I’ve had a life-long interest in firearms, since I was a little boy back in the 1950s. I grew up watching all the western tv shows, like The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, The Cisco Kid, Roy Rogers, and many, many other similar shows. To be sure, it was a fun time to be a kid. Today, kids can’t even point their finger at someone without the police being called. It’s a sad state of affairs, to be sure. So, I take firearms and firearms selection very seriously. Additionally, as an NRA firearms instructor who is certified in several disciplines, I’m always asked by my students, “What is the best firearm…” And, as I have stated before, this is a very subjective question. A Pat answer is, “The one you have with you, when you need it.” However, it goes much deeper than that. It all depends on what your intended use is for owning a firearm.
I have various handguns that I carry. Most are carried as part of my testing process for articles, though some are carried strictly for self defense, and some are carried for hunting purposes. Some are purchased for specific things, like a SHTF scenario. When it comes to this purpose, I am extremely particular as to which firearms are the ones I think I may need. They are the ones that won’t let me down– firearms that I know I can count on to see me through whatever disaster comes to mind. For many years, a GLOCK 19 was my go-to handgun in a SHTF situation, and it was kept well hidden in my home, with spare ammo and several spare (loaded) magazines. I knew the GLOCK 19 would always go “bang” when I pulled the trigger. However, the GLOCK 19 wasn’t the best fit for my hand. The Gen 4 models are better than previous iterations, but still it didn’t fit my hand as well as I liked. However, it was 100% reliable, and I knew it would see me through the bad times.
All of this has changed recently, when I received a Springfield Armory XDm full-sized 9mm for testing. To be sure, this is a full-sized, duty gun. And, “yes” it can be concealed with the proper holster and covering garments, though it still is a lot of gun to hide. A quick run down on the XDm is in order. My sample is the black version, but you can get one with a stainless steel slide. The frame is black polymer. The gun weights in at 29 ounces when empty; that’s still a fairly light-weight gun for its size. The black slide is coated in Melonite, and this is some pretty tough stuff and offers great protection from the elements. If you don’t think that’s enough, then go with the stainless steel slide version. We have three dot, white sights– one dot on the front sight and two white dots on the rear sight, which is a very fast sight picture for self defense use. The hammer forged barrel is 4.5 inches long, and it too is coated with Melonite. A full-length recoil guide system is in place. Height of the gun is 5.75 inches and the overall length is 7.6 inches.
The XDm can also be had in .40S&W as well as .45ACP, if the 9mm isn’t your first choice. In my case, the 9mm is fine for self defense, stoked with a really good JHP round in +P or +P+. Yeah, I know, standard velocity 9mm JHP works very good, too, but I want a little more velocity and a bit more penetration in a 9mm self-defense round, so +P or +P+ is my choice. We can argue which round is better, 9mm, .40S&W, or .45ACP as a man stopper. I’ll concede that, at least in my own mind, the .45ACP stops ’em faster. However, I selected the 9mm XDm version for magazine capacity. This gun comes with two 19-rd magazines. That’s some serious on-hand ammo with 19+1 rounds in the gun and a spare mag with another 19 rounds loaded with JHP +P or +P+ ammo. That should get the job done. In a SHTF scenario, you never know what you might come up against, and having a lot of ammo in the gun, along with one or two more spare mags is very comforting in my mind.
I had an early XD pistol in .40S&W, and the only problem I had with it was it didn’t have a very durable coating on the slide. The thing rusted, no matter what I did with it. Today’s XD lineup have a stainless steel slide or Melonite coated slides for superior rust protection. I probably own more Springfield Armory handguns than any other brand, and that’s for good reason; I love their 1911s and their entire XD lineup– XD, XDm, and XDs handguns. The XD handgun came on the scene many years back, but the company that was importing them from Croatia simply didn’t have marketing know-how, and the gun fell flat. Enter Springfield Armory, with their knowledge of marketing and Dave Williams, who runs their Custom Shop, adding his knowledge on improving the XD. Now, we have a real miracle story, and the XD lineup is a hot seller.
The XDm comes with three interchangeable back straps, and one is sure to fit your hand like a glove. My sample came with the medium-size one already on the gun, and I swapped it out for the smaller one; the gun felt all that much better in my hand. Springfield has something they call Mega-lock texturing on the polymer frame, and I will readily admit that it does feel better than the texturing found on the original XD frame. I like it, a lot! The trigger reset, after firing a shot, is much shorter than that found on the XD model, and the trigger pull is much better to my mind. There is that little safety in the middle of the trigger that prevents the gun from firing, unless you have your finger on the trigger and press the trigger fully rearward. There is also a grip safety that insures the gun won’t fire unless you have a good grip on it. It is instinctive; you don’t have to think about it. You just get a good grip on the gun and the grip safety is deactivated.
