Those of you who read this blog regularly, know that I’m very fond of the Smith & Wesson all metal “Third Generation” semi automatic pistols.
The “3rd Gen” guns were in regular production and cataloged from 1988 until 2006. They were produced for law enforcement use until approximately 2013 or so.
They were well built, reliable, accurate, and had a very low rate of breakage. They were also very easy to shoot well because they had a very smooth trigger pull. Available in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45ACP, they found a lot of use among police agencies in the U.S. and even some foreign nations.
Because the receivers were made of forged metal, they required considerable machine work to produce. This made them expensive to produce and thus they were expensive to buy.
That became a problem once Glock introduced their “Safe Action” semi automatics with polymer frames. An injection molded receiver is a lot less expensive to manufacture and since government agencies at all levels are generally required to purchase the least expensive product that meets the required specifications, a lot of Glocks were adopted by law enforcement agencies around the world.
After a couple of less than successful attempts, in 2006 S&W introduced the “M&P semi automatics for both the law enforcement and civilian markets. Using an action similar in concept to the Glock pistols and made with a polymer frame, the company was able to be competitive with Glock in the LE market.
At the same time, 1911 pattern hand guns started to see renewed popularity with the civilian and to an extent the LE markets. S&W still sold a fair number of revolvers with metal frames.
Something had to go, and for Smith & Wesson “something” was the Third Generation semi automatic pistols. A few larger agencies, NYPD, the RCMP, LAPD, and the California Highway Patrol were big enough customers that S&W continued to produce the “3rd Gen firearms for them after civilian sales of these fine firearms ended.
That was good for civilian owners as the factory had to maintain a supply of replacement parts for agency armorers and the company repair facilities to make necessary repairs and do routine maintenance.
All good things must eventually come to an end, and so Smith decided that they were going to end production for even LE agencies and reduce the number of parts available to the civilian market.
As a result, the firearms see only spotty factory support. If you are a civilian with an alloy framed Third Generation gun and the frame cracks, the company will not repair it because they just don’t have the frames any longer and are not willing to make more.
That doesn’t stop many people, including me, from carrying and shooting these guns. We do that knowing that a major breakdown, while rare, is going to be the end of that gun.
It also means that if the firearm is lost, stolen, or taken as evidence for an investigation, it could be impossible to replace. The odds of that are small, but not negligible.
Since I carry a firearm just about anywhere that does not forbid or make that impractical, the odds are a bit higher. Especially when traveling out of state.
All of which brings me to today’s subject.
A few years ago Springfield Armory introduced their XD line of polymer framed semi automatics. Since they were striker fired semi automatics, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to them as that mode is of no interest to me.
At one time I owned a Glock and a M&P. Both were reliable and accurate, but I just didn’t warm to them.
Then, last year Springfield introduced the XD-E. Polymer framed, but it functioned very much like the Third Generation firearms.
Late last year I read a review of the XD-E by Tamara Keel in “Shooting Illustrated” . Like all of her articles, this one is well written and I encourage you to read it. She covers a lot of points that I have made, but in much more detail.
Based on her article, I made it a point to go to the Springfield display at the NRA Annual Meetings and handle one of the XD-E. I liked what I saw and felt. The only thing that was not quite as good was the double action trigger pull compared to my Model 3913. Still, I was interested and thought that this might make a good “travel” firearm in that it was similar to what I was used to in function and how the controls operated.
I waited until one of the local gun shops received a supply of the new firearms and listed them for sale at a very attractive price. Now, if I was traveling and something happened to my firearm, it would be easy and relatively inexpensive to replace. I headed to the shop, handled a XD-E and decided to buy it. For $392.00 I walked out of the shop carrying my new XD-E.
I got home, field stripped, cleaned, and lubricated my new acquisition and headed out to the range. I brought along my 3913 and did a comparison.
I still like the 3913 better because of the double action trigger pull, but the XD-E is pretty close. Keep in mind that the 3913 is older and has been shot a lot more. I expect that the XD-E trigger pull will improve the more I shoot it.
Here is a picture of the XD-E and an early 3913TSW.
As you can see, they are close is size and similar in layout. The safety/decocker levers on the two firearms work in a slightly different fashion, but they are close enough that the transition from one to the other is easy to learn.
Here is another picture, showing how close they are in size.
The upper of the XD-E is bit shorter and the grip is a bit longer front to back than the 3913. I like the grip of the XD-E just a little bit more than the 3913TSW. It just feels a bit more comfortable in my hand. That, of course, is personal preference and others will no doubt feel differently.
I’m still a bit iffy about the spurred hammer and the lack of a magazine disconnect. Neither are deal breakers and both are a matter of personal preference.
I put about 100 rounds through each gun, and the accuracy wasn’t very different. Both shot without a hiccup, other than one slight annoyance. The XD-E ejected the brass of the box of 147gr Browning FMJ back and to the right. When I put a box of American Eagle 147gr FMJ, two empty cases came straight back and bonked me on the forehead.
I then put a magazine worth of Federal HST 147gr JHP through the XD-E and it ejected without issue.
I had half a box of 115gr FMJ left over from when that was all that I could find in stores during the 2013/14 ammunition shortage. From prior experience, I know that the 3913TSW shoots below point of aim with that ammunition. The XD-E just didn’t care. It shot to point of aim just fine.
Score one point for the XD-E, although I don’t plan to carry that bullet weight in it.
All in all, this is a very suitable substitute for carry when I travel. Reliable, accurate, easy to shoot, and readily available if it ever needs to be replaced. It’s a winner.
A final, side note on magazine disconnects. I like the concept, but I also keep in mind that any mechanical device can fail so I never, ever, rely on that alone. Always make sure that the chamber of any firearm you plan to handle is empty before you handle it. There is very little that is scarier to a shooter than a boom when you expect a click.
As always, follow the Four Rules when handling a firearm.
A New Blog Link
While reading an article at Instapundit about the annoying problem of what do when answering the call of nature while carry a firearm, I came across a link to Eastern Iowa Firearms Training. This article is better than the one at the Instapundit link. At least I think so. While reading the comments there, I noticed one from OldNFO. If he reads the blog, it’s definitely good enough for me to add to the blog roll.
Speaking of annoying, for my EMS readers, I’m working on a post about the 1-10 “Faces” pain scale. I expect to have that up in a day or so.