XDs 9mm Review – Raising the bar

Back in October of 2012 I reviewed the then new Springfield XDs 45. I loved the pistol and it ultimately replaced the S&W Shield as my preferred compact pistol for carry. The only issue I had with the XDs 45 besides the grip safety (which I dislike) was the fact it was .45 ACP. Before you get all riled up, don’t think that I dislike the .45 ACP, because I do like the caliber. It’s as American as baseball, hotdogs and apple pie. In a caliber appropriate handgun like the 1911, FNX, HK45, or any other full sized service handgun the .45 is a great cartridge. In a tiny handgun like the XDs, the .45 ACP’s case size severely limits the magazine capacity and for some the recoil might be too much in such a small package.

The XDs 9 (top) next to the XDs 45 (middle) and S&W Shield (bottom).

The XDs 9 (top) next to the XDs 45 (middle) and S&W Shield (bottom).

I am also a fan of the 9mm for self defense in general and will take it over any other caliber including the .45 ACP. The reasons for this are many. Without going into too many details (the topic warrants its own blog post), I will say that the 9mm has everything I look for in a defensive caliber; power, capacity, low recoil, great selection of loads, affordable, and its commonly available.

When Springfield released the XDs 45 I was excited and bummed out all at the same time. I wondered why they didn’t release the 9mm first then release the .45 like most everyone else.  I just answered my own question. They didn’t want to be like everyone else so they released the .45 ACP first. The strategy worked apparently because I’m now the proud owner of two XDs handguns, one in 9mm and another one in .45 ACP… at least for now. I’ll probably sell or trade the XDs 45 in the near future.

I got to sample the XDs 9mm at SHOW Show 2013. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I was really excited to get my hands on the little bopper. As expected, I fell in love with it at the show and couldn’t wait to get mine on order.  As soon as I returned from the show, I called my local gun shop and had the guys put me on the waiting list.

A 15 yard slow-fire 50 round group fired using Federal 115gr range ammo.  The little pistol is capable of very good accuracy.

A 15 yard slow-fire 50 round group fired using Federal 115gr range ammo. The little pistol is capable of very good accuracy.

I’ve now had my XDs for a couple of weeks and I’ve shot about 400 rounds through it. While it’s not the 1000 rounds I typically like to shoot before passing judgement on a new firearm, I’ve had to reduce the number of rounds I fire in testing due to the lack of affordable ammo these days. I have fired many reloads and factory loads through my pistol and have had zero malfunctions. The only issue I’ve had is when I accidentally ride the slide stop with my thumb and prevent the slide from locking open on the last round. I blame that on my maker and not Springfield as I have Yeti hands that sport long spindly fingers and thumbs that get in the way of everything. If you use a light enough reload you can get the occasional failure to lock open too, but those aren’t all that common with my 124gr LRN reloads.

I’ve read the reports online of the XDs 45 having problems with failing to get rounds completely into battery and causing the pistol to fail to fire. My XDs 45 never suffered from that problem unless I was shooting reloads intended for my 1911 which are seated a little long. With factory ammo my XDs 45 never once suffered from such a malfunction. With the XDs 9mm I once again have zero issues including failures to go into battery.

The XDs 9mm is dimensionally identical to its bigger brother, the XDs 45.  When placed on my postal scale fully loaded, both pistols weigh 1lbs 9oz, so even their weight is a match. With the exception of the larger bore on the 45, externally the two are indistinguishable, so much so I’m able to use my PJ Holster that I bought for my XDs 45 with my XDs 9. I really do love that PJ Holster so I’m glad I can still use it so I don’t have to wait on another one to be made.

In the past I’ve called the XDs and Shield “pocket guns”, and many of you have challenged this assertion. Please watch the XDs 9mm review video below as I explain my reasoning in using this terminology when describing these pistols.

The XDs 9 in the case it ships with along with all the other goodies that come packaged with it.  Included is a holster, magazine pouch, two mags, lock, manual, spent casing and the pistol itself.

