Springfield Armory XD-E
March 28th, 2020
10 minute read
The new SA/DA hammer-fired XD-E proves itself accurate, reliable and soft shooting…a rare combination in a compact concealed carry pistol.
Let’s face it, the firearms world is pretty well tapped when it comes to truly new designs and innovation. Most everything is a rework of a current design, mostly because it works. Every time I hear “revolutionary,” or “truly innovative,” or some other catch phrase it’s mostly passed off as marketing magic. It’s easy to sell stuff when demand is so high you cannot meet it. When the market slows you need to separate yourself. You can do it with new or different product, pure marketing, or a combination. Why? Because the consumer demands it, has for years now, not sure it will ever change. But here’s the kicker, sometimes the truly “different” just does not sell, admired greatly, but unsold. The firearms market is littered with great ideas that no one bought.
So when complaints come in from the social media machine about how a new pistol is not really “new” it’s just “different” its puzzling, almost comical. It may come as a surprise to some, but that has been the case for decades. Each innovation or improvement has built off proven designs, many of them decades old, in some cases closer to a century. The most modern polymer pistol today shares designs from years past. At times it is nothing more than a change in materials or advancements in machining and production. In other cases it is really a better mouse trap, but it’s still a mousetrap. It may also be a melding of existing ideas into a combination. Sometimes, you are just improving things, not reinventing them. Or, as in the case of Springfield Armory’s XD-E, you just build what your customers are asking you to build.
Hammers, Strikers & Safeties
This may be one of the longest running arguments since the popularity of the striker-fired pistol and removal of manual safeties. Arguments are based generally on anything but practical application. Most are preference based, some mandated by law or policy, others still are based on perception and personal experience. As usual, sides are pretty well entrenched. Some will “never use a pistol without a hammer”, dismissing striker-fired versions out of hand. Opposing forces see a hammer as useless weight. Same is true for manual safeties or de-cocking levers. Loved, hated, or ignored, there are clearly defined markets, one refusing to relent to the other. Many states and police departments mandate manual (external) safeties leaving the “manual safeties are evil” crowd with no choice. De-cocking levers are seen as necessary safety devices by some, manipulation nightmares by others. Many students have told me flat out they would never carry a pistol without a de-cocker to place it in a hammer down position. Bottom line is most modern pistols built today by reputable manufacturers are safe when the human behind them operates them properly. The rest is nothing more than a preferred mechanical advantage.
That being said, It makes it kind of hard for major manufacturers to please the buying public. In the case of the XD-E it was an answer to many calls for a small, concealable XD pistol with a hammer by their loyal customer base. After shooting it quite a bit I can say Springfield has done an excellent job of doing just that.
Springfield Armory XD-E 9mm Compact Pistol
Single-stack pistols for concealment remain one of the strongest markets. Concealed-carry advocates want a pistol that can be carried easily, is reliable, accurate, and remains comfortable. Pocket pistols remain popular, but many are realizing palm-sized pistols are less then optimal in a fight. The XD-E fits that niche well as a compact, hammer-fired pistol using an ambidextrous lever that is a safety a la the 1911, or de-cocked for hammer-down carry. Hammer back and safety up disengages the trigger at the same time, allowing the slide to be manipulated. Push down and the hammer is safely lowered, turning it into a double/single-action pistol. Offered initially in 9mm, it comes with two magazines. One holds eight rounds using a lip/hook on the base pad allowing for the greatest concealment. A 9-round extended magazine is also included. There is a flat base pad that can be switched out if needed. The XD-E will fire and function without a magazine inserted.
Using a polymer frame it remains light. The 3.3 inch barrel keeps it compact, hammer forging provides strength, longevity, and excellent accuracy. A larger slide stop is optimally placed for use as a slide release. Magazine release is ambidextrous. Stippling on the front and back straps provide ample control without excess abrasion. A rail mount for mini-lasers and lights sits up front. A combat rear sight and fiber optic front sit atop the Melonited slide. A loaded chamber indicator sits at the top of the slide and can be easily felt if needed. Cocking serrations sit at the rear.
Fit and Feel
I was first introduced to this pistol at a media event held in Las Vegas. Admittedly, when announced it was a bit underwhelming. As an HK dealer when the USP was introduced it was a known system to me, one liked for the most part. Working as a police officer it met some policy requirements allowing me to carry it like a single action. The XD-E fit well in my hand and pointed like a 1911. Little pistols and my large hands seldom work well together. In this case even with the lipped magazine my entire hand fit, although snugly. One of the selling points of the pistol was ease of slide manipulation, and that was true. Unlike many compacts the slide was very easy to run, especially with the hammer back. Since the slide will run with the safety engaged this is more than workable. In single-action the trigger was about five pounds or so with an easily definable reset and crisp wall. Decoking the pistol required thought, unlike the USP, so inadvertently doing so was unlikely. Pressing the trigger in DA it was long, stacked quite a bit, but seemed smooth enough when pressed through. My only concern was how far forward the trigger goes, barely reachable with my large hands. Not so sure how that will work for smaller hands. It was otherwise well balanced and concealable.
