Just as the framing hammer has been replaced by the pneumatic nail gun in the construction industry, the hammer-fired semiautomatic pistol is being replaced by the striker-fired pistol. That said, every good carpenter keeps a hammer handy … “just in case.” And so it is with the EDC pistol. Springfield Armory has introduced the external hammer-fired XD-E, which it refers to as “the hammer, reinvented.” Even the most basic of tools can be improved.
Many others and I were taken by surprise when Springfield Armory introduced the XD-E hammer-fired, polymer-framed EDC pistol at the NRA exhibits this year. Model XD pistols have been of the striker-fired design since their introduction.
However, even with the move to striker-fired pistols in the industry, Springfield Armory apparently believes there is a market for a hammer-fired, polymer-framed EDC pistol. Only time will tell just how big that market is, but the XD-E will certainly appeal to those who want to carry their EDC “cocked and locked”—but with double-action capability.
Design and Specifications
The XD-E is a single-stack, slimline, external hammer-fired, recoil-operated, polymer-framed pistol chambered in 9mm Luger. Today, there are many small, easily concealable pocket guns that are difficult to control when shooting, and large, easy-to-control handguns that are difficult to conceal for anyone smaller than the Incredible Hulk. The XD-E fits nicely between those extremes. It is designed to be small enough to carry concealed easily, yet large enough to control when shooting.
“Many smaller carry pistols are easy to conceal but are tough to shoot well. The XD-E manages to do both well.”
Obviously, the big difference between the XD-E and most other small EDC pistols is the exposed hammer. Even though many of us have forsaken hammer-fired handguns for striker-fired ones, there is still a place for the hammer-fired pistol beyond 1911-style pistols. The “double-action first pull”/”single-action successive pulls” (DA/SA) allows for several carrying options. It can be carried with a round in the chamber, hammer down and the safety engaged; a round in the chamber, hammer cocked and the safety on (“cocked and locked”); or a round in the chamber, hammer down and the safety disengaged (like a DA revolver). Most will probably choose to carry the XD-E “cocked and locked”—hopefully, with the appropriate thumb-break holster.
The trigger will not be mistaken for that of a 1911, but it was quite good, nonetheless. In single-action mode, the trigger broke at 5.6 pounds after approximately .15 inch of takeup. In double-action mode, the trigger broke at 10.7 pounds.
The magazine release and safety/decocking controls are bilateral for ease of operation. The slide catch and takedown levers are located on the left side only. Obviously, the hammer is truly ambidextrous. If a round doesn’t go bang! on the first try, it has double-strike capability, so pull the trigger again. Tactically speaking, however, it is always best to manipulate the slide and load another round if you experience a misfire during a gunfight.
The XD-E’s “Low-Effort Slide” (L.E.S.) is a plus for anyone with low hand strength. My wife has a difficult time manipulating the slide of many semiautomatic pistols, but she can operate the slide on the XD-E without a problem. This feature would also be a plus if your strong-side hand or arm were injured and you had to operate the slide with your weak-side hand.
“The XD-E is worth a close look by anyone looking for an EDC pistol. Compare it to its striker-fired counterparts, and see if you don’t end up with a reinvented hammer in your toolbox.”
There is a loaded chamber indicator on the top of the slide behind the ejection port that gives both a tactile and visual indication of whether or not there is a round in the chamber. Safeties include an ambidextrous thumb safety/decocker and a firing pin safety. The external safety can be engaged with the hammer in either the cocked or down positions. There is no trigger safety, either blade or articulated. Recoil is managed by captive dual-recoil springs.
Both front and rear sights are mounted using dovetail grooves and are drift adjustable for windage. There is no elevation adjustment. The sights are low-profile combat style with a red fiber-optic insert in the front and dual dots in the rear. Replacement red and green fiber-optic inserts are also provided.
Two magazines and three floor plates are provided with the pistol. The bodies are a flush-fit eight-round capacity and a nine-round version with Mag X-Tension. The eight-round magazine can be used with a flush base (provided in the box) or the Grip X-Tension finger rest version that comes installed on the magazine. I carried the XD-E with the eight-round magazine using the flush fit (flat) base for better concealment and carried the nine-round magazine with Mag X-Tension as a spare. These magazines have stainless steel bodies, and they functioned flawlessly. They also released smoothly and quickly during magazine changes.
Springfield Armory uses a version of its Grip Zone technology on the XD-E. Zone 1 is a firm, anti-slip texture and is applied to the center strip on the rear and front of the grip. Zone 2, the most aggressive texture, is located on the front and rear of the grip on either side of the Zone 1 areas. Even though this is the most aggressive texture, it is still not all that aggressive, as grip textures go. Zone 3 is only mildly textured and covers the remainder of the frame. The Grip Zone texture works well, but I believe it is unnecessarily complicated. I think most people would be happy if the whole grip area were textured using only Zone 2 and the rest of the frame were done in Zone 3 texturing. It is very hard to tell the difference between the Zone 1 and Zone 2 textures.
The XD-E is slightly larger than the Glock 43 I normally carry, but I found the XD-E very easy to conceal and comfortable to wear in an IWB holster behind my hip. The thin, 1-inch frame kept the gun close to my body, and the flat-base, eight-round magazine kept the butt of the pistol from printing. I carried the XD-E with the hammer down and on “safe”. If I had been wearing a thumb break holster, I would have carried it “cocked and locked.”
