November 4, 2013

Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 Compact Bi-Tone XDM93845CSHC 45 ACP, $797

We tested Glock and Springfield Armory compact polymer 45s in a January 2013 head-to-head test. Here’s an excerpt of that test.

The introduction of the high-capacity Glock pistols was the starting gun for the polymer revolution. But when the low capacity 45 ACP G36 was introduced the reaction was underwhelming. It wasn’t until manufacturers began adapting calibers larger than 9mm to polymer double-action platforms that the sacrifice in capacity for the sake of firing bigger bullets put the G36 in perspective. Loading from a single-stack magazine limits capacity, but also slims the gun.

That’s not the first time a pistol was redesigned to make it more concealable. For example, the original interpretation of the Colt Officer’s model was born from simply shortening the grip of a 45 ACP Government model so that the butt of the gun did not stick out and “print” a bump in the profile of the cover garment. The methodology of slimming the grip and/or making it shorter is the concept behind two polymer guns we tested recently. They were the $637 single-stack Glock G36 and the $797 Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 45ACP Compact Bi-Tone.

The latest incarnation of the XDM series shows an interesting evolution. The signature concept of the XDM pistols was to offer a polymer pistol with a grip profile closer to the Browning 1911. So, chambering the pistol for 45 ACP seems like a natural fit. A key attribute is that the XDM Compact may be operated with either a short or a full-length magazine. Separately, the Glock design has been criticized for its unique grip angle and clumsy ergonomics. But a lot of gun owners have grown up with it and, frankly, know little else. Glock has done much to improve the grip frame, and as time went on, the single-stack Glock has become more widely accepted.

Test distance for our head-to-head evaluation was 15 yards from a solid bench using sandbags and a Caldwell Matrix shooting rest ($60 from Our choice of test ammunition was Black Hills 230-grain JHPs, Winchester 230-grain FMJs, and Hornady 185-grain Critical Defense jacketed hollowpoints.

Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 Compact Bi-Tone 45 ACP, $797

For most buyers the initial qualifier when considering a purchase is price. The fact is that neither of our test pistols was inexpensive may be too much for some buyers. But before dismissing the Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 45 Compact based on price, let’s take a realistic look at what this pistol has to offer.

First, our test pistol came with a stainless-steel slide, hence the “Bi-Tone” in the name. If we had chosen the standard model with black slide comparable to the Glock 36, the price would have been lower by about $60. The XDM comes in an airline-ready big lockable attaché case, and inside, there’s a paddle-style belt-slide holster and dual magazine pouch. Both items include Picatinny rails along their edges for stowing a light or laser. With or without these added attractions, the supplied rig was not a gimmick. The paddle holster was easy to put on and proved sturdy, comfortable, and somewhat difficult to remove from the waistband. Easy on and difficult off is what we prefer in a paddle holster. (Just imagine the opposite.) Both the holster and the dual magazine pouch were tension adjustable via a beefy Allen screw (wrench provided). We think it is reasonable to deduct about $80 for the cost of the full rig because in continuing our comparative cost analysis, we think most buyers would prefer to purchase a dedicated holster for the G36. Glock does sell a belt-slide holster of its own for a very reasonable price.

Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 Compact Bi-Tone

Unmatched versatility. Whether as a 14-round house gun or 10-round carry piece, this is a fun handgun to shoot.

Gun-specific features include three different backstrap panels that alter the circumference of the grip and the length of reach to the trigger. The panels are held in place by a roll pin. Even without the pin in place, the panels were sufficiently trapped by the magazine to keep them in place. There were also two different magazines offering 9-round capacity and 13-round capacity, respectively. The shorter magazine does not offer support for the bottom finger, but Pearce sells a basepad aftermarket that adds a finger groove. The Pearce basepad, however, will not alter capacity. Three additional sleeves were supplied to cover the exposed length of the 13-round magazine. Each sleeve complements a different backstrap and effectively makes the compact grip frame into a full-size pistol with enough room for any size hand.

