August 21, 2020
Springfield Armory has an entire family tree of XD pistols. First came the original XD series, then the enhanced XD-M, the compact XD-S and the newer XD-E. All have polymer frames, and all are striker-fired except the XD-E, which has an external hammer.
They are all available in different sizes, finishes and calibers. So it should be no surprise that the brand-new XD-M Elite line already has five models, including a 3.8-inch version; two 4.5-inch versions (one black, one flat dark earth); and an OSP (Optically Sighted Pistol) Threaded model with a 4.5-inch barrel, tall sights and ready to accept a slide-mounted red dot. And then there’s the pistol we’re reviewing here: the 5.25-inch XD-M Elite Precision. As of right now, the XD-M Elite pistols are available only in 9mm.
Springfield introduced a 5.25-inch XD-M about 10 years ago, aiming it toward competition shooters, and officially, it was/is the 5.25 Competition Series model. In contrast, the new 5.25-inch XD-M Elite is called the Precision, with Springfield thinking this iteration of the pistol would be just as useful as a defensive/tactical pistol as it would be as a competition pistol. I think the company is right.
As polymer-frame, striker-fired pistols go, the XD-M pistols have distinctive looks. For the ABG (anything but Glock) crowd, the Springfield XD and XD-M pistols have always been popular because they have a grip angle similar to the 1911. This has not changed with the Elite.
The XD pistols are also one of the few striker-fired semiautos with a grip safety like the 1911. The original XD/XD-M grip safety is a bit flat, but the XD-M Elite grip safety should look even more familiar to 1911 fans. Springfield has added a memory bump at the bottom of it for a more positive deactivation, and in profile and function it is just like the beavertail grip safeties you’ll find on most modern 1911s.
The forward and rear cocking serrations on the XD-M Elite’s slide have been changed—for the better. They are still flat-bottomed, but the serrations are now twice as wide and cover more real estate on the slide. You will be challenged to grab this slide and not find serrations under your fingers.
The XD and XD-M pistols have always had ambidextrous magazine releases, but the slide-lock lever has always been single-side. With the XD-M Elite line Springfield has added a slide lock on the right side of the gun. And, unlike some handguns, the steel tab on the right actually works as both a slide stop and a slide release, so if you’re a lefty this gun now does everything equally well for you.
At the time of the XD’s introduction, its crisper-than-the-competition trigger pull was another reason 1911 fans tended to gravitate toward it, and the good trigger pulls continued with the XD-M. Apparently this wasn’t good enough for Springfield, so with the XD-M Elite series you’ll see the META trigger. META stands for Match Enhanced Trigger Assembly, and the changes are both internal and external.
Externally, the META trigger shoe is much closer to flat. It breaks at a 90-degree angle, which helps keep your front sight from wiggling side to side as you’re pulling the trigger. The trigger also has an integral overtravel stop.
Internally, the trigger components have been tweaked as well, resulting in a trigger pull that is slightly lighter and crisper, as well as having a shorter reset. Reset on my sample was under 3/16 inch, and trigger pull weight was 5.5 pounds. The trigger pull was so smooth and crisp it honestly felt a pound less than that.
One obvious change with the XD-M Elite is the magazine well. These pistols come with a factory-installed polymer magazine well. The 3.8- and 4.5-inch XD-M Elite pistols have what the company calls its “short” mag well, while the 4.5 OSP and Precision Elite models come with a “standard” mag well that is extended and flared.
As competition shooters will tell you, even a small magazine well will smooth out and speed up your reloads, but don’t think they’re not useful on the street. That’s why the FBI spec’d them on its newest duty pistols.
The magazine well on the XD-M Elite Precision is a sizable one, but it is on an already sizable gun. You’re not sacrificing concealability with the large well, as this pistol never had that.
The bigger your mag well, the faster your reload, no matter your skill level. I practiced reloading the XD-M Elite, and while I couldn’t quite throw the mag in the gun from across the room, it sure felt like it. Reloads were blindingly fast.
Compared to the standard unbeveled frame on the gun, there is no comparison. But if at some point you get tired of the magazine well and want to remove it, the process is simple.
Drive out the roll pin that holds the backstrap in place. At the bottom rear of the backstrap you’ll see a slot, and in that slot you will see a vertical steel pin. Push the top of the pin down and it will slide out of the bottom of your magazine well. You will then be easily able to take off the magazine well, revealing the standard grip frame.
As of right now, Springfield Armory doesn’t offer replacement magazine wells if you want to try a different size—or want a better looking one after scratching yours up by practicing your reloads 3,000 times—but I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes down the road.
XD-M pistols have full-length frames and have always delivered best-in-class ammo capacity at 19+1 in 9mm with flush magazines. The XD-M Elite Precision delivers even more because in order to work with the magazine well, the three provided stainless steel mags have extended base pads—resulting in 22+1 capacity.
The shorter 20-round magazines that come with the 3.8- and 4.5-inch XD-M Elite pistols will work in the Precision, but you have to push up
The XD-M Elite achieves this huge capacity with the long grip found on all XD-M pistols, and no matter how big your hand is, you’ll be able to get all of it on the frame of these guns.
You won’t see checkering per se on the gripping surfaces of this pistol. Springfield instead has gone with raised squares and rectangles. They do a decent job of keeping your hand in place while shooting, although I wish they covered more of the gripping surface.
