My wife says I'm a fountain of useless knowledge. I prefer to think of myself as a master of unappreciated facts. This ability has actually served me well in my second career as a gunwriter. For instance, I can still recall when nearly every firearm periodical in existence was excited about an import called the HS2000, a 9 mm, striker-fired, polymer-framed pistol that officially came to market from Croatia around 1999.
The "eXtreme Duty" pistol, or XD, was first introduced in the most popular LE/self-defense calibers: 9 mm and.40 S&W. Pistols in .357 SIG, .45 ACP and .45 GAP were soon to follow. Naturally, we've seen the obligatory upsizing and downsizing of the XD as tactical and compact models were introduced.
A number of factors have worked in the XD's favor. The most important from the consumer's standpoint is price. Springfield XD pistols are priced at or below that of other comparable models. This aspect cannot be discounted, as when all else is equal, many gun buyers favor price.
Not just another polymer-gun knock off, the original XD boasted a number of attractive features, including an ambidextrous magazine release, a well-designed grip safety and excellent ergonomics. The pistol rides high in the hand and points naturally.
As with most modern duty pistols, the XD includes an internal, striker-driven firing mechanism combined with a positive trigger safety. The loaded-chamber and cocked-striker indicators can be verified by both sight and feel. Its polymer frame includes an accessory rail—use it or not, nearly every modern pistol has one. Also, as you would expect, the pistol disassembles quickly and easily without tools.
Following handgun evolution, the XD transformed into the XD(M) a couple of years back. The "M" stands for modular, among other things. These new pistols have, among other improvements, interchangeable backstraps in small, medium and large, or more accurately, thin, medium and thick contours. The grip design was updated to provide a more-secure hold on the pistol. Sticking to the modern-handgun formula, the 9 mm and .40 S&W version of the XD(M) were the first to be introduced. American gun buyers being who they are naturally took a look at the upgraded XD pistols and said, "That's nice, but when are you going to come out with one in .45 ACP?"
Well, it's here.
Enter the .45
It's not really a secret that in order to be a serious player in the American handgun business, you must catalog at least one .45 ACP pistol. I have no intention of arguing the pros and cons of this, it simply is reality. The newest XD(M) chambering the beloved .45 ACP cartridge combines two things many American shooters love, capacity and price. Magazine capacity for the .45 ACP version is 13 rounds. When I sat down to pen this review, I did some online research and found the average gunshop price was well below $800. The median price was closer to $699.
As with all XD(M) pistols, the .45-caliber version is not just a gun, but an entire kit. Inside its very nice padded hard case is a pistol, three stainless magazines, a polymer holster and double-mag pouch, three interchangeable backstraps, a gun lock and a magazine loading tool.
Getting to some specifics, the .45 ACP XD(M) tips the scales at only 31 ounces empty. The hammer-forged, match-grade barrel is 4.5 inches long and has a fully supported chamber and polished feed ramp. A forged steel slide sits atop a polymer frame. Black Melonite or silver stainless steel slides are available.
Sight channels are cut both fore and aft on the pistol. The gun I received for testing included fixed sights of the three-white-dot variety. Tritium night sights are available from the factory, although shooters can also install a number of aftermarket variations.
In order to test the appetite of this auto-loading pistol, I took several .45 ACP loads of various weights and manufacture to the range. Looks are great, but function is king and I wanted to test many types of ammunition. Along for the field trials was ammo from Black Hills, CCI, Cor-Bon, Federal and Wolf Gold. It has been many years since I worked with an XD pistol of any kind, so I intended to get out on the range several times to really give both myself and the pistol a workout.
While it is important to ensure self-defense/controlled-expansion rounds will cycle in your pistol before carrying it for self-defense, that kind of ammunition is expensive. Trigger time for training is a lot easier on the wallet with bulk boxes of FMJ ammo from various manufacturers. Before beginning the range portion of this piece, I picked up a 250-round box of American Eagle .45 ACP from Federal. This is quality ammunition to be sure, but it was made for training, not duty or home defense.
On the first afternoon at the range, I was accompanied by my oldest son to help with the pistol's break-in. You may have heard the term "sweating for your craft," well, we were sweating that day as the mercury pushed its way into the high 90s and the hygrometer showed high humidity.
