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Springfield Armory XD Sub-Compact 3" Pistol

Small enough to fit comfortably in an ankle holster, this striker-fired personal defense handgun offers excellent accuracy and reliability.

December 17, 2012  |  by Nick Jacobellis - Also by this author

Photo courtesy of Nick Jacobellis.
Photo courtesy of Nick Jacobellis.
Over the years I have field tested numerous subcompact pistols designed for use as concealed carry, backup, and off-duty weapons. For a variety of reasons that I am about to discuss, the Springfield Armory XD Sub-Compact 3" is one of my favorite personal defense handguns.

To date I have field tested three different Springfield Armory XD Sub-Compacts, including two in .40 S&W and one in 9mm. I think this is an important point to mention because anytime you test several models of the same firearm you gain a really strong idea of how the gun performs.

I would also like to say that I feel very qualified to evaluate Springfield XD pistols. I have lost count of the number of rounds of ammunition that I have fired through various XD and XD(M) pistols in all calibers.

Feature Rich

XD Sub-Compact pistols, like all XD handguns, feature a striker firing system. They have hammer-forged, 3-inch barrels with Melonite coatings and fully supported feed ramps. Despite their small size, the XD Sub-Compacts also feature an accessory rail designed to fit compact gun lights like the L-3 XML. Springfield says the XD Sub-Compact is the shortest carry pistol on the market with an accessory rail. Other features found on all XD Sub-Compacts, regardless of caliber, include a dual recoil spring with a full-length guide rod, dovetail front and rear standard steel sights or night sights, a grip safety, a loaded chamber indicator, and a striker status indicator.

The XD Sub-Compact is built tough. All critical internal parts are forged from billet steel. The slides are available in two versions: stainless steel or a corrosive-resistant forged steel slide with a Melonite coating. The frames are black polymer.

Magazine size and capacity of course varies with caliber. The 9mm XD Sub-Compact can accept 10- and 13-round standard mags; it will also work with a special 16-round stainless steel mag that features a protective plastic collar and is easily disassembled. The XD Sub-Compact .40 comes with a standard 9-round magazine and a 12-round extended magazine with similar features and design as the 9mm extended mag. Springfield Armory designs its high-capacity extended magazines for its Sub-Compact pistols with a plastic collar around the magazine base to provide the operator with a more ergonomic gripping surface.

Both the 9mm XD Sub-Compact and the .40 XD Sub-Compact weigh 26 ounces when equipped with standard capacity magazines, and 27 ounces with the extended magazines. The overall length of each XD Sub-Compact is 6.25 inches. Height is 4.74 inches with a standard capacity magazine and 5.5 inches high with an extended magazine.

Sighting In

The first XD Sub-Compact that I ever shot was a used .40 S&W model with big dot-style sights. For this evaluation, I also acquired two new XD Sub-Compact pistols from Springfield: a 9mm and a new .40 caliber, both with standard factory three-dot fixed sights.  

Normally, I am not a fan of big dot sights. However, I was able to shoot the used XD Sub-Compact .40 better than any of the other pistols that I have ever tested that have been fitted with big dots. 

While shooting the XD Sub-Compact with the big dot sights, I was able to put 15 rounds into a group on a nine-inch paper plate. That's not bad, considering my rate of fire and my preference for another style of sights.

With that other style of sights, three-dots, the XD Sub-Compact proved much more accurate in my hands. Quick shots with the brand new XD Sub-Compact .40 with three-dot sights produced 1.5- to 5.5-inch groups at 15 feet and 21 feet.

During one range session, a friend of mine who works in a local police supply store helped me fire 120 rounds of Speer Lawman 9mm 124-grain FMJ ammunition through a 9mm XD Sub-Compact. In several strings of fire, we averaged 3- to 5-inch groups at distances from 20 to 40 feet, engaging targets at a fairly quick pace. 

I see this drill as a true test of a personal defense handgun, and when I test firearms that can be carried by law enforcement officers, I prefer to shoot them like they will be fired in different types of CQB situations. So I do not test fire combat handguns like they were target pistols by shooting slowly at traditional bulls-eye targets. Instead, I engage man-size police qualification targets or steel plates shooting double-taps, rapid fire drills, and head shots to simulate engaging an active shooter who is wearing body armor. I also shoot strings of fire from different distances and different angles while executing combat reloading drills.

The XD Sub-Compact pistols scored well in my CQB drills. I had no problem using the 9mm XD Sub-Compact to consistently engage a steel plate the same size as the scoring area of a TQ19 Police Qualification Target at various distances, including at longer ranges. The short stroke of the super smooth striker-fired XD trigger helped me produce a lot of pings and dings on the metal.   

