I finished the Federal and state paperwork for collecting the new test 9mm XD(m) 5.25 Competition Series from my local FFL dealer LowPriceGuns.com. Jason was on the phone, getting the background approval, when I opened the XD(m) box from Springfield Armory. Even at first glance, I realized that the new XD(m) 5.25 looked different than any other XD(m) I have seen, as were the accessories in the box.
Why did it look different? To some degree it was the long slide with the enhanced sights and new lightening cut, which gave the 5.25 its distinct look. In part it was the extra goodies that came with the fully equipped XD(m) package. The overall combination seemed to suggest that Springfield Armory upped the value of this package. I think of it as (M)ore package. Now, I know this sounds like marketing-speak, but take a look at the pictures and decide for yourself.
Looking back we can see that the Springfield Armory XD(m) line appeared on our shores about three years ago with the goal of raising the bar in the heavily populated polymer pistol market. The previous version, the XD, was well received, but Glock continued to dominate the market. A strong marketing campaign was lunched; the first XD(m) hit the market and sales picked up. It didn’t take long for the XD(m) to get noticed by customers and reviewers. In 2009, the improved XD won the coveted NRA Golden Bullseye Award, earning recognition as a handgun that exemplifies the best in the firearm business. It was off to a strong start. Since then, Springfield Armory released the XD(m) in the three most popular semiautomatic calibers: the .9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, and the three most popular form factors: Full size, compact and sub-compact. The new XD(m) 5.25 Competition Series introduces a new form factor and extends what the XD(m) can do in interesting ways.
Next, let’s explain the (m) thing. When the XD(m) first appeared, Springfield Armory marketing assigned different meanings to the (M) factor, which essentially meant more value in different areas. For example, (M)atch grade barrel and (M)ega lock texture in the frame. It resonated well with customers, mostly because it was true. There was much more value in every gun sold. As an owner of the original XD, I can attest to the amount of work invested in upgrading to a match grade barrel, reducing the circumference of the grip, and adding proper grip texture. With the XD(m) you get all of these out of the box. When was the last time you saw a marketing campaign selling facts? This time, with the XD(m) 5.25, the (m) covers all the previous features and then adds more.
What’s in a name? This 9mm XD(m) is called a 5.25 because of the length of the 5.25” match grade select fit steel barrel. It’s the longest barrel of any XD(m), or XD for that matter, and it’s even longer than a full sized Government 1911. The 5.25 was designed specifically for competition by the Springfield Armory Custom shop, with input from 5 Time World Champion Rob Leatham. Few shooters can match his experience when it comes to competitive shooting. In fact, you can map each and every feature to some competitive advantage. This means that the 5.25 Competition Series is custom built for a single purpose, and we’ll later see how that design decision affects the use of the 5.25 for self-defense. As in other specialized products, be it a Ferrari or running shoe, you attain perfection in one area at the price of all-around performance. When we get to the range section, we’ll spell out the pros and cons as we see them. Finally, as previous models, the XD(m) 5.25 comes in two color options: all-back or two-tone. We were sent the two tone 5.25 handgun.
Some people prefer pocket guns because they are small and light. It’s generally true that the bigger the gun, the greater the weight. Out-of-box exceptions to this rule are typically expensive. The 5.25 is certainly longer and therefore bigger than a standard XD(m). However, despite having a long slide, the 5.25 weighs a few ounces less than the regular 4.5” barrel 9mm XD(m). The 5.25 comes in at 29oz vs. 32.oz for the original model. There’s no magic here. The reduction in weight was accomplished by removing material from the slide. Springfield Armory calls this weight reduction a “Lightening Cut”, which is a cut in the slide (think Berretta-like look) that reduces the slide’s mass. Less mass means less weight and that means less resistance during shooting. That means that a lighter slide can be pushed back with less effort. With normal loads it means faster cycling, and with light, competition loads it means cycling without worries of jams. Keep in mind that competitors don’t need stopping power. They shot paper and steel. What they want is greater accuracy and less recoil. They want to use light hand loads–reliably. The lightening cut enables the use of light loads. But nothing in life is free. We’ll see that this design decision comes with trade-offs, but first let’s fully understand what Springfield Armory did to reduce weight. In this picture, you can see both the obvious (external) and less obvious (internal) points of weight-reduction. There’s quite a bit less material in the slide. Keep that fact in mind when you get to the range report.
