September 14, 2021
By Jeff John
Springfield Armory’s XD-M Elite 3.8 Compact offers a smaller, handier pistol with the styling and ergonomics exemplified in the full-size Elite series pistols that include the Precision, OSP, 4.5 and the 3.8, the Compact’s long-grip 20-shot cousin.
The new belt-size Elite 3.8 Compact offers 14+1 rounds in a dependable, easy-shooting, short-frame platform not to be confused with ultra-concealable, high-capacity pistols like Springfield’s 11+1 Hellcat. Yet this bigger 27-ounce pistol is perfectly sized and balanced for home defense, will still fit under a jacket for concealed carry and fits even large hands comfortably.
The Elite-series slides are sculpted along the top, reducing the annoying boxiness many polymer pistols exhibit, and generously sized slide serrations on either side of the ejection port give good purchase for charging and clearing.
After some 20 years on the market, testing an XD is like shaking hands with an old friend. The ergonomics were carefully laid out way back then and have only gotten better in feel with upgrades in grip texture and slide serration design.
Mechanics have improved, too, and the new Match Enhanced Trigger Assembly (META) has a flat-face trigger with integral overtravel stop. The new trigger pulls straight back with a pull length of a half-inch and breaks a hair before the overtravel stop hits the frame. Reset was unnoticeable under recoil. The trigger pull is a pleasing 4.75 pounds.
Other key features include a hammer-forged match barrel, forged-steel slide, and left- and right-side magazine and slide releases. The mag release is easy to reach; its button is shielded and stiff to prevent inadvertent mag drops. When pressed, empty mags rocket out for fast, fumble-free mag changes.
The slide-lock lever is equally easy to reach and works great as a release. Press straight down and the slide flies home. Interchangeable backstraps help adjust trigger reach. The mag well funnel is removable, but I’d leave it alone. It helped keep my pinky from being pinched by the floorplate when running home fresh mags.
The 3.8 Compact’s safeties include an internal firing-pin block, trigger lever and an unobtrusive grip safety. Above the grip safety in the middle of the slide is a cocking indicator that protrudes enough to be felt with the thumb or seen. The center-mounted extractor rises above the slide as a visual and tactile indicator of a loaded chamber, although I wouldn’t bet my life on either of these features.
Speaking of safety, the modern XD-M pistols, including this Elite, can be disassembled without pulling the trigger. Withdraw the magazine, lock back the slide and raise the takedown lever on the left side of the frame just above the trigger guard. Hold the slide securely, trip the slide lock lever and ease the slide off the frame to the front. The recoil spring is captured on its rod. Lift it off, pull the barrel out from the bottom and you’re ready to clean. Reassemble in reverse. Easy.
The sights consist of a fiber-optic light pipe in the front and a U-notch rear with a white outline. A conventional sight picture putting the flat top of the front sight level with the top of the rear gave me the best accuracy. The sights are easy to pick up and fast to put into action.
The 14-round magazines are difficult to load, something not uncommon in smaller semiautos. I had great difficulty loading past five rounds. I wondered if it was me, so I had a farmer friend—a guy with strong hands—try them, and he had difficulty as well.
The Elite’s mag spring is definitely heavy. Such a heavy spring ensures complete reliability, and there were no malfunctions of any nature from the get-go. When inserting a fully charged magazine with the slide down, the magazine base needed a solid rap to fully seat. That’s the best reason to leave the extended mag bases on, but two thinner, flush-fitting mag bases are provided.
All delivered acceptable accuracy at 25 yards, as you can see in the accompanying chart. Federal 147-grain was the softest shooting but shot to the left. So did the Fiocchi full metal jacket, which also shot high. Black Hills 124-grain jacketed hollowpoints, Hornady 115-grain FTX and Speer LE 115-grain Gold Dot all shot right over the front sight and were dead-on for windage.
Black Hills won the accuracy crown, closely followed by the Hornady FTX. Either would be my choice in this gun. Both loads ranked high in controllability, and the Black Hills delivered high velocity and had the lowest standard deviation of the loads tested.
Springfield’s XD-M Elite 3.8 Compact is a sturdy, utterly reliable self-defense pistol. Fully loaded with a spare mag puts 28+1 rounds between you and a threat with a pistol comfortable in the hand, easy to control, yet still concealable. The Elite is another winner in the XD-M line.
Springfield Armory XD-M Elite 3.8 Compact Specs
- TYPE: striker-fired semiauto
- CALIBER: 9mm Luger
- CAPACITY: 14+1
- BARREL: 3.8 in.
- OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 6.9/4.6/1.2 in.
- WEIGHT: 27.4 oz.
- CONSTRUCTION: Melonite-finished carbon- steel slide, polymer frame
- SIGHTS: fixed; red fiber-optic front, white outline U-notch rear
- TRIGGER: META, 4.75 lb. pull (measured)
- SAFETY: internal firing pin block, trigger lever, grip
- PRICE: $559
- MANUFACTURER: Springfield Armory, springfield-armory.com