The day before I finished this article I fired another 40 rounds of 124-grain 9mm Winchester FMJ ammunition as well as some of the new 135-grain standard velocity Hornady Critical Duty ammunition at an IPSC Target from distances of 15 and 20 feet. I emptied two 10-round magazines and one high-capacity extended magazine into the torso area of the target. I then test fired the 9mm 135-grain Hornady Critical Duty ammunition. I found it to be noticeably soft shooting and very accurate.   

Tough and Ready

One of the things I like most about XD and XD(M) pistols is that they are extremely reliable, and they can take a lot of punishment. The XD Sub-Compact, in all its various iterations, continues that family tradition. It's a tough gun and when you pull the trigger it fires.

As I've explained, the XD Sub-compacts that I tested for this article was used. What I haven’t told you is that it wasn’t gently used. The gun had not been well maintained by its owner. Even so, that well-worn pistol functioned flawlessly once I added some lubrication to the appropriate internal parts.

Concealed Carry

One of the best things about the XD Sub-Compact as a concealed carry pistol is that you have a number of options for securing it on your body.

When I first began to field test XD Sub-Compacts, I carried them in either a DeSantis nylon ankle holster or in an Uncle Mike's inside the waistband rig. Spare mags were carried in a leather DeSantis AO1 Double Magazine Pouch or in a DeSantis leather A47 Single Magazine Pouch. In warm weather, I generally carry a DeSantis Double Magazine Pouch inverted on my belt under a pullover shirt to prevent this pouch from producing more of an unwanted bulge against my clothing. This makes it easier for me to conceal two spare magazines under a shirt on the weak hand side of my belt.

Another excellent option for carrying XD Sub-Compact magazines is the DeSantis Style N81 Double Magazine Ankle Holster. The DeSantis Double Magazine Ankle Holster can also be used when you need to carry a larger combat load of spare magazines.

Prior to testing the XD Sub-Compact, the XD(M) Compact was one of my favorite concealed carry pistols. Now I definitely have a preference for the 3-inch Sub-Compact. It is a tad easier to carry concealed than the slightly larger Compact, especially in an ankle holster. I like the 9mm XD Sub-Compact so much that I bought the one I tested.

Nick Jacobellis is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and a former police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working as a federal agent.

Springfield Armory XD Sub-Compact 3" Specs

Capacity: 9 rounds, 12 with extended mag

Overall Length: 6.25 inches

Barrel Length: 3 inches

Height: 4.75 inches with compact mag

Weight (empty): 26 ounces with compact mag

Barrel: Steel, Melonite, with fully supported ramp

Frame: Black polymer

Slide: Forged steel with Melonite finish

Sights: Dovetail front and rear, three-dot

Recoil System: Dual spring with full length guide rod

Price: $439, $516 with night sights


PHOTOS: Springfield's XD(m)-9 5.25

Springfield Armory XD(M) 3.8 Pistols

Comments (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

LEO Mike @ 2/6/2013 8:22 AM

Got it. Tough as a tank and accurate as a laser..if you do your part...;-]
Great off duty or back up pisece and could even be used for plain clothes duty assignments.

bill Irwin @ 12/20/2013 2:56 AM

just bought one, 200 rds 1st outing, really like the feel, low recoil, and accuracy
put finger extension on small mag, will add laser later

Jennifer Herod @ 11/20/2014 7:37 AM

I am a Pistol Instructor, and I put all my newbies on this to start. My women students love love love it! They tend to have more fear, and find it easy to operate and not so "scary" even preferring it over my .380 PPK. Men who have shot it like it as well, and comment on how smoothly it operates. It will take the abuse and keep on shooting. I give it a big thumbs up!

Kevan @ 12/14/2014 5:41 PM

I am thinking about getting an XD subcompact 9mm. I plan on getting my CCW when I can. I saw in one place I looked that it was not a gun for a new shooter. I have never owned a semi auto handgun, but do have a 22 and 32 revolver. I shot a 45 auto in the Navy and did pretty good. I am glad you said you put all the newbies on the XD subcompact. I like the looks of it, the ease of take down and maintenance of it. Looks like it is for me.

Chris @ 12/26/2014 6:26 AM

Picked up my XD9 Sub-compact a couple weeks ago and can't say that I will ever purchase any other brand /model. Took the wife shooting , gave her some basic fundamentals and she unloaded 16 rounds center mass I'm confident about leaving her and my son at home when I leave for work. Thanks Springfield Armory!

addison owen @ 6/16/2015 12:13 PM

Been educating myself on a personal carry weapon,if there was any doubt to purchase a springfield armory product, it was which one the search has ended XD subcompact 3 9mm 430 im all in

XD subcompact @ 4/26/2016 6:07 AM

Hi Nick I have a question besides the obvious engraving on the 9 mm and 40 caliber magazines is there any other way to tell these 2 different caliber magazine apart like groves or longer beveled center thanks appreciate your XD firearm review.

John @ 2/5/2017 7:01 PM

Do the XD9 sub-compact (3 inch) and the XD9 Duty pistol (4 inch) use the same magazines?

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