XDS / 9mm Initial Assessment

Saturday morning I booked time at PDHSC and shot the XDS. I was VERY pleased with the gun!

Perfect fit! The XDS and my small hands.

Perfect fit! The XDS and my small hands.

I decided to buy this gun because

  • I was impressed with the reliability of my XD,
  • I needed something with a smaller grip,
  • I wanted a smaller gun to use as a carry gun so it would be easier to conceal, and
  • I’m committed to shooting only 9mm in a defensive weapon for now for budgetary reasons (lower cost of ammunition and I only need to stock up on one caliber).

I was concerned that the smaller gun would result in recoil I wouldn’t handle well. I shot the same gun in .45 a few months ago and had a real problem with limp wristing. If I had that problem with the 9mm version I was determined to overcome the problem – but it didn’t happen.

I alternated between the XD and the XDS and was pleasantly surprised to find I had better control of the XDS because I can get more of my hands around the grip. All my fingers fit on the grip with no need for the extended mag. The single stack design allows me to get a tight clamshell around the grip. The XD is wider. It forces my hands open and makes it much tougher to get a good clamping action.

In fact, the XD “jumps” in my hand just enough that I constantly need to readjust my grip between shots. Like the 1911, the slimmer grip on the XDS gives me more control and no need for readjustment.

I am used to loading via the slide lock release instead of racking the slide and I was concerned this would be much stiffer than my 1911. Once it was loaded and had a full magazine in the gun, it only required a light touch to release the slide.

The magazine release button is tight. I did struggle with that but I think with some use or a break in period it will be easier to work.

The sites are different than any of my other guns. It has the option of red or green optic front sights with white dot back sights. I’ll need to spend some time shooting with these to determine how I like (or dislike them).

Based on how I shot the gun and the ease of recoil control I’m very excited about this gun. I see a BUG match and experiments with carry holsters in the near future.






Leverage your friends, they have cool guns too!

Sunday I agreed to go shooting with a friend I haven’t seen since I before I started shooting. He saw me on the news in an interview done by the local station and he reached out. I never feel I spend enough time at the range and I didn’t want to give up my structured practices to hang out with someone I wasn’t even sure was safe with guns… so I procrastinated.

Bad girl! Other than dealing with the chaos that is becoming normal on the weekend at a gun range, I had a good time. He has a nice collection of Springfield Armory guns. I let him shoot my 1911. Until I had to admit that my XD9 was really too wide for my hand, I loved that gun. It’s simple to use, reliable, and simple to clean. I shot a .40 and .45 caliber pistol for the first time. Very manageable.

I bought a 1911 with a 5″ barrel to replace the XD9 as my competition gun but haven’t yet bought a carry gun because there are just too many decisions to make and I don’t want to buy a gun I don’t end up liking and that I have not shot.

I walked away from shooting with my friend with a slam dunk of a choice. He has a Springfield XD-S in .45 calibre. It’s small, it’s thin, and it’s an XD! It’s a bruiser to shoot but I felt that with practice I could manage it nicely. It never jammed for him. It did jam for me, but I think I must have been limp-wristing the gun.

I made a decision early on that I wasn’t going to buy any more guns unless they were in 9mm. I don’t want to have to stock up on multiple calibers. My life, my decision.

Word from the SHOT show is that Springfield will be producing this gun in 9mm in the spring. I want this one. Easy, easy decision. To make it even easier, holsters should already be available as the .45 holsters should also fit the 9mm model. Win!

Now, I need to figure out how to get on a list somewhere to order this as I get the impression it will be popular.

For my reference, here is a review:







Holding On: 1911 vs XD9

XD9 and 1911 width comparison.
– 1911 is .960 inches
– XD9 is 1.19 inches

I bought a 1911 recently. I decided not to shoot it until I replaced the grips and was able to slim down the gun. I picked up the new gun with the new grips on Tuesday November 20th, 2012. I’m still focused on learning to maintain my grip through multiple shots and I was hoping this gun would make it easier for me to do that.

