[Guest author] Over the years, I’ve owned several of the Springfield Armory XD series of pistols. A few standard XDs, a few XDm versions, and an XD-S. One thing they all had in common was that through thousands of rounds (remember back when we could afford to shoot, back in the “Olden Days”?), I never experienced one single stoppage. Even the .40 Caliber XDm that I took to a shooting school right out of the box, never having lubed it, and proceeded to put 1,300 rounds through it in two days, the thing functioned perfectly. Not too long back, Springfield introduced another in the XD line, the XD-E (the “E” stands for external hammer). Here’s a rundown.
Springfield XDE 9mm
XDE 3.3 With External Hammer
by Jim Davis
So why in the world would anyone want an external hammer in this world of striker-fired pistols? Well, maybe that’s the point. Everything new these days seems to be striker-fired.
Not Quite A Pocket Pistol
The way I see it, the external hammer will appeal to a few segments of the shooting community. The “purists” cut their teeth on handguns that had exposed hammers. That crowd likes options, such as being able to carry “cocked and locked,” i.e., with the hammer cocked and a manual safety activated (which this pistol does allow).
That said, there is also a unique, new segment to our firearms community that is glaringly different: new shooters. They’ve arrived in droves, given the recent political developments. Finally, it has dawned on a massive segment of the American public that they may need to protect themselves in the very near future. They’ve finally concluded that seasoned shooters have long known, and that is that the government cannot protect us and that anarchists enjoy attacking people.
As a result, new shooters have joined the ranks like never before. I don’t know about you, but I think that maybe a pistol with an exposed hammer might be easier to learn on, and quite possibly, safer in the hands of a newer, less experienced shooter. An example is a revolver; when the hammer is cocked, it is evident that the revolver is ready to fire in single-action mode—the same situation with this pistol.
XD-E 3.3 Specifications
At any rate, it’s time to take a look at the technical aspects of the XD-E. This particular model has a 3.3-inch barrel, which is hammer forged. The slide is forged steel with a Melonite finish, which is black.
The pistol’s length is 6.75 inches, and the height is five inches. It is relatively thin overall, with the grip being one inch thick, contributing to its concealability. Make no mistake, though, this is not a tiny pocket pistol, by any stretch. Springfield classifies it as a “Compact,” which is reasonably accurate, as it’s smaller than a service pistol. The weight is 24.8 ounces with the nine-round magazine inserted.
There are two basic options of Springfield XD magazines available: eight or nine-round, both single stack. This contributes to the pistol’s thinness.
The eight-round magazine comes with a base plate with a finger rest, although a flush fit base plate does come with the pistol if the owner wishes to change that out.
The nine-round magazine comes with an extended floor plate, making the grip slightly longer, though not dramatically so.
The magazines eject very nicely, in that when the release is pressed, they come shooting out! Magazines are constructed of stainless steel and are sturdily made. The XD-E will fire without a magazine inserted.
The Safety and Mag Release
A nice touch is that both the safety/decocker and the magazine release are ambidextrous. Not that they can be installed ambidextrously, but there is one on each side of the pistol! Southpaws will like that, and it’s handy for when a shooter is using his weak side.
The safety/decocker works well but is mounted slightly high for my taste in that I have to adjust my grip to take the weapon off safe. Not a lot, but enough that it’s not at optimal efficiency for me. On the other hand, my wife wasn’t bothered by this in the least, and it worked great for her. If I had my way, it would be mounted lower in the fashion of the 1911. Being able to carry cocked and locked (that is, with a round in the chamber, hammer back, safety on) is a nice option. Others will prefer carrying with the hammer down and having the choice of the safety on or off.
A loaded chamber indicator is on the top of the slide just behind the breach block that sticks up when a round is in the chamber.
A dual captive spring with a total length guide rod is used in the recoil system, and it does a nice job taming recoil.
The sights on the pistol are very nicely done, consisting of a three-dot configuration that is pretty standard these days. The front sight is a red fiber optic that takes the sights to the next level into the highly effective category. The fact that the sights are steel is also a plus. All in all, high marks in this department!
The bore axis on the XD-E is relatively high, unlike many other pistols on the market these days. I prefer a lower bore axis, but this didn’t prove detrimental in actual shooting.
The double-action trigger pull is long and incredibly smooth, stacking at the end, just before the break. The smoothness of the pull is surprising. There is a pleasingly short trigger reset, which will allow quick follow-up shots. The single-action trigger has some takeup before it breaks but is not excessive. Overall, it’s a decent trigger. I wish that my trigger finger was a fraction of an inch longer because the bottom corner of the trigger grabs the edge of my trigger finger.