The XDs 9 in its case with all the other goodies that come packaged with it from the factory. Included is a holster, magazine pouch, two mags, lock, manual, spent casing and the pistol itself.

The trigger on my pistol is a spongy 6.5lbs or so. The break is clean but the take-up is a bit on the slushy side. There’s also the expected over travel once the sear breaks sending the round downrange. None of this bothers me as I know this isn’t a match pistol, it’s a defensive pistol, and when viewed in that context the trigger is good to go. I’m even able to print tiny groups with it when I do my part. The outstanding sights help make shooting the minuscule pistol much easier, especially during rapid fire.  The front orange fiber optic sight offers exceptional contrast against most targets while the two white painted dots in the rear assist in getting a proper sight picture.

If you follow my channel you know I like to test polymer pistols for “limp wristing” to see how reliable they are when the shooter doesn’t have the best grip on them while firing.  Limp wristing can be a factor should you become wounded in a fight and lose some of the strength in your strong hand/arm. It can also be a factor for novice shooters or shooters that struggle with a proper grip.  I’ve tested the XDs 9 fairly extensively for limp wrist failures and I’ve not been able to induce any so far.  I would say the pea sized pistol is more tolerant of a poor grip than my G19 is.

Right now the only XDs 9’s I’ve been able to find on the market are the all black pistols.  A two tone finish will be released in the future and will cost a little more than the black finished pistol.  The XDs slide is made from carbon steel that is Melonite treated for an amazingly tough finish.  Melonite is the same surface hardening process used on the popular Glock pistols known as Tenifer.  Both Melonite and Tenifer offer the best technology has to offer in terms of protecting the metal components of your firearm.

With a street price of $549-$599 the XDs 9mm isn’t the cheapest solution out there for ultra-concealability. Price isn’t everything when you’re shopping for a defensive tool, and with that in mind, the XDs 9mm is one of the best pistols in its class – if not the best. I personally choose it over all others and have been carrying mine this summer in place of my Glock 19. Don’t worry, I’ve not completely abandon my G19, it will be pressed back into regular duty when the crisp fall air revisits NW Indiana in a couple of months.

For a full review of the pistol, please watch the MAC video review video below:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOULjUhKRwY]

MAC

MAC is an avid shooter, former MCSF Marine, NRA member, Oath Keeper and is commissioned as a Colonel by the Governor of Kentucky. Known for his videos on the Military Arms Channel, he also writes for The Bang Switch, for Shotgun News (Be Ready!) and freelances for Guns & Ammo. MAC has been a life long shooter who has an interest in all things that go "bang" but gravitates towards military type firearms.

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  • janitor

    doesnt shooting reloads in an XD void the warranty?

    • MAC

      Many manufacturers will tell you this. If I listened to manufacturers and their lawyer speak I would go broke shooting. I reload for every gun I own. If you do something goofy and double charge a cartridge, don’t expect to have Springfield or anyone else fix it for free when you grenade the pistol. However, if something else brakes totally unrelated to the ammo they’ll never know you were shooting reloads. Clean the gun, send it in, get it fixed and go back to shooting.

      • AKDoc

        If the frames are identical could you theoretically get a 9mm barrel and magazines for the 45 and change calibers?

        • MAC

          The 9mm barrel will not work in the .45, I tried swapping them out. If Springfield made a conversion barrel (or someone else did) it *might* be a possibility, but that’s pure speculation on my part.

        • AKDoc

          Obviously a 9mm slide would be required as well.

          • MAC

            There are conversions that use existing slides to convert things like .40 caliber guns to 9mm. The problem I see with the .45 XDs is that it would require a barrel, spring and magazine to work. The 9mm magazine won’t fit into the .45 pistol either. Given the cost of all the necessary parts, and assuming it would work with the existing extrator and ejector, the price would be cost prohibitive most likely. You would be better off trading the .45 for a 9mm.

  • Rick

    There is a reason I’ve always thought that extended mags were useful. You use the shorter flush mag for carry and if you ever get into a gunfight then your second full size mag with it’s extra rounds can come into play at that time. For instance, in my Ruger SR9C I carry it with the 10+1 rd mag. My backup mag (which I have yet to carry) is the 17 rd mag. Giving me 28 rds if I ever need it. Which I hope I don’t.