It did! I managed to keep my hands on the gun, in the same exact position for more than one shot. It’s going to take practice, focus, and work to improve my hand strength but If I can do it once I know I can do it again.

The 1911 is a thin frame with a single stack magazine. The grips can be swapped out to slim down or add width to fit the shooter’s hand. The advice I followed insisted that a 1911 was the best choice for my small hands. I can now feel the difference that makes. I asked the gunsmith that swapped the grips for me to measure the width of both guns, The difference is .23 or almost a 1/4 inch. That difference makes it easier for me to keep the thumb of my strong hand pointing forward. With a wider gun I tend to twist my hand toward the trigger side to ensure I could reach the trigger.

The 1911 is heavier too, so there is less recoil. This may be doing more to stabilize my grip then the reduced width. I weighed the 1911 and the XD9 I’ve been shooting. Using a kitchen scale and unloaded guns (no magazine), I found the 1911 to be almost a pound heavier (15.2 oz). I can tell the gun isn’t moving as much when I shoot and that is definitely giving me more control.

1911 weighs in at 2 lbs 8.5 oz (40.5 oz)

XD9 weighs in at 1 lb, 9.3 oz (25.3 oz)

To focus on my grip and include target transition, I shot steel plates. Knock them down, set them back up. Over and over. 10 plates, 10 round magazines and 124 rounds means just over dozen times resetting the plates.

When I missed a plate it was usually because I slapped the trigger. So the next shot I focused once again on proper grip, a tight supporting hand, relaxing the dominant hand, then gently squeezing the trigger. The more I practice this “transition” from “I missed….” to “relax and focus” the better I’ll be able to recover in a stressful situation.

Things I noticed the first time I fired this gun:

-The trigger is scary light for me. I’m having trouble finding the trigger reset because there is very, very little back travel to reach it.
-I need to practice with the safety. I managed to nudge it on while shooting and then had to stop to trouble shoot why the gun stopped firing. The XD9 has a grip safety and nothing to flip up/down. This is a new process to add to my draw.
-The magazine is a tight fit and in one case I failed to insert it far enough. Once again I stopped to trouble shoot the issue. In this case I felt foolish as I had not gone through the  “click, tug, press, battery” check list I learned in my recent defensive handgun class.

Day 2 of 1911 Practice: 

Roughly a week later I was back at the range and once again focused on my grip. This trip I got a lane and shot paper.
– I hate to admit it, but I had an accidental discharge (pointing downrange) because the trigger is so light. It was a scary reminder of one of the 4 IDPA safety rules: Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. 
– I’m still nudging the safety up while shooting. At least now I know why the gun just stopped shooting and can work to stop this from happening.
– I was able to shoot almost an entire magazine with no shift in my grip. That’s progress!
– Since I was unable to work on target transition in a lane, I started working on keeping both eyes open while I shoot. Since my focus is defensive scenarios, that is yet another skill I need to work on.


Shooting my IDPA Classifier

Old or young, we learn one round at a time. [Photo:coleimage.com]

October 23, 2012: On the way up to Oxford I called a friend and told him I was headed up to shoot my Classifier. He asked me what that meant and I said, “Call me tomorrow and I’ll let you know”.

Part of this journey is learning to deal with the unexpected because bad guys aren’t going to give you a heads up and allow you to plan for their malicious or deadly behavior. I did know a Classifier is a specific course of fire. You can hunt down the details and train specifically for that course of fire, but I think that also defeats the purpose. If you place higher than your true skill level by training specifically for the Classifier, the folks you complete against are going to give you a beating until you can shoot that well on unknown stages.

I did know this: bring the gear you use to compete (gun, holster, two magazine pouches, 4 magazines), 2 boxes (50 rounds each) of ammo, and the gear you use every time you shoot: eye and ear protection, a high necked shirt and stable shoes that cover your feet.

