Which XD Is Right for You? By: Robert A. Sadowski


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A car is often considered a “classic” when it is 20 years old — and, of course, one that is appreciated by its owners. Well, I think the same metric could be applied to the XD family of pistols, as they have proven themselves over the years and have a lot of fans. I have been shooting and carrying them since 2015 and find the XD series to be a no-nonsense, affordable line of striker-fired pistols that are reliable and perform well.

The Subcompact XD compared to the Service size XD illustrates how both the barrel and grip were shortened for maximum concealment for EDC.
The Sub-Compact XD (left) compared to the Service XD illustrates two options available in the proven XD line.

Introduced by Springfield Armory in 2002, the XD has gone through a few evolutions over its more than two decades on the market. The XD-M Elite is the current tricked-out version, but make no mistake: the original XD is still top-shelf for performance and reliability in my opinion. There is a reason the XD is still around today. Actually, reasons, as in plural. I can think of some that have made the XD stand out since its inception, and through to today.

When the XD was introduced, it offered features that separated it from the maddening crowd of other striker-fired pistols. When I think of an XD, I think grip angle and crisp trigger. Looking back at my spreadsheet of ballistic data and observations since 2015 — yes, I am a confirmed ballistics geek — I made note of those features consistently year after year, gun after gun.

The more vertical grip angle makes the XD feel more like a 1911, which to many shooters is a more natural grip angle compared to the legions of striker-fire pistols with swept-back grips. Grip angle and shooting comfort is a subjective observation, but grip angle keeps the XD high on my preferred striker-fire pistol list.

The XD offers a more vertical grip angle which is more comfortable for many shooters.
The XD offers a more vertical, 1911-style grip angle than some other polymer-framed pistols, which is far more comfortable for many shooters.

Regarding the trigger pull, the XD preloads the striker more than some other striker-fired pistols, so the trigger pull is more on the crisp side rather than on the mush side. The XD has a trigger pull that feels like a smooth roll and has a pull weight in the 5- to 6-lb. range. It’s a trigger that works for action shooting and defensive uses.

There are other features the XD possesses, like a loaded chamber indicator that sticks up like the hair on a back of a cat when it’s cornered. The ambidextrous magazine release works whatever way you press it, with no need to disassemble and reinstall it like with other striker-firers. The cocking indicator sticks out the rear slide plate when the striker is cocked. It’s like a dummy light on a dashboard that says: Ready To Shoot!

The slide release is a good size and protected by a shelf. I can easily press it with my shooting hand thumb to send the slide forward from lock-back during a reload. Front slide serrations were novel back when the XD debuted, and they ease making a press check. Steel sights are a plus.

All XD pistols disassemble with ease and without tools. They are easy guns to maintain.
All XD pistols disassemble with ease and without tools, making them incredibly easy guns to maintain.

The dual recoil spring helps to mitigate recoil and provide the shooter with more control. The dual captive recoil spring uses a full-length guide rod, so the pistols smoothly cycle. Field stripping an XD is simple, uncomplicated, and does not require twists and turns like a Rubik’s Cube to complete.

Another plus to owning an XD is aftermarket parts. There are numerous manufacturers that will slick up the XD trigger to be match-ready at 3.5 to 4.5 lbs. Aftermarket barrels, extended magazine releases, compensators, mag extensions and more are available.

Most of my XD trigger time is with the Sub-Compact model, particularly the 9x19mm Parabellum and .45 Auto versions. I also still have a .40 Sub-Compact. Remember the .40 cartridge?

The subcompacts are the 3” barrel models. They are thicker and a bit chunkier compared to most of the micro nines available, but I like the added heft and extra real estate because it fills my hand better and makes it easier to manipulate and shoot well. My small finger doesn’t fall on the front grip strap, but curls under the flush fit mag for a sure grip. I can shoot a micro nine fine, but I can shoot a XD Sub-Compact better.

The old small finger curl is required when shooting the XD Subcompact.
The Springfield XD 9mm Sub-Compact offers a substantial amount of firepower in a compact and ultra-reliable package.

The flush-fit 13+1 round magazine when chambered in 9mm offers plenty of payload for an EDC gun. In .40, capacity is 10+1 rounds. It’s a plus in my book that the larger Service or Tactical model-size mags fits a Sub-Compact model, too. That ups the magazine capacity ante for the little pistol. Higher capacity magazines can also come with a magazine sleeve that seamlessly fits into the Sub-Compact pistol grip, transforming the subcompact grip to a full-size grip.

Service-size XD pistols feature a full-length grip and 4” barrel. The standard magazine capacity is 16 rounds in 9mm. If you are looking for a full-size 9mm striker-fire pistol that is reliable and incredibly affordable, then the XD Service is an excellent option. The .45 Auto model is also a great EDC option if you prefer big-bore striker-fire pistols.

XD service
The XD Service model (top) pairs nicely with the XD Sub-Compact for a duty pistol and back-up gun combination.

Personally, I shoot the Service models — like the Springfield XD 9mm — best. Grip size and angle are optimal for me. I’ve picked up brand new XD Service size models for the first time, loaded up the magazine, and fired the pistols like I have been shooting them forever.

Tactical XD pistols have a 5” barrel with a full-size frame. As the Tactical XD slides are longer than the other models, they have a longer sight radius. A longer sight radius offers the potential for increased accuracy, which makes them a good option for competitive action shooting events like IDPA.

XD Tactical
The primary advantage of the XD 45 Tactical is its longer barrel and slide. An increased sight radius can help with more accurate shooting.

The Tactical could also be considered a great truck or home defense pistol. The slide mass helps to mitigate recoil making them very easy shooters. The Tactical XD is available in 9mm, .40 or .45 Auto.

The original XD series is popular for good reasons. I’ve found with XD pistols I don’t pay a lot, yet still get great performance. With three sizes: Sub-Compact, Service and Tactical — there’s a place for an XD in your life.

If there’s a potential problem with the XD series, it’s in determining which one is best for you. Frankly, that’s a good problem to have.

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