We know the 5.25 design is focused on Competition shooting. That means meeting specific requirements that are driven by the competition scenario. Let’s think about that for a moment. When we compete with a handgun, we run it fast and hard. After safety, our primary concern is accuracy. We must hit the right zone to get the highest possible score. We also need to do so as quickly as possible and maintain control of the gun at all times, despite all the side effects of an adrenaline rush. The heart races. The hands sweat. Peripheral vision shrinks. And we breathe quickly, as we try to process sensory input as best we can under stress. That’s the scenario and, therefore, a long slide that works with light loads offers a new form factor, though, perhaps, not sufficient value for a new release. To make this a winning competition gun, Springfield Armory invested in several additional features.
The 5.25 has a barrel that’s superior to the previous (good) match grade barrel. Springfield Armory engineers developed a tighter tolerance barrel fit. In addition, and this is significant, each barrel is being hand selected to fit each individual pistol that comes off the line. That’s custom gun territory right there. It enhances accuracy and is said to maintain it longer too. After shooting 400 rounds through the 5.25, I can say that’s absolutely accurate. Then they fitted the 5.25 with fully adjustable rear sights and a blood red front fiber optic sight. This allows you to use different loads, most likely light ones, and still have sights that work properly. The plain, rear sight works amazingly well with the front fiber optic sight. It was most apparent when I started shooting the 5.25; even with the weak overhead light in my range booth, I was able to see the nearly glowing, bright front sight. The long slide and smart sight placement provides the shooter with an impressive 7.25” sight radius. In my mind, this is one of the strongest features in the 5.25. When you combine the long sight radius with a tighter tolerance barrel fit, you get a very accurate handgun that’s easy to shoot well—right out of the box.
To address the need for slide manipulation undress stress, Springfield Armory designed very functional slide serrations. They are easy to grip, have no sharp edges and they offer rock solid hold on the slide. Even with sweaty or wet hands. Springfield Armory says that the slide serrations are deeper and longer, offering a better hold during slide manipulation. After running tests in different dry fire drills with wet hands and later at the range, I can say that it’s an accurate statement.
Safety is addressed with several features that aren’t new or unique to the 5.25. As in the rest of the XD(m) line, the 5.25 has a loaded chamber indicator and a striker status indicator. When a round is chambered, both indicators offer visual and tactile evidence of a loaded handgun. I found the striker indicator helpful in the dark, and it’s a good feature to have; though, like any mechanical device, it can fail. Therefore, to make sure your handgun is unloaded, always check it yourself—the best safety indicator is your mind—mechanical indicators can be wrong.
The traditional contoured frame offers superb ‘point and shoot’ ergonomics. It fits well in the hand, it points naturally. The width is adjustable with the included backstraps offers good fit in different hands. For me, the out of box width is just right. If you own an XD and never fired an XD(m), you should know that the XD(m) frame addresses a key deficiency in the XD line (which removes the need to customize the grip) by shaving some material off and then adding texture for better grip. The angle and depth of each contour in the grip is designed to enhance the shooting experience. The trigger, which is locked until intentional pressure is applied, breaks at 6.1 lbs. It’s easy to manipulate with no creep and minimal over travel. It’s a good trigger out of the box, and I suspect that it will lighten a bit over time. The fact that every shot is sent with consistent pressure (unlike DA to SA) offers predictability and assists in shooting the XD(m). The grip safety is unchanged from the XD line, offering an additional mechanical safety feature.
