That's why I jumped at the chance to attend a Springfield writer's seminar held at Raahauge's shooting park near Norco, California, last October. At this gun-friendly venue, Springfield unveiled a number of special new products. It also held the inaugural, open-to-the-public XD Challenge, a pistol match intended to display the virtues of the Springfield XD pistol. After four days of shooting Springfield's guns and watching the professionally managed match, I came away with a great respect for the company's product line. These folks are making some great guns.
The biggest news is another variation of the explosively popular XD pistol. This new gun joins the already-available XDs in full-size 4-inch and long-slide 5-inch format. It is a much smaller 9mm pistol with a 3-inch barrel and a shorter butt that accepts a 10-round magazine. This little pistol, called the XD Sub-Compact, is in the same size class as the Glock G26 and G27 guns. Obviously, it is intended to go head-to-head with those popular models. The handgun maker who offers an effective police service or civilian defense automatic pistol is always well advised to abbreviate the gun in length and height; the resulting firearm makes an attractive companion to the bigger gun. That's exactly what we are looking at with the XD Sub-Compact.
Initially available as a 9mm only, the newest XD is intended to be a backup gun for a police officer or other service handgunner or a primary concealed-carry piece for anyone who habitually goes armed. With a short, 3-inch barrel and slide, it's small enough to carry easily in a parka pocket, purse or fanny pack.
In the hand, the XD Sub-Compact is a solid, chunky pistol that almost seems a bit top-heavy. There's enough space on the butt for about 21„2 of my chubby fingers. Nevertheless, I found that I had enough grip to control the gun reasonably well in fast shooting exercises. It may get to be a bit more of a problem when the gun becomes available in .40 S&W. As a 9mm, the recoil impulse is short and snappy, which mandates a strong grip and locked wrist for fast repeat shots.
My initial shooting evaluation of the Sub-Compact was at Raahauge's during the writer's seminar. This situation did not afford me a chance to do a proper accuracy evaluation of the gun, but the informal plate shooting we were doing did not cause me to believe an aimed shot from the new XD was going to strike anywhere other than where I aimed it. If you can do your part, it sure looks like the gun will cooperate.
This pistol is like all XDs in that it has a tough-to-classify trigger operation, which Springfield refers to as the "USA" (Ultra Safety Assurance) system. When the slide cycles, the pistol's internal striker is loaded, which leaves the shooter with a short-arc trigger pull of some seven to eight pounds. It's on the creepy side with a certain amount of overtravel. But the trigger pull is also exactly the same for every shot, and that feature makes for both speed and continuity of operation.
There is no external manual safety, but there are both a trigger safety in the form of a pivoting lever on the face of the trigger and a grip safety high on the backstrap. The grip safety must be depressed by a firm grip of the shooter's hand. If this isn't done, you can't manipulate the pistol in any way. There is also an internal striker blocking safety. I consider this system to be safe to handle.
Lots of shooter amenities are on the XD Sub-Compact. There is an obvious effort to build an ambidextrous pistol. To begin with, the magazine catch is a push-in button at the rear of the triggerguard. When pushed from either side, the button will permit the magazine to drop clear of the gun.
On the rear face of the slide, there's a projecting end of the striker, which extends out only when the striker is fully set--a cocked pistol indicator. And centered on the top of the slide at the rear edge of the ejection port, you'll find a small lug. It projects upward to tell you there is a round in the pistol's chamber.
This is a gun with a somewhat oversized triggerguard, which is handy when the shooter is working with gloved hands. This feature has a disadvantage in that it leaves only a short distance from the face of the triggerguard to the front end of the receiver.
One of the currently popular features of a tactical pistol is a dust-cover rail on which to mount a white light. The XD Sub-Compact has a very short rail, but Insight Technologies showed us a miniaturized light with easy-to-work switches. It fits the new XD perfectly and does not project forward of the pistol muzzle.
The XD Sub-Compact is a thoroughly modern pistol design manufactured with the most up-to-date methods. The receiver is molded polymer and the upper is machined steel, all done up in a flat black color. Slightly modified Beretta 92 magazines will work in the gun should the purchaser have any left from the high-capacity days.
There are many advantages to this new pistol design, not the least of which is the backing of a major American firearms maker. It's sort of a dark horse, but the XD family is one that Springfield will ride into the 21st century.
