Sometimes I can't help but think of all the things my kids enjoy today that were just daydreams a few decades ago. They'll never know what it was like to live in a world without the Internet, wi-fi or microwave-ready corndogs. In that same vein, it comes as something of a surprise to realize that we're now well into the second generation of modern shooting enthusiasts that have “grown up” with striker-fired pistols made in Austria or strongly influenced by the now ubiquitous Glock-type trigger-mounted-safety design.
Striker guns have become so central to the self-defense scene that some shooters may think of hammer-fired double-to-single-action pistols as something of an anachronism. But Springfield Armory recognizes that while strikers do deserve the praise they receive, there are still certain advantages that only a hammered action can provide. That's why the company is now offering the XD-E 9 mm.
The new XD-E is a variation of the successful XD line-up of compact polymer-framed pistols with some handy new features in addition to the exposed hammer. When the Croatian-made, striker-fired XDs arrived on the U.S. market in 2001, they upped the safety ante by incorporating a grip safety (much like that of a 1911 pistol) in addition the trigger mounted safety. Some gun owners were, and still are, nervous about having just a trigger safety to work with. I know more than a few folks who have gravitated to the XD because of this feature.
The XD-E is also a safety-conscious design that employs a more “old school” approach. The exposed hammer provides an unmistakable visual indicator that the pistol is cocked and ready to fire. The extended beavertail on the frame protects the shooting hand from hammer bite. The grip safety has been replaced with an ambidextrous thumb safety that also acts as a decocker. When decocked, the hammer is locked back away from the firing pin. The smooth-faced steel trigger is safety-lever free.
This hammer, safety and trigger arrangement allows for multiple carry configurations. The gun can be carried with the hammer decocked (double-action mode) and the safety flipped up (engaged) for what some would consider the maximum safety level. Before the gun can fire, the safety must be disengaged and the double-action trigger pressed all the way through a heavier trigger stroke distance that is just over an inch in length with a smooth, consistent 11-lb. trigger pull throughout the arc of travel. After the first shot is fired, the pistol will be in single-action mode. The single-action trigger stroke is only half an inch with about three quarters of the travel being a light take up before breaking at 5 lbs. 7 oz. of trigger pull.
The next option is to carry with the hammer decocked and the thumb safety disengaged, counting on the weight of the double-action trigger to guard against an unintentional discharge. Now the only action required to fire is to press the heavier trigger, much like a double-action revolver.
The third method of carry is “cocked and locked,” just like a 1911. The hammer is cocked and the safety engaged. This sets the trigger in the lighter, shorter single-action mode for every single shot. No matter which method you choose, the pistol's design will prevent it from going off if dropped. However, as Sheriff Jim Wilson recently reminded us, there is no internal or external pistol safety that can take the place of proper gun safety practices. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire and all of these three carry configurations will be safe.
The remaining external controls will look and feel familiar to XD fans including the ambidextrous round button magazine release with the slide stop and takedown lever located on the left side of the frame.
The 0.90" wide Melonited Low Effort Slide (L.E.S.) with rear slide serrations is configured to require 27 percent less effort to manipulate according to company specifications. It was decidedly easier to rack than some other models which employ the same type of dual-spring recoil assembly. The slide is fitted with a dovetailed red fiber-optic front sight, a low profile white-dot rear sight, and a visual/tactile loaded chamber indicator. It can be cycled with the thumb safety engaged. The 3.3" long hammer forged barrel has a Melonite finish and traditional lan-and-groove rifling.
The grip frame is just 1" wide with a textured front and back strap. Indentations with support ridges, located behind the generous trigger guard, provide comfortable resting places for the thumb and trigger finger. The dust cover features a molded in 1.25" accessory rail for lights and lasers while the front of the trigger guard is textured for use as a finger rest. The XD-E ships with two sturdy, stainless steel single-stack magazines that have polymer followers. The 8-round magazine arrives with a choice of a flush fit or finger extension base plate. The 9-round magazine is fitted with a grip extension.
Compact 9 mm pistols can be a mixed lot when it comes to handling qualities at the shooting range. Some have been compacted to the point that they buck and jump a good deal, or the grip grinds away at the shooting hand. Although the XD-E's grip width is a narrow 1", the front-to-back distance, contours and texturing make it comfortably hand filling. I had enough room to form a comfortable three-finger grip with the finger extension placed on the eight-round magazine. Folks with larger hands are going to be more comfortable with the 9-round magazine.
The XD-E's fit and finish were typical of the XD line, which is to say, first rate. All of the controls functioned properly from the get go. Some of the full size XDs have felt a little top heavy to me but at 25 oz. unloaded, this model felt nicely balanced. Both magazines dropped free of the grip when the release was pressed. It proved to be utterly reliable with all of the test ammunition from high-grade hollow points to steel-cased practice loads.
Formal accuracy was conducted at a compact pistol distance of 15 yards using a bench rest and the factory iron sights. Browning's BPX 147-gr. jacketed hollow point yielded a best single group of 1.51" with an average of 1.65". Winchester USA Forged steel case 115-gr. full metal jacket load turned in a best group of 1.34" with an average of 1.46". SIG Sauer Elite V-Crown 124-gr. jacketed hollow point produced the best results with the tightest group of 1.26" and an average of 1.39".
The new XD-E blends the best features of the reliable Springfield XD polymer pistols with a slim profile that's easy to carry, a comfortable grip, useful sights and a configurable trigger pull. Both trigger modes are smooth, clean and free of any hang-ups or stacking. It fits into the “just one gun” category because it can easily transition between home defense, daily concealed carry and enjoyable practice at the range. If you’re in the market for a slim 9 mm double/single-action configuration, the XD-E deserves your consideration.
Manufacturer:Springfield Armory Model: XD-E Action: Double-Action/Single-Action Semi-Automatic Caliber: 9 mm Slide: Forged Steel, Melonite Finish Barrel: 3.3" Hammer Forged, Melonite Finish Frame: Black Polymer with Textured Grip Recoil Assembly: Full-Length Steel, Dual Springs Front Sight: Fiber Optic Rear Sight: Low Profile Combat Overall Length: 6.75" Height: 5.00" with Flush-Fit Magazine Slide Width: 0.90" Grip Width: 1.00" Weight: 25 oz. with Empty Magazine Capacity: 1 + 8 or 9 Rounds Twist: 1:10 RH Rifle Grooves: 6 Accessories: Hard Case, One 8-Round Magazine With Finger Extension, One 9-round Magazine with Grip Extension, Flush-Fit Magazine Base, Owner's Manual, Lock MSRP: $519