before buying to make absolutely sure you like it. Worst case, Powder River now has an XDs spring kit available for the XDs. I like the trigger "as is".

  6. Yes, triggers are personal, and I believe most contributory to increasing marksman skills. In keeping with you comparison to Kahr and Glock, The only thing that bugs me a bit about the Kahr CM9 is the long reset for follow up. The Glock is short and very useful for follow up - the difference is substantial. As regards smoothness and break, the Kahr excels, making me wonder how a shorter rest might effect same?

    E. Rabb

    1. I was avoiding the Glock & Kahr comparison thing, but since you went there first I will say the trigger is much more Glock-like than Kahr-like. Kahr's have a very long reset that takes some getting accustomed to. I've heard rumors of a Kahr with a shorter trigger reset, but really don't know any details.

    2. thamks for the thorough reveiw, i purchased one few weeks ago at the insistance of a good friend who owns two. found the piece to be everything he said. crisp smooth trigger,very concealable,med wght but good balance and not to harsh on recoil if properly gripped. What i didnt expect was the accuracy from such a short barrel. pleasantly surprised. it has become my daily carry with two extended mags in a mag holster. have just ordered the crimson trace and hope it will further improve an already great weapon. never did experience any problems with loading the first round of a full clip but might be attributed to the cross chest method i employ on chambering. old habit. Thanks again for the reveiw

  7. I am a new owner of the Springfield Armory XDs 45 ACP. I too like smaller handguns for deeper concealment. My current deep concealment handgun of choice is my Kahr PM9. Otherwise, I mostly carry Glocks.

    Perhaps it is my experience with the Kahr PM9 and the P380, but I found the same problem with slingshotting the slide. It always worked when when I locked the slide back, inserted the magazine and pushed the slide release. As another person here noted, if you are very snappy and allow the slide to slip from your grasp while pulling back, slingshotting works find. I do it like I am pulling it all the way to my shoulder, but I hold the pistol firmly with my shooting hand.

    Another issue I am still sorting out is that the magazine release is not easy for me to activate. In fact, I find it easier to use the index finger of my firing hand rather than the thumb. Maybe it is just me.. not sure yet.

    I did not fire any hot loads today. I limited it to standard 230 grain hardball. I wanted to get familiar and do some break in. The recoil is snappy, but not bad. I have some hotter loads waiting for next time.

    The XDs comes apart very easily, but the slide is not as easy to detail strip as a Glock or a Kahr. I limited the detail cleaning to the striker area. That part is easy to remove. I keep that area dry and clean, and there was not much that had to get done there.

    Since it was a cold day here, I found it more comfortable to wear thin gloves shooting the XDs. Some of my handguns are tough to handle with gloves, but I had no issues with the XDs. Also, magazines eject smartly and there is no need to pull them out.

    I wish I can say I am a good shot, but nothing comes to me easily. I was able to keep fairly tight groups as I worked on the 7 meter target. Since I have old man eyes, I have to decide whether I need to see the sights or the target clearer. Also, since my eyes do not focus easily as when I was a kid, if I look at the target to see where I hit, it makes getting ready for the next shot slower and the groups start to spread. It is best to have a spotter or wait until after the group.

    Also, though the XDs is larger than my PM9, it fits reasonable well into the pocket holster in my pocket. I tried to carry my Glock 27 in a pocket holster, but it looked like I had a thick paperback in my pocket. The XDs worked fine in my jeans front pocket.

    Overall, I am very impressed with the XDs. I am going to take some more time before I decide if it will be my constant companion. I do not plan to use a laser on it just yet. I recently removed the laser from my Glock 27. Lasers can help in some situations, and with old man eyes, it allows one to look at the target. Personally, I really like using night sights. Lasers are great for certain situations. With the rail, it will be easier to add and remove the laser.

  8. "I found the 5 round magazines to be great for carry, but my pinky didn't have enough purchase for a full 3 finger grip. Springfield has come out with a 7 round extended magazine that provides plenty of room for all 3 fingers. I would love to see a 6 round extended magazine. For me it would be the perfect length to allow me to get all three fingers on the grip while not adding too much more overall length to the grip and possibly spoiling concealability."

    DITTO!!! Springfield, please produce a 6 round mag!!!

    1. yes 6 just got the 7, its to long

  9. I also have found that it's easier to eject the mag using the index finger on my shooting hand rather than my thumb. I definitely agree with the positive comments I've seen, based on the 200 rounds I've fired so far. Accurate, feels good in the hand, and less kick than I was expecting, which became the major selling point.

  10. You got some serious limp-wristing going on in the images and video my friend!

    1. Awesome. Thanks so much for the observation.

  11. I am an inexperienced shooter, and I do not know if "slingshotting" involves any particular movement, but I was able to chamber (a rental) XD-S .45 by the standard racking from an empty chamber. There does not appear to be anything untoward going on. I do not participate in competions and I never use the slide stop lever (in line with the recommendations of Grant Cunningham).