Recently, Gun Tests magazine received a letter urging us to test more deep-concealment guns, claiming that they are the most popular gun of the day. Checking with one of the larger distributors (www.camfour.com), confirmed that it is the subcompact and micro guns that are currently driving the market. In this test we didnt evaluate a pocket gun, instead shooting a compact pistol that was just one step larger than the smallest model available from the manufacturer.
The first test gun we chose was the $697 XDM 3.8 from Springfield Armory. Since the first XD pistol to hit our shores from Croatia was the Four-inch Service Model, we were tempted to refer to the XDM 3.8 as belonging to a “sub-service” category. The XDM 3.8 utilized the trigger to release the striker after rearward movement of the slide had loaded the striker spring nearly to full strength. Pressing the trigger on the XD series pistols tops off the compression of the striker spring and releases the trigger.
We began with three choices of test ammunition, consisting of Remington UMC 115-grain JHP rounds, Federal American Eagle 124-grain FMJ rounds and 115-grain FMJ rounds of new manufacture (red box) Black Hills ammunition. When we realized our supply of the American Eagle rounds was going to be limited, we decided to shoot our action tests with a fourth, less expensive, round. These were the Black Hills remanufactured 124-grain FMJ rounds sold in the blue boxes. Curious about the accuracy of these economical rounds, we decided to add them to our bench session. Test distance from support was 15 yards.
After accuracy data had been collected from our bench session, we set up a timed close-quarters exercise. For this test we posted a paper replica of an IPSC Metric target from www.LEtargets.com 7 yards downrange. The drill was to engage the target with two shots to the 5.9-by-11-inch rectangular A-zone at center mass, and then a third shot to the upper A-zone. The upper A-zone measured about 4-by-2 inches and represented the cranial pocket of this roughly humanoid silhouette. After ten runs we looked for 20 hits to the “chest” and ten to the head. Start position was holding the pistol in both hands at roughly the position one would clap their hands. We kept track of elapsed time by using a shot-activated timer and took note of our accuracy. Our operator began by dry-firing the exercise at the command of the audible start signal. Once the operator was able to completely visualize the run, at the sound of the timer the shooter was ready for live fire. But keep in mind that each gun was afforded one try and one try only at our action test.
Our 9mm XDM 3.8 pistol arrived in a formidable black synthetic attaché case measuring about 16 inches wide by 12 inches tall, with a long handle that rotated flat between the high-quality locking points. Inside was the pistol and two 19-round stainless-steel magazines. There were also two backstraps, a paddle holster and a dual magazine pouch. Each item had its own cut-out in the heavy foam interior. Additional areas were precut for storage of other accessories, such as a weapon light. The edges of the magazine pouchand the edges of the attaché itself were finished with a Picatinny rail. A slick operator could use these rails to hold a light temporarily or for illumination of a work area.
The XDM pistols do not replace the original XD series. The XDM pistols are an American-style update of the XD. Before being imported and marketed by Springfield Armory, the XD was the primary sidearm of Croatian law enforcement. After the Glock pistol showed everyone what a success the polymer pistol could be in America, nearly every pistol company tried to develop and manufacture its own polymer pistol. Springfield Armory simply bought into a proven product and developed new models varying in frame size and caliber for the stateside market. The XDM series is the next generation based on a few thoughtful improvements.
These include a streamlined low-mount rear sight with the rear face flush to the back of the slide for maximum sight radius. The front sight has a new profile, too. When you line up the rear sight of the XDM with the blade on the XD Four-inch Service Model, rear edge to rear edge, the shorter-barreled XDM 3.8 actually has about the same sight radius. Thats because the rear sight on the XD pistol is inboard about 0.30 inches. The grip of the XDM was flatter on the sides and longer, too. This resulted in greater capacity by three rounds.
The XDM 3.8 features three sizes of interchangeable back straps (small, medium, and large). The medium should suffice for nearly all shooters, in our view. A more subtle change was the relief sculpted into the top of the grip. Here the thumb dish (on both sides) was slanted downward, pre-staging the thumb toward the ambidextrous magazine release. The grip texture was, according to our staff, much improved.
The slide-release and takedown levers have been streamlined and so has the profile of the slide. More stylish and effective cocking serrations have been added, and the accessory rail now offers three cross hatches instead of two. The most noticeable change internally resulted in the operator no longer needing to press the trigger to remove the slide from the frame.
Two-tenths of an inch doesnt seem like much, but combined with the increased leverage of the longer grip, we think the XDM 3.8 offers greater shooter control. We also liked the tactile sensation of the grip and index to the trigger. From the bench we were able to print an AGR of less than one inch with each choice of ammunition. We think this was because the XDM grip helped us with our follow through. At 0.75 inches, the Black Hills 124-grain FMJ rounds shot the tightest AGR. But thanks to a greater variation between largest and smallest groups, the shots were spread the most haphazardly across the target (mean shot radius was computed to be 3.14 inches). The 124-grain American Eagle rounds finished second with an AGR of 0.82 inches, but we were able to achieve greater consistency with this round, as illustrated by the least difference in size between smallest and largest group radius (maximum spread). The total area covered by all ten hits on target (maximum shot radius) was also the tightest as well.
It was in our action test that we found more evidence of a higher level of control and consistence performance offered by the XDM 3.8. Although not the fastest of our test pistols over the course of ten runs (average elapsed time was about 1.99 seconds), we were able to shoot a perfect score on target. That means that all shots were inside the A-zones top and bottom. Third shots were not merely in the head area but inside the tight 4X2-inch head area. With this kind of consistent accuracy, we dont think it would take much practice to deliver effective hits in a much shorter period of time.
The Gun Tests Team Said: Its not always easy to make a gun look better and perform better, but we think Springfield Armory has managed to take an efficient European-style gun and make it more American in both form and function. In this tightly contested matchup, where each gun is worth buying, wed pick the XDM first if ambidextrous controls and superior action accuracy were our most important buying factors.