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A good while ago I owned a Springfield XDS with the short 3-inch-plus barrel in .45 ACP. Now, that was a handful. I’m no stranger to smalller-framed .45s… back in the late 1970s I owned a Star PD, the Spanish-made 6-round .45 that was loosely modeled on the 1911. I liked that gun. But, like the Springer it was a handful when you pulled the trigger. It used an aluminum alloy frame coupled with a Commander-length barrel. They sold quite a few of those guns. That was back in the day when we didn’t have nearly as many options for concealed carry as we do today. You pretty much carried a revolver of some type or a 1911 — not much in between. So, when the Star came along with its lighter weight and ease of carry, it made quite a splash. Jeff Cooper even mentioned it in his long-out-of-print Cooper On Handguns book. He liked it, if I remember correctly. Wish I could find my old copy of that book — if you have the chance of picking one up, do so — it’s a good read. Anyway, 45 autos have evolved throughout the years to the point that we now have several carry options. Most of the newer guns are striker-fired, although the old 1911 has never been more popular. You do have a choice. I also owned a Kahr CW-45…talk about a handful to shoot! The light, single-stack Kahrs are popular, because they tend to work and are easily concealed for carry. I also owned their tiny 9mm.
Yet one more smaller-framed .45 that found its way to my house was a Glock 30. This gun was a bit larger, but was the compact version of their .45. That gun was a bit easier to shoot due to its wider frame and slightly-chunkier weight. But I think my favorite small-frame .45 that I owned was the Springfield Armory XDS I mentioned above. It was a single-stack, striker-fired pistol that came with a 5- and 6-round magazine. (You can buy 5-, 6- and 7-round magazines for this gun — the extended 7-rounder is shown in the photo above). While we’re talking about magazines, this is a good place to say that the 4-inch version was discontinued when Springfield Armory introduced the Mod 2 guns but is readily available online and at gun shops. You just might have to look a little to find one.
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The Springfield Armory Difference
I also owned a Springfield Armory (let’s call it SA for short) XD(M) .45 Compact. That was a double-stack gun that used 9- or 13-round magazines. I got in on a factory magazine give-away when I bought it — I got extra 13-round mags and a cool SA range bag. I liked that gun, as well.
Why do I like SA guns? There are a few reasons. First of all, there’s the grip safety. (OK — you may now form a line to the right and take your turn whacking me for liking a grip safety — I know that a lot of you don’t like them). Anyway, I like it. I’m a lefty and traditional left-side thumb safeties don’t cut it for me. It’s nice to know that I have an additional safety layer via that grip safety. At any rate, 1911s have had them since they first made their appearance and many of you shoot that gun without issue.
Another feature that I like is the tactile loaded chamber indicator — again, form your line — as it makes it very easy for me to see if there’s a round in the chamber without having to look at it. It’s hard to look down into a chamber “port” that is just a hole in the chamber top when it’s dark or nearly so. I have used the “feel” method of seeing if the chamber was loaded and it was a good thing I did, but that’s another story. Anyway, I like that feature. Taurus got away from the tactile lever LCI on their new G3 guns — the older G2 models had the lever; the new ones don’t. I’m one who wishes that they’d kept it.
The third feature that I really like is the fiber optic front sight. My aging eyes sometimes have a hard time picking out the front sight when the gun is presented in typical fashion. The “glow-y” sight really helps…
…and, if you don’t like the red rod, clip it and replace with one of the other colors that come with the gun.
That’s very easily done. Clip the old one, insert a new color with ends just past the sight’s ends and heat with a lighter or match to melt the ends and form a blob that holds it in place. If you like green or orange, you’re in business. This sight really does gather light and almost glow when aimed at a target in daylight.
But, perhaps my favorite SA innovation is one you can’t see from the outside. Here it is:
Here we have the underside of the slide. Look at the central feed ramp in the center of the slide. Notice anything different about its end, on the right? See the little “ski jump” on the end, just before it ends? That hump is put there on purpose. I went into the reason for it when I reviewed the XD(M) Compact .45 (see the link above). In the first generation of the XD guns, SA knew that folks who shot a lot of lead semi-wadcutter loads were having trouble with the rounds not feeding. The SWC loads would hit the chamber and then the exposed case mouth or the bullet’s sharp driving band, due to the SWC bullet’s shape, would catch on the chamber top. So, they went back to the drawing board and came away with this fix. All .45 ACP guns after generation one have what I call the “ski-jump-hump” — it forces the cartridge’s nose down upon loading and helps it to chamber properly. I shot I don’t know how many SWC loads in my XD(M) .45 with no failures to feed at all. It is a perfect example of a company listening to its customers and coming up with a fix, then incorporating it into all subsequent models.
While we’re looking at photos, here are a few more…
Barrel and recoil spring assembly. The dual springs really help tame recoil.
You can’t really see how shiny it is, as we had just shot the gun but SA polishes a feed ramp like no other manufacturer I know of.
The gun ships with one each five and six rounder. As mentioned above, seven-round mags are available as in the top photo.
Some folks like this texturing, others don’t. It does work. The backstrap is interchangeable. Also note the bladed trigger – nothing new here. It was a nice trigger, though — right around 5 Â½ pounds (how to measure it).
