Springfield Armory XD-E has a brand-new gun – the XD-E. Shown publicly for the first time today in the company’s booth at the 2017 NRA Annual Meeting in Atlanta, it’s going to make a few different groups of handgun shooters happy:
Shooters who want the extra peace of mind of a double-action gun with a manual safety for concealed carry. We’ll come back to what that means in a minute.
Shooters who have trouble racking the slide of compact semi-automatic pistols.
Shooters who like a compact, safe, 9mm, concealed carry-friendly pistol.
Let’s talk about that peace of mind concept for a second. Whether or not you see a manual safety lever on a modern pistol, the odds are that it has plenty of safeties. Striker-fired pistols like Glocks and other Springfield Armory XD family models have internal safeties that prevent the gun from firing unless there is a direct trigger press. Additionally, there are few, if any, modern pistols that will fire if dropped. With that said, some people like the additional comfort of having a manual safety lever that they have to release before the trigger can operate. Many who carry concealed want that extra margin of peace of mind to have absolute confidence that they can’t inadvertently fire the gun, because they have to consciously disengage the safety lever first.
The other element contributing to peace of mind is the double-action, single-action design. Double-action means that the first trigger press performs two functions. It first cocks the hammer, then subsequently fires the gun – two distinct actions. As a result, that first trigger press requires a longer and heavier press on the trigger. You really have to want to move the trigger through that long and heavy double-action pull. Once the gun fires, it automatically cocks the hammer, so following shots are in single-action. The trigger only has to release the hammer, so single-action trigger presses are shorter and require less force.
Springfield Armory chose the double-action, single-action design for the XD-E to get the best of both worlds. The first shot requires extra effort for safety while subsequent shots require lighter pressure on the trigger. As a result, it’s easier to shoot accurately and confidently when in single-action mode.
The important thing to know about the XD-E is that you don’t have to worry about all those modes. If you press the safety lever down and pull the trigger, the gun will go bang. (While you can carry the XD-E with the hammer fully cocked and the safety engaged, it’s not the recommended method, and you’d lose some of that “peace of mind” functionality.)
The engineers at Springfield Armory did some nifty tinkering with the hammer system of the XD-E because they wanted to make it an easy pistol to operate. One of the physics challenges of compact 9mm pistols is that the small size and heavy springs make it difficult for many shooters to operate the slide. With the XD-E, you’ll notice a much easier slide-racking experience. If you are shopping for a gun and am leaning toward a revolver because it has no rack to slide, check this pistol out first.
Let’s take a quick tour of the major features.
The XD-E is a single-stack gun, which means that the cartridges go into the magazine directly on top of each other. That allows the XD-E to remain thin; it’s less than one-inch thick. Even with its single stack magazine, you it holds eight rounds in the standard magazine plus one more in the chamber. Springfield Armory includes a second extended magazine that gives you one more round and a bit more finger space on the grip. Even the compact magazine configuration allows me to get my size large hands on the grip, thanks to the pinky extension. It comes with a flat magazine base, allowing for maximum concealment.
All the controls are fully ambidextrous, meaning you can operate the safety and magazine release from either side. The controls are not reversible to the opposite side as with many other compact pistols—they’re already present on both sides. The safety levers are thin and contoured, so they’re very compatible with holsters and inside-the-waistband carry; there are no big protrusions to dig into your body.
The sights on the XD-E are fast and easy to see. The front is a red fiber optic tube that picks up ambient light and glows. The rear sight is a contoured steel housing that won’t snag. It’s got a rectangular notch flanked by two white dots. The contrast with the bright front sight makes it easy to confirm proper alignment. There is an accessory rail on the frame so you can add a standard rail-mounted light or laser if you like.
Size and Texture
The body of the pistol is slightly bigger than Springfield’s striker-fired compact pistol, the XD-S. While about the same width—1 inch— the XD-E measures 6 3/4 inches long and 5 inches high, which is a bit taller and a hair longer, most likely to accommodate the hammer design. The XD-E also brings the company’s GripZone texturing pattern to the front and rear areas of the grip. The sides of the grip are mostly smooth to make the gun a bit more carry friendly (meaning less abrasion on your side). It weighs 25 ounces.