    As far as size comparisons with the XDs 9mm, there are several other handguns in that size range, Ruger LC9, Beretta Nano, Kimber Solo and so on and so forth.

    Great channel. Great videos. Keep up the good work. Stay safe and shoot straight.

    • MAC

      There are plenty of good handguns in this category, but like most people I have my favorites. I don’t care for the Nano as it’s blocky and not nearly as ergonomic in my hands as the Shield or XDs. The LC9 was probably one of the worst purchases I’ve made in the sub-compact category. I absolutely hated the pistol and traded it soon after buying it. The Kimber Solo is too picky about ammo and I’ve yet to shoot one that was 100% reliable. I demand 100% reliability from a carry gun. One hiccup and I immediately distrust it. Two hiccups and I sell it. The only other handgun in this class I’ve considered buying, and may still, is the Walther PPS. Oh, and I do love my Kahrs, great guns.

    • Angie

      The nano grip is much shorter. I couldnt get my pinky on it at all, the xds 9 fits perfectly. I have normal sized hands for a woman so how a man could shoot a nano comfortably without that ugly extended mag I dunno

  • Holyface

    First off let me say I love your work and you are the primary influence in my firearms purchases. However I do not understand your “ding” on the grip safety on the XD series of pistols when I know you really enjoy shooting your Springfield TRP.. Do you not like the grip safety on the 1911 as well and I’m failing to remember you saying so? Also you say you prefer the 45acp in 1911’s which contradicts your stance on the XDS. I understand that the magazine capacity is larger on the 9mm version possibly making it more desirable but only by two rounds. Having said that, God forbid I ever get into a firefight and hear “click” at that moment I’d trade my manhood for the two extra rounds.

    • MAC

      Thanks, Holyface, I’m glad you enjoy the stuff I put out there.

      The 1911 was designed originally without a grip safety. The Army requested it. I don’t know of anyone, including the Army, that ultimately liked it which is why the M9 doesn’t have one. However, after 100 years it’s accepted as part of the gun. Do I like it? No, I don’t. But it’s the original culprit of the concept, and the concept should have died with the 1911’s implementation of it as most would agree.

      There’s a reason you see 1911’s with large humps on the grip safeties these days, that’s because it’s an attempt to minimize the possibility the gun might be rendered useless if the shooter gets a less than ideal grip on the pistol. Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s you would find many competitors shooting 1911’s with their safeties tapped down or otherwise disabled. Now with modern safety designs with large humps people don’t feel the need to do that anymore.

      The grip safety is a pointless device (IMHO) that adds an unnecessary failure point to a tool designed to save your life. On a defensive tool one acronym reigns supreme, “KISS” (keep it simple stupid). The likelihood of a failure is pretty high on a pistol with a poorly designed grip safety like those found on the full-size XD series of guns, I’ve seen it happen and have video of it happening. The whole reason people have moved to striker fired polymer framed pistols like the Glock and the M&P is because they minimize the potential failure points by removing roadblocks like manual safeties, grip safeties, etc. All that’s required is to get a grip on the pistol, no matter how poor, point and pull the trigger. Yes, S&W offers the M&P with a manual safety for people that feel they need it, but it’s a bad idea IMHO to have one on the pistol. If someone is scared to carry their pistol loaded without a safety, they should get some training and learn how to use the pistol and this fear should subside.

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  • ghostwheel

    My 2 cents: Two problems with XDs; #1 spinning brass out of ejection port marks up the slide badly [there is a Youtube video on it] and the manufacturer considers that normal. #2 On your initial shot show review the Xds9 did not lock open on last round. Several people noticed. Maybe they were still figuring out the correct spring tension to use on the final product and had not got it right by the last shot show.