Let’s check the specs…
|Barrel:||4.0 inches, Melonite finish|
|Sights:||Steel drift-adjustable; fiber optic front, dovetail rear|
|Magazines:||One 5-round and one 7-round (our sample had one 5- and one 6-round; it was an older model)|
|Trigger:||Bladed safety; trigger pull averaged 5 pounds, 11.1 ounces|
|Weight:||20.4 ounces empty; 27.4 ounces with loaded magazine. Weights are from my digital scale.|
|MSRP:||$524 (new 3.3-inch Mod 2 XDS). The 4-inch version has been discontinued but is still available at|
|Real-World Price:||$470 (XDS 4.0)|
Shooting The XDS
As I loaded the magazine with 230-grain FMJ rounds, I was reminded of the XDS I used to own. You’ve heard the saying: these are guns that are meant to be carried a lot but shot little. I’m not so sure I subscribe to that where the XDS is concerned. The dual recoil springs and the weight of the gun help to reduce felt recoil. Of course, it kicked but not enough to cause concern or consternation. I was able to keep the sights pretty much on the target.
We shot a bit of Hornady ammo and more Fiocchi 230-grain FMJ loads. As with most of my reviews, I won’t post photo after photo of targets — I have one to show you. I figure that you are smart enough to know that a gun like this is going to work, pretty much, and I don’t have to shoot 47 targets to convince you of that. Also, we’re still in a bit of an ammo crunch and I was very glad to receive some boxes of ammo from Fiocchi for testing.
I tend to print groups to the right on target and this one was no exception…
We shot at about 15 yards off-hand, no bench. I see two groups here — the multi-shot hole at the top and the 4-shot group below. The ammo shot to the gun’s front sight OK, which is good. We didn’t attempt to move the sight, as the gun belonged to a friend’s son. But, rest assured, this XDS should shoot very well with whatever load is put through it. I didn’t get the chance, but I would have loved to put some of my SWC loads through the gun. They have proven to be fairly accurate, and, with the central feed rail as described above, would feed effortlessly. I like the ammo that Fiocchi sent me. I’ve had really good accuracy from it, especially in rifle calibers at distance. I’m more of a handgun guy, so I appreciate the .380, 9mm, .38 Special and .45 stuff they sent.
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I could see carrying this gun. Of course, that is the intent of the manufacturer. But…I could also see using it in a steel competition or other contest. After all, it has what is basically a Commander-length barrel (minus Â½ inch). If you pick up a 7-round magazine (included with the new Mod 2 guns), you will then have a gun that holds as many rounds as a lot of 1911 magazines. I could definitely see this at some competitions. The trigger is manageable and the sights are excellent. All in all, the gun is a shooter.
This isn’t necessarily connected to shooting the gun, but it is connected with cleaning it — take-down. SA makes that easy. Simply remove the mag and make sure the chamber is empty, then lock the slide back. Swing the take-down lever up, release the slide, pull the trigger and the slide comes off. Take out the barrel and spring and clean away. Reverse it by putting the barrel/spring in the slide, put the slide back on the frame, lock it back and swing the take-down lever down. Done.
Here you go…
In The End…
So…what have we learned? Hopefully you come away from this review with at least a bit more knowledge than you had before about SA’s “little giant” XDS. You can get this gun in 9mm and .40 S&W, but I like the ol’ .45. Them-there big punkin balls a-comin’ outta the barrel (as one of my friends put it) would be enough to make most folks bent on doing you harm to maybe re-think that plan of action and beat a hasty retreat.
Having owned the 3.3-inch version of the .45 XDS, I can say unequivocally that the gun is one heck of a carry weapon. It’s also a hoot to shoot. If you learn to control the muzzle when you fire it, you will be rewarded with a string of hits on the target that may surprise you. Having the ability to feed lead semi-wadcutter bullets is huge, too — for reloaders like me, anyway. If you get a chance to pick one up, try it — it fits my hand perfectly. Mine rode in an IWB-style holster. Many times I had it with me and forgot that it was there, since it’s barely an inch wide. I had full confidence in the gun’s ability to deal with whatever situation came up. Share with us below your experience with this little boomer — we’d like to hear from you.
As always, keep ’em in the black and be safe!
Thanks Mike another informative article, I think the 7 round magazine would offer the best grip for the shooter to control recoil I am curious how concealable it would be with that magazine. Have a good week.
Marc, as long as you have a good holster, preferably IWB, it should hide OK. Mine with the 6-rounder did well — the 7 isn’t that much longer. You need to see one up close and “try it on” if you can find one in stock locally. I really like the XD guns. They’re well-made and reliable. Thanks for writing!
I own two xds 9mm an my favorite tried true 45 cal both are easy to use an cleaning is breeze. I carry IWB and also forget I have it on! Nice to see articles on a compact. Thank’s Mike.
John, thanks for the kind words. I really liked mine – it carried easily, as you attest to. And, compacts are really hot right now – it’s getting hard to get them to review. Thanks for writing!
I just love this SA 45 4.0 it is a dream to carry and with the 230 gr. ball ammo is hard hitting and makes big holes.
Gunnery, you got that right. I’ve always been partial to those big ol’ “punkin balls” in my carry guns. I’m glad you enjoy your 4.0 – that’s a nice size. Thanks for writing!