Pat Cascio’s Product Review: Springfield Armory XDs 9mm

We covered the Springfield Armory XDs 45 pistol when it first came out, and I believe SurvivalBlog was the first in the media to cover this outstanding little pistol. We have many contacts in the firearms and cutlery fields and quite often get a first look at new products. The little XDs 45ACP was, and is, an outstanding concealed carry handgun. However, there were some teething problems with the first batch, and Springfield Armory was quick to take care of this minor problem. Several of our readers who lived neaby were also having a different sort of problem with their guns, and so I had them come for a visit. It was a simple “fix”. It wasn’t the gun; it was a limp-wristing problem, which is common with polymer-framed pistols. You have to hold them tight!

However, aside from the minor problem that resulted in the recall of the .45ACP version, I discovered another problem of sorts– the XDs .45ACP wouldn’t always eject a loaded FMJ round. It was an easy fix, which I passed along to Springfield. The top of the barrel’s chamber wasn’t contoured, and the FMJ rounds were hitting it and falling back in the gun. There was no such problem with JHP loaded ammo. One thing you can count on, at Springfield Armory, is that if there is a problem with any of their guns they jump right on it and correct it without hiding the problem or denying it, like some other gun makers do.

Springfield Armory saw the demand and had numerous requests for the XDs in 9mm, and they are producing guns in the guns in this caliber. To my way of thinking, maybe they should have come out with the XDs in 9mm first. Everyone was jumping on the itty-bitty .380 ACP guns for concealed carry. The market is still awash with them. However, savvy gun carriers wanted more power in a sub-compact gun, and the entire gun industry is now making very small, easily concealable handguns in 9mm.

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A quick look at the XDs in 9mm is in order, and it isn’t much different than the .45ACP version. We have a dual recoil spring system with a full-length guide rod. There’s a red fiber optic front sight that is very fast to pick-up and a steel rear sight with two white dots. The gun has a polymer frame and can be had with an all-steel (blackened) slide or one in stainless steel. Weighing in at a mere 23 ounces, the gun is a light weight. Each gun comes with two magazines– one that holds seven rounds and an extended 8-round mag with the Mid-Mag X-Tension. There is also a grip safety on the XD line-up, a la the 1911; you can’t fire the gun or chamber a round if you don’t have a firm grip on the gun! Then we have all the other goodies– a holster, dual mag pouch, cleaning rod, and a very sturdy carrying case. You can check out full specs on the Springfield website.

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I mentioned to the powers-that-be at Springfield Armory that they should include the pinky catcher mag floor plate that is made by Pearce Grip with each gun. This allows the user to choose which floor plate they want to install on their guns. The flat one that comes with the gun just doesn’t do it for me. It leaves my pinky finger dangling. However, with the Pearce Grip extended mag floor plate, the pinky finger has a place to go and it gives the gun an entirely different and more secure purchase when holding and firing it. EVERYONE who shot my XDs 9mm (and 45 ACP) samples picked the pinky catcher extension over the factory-supply mag floor plate. For ten bucks, it is well worth it to install the Pearce Grip extended floor plate on the gun, in my humble opinion. As you’ll see in the pics accompanying this article, I have two XDs samples– one with the all-steel slide, and one with the stainless steel slide. After my wife shot my sample, she “confiscated” it. This happens more often than you might believe. So, I had to order another XDs sample for myself and went with the stainless steel slide. She wanted it, but that was a no-go. She already made her choice when she confiscated the one with the all-steel black slide!

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It should also be noted that the XDs is now available in .40 S&W, too. However, I just find the .40 S&W round in sub-compact pistols a bit too violent for my tastes. I keep my XDs 9mm loaded with +P+ 9mm ammo, and it will surely get the job done if I had to use it for self defense. I’m content with the 9mm version and the .45 ACP version.

As I have stated numerous times, as a gun writer, I don’t recommend the .380 ACP as a first line of defense. However, I do realize that there are times when something in .380 ACP might be all one can carry. I carry a little .380 ACP every single day in an ankle holster. However, it is my backup to whatever my main gun is. Yes, I know that the .380 ACP can get the job done but not as fast as a larger caliber can when it comes to stopping an attack. So, the XDs 9mm is one great choice if you want a subcompact gun for everyday carry. Springfield has wisely stayed out of the itty-bitty .380 ACP handgun market . It is already covered!

