This post is an exploration of the popular myths, hype, and misinformation floating around about Springfield XD/XDM pistols; specifically, the suitability of the XD/XDM for professional use. I would like to share some information that I have been gathering for several months now. Just so you know where I'm coming from on this subject...I'm a police officer with a large PD in Texas. I'm a firearms instructor in several disciplines and am currently assigned full-time to the Training Unit. I have worked patrol and criminal investigations. I spent 8 years on a well-respected SWAT team and have had some excellent luck in SWAT competitions and USPSA/3-Gun matches. I have received formal training at some of the best schools in the country and from trainers who are widely acknowledged to be among the best in the business. I am professionally experienced with Glocks, S&W, and multiple variations of the 1911. I am personally familiar with Sig, CZ-75, Para-Ordnance, Beretta, and several other semi-auto pistols. I do not purport to be an expert or a "gun guru" but it's appropriate to say I have a practical and professional foundation where shooting and handguns are concerned. I carried a 1911 for 10 years and I carried a Glock 22 before that and I still believe both of those platforms are excellent for LE duty.
I currently use a Springfield XDM (.40 S&W) for my duty weapon and have about 10K rounds through it with no problems whatsoever. I do not have an emotional attachment to any duty weapon. If a pistol is unsafe or no good for saving my life, my family members' lives, or your
life, then I won't carry it....period. I have always said that if anyone could offer any evidence that XD/XDM pistols are unsafe or unsuitable for duty use, I would ditch mine immediately and tell everyone else to do the same. Thus far, the overwhelming majority of my research has shown nothing of the kind. I conducted extensive research (emails, phone calls, internet, actually shooting them, examining the XD's used at my agency, etc.) on XD/XDM pistols, trying to chase down the internet myths and stories told by a small number of people who claim the XD is not suitable for duty purposes. I made contact with pretty much all of my resources which includes trainers, shooters, and end users at numerous, "Tier 1" LE and MIL organizations. I pretty much pulled every string I could with old teammates and current colleagues and those guys made phone calls and forwarded my emails to their old units and talked to current members. I even looked into the secret testing hinted at on another forum and I was able to get an answer on that. I have received specific information about the real-world test results of the XD/XDM from trainers and firearms gurus employed by the absolute best organizations/teams in North America.
The bottom line:
There's nothing wrong with XD/XDM pistols and they have "beaten" other popular pistols in some tests even as they have been "beaten" by those same pistols in other trials. I am not allowed to publicly distribute the test results that were sent to me. I have confirmed that some of the largest police departments in the U.S. extensively tested the XD/XDM pistol and found the platform to be reliable and robust. Many smaller departments and professional users have come to this same conclusion after conducting their own testing.
By far, the biggest weak spot on XD/XDM pistols is the roll pin in the top of the slide. That pin is known as the “Striker Retainer Pin” and it is quite possible to break after extensive dry firing or under extreme usage. If that pin breaks, your striker (AKA: “firing pin”) can be seized and your pistol may not fire. Some users report being able to fire their XD's with the pin broken and/or removed. I have confirmed several instances in which the pin broke and caused the pistol to cease functioning. Luckily for all XD users, the pin is easily replaced. The white arrow in the picture below is pointing to the striker retainer pin:
When one of the top 5 largest PD's in the U.S. conducted hard-core testing of five (5) XD pistols, the factory pin broke in one of the sample pistols and it stopped functioning. They replaced it with a stronger pin from a Sig pistol and kept shooting without incident. A SWAT officer whose XD was used in the Texas SWAT Competition and the Florida SWAT Roundup (where it was subjected to use in water and sand) was recently having his pistol serviced by an armorer and the pin was found to be partially broken when removed from the slide. That officer had fired thousands of rounds through the pistol during the train up for both comps and the pistol continued to function.
The pin that Springfield uses is a single layer of rolled metal that looks like this:
Powder River Precision
and other suppliers offers stronger striker retainer pins that look like this:
If you run your XD hard or if you just want peace of mind, you should replace the pin. They are available at many industrial outlets or you can buy a set from Powder River Precision
for $12.00. You can also call (541) 403-2999 to buy them over the phone.
"If XD pistols are so great then why didn't [insert name of team/unit/dept here] adopt them?"
I asked this question of every person I talked to about XD/XDM pistols. After all, critics of this platform (especially fans of the Glock and M&P) do have a point about the XD/XDM not being formally adopted by a major PD/.MIL/.GOV agency. The answers to this question usually broke down into four basic forms:
1) They're made in Croatia and the people in charge of purchasing/procurement believe that's an unstable region of the world which may or may not necessarily be a friend to the U.S. We're not prepared to enter into a commitment which would require us to use a pistol made there. There's plenty of good pistols made in the U.S. or Western Europe that work just fine. We're not switching.
2) We really liked it but the pistols we have now are working fine. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We're not changing over to another polymer framed pistol when our Glocks are working just fine.