As it had been a while since I'd handled an XD pistol, I wanted to reacquaint myself with the controls and unique aspects of the gun. Specifically, I wanted to get accustomed to the XD's trigger. This striker-fired system has a relatively long reset when compared to others in its class.
I was immediately impressed by two aspects of the pistol. First, for a .45 ACP, the grip dimensions are comfortable and fit the hand exceptionally well. Second, the sights were right on as it came from the factory. Head shots on a Birchwood Casey silhouette target were simple enough at 10 and 15 yards with no adjustment necessary.
We ran somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 rounds through the pistol on our first outing. All three magazines were loaded to capacity, which made the supplied loading tool an invaluable aid. It helps get the 12th and 13th rounds into the magazine without killing your thumbs. All five loads were mixed in to test the pistol's eating habits. From the fast-moving +P load from Cor-Bon to the slow and heavy 230-grain FMJ's from Federal and CCI, all the ammunition fed and cycled without issue.
Range session number two would begin with a much slower pace. We posted several targets downrange at 25 yards. With my arms resting on a rolled up range mat, I set about the slow, deliberate testing. I was definitely happy with the results.
The last portion of the test included presentation from the holster, reloads, footwork drills, etc. I donned the included holster and dual magazine pouch and loaded the magazines to capacity with American Eagle and CCI FMJ ammunition.
I worked both with and without gloves, single- and weak-handed. Targets were engaged from a variety of unconventional positions, including seated (folding chair), from my back, kneeling and prone. Testing also included shooting the pistol while moving forward, backward and laterally. By the time I completed my training session, there were more than 200 pieces of spent brass strewn across the range. The slide was too hot to touch with bare hands, and I was convinced beyond a doubt that the new XD(M) .45 ACP pistol was a solid performer.
As with all handguns, each has its own unique features and characteristics. To truly master and appreciate a pistol, you need to spend some quality time (read trigger time) with it. This is particularly true when learning the trigger on a new gun.
Regarding the .45 ACP XD(M), I believe the kit is a great value and should certainly give the owner reliable service. Though functional, for my money I can definitely do without the three white-dot sights. First of all, if you begin with a clean, out-of-the-box pistol all the white dots will be bright. The rear sight—having double the amount of white paint—will draw your focus as it is brightly colored and closest to your eyes. A quick moment of adjustment and you are now focusing on your front sight. No problem? Perhaps not, but think about this: After a magazine or two you will notice the front portion of the slide/muzzle area is a bit dirty. That's where the burning propellant escapes. Guess what? Your front sight now has a light coat of carbon and the white dot is now dimmer than the clean rear sight. This makes finding your front sight and focusing on it quickly even more difficult. I prefer if we started with a bright, easy-to-pick-up front sight and just left the less important rear sights dark.
The same issue occurs with three-dot tritium or fiber-optic sights. There is twice as much light-producing or gathering material in the rear as there is in front and the front sight invariably will get dimmer the more you shoot. When it comes to shooting handguns, particularly for personal defense, the front sight is king and should be your number-one focal point. The rear sight is nice to have, but of secondary import, therefore it shouldn't detract from your ability to instantly acquire the front sight.
All in all, I was pleased with the Springfield XD(M) .45's performance. Reliability was unquestionable and accuracy was as good as you could have from pistol of this kind. I really like the fact that Springfield includes three stainless steel magazines with the gun. Too many pistol makers these days are cheap with the mags.
Alright American gun buyers, you asked for a .45 ACP, high-capacity XD(M), and now you have one. The next step is yours.
Manufacturer: Springfield Armory; (800) 680-6866
Action Type: Striker-fired, semi-automatic
Caliber: .45 ACP
Slide: Forged steel
Barrel: 4.5 inches, match-grade
Rifling: 6 grooves; 1:16-inch RH twist
Sights: Dovetail front and rear, three-dot
Trigger Pull Weight: 6 pounds, 2 ounces
Length: 7.75 inches
Width: 1.27 inches
Height: 5.75 inches
Weight: 31 ounces
Accessories: Case, manual, three magazines, holster, magazine pouch, reloading tool
MSRP: $709 (black), $771 (bi-tone)