Back in the day, when legendary Colt’s exhibition shooter and law enforcement consultant J. Henry FitzGerald wrote, “A pocket holster is a good place to carry a revolver…” the Colt Model 1911 .45 ACP semi-automatic was the most highly regarded U.S. military sidearm since the Single Action Army; but it was not a gun suitable for FitzGerald’s advice on concealed carry practices. His reference to a “revolver” was predicated on the small frame Colt Detective Special and Banker’s Special .38 caliber models, specifically ones he had modified with a bobbed hammer and cutaway triggerguard suitable for pocket carry. A “pocketable” .45 ACP semi-auto did not exist in 1930, nor would it for another 82 years!
The Springfield XDS is literally a gun that took a century to evolve. The XDS is more than achieving a benchmark in size reduction; it is about building a .45 ACP semi-auto that is strong enough to handle modern defensive ammunition, yet controllable enough to be accurate.
The XDS is the latest within Springfield Armory’s modern variations of .45 ACP semi-autos. The earlier XD and XDM Series had already established a new standard for multi-purpose semiautomatic pistols. While the larger XD series available in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP have found great acceptance within the general firearms community over the past decade, the XDM has become one of the most popular semi-autos for personal protection and concealed carry needs. The still smaller XDM Compact, introduced last year, raised the bar for a .40 S&W model with its standard match-grade 3.8-inch barrel, shorter grip frame (like those on the XD Sub-Compact X-Treme Duty model), making it an excellent choice for concealed carry.
What everyone wondered when the .40 S&W model XDM was introduced, was could this gun be made slightly smaller and at the same time stepped up in caliber to .45 ACP, something that no gunmaker has been successful in accomplishing. And before you say Semmerling, it was not a true semi-auto. In January 2012, Springfield Armory answered the question with the unveiling of the XDS .45 ACP 3.3. To everyone’s astonishment, Springfield had seemingly done the impossible—scaled down a .45 ACP semi-auto to dimensions that fit squarely into the “pocketable” Pocket Pistol category and do so while maintaining a reasonable 5+1 standard capacity, excellent weight and balance and more significantly, recoil management that goes beyond expectations.
From a purely visual standpoint, the XDS should be a very hard gun to handle given its modest weight (21 ounces empty as tested), overall length of 6.3 inches, height of 4.4 inches from the base of the magazine to the top of the rear sight, and slide width of 0.9 inches. Add to that a lightweight polymer frame (which usually means harsh recoil) and you have a gun that should have a very hefty kick when you fire it. The first time you pull the trigger and that doesn’t happen… there is a moment of pause. The weight, balance and internal design (recoil spring and plunger) mitigate a significant degree of felt recoil, making the XDS more manageable and quicker to get back on target than even larger .45 ACP Subcompacts and Ultra Compacts. In terms of overall size, only the Semmerling LM4 slide-action .45 ACP pistol is smaller—and not by much. Thus, the XDS has literally established a class of its own.
The XDS is in effect a scaled down XDM, however, making the step up in caliber from .40 S&W to .45 ACP makes this a much more demanding firearm for internal operation given the higher pressures developed by modern defensive .45 ACP rounds combined with a shorter 3.3-inch barrel, versus the XDM ’s 3.8-inch barrel.
The XDS has a clean, uncluttered profile with a slightly raised slide release and a simple takedown lever, both on the left side of the frame. Neither has an edge likely to catch on clothing or impede draw or re-holstering. The checkered ambidextrous magazine releases are slightly angled and require a firm press to eject a spent magazine. There is no magazine disconnect and the XDS will fire a chambered round with the magazine removed. Since “cocked and locked” (even though there is no manual safety lever to “lock”) is the only way to carry the XDS with a chambered round, Springfield utilizes dual safeties, which employ a Glock-like pivoting trigger toggle (known as the USA or Ultra Safety Assurance trigger system), combined with a 1911-type frame-mounted grip safety. Each without the other leaves the gun inoperable and both are quickly deactivated by the natural action of gripping and firing. There is also an indicator for a cycled action and loaded chamber that can be seen and, more importantly, felt should one be in a situation that makes a visual check impractical. The loaded chamber indicator is located behind the ejector port on top of the slide. The leading edge projects upward just enough to either see it from the side, under your line of sight, or surreptitiously feel it by running a finger over the top of the slide.
There are precious few things that haven’t been designed into the XDS model—including drift-adjustable front and rear sights, white dots rear and red fiber-optic front, ambidextrous indexing thumb rests and interchangeable backstrap panels to tailor the fit of the gun to an individual’s hand. There are two sizes in the XDS kit, which includes the high-impact plastic carry case, an injection-molded paddle holster and dual magazine pouch. The XDS comes with two standard 5-round magazines and one extended capacity 7-round, thereby making the XDS suitable both for concealed carry and home protection by increasing capacity to a total of eight rounds. The extended capacity “XD Gear” magazines also have a removable frame extension piece that elongates the grip and continue the heavy textured gripping surface.
