January 2013

Compact Polymer 45s: We Pit Glock and Springfield Armory

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 wasnít 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. Thatís not the first time a pistol was redesigned to make it more concealable. For example, the original interpretation of the Colt Officerís 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 ďprintĒ 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 BattenfeldTechnologies.com). Our choice of test ammunition was Black Hills 230-grain JHPs, Winchester 230-grain FMJs, and Hornady 185-grain Critical Defense jacketed hollowpoints. As indicated above, we recorded similar numbers from each pistol during our accuracy tests. But does that mean both guns were equal in every circumstance? Letís find out.

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