Review: Springfield Armory XD 3” Sub-Compact

By Richard Johnson
Posted in #Guns
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Review: Springfield Armory XD 3” Sub-Compact

May 5th, 2021

6 minute read

When I started my law enforcement career, a five-shot snub-nosed revolver was the typical back-up gun carried by uniformed officers. Off duty, that same .38 was frequently carried. Some of the guys I worked with were a bit more “switched on” and carried heavier, larger guns that held a few more rounds. Unfortunately, there weren’t many choices for people looking for a relatively light pistol that carried more than 8 rounds of a serious caliber.

In the decades between then and now, more citizens are carrying concealed weapons for self-defense. As the market grew, Springfield Armory tailored new guns suited for discreet carry by both cops and armed citizens. One of those guns was the XD Sub-Compact.

Springfield XD Sub-Compact pistol on black background
The Springfield XD Sub-Compact is a fistful of firepower. It serves exceptionally well as both a concealed carry pistol and as a backup gun.

Currently known as the Legacy Series XD 3” Sub-Compact handgun, it is a solid example of a modern fighting pistol designed for concealed carry. Chambered for the 9mm cartridge, the pistol proved easier to shoot than those tiny revolvers with the additional benefit of providing more ammunition in a tight situation.

Does that Legacy Series XD pistol still stand up with the handguns being designed today?

Let’s jump in and take a look.

General Information

The Legacy Series XD Sub-Compact pistol is a 9mm handgun that looks like a chopped version of the company’s XD 4″ Service Model. I suppose in many ways it is. While the pistols share many features, the sub-compact pistol is much more than a cut-down version of its bigger brother. It is a unique pistol that offers one of the best values in concealed carry.

XD Sub-Compact magazine
Standard magazines hold 13 rounds of 9mm ammunition. Add one more for the chamber and that’s a whole lot of firepower.

Tackling the obvious first: the gun is small. It has a 3” hammer forged barrel with a 1:10” twist and Melonite treatment for superior corrosion resistance. Likewise, the gun is only 4.75” in height with a flush-fitting magazine. A single magazine ships with the pistol.

Don’t think that a flush fitting magazine can’t hold a lot of ammunition. Springfield Armory disproved the notion that small meant low capacity. Flush fitting magazines hold 13-rounds each. While extended magazines are available, I haven’t met anyone who feels outgunned with the 13+1 rounds this pistol gives you.

For my medium-sized hands, all of my fingers are able to gain purchase on the gun’s grip for a solid hold. The baseplate of the flush fitting magazine is just thick enough to ensure my pinky helps to control the pistol rather than uselessly curling under it.

Springfield Armory XD Sub-Compact side view
Sporting an ambidextrous magazine release, the affordable XD Sub-Compact is more southpaw friendly than many guns at twice the price.

To accommodate the double-stack magazine, the frame is 1.2” wide at the grip. For most people, that size feels pretty good in the hand. While it isn’t the thinnest option from Springfield Armory, it is still thinner than many of the alternatives. It is easy to conceal in an inside-the-waistband holster or on an ankle.

On top of the forged steel slide is a 3-dot sight set. Read cast versus forged to learn more about the slide’s construction. The white dots are full size and easy to align. However, if you are inclined, the sights are dovetailed into the slide which allows you to upgrade them to fiber optic or night sights if you prefer.

Springfield Armory XD 3" 9mm pistol
Part of the original Springfield Armory XD line, the Sub-Compact has many years of service that proves its long-term reliability.

As I’ve come to expect with Springfield Armory’s XD line of pistols, the trigger is relatively light and crisp for a striker-fired pistol. As with most guns, there is a moderate amount of take-up followed by a clean break. For a self-defense pistol, the trigger isn’t just serviceable – it’s excellent.

XD Sub-Compact Specifications

Weight26 oz.
Overall Length6.25″
GripsIntegral, polymer
Capacity13+1 (one)

Range Time

Of course, the real proof of a gun’s usefulness is on the range. If it cannot perform there, I have no use for it in a defensive capacity.