Elsewhere, there is a grip safety that needs to be pressed for the pistol to fire, a chamber-loaded indicator that sticks up over the top of the barrel hood, and a striker indicator that is shiny and protrudes from the back of the slide. During takedown, the trigger need not be pressed to remove the top end. Glock pistols require pressing the trigger before the unlatched slide can leave the frame.

At the range, we discovered a much more comfortable trigger on the XDM, presenting about 5.75 pounds of resistance. The XDM trigger felt even lighter because the motion had less takeup to get to its break. Its ability to mimic a true single-action trigger comes from the rearward action of the slide compressing almost all of the striker spring. The XD and XDM pistols are double-action only by virtue of a very small final compression of the spring plus the release. To witness how little the trigger actually prepares the striker spring, unload the gun and press on the back of the striker indicator while pulling the trigger. The indicator will press into your finger just before it lets off.

Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 Compact Bi-Tone

Using the supplied holster and 9-round magazine, the XDM 3.8 45 Compact was concealed with only a hint of its presence.

When racking the slide of the XD pistols, we had to make sure the grip safety was pressed. Otherwise the slide was locked. You may never notice this when working the slide of the XDM with a full-size grip frame, but the short frame without the big magazine in place can prevent you from getting the grip safety fully compressed. To some extent, this was also dependent on the size of the hand. But we noticed that the slide never stalled when the operator arched his wrist upward, forcing the web of the hand into the depth of the beavertail. Another characteristic to be aware of showed up when ejecting the short magazine: the edge of the hand needs to be out of the way of the falling magazine. Despite the short frame found on the Glock G36, this was less of a problem due primarily to the large base pad.

Both test pistols offered about the same amount of sight radius and fired from about the same length barrel. The XDM boasts a match-grade barrel, and that may have accounted for best groups measuring less than 1.0 inches across firing either of our 230-grain rounds. Average size groups computed to 1.2 inches, 1.0 inches, and 1.3 inches for the Black Hills, Winchester, and Hornady rounds, respectively. Point of impact was less than 1 inch high at 15 yards. We saw no difference in accuracy when comparing shots fired after hand cycling to shots fired after lockup achieved by ignition. The biggest difference in performance was in terms of velocity and power. The XDM sent bullets downrange about 21 fps faster on average than from the barrel of the Glock G36.

Our Team Said: If the Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 45 ACP Compact is not as concealable as the G36, the difference was not by much, especially with the short magazine in place. But the XDM wins hands down in terms of capacity, and its versatility is unmatched. Use the full-size magazine for the nightstand and the short mag for inside the waistband, purse, or drop it into an automobile console. Even at its lowest capacity, the XDM 3.8 Compact tops almost any available 1911 45. And not inconsequential: This gun was fun to shoot during even the most strenuous portions of our tests.

Comments (17)

Thanks Canovack.

Posted by: SavageSam | December 10, 2013 10:40 AM    Report this comment

SavageSam, I'd imagine that you and Craig Boddington, who writes for Guns & Ammo, would make a good pair as you search for left hand friendly pieces. I receive several gun periodicals, but seldom see much devoted to the left handers. As an aside, you might try contacting Craig, since he is decidedly left handed and might have some good advice in searching out left hand compatible pistols. I know there are a couple of manufacturers who produce left hand 1911s, but their identity slips my mind right now. Most major manufacturers produce and market pistols with ambidexterous controls, but you'd need to check each model to see just how ambidexterous they are. You might take a look at the Standard Catalog of Firearms, the Gun Digest, and/or the Shooters' Bible, as well, since they usually describe which models are ambidexterous.

Posted by: canovack | December 9, 2013 2:58 PM    Report this comment

Where can I find an article(s) on pistols specifically for southpaws or fully ambi? I think most magazines could help out by mentioning when a particular model is southpaw friendly.

Posted by: SavageSam | December 9, 2013 1:06 PM    Report this comment

Like you, old tex, I have owned and shot hundreds of firearms, and I continue to maintain a fairly good sized collection of pieces, all of which are shooters in good condition. While I can appreciate your love of Glock pistols, my personal preferences are with SIG Sauer pistols and rifles. Of course I own several other brands, but my usual "go-to" pieces are SIG Sauer. As the old line used to go from the "God Father" series of movies....."It ain't personal".....but in my case as it is yours.....It's very personal.