OTHER NEW XD PISTOLS
As stated earlier, the Sub-Compact is a 9mm only, but there is a new variation of the original XD Service Model with a bright stainless steel slide that comes as either a 9mm or .40 S&W. Originals (all black) are likewise still available in 9mm, .40 S&W or .357 Sig. And the Tactical 5-inch-barreled XDs come with the longer slide and barrel uppers in both .40 S&W and .357 Sig calibers. There is no long-slide 9mm XD, but a number of the assembled writers voted loudly to have such a variation in the catalog.
It is obvious that there is considerable interest in the XD series, and Springfield is deeply committed to expanding the line. Thoroughly modern and developing pistols, the XDs are made with polymer lower receivers. There are a few variations in the catalog with lower receivers rendered in a dark OD green color.
All of the new Springfield handguns are not XDs. As one of the leaders in the M1911A1 Government Model pistol field, Springfield continues to offer variations on this old and much respected design. This year, the company has gone even deeper into the mini-.45 arena. Guns with 3.5-inch barrel/slide uppers have been made for several years, but an even shorter gun joins the line for 2003. It's called the Micro-Compact, and its major feature is a shorter upper with a barrel that runs to only 3 inches.
There are four finish variations of the Micro, a compact little alloy-frame pocket .45 that weighs only 24 ounces and runs to 6.7 inches in overall length. In that small package, you get a lot of gun. The Micros come with virtually every feature that the best custom pistolsmiths routinely install on a custom-carry gun--beavertail, ambi safety, trigger adjustable for overtravel, flat mainspring housing, match barrel (no bushing), slimline grips with Torx head screws and a dual recoil spring. Right from the factory you get a lowered and flared ejection port, carry bevel treatment and a beveled magazine well.
But the best single feature of the Micro (and all other fixed-sight Springfield M1911A1 guns) is the use of a genuine Novak Low Mount rear sight. In my opinion, this is the best combat sight on the market.
Like all of the company's M1911A1 models, the Micros have an ILS system on the mainspring housing. This simple device was designed in-house by Springfield's David Williams and permits the user to lock the gun with a key. When the gun is locked, you can't cock, fire, unload, load, open the slide or do anything else. It is literally inert. Micros come in bi-tone, OD green, stainless and Parkerized finishes. You also get a "loaded" coupon worth hundreds of dollars of savings on Springfield accessories. For rifle enthusiasts, the company's line of MIAs, which are the civilian-legal versions of the military M14, remains intact. I took the opportunity to fire its Scout variation, one of the better military-style carbines ever built. The one new Springfield long gun was a newly made M1 Garand in your choice of .30-06 or 7.62 NATO (.308). Having grown up as a rifleman with an MI in my hands, I fondled the new and authentic M1 with great affection. All of these new products were presented to the assembled gunwriters by Springfield's ace exhibition shooter, Rob Leatham. Leatham enjoyed a record year in 2002, winning four major tournaments--the Steel Challenge, USPSA Limited Factory Gun World Championship, USPSA Limited National Championship and IPSC World Championship (held in South Africa). Now in his 40s, Leatham shows no signs of slowing down. For the gathering of writers, he demonstrated his uncanny ability to shoot with top-notch accuracy and blinding speed.
THE XD CHALLENGE
This is a pistol match conceived by Springfield to showcase the virtues of its XD pistol as a service firearm. It is to be held at various ranges around the country and is open to the general public. The XD Challenge at Raahauge's was the inaugural event, which differs from other matches in a number of particulars.
The XD Challenge shooter uses only an XD pistol, which is provided (with proper ammunition) at the firing point. There are five stages, and a different XD pistol in a different caliber is used at each stage. Every stage is run against the clock, and there is a 10-second penalty for leaving any single plate standing. The target scenarios vary a great deal and involve some amount of shooter movement at several of them. This makes for some fast and furious shooting, but there is also a need for accurate delivery of the shots.
Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, some 250 shooters got a chance to try their skill with an essentially new handgun system. All of the ammo was provided by PMC, one of the match sponsors. There was also a special three-stage night shoot on Saturday night. I watched most of the events in progress and saw a variety of skill levels at work. But more to the point of the exercise, everyone had a good time.
Springfield has come up with an excellent means of showing off the up-and-coming XD pistol. When it gets around to putting on the XD Challenge at a range near you, you really need to get yourself and your friends to the firing line. If you already have an XD, practice with it because there is a special Owner's class. If not, I can't think of a better way to get familiar with a pistol that is going to be around in the future. Shooting this special, fun match is a challenge to your personal shooting skill--with a pistol that challenges the handgun establishment. Try it!