Shooting the 5.25 was interesting and offered a unique experience. Because it’s a competition handgun, I bought light factory loads from different vendors. Since some folks prefer to carry the handgun they practice most with, I also bought self-defense ammunition to provide a complete picture of this guns capabilities. The 5.25 was built for competition, but we’ll see if it works with ammunition designed for duty, self-defense and home defense.
This is the ammo I used for testing the XD(m) 5.25:
- 100 rds. of 9mm Remington 115gr. FMJ
- 100 rds. of 9mm Sellier & Bellot 115gr.FMJ
- 100 rds. of 9mm Fiocchi Ammunition 115gr FMJ
- 50 rds. of 9mm Federal LE Tactical HST 124gr. HP
- 20 rds. of 9mm Corbon DPX 115gr Deep Penetrating X Bullet (DPX)
I started by loading the Remington into the large, 19 round high capacity magazine and setting the target at 10 yards. I wanted to get a sense for the gun and to see how it shoots. I simulated a basic scenario and started with the handgun on the shooting booth’s table. I then reached for the handgun, gripped it well, lifted the handgun until the front sight was aligned with the target and stopped. I found the plain, adjustable rear sight worked well with the fiber optic front sight. Even with the minimal light in my booth, the front sight was clear and bright. The handgun felt balanced, despite the long slide. It didn’t feel any different than the other XD(m) I brought with me. I repeated the drill a few times to examine the balance and how it felt to align the sights with the target. I swapped back and forth between the two guns and didn’t feel much of a difference. The 5.25 was well balanced. It was time to do some shooting.
I got a good hold on the slide, pulled it back toward me and I loaded the first of the 19 9mm rounds into the chamber. There was no visible resistance and the Remington FMJ round loaded with ease. Squeezing the trigger, with consistent pressure to the back, I released the first shot. The initial feeling was interesting. I sent a few more rounds down range, carefully focusing on the felt recoil. The 5.25 was solid and felt recoil was minimal. I’ll later note that this was the softest shooting round of the lot and the one that the XD(m) liked most. The long yet light slide and the long sight radius made hitting the target at 10 yards too easy. I had strings that went into a dime sized group and even with rapid fire, keeping the rounds in a tight area wasn’t much of a challenge. This gun made shooting light loads easy. And fun.
Before getting to the bulk of the range test, I wanted to run a quick test. Knowing the 5.25 was built to shoot light loads; I decided to try more powerful self-defense ammunition. I loaded the LE Gold Dot first because some handguns, especially ones that aren’t broken in, have a hard time loading the wide cavity of the GDHP. The 5.25 didn’t blink. It loaded the Gold Dot with the same ease as it did the previous Remington FMJ. I fired a few rounds to get used to the handgun with this load. This time it felt very different. There was a noticeable snap and recoil felt stronger. It wasn’t hard to get the sights back on target, nor was it hard to control but it wasn’t smooth. The lighter and longer slide was built to work with light hand loads. The 5.25 was built to address a different scenario and this is where we felt the trade-offs. In addition, the light recoil spring didn’t like the self-defense ammunition at all. After the last God Dot was fired, the slide didn’t stay locked back. Instead, it ejected the last round and went forward on an empty chamber without stopping at the magazine. The striker indicators showed as loaded but the loaded chamber indicator showed the gun to be unloaded. It was an interesting experiment. I loaded the same ammunition into the Robar XD(m) and felt recoil was much reduced. At the last round, the slide locked back. The pros and cons of this test were self-evident, but was it just a coincidence? Something with the GDHP? It left an open question to revisit later and I gave it a bit more thought as I switched back to range ammo.
