There is NO perfect handgun, NO single, towering great manufacturer above all others, NO best caliber, NO magic bullet, and NO best barrel length. There also is NO ideal weight for everyone, NO trigger press that everyone can handle, and NO sights for all uses. I have not read a decree that says only pistols or only revolvers for all shooters. “It depends” is not a cop-out or way of avoiding making a decision or giving an opinion, but rather a recognition of reality when evaluating and using a gun. So, it is up to you to personally select the best handgun for yourself based on YOUR personal criteria that are important to you and for your defined use. My criteria may differ from your criteria and that is OK. Mine are not better than yours and yours are not better than mine. This is not meant to be negative, but to let you know that choosing a handgun is very subjective for any individual, so what follows is just my opinion and I am trying to be as objective as I can within my parameters and preferences.
The Purpose and use for the gun is probably a criteria that binds us together and the most important initial factor. You know a handgun can be used for concealed carry (cc), range plinking, competition, home defense, long-range precision shooting, pocket carry, hunting big game or varmits, etc. This review considers the new Springfield-Armory’s XDS 4.0 single-stack striker-fired pistol for the concealed carry purpose. I disassembled it easily, cleaned it before I shot it, and used various FMJ and HP ammo of 115 and 124 grain weights at close-up distances of 3, 5, and 7 yards. Springfield is not paying me for my review or opinions and I am not on their payroll for any reason. They also didn’t pay for my ammo. You are suppose to laugh or at least chuckle now. One caveat we all recognize is that ANY gun should be “broken-in” with about 300-400 rounds or so for a better evaluation of its performance. I did not shoot that many rounds, but did shoot about 200 rounds. My discoveries may not be true for you, but hopefully will help you in your decisions. Remember, the gold standard is for you to actually shoot the gun and learn your accuracy with it and things about it, like I did. So here we go. Let me say up front that for me for ANY gun, ACCURACY and RELIABILITY are most important. I can certainly influence that with my training, understanding of the fundamentals, practice, and application of basics, but the gun itself does play a critical role. Closely related to that is the handgun’s trigger, so I focused on it and its characteristics and control, as well as other things on my list below. I used my Lyman Electronic Digital Trigger Pull Gauge and averaged 15 readings to measure the press. Additional factors considered were fit and comfort to my hand and fingers, gun weight, felt recoil, gun width and height for easy concealability, caliber, capacity, safety features, and appearance. Overall length was not a criteria, except for its relationship to sight radius and reduction of felt recoil, because it does not significantly affect carry. Cost was also not a factor. The XDS 4.0 MSRP is $599. for the black and $699. for the Two-Tone.
Here are My 7 Physical-Mechanical Criteria for the handgun itself for evaluating ANY gun and I will apply them for my concealed carry purpose here. These are the physical gun attributes. You may recognize these from my USA Carry article- “Handgun Attributes to Help Improve Accuracy” – January 23, 2014.)
1. Trigger Press maximum of about 6.5-7.0 pounds (for double-action or striker-type triggers for cc)- lessens force applied for less movement & better accuracy- and which is crisp;
2. Trigger with short travel distance (a short travel distance increases the speed the trigger can be fired);
3. Trigger with consistent press for every shot (less need to transition between presses & make adjustments);
5. Sights that are basic & simple (easy to use & see, fast target acquisition- like fiber optics for aging eyes);
6. Proper Gun Weight to minimize recoil (I prefer less than 30 oz & closer to 25 oz or less loaded for carry); and
7. Caliber match to your needs, characteristics & abilities (consider medical & physical limitations).
Here’s what I discovered after shooting and observing the XDS 4.0. First, it met 6 of my above 7 Physical – Mechanical (equipment attributes) Criteria.
1. The accuracy and reliability of the XDS 4.0 were very good for me at close distances of 3, 5, and 7 yards. My rapid-fire groups were all 4.0 inches or less for the first time I ever fired the gun “out of the box” drawing from the holster it came with in the hard case. I used a Modified-Isosceles Standing Stance, a two-handed grip, and shot 115 grain FMJ and 124 grain HP. Not great marksmanship, but acceptable to me.
