Hands On With the New Springfield Armory XDe

   04.28.17

Hands On With the New Springfield Armory XDe

As part of the launch of their new Springfield Armory XDe pistol, the company invited gun writers from a variety of media outlets to try out the new pistol at a shooting range outside Las Vegas a few weeks ago.

About 20 industry pros put the pistol through its paces at the day long event. The sample pistols were from the first production run of the new polymer-framed, hammer-fired, carry pistol. We fired the pistols at steel and paper targets at distances from five yards to 50 yards. The shooting included structured stages replicating defensive encounters, informal competitions among the writers, and time to play with the pistols on our own.

Although I have to admit I was surprised by the decision to introduce a traditional double-action pistol in the age where striker-fired guns rule supreme, the XDe holds its own on its own merits.

The pistol’s design is aimed for those who may not be comfortable carrying a striker-fired pistol with no external safety lever and a relatively light trigger pull. In contrast, the XDe has both an external safety that can be applied with the hammer back for a single-action “cocked and locked” first shot or that can be used as a decocker to safely lower the hammer on the loaded chamber for a longer double-action first shot. The ambi safety can also be applied with the hammer down. Unlike the other pistols in the XD line, the XDe does not have a grip safety.

The XDe is a compact gun at 6.75″ long by 5″ high with a 1″ grip width. In use the gun seemed “bigger than it should,” and I didn’t experience any of the problems I sometimes have with smaller guns in my large hands. For example, while the pinkie extension mag floorplate was nice, I didn’t have any problems getting a good firing grip with the flush-fit magazine and didn’t pinch my fingers when slamming a mag home.

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I’m not sold on the three-position safety however. Upon loading the gun the shooter has the choice of pushing the safety up to “SAFE” for a single-action first shot or pushing it all the way to the bottom position to decock the pistol for a double-action first shot. If decocked, they then have to decide whether to leave the safety in the middle “FIRE” position or push it up to put the gun on safe where the safety would have to be swiped down for that first double-action shot. (I did deliberately try swiping the safety down “too far” while setup for a single-action shot to see how easy it would be to go all the way down and accidentally decock the pistol. It didn’t seem to be a problem.)

In use I found the safety was not positioned well for “Cocked and Locked” carry. The safety lever did not fall naturally under my thumb the same way a 1911 safety does. I also found decocking to be slightly awkward but this is not as much of a concern as disengaging the safety for that vital first shot. My personal preference was to decock, leave the safety off, and trust the longer and heavier double-action trigger pull to help avoid any accidental discharge. Personally, I think a decocker-only version of the XDe would be a natural extension to the line and would simplify the manual of arms for the pistol, which would be a benefit to the intended market.

If I remember correctly (and I can’t find my notes on this) Springfield Armory said the trigger pull is in the 10 to 12 pound range for the double-action and should be about 5 pounds in single-action. I found the double-action to be smooth, with some stacking, in the pistols I tried. The single-action trigger was, of course, lighter with a shorter travel distance, but was not exceptionally good or bad. A couple were noticeably better than others which I attribute to either slight manufacturing variations or how much the pistols were broken in.

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The interesting discussion is on reliability. The dozen or so pistols at the event were shared among the writers. We didn’t each have our pistol. I’d estimate we each fired at least 500 rounds during the day, give or take. I didn’t see or hear of a single-malfunction, and when I compared notes with some of the other writers, no one else could point out one either. This includes shooting the pistols from awkward angles, sometimes with only one hand, and some support-hand only shooting. The ammo used was factory FMJ, so it will be interesting to see if the design’s reliability holds up as well with JHP defensive ammo.

The only question on my mind remaining after the press event is accuracy. We shot mainly reactive targets, and with the number of shooters present, we weren’t able to take the time to fire any bench rest groups. From a practical perspective the accuracy seemed acceptable. At close range of 7 to 10 yards, hitting plates was no problem. At the large 30, 40, and 50 yard reactive targets, as long as the shooter had a good sight picture and didn’t jerk the trigger, the targets would fall more often than not. I was able to spot some hits on one of the larger steel targets and they seemed to group nicely. Of course, that’s just an initial impression, not any sort of real accuracy test.

The Springfield Armory XDe is an interesting extension to their line of polymer defensive pistols. After trying them out at the media event I’m looking forward to picking up my T&E loaner for a more substantial test.

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