3) We really liked it but we already have a relationship with [insert name of company here]. Why would we want to jeopardize that by switching to a new pistol now?
4) We don't have the money to buy all new pistols and holsters right now. Budgets are shrinking and there's no way I'm going to call the [insert title of potentate who controls $$ here] to request that we dump our current weapons and buy something new.
Regarding the claims that XD's have been jammed so badly that they had to be sent back to the factory while still loaded:
Springfield Armory LE reps informed me that this is untrue and that no such incidents have occurred. The LE rep informed me that these stories are internet myths with no basis in fact. She stated that there have
been a few people send pistols back with bullets lodged in the barrel due to squib loads. She also stated that when the XD's were first released, some people horribly jammed their pistols while reassembling them
by pressing down on the barrel hood while also forcing the slide/barrel assembly back on to the frame (BTW: There's a quick and easy fix for this and no it does not involve beating on the pistol with a mallet). These few instances may have been the root of the internet myth in question. Springfield Armory LE Reps state that there are no recorded instances of XD pistols suffering catastrophic, unfixable-except-at-the-factory jams while being loaded, unloaded, or fired. It's internet myth. I have discussed this issue with trained XD/XDM armorers and long-time users who likewise deny that it's a realistic story.
Regarding claims that XD's cannot be manipulated with one hand (AKA: Incapacitation Drills or Wounded Hand Shooting)
This is simply not true. Despite the fact that the slide cannot be retracted unless the grip safety is depressed, the XD/XDM can
be effectively manipulated, loaded, cleared, and fired with one hand, including the "weak" hand. I have tested and demonstrated this myself in the presence of other trainers. I am seriously considering making a video which proves that the XD/XDM can be successfully and normally manipulated in the same one-handed/incapacitation drills that will work with any other duty pistol (e.g. Glock, Sig, 1911, H&K, etc.). The grip safety on the XD requires so little pressure to activate it that it's almost (I say almost) negligible.
Regarding claims that Springfield Armory does not offer ample support for LE or the professional end user
It is true that for years, there was not a great deal of end user or aftermarket support for XD/XDM pistols. That is no longer the case. There is now ample after-market support and accessories available for the XD/XDM. For police and military personnel, Springfield Armory is now offering armorer's courses via Team One Network. Spare parts, tools, and all other standard accouterments for the professional user have been available for several years now. Speaking from personal and professional experience, Springfield Armory's customer service is both responsive and eager to please.
Regarding claims that XD/XDM pistols begin to break down after a high round count:
Every time I tried to validate this claim, I ran into a dead end. Nearly every claim I have read or seen about this turns out to be from the internet or a "guy I know who knows a cop who heard it at a shooting school" or "a secret government test that I cannot tell you about but believe me it happened." I'm a professional who works off evidence, probable cause, and facts. When I hear critics bashing any weapons system or TTP
, I look at their professional background and then I try to get the answer to this question: What do you know and how do you know it?
There is a lot of anecdotal information about XD/XDM pistols supposedly breaking down and failing horribly after 30K or 40K rounds. I have been unable to locate corroborating evidence of this. When you start asking people hard questions such as, "What's his name? What agency does he work for? When did this happen? Who can I talk to about this incident? Were you there? Did you see it? Did you contact Springfield Armory about this?"
the claims dry up right quick.
Links to reports about the quality, durability, and "shootability" of XD pistols:
Ron Avery on the XD
XD "Torture Test"
Old Review from HiPowers and Handguns
Clint Smith on the XD
20,000 Rounds Test
Two Bullet Test
Another "Torture Test"
Clint Smith Again on XD's
Chuck Taylor on the XD
Ken Hackathorn on XD's
Ken Hackathorn Again on XD's
Opinions regarding Springfield vs. Glock vs. S&W vs. Every Other Polymer Pistol
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Glocks or S&W M&P's. I have personally owned and tested an M&P in .40
(with lots of work done by Burwell Gunsmithing) and I found it to be a great pistol that has its own strong and weak points. I currently own a Glock 22 that I am about to send to Boresight Solutions
for recountouring and stippling. All serious shooters have their favorite platforms and we all have our prejudices. It is apparent that for some critics, when Glocks or M&P pistols suffer stoppages or broken parts, the failures are considered to be anomalies or inconveniences that are easily remedied/replaced. For some of these same critics, identical stoppages and failures in XD pistols serve as confirmation of a deeply held belief that the platform is inherently flawed and unreliable. One thing my research has indicated is that there does seem to be a very small but very vocal bit of prejudice against the XD/XDM platform voiced by a few individuals who have an axe to grind against Springfield Armory. I will not discuss this further except to say that a professional and reputable source informed me that one well-respected shooter/trainer who regularly bashes the XD/XDM only does so because Springfield Armory refused to sponsor him. Most importantly, my research has confirmed that much of what one reads on internet forums, even the good ones, should be thoroughly vetted and double-checked before believing it....and that includes the post you are reading right now.