I want my carry gun to be accurate with consistent hits and tight groups at various up-close distances. The varying distances and continuity of hits proved to me that this was a reliable handgun. I shot tight groups with rapid-fire hits on an eight-inch sized target at 3, 5, and 7 yards, 11 hits each, with no malfunctions or stoppages.
2. The trigger press out of the box averaged 7.2 pounds without modification, with 15 readings with my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. I was hoping it would be in the 6- 6.5 pound range, but it is a new pistol with no break-in. For comparison, my Sig 938 has a 7.1 pound press; my Ruger SR9C, Glock 19, and M&P 9C all have about a 6.0 press; my Springfield EMP a 5.8; and my Colt XSE Commander (.45), Kimber (.45), Sig (.45), and Taurus (9mm) 1911s have about a 4- 4.5 pound press each. Although my brain is my best safety, I do not want a too light trigger for concealed carry, nor do I want a heavier one either. All of these are close to my desired range.
3. The trigger was very crisp and very good, had a short travel distance and short reset, so I could get off quick follow-up shots easily and keep on target easier. The reset was identifiable.
4. The striker-fired, double action-type trigger (I know they are different) made for consistent and reliable shooting with pretty much the same press each time. It was a harder press that I am accustomed to, since I mostly shoot 1911s and single actions. I know my HK P30 as a double action-LEM-V1 has a 5.5-6.0 press.
5. The 4-inch barrel was just right, not too short and not too long, aiding recoil control. The longer sight radius helped for very good hits and the felt recoil was very manageable. It was made of strong Melonite with a fully-supported ramp. It was similar in comparison to my Glock 19 with a 4 inch barrel, my M&P 9C with its 3.5 inch barrel, my Ruger SR9C with its 3.5 inch barrel, my HK P30 with its 3.8 inch barrel. The M&P Shield has a 3.1 inch barrel. But, I did notice that the XDS’s 4-inch barrel did perform slightly better than my others, except for the HK, with less muzzle rise than the others. Incidentally, the XDS 3.3 has exactly the same dimensions as the XDS 4.0, except the XDS 4.0 has a 4 inch barrel.
6. My aging eyes really like the fiber optic front sights, although wish they were setup with green because of my color-blindness. I can see green better than red, like most folks. It did come with extra replacement rods in green and red. The bright fiber optic front sight did jump out for me, even on the overcast day. None of my other carry guns have fiber optic front sights, except my Sig 938.
7. The weight of the gun was almost exactly 25 ounces without a magazine in place. This is manageable for concealed carry. Its weight was close to the HK’s weight of 26 oz, but more than the Glock’s 21 oz, the M&P’s 22 oz , and the Ruger’s 23 oz. I like a slightly heavier gun for better recoil control, comfort, and accuracy.
8. Given my carpal tunnel, cost of ammo, less recoil, accuracy influence, etc., I strongly prefer the 9mm caliber for my primary carry gun, with the .45 being my next preference, as you probably know from the reasons in my other articles. So the XDS 4.0 met this requirement. I believe that a shooter should:
Choose the biggest caliber handgun that they can comfortably shoot AND make fast, ACCURATE followup shots with. This applies for concealed carry, self defense, home defense, and even competition. Of course, you want a gun that you like, can control, and WILL carry and not leave at home, if carrying concealed.
9. The width of the XDS 4.0 measured less than 1 inch at about .94 and was similar to the width of the Shield at about .95. The XDS .45 has the exact same width as the XDS 4.0. This compared to these other widths for my other guns… the Glock 19 at 1.18, the M&P 9C at 1.20, the Ruger SR9C at 1.27, the HK P30 at 1.37, and the Sig 938 at 1.10. I also compared it to my carry EMP SAO 9mm with 9-shots at 1.10 inch width, and 23 ounces, but the EMP has a 3 inch bull barrel.
