Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My First Handgun Part 2 - Springfield Armory XD-40 Service

In 2009 (about 5 years ago) I purchased new a Springfield Armory XD-40 Service. I wrote a piece on it thinking that later on I would write a follow up but I haven't followed up. Since then many things have changed but I still own that sidearm. I won't say that this will have been a long term review for one very simple reason; I basically stopped using that particular firearm around a year after buying it. 

It's not that the gun was bad or anything along those lines; it was simply a matter of daily application. I would occasionally take it to the range along with my other handguns but I haven't used it since at least 2011. In Part 1 of my thoughts on the XD, I indicated that I would acquire a concealed carry permit while I was living in Ohio. This did happen. I had a permit issued to me in August 2010. While preparing for the CCW between late 2009 and mid 2010, I spent an average of about once a month at the range and would fire around 100 to 300 rounds. While there, I would do a few basic drills (not including drawing, loaded from a holster) and practice double and triple taps. I worked to teach myself not to flinch or blink while shooting and to focus on the target. I became somewhat decent with the weapon but I wouldn't ever consider myself an expert with it or any gun for that matter. While at home I would do unloaded drills and familiarized myself with the firearm as best I could by field stripping it down and cleaning it. After a while I located a CCW class I could afford. I was good enough that I qualified for my carry permit with that sidearm during the shooting portion of the class. During the down time before I was issued the permit, I found that carrying the XD-40 wasn't very comfortable. I had purchased an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster but it was a very cheap and not very good holster for carrying the XD (or anything other than my Glock 26). The outside-the-waistband (OWB) belt holster that came with the XD-40 was not that great either. I had trouble with carrying it around the house when open carrying and while concealed carrying, the gun printed massively. Part of the issue here is that I'm trying to carry a wide, full-size handgun that was meant to be carried openly like a police officer carries when on-duty. The XD-40 Service is a "Duty Weapon" hence the "Service" portion in the name. For this reason, I later purchased a firearm that was a little better suited to carry; a Glock 26. But that same reason was completely disregarded as illustrated later on when I acquired my beloved 1911.

The Beginning of the End?

I acquired a Glock 26 in mid 2010 which was meant to become my preferred concealed carry gun. I carried the G26 from around mid 2010 to around early 2011. The problem with this story is that a few months after buying the Glock 26, I purchased the firearm that I ended up carrying 90% of the time. This was a Springfield Armory TRP; my beloved 1911. Later on I would carry the G26 by itself but the lightweight, polymer-framed, striker-fired G26 was usually carried as a backup piece to the TRP, which is a "government" (or full-size) metal-framed, exposed hammer, 1911 clone, a rather heavy piece. The funny thing is that the day I purchased the XD-40, I was primarily looking for a well priced 1911 but didn't find one so I settled on the XD. The stainless steel TRP, or Tactical Response Pistol, came standard with factory-installed Novak tritium night sights, a skeletonized "Delta" style hammer, beaver tail grip safety with raised pad, extended magazine well and a light trigger pull (I haven't measured mine but typically any thing under 5 pounds isn't recommended for carry).  I didn't buy the gun new either, yes I carried a used gun, so it didn't come with the usual package Springfield Armory pistols come with. It only came with one magazine so I bought a Wilson Combat 8 round mag. I'd like to note that I think carrying a used gun is not exactly a great idea. The gun could have been modified in some way that if used defensively, prosecutors may use those modifications against you, even if you were unaware of those modifications. The firearm needs to be looked over by a competent gunsmith to verify its integrity and even still it may not be a good idea to carry it. While at the store, I did notice there was a rather large scratch running down the full-length guide rod but I didn't think much of it, just that it was used and that it was my first 1911.

I was super happy with my TRP at first. It did have a few minor scratches and didn't seem to have the original grips (the grips appeared to be aftermarket rosewood which was fine as it looked good) but I still loved it since it was my first 1911. A few trips to the range later reveled had it had a few issues where the gun had experienced fail-to-feeds, stove pipes and a few other failures. These issues didn't seem to appear with the Wilson Combat mag and only with the original mag, usually on the last round. Since it's well known that mags can be the weak link in the 1911, I chose to use the Wilson mag for carry use. However, after spending quite a bit of time with the TRP at the range, it felt like the slide may have been binding a little. I began to suspect that the issues may have ACTUALLY been due to the "scratch" running down the guide rod. To be fair, it was more like a gash. Closer inspection revealed small raised burrs running down both sides of the length of the scratch. The bushing didn't seem to have any indications that a major burr or anything had caused the gash, so I wondered if the bushing had been replaced or just deburred and polished. Either way, that gash was there and it's ridges seemed to bind with the bushing and slow the action down slightly apon rearward movement. I took some sand paper and tried to remove the ridges as best I could. After smoothing the guide rod, the gun seemed to be fine; my love restored. Even after, I still had doubts about the reliability of my beloved 1911. Which is partly why I carried the Glock as a backup for a few months.

After two paragraphs of loosely related story telling, I should get back to the XD and why I basically stopped using it. The main reason I stopped using it was simply because I adored my 1911 and that I didn't carry the XD. I didn't carry the XD due to that fact that I didn't like carrying it compared to carrying my TRP. The XD just wasn't as comfortable to carry as the TRP. I preferred to carry the TRP even though I didn't trust it as much as the XD and for no good reason other than comfort and gun appeal. I had purchased a leather OWB belt holster the day I got the TRP knowing that I would likely carry the TRP. That holster sits SO well on the belt. It's snug and the angle is just right. Combined with the profile of the 1911 style TRP and the holster, the gun fits well along side my body. I always carried the TRP OWB with preference to the 4-o'clock position. Position and profile combined with a button up shirt made it so that carrying was super comfortable and it rarely printed while I was standing. The only indication was that the part of the holster that covered the muzzle usually sat below the edge of my shirt. That setup with the TRP was my favorite way to carry. However, I never really gave the XD a good chance at being carried. I never purchased a good holster for it which is truly one of the biggest factors when carrying. I can't really say that it was because the XD was too big, the TRP is more full-size than the XD, but the 1911 felt great to carry. I may have liked carrying the XD had I had the right holster but nothing felt better than knowing that I had that .45 on. Yes that TRP was heavy, only had 8+1 rounds with the Wilson mag and I didn't fully trust it but I really liked that gun and I really liked to carry it.

