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Massad Ayoob Photos: Chuck Pittman

Springfield Armory's XD line of polymer frame, striker-fired service pistols has proven hugely successful in this country, and the firm recently introduced a more highly evolved version, the XD(M). The "M" in its title stands for more capacity, more accuracy, and perhaps even more value. It also stands for Modularity, being the first of its particular breed to get the interchangeable backstrap feature proven so useful on many other polymer auto pistols.

The "more accuracy" promise comes from a match-grade barrel, which Dave Williams tells me is coming off a special production line in Croatia. Dave is head of the Springfield Armory Custom Shop, and a recipient of the Pistolsmith of the Year award, and knows whereof he speaks. He and his team at the Geneseo, Illinois, factory have turned their attention to the XD series with the same skills that have made their work on the company's traditional 1911 pistols so well respected. Dave sent a customized XD(M) in 9mm to us for a look-see.

The original order was for a Custom with a trigger job including an overtravel stop, Dawson adjustable rear sights and fiber optic front, a Springfield Custom match barrel, an extended magazine release and the usual two magazines per pistol. The package came in at a price tag of $1,295, including the standard heavy-duty polymer carry case (an excellent piece of kit), and serviceable XD Gear polymer holster and double magazine pouch. We ended up going with a PistolGear enhanced magazine well, which added another $175, and a couple more magazines with Arredondo extended bases. This brought the total tally into the $1,500 range.

That's not a bad price for a custom gun with a match-grade barrel and a finely tuned trigger system. But the value is in the performance, so off to the range we went.

First, think "buckets of bullets." The long double-stack magazine of the XD(M) in 9mm will hold 19 rounds in its standard configuration. With the Arredondo extension, I was able to get 22 9mm cartridges in the magazine, and in either case you get to start off with one more in the chamber. That's a fairly serious round count for a belt gun.

I handed this gun around to shooters ranging in age from 21 to 74, encompassing male and female, and small to very large hand sizes. Everyone seemed to like the little beast. Ergonomics is where the basic XD concept shines, and the excellent trigger reach and the superior gripping surface afforded by the "M" treatment just seems to all come together.

Even though the test came smack in the middle of The Great Ammo Drought of 2009, all who participated in testing were able to find enough ammo to put through this pistol to get the feel of it. No one disliked it as a fun gun. Most, however, thought the trigger pull had come through too light for defensive use. On the Lyman digital scale, pull weight averaged 3.2 pounds when weighed at the toe of the trigger, and 3.5 at the center. The latter position is where the trigger finger usually rests.

Some of our shooters, especially those with smaller hands, found the extended mag release button on the left side to be particularly endearing. However, one other shooter and I found it to protrude too far for our hand size and/or shooting style, leading to the occasional inadvertent mag drop. That "extended release button" thing can occur with any pistol so modified. Since the XD series all have ambi mag releases, I find it easier to hit the small button on the starboard side with my trigger finger anyway, and therefore don't need a longer button on the port side of the frame.

Reliability was 100 percent with factory ammo. There was one failure to feed with a handload, but it turned out to have been improperly crimped and would have jammed in anything. I didn't have access to a proper benchrest for three of the four weeks I had the gun (and was too busy to use the bench during the four days I did have access to one), so accuracy testing was done informally from prone position at 25 yards. Five-shot groups were sometimes under 2" (hint: the test pistol liked 147-grain 9mm subsonic) and never went bigger than a little over 3". "Best three clusters" within those 5-shot groups occasionally went under an inch, an indication of splendid mechanical accuracy potential if unnoticed human error doesn't interfere. It shot better for me than the standard XD(M) and should, because Williams and his team take oversize barrels and "hard fit" them specifically to these Custom guns.

Testers were unanimous in liking the Dawson sights, which have earned their popularity in action shooting competition for good reason. Ours had a bright red fiber optic in the front we older shooters particularly appreciated. With older eyes, the lens grows stiff and takes longer to change focal planes. Even if we were looking at the targets, the glowing orb of the fiber optic settled on the aiming point like a red dot on an Aimpoint, allowing good hits quick without perfect focus on the front sight.

The magazine well attachment is from PistolGear, their humongous Unlimited model. As its name implies, it is designed for the more exotic, open class divisions of pistol competition. Nearly 2" wide, this massive funnel virtually allows the shooter to turn the pistol upside down and drop in a full magazine from above. I'm not sure what that's good for, but it seems kinda cool. In prone shooting, as in open class shooting at 50 yards in PPC or at the 25- or 50-yard lines in an NRA Action Pistol match such as the Bianchi Cup, this wide-base butt can be set on the ground by the shooter and used as a "unipod." Contrary to the old belief the butt on a solid surface will somehow cause mysterious vibrations

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Note the best four out of five shots (above, left) with 124-gram Black Hills JHP at 25 yards, fired prone. This kind of grouping (above, right) wins practical shooting matches. At 25 yards prone, economy Rem-UMC 147-grain full metal jacket, and the Custom Shop XD(M) 9mm delivered respectable "budget-priced" accuracy. Note the "best three" cluster. Photos: Bail Pepin t iVv'-f -J. » , * ..Wf}

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