10. The capacity of the XDS 4.0 was 7+1 with the standard flush fit mag or 9+1 with the extension mag, as compared to 15 for the HK and Glock, 12 for the M&P, 10 for the SR9C, 7 for the Sig 938, and 7 and 8 for the Shield. This is one factor that disappointed me. I wish it had more capacity, but it is a single stack, has a nice thin grip and smaller grip frame, so tradeoffs must be made. For carry, I would use the 7 rounder and hope to get the job done. It has an ambidextrous mag release, interchangeable backstraps, and a post-recall grip safety upgrade that includes a visible roll pin in the grip assembly.
11. The height of the XDS 4.0 with standard flush mag measured a great 4.4 inches, compared to my M&P-9C at 4.3 inches, my SR9C at 4.6 inches, my EMP at 4.8 inches, my Glock 19 at 5.0, my HK P30 at 5.4, and the M&P Shield at 4.6 inches. All are acceptable for concealed carry, with the smaller numbers, of course, being more advantageous. The picture above shows the XDS with an extended mag in place.
12. I like the two-tone finish and classy, quality appearance of the XDAS 4.0 and it looked really good in my hands. While not major factors, I do consider them. To me a gun that fits me personally (ergonomics), feels good, has a quality look, and matches my purpose and criteria is always the best choice and you can be proud of it.
13. The Loaded Chamber Indicator is helpful and eliminates the need for frequent chamber checks. Also you can verify visually and by touch as to if there is a round in the chamber.
14. It comes with a nice hard plastic case which includes a holster, 2 magazines (7 round and extended 9 round), a double mag pouch, small backstrap, grip sleeve for full-size extension for range use, extra fiber optic replacement rods (Green & Red), a lock, bore flag, and manual.
15. It was very easy to disassemble, but know you cannot move the disassembly lever with a mag in the gun. Also, when the disassembly lever is up a mag cannot be inserted, for safety.
16.The XDS 4.0 has a medium to medium-heavy grip texture on the backstrap for a nice secure grip. I have to say, however, after shooting about 200 rounds in the XDS 4.0, I did have a blister on the palm of my shooting hand. I do grip handguns very firm and had the large backstrap on. Probably should have changed to the smaller backstrap.
17. The USA Safety Assurance Trigger System (firing pin safety) protects against negligent discharge from dropping or bumping. The trigger is hooked until direct rearward pressure is applied to the trigger and the grip safety is firmly grasped. There is no external manual safety.
18. It has a rail for a laser or a light.
There are a lot of attributes to consider and you make your own tradeoffs accoring to your priorities and defined needs and use.
Here are some things that influence my tradeoffs among handgun factors:
- Larger guns with more weight and a longer barrel are more accurate than smaller ones, due to their reduced felt recoil, reduced movement, fit to the hand, and longer sight radius (but shoot it to see if you can control it & it fits well.)
- Smaller, short-barreled guns are easier to conceal and are lighter to carry (a tradeoff.)
- Smaller calibers mean less recoil, which in turn means faster and more accurate follow-up shots, but generally, less energy and force (It may take more well-placed shots to stop the bad guy/gal.)
- Reliability and accuracy are both VERY important attributes of a defensive firearm and override other considerations.
- Instinctive shooting and preferably flash-sight picture shooting are more important than precision sighted accuracy shooting, when considering VERY CLOSE (within about 10-12 feet or so) self-defense encounters. (However, this is a very controversial point among self-defense and concealed carry shooters.)
I hope this review has given you some information you did not have about the new Springfield-Armory XDS 4.0 9mm single stack pistol. It is a very nice striker-fired pistol, with mostly pros. Decide if it is for you, based on your desired features, the gun’s attributes, tradeoffs, and your use and needs, but TRY IT BEFORE YOU BUY, like any possible handgun purchase.
Photos by Author and Some Courtesy of Springfield-Armory.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.