Another area where the XDS excels is the ease with which it can be disassembled. Simply remove the magazine, clear the chamber, lock the slide back and rotate the takedown lever upward (it’s the large knurled lever a third of the way back on the left side of the frame), pull the slide to the rear until it disengages from the slide lock, pull the trigger, and then pull the slide forward off the frame. The recoil spring, guide rod, and barrel are then easily removed. Reassembly is just as quick.
Like other XD models, the XDS utilizes a striker-fired system, which Springfield Armory has fine-tuned to reduce trigger take-up and provide a short reset. Including engaging the trigger safety toggle there is about 0.5 inches of travel and the trigger remains crisp and consistent with every shot requiring a nominal 6.59 pounds average on the test gun.
A striker-fired system is unique in that “technically speaking” it is neither a single-action nor a double-action, since there is no internal or external hammer involved in discharging the gun. The same argument can be made for other striker-fired semi-autopistols.
Normally I would try a variety of holsters with test guns to find the one that works best. Springfield, however, offers their guns with a complete set of accessories that includes an “XD Gear” PH1 injection-molded thermoplastic paddle holster, form fit to the gun. The paddle rig is easy to position around the waist for a comfortable fit and maximum concealment.
There are also two pocket holsters currently available for the XDS, the DeSantis Nemesis (631-841-6300; desantisholster.com) and the brand new McCabe Front Pocket Holster (814-946-9342; mccabescustomleather.com) form fit to the XDS. The DeSantis Nemesis ($24.99) uses a tactile (rubberized) outer finish that grabs pocket fabric to keep the holster in place, while a soft pack cloth is used to line the pouch and provide a smooth, low friction draw. The brand new McCabe pocket rig ($55) uses a rough out wet-fit suede pouch with a saddle leather interior and a large heavy stitched “hook” to stabilize and keep the holster centered in the pocket. The form fit McCabe rig is molded to the XDS contours so the gun stays absolutely put once holstered. All three types of holsters performed perfectly with the XDS, so it comes down to a matter of choice, but this is the first truly “pocketable” .45 ACP ever and a pocket is where it is designed to go.
A secure grip on the XDS requires placing the little finger firmly under the magazine for support, unless the extended magazine is used, in which case a full grip is possible. As for the interchangeable backstrap panels, I found the larger panel better suited. The panel can be quickly changed for a slightly narrower back piece to shorten the grip circumference. Overall the XDS feels more comfortable in the hand than expected because it has a good-sized grip frame, a nice integrated beavertail just over the grip safety and a center of balance in line with the magazine release (3.5 inches back from the muzzle) with 5+1 rounds on board. This weight distribution offers excellent stability in the hand (as polymer-framed semi-autos generally tend to be muzzle heavy). Fully loaded the weapon’s carry weight averages 29 ounces.
Test protocol for guns with a 3.3-inch barrel is a measured distance from the target of 15 yards (45 feet). Ammunition was Federal Premium Law Enforcement 230-grain Hydra-Shok, Hornady 185-grain FTX, and CorBon 160-grain DPX, providing three very different grain weight bullets. All shots were fired offhand using a Weaver stance and two-hand hold at 1-second intervals. Federal cleared the ProChrono traps at an average of 800 feet per second (fps), Hornady at 940 fps, and the always hot CorBon DPX at a smoking 995 fps average (a high of 1,105 fps). Recoil was most substantial with Federal and CorBon. The most accurate and manageable load in the XDS was Hornady 185-grain FTX, which placed five consecutive rounds (twice) all overlapping at 1.2 inches in the 10 ring at 10 o’clock. An almost nearly identical grouping was achieved with the heavyweight Federal Premium Hydra-Shock nailing five rounds at 1.5 inches in the 9 and 10 rings at 9 o’clock with three overlapping. The higher velocity CorBon took a little time to nail down on earlier test targets as it consistently hit 3-inches above point of aim at 15 yards. After compensating aim, consecutive hits were achieved with a best five-round group in the X ring measuring 1.75 inches with three overlapping dead center in the X. Trigger reset on the XDS was instantaneous and recoil lighter than expected even with heavy hitting Law Enforcement rounds. Sight reacquisition was nearly seamless from one shot to the next, making this an easy gun to handle despite its small size and large caliber.
As a defensive handgun for concealed carry the new Springfield XDS would certainly have impressed J. Henry FitzGerald, as it should anyone who picks up this remarkable, scaled down .45 ACP semi-automatic. The XDS has every essential attribute that makes a semi-auto desirable for personal and home defense needs, only with the added stopping power of a .45 ACP. For pocket or holster carry, this is without question one of the most significant new handguns of the 21st century. For more information call 800-680-6866 or visit springfieldarmory.com.