    So here I am trying to figure out if the Ruger LC380 would be right for me for a pocket CC weapon. First off, I HATE all the dang take up on the 380. Squeeze, squeeze some more, and again, then one more squeeze, squeeze again then okay squeeze and fire. Hate it, but okay wait, this is a CC pocket defensive weapon that is thin so as not to ever print, that has a CT laser and enough safeties so you can pull it from your pocket and not accidentally shoot yourself in the foot and it is accurate at close range. I considered the Sig p239 .380 and the Colt mustang (same thing almost), which as a range shooter, I like WAY MORE. Problem being that with one in the chamber, if that safety is moved in your pocket say goodbye to your foot if you have to “whip it out” (thank you Mel Brooks: “blazing saddles”)

    Consider the application FIRST. Not a range gun. It’s not the super cool 007 PPK. Love those. BUT for a pocket rocket CC gun that hits what your laser aims at, has great sights, and you won’t shoot your foot off when you “whip it out” in an emergency, acurrate as all heck, somebody tell me how the Ruger LC380 don’t do the job right?

    • Chris

      There’s a couple of points here I might can address. As the owner of a fine pair of XD’s (duty-length for the house and a subcompact for everyday carry), with well over a thousand rounds through both (almost 3,000 through the 4-inch) I don’t have any marks on my slides whatsoever, much less from brass exiting the pistol. Also, one of mine is a stainless slide, the other has the black finish, so that’s covered.

      Also, if you notice down near the end of the article, he mentions that his thumb likes to ride up against the slide stop.

      Finally, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be mindful of where your finger is whenever you “whip it out.” Learn to exercise and trust your own trigger discipline so you don’t have to rely on a mechanical safety.

      • ghostwheel

        I posted some other XDS problem videos other people were having below.

        RE: Trigger discipline; Even HICKOK45 did not want to pull the SIG P238 Colt Mustang knockoff out of his pocket. Holster draw only. And that guy is a scary accurate shooter. If he won’t pocket draw it [single action] light pull, don’t expect me to.

        It is a personal preference if you want to put a single action or double action in your pocket with a round in the chamber. HICKOK45 talks about it in the video>>

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W4AVpxvGgg

        Read my follow up comment, that LC380 spongey mile long take up on the trigger makes a good safety.

        Sure trigger discipline is great, but us regular people down here especially on the Big Island of Hawaii, where there is not even ONE official shooting range at all, well us islanders don’t get as much trigger / range time as the rest of you [I don't own a big ranch yet to go shooting on. Boo Hoo]. And heck anyone of us civilian types can make a mistake under pressure. I have to drive 2 hours just to get to a spot up on Mauna Kea where people can shoot at all.

        If you think getting ammo is tough on the mainland, try the big island of Hawaii, most remote land mass in the world. Nobody ships out here, against TSA rules prohibit to air ship ammo out here. And gasoline in Hawaii is the most expensive spot in the USA.

        Glad your XDS works for you, but a few people on youtube seem to have a few problems that i don’t want to deal with out here in the middle of nowhere. Man I would just throw a XDS into the ocean if I had to deal with all the problems people have to deal with on youtube. I do not want to have to send anything back to the factory.

        Mo betta things to do than mail stuff to Springfield to fix. Surfing, snorkeling, fishing, hiking around the volcano, botanical gardens, volcanically heated tidepools, etc.

        So how dumb you think i am depends exactly on where you live, and how much range time you get.

      • ghostwheel

        Chris are you talking about the same gun?

        This is a XDS review not a regular XD.

  • ghostwheel

    Forgot to mention, the way i see all that annoying take up i hate is my real safety. I mean you really have to want to squeeze that trigger to fire the weapon so it will not fire unless you want it to.

  • icepick37

    Never heard your opinion on the Kel-Tec PF9. Know some other swear by it. Just wondering if you had an opinion.

  • http://martinez jonathan

    Love your videos very informative. This is the pistol I’ve been leaning towards purchasing as my first pistol to own also for concealed carry. Just been waiting getting different peoples opinions on it and seeing what others think. I’m pretty much already sold on it I’ve heard nothing but great things about Springfields xds models.