I pushed the target out to 15 yards. Taking careful aim and taking my time, I slowly squeezed the trigger of the 5.25. I’m spoiled by the fine trigger that Robbie Barkman honed on my Robar XD(m) but I could tell this trigger was good out of the box. Still, if I could refine one thing, it would be the trigger. By doing my job right, I was able to let the 5.25 do its job well and we were able to land very tight groups with all the target loads. Felt recoil was lowest with the Remington. The other two loads, the Sellier & Bellot and Fiocchi, we a notch or two higher and about the same. All were much softer shooting than the Gold Dot. We have the accuracy tests taken at 25 yards below for your review, and to me it seemed that my SA loaner 5.25 was most comfortable with Remington 115gr FMJ. If I needed to select affordable and accurate ammunition for a competition, I’d go with the Remington value pack, but I digress.
I should have used the included magazine loader, but I left it behind after playing around with it in my workshop. Loading the tight, new nineteen round high capacity magazine was harder than getting tight groups. In fact, it kept getting harder as the range session progressed. I barely managed to load the last of the 400 rounds and my thumb looked like a swollen tomato. In that respect, I guess the 5.25 also has pain relieving properties, because I only noticed the pain after I packed up. With magazines loaded, I proceeded with my tests. I liked the fact that each trigger pull felt about the same. By that I mean that you don’t have to deal with a long and heavy double action pull and then a light single action, as you’d see in a SIG SAUER or other fine DA/SA handguns. With the XD(m) every trigger pull for every shot is the same. That’s an edge in competition and in real life scenarios too. At this point I was attuned enough to the gun to notice light snap when I increased the pace of shooting. It wasn’t sharp or anything like that, it was just there. But regardless, accuracy remained excellent and the XD(m) felt great in the hand.
Next, I pushed the target out to 25 yards to perform the final accuracy tests. This is where this handgun shines. It’s very strong at 15 yards but at 25 yards it shines to the point where I’d gladly bet on it beating far more expensive custom guns. I used my improvised bench rest to remove any freehand weakness and focus on the XD(m) 5.25 and its accuracy. I started with the Remington loads and moved down the list of ammunition, shooting a few groups with each load and then moving to the next load. The bright, fiber optic sight covered the entire circle of my test target. I squeezed off three shots and, since I couldn’t see where they landed, I paused and readjusted my grip and aimed a bit away from my previous location. I didn’t know how well I shot but I knew the fiber optic sight was a great feature. Focusing on it was easy. It’s just there—and it draws attention. I brought the target back and saw that I had two groups of three shots each in less than an inch, as you can see below. The XD(m) can’t make you a better shooter, but it can surely help you shot better.
I was able to create more tight groups but after I ran out of Remington ammunition, I wasn’t able to reproduce such groups again. I could only imagine how well this handgun could do with good high end match ammunition from Black Hills.
It was time to test my favorite overall load, the Federal HST. Since it’s unlikely to engage targets at 25 yards in self-defense situations, I brought the target back to 15 yards. I loaded 19 rounds of Federal HST and got to work. Accuracy was very good. Not as good as with the different range loads, but very well for self-defense. The snap I felt with the Gold Dot was just as pronounced. It’s possible this is due to my getting used to the soft shooting range loads. Still, it took a bit more effort to land the rounds and, while the XD(m) loaded, fired and ejected every HST round, the 5.25 didn’t lock the slide to the back after the last HST round was shot. It’s not really that much of a surprise that it happened. The 5.25 was built specifically for light loads, and we knew we’ll see some trade-offs with self-defense loads. On the positive side, accuracy and reliability was 100%. The XD(m) 5.25 did an excellent job and handled these rounds well. If I thought the HST was snappy, imagine the feeling of shooting the Corbon DPX. It’s hot ammunition and fairly snappy in a SIG SAUER P226R or even a steel 9mm 1911. In this light, polymer handgun it was sharp. But on the positive, the longer barrel should help the DPX bullet accelerate and become even harder hitting. I think that sums the pros and cons of using the 5.25 with self-defense ammunition. I wouldn’t feel unsafe with the 5.25 in a fight, but I’d rather have my Robar (to compare same family guns). I didn’t bring any heavy loads with me and, given my experience with the DPX, I didn’t miss much.