The trigger pull on my XDm sample came in at 6-lbs, but it feels much lighter than that, and the actual trigger pull is shorter and much smoother than that found on many polymer framed handguns. One thing I never liked on the GLOCK is their “mushy” feeling trigger pull. The trigger guard is undercut just in front of the ambidextrous magazine release, so you can get a good, high grip on the gun. There are also divots on either side of the frame, where your thumb naturally comes to rest when you grip the pistol properly. Angled cocking serrations are on the sides of the slide, making it easy to get a good grip on the slide when chambering a round or unloading the chamber. The dust cover on the frame has Picatinny-style rails for mounting lights or lasers; that’s a nice touch. The trigger guard is squared and the front of it has the Mega-lock texturing, if you are one of the few to place your index finger of your off-hand in front of the squared trigger guard. The frame has a slide release/slide lock and the take-down lever; there’s nothing else to clutter up the frame. The top of the slide has a loaded chamber indicator right behind the barrel, and it will stick up a bit when there is a round in the chamber.
I carried the XDm 9mm for two weeks. I didn’t care for the polymer paddle holster that came with the gun, so I used a Blackhawk products, ballistic Nylon hip holster. That Blackhawk holster kept the gun high and tight to my body. (I just don’t like paddle holsters, period.)
We have a lot of features on the XDm 9mm, to be sure. Plus, when the gun arrives, it comes in a hard shell polymer case with the second 19-rd magazine, as well as a holster and a double magazine pouch along with a bore brush and a great instruction manual. Additionally, you get a coupon for discounts on purchasing more spare magazines or holsters. What’s not to like here?
I had an outstanding selection of 9mm ammo on hand for testing in the XDm 9mm. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had the following: their 147-gr FMJ FN and JHP (Gold Dot bullets) standard pressure loads, 124-gr FMJ FN Penetrator load +P+ load, 115 and 95 gr Barnes all-copper hollow point loads, but +P+ and a 124-gr JHP (Gold Dot) +P+ load. Whew! From the nice folks at Black Hills Ammunition I had their 115-gr JHP +P load, 124-gr JHP +P load, 115-gr Barnes all-copper hollow point load +P, and their 115-gr FMJ load, which was another great selection of loads for the XDm 9mm.
Fully loading the 19-rd mags that come with the XDm 9mm can prove quite the chore, and the mags are very slick inside and out. That’s nice when it comes time for a reload; the mags pop right out, and a full mag inserts smoothly. Getting the last few rounds in the mag are a thumb buster. Use the included magazine loader that comes with the gun. A little trick I learned is to fully load your magazines and let them sit, loaded, for at least two or three weeks; then they are much easier to fully load the next time you use ’em.
In all my testing, I had zero malfunctions from the XDm 9mm, but I did not expect any problems. The gun just perked along during more than 500-rds of shooting. All empty cases where thrown several feet clear of the gun and to my right and slightly to the rear. I didn’t have any problems with the Buffalo Bore +P+ loads, and to be sure many full-sized 9mm handguns just won’t handle +P+ loads reliably, so make sure you test your own particular handgun to make sure it will function 100% of the time with any +P+ loads you want to carry. Also, I wouldn’t feed any 9mm handgun a steady diet of +P+ fodder. Make sure your gun functions 100% of the time with it, and then do most of your practicing with +P or standard velocity loads so you don’t subject your gun to any more wear and tear than necessary.
My accuracy testing was conducted over the hood of my pickup truck, using a rolled-up sleeping bag as a rest, which is my preferred method, instead of using a Ransom Rest. Yeah, I know, I could wring out more accuracy with a more solid rest, but I wouldn’t have a Ransom Rest with me in a gun fight, where I might have a jacket I could use as a rest for long range shooting. All shooting for accuracy was done at 25 yards. The XDm gave me pretty consistent groups right around the three inch mark for five shots, so long as I did my part. I had some groups that were four inches and that came from the 124-gr +P+ Buffalo Bore Penetrator ammo. The best grouping came from the Black Hills 124-gr JHP +P load, which is always a good load and a great self-defense load. The Black Hills 115-gr FMJ load was right on the heels of the 124-gr JHP +P load. Both of these loads just ever so slightly came in under three inches. I think the XDm can do better though. Maybe I just needed more trigger time or a better rest when shooting. Still, a three inch group with ammo it liked is nothing to sneeze at. I’ll take it!
Checking around, the XDm 9mm can be had in my neck of the woods for $559 brand new, and I saw some used, but 99% as-new ones for $499. For all you get with the gun, that’s a real bargain from Springfield Armory. Yep, there’s no doubt about it; for a SHTF or End Of The World scenario, the XDm 9mm would be my first choice. It offers lots of ammo on tap, is 100% reliable with any kind of ammo you feed it, and is priced right! What’s not to like here? I’m so glad I retired my GLOCK 19. There is a new king in my house for a SHTF scenario.
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio