One of the more revolutionary developments in the handgun market over the past several decades has been the growth in popularity of striker-fired, polymer-framed, semi-automatic handguns. Replacing conventional hammers with strikers and, more often than not, eschewing traditionally configured manual safeties, these pistols created a whole new category of firearms.
The result was a host of revolutionary semi-automatic handguns that combined light weight with revolver-like simplicity of operation. However, there has recently been something of a counter revolution, with many of these types of pistols now being designed to incorporate traditional, manually operated safety systems. A recent example is a new thumb-safety variant of the popular Springfield Armory XD line of .45 ACP polymer-framed pistols.
A close look at the new XD45 pistol reveals a frame-mounted manual safety with a location and configuration that should be quite familiar to many handgun enthusiasts. Located at the rear of the frame and requiring a downward sweep to disengage, the XD45's ambidextrous safety is in fact configured much like the venerable 1911.
Available on both the 4-inch and 5-inch versions of the black or bi-tone XD45, the manual safety is made of steel and features relatively slim, low-profile paddles. Blocking the sear, the safety is pressed up to place the pistol on safe, while a sweep down with the thumb disengages it and reveals a highly visible, bright red dot within milled recesses on both sides of the slide.
In addition to the manual safety, the XD45 also utilizes the Ultra Safety Assurance trigger system. Featuring a hinged paddle located in the center face of the trigger, this trigger-blocking system is disengaged when the shooter places his finger on the trigger. Unless this paddle is fully depressed, the gun will not fire.
The XD45 also features a grip safety, a somewhat uncommon feature on a modern-style polymer-framed pistol. The XD45's grip safety has a long, relatively thin paddle that hinges at its top and is located on the central upper portion of the backstrap. Simply picking up the pistol and holding it firmly effectively disengages the grip safety and, in concert with placing the finger on the face of the trigger, makes the pistol ready to fire once the manual safety has been disengaged.
In addition to all the external safety systems, the XD45 employs an internal striker-block/drop safety that prevents the striker from impacting a cartridge's primer unless the trigger is pulled fully to the rear. Once both safeties have been disengaged, trigger movement causes the fully cocked striker to release just as the internal striker-block/drop safety moves out of the way.
I tested an XD45 thumb-safety variant, which featured the shorter 4-inch barrel, referred to by Springfield as the Service model. The 5-inch variant is called the Tactical model. The double-column, stainless-steel magazine has a capacity of 13 rounds.
The 4-inch steel barrel has a fully supported ramp, and at both the front and the rear there are cocking serrations on the forged-steel slide that provide a positive grip for racking the slide. The slide and barrel feature a tough, corrosion-resistant Melonite coating.
Some additional safety features are also incorporated into the handgun's slide, including a visual and tactile loaded-chamber indicator on top, just behind the ejection port. On the rear face of the slide, a small dimple protrudes when the gun is cocked. The top of the slide features a three-dot sighting system.
Although a large, high-capacity pistol, the XD45 thumb-safety variant weighs in at a surprisingly light 30 ounces empty. In fact, I decided to try it out as a concealed-carry pistol in place of my 42-ounce Springfield Armory TRP 1911. Employing an inside-the-waistband DeSantis Inner Piece holster and spare magazine carrier, I carried it for several weeks and was quite impressed.
For testing, I tried the XD45 with three types of .45 ACP ammunition. During the course of several hundred rounds, the pistol did not exhibit a single malfunction. In addition, the XD45 was quite accurate. During this testing process, I found drawing and shooting a 1911 translated quite well to shooting the new XD45. The XD's safety location and configuration made the transition from the TRP surprisingly easy.
For those who are looking for a modern-style pistol with a traditionally configured manual safety, the new XD45 thumb-safety variant is just about the ideal answer.