Almost all of today’s popular semi-automatics—and a growing numbers of revolvers—are made in this way, but they usually differ from one another in the way the trigger action functions. As an XD, the 3.8 has that line’s unique Ultra Safety Assurance (USA) lockwork. Using a combination of an articulated trigger safety, internal drop safety and a decidedly unconventional grip safety, the XD pistols are designed to prevent firing until the shooter deliberately grasps the pistol and pulls the trigger. Unlike some other guns, the XD makes shooting fast and easy. There are no time-consuming manual safeties to clear and the trigger pull is short, light and easy to master. In essence, the trigger pull serves to clear all the safeties, then release a striker that is cocked when the shooter racks the side to chamber a round or when a previous round fires.
Also, the grip safety blocks the movement of the slide until it’s depressed, thus locking the striker solidly in its tunnel in the slide. You cannot even chamber a round unless you are holding the pistol correctly and depressing the grip safety. Safety is therefore not limited to the position of the finger, but the grip of the entire hand.
The USA trigger system came on the original HS2000 and is employed in all subsequent Springfield Armory XD and XD(M) versions of the design. Springfield has made a number of upgrades to develop a series of pistols that better fills the needs of today’s shooters. These upgraded features that distinguish the 3.8 and other pistols in the (M) class from the ones that have gone before. Since the 3.8 is the newest in the line, let’s look at that gun, its features and the reasons these were worked into the design.
We can start with some traits that make handling the gun a lot easier, an extremely important characteristic, particularly in the case of a neophyte shooter. All 3.8s may be the same, but all the hands that hold them are not. Human hands vary greatly in width, length and thickness. On the 3.8, there is enough polymer material at the grip’s heel that some can be omitted without impacting the gun’s structural integrity. Springfield used the original shape here but created a recess that will accept any one of three different backstrap inserts. Each insert is different in thickness, so the shooter has his choice of shapes. From thickest to thinnest, there’s enough difference to create a butt section tailored to the individual hand. It is an easy matter to drive out a cross pin with a 3/32-inch punch and remove the molded backstrap, then replace it with another.
The interface—hand to gun—is addressed in yet another way on the XD(M) 3.8. Pistols are frequently used in adverse conditions that might include mud or rain, when it is either very cold or hot. When the XD pistols first appeared, they had a plain, grainy surface on most contact surfaces on the receiver. There were cocking serrations on the rear edges of the slide, but the gun was rather Spartan, and today’s XD(M) version is much better. The slide serrations have changed to a series of parallel cuts at both front and rear. I have seen shooters trying to run other guns with typical cocking serration under circumstances where it’s cold enough to wear gloves or hot enough that their hands are sweaty—they sometimes slip. Springfield now uses a different cut on these cocking serrations, one that includes a bit of an angle. A version of the same idea may be seen on the so-called “grenade” checkering on the receiver. It also works well for a positive grasp, shooting ease and gun retention.
The basic 3.8 accepts a magazine of 13 rounds of 9 mm Luger ammunition, for a total of 14 with a round in the chamber. The ergonomics of the butt section are fair, although the pistol is about a two-and-a-half finger job in my big mitt. Many shooters would like to have a few more rounds for reasons that sometimes elude me. Nonetheless, that is a demand and Springfield responds to it by simply including a longer 19-shot magazine—that’s right, 20 shots total. That is not the end of the story, because that magazine has a polymer collar around its bottom end. This device fills out the rest of the contour of the full-size XD(M). It may be removed for the policeman who wants to carry the 3.8 as a backup to his full-size gun and reload either with the long magazines from his magazine pouches.