Initial testing in Las Vegas during the event was quite useful. It may have been the best run such event I attended in a long time. Stages were setup similar to an IPSC or IDPA match testing pretty much every aspect of use. After shooting steel to get a feel for the trigger we moved on to each stage. This is where the XD-E came into its own. Running several passes on steel in DA/SA it was pretty smooth, in fact very easy to run. Press through on the trigger and it was great. Subsequent SA shooting was rather surpassingly fast. I sort of expect these pistols to be more of a chore than a joy to shoot, but this was very enjoyable to run. After running several magazines on steel it became clear I could run this thing hard very comfortably.
We shot from behind cover, from inside a truck, and through and around a doorway. Several home and self-defense style stages provided for plenty of time allowing for some rapid fire. By stage two my crew and I were running this thing like a comp pistol. It was fast, easy to be accurate, and very controllable. Recoil is minimal at best with little muzzle rise. By the end of the day I was running it as fast and accurately as most larger pistols. Starting out a bit skeptical, in the end there was a lot to like about the XD-E.
At home it was fired for accuracy with some pretty solid results for a pistol this small. My best group overall came from Hornady 124-grain XTP at just under 1.75 inches. Fired from a bench using a bag as a rest it was one of my better days. Their Critical Duty 135-grain load was just a tad wider but still under two inches. I was able to keep most everything under two inches, not something normally accomplished with a compact. Moving to practical distances it ate up Remington UMC 115-grain FMJ, keeping everything inside a palm on the move, and a fist when stationary out to 10 yards. Using the Cross Breed IWB holster they provided with the pistol it worked well at contact distance during several Close Quarter drills. Working in and around my Toyota FJ Cruiser it was easy to access, and allowed for continual hits on steel set up at about 10 yards from the truck. Just like at the event it shot more like a full sized pistol than a compact.
Testing at home was completed mostly in the “cocked -and -locked” mode. The safety is ambidextrous and placed like that of a 1911. Operation was intuitive with a crisp snap. At no time was it inadvertently decocked during a firing cycle. Shooting from the DA/SA configuration the trigger was smooth enough not to disturb the sights. Still not sure if those with smaller hands will have the same luck, but for me this was fine, it sits pretty far forward. There is no staging this trigger, at least not that I could find: either pull straight through or carry it cocked and locked.
Handing it over to a friend of mine who due to some hand injuries has difficulty running a slide, he commented it was noticeably easier to manipulate, especially with the hammer back and safety on. Comparing it to two other full-sized 9mm pistols it was all but night and day. If you are looking for a compact that is easy to manipulate this is a good choice.
While the magazine with the lip fit okay, the extended magazine suited me best and offered no discernable difference in concealment. What it did provide was 10 rounds at the ready (9+1) in a nice size. Spare magazines fit nicely in my newer 1911 pouches, the older very well worn ones (15+ years) were a bit loose but worked. They are almost identical in size to the EMP9 magazines, so those pouches should be about perfect.
If you fall into the “hammers and safeties are evil” camp, you will not like this pistol. It has just about everything you hate in it with a mechanical safety, decocking lever and hammer. But this pistol was not built for you to begin with. If you want a solid, concealed-carry compact using a hammer that can be carried either in condition 1 or 2, then it may be just the ticket, especially if you want one that is easy to manipulate. Either way, it is a ton of fun to run, accurate, reliable and soft shooting, which is a rare combination in a concealed carry pistol this size…and that is good all around.
Action: Hammer Fired DA/SA
Barrel Length: 3.3 Inches
Overall Length: 6.75 inches
Width: 1 inch
Weight: 25 ounces (empty magazine)
|Remington 115-Grain +P HTP||1,160 f.p.s.||2.00 inches|
|Federal HST 124Grain||1,100 f.p.s.||1.90 inches|
|Winchester Defender 124-Grain||1,030 f.p.s.||2.00 inches|
|Hornady 124-Grain XTP||1,080 f.p.s.||1.75 inches|
Groups fired from bag (rest) using the hood of my truck as a rest. Distance of 25 yards, 3 five shot groups for comparison. Velocity in Feet Per Second (FPS) measured with a “Chrony” chronograph over three five shot groups.
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Dave Bahde and shared with us by On Target Magazine. It can be seen here. Also, 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!