Switching back to range and competition loads brought the XD(m) back to perfect performance. In fact, after shooting the HST and DPX rounds, the Remington and, later, Fiocchi and Sellier & Bellot all felt very soft.
Thinking of the overall shooting experience, I’d say that acquiring targets was easy. The 5.25 will most likely speed the process of getting the target in your sights. With light ammunition the XD(m) loaded, fired smoothly and then ejected the spent cartridges away from my face. It also locked the slide back and it performed flawlessly. As I continued with my testing I was able to create more tight groups, but after I ran out of Remington ammunition, I wasn’t able to reproduce such groups again. As mentioned earlier, I could only imagine how well this handgun could do with good high end match ammunition from Black Hills.
|Ammo Maker||Weight||Bullet type||Accuracy @ 25 yards|
|Sellier & Bellot||115gr.||FMJ||1.5”|
|Remington UMC (Value Pack)||115gr.||FMJ||Less than 1”|
|Federal LE HST||124gr.||HST||2.1”|
|Corbon DPX +P||115gr.||Barnes XPB||3.5”|
|Speer LE Got Dot||124gr.||GDHP||2.5”|
I proceeded to test one hand shooting, as you’d see in some competitions. Shooting strong and weak hand, I tested the XD(m) at different distances, with different loads. In all cases, the 5.25 worked well with very good accuracy. The reduced weight was appreciated especially with the weak hand shooting out to 20 yards. It took some time to take aim, and it was nice to be able to do that without a hunk of 1911 steel. Felt recoil was about the same, where light loads worked well and the self-defense loads were snappy.
The gentleman who shot next to me, Mike, stopped by for a chat. It always reminds me of how different gun people are—always friendly and polite—the way people ought to be everywhere. I only wish the rest of the population were more like gun folks. After Mike and I chatted for a bit, I offered the 5.25 for a test drive. Mike took a few shots with the 5.25 and the HST. He then repeated the same drill with the Robar XD(m). When I asked him how the 5.25 felt, his answer was a combination of fun and snappy. He shot well and had great hits, but the combination of HST and 5.25 wasn’t ideal. I was sorry I used up all the range ammo. Back on point, I’d say that this handgun, as its name implies, is built for competition and light loads. With those it exceeds expectations and works like a charm. I know for a fact that I shot better at 25 yards with the 5.25 than with the Robar. I wouldn’t take a Ferrari off road. If you want a carry gun, the original XD(m) is in my mind, better suited for the job. However, if you can only afford one handgun and you compete more than you carry, then the 5.25 is a good choice for that. I’m fairly confident that a stronger recoil spring would help in addressing the slide lock (as I have seen this type of problem before in a custom 9mm 1911, and this tip from Wilson Combat helped resolve the issue). As for being snappy with hotter loads—practice—you’ll have fun and you’ll get used to it.
In summary, the new XD(m) 5.25 Competition Series is highly accurate, well built, reliable and a fun to shoot handgun. It will help most folks shoot better. It will help most folks get on target faster. The long sight radius, quality sights and overall balance, will help you get the most out of your shooting skill. This handgun’s ergonomics are outstanding. The 5.25 didn’t have a single problem with several types of ammunition when it came to loading, shooting and ejecting. It functioned 100% of the time–right out of the box—no break-in required. That’s impressive. For a limited time, the 5.25 will ship with three rather than two magazines. The package will also contain red and green fiber optic material that can be cut and fitted into the front sight. This will give you a choice of color for the front sight, as well as replacement material, should you need it in future. All in all, I would highly recommend this handgun for its stated purpose. The design input from one of the brightest stars in the shooting sports, together with the excellent custom shop work, combine to deliver more than you pay for. The Springfield Armory Custom Shop produced a winner—the XD(m) 5.25— and it will be available for purchase soon.
Until next time, stay safe by staying alert,
Dan S. Defense