Handguns > Semi-Auto

Small Wonder: Springfield's XD-S

The latest polymer-frame XD pistol from Springfield Armory is a subcompact single-stack chambered in .45 ACP, and one of the smallest big-bore semi-automatics ever.


The decision to carry a handgun for personal protection imposes a dilemma in that the size and weight of the gun are likely to be inversely proportional to its capacity and power. That largely explains why pocket pistols chambered in .380 ACP surged in popularity several years ago. Because they were small and light, they were more likely to be carried habitually rather than left behind. But many who bought those guns would have preferred a more powerful chambering or additional rounds, which explains why firearm manufacturers have since somewhat reprised their earlier success with small, single-stacks chambered in 9 mm Luger.

It was amid that backdrop that Springfield Armory recently introduced the all-new XD-S, a subcompact, polymer-frame single-stack that measures 1"x4.4"x6.3" and weighs 21.5 ozs. Those numbers alone would not be particularly impressive were it not for the fact that the XD-S is chambered in one of America’s most respected defensive handgun cartridges: the .45 ACP. That places the newest XD nearly in a class by itself.

Bucking The Trend
The XD-S is made in Croatia by Springfield manufacturing partner HS Produkt, which is best known for developing that country’s service pistol, the HS2000. When Springfield secured U.S. licensing and marketing rights to the gun in 2002, it renamed it “XD-9,” for X-treme Duty 9 mm Luger, and began to introduce numerous chamberings, frame sizes and barrel lengths. The popularity of XD pistols within competition and personal-defense circles increased exponentially during the following decade, and in 2008 the XD(M) platform introduced additional match-oriented features and refinements, further bolstering the XD brand.

But even the smallest XD and XD(M) pistols were fed from staggered, double-column magazines, which left Springfield out of the burgeoning subcompact, concealed-carry market where the emphasis has been on thin carry guns that, by necessity, were fed from single-stack magazines. Of course, it already had one of the most extensive lines of M1911-based pistols on the market, including the 3"-barreled Micro Compact Lightweight in .45 ACP, its smallest gun in that chambering. But the XD-S is even shorter, by 0.4", yet has a 0.3" longer barrel and is 4.5 ozs. lighter. Even compared to the EMP, Springfield’s smallest M1911-based gun, available only in 9 mm Luger and .40 S&W, the XD-S is smaller and lighter. And compared to the next-smallest XD, the 3"-barreled Sub-Compact in 9 mm Luger, the XD-S is narrower by 3/16" in the slide and 5/16" in the grip frame and is 4.5 ozs. lighter.

Dave Williams, head of Springfield’s custom shop in Geneseo, Ill., and a nationally recognized M1911 pistolsmith, worked closely with HS Produkt engineers on the XD-S project. Recalling the gun’s primary design objectives, Williams said, “We tasked our friends in Croatia to build a small carry gun, and we wanted the thinnest pistol we could get. We knew it needed to be a single-stack, but we gave the engineers a broad brush to paint with in terms of the design. They came up with some concepts, and the first one was chambered in 9 mm Luger … but we knew we wanted something special, and we decided early on to do something really cool.”

That “something really cool,” of course, was found in the stout, slow-moving but hard-hitting .45 ACP cartridge. Indeed, because of its greater energy than many smaller-caliber cartridges and because of its tendency to create more devastating permanent wound cavities, the .45 ACP had a longstanding reputation as a first-rate self-defense cartridge. So if the idea of a subcompact, single-stack semi-automatic .45 ACP pistol was such a good one, why hadn’t it become more popular? Simply put, because the same characteristics that make the cartridge desirable ballistically make it problematic mechanically when designing a compact platform around it. Specifically, its overall diameter and length (0.480" and 1.275", respectively) dictate that any gun designed to handle it must have frame and magazine dimensions significantly larger than those of guns chambered for the 9 mm Luger (0.394" and 1.169") or .40 S&W (0.424" and 1.135"). In addition, the parts that move during the gun’s cycle of operation, primarily the barrel and slide, have to be of sufficient mass to offset the energy the cartridge produces. But that’s at odds with the fact that reducing the slide’s mass causes it to travel at a higher velocity, which requires that the gun go into and out of battery faster.

Engineering A Solution
While the .45 ACP will forever be linked, no pun intended, with the M1911, contemporary engineers generally seek simpler locking systems that post-date Browning’s masterpiece when designing modern guns around it. “The length and mass of the slide on an M1911-type pistol are designed to absorb the recoil impulse of that cartridge,” said Williams. “When you lighten the slide, you run into reliability issues, and we knew we had to make the pistol reliable. The reciprocating assembly of the XD-S is lighter than it should ideally be.” In fact, the complete XD-S barrel/slide assembly weighs only 13.1 ozs. compared to 18.1 ozs. for the same components of a full-size M1911.