The trigger is smooth with none of the gritty feel that you might expect from a compact polymer pistol. By design, the double-action pull is long – just over one inch if you measure the distance traveled by the very end of the trigger. The double-action weight is about 10 pounds. The single-action pull movement is much shorter, about a half inch, with 3/8 of an inch of that being the take-up stage before you feel pressure. I measured the weight in single-action mode at 4 ¾ pounds. After firing a shot and releasing the trigger, it will reset and be ready for the next shot after about 3/8 of an inch of travel forward. There’s an audible and tactile click to tell you it’s ready to go again.
You might have noticed an encouraging trend among gun makers over the past couple of years: They’re getting pretty good at sharing their future plans with industry partners, such as holster and accessory manufacturers. When a new gun like the XD-E launches, you can usually buy holsters on day one. Crossbreed Holsters provided one of their Minituck holsters already fit for the XD-E, so I was able to carry the XD-E a bit. As the gun is just under an inch thick, it was no trouble at all to carry inside the waistband using the Minituck holster. The safety levers on the XD-E are mostly flat with a gentle contour, so they didn’t snag or cause undue pressure on the interior of the holster.
While I don’t yet have a holster for appendix carry of XD-E yet, I think it will make a great gun for those of you who choose that method.
I have had ample opportunity to shoot the Springfield Armory XD-E, both at a pre-launch event and back at home under more leisurely conditions. The Springfield folks teamed up with Action Target, Federal Ammunition, and Crossbreed holsters to pack a slew of shooting opportunity into the pre-launch event. Over a long day, I shot steel plates, new computer controlled knock-down targets, and paper over a variety of scenarios. We had the opportunity to draw and shoot, move and shoot, and even leap out of a bed (on the range!) to retrieve the XD-E from a nightstand safe before shooting “bad guy” targets down range. Throughout the day, I fired somewhere north of a couple of hundred rounds from the XD-E and had no malfunctions. I didn’t see a single malfunction from any of the test guns used by other writers, so multiply that couple hundred rounds by a dozen shooters and do what you will with that indication of reliability.
Some shooters don’t like double-action, single-action pistols because of the difference in trigger feel between the first and second shots. I didn’t mind, but admittedly, I often carry a double-action, single-action pistol, so I’m not only used to that design, I tend to prefer it. If you haven’t shot that type of pistol, it’s worth a try. If you practice with dry fire at home to develop a good trigger technique, you’ll find that it doesn’t really matter that the trigger press feels like; you’ll be adept at pressing the trigger without moving the gun, and that’s what matters.
Back at home, I did some more shooting to see how the XD-E performed regarding accuracy. Even though this is a compact carry gun intended for shorter range use, I tested it at a distance of 25 yards. To help my aging eyes, I added a Bushnell Elite handgun scope using a nifty UM Tactical Mount. It attaches to the standard accessory rail in front of the trigger guard and allows you to add an optic to just about any pistol with a rail.
I fired five-shot groups and measured the results. Here’s what I found with various types of ammunition.
|Ammo Type||Group size (inches)|
|American Eagle FMJ 115-grain||3.1|
|American Eagle FMJ 124-grain||1.88|
|Sig Sauer FMJ 115-grain||3.24|
|Sig Sauer V-Crown 115-grain||2.33|
|Sig Sauer V-Crown 124-grain||2.25|
|Sig Sauer V-Crown 147-grain||2.29|
In case it’s not obvious, those are excellent results, especially from a compact handgun tested at the full 25-yard distance. While much more shooting would be required to make definitive statements, it appears that the XD-E likes slightly heavier ammo, at least in terms of accuracy.
The XD-E delivers on what its designers set out to have it do. While you have different options as to how you’ll carry the Springfield Armory XD-E, the operation is simple. Just train to press down on either safety lever, pull the trigger, and the gun will go bang. The specifics of double or single-action first shots are up to you based on your carry method and preferences.
There is one more “peace of mind” feature that I haven’t yet mentioned. When you take apart the XD-E for cleaning, there’s no need to press the trigger to remove the slide. Many guns require that step, but if you don’t have to, why add an unnecessary trigger press into the mix?
Overall, I liked the XD-E, but then again, I like the Springfield Armor XD-S too. I think the company has struck just the right balance between compact size, weight, and caliber. It’s an easy gun to conceal, but just large enough to be easy, and fun, to shoot. MSRP is $519.