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Springfield Armory's 'Extreme Duty'

Just maybe the ‘XD’ should stand for “X’lently Designed’

July 01, 2002  |  by Roy Huntington - Also by this author


The XD is virtually custom tailored as a police duty pistol. From the grip safety and lightweight polymer frame to solid steel forgings, it is rugged, reliable, and accurate.

Hey, another black plastic pistol. Now there's an original thought. But, I know Denny Reese, the Co-Chairman of Springfield Armory and know his company does not have a reputation for shooting blanks. Keeping that in mind, Police asked him for an XD so we could see for ourselves. He sent us two.

When they arrived, I"ll confess I was prepared for a big yawn. However, the workmanship and quality of construction were obvious to even a casual eye. I could find nary a machine mark, inside or out.

It wasn't "Gee, there aren't many machine marks," or "Heck, look, only one or two milling marks," but not a single one. It looked like the metal was finished virtually flawlessly, and these weren't castings but forgings, milled to final form. Impressive.

Serbo-Croatian Technology?

Yeah, I know, you're thinking "Yugo" but you're wrong. Even though Springfield is having the XD made in Croatia, we have to remember this contract is the lifeblood of the Croatian factory and business is hard to get. They are treating this project like a NASA space shuttle program and quality control is so tight it reminds you of your 342-pound Uncle Buck trying to fit into his 32-inch Dockers.

These were first-class pistols and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't fault their design, workmanship, or quality of construction. As Denny Reese said, "Dave Williams, the director of our custom shop, traveled to the Croatian factory. He came back very impressed with their quality control. Everything is CNC machined and is either the right way, or no way."

What's So Special?

In order for Springfield Armory to have a viable police duty pistol, it had to reach out for some design features and the XD is full of them. A striker-fired system, the addition of built-in trigger "take-up" until the sear is engaged, and the grip safety, suddenly turns this simple design into a new animal.

One of the most important features on the pistol is the grip safety. Coupled with a trigger safety called the "Ultra Safety Assurance [USA] Trigger," the combination goes a long way toward helping to prevent that bane of striker-fired handguns-unintentional discharge.


The all-steel grip safety also serves to help keep the slide in battery until it’s fully depressed. Molded-in traction surfaces are visible adjacent to the safety.

Additionally, the superior ergonomics exhibited by the grip profile, which bears a strong resemblance to the Browning Hi-Power, makes the XD feel as good as it performs.

The grip safety on the XD prevents discharge and also locks the slide, preventing it from fully opening from battery, unless the safety is fully depressed. The advantages are clear and even though safety is the responsibility of the individual officer, the XD's extra features will certainly help things along.

The XD has a cocked indicator and a loaded chamber indicator. The tail of the striker extends out of the rear of the slide when the pistol is cocked and is obvious at a glance or if you run a finger across the rear of the slide.

The loaded chamber indicator is a small lever located on the top of the slide at the back of the breech area. When a round is chambered, it's visible and obvious to the touch. The combination of the two creates a solid tool and anyone can appreciate its value while crouching in some dark alley waiting for the bogeymen to show up.

The "extras" keep adding up. An ambidextrous magazine release is already installed. Indeed, the XD is virtually ambidextrous as it comes out of the box.

A light/laser accessory rail is molded into the front of the frame and accepts accessories sized to fit the Glock. The overwhelming majority of police gunfights occur at night and a gun-mounted light works gobs easier than juggling a gun in one hand and a light in the other.

Sight dovetails are cut to accept SiG sight fits, so anything that will install on a SiG will fit the XD. That makes aftermarket tritium and/or adjustable sights an easy option. The factory sights are standard three-dot, all steel and tank-tough so they don't wear like some of the plastic versions on other pistols.

The front and back strap exhibit molded-in checkering (no more need for skateboard tape), and the forward portion of the slide has milled-in serrations to assist in double-checking a loaded chamber. The magazine well is nicely beveled and the magazines are chrome-plated. High-caps are available where authorized, with the 9mm version holding 15 rounds and the .40 and .357 holding 12.

Close Quarters


The Ultra Safety Assurance trigger system has a safety lever integral with the trigger. The mag release is duplicated on the other side.

Chances are, if you have to deploy your handgun it will be at toe-to-toe distances and might very easily turn into a fight for your life on the ground. At that moment, most people have a natural tendency to stick that handgun into the belly of their antagonist and start pulling the trigger. With most autos it's the worst thing you can do, but the XD gives you a fighting chance.