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I had an outstanding selection of 9mm ammo to run through the XDs 9mm for this article. The nice folks at Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition keep me supplied in their outstanding ammo for my articles. Even during the long 2+ year ammo drought, they did their best to meet me requests, and they are great companies to do business with, too.

From Black Hills, I had the following 9mm ammo: 115 Gr JHP +P, 124-gr JHP +P, 115-gr FMJ, 115-gr EXP HP, 124-gr JHP and 115-gr Barnes all-copper hollow point TAC XP +P load. From Buffalo Bore: I had their 147-gr Hard Cast Outdoorsman +P load, 115-gr Barnes all-copper hollow point TAC XP +P+ and the same load in a lighter 95-gr load, 124-gr FMJ-FN Penetrator +P+ and their 124-gr JHP +P+ load.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, no gun maker recommends that you fire +P+ rounds through their handguns; it will void the warranty, and it also increase wear and tear on the guns, so be advised. To be sure, there is nothing wrong in the least with non +P loads in 9mm. They get the job done each and every day. However, when I’m carrying a 9mm handgun for self defense, I prefer +P or +P+ JHP loads. There are many handguns, especially sub-compact 9mms, that won’t function with +P or +P+ loads, so you MUST test your gun to make sure these hotter loads will function properly!

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I had zero malfunctions with any of the above loads, standard pressure, FMJ, JHP, Barnes, +P and +P+. Quite honestly, I didn’t know if the little XDs was going to work with the hotter +P+ loads. However, with the dual-recoil spring set-up, the gun is strong and handled all those loads with aplomb. I’ve had full-sized, duty 9mm handguns that refused to function with hot +P+ loads, so this is a testament to the design of the XDs and to the man behind it– Dave Williams, who operates the Custom Shop at Springfield Armory. I know that Dave is always going to Croatia, where the XD line-up of handguns is made, making minor changes/improvements, so he has his hand on the pulse of the XD line-up all of the time. It was Williams who said I could fire all the +P .45ACP through my XDs sample that I cared to fire through it when I got it. A couple boxes were more than enough per shooting session, to be sure. How many other gun makers will tell you to shoot all the +P ammo you want through their guns?

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My shooting for accuracy was done over the hood of my pickup truck, and the target was only 15 yards away. That is more than fair for the little 3.3-inch barrel gun to handle. Remember, this is a sub-compact gun. However, I did some shooting out to 25 yards, too. At 15-yards, I could easily keep most of my groups under two inches, which is outstanding. Out to 25 yards, I did not test all the ammo at that distance, but I was getting sub 4-inch groups if I did my part. Was there a winner in the accuracy department? You betcha! The Black Hills 124-gr JHP took home the honors. However, all the rest of the ammo tested was hot on the heels of this load.

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I was more than a little impressed with the Buffalo Bore 95-gr Barnes all-copper hollow point, TAC-XP +P+ load. The recoil was very manageable for a +P+ load, and it will sure get the job done for you. You might really want to think hard about this light-recoiling load in this sub-compact 9mm for self defense. Plus, Buffalo Bore loads most of their self-defense ammo with a flash retardant powder, so if you are forced to shoot in low-light conditions, you won’t be blinded by the flash when you touch off a round! Nice!

The XDs in .45 ACP carries 5+1 rounds, while the same gun in 9mm carries 7+1 or 8+1. That’s enough difference in capacity to give the 9mm version a close look if you ask me, and many people can’t handle the recoil of the much bigger .45 ACP round but have no problems with a small gun in 9mm.

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My wife is very particular about how a gun feels in her hand. If it doesn’t feel “just right”, she’s not interested in it, no matter how well she can shoot it. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. She will shoot a particular gun extremely well, but she doesn’t like the way it feels in her hand. I think many of us are like this, even if we don’t know it. Everyone who shot my XDs 9mm samples loved the way they felt in their hand, with the Pearce extended floor plate pinky catcher on it, as opposed to the flat floor plate that comes on the 7-rd mag. I also found that my accuracy was a bit better with the pinky catcher on the mag!

Prices for the XDs line-up, at least in my neck of the woods, is well under $500, and that’s quite a bargain for so much when it comes to such a sub-compact handgun that gives outstanding accuracy and is ready to go out of the box, with a holster, spare mag, and mag pouch. But buy a couple more spare mags, too.

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio

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