As I’ve come to expect from Springfield Armory pistols, the reliability was 100%. On the range, I fed more than 10 different loads through the pistol. Each one ran without a hitch right out of the box. There was no break-in period that is sometimes required with other designs.

Man shooting the Springfield XD Sub-Compact
The author found the XD Sub-Compact to be a reliable, accurate pistol during range testing.

A concern I have when shooting a sub-compact pistol is that it may generate an excessive amount of recoil. With a reasonable amount of training, most shooters can learn to manage heavy recoiling Magnum loads from snubbies. Nevertheless, a soft recoiling pistol will be easier to use when putting multiple shots accurately on target.

Physics is inescapable. One of the rules of physics is small guns recoil more than larger ones of the same caliber. However, Springfield Armory doesn’t play fair when it comes to physics. The company’s design team seems to know the correct levers to pull to ensure its small pistols don’t jump as much as the competition.

Ammunition Performance

Average VelocityEnergyBest 5-Shot Group
Blazer Brass 115-gr. FMJ1,051 fps282 ft-lbs2.7″
Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense 50-gr. JHP +P1,915 fps407 ft-lbs2.1″
Speer Gold Dot 124-gr. JHP1,043 fps299 ft-lbs2.3″
Velocity testing conducted with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 5′ from the muzzle. Reported velocity is an average of five shots. Accuracy was measured at 7 yards and test shots fired without a brace or support.

The Legacy Series XD 3” Sub-Compact handgun uses a double recoil spring assembly to absorb a lot of the rearward force during recoil. When combined with the full grip I am able to obtain on the pistol, muzzle rise was very moderate during shooting. With full-powered defensive loads, even the 9mm cartridge can be snappy. Springfield Armory did an exceptional job in mitigating both the felt recoil and muzzle rise in this pistol.

When reloading the gun, empty magazines slip from the pistol like greased lightning. The polished metal magazine bodies glide effortlessly over the smooth polymer walls of the magazine well. You will not have to yank these mags free to reload.

Accuracy was good. Without sounding trite, the gun has more potential accuracy than I am able to deliver. I suppose that is simply one of the realities of shooting. At 7 yards, 2-3” groups were normal when shooting self-defense ammunition without a brace or support.

Final Thoughts

The Springfield Armory XD 3” Sub-Compact pistol is a solid performer that delivers the goods at a ridiculously affordable price. Every XD SC I’ve shot has been reliable, and this gun proved itself the equal of those that came before it.

Springfield Armory XD 3” Sub-Compact handgun
Without a doubt, the Springfield XD 3″ Sub-Compact represents one of the best values on the CCW handgun market.

Even though the gun conceals easily, a standard magazine holds 13 rounds of 9mm. That gives you a significant number of rounds to put onto a target before a reload becomes mandatory. While a lot of ammo doesn’t guarantee success if you ever have to defend yourself, it is better to have it and not need it than to come up short.

Although I generally recommend a larger pistol for your home defense gear, if you can only afford one handgun, the XD Sub-Compact is worth considering. It can pull double duty as a concealed carry gun yet having enough firepower to fend off a home invasion.

With a suggested retail price of only $399, I don’t know how the company is able to manufacture these and still make a profit. Maybe you should get one before the company comes to its senses and starts charging for the true value of these guns.

Editor’s Note: Please be sure to check out The Armory Life Forum, where you can comment about our daily articles, as well as just talk guns and gear. Click the “Go To Forum Thread” link below to jump in and discuss this article and much more!

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

Product prices mentioned in articles and videos are current as of the date of publication.

Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

Having made many odd choices in his youth, Richard was left with two career choices: aerospace engineer or cop. After failing his second year of chemistry, Richard pursued a law enforcement career where understanding covalent bonds was not a requirement for success. Along the way, Richard discovered a passion for writing. Consequently, he hung up his uniform and now publishes where he reviews firearms and other shooting gear to feed his frequently annoyed family.

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