Springfield Armory pistol

Among the Elite

Geoff Smith enjoyed the new Springfield Armory 9mm

The company now marketing firearms under the Springfield brand operates from Geneseo, Illinois but beyond the famous name itself, has no connection to the original Springfield, Massachusetts plant which made firearms for the US Government from 1777 to 1968. Currently operated by the Reese family, the manufacturers claim only to have saved the recognised moniker. They produce a large variety of handguns and rifles as well as importing various polymer-framed handguns to the US which are then marketed around the world.

Our subject handgun, the XD-M Elite, is one such polymer-framed, striker-fired self-loader chambered in 9mm Luger and made by HS Produkt at their Karlovac factory in central Croatia, the version marketed by importer NIOA being a 10-shot model with 133.5mm (5¼”) barrel. First impressions are of a stylishly designed gun with clean lines that fits the hand well and points nicely. It’s supplied with three polished stainless steel double-stack magazines and comes in a neat padded fabric 280x235mm (11×9”) carry case.

Supplied accessories include two alternative backstraps (one larger and one smaller than the one on the gun), a tapered entry magazine well attachment and cable lock. It’s essentially designed for rapid fire combat-style matches. As a firearms instructor I found the 56-page Operation and Safety Manual among the best I’ve ever seen as unlike so many others it’s well written, clearly illustrated and conveys a direct safety message on each page.

The gun is similarly packed with safety features, some borrowed from the distant past (such as the loaded chamber indicator and grip safety), others of more recent innovation like the trigger block and cocked striker indicator. Overall this pistol has been carefully and impressively designed both in terms of safety, functionality and ergonomics, with the only negative first impression involving the magazines, whose springs are extremely powerful. While functionally excellent, loading beyond a couple of rounds is challenging for older fingers, suggesting perhaps the inclusion of a loading aid similar to those supplied with Glock handguns.

Physically the gun measures 220mm long, 150mm high and 34mm deep and weighs 819 grams unloaded with magazine inserted. The frame is moulded from black polymer with the slide and barrel of nitride-finished satin black steel. The slide has both front and rear serrations giving a positive grip for manual racking and both magazine and slide release catches are permanently ambidextrous. The forward section of the triggerguard is recurved and serrated for double-handed shooting and there’s a Picatinny rail under the barrel for attachments such as tactical lights, lasers and so on. The Partridge-style rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation, the front sight dovetailed transversely across the slide and features a red plastic fibre optic insert which attracted positive comments from several fellow shooters.

The polymer trigger, as with many similar handguns, has a fairly long travel and feels different from the single-stage ones of revolvers and hammer-fired guns, testing with a Lyman electronic gauge giving an average trigger pull of 23.5N (5lb 4oz). It has a central safety lever which prevents operation unless the shooter’s finger is applied across its face.

The grip safety requires the grip to be held before a shot can be fired. The loaded chamber indicator sits up when a cartridge is in the chamber so the shooter is aware the gun is loaded, however this is not the extractor, as it’s much more robust and located at the right-hand side of the chamber. Similarly, at the rear of the slide a small pin protrudes to indicate the striker is cocked.

Field stripping is simple. After removing the magazine and ensuring the chamber is empty, the slide is locked open with the slide stop lever, the disassembly lever on the left side of the frame above the trigger is rotated 90 degrees clockwise, then the slide is drawn back so the slide stop lever releases. The slide will now travel forward and off the frame, the recoil spring is eased out and the barrel withdrawn from underneath. Reassembly involves replacing the barrel and recoil spring into the slide then slipping it back on to the frame and locking it open with the slide stop lever. The disassembly lever is then rotated back to its horizontal position and the gun is functional again.

Prior to firing some test rounds the gun was taken apart and barrel cleaned to remove any oil. The barrel is almost a work of art with both external and internal machining as close to perfect as any I’ve seen, the cleanly executed six-groove rifling having a right-hand twist with 1-in-10” pitch.

The trigger assembly sits in a metal chassis held in the frame by two transverse pins, while the sear assembly and ejector is pinned into the frame behind the magazine well. The trigger bar moves forwards when the trigger is depressed in order to release the striker and fire the gun. Once the slide moves out of battery, a cam on its underside pushes the trigger bar downwards to ensure disconnection between shots, which also means the gun can’t fire unless the slide is fully in battery.

The barrel and slide are locked together for the first 5mm of recoil. During this period the barrel is forced downwards by the angled cam beneath the breech, engaging with its counterpart in the trigger chassis. This enables the slide to then disconnect from the barrel and recoil fully to cycle the gun, initial lock-up of barrel to slide being by way of the shoulder on the barrel above the breech.

The XD-M Elite was test-fired firstly during a Target Pistol match using supplied Federal 124-grain Syntech Range ammo and performed flawlessly though was shooting somewhat low. Later it was taken to a Field Silhouette match where opinions were sought from fellow shooters who generally spoke highly of it.

Hitting the field turkey at 75m with an open-sighted 9mm self-loader is a tall order yet one of my friends managed to bring one down. Tests were then run over 25m shooting five-shot factory ammo groups with bullet weights between 147-grain Winchester silvertips and 115-grain Hornady Steel match. I also included a group of five reloads using 124-grain Tigershark round-nose bullets and 5.8 grains of AP100 propellant.

All loads cycled perfectly and grouped acceptably with my reloads surprisingly giving the tightest group. The machine-rested four-round group supplied from the factory (shot at 10m), when analysed graphically gave an average group radius of 2.65 MOA while my home-loaded five-shot group gave 3.84 MOA which, in approximate terms, means under ideal conditions the gun could group between 150mm-200mm at 100m.

To summarise then, the XD-M Elite deserves serious consideration if you’re after a striker-fired 9mm handgun. The inherent safety features of trigger block, grip safety and out of battery firing pin block make it a safe option from the user’s standpoint. It’s well balanced, looks attractive and points well, so should prove an excellent pistol for anyone contemplating Practical Shooting competitions. The gun is distributed by NIOA and sells for around $1500 but check with your dealer as prices can vary.

All News