An essential part of any pistol is the grip, and the XD-E will fit a wide range of shooters in this aspect. My hands are on the smaller side, and I found the slim group to fill my hand well. However, shooters with larger hands will probably like that; although the grip is thin, it is also wide enough to accommodate their bear paws comfortably. Springfield was rather ingenious in how they managed to construct a grip that would appeal to so many shooters.
The grip texture is rough enough that it seems to offer a positive purchase and yet not be so abrasive as to chafe the skin when carrying the pistol concealed. It seems they’ve arrived at a sensible compromise here.
Stripping the XD-E
Field stripping is accomplished in the same fashion as most pistols on today’s market; the slide is retracted and locked to the rear, the takedown lever is flipped up. From there, the slide is removed, and then the recoil spring and barrel can be taken out. Reassembly is in the reverse order. It all goes very smoothly with no hidden surprises.
When the pistol is stripped down, the quality of construction that we’ve come to expect from Springfield Armory is in evidence, with no tool marks being apparent. The pistol works very smoothly overall.
Range Time with XD-E
We hit the range with the XD-E on a rare warm day to see how it would fare. I started at 25 yards resting the pistol on a bench to test the accuracy. Well, I won’t post a photo of that group because…I was getting used to the gun! Yes, I’m sure that was the case!
After my first dismal group, though, it came into its own. No, it wasn’t shooting one-inch groups at 25 yards. Still, it kept everything nicely centered on a man-sized target at a remarkably rapid rate of fire. Headshots were also possible at 25 yards. I didn’t shoot beyond 25 yards, but I’m sure it would perform admirably well past that range.
I did some drills transitioning from double action to single action. It felt pretty much like every other DA/SA handgun I’ve ever fired, except that the XD-E’s DA (Double Action) pull is smooth as glass. Of course, single firing action was easier and increased accuracy.
The recoil was pleasantly moderate (not light, but far from heavy). The grip offers enough area that the shooter has an excellent surface to grasp, which spreads out the recoil impulse. However, it was not snappy, and the sights settled right back to the target after each shot. As a result, rapid-fire drills with the pistol were easy to accomplish; you can quickly put a lot of lead on target with this pistol.
The pistol points quickly, and the sights seem to come onto target naturally to make matters better. That fiber-optic, glowing red sight makes acquiring the sights a no-brainer, and these are easily among the best sights that I’ve ever used in a pistol.
Reliability and Comfort
Reliability was impressive because I put some of the lowest quality ammo that I have ever used through it (“Perfecto” brand, bought at Walmart a few years back for $5/box). Perfecto sometimes has light-charged rounds and is just the junkiest stuff I’ve ever used. However, the XD-E ran through it perfectly, as well as the higher quality ammo that I fed it. So rest easy that this is a reliable handgun.
My daughter tried her hand with the XD-E and gave it high marks; she also thought very highly of the sights. Aside from that, one other aspect of the pistol is enamored here: it is easy to rack the slide. She has a disability with her left hand, and even with that, she could retract the slide to chamber a round. This might be an essential consideration for those who don’t have a lot of arm or hand strength and those who are…ahem…aging. Arthritis in the hands, wrists, and arms can do a number on our strength, and having a pistol that is friendly to our impediments can mean a lot.
Post Range Time with the 3.3 XDE 9mm
The XD-E does have an accessory rail on the dust cover for those who wish to mount lights, lasers, and other accessories. It is a standard Picatinny rail.
I’ll be honest; I was lukewarm toward the XD-E when I first unboxed it. In my book, it’s not an exciting pistol for me to look at, sort of a “plain vanilla” pistol. But after getting it to the range and putting rounds on target, my excitement for the XD-E tripled. It’s accurate, 100% reliable, smooth, fast, and user-friendly.
All controls functioned as they should, including the slide release. Usually, I don’t use slide releases because they demand fine motor skills, which we lose when adrenaline affects us. As such, I typically rack the slide using my hand, which utilizes gross motor skills. Those slide releases on many pistols, especially new ones, can be very stiff and difficult to operate. Not so with the XD-E; it was easy to manipulate and large enough to do so comfortably. All controls on the XD-E were smooth and easy to operate; they get a 100% from me.
The XD-E’s MSRP
At the time of this writing, the retail of the pistol is $542, so it will be available for considerably less from suppliers. Nevertheless, Springfield Armory has certainly priced this one reasonably, especially compared to some offerings from other manufacturers.
In summary, the XD-E is a winner; given its ease of use, accuracy, reliability, and comfort, it is a solid choice for defensive carry. I would feel comfortable carrying it for defense.
About the Autor: Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities.