Plastic Pistols – the Glock 19 vs. Springfield Armory XD-9

For some time, three brands have dominated the mid-level polymer handgun market, that being the Glock series which truly pioneered the polymer pistol industry, the Springfield Armory XD series, which brought another option to the table and resolved some perceived problems of the Glock, and the relative newcomer, the Smith & Wesson M&P series. Today I’m looking at the older two: the Glock 19, and the Springfield Armory XD-9 with the 4-inch “service model” barrel.

The Glock 19 is, of course, the downsized version of the original Glock 17, a 9mm pistol that, though it wasn’t the original polymer framed pistol, truly brought the concept to the public eye, as well as spawned the myth that there are widely available “plastic pistols” that are undetectable by metal detectors and x-rays, a myth that is perpetuated to this day. (The truth, of course, is that there is far more metal in a Glock pistol than there is plastic and it won’t evade detection any better than any other hunk of steel!) The Glock series has been continuously refined and elaborated since its introduction in 1982, and is now available in a variety of sizes and fires many different cartridges.

The Springfield Armory XD series is a design created by Croatian manufacturer HS Produkt and rebranded for distribution in the United States. It has several similar features to the Glock line, which has given way to plenty of comparison and competition. The XD is a semi-automatic, striker-fired handgun with a polymer frame, available in several sizes and calibers – all of which also describe the Glock.

So what sets these two apart?

The Safety

The Glock has been relentlessly criticized through the years for its lack of an external safety switch; its only external safety feature is a “button” on the front of the trigger that is disengaged by pulling the trigger to fire the gun. This feature makes the gun very simple to use, as it has no switch to find and disengage before it can be fired. If used in a self defense situation, this could even save your life. On the other hand, some think of this as unsafe, as an object could potentially catch and pull the trigger, and without a secondary safety feature, nothing is preventing the gun from firing.  The Glock series also has a number of internal safety features that prevent it from being fired by any function except a complete pull of the trigger, such as dropping the gun.

The XD also has no external safety switch (though some specialized models have been made available relatively recently that are equipped with safety switches), and it has a trigger safety similar to the Glock series, but additionally, a grip safety has been added, similar to 1911 style pistols; a large “button” on the rear of the grip that is disengaged by the user’s hand gripping the gun, and is engaged automatically when the grip is released. This way, if an object were to catch the trigger without the grip safety being pressed at the same time, the gun is unable to fire. For convenience, there is also a striker indicator on the back of the gun that indicates if the gun is cocked and ready to fire, and a chamber loaded indicator on top of the slide to indicate if a round is chambered. (For the record, I don’t recommend trusting a chamber loaded indicator. Always inspect the chamber yourself!)

There are benefits and drawbacks to each, of course. A random object catching the trigger is pretty unlikely, but in that event, the Glock is a little more prone to fire accidentally. The XD’s grip safety would seem to solve this problem while keeping the gun just as simple to use, but personally, the XD’s grip doesn’t quite fit my hand and in some cases, it’s possible for a loose shooting grip to not completely disengage the grip safety, rendering the gun inoperable. On the range, this would just be an annoyance, but in a self defense situation, it could be a very bad thing.

The Grip

The single biggest difference, and what makes many fans of one detest the other, is the grip. The Glock uses a somewhat unusual grip angle, sweeping back a few degrees farther than many other popular handguns, causing many who have practiced extensively with other guns, such as the 1911, to naturally point the Glock too high. Of course, this comes down simply to personal preference, and millions – myself included – obviously don’t have this problem.

The Glock 19 grip has a set of finger grooves sculpted into the front strap, and is actually considerably shorter than that of the XD, by around half an inch. The front-to-muzzle length of the guns are nearly identical, and for the extra grip length, the XD only holds one additional round over the Glock’s fifteen. The capacity is odd, as the Glock’s frame is almost exactly the same width as the XD’s, and the walls of the Glock magazine are even thicker than the XD’s, being made of plastic with a thin metal liner for reinforcement, where the XD’s is entirely metal, it seems that the XD would fit a round or two more in there.

The XD has a shallower grip angle, roughly the same angle as the 1911, so those who are uncomfortable with the angle on the Glock will find themselves right at home here. The front strap is a little bit more rounded, doesn’t have finger grooves, and the checkering feels a little less aggressive. The texture of it is a little more comfortable, but traction may be sacrificed.

The entire shape of the XD’s grip is considerably different than that of the Glock and will play a big part in any choice between the two.

The Trigger

Both guns’ triggers are equipped with a trigger safety which only allows the trigger to move when direct, rearward pressure is applied, which helps prevent accidental firing. The trigger safety doesn’t detract from the trigger pull in any way, as both are nearly unnoticeable.

The trigger pulls feel distinct on each. Both have a fairly large amount of slack before the trigger break, which a shooter can easily get a feel for and quickly overcome. The XD’s trigger pull is lighter than the Glock’s, both in slack and break. However, the Glock trigger seems to break crisper and sooner, with less travel, while the XD feels a little smoother, but with more travel.

The Glock trigger is well known for its short reset, allowing quick follow-up shots instead of requiring the shooter to completely release the trigger to fire again. The XD’s trigger reset is a little longer, with some travel, which would conceivably slow down fast shooting. Like the grip, the trigger comes down to personal preference.

The Verdict

I didn’t cover how the two shoot because it’s almost certain that either gun is more accurate than you are. Some people just can’t shoot a Glock, some people just can’t shoot an XD; it all comes down to preference and how the gun fits you. While features can help you decide, the major factor in a decision between either of these fine firearms should really come down to how the gun fits you and how well you can shoot it. If you can rent one or shoot a friend’s before you buy, that’s the way to go!

While I personally prefer the feel of the Glock, it’s easy to see why both of these have the popularity they do, with their ease of use, durability, and dependability.

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