Posted by: canovack | November 27, 2013 11:55 AM    Report this comment

I've owned, or shot, every type of semi-auto on the market and I still go back to my Glock's for overall operation and pricing.

Posted by: old tex | November 27, 2013 11:41 AM    Report this comment

I purchased a Glock 36 in 2003 & after using it for awhile, decided it needed some changes.
I sent it to ROBAR in AZ & after discussions with Robby Baarkman, it was very nicely customized by them. (grip, trigger, sights & more). I was very pleased & it became my favorite .45 which I use more than an excellent Kimber that I own.

Posted by: Vinnyz | November 13, 2013 12:12 PM    Report this comment

I don't pretend to know what GunReports has done to this website, but while they may have succeeded in keeping the hackers out with their posts of spam, they have also made it very damned frustrating for we paying subscribers of long standing to post comments, as well. So.....I'd guess the spammers win! We're all screwed.....sorta like our current administration!

Posted by: canovack | November 12, 2013 7:31 PM    Report this comment

John R--you are correct about Sigs not being Left friendly. There are a lot of guns like that. I'll bet half my customers are south-paws. Somehow, someone is missing a big market because I think Left handed shooters are by percentage greater than left-handed people. Glad we don't live in an Arabic nation! At least not yet.

Posted by: lcjonez | November 11, 2013 2:09 PM    Report this comment

Another "plastic gun" with which I am very enamored is the Steyr Mannlicher M-A series. I have an M9-A1, which is ergonomically extremely well formed, feeling very natural in the hand. With a low bore axis, it is a dream to shoot, and mine came with two 17-round magazines.

Posted by: canovack | November 10, 2013 11:57 AM    Report this comment

Being left-handed, I will never buy a Sig. Those pistols are essentially inoperable by southpaws. The XDs get my vote.

Posted by: JEAN F R | November 10, 2013 11:32 AM    Report this comment

While SIG Sauers are my favorite firearms, I really am not turned off by so-called "plastic guns". I just prefer those that fit my hand and feel good in it, as well as those that are aesthetically pleasing. I have some polymer framed SIG Sauers that feel and look good, along with some S&W M&Ps that feel and look good. I also have an LCP and an original model P345 that has no accessory rail.....and they feel and look good.

Posted by: canovack | November 7, 2013 8:03 PM    Report this comment

If it's lite dependable and leathal whats not to like? I used to feel the same way about polymer pistols until I bought a Glock. I now have four and two XDs's,two LCP's a LC9 and a P345. I stake my life on one or more everyday.

Posted by: i37 | November 7, 2013 5:55 PM    Report this comment

I'm gunsmith & dealer. Mostly Sigs. I have three used XDs & XDMs that people have traded in for Sig Pistols. The proof is in the market-always.

Posted by: lcjonez | November 7, 2013 1:01 PM    Report this comment

I have found the XDM-45 Competition, 5.25" barrel, to be comfortable, accurate, and fun to shoot. With 3 each 13 round mags standard,
plus the other XD(M) gear,it is priced to own.

Posted by: Jim Sr. | November 7, 2013 11:02 AM    Report this comment

Just say no to plastic handguns

Posted by: stagger t | November 7, 2013 10:29 AM    Report this comment

I too acquired an XD and several Glocks a few years ago during my plastic pistol phase, all good reliable guns but the novelty of plastic has now worn off. Metal handguns only from here on.

Posted by: Dulrug | November 5, 2013 3:01 PM    Report this comment

The Springfield XD series continues to enjoy a positive reputation for durability and reliablility in much the same manner as the Glock series of pistols. That both have become available in a variety of sizes and configurations is testimony to their popularity. That said, I have owned a handful of Glocks and one Springfield XDM, and I presently own none of either. While I certainly do admire the durability and reliablilty aspects of both series, the Glocks have never felt quite right in my hand, and both brands leave much to be desired, in my opinion, in terms of aesthetic appeal. I much prefer SIG Sauer and Smith & Wesson M&P pistols.

Posted by: canovack | November 5, 2013 11:56 AM    Report this comment

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