To account for that difference, the XD-S was designed more along the lines of the later, and simpler Browning Hi-Power—with elements from even more recent designs added in. Specifically, it uses a wedge-shaped cross piece at the rear of its steel locking block, which is pinned to the polymer frame, to engage an angled cutout in the barrel’s underlug. That interface cams the barrel out of battery as it and the slide move rearward together a short distance under recoil. The cross piece then initiates the barrtel’s locking as it returns to battery, raising its hood to engage the front and rear of the slide’s ejection port. A slightly enlarged section of the barrel at its muzzle mates with an opening at the slide’s front to ensure precise lockup.

Minimal upward travel is required to relock the barrel into battery after the slide returns from picking up a fresh round from the magazine. Combined with relative simplicity of the locking system, as compared with that of the M1911, the pistol’s reliable operation is all but ensured. Williams summed it up by saying, “The chamber area of the barrel itself is one big locking lug, so it unlocks faster than a conventional M1911 pistol would.”

Further taming the .45’s recoil impulse is a self-contained recoil spring assembly consisting of two nested coil springs held captive by a steel guide rod and sleeve. The assembly’s front end fits into a mating hole at the front of the slide and the rear end rests in a notch in the barrel underlug’s face. The assembly is a self-contained unit, and no tools are required to remove or reinsert it, easing field stripping of the pistol.

Parts mounted in the frame of the XD-S feature robust construction with few stampings. The steel locking block also forms the front slide rails. Another steel block, pinned in the frame behind the magazine well, forms the rear slide rails, houses the sear and disconnector, and serves as a pivot point for the grip safety. A trigger bar that lies along the frame’s right side raises a striker pin safety as it travel rearward, clearing the striker’s channel in the slide so that the striker can travel forward after being released by the sear.

The slide is machined from bar stock steel and is treated with flat-black Melonite—a salt bath nitriding process that resists corrosion and hardens the metal’s surface. Its 7/8" width is equal to or narrower than that of the frame, but five grasping ridges at its rear provide excellent purchase because they are widely spaced and formed in such a way that they are much deeper on the corners. Facets at the slide’s front face ease reinsertion of the gun into a holster. On top, the front and rear sights are dovetailed in place, the former holding a red fiber-optic strand and the latter featuring a white dot on either side of a square notch in its serrated face. Both are shaped to minimize snagging on clothing and holsters.

A loaded-chamber indicator lies at the center rear of the ejection port. A case present against the breechface raises its front end, which can be felt easily even in the dark. On the slide’s right side, behind the ejection port, a pivoting extractor lies in a machined pocket and is tensioned by a coil spring at its rear.

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19 Responses to Small Wonder: Springfield's XD-S

Wayne Hardy wrote:
January 19, 2014

The safety issues have been resolved. I bought mine a week ago and couldn't be more pleased. Snappy, and super accurate for a sub-compact. As an NRA firearms instructor and a Texas CHL instructor, I'm well familiar with handguns. And this little gem is now my conceal carry.

Chuck wrote:
October 04, 2013

Since this gun has been recalled for serious safety issues and Springfield still hasn't come up with the permanent fix, I'll bet you guys wish you had picked another gun for 'Handgun of the Year', huh?

HiDesert wrote:
July 28, 2013

I'm sure these are fine pistols, but I'm not sure I agree that they are worth all the hype. The slide width is almost exactly that of a 1911. Take a commander length 1911 or an Officers ACP, put extra slim grips and grip screws on it, and you've got a pistol that fits my hand better (the XDS is a bit long in the grip, measured parallel to the rounds in the magazine) and has higher capacity. Significantly higher, in the case of a Commander with an 8-round magazine. Yes, the extra grip length makes a Commander a bit harder to conceal. I get that - that's why I have a .380 that disappears in a back pocket. Maybe if I preferred IWB carry, every millimeter of thickness would matter. But for me, if I'm going for something with the overall dimensions of an XDS, it's going to be a Commander.

TYoung wrote:
April 06, 2013

I needed a slim backup and off duty blaster. I own other Springfield XD and XDM pistols and k ow they are reliable and built solid. The size of the XDS is perfect even for my xtra big hands. The recoil was surprisingly manageable. My glock fanboy friend won't shoot it cuz he knows he will love it.

patrick smith wrote:
February 16, 2013

i went to national armory llc looking for a conceal carry weapon and while was shown kahr(s) i asked if they had an xds, which surprisingly too them, they did. i had to put down $262.48 of money i didn't have to spend just to hold it for fear it would be gone, since they are incredibly hard to find; even one of the employees was going to buy it. i was able to pull if off due to getting a refund check from dell for 1265.41 on the 31st of january, thus was able to pay off the balance 487.53..the entire cost was about $750 after taxes and when i picked it up, one of their employees told me that one flew off the shelf hour(s) after one individual was coming back to get it...i have yet to shoot it and picked up a tagua holster for $25 along with bore snake, brush and some clp..now just need a microfiber rag from a auto part store..oh also when i picked it up i bough some lehigh defense ammo(3 fragmentation) for $59 i bought this gun after reading material and watching youtube videos, and for concealment its perfect

Ordie wrote:
January 09, 2013

Love the XDS. I carry mine every where. Very compact and comfortable. I have had one lite strike. That was near the end of my 150 round practice. After a good cleaning it was good to go. No other issues since. Very happy.