I compared the time it took to draw and fire the first shot between “cocked and locked” carry and hammer down with the safety on. The difference was minimal. The time to first shot with the hammer down and the safety on took .44 second longer that when drawing and firing from the “cocked and locked” condition. This was after minimal practice.
“Anyone who has limited hand strength and is looking for an EDC pistol should take a close look at the XD-E, with its Low Effort Slide. The L.E.S. makes the slide much easier to operate than most striker-fired pistols.”
Many custom-fit holsters are available for the XD-E. Springfield Armory did a good job of getting information out to the holster manufacturers so that a good selection of holsters would be available when the pistol was released.
At the Range
During multiple trips to the range, the XD-E ran flawlessly and was a pleasure to shoot. Somewhat to my surprise, I really enjoyed shooting it. As well as shooting for accuracy and to determine the velocity of the ammunition used, I did some drills and fired from various positions. Again, the XD-E performed without any hiccups using various brands and types of ammunition. Reliability is probably the most important aspect of an EDC pistol; and; based on more than 600 rounds fired during my evaluation, the XD-E has it.
To break in the XD-E, I first ran 100 rounds of FMJ ammunition through it, shooting at B-16 paper targets, steel torso and a steel “hostage” target at 15 to 25 yards. In single-action mode, it was easy to swing the steel from side to side and make consistent 7-ring hits on paper at 15 yards.
Double-action shooting was another story. The long double action first pull took some getting used to. It will take even longer to become proficient at it … but that is what practice is all about.
“The XD-E proved to be a reliable, accurate and easily concealable pistol, both while shooting and during daily carry.”
During the accuracy and velocity evaluation, I fired the XD-E from a sandbag rest at 15 and 25 yards. At 15 yards, the first three loads’ average group sizes were within .02 inch of each other. The next three loads grouped within .39 inch of each other. The most accurate loads were SIG Sauer’s 124-grain FMJ, averaging 1.79 inches, Black Hills 124-grain JHP, at 1.80 inches, and Blazer Brass 124-grain FMJ, at 1.81 inches. The smallest group was .78 inch using Blazer Brass 124 FMJ ammunition.
At 25 yards, the average group size was more spread out with the most accurate load, Black Hills 124 grain JHP, averaging 2.76 inches for 3, 5-shot groups. The smallest group of the session was 1.71 inches, also with Black Hills 124-grain JHP ammunition.
Many companies manufacture custom-fit holsters for the XD-E. I used two holsters from DeSantis and one from Crossbreed for concealed-carry evaluation.
If concealment isn’t a priority, or if clothing allows, the OWB Mini Slide by DeSantis was the most comfortable of the three holsters for me. It provided the quickest access to the XD-E.
When venturing out without specific “carry clothing,” I used an IWB holster. I used both a Crossbreed SuperTuck Deluxe in premium cowhide and a DeSantis Cozy Partner. Both worked well, but I developed a preference for the all-leather Cozy Partner.
Put This One in Your Toolbox
The XD-E proved to be a reliable, accurate and easily concealable pistol, both while shooting and during daily carry. At the range, it proved to be reliable and accurate. During everyday carry, the XD-E was easy to conceal, and I was very comfortable carrying it. The only thing I would change is that I would use a thumb-break IWB holster so I could carry the XD-E “cocked and locked.”
Anyone who has limited hand strength and is looking for an EDC pistol should take a close look at the XD-E, with its Low Effort Slide. The L.E.S. makes the slide much easier to operate than most striker-fired pistols.
Many smaller carry pistols are easy to conceal but are tough to shoot well. The XD-E manages to do both well. Its thin frame and slide, coupled with its excellent ergonomics, make a great combination for an EDC pistol. The only catch is learning (or re-learning) the double-action trigger pull if you decide to carry it with the hammer down. That can easily be done through practice, which should be a central part of any decision to carry concealed.
The XD-E is worth a close look by anyone looking for an EDC pistol. Compare it to its striker-fired counterparts, and see if you don’t end up with a reinvented hammer in your toolbox.
|Avg. Vel. (fps)||
|25 Yards||15 Yards|
|Black Hills 124-grain JHP||
|SIG Sauer 124-grain V-Crown JHP||
|SIG Sauer 124-grain FMJ||
|Blazer Brass 5202 124-grain FMJ||
|Ruger ARX 80 grains||
|Hornady Crit. Def. 115-grain FTX||
|Winchester USA 115-grain FMJ||
Action: Hammer-fired; DA/SA, semi-automatic
Capacity: 8+1 (standard); 9+1 (with magazine X-Tension)
Overall length: 6.75 inches
Barrel: 3.3 inches; hammer-forged steel; Melonite treated
Grip width: 1 inch
Height: 5 inches with Grip X-Tension magazine; 6 inches with Mag X-Tension magazine
Weight: 25 ounces (empty magazine)
Sights: Fiber-optic front; low-profile combat rear
Trigger pull weight: 5.6 pounds SA; 10.7 pounds DA (average for 10 consecutive pulls using a Lyman digital gauge)
Frame: Black polymer; thumb safety/decocker
Slide: Forged steel with Melonite finish
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the December 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.