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  • ghostwheel

    “Just the facts man” -Sgt. Joe Friday, Dragnet. [okay it was mam not man but whatever]

    Mac is about 1000X more experienced and has more knowledge with regard to firearms than myself, still I have to come to my own conclusions on this weapon.

    Search “XDS problems” on youtube before you buy. I thought about buying this XDs gun but am buying a Ruger LC380 instead.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jzyxyc2vymY

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QNgEI_Zwek

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3YINGkYA0

    Hey we all enjoy “gun porn” from time to time, but some youtube reviewers [not Mac] sync up those hard rock Ozzy tunes or the like, and the word awesome is used 10 times in the first minute of the review.

    Okay fine but all I want is a real breakdown of the weapon pros and cons. So I am going ruger LC380, spongey long takeup and all for CC weapon.

    Throw the fun music and awesome exclamations on at the end of the review if you want to.

    • Felicia G

      I owned a Ruger LCP and put less then 50 rounds through it before I sold it and bought my XDs. I’ve put about 500 rounds through my XDs 45, and I a 5’0″ female shooter. Zero malfunctions. I also own a XD 40 service size and my husband had the sub compact. We’ve put about 3500 rounds between the three guns, used them at ranges, dry fired and use them for a local pistol league. I’ve routinely dropped my mags in the dirt and sand, I clean them and they work beautifully. I have zero issues putting my life in the hands of Springfield on a daily basis.

  • Col H

    I just watched your video review, and was wondering if feel the dust from the lead bullets is a health concern.

  • ghostwheel

    All I want from a gun review is the Good, Bad, and the Ugly.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFa1-kciCb4

    Something good about a gun, tell me.
    Something bad about a gun, tell me.

    Something ugly about a gun?

    Put a bag over your Glock and shoot it.

  • http://gravatar.com/tierlieb Tierlieb

    Thanks for the review. The gun itself is of no interest to me (not available here, little market for pocket guns anyway, and with our inflated price levels, it would need to be compared to guns that -in the US- cost twice as much). But I learned a very important term today: Man pants.

  • ghostwheel

    Bought a Ruger LC380 yesterday. 8D

  • JC

    somone mentioned joe friday. in the city next to mine, there is a actual sgt joe friday that is a policeman. I could not believe it! he is often on the news.

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  • BG

    What I noticed after doing a ton of research is that pretty much everygun out there you can find videos of it failing or being faulty. Ive seen the same thing for my P238 yet it has never given me a single problem. It really gets old how ppl throw in well this video and that video show it has issues yadda yadda. I honestly stopped trusting all that when I go to buy a pistol. I buy what feels good in my hands and fits my needs as well as has the features I like in a gun. If I find out its faulty I make the manufacturer fix it until its right or I sell it and move on. I would have never gotten my P238 after seeing all the negative reviews on you tube etc. It’s simple to me.. find the gun YOU like.. verify its dependable.. if not .. get it worked on until you have tested and verified its dependable. FTF’s and FTE’s can happen on any gun and have happened more on my Glock then my P238. I see ppl talk highly about Khar and then I find a forum thread of it being unreliable! It’s enough to make you pull your hair out tryng to find the right weapon. I picked up the XDS based on this review.

  • BG

    Ghostwheel, if your going to list manfunction videos at least do it for the right gun. The Top 2 are .45acp. The bottom video did not play for me.

  • Adam

    So xds 9 over he shield 9?

  • Michael Dang

    Hi MAC – I enjoy the information that you share with the community. Thank your for taking the time to produce the quality content. During your review and testing of the SA XDs 9mm, have you ever experienced light primer strikes? I have a new XDs 9mm and am experiencing off center light primer strikes. I have shot 400 rds through the pistol and have had at least 10-12 off center light primer strikes. This happens when I fire a round, hold back the trigger, then very slowly release the trigger to find the exact point of the trigger reset, feel and hear the trigger reset, and then pull the trigger again which sometimes results with off center light primer strikes on the primer. I did clean and lube the pistol before firing the first round and at 200rds. I did heavily lube the rails, exterior barrel and metal contact points. Any thoughts?