There is no such thing as a perfect pistol...the 4 other faults of the XD/XDM:
1) For some people, the bore axis is too high. Much like Sig pistols, XD's have a significant, reciprocating mass high above the shooter's hand and this makes recoil management more difficult than with some other pistols. A low bore axis is one of the strong selling points of the S&W M&P pistol. For those who are accustomed to Sigs or some H&K models, the XD/XDM slide doesn't seem obtrusive at all. For those who are coming from a Glock, 1911, or M&P perspective, it does.
2) It can be difficult to press the magazine release and drop a fully loaded, or "mostly loaded" magazine. This makes tactical reloads or magazine removal difficult when you have a lot of cartridges still in the mag...but then...why would you do a tactical reload after only a few rounds anyway? This issue reminds me of the controversy with Glock magazines when they first came out. You may recall that Glock mags were not metal-lined and would bulge when fully loaded, thus preventing them from dropping free from the pistol even when you pressed the magazine release. Glock originally stated this was a benefit because it would mean that a fully loaded magazine would stay where it belonged in the event that the magazine release was inadvertently pressed. That was probably BS even if it sorta kinda makes sense. More to the point, if you suffer a serious stoppage (during the first few rounds out of a full magazine) which would require you to drop the magazine out of the pistol, you might have a hard time doing it if you don't press the magazine release hard enough. The way to get around this is to download the magazine by one round. If you prefer to use a fully loaded magazine, you can also press up on the base of the magazine with your support hand as you press the magazine release with your strong hand thumb. (You can also get serious about your hand strength by using Captains of Crush hand grippers
.) It should be noted that once you've fired a couple of rounds out of a full magazine, it's quite easy to drop the magazine by simply pressing the magazine release. Regardless, this is seen by some as a flaw in the system....and it probably is.
3) The trigger could use some work, especially on regular XD's. The reset is considered to be too long by most serious shooters. The factory trigger can also be a bit "mushy." The XDM trigger is a significant improvement over the regular XD, which is one of the reasons I carry it. While Springfield Armory does a phenomenal XD trigger job in their own custom shop, they should consider taking lessons from Springer Precision or Powder River Precision. If they do it right, they could probably put a superb trigger in there for a total cost of an additional $50 per unit. Maybe this is too much to ask when considering the slim profit margins on firearms and the realistic expectations of the average purchaser. FWIW, I have been using the stock XDM trigger for 2 years now and have been shooting great with it. It's fine for tactical and duty work. I have shot a few matches with it but I admit that it would not be good enough for serious USPSA/IDPA competition.
4) While relatively minor for most users, the factory sights are set to more of a "pumpkin on a post" or classic bullseye sight picture that looks like this:
This becomes especially apparent at 10 yards and beyond. Some serious shooters, such as competition shooters and professionals who train to make hostage rescue shots prefer a sight picture that is truly point-of-aim/point-of-impact and which looks more like this sight picture where the blue dot represents the actual impact of the bullet:
Sumary and Conclusion:
Most if not all of the internet myths about XD/XDM pistols have been busted. There have
been some valid criticisms of individual XD pistols which were found to be faulty. However, there is no probable cause to believe that XD/XDM pistols are not suitable for duty use, even after extensive firing. It should be noted that all pistol brands break and malfunction. All weapons manufacturers produce lemons;
this includes manufacturers such as Glock, Sig, and Colt. I've seen it with my own eyes. To date, no quantitative, objective evidence has been presented to support the claim that Springfield XD's are more likely to break and/or malfunction than other polymer framed pistols.
As mentioned above, the lack of support for professional users of the XD/XDM has been solved. Parts, accessories, armorer's tools, and holsters are now readily available for the XD/XDM. Law enforcement armorer training is available and Springfield Armory has been supportive of the LE market.
Professional users of XD/XDM pistols are strongly advised to replace the factory striker retainer pin with a more robust model. Shooters who require a true POA/POI sight picture may wish to consider changing the sights. Excellent options for sight replacements can be found HERE
I have about 10K rounds through my XDM with no no breakages of any kind and no serious malfunctions. The pistol has been accurate and dependable thus far. Contrary to internet myth, the magazines are solidly built and function well. The weapon functions as it should and has not failed me yet. However, I have taken my own advice in the paragraph above and upgraded the roll pin.
While it may not seem so when reading passionate internet discussions about pistols, we are actually living in a "golden age" of semi-automatic pistols. The pistols that are being produced today are among the best hand held weaponry made in the history of mankind. There is a good pistol out there for you. Use objective, common sense criteria to pick the one that meets your mission essential tasks, test it thoroughly, and then drive on.
Thank you for reading this. I sincerely hope it helps you with your decision to purchase, discard, retain, or upgrade your XD/XDM.