Norman Win wrote:
January 08, 2013

I love my 'S'!!!

Patrick wrote:
January 07, 2013

My wife gave me this pistol as an early Christmas present (after I mentioned I was probably going to try to get one at a gun show - she had already purchsed!). Took it to the range and put 25 rounds through it...got it home and reloaded it, but the mag wouldn't stay in. The mag release broke! Springfield got it back before Christmas (after some arm-twisting from my wife) and it works great now. Love the pistol, it is pretty accurate, low recoil for a .45 and conceals easily. I am very satisfied.

Ray wrote:
January 02, 2013

I had VERY high hopes for the XDS and I waited 2 months on a list to get it. Unfortunately I seem to have one with issues. It is at Springfield right now for the second time. 700+ rounds and it is still "breaking in". Main issues are misfeeds, open slide when rounds are still present, and failure to return to full battery. They tell me the misfeeds should fix themselves over time and that I must lubricate it well but I have followed their special tech lubrication sheets for the last 2 outings and the misfeeds still happen within 100 rounds. The open slide issue happens once with nearly every mag load now. As for the failure to return to full battery, they gently say that it is my shooting that is the problem. I am a regular .45 shooter (revolver, 1911 & XD 4") and my XD 4" is perfect for me and my range masters & trainer have no issues with my stance, grip or strength so I am near the end of my experience with the XDS.

VinnieL wrote:
December 31, 2012

Just what I wanted. Fired 125 rounds thru it with no malfunctions. Accuracy is great. Mine tucks well into a Barsony nylon IWB holster.This replaced my old-world style S&W model 60 .38 revolver.

Davis,RM wrote:
December 28, 2012

Purchased mine on 12-20-12 and put it thru its paces on the range 12-21-12. Excellent shot groups at the 7, 10, and 15 yard lines. No misses at the 25 to 35 yard lines. Minimal vibration with recoil as compared to a 1911 45 ACP. Sweet sub compact!

DarrellM5 wrote:
December 26, 2012

Several hundred rounds through mine so far with zero malfunctions. This is now my EDC pistol. I carry it in a Harwell IWB holster along with 2 of the 7 round mags in a leather Dillon Precision 1911 mag holder.

bootman wrote:
December 20, 2012

Some say they would rather have 6 45acp rnds than a dozen 9mm. well now I am not so sure that I don't prefer 8 9mms to 6 45s and the 19 oz that go with the 9mm. This gun is almost as heavy as my Defender that holds 8. I don't think I like the XDS. dNo real advantage over anything. I love my XDM 3.8 9mm though and almost prefer it over my Lt weight Commander .45 for EDC.

r1derbike wrote:
December 20, 2012

900 flawless rounds later, I still like this pistol. While not an all day range shooter, it is the perfect carry size and caliber for me. It does take some trigger time to attain desired accuracy, but that was just me, and not the pistol. I love it.

Pat wrote:
December 19, 2012

when I brought out my new XDS to shoot for the 1st time, everyone at the range oooooh-ed and aaaaah-ed at it like I was a mother with a new-born baby. I shot my 1st round from 40' and hit the bull dead center! The rest of the rounds were not that good, but were certainly in the area. this small cannon seems to nestle in my hand and the control and light recoil is as if I was shooting a full frame 1911. I fired 200 rounds with no problems. A big feature is the concealability of this pistol. I carry it unseen in my back pocket. This is a terrific, high quality weapon.

Jim Bobbitt wrote:
December 19, 2012

This is my 4th XD been waiting for the XDs to come out. No problems great carry firearm...

Tony wrote:
December 17, 2012

I went to the local range where they have a "try-it before you buy-it" program. After putting 150 rounds through, noted 15 DNF's, even with the RO's help with "grip". Either we had bad grips, the loaner was not cleaned properly beforehand, or this was not the high standards I was lead to look for. Anyone else have similar issues?

Joe wrote:
December 16, 2012

I have 123 rounds through mine.I had one light primer strike, which could of been limp wrist fault at round 32. Other than that no other problems

Noe marmolejo wrote:
December 13, 2012

My xds is one heck of a pistol. Very accurate, very manageable and very reliable. Couldn't be happier!