    • http://www.military-arms.com MAC

      I’ve not had any light primer strikes. I know some folks reported this with their .45’s as well, but mine never had the issue. I wouldn’t over lube the gun, just a little is all that’s required. What ammo are you using and have you tried anything different? If so, what were the results?

    • http://www.military-arms.com MAC

      Also, I believe the issue is with the gun not going completely into battery which is why it might be an ammo related issue.

      • Michael Dang

        Thanks for the reply. I tried 100rds of S&B 124gr FMJ, 100rds of Federal American Eagle, and 200rds of Aguila 115gr FMJ. All brass cased. I’ve shot thousands of rounds of the S&B 124gr FMJand Americal Eagle in other pistols and haven’t had any issues with the ammo. I do notice at times (not all the time) that the slide would not return to battery fully, then if I wait a second or two it returns to battery. The first cleaning I performed a regular cleaning and lube. The 2nd cleaning I lubed it more, but nothing too excessive in my opinion. I’ll try and find some other 9mm FMJ ammo and try it out. If I experence the same thing with different ammo I may send it in to SA. Next time you’re out on the range could you try and replicate with a slow trigger reset and pull?

        • Michael Dang

          Just to follow up. Shot 100rds of Freedom Munitions 124gr FMJ and 100rd of Winchester white box. Had 5 light primer strikes. 3 with the Freedom and 2 with the Winchester. The XDs was not going into battery fully during the light primer strikes and sometimes it didn’t go into battery and took another 1-2 seconds for the slide to move forward on its own to get back into battery. This pistol is going back to SA for some troubleshooting.

  • Matt

    MAC, I enjoyed your review. The one thing regarding the two XDs calibers that I’ve not seen – or perhaps missed – is a comparison of felt recoil. I have the XDs .45 and enjoy it as a carry gun as well as a shooter. In your opinion, is the FR in the 9mm different enough from the .45 to justify buying it as more of a regular shooter?

    • http://www.military-arms.com MAC

      It’s hard for me to comment on this and be objective because I am not recoil sensitive in the slightest. I think the .45 ACP XDs is a pussycat. Smaller framed shooters, or shooters with less experience with large calibers, might find the .45 to be a bit much. For me, I was surprised just how controllable the little XDs was in .45.

  • Matt

    MAC, thanks. Exactly what I was after. I love shooting my XDs in .45. I was interested in saving some $$$, and I like the 9mm. But if there’s no real difference, why buy the same gun twice. (Not that I haven’t done that, LOL). Thanks.

  • Hiro

    MAC,
    Great review and you always do a great job of putting out some great videos and info. I just wanted to finally give my 2 cents about my own XDS 9mm. I got my xds in June and have been enjoying it ever since. Even though I have medium size hands, my thumb sometimes rides slide release and prevents slide lock on the last round. Ive put about 500 rounds without malfunction.
    However, it has trouble feeding Hornady 115 critical defense rounds. I noticed that the soft polymer tip jams on the feed ramp. But if I load a ball round first, the rest of the critical defense rounds in the magazine feed perfectly. I am on the hunt for finding my defense ammo for this firearm.
    I’ve made my own kydex magazine holsters as the one it comes with isnt practical. The pistol holster isnt bad but I’ll be making my own as well. I’ve added talon grips and pearce grip extensions and work flawlessly.
    Lastly, I live in California where this weapon is not available. But with some research and perseverance, I found a dealer that helped me out and there are loop holes to get it in CA. So when I take it to the range, the range officers are curious. But I let then check it out and shoot it and they all love it. The ROs and my FFL even told me that the XDS is hard for law enforcement to get a hold of due to.demand. I feel blessed for having such a firearm.

  • Hiro

    MAC,
    Please add publish this notice from Springfield about a recall on the XDs 9mm and XDs 45. Unfortunately, my serial number is on the list and I’m going to send it in. While I’m bummed out about this. I am happy to hear that the manufacturer is doing the right thing and being active about the recall.

    http://www.springfieldrecall.com/