I called Frank in advance and asked if a friend could watch. She lives 10 minutes from the range and is a photographer. He said she was welcome and photos were fine. I asked if she could rent eye and ears protection as I didn’t have spares. He said he had some he could loan her. No charge. How could I possibly be nervous shooting with this man?

My friend and I hooked up in the parking area and hunted Frank down in the only functional building on the property. I found Frank friendly, welcoming, and a clear communicator.

The Classifier

Here are the highlights of the classifier. If you want specifics, I’m sure you can hunt that down via Google.

      • 90 rounds “limited”. For each course of fire, shoot the number of rounds requested only. No makeup shots.
      • There were 3 targets in various heights about 2 or 3 yards apart. All courses of fire were into these targets on a single range.
      • No cover garment is required, so I ditched my concealment vest.
      • He asked me what my mag capacity was and then asked me to load 15 rounds in all 4 magazines. It speeds up the process as less time is required to reload. Normal IDPA maximum capacity is 10 rounds.
      • Shooting scenarios included
          • “2 shots to the body” for almost all scenarios
          • Limited set of head shots
          • Strong hand only
          • Weak hand only
          • From as far as 20 yards
          • Shooting while moving forward
          • Shooting while moving backward
          • From behind tall cover (both left and right sides)
          • Kneeling behind low cover
          • Slide lock reloads
          • Tactical reloads with retention
      • The cost: $2 to cover targets. As Frank put it, “I’ll be collecting $15 every time you show up to compete” and he’s happy with that.
      • The time: about an hour.

Shooting strong hand only. Non shooting hand tucked tight! Ejected brass is flying above the gun. [Photo:coleimage.com]

Shooting Outside

The weather was great, even though this was late October. The day was clear and in the high 70s. I wore a t-shirt and was comfortable. I do need to think about layers for cold days and how that is going to work with concealment, but that was not an issue today.

This was the first time I’ve shot outside. It was a bright sunny day and I had not thought of getting impact resistant lenses with a sunglass tint. Do they even make something like that? I asked Frank what he recommended and he shared something like this, “The more light you let in, the better your ability to aim”. He doesn’t use sunglasses, he uses his hat. I’d clipped a hat to my range bag a few months back though I’ve never really used it. Today was the day. That worked well.

Every time I’ve shot “on the move” in classes, I had a nice smooth floor with nothing more than ejected brass under my feet. At the Classifier I was walking on gravel and it shifted underfoot. It’s not stable and I do remember thinking, “didn’t think about the ground surface” followed by “I need to come up here to shoot more often.”

A final observation: it’s really fun to see the dirt go “poof” as you bang away at the targets!

After the Shooting Stopped

One on one: instructions from Frank [Photo: coleimage.com]

I ranked as a Novice. No big surprise. I obviously slapped the trigger a bunch because many of my shots were low. I slacked off my dry fire practice after the last class I took and I paid for that. I’m motivated to get back to that ASAP.

I joined the IDPA via their website last weekend. They sent me a receipt but no membership number. Frank told me that might take 2 weeks and it would come via US Mail. Once I had the number, drop him email and “he’d take it from there” as far as getting my ranking to them.

The Range

Frank asked if we’d like a tour of the shoot house and my friend was included so we checked it out and she grabbed some photos. The bathroom was especially scary!

I asked what the cost was to shoot up here for practice and Frank said membership was $100 a year. That’s very reasonable, just wish it wasn’t a 2 hour round trip to get there. Of course this may just be the motivation I need to visit my friend more often.

I stuck around to chat with Frank and another fellow that had watched me shoot. Both talked to me about the merits of reloading – which many people have done. But Frank followed up with an offer to walk me through the process. I’d be stupid not to take him up on that.

The Belly Laugh

I got about a mile down the road before it started… a giggle that grew and expanded into a serious belly laugh. It ripples out of me and I love the giddy feeling. Almost every time I shoot this happens. I don’t know if it’s the after effect of adrenaline or where it comes from. But it’s the reason I keep working at this: feeling joy and passion make life so much better.