Like all XD-Ms, the XD-M Elite Precision has interchangeable backstraps, and three different sizes are provided with the pistol. To swap out the backstrap you have to push out a roll pin at the base. Officially, this should be done with a 3/32 punch, but I can never find the right tools around my house and usually end up using a hex wrench to do the job.
The barrels are hammer forged. Both the barrel and slide have a corrosion-resistant Melonite finish, and the slide on the XD-M Precision Elite has a cutout on the top behind the front sight to keep the slide weight the same as you’d find on the 4.5-inch XD-M Elite.
Less reciprocating weight means less muzzle rise while shooting, so keeping the slide weight of this longer model the same as the 4.5-inch XD-M Elite means the Precision delivers an increase in sight radius without an increase in muzzle rise.
XD-M Elite pistols come with steel sights. The Elite Precision sports a fully adjustable rear sight similar to the classic BoMar found on 1911s. It lacks the white dots found on other members of the XD-M Elite family. As I am of the firm belief that the rear sight is a window frame that should be looked through—not at—seeing a plain black sight makes me happy. The front is a red fiber optic.
There is a loaded-chamber indicator atop the slide. When the striker is cocked, it protrudes from the rear of the slide far enough to see and feel. The Elite Precision has a frame rail, and it will accept most gun-mounted lights—making it a great choice as a bedside table gun when things go bump in the night.
This is the biggest pistol in a family of big guns. With its full-size frame, even the XD-M Elite 3.8 isn’t small or easy to conceal. I see the entire line as more suitable for open carry, duty, competition and, as I just mentioned, home defense.
With the extended magazine in place, the XD-M Elite Precision is 6.6 inches tall (6.0 inches without) and 8.25 inches long. I’ve made a career of carrying big concealed guns, and I’ve never carried anything as big as this XD-M Elite. However, at 29.8 ounces it is lighter than many guns I’ve carried, so the pistol’s weight isn’t the issue for me, just the size.
Springfield isn’t specifically marketing the XD-M Elite Precision as a competition gun, but it is a tweaked version of the original 5.25-inch XD-M, which was. You might be wondering why the market seems so rich with competition-oriented pistols, and the answer is somewhat simple: Everyone wants to be like the cool kids. That’s why companies use celebrities in advertising.
That same philosophy applies to the firearms world, but when it comes to selling guns, the celebrities for years have been Special Forces soldiers. If you say gun “X” or accessory “Y” is in use by the Navy SEALs or Delta Force, you’ll sell a gazillion of them.
This same phenomenon has expanded to include big-name competition shooters—Rob Leatham, Doug Koenig, Jessie Harrison, etc.—and the guns built to play their games. If you’re selling a gun or gizmo that is all the rage in USPSA, IDPA or 3-Gun, a lot of people who never have any intention of shooting a match will want to buy one.
Just as importantly, these guns are unique and different and also usually offer some high-speed and functional upgrades, torture-tested in the crucible of competition. Such as what you see on this pistol.
As has happened quite a few times over the past few years, the first time I fired the Elite Precision was during filming for the upcoming season of “Handguns and Defensive Weapons” on Sportsman Channel. It worked great on camera, it worked great off camera, and I would have been surprised if things had been otherwise because XDs and XD-Ms have always been reliable. Accuracy was on par with previous models and the competition.
Rob Leatham won the Production division of the USPSA Handgun National Championships shooting an XD, and the late Ron Avery, an icon of practical shooting, was also a big fan of the design, but it doesn’t see as much use in the competition arena as other guns simply because of its bore height.
The higher the bore off the hand, the more the sight picture is disturbed when you shoot, and the slower you are to get back on target. However, we’re talking a few hundredths of seconds per shot, in a controlled environment.
Heck, unless you’re pushing hard to make Master class in IDPA or USPSA, you won’t be running the gun hard and fast enough in competition to notice much of a difference. Perhaps more importantly, that tiny difference in speed makes absolutely no difference in a defensive situation where there are many other factors at play.
Years of competition experience have shown me a flat trigger breaking at 90 degrees means less muzzle wiggle and therefore more accuracy, although I’ve never done any scientific experiments to quantify the difference. But I’ve seen it, felt it and demand it of my competition guns.
I headed to the range with the Springfield, two other pistols, and two friends. For targets we put up a handful of USPSA silhouettes, a half-dozen Pepper Poppers, and a steel plate rack—a nice combination of small and large targets. We practiced plate rack runs, our transitions from target to target, and working on trigger pull speed.
The great thing about a red fiber-optic insert is that your eye is better able to track it during the recoil cycle, getting you back on target quicker. The trigger broke flat and straight back. And the magazines lasted forever. The Springfield ended up being the favorite of everyone, including me, because, due to its combination of features, we all were able to shoot it more consistently and accurately.
The XD-M Precision model carries a suggested retail price of $653. Considering you don’t get just the gun but also three magazines, three backstraps, a cable lock, and a nice soft case for that price, this pistol is a heck of a bargain.
Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Precision Specs
- Type: Striker-fired semiauto centerfire
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Capacity: 22+1
- Barrel: 5.25 in.
- OAL/Height/Width: 8.3/6.6 (mag inserted)/1.3 in.
- Weight: 29.3 oz.
- Construction: Melonite-coated carbon steel slide; polymer frame
- Sights: fully adjustable rear, red fiber-optic front
- Trigger: META, 5.5 lb. pull (measured)
- Safeties: trigger lever, internal drop, grip
- Price: $653
- Manufacturer: Springfield Armory, springfield-armory.com
Springfield Armory XD-M Elite Precision Accuracy Results