Basic semi-auto firearm technology hasn’t changed much over the past century or more. Using the energy of springs and the recoil of a fired round, cartridges are chambered, fired, ejected and fed one after another.
But while the beauty of this simplicity has helped make handguns durable and reliable — ever changing needs from military, law enforcement and civilian markets have taken us a long way from the pistols of grandfathers. Thus, there is sometimes a division between those who appreciate the classical — and those who demand the tactical.
To bring life to this topic of conversation, I selected two Springfield Armory pistols that represent both the elegance of a simpler time and the state of the art of modern handgun design. The SA-35 champions the classical in every imaginable way.
It was the swan song of John Moses Browning, implying that all he had learned before it was incorporated into the design concept. The XD-M Elite Tactical OSP is the culmination of years of success with the XD-M and the addition of the latest tactical compatibility.
The SA-35 is an all-steel gun with removable grip panels (that allows customization such as I have done with mine). It’s a single-action-only firing system with an external hammer and a manual safety switch. The XD-M Elite is a polymer-framed handgun that is striker-fired and has no manual external safety switch.
The safety systems in the modern XD-M outnumber the older design of the SA-35 and do not require manual application, whereas the “old-fashioned” switch of the SA-35 is a preference for some due to peace of mind or ergonomic preference.
Both guns have modern sights, and both are great shooters. Testing both guns with some off-hand shooting at the range, their groups differed in size by less than ½ inch with ten rounds. Sight picture and shot placement are subtly different. The SA-35 is a point-of-aim/point-of-impact configuration, where the XD-M Elite has a six o’clock hold setup.
The XD-M Elite has high sights and a threaded barrel — ready to accept a suppressor. It is also pre-cut for a mounted red-dot optic. Its magazine well helps funnel in the 22-round extended magazines for fast tactical reloads, and the accessory rail out front is a great place for a mounted light. The desert flat dark earth coloring hints at its capabilities as a duty sidearm.
The SA-35 has smooth curves and rounded edges, with a profile that harkens to the days of elegance in mechanical tools. The finish is dark and unassuming but shows off every fine detail.
Two different styles, one an homage to a classical era of handgun design and one no-nonsense, hi-tech modern sidearm. Whichever speaks to your personal taste, needs, or style, you can be sure of one thing — both are solid performers that are built to last. But let’s not overlook the best way to resolve this dilemma… own both of them!
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