The XD's "stand-off recoil spring housing" prevents the slide from moving out of battery when pressed from the front. Almost every other semi-auto pistol will fail to fire if you press against the front of the slide, moving the slide out of battery. The distance necessary to render the pistol inoperative can be as little as a sixteenth of an inch. Honest.

Counting 'Yer Blessings

Let's tidy-up the feature department. There's a grip safety, trigger safety, firing pin safety, deliberate trigger pull, and the stand-off recoil spring housing, all effectively making sure the XD only works when you want it to. Not bad for a duty gun and not shabby for anyone who needs a safe handgun.

The more we shot them, handled them, and passed them around, the more popular the XDs got. Part of the reason they were so well received is the way they are put together.

Unlike some polymer pistols, the XDs have an authoritative feel to them and rest comfortably in the hand-there's no "tactical Tupperware" thing happening. They also seem to fit a wide range of hands, from tiny mini-sized cop hands to the baseball mitt hams of a 6-foot, 4-inch game warden I know, ("I like these, lots," he said. We believed him.)

There are no stampings, but instead actual steel, actually machined. The slide release is beefy and only dwarfed by the takedown lever.

The frame is polymer, with crisp edges and sharp detail work. There's an all-steel mono-block that anchors the trigger assembly, takedown lever, and slide stop, and is the main portion the slide runs in.


The striker protrudes from the rear of the slide when the XD is in the cocked mode. It is easily seen and felt.

I tried a magnet on the frame assembly and found the only thing it wouldn't stick to was the frame itself. All the metal bits grabbed the magnet. The XD is built like the proverbial brick privy yet only weighs in at around 24 ounces for the .40-according to my sorta accurate kitchen scale.

Action Fuss

There's been much fuss over "Is it a double action or a single action?" Well, it's neither. Why should we insist on trying to pigeonhole new designs into categories that are literally hundreds of years old?

When the jet engine was invented and people kept asking where the prop went, they were finally convinced there was no need for a prop. It worked fine without one. Ditto for the XD's action.

You can fling this pistol across the room and against a concrete wall and-barring hell freezing over-it can't fire. Operative word: Can't.

The moral? Don't limit your options simply because one design is different from another or doesn't fit into an archaic method of measuring action types. New technology means new designs now, and on the horizon. Springfield Armory will supply the test results if you ask for them.

Shooting Results

We ran a total of about 750 rounds through both guns combined and that included some grungy 9mm junk. We had one failure to completely chamber one of the junk rounds (green and grimy) so no foul there. We limp-wristed 'em, shot 'em upside down, weak-handed, with the slides against a barricade, and generally abused the snot out of them. Hell, they weren't our guns so we were trying to break them in a sort-of gentle way. All we did was use up perfectly good ammo and gave ourselves blisters. They ran like my 1940 Packard does-smoothly and reliably.

I expected some break-in problems, as you would with any auto pistol, but none surfaced. I plan on shooting them both lots more and if anything lets go, you'll be the first to know. Well, Dennis Reese at Springfield will be the first, so you'll be the second.


The loaded chamber indicator is at the rear of the breech area and is another visual and tactile method to verify the state of the pistol.

Test groups hovered around 1.5 inches to 2.25 inches at 15 yards, from a rested position. The final opinion? We enjoyed shooting these guns a great deal and have a high level of confidence in them for being solid, reliable performers in a police duty holster. Speaking of which, word has it Bianchi and Safariland will be turning out duty gear for the XD.

The really amazing part? Full-boat retail on the XD is about $480 and, frankly, I'd be surprised if you couldn't get them cheaper if you shopped around. The XD is a lot of gun for a bit more than half of what you might pay for some other fancy autos.

Springfield Arms
Extreme Duty Pistol

Calibers: 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SiG
Capacity: 10+1 (15 LE for 9mm, 12 for .40 and .357 SiG)
Barrel: 4.08 inches
Sights: Dovetail front and rear
Sight Radius: 5.9 inches (fixed)
Weight: 22.88 ounces
Height: 7.2 inches
Width: 1.29 inches
Trigger Pull: 5.5 to 7.7 pounds
Magazines: 2 (chrome plated)
MSRP: $489
www.springfieldarmory.com

Roy Huntington is a retired officer, and the former editor of POLICE. He is an internationally recognized firearms expert and the editor of American Handgunner magazine.

Tags: Firearms Reviews, Springfield Armory, Duty Pistols

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