Hey DOH, er FOH... er... white guy from Ohio, this is for you.
Or Escher, you all look the same anyway.
So far the biggest story I have seen at SHOT Show 2012 is the XDS from Springfield Armory. It is a single stack .45ACP that holds 5 rounds in the magazine and 1 in the chamber. The barrel is 3.3 inches, and the overall length is 6.3 inches. It is only one inch thick. Empty the XDS weighs 29 ounces, and it is a striker fired pistol in the tradition of the XD and XD(M), with a polymer frame and forged steel slide.
I don’t know how many times we need to say that Springfield Armory is always raising the bar, but Springfield Armory is always raising the bar. Last year at SHOT Show about a half a dozen companies came out with single stack 9mm ultra-compacts. Over the past year they have all come into the market, with mixed reviews on most (our favorite was by far the Walther PPS). This year some of those guns have now been released in .40S&W, and it is common for 9mm and .40S&W to share the same frame in pistols. But when you want to make a pistol that small in a .45ACP, you have to go back to square one and make a whole new gun, and that is what Springfield Armory did.
I have had three small .45ACP guns over the years and carried them daily at different times in my life. The two i used the most were the AMT Backup .45 in a double action only, and the Para P-10, which is a double stack 1911 with a two finger grip. Both guns are steel, and what they both share (yes i still have them) is that when you fire them, you feel like your whole world comes unglued and you are just holding on for dear life. Likewise a compact 1911 I had for a while. In a small gun, the .45 ACP is a hand cannon, and I have always thought that it probably just wasn’t suited for a pocket sized gun, even though i insisted on carrying one. Gun guys don’t always make a lot of sense.
Shooting the XDS has changed my opinion on ultra-compact .45 ACP forever though. As I stepped to the line to shoot it today, I cringed to think of what I was going to experience shooting a .45 ACP in a light polymer pistol. Was i going to drop it? Then I shot the gun, and that whole unglued thing isn’t there. In fact it isn’t even unpleasant to shoot. George Whebby, who you will see in the video we did today for the gun, said the same thing. You expect an unpleasant recoil and muzzle flip, but there is none to be found. We both had to shoot it again just to be more aware of the actual ergonomics of the gun, instead of just bracing for unpleasant recoil. Don’t get me wrong, .45 ACP in a small gun is still a handful, but there is a difference between very manageable the barely manageable I had expected. The XDS is very manageable.
This leads me to think that the XDS is potentially the first truly engineered .45 ACP ultra-compact. My AMT Backup was made by a company that didn’t make it and was eventually liquidated. The P-10 is just a P-14 with a shorter magazine well. Neither gun was engineered in a cad cam world by computer modelers to estimate what the shot dynamics of the firearm would before it is ever brought to become an actual product. The XDS was engineered for the .45ACP, and from what I am told from Springfield, the resulting XDS we hold today far exceeded their expectations. The XDS is night and day with those old steel .45 ACP pocket pistols. The XDS is nothing short of a game changer.
You are probably already familiar with the XD and XD(M) pistols from Springfield, and though this gun has everything in a much tinier package, you lose almost nothing from a usability standpoint with the XDS. All that is really missing is a striker cocked indicator in the back, and of course there are less bullets in a single stack magazine than in the double stack magazines of the XD and XD(M). Otherwise all of the features on the gun are the same as the full sized guns (though the parts are not at all interchangeable). The grip texturing, the magazine release, the feel of the slide, and the grip safety are all the same as the full size XD and XD(M) guns.
If you have been looking for the ideal gun for concealed carry in a front pocket or inside the pants holster, I have to admit that this gun has most likely changed my vote for the best gun. As late as two weeks ago i convinced someone who had been set on a semi-auto that a revolver was the way to go for front pocket carry, but I’m not so sure anymore. This gun is like carrying a fire breathing dragon, but with a bridle and saddle so it does what you want when you want it. It is tiny, light, and extremely resistant to corrosion due to the polymer frame and the a Melonite salt bath nitriding process on the steel that never breaks down. A .38 Special revolver just isn’t in this class, nor is a .380 or 9mm pistol.
This gun was kept a complete secret until today at SHOT Show Media Day at the Range, so we didn’t get an advance gun to test, but hopefully we’ll get one soon and put it through its paces. I watched world champion shooter Rob Leatham shoot it for our video today at 10 yards on 4 inch wide plates, three magazines in a row, and he never missed. The XD(M) guns are scary accurate, and I suspect that this XDS is going to be much the same. Springfield has got some world class firearm engineers working on their guns and as we have said many times here at the GunsAmerica Blog, they are second to none, regardless of price. I expect this gun will be a huge hit, and stay tuned to see if a bigger story at SHOT Show 2012 comes up, but I think the most memorable gun this year is going to be the Springfield Armory XDS.