I think that the real reason I relegated the XD to the closet was simply because I liked the TRP WAY more. Not because it was a bad gun simply because I like me some 1911. Yummy.

The XD-40 Service - Current Feelings

Okay, so you like your 1911 more, but what about the year you spent with the XD as your only sidearm? What are your opinions on the XD from then and now? Great question, hypothetical/imaginary reader! The answer is that while I only put around 1000 rounds through the XD, I did like the gun. It seems that it ate the ammo I put through it (usually 180 gr. Winchester White Box or Federal from Walmart), was reasonably accurate as I could usually get the first round pretty close to where I wanted it, the factory white 3 dot sights were clear and the grip wasn't too bad as it wasn't uncomfortable in my hands and seemed to promote a proper grip technique. The gun feels pretty solid in the hands and feels like it is a "quality" piece. I don't remember having any complaints with the trigger except a little take up before the breaking point and the position of the other controls results in easy, positive manipulation. Being in .40S&W the recoil was snappy but not ridiculous. It was definitely manageable. Recoil is similar to the felt recoil on my sub-compact Glock 26 in 9x19 which now has over 1000 rounds through it. Field stripping the gun is easy and putting it all back together is just as easy. I like the grip safety the XD series has not that it makes or breaks the gun for me.

There were a few feeding issues with the gun mostly related to the magazines. Most of those issues were fail-to-feed due to the stiff spring in the spare Mec-Gar mag I bought; maybe it just needed to be used more. A little palm bump on the back of the slide usually sent it into battery. I don't remember having too many other malfunctions but there may have been a few not related to the magazines. Specifically my biggest gripe has nothing to do with the quality or is related to anything critical or substantial regarding the function, utility, dependability or anything really worth paying attention to and how it affects the firearm. In my opinion the XD-40 Service just doesn't look all that amazing; specifically I don't really the back side of the slide where it meets the frame. It just looks a little too odd.

All in all, I like the XD but not enough that I would buy another exactly like it. If I did buy another XD it would likely be one of the XDm series and likely in a different form such as sub-compact. The price I paid was good and I feel is spot on for this category of handgun. If you are looking for a first handgun the XD series is a good place to start. I don't have any real, true complaints about the gun. It seems to do it's job well and seems to be dependable and all for a good price but it just doesn't speak to me in a way that makes me say "I really like this gun!" I will likely end up replacing it with something else but that something else will likely be around $200 more. If you want me to give it a numeric rating I'll give it 4 out of 5 only because it doesn't make me feel super excited about it.

The XD-40 Service - The Future

I still own the XD-40 Service for a very specific reason; I just haven't bothered to sell it. I will be keeping it for a while since it fills the category of what I call the General Purpose Handgun. The General Purpose Handgun is supposed to be the go-to handgun for when really bad things happen. It must be reliable, rugged, easy to use and in a common caliber with good power. If the gun and parts were super common throughout North America then it's perfect. My requirements for the General Purpose Handgun are a semi-automatic handgun that has a 4 to 5.5 inch barrel, double stack magazine, integrated accessory rail, 3 dot tritium night sights and preferably chambered in .40S&W. It can be striker fired or hammer fired. If the firearm does NOT come with 3 dot tritium night sights, aftermarket 3 dot tritium night sights must be available for purchase to replace the factory sights. The caliber requirement is specific to me since I'm a fan of .40S&W but if you prefer 9x19, .45 ACP or other then you could swap out my caliber to fit your need.

You will find that the common term "Duty Gun" is a term that usually applies to firearms suitable for Police use. It should be noted that the General Purpose Handgun is more about civilian applications. However, the characteristics of firearms suitable for the Duty Gun category also happen to be desirable characteristics found in handguns suitable for my General Purpose Handgun concept.

For me, this hypothetical handgun is what I would keep for home defense; it would be part of my home defense system. When at home it's my Home Carry gun; I keep it nearby but the intent is to use it to get me to my long-gun which is stored else where. Should something bad occur, I would have the sidearm immediately accessible to me, I would grab it, make the call for help while moving to my defendable position, acquire my long-gun and wait for said help; improvise as needed.

This handgun would be the firearm you keep at home. Even if you carried a handgun outside the home you would leave this gun at home and carry your CCW handgun. When you get home you might put your carry gun away and put this handgun on your hip. When you go to bed, this is the gun on the night stand. You COULD carry this gun but it may not be suitable for you due to its size. This is also likely to be your bug-out sidearm so keeping it at home with your bug-out bag is a good idea. It might be the only handgun you'll be able to carry with you should there be a SHTF scenario so it needs to be good.

The XD-40 Service certainly fills the roll of General Purpose Handgun but I can't help but wonder if there is something out there I will like much more. I won't be making a purchase anytime soon but I am already at looking for a replacement. Currently the main contenders I'm interested in are the S&W M&P 40, the Glock 23, the FN FNX-40 and the Walther PPQ. I'm open to other options such as the H&K P30. I'm looking for the one that will make me say "I really like this gun!"

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