Springfield Armory’s Duty/Competition Pistol
By Steve Tracy
A new trend in semi-automatic police pistols has developed where longer length barrels and slides are offered as competition ready models. The trend has sprung up not out of necessity, but out of practicality. Years ago, the standard double-action duty revolver usually came with a 4-inch barrel. Heavy barrels with a thicker circumference added weight for rapid sight reacquisition when fired, but gun-savvy police officers often had a 6-inch barrel revolver hanging from their duty belt.
3.8 to 5.25 Inches
There are several advantages of a longer barrel on a duty gun, be it a revolver or semi-automatic pistol. Springfield Armory’s popular XDM provides a longer sighting radius with their 5.25 model, available in 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP. The match-grade, select-fit, Melonite®-coated steel barrel measures five-and-one-quarter inches in length, giving this XDM 5.25 variation its namesake.
The fully adjustable (with a small screwdriver) rear sight is positioned at the absolute rear of the slide and melted into its top profile. The sight’s non-glare, serrated rear face takes advantage of the slide’s long length when lined up on target with the red fiber-optic front sight. Spare fiber-optic sight inserts are included (in both red and green colors) with each handgun.
Weight toward a pistol’s muzzle is an advantage that helps tame recoil and balances a handgun; however, the 5.25 pistol has a lightening cut on the top of the forged steel slide that reduces the slide’s reciprocating mass. Slide weight is removed so the recoil spring can work the pistol’s Browning-style action quickly and reliably with various cartridge loads. The 5.25 model (at 29 ounces empty in 9mm) weighs just 1.5 ounces more than the standard 3.8-inch barrel full-size pistol (at 27.5 ounces). You get the advantage of a longer sight radius with very little additional weight pulling down your duty belt.
The “M” version pistol includes several features beyond the XD model, which is based on the Croatian HS2000 pistol. Springfield Armory has been importing their XD line since 2001 and the XDM is an extension of their polymer frame/striker fired lineup. The XDM is available in compact, duty, and extended length versions like this duty/competition ready 5.25.
Three included backstraps interchange as long as you have a hammer and punch handy, but most officers will only change the backstrap once. They’ll decide which of the small, medium, or large Mold-Tru inserts work best with their grip and then store the other two away.
Magazine release buttons are located on both sides of the frame, just behind the trigger guard on the XDM. Left-handed shooters have the pleasure of using their thumb on the button just like the other 90 percent of the human race. The slide release lever is only on the left side, so the two-handed slingshot method will be necessary for left-handers to let the slide go forward after a rear slide lock.
The takedown lever rotates upward when the pistol is empty and the slide is locked to the rear for simple disassembly. The slide then eases forward off the frame and the barrel and recoil spring/guide lift out for cleaning. There is no need to pull the trigger prior to field stripping the XDM.
For a police officer, it’s a price-conscious touch that each pistol is equipped with three 19-round magazines (16- in .40 and 13-round in .45 calibers) instead of just two. The heavy-duty, lockable case that the XDM comes shipped in features foam fitted to retain a plastic paddle holster, double-mag belt pouch, loading tool, the extra magazines, and a padlock. It also retains the extra backstraps and there is an open cutaway to hold a weapon light (purchased separately) for mounting to the XDM’s Picatinny rail.
The Geneseo, Ill. firearms company states on its website that the XDM’s trigger pull will break between 5.5 and 7.7 pounds. The test model was found to average a trigger pull weight of 5.8 pounds, definitely on the low end of the scale. There was some take-up as the trigger readied the striker and moved the internal firing pin safety out of the way. After the trigger broke, there was a tiny bit of over travel. For a combat handgun, this is acceptable. However, for a competition pistol, a spongy trigger and over-travel are not very desirable.
The trigger’s safety is a tab in its center that prevents the trigger from moving rearward unless the shooter’s finger is pressing it on purpose. Despite the trigger’s lack of extreme precision, the XDM 5.25 was found to be a terrific shooter. Accurate shots were easy to make at various distances. As a dual-purpose competition and duty pistol, the 5.25 worked well for both styles right out of the box.
Various types of 9mm ammo were fired through the XDM 5.25 without failure. 115-grain Federal and Remington ball, Winchester Ranger 124-grain ball, Winchester Silvertip 115-grain, Speer Gold Dot 124-grain +P, and Hornady Critical Duty and Z-Max ammo all performed with excellent results.
The red fiber-optic front sight is quick to pick up in daylight shooting. Four-time World Champion Rob Leatham helped to design the XDM 5.25 and he knows that fiber optic sights are optimal for competition. However, in low-light settings, it becomes much more difficult to see for police use. A tritium front night sight can easily be swapped out so that the dot can be seen in darker settings for duty use.
If an officer carries the XDM 3.8 on duty with night sights and then utilizes the 5.25 version for competition, the manual of arms remains the same. The extra 1.45 inches of barrel and slide length will fit in most duty holsters and the 5.25 can serve as a dual-purpose weapon all by itself. Practice and competition with the longer barrel pistol will still translate into better shooting with the shorter-length duty gun..
Loaded Chamber Indicator and Grip Safety
A loaded chamber indicator pops up on the top of the slide just to the rear of the chamber when a round is ready to go. This indicator is small, but it can be seen and readily felt for tactile confirmation that you’re ready to shoot. The cocking indicator at the rear of the slide also protrudes to inform you that the striker is set to fire when the trigger is pressed..
The grip safety on the XDM sets it apart from other similar polymer frame/striker fired pistols. The safest manner of carrying a semi-auto with a trigger tab-style safety is make sure the trigger is covered by a holster. For duty use, this concern is handled by an officer’s duty rig. However, sticking one of these pistols inside your waistband at the end of your shift to carry without your duty holster is not a wise idea.
Clothing can get knotted up inside the trigger guard and press on the trigger as if your index finger was doing the work instead. A holster for this kind of carry is a much safer idea. The grip safety on the XDM lends itself as an extra measure of safety for this type of carry. Even if the trigger is pulled, the XDM will not fire unless the grip safety is also depressed.
The grip safety requires a bit more training and awareness when it comes to clearing a malfunction. The worse-case scenario “Class 3” jam is when a cartridge case is in the chamber and a second loaded round is nosed up against it, trying to feed into the blocked barrel. The slide needs to be locked to the rear to clear this type of problem.
The XDM requires the grip safety to be depressed in order for the slide to be retracted. A standard strong-hand grip on the pistol will depress the grip safety to allow this malfunction to be cleared. But, if the shooter twists the pistol in the hand and does not keep the grip safety pressed in, the slide will not retract to the rear.
Dependable and Ergonomic
The XDM is a dependable and ergonomic weapon that works well for police duty use. The 5.25 version offers a longer sight plane that is inherently easier to shoot accurately. The sight system is outstanding for competition use, but if a police officer is going to use the 5.25 also as a duty pistol, a front tritium night sight may be in order. PM
Steve Tracy is a 26-year police veteran with 24 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He is also an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force, less-than-lethal force and scenario-based training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.