Up until a few years ago, I was an old school gun thinking kind of guy. My handguns were all metal framed and most were of a caliber starting with the number 4. My enlightenment came when doing some research for a good gun to keep around the house for my wife to use if the need were ever to arise. She had shot a few of my guns, and if need be, I felt she could use one at least reasonably well, but she never showed any desire to shoot for fun. Knowing that, and knowing she would likely not spend much time practicing, I felt a smaller (relatively) caliber would be more appropriate for her. One of the side benefits to that decision was the increase in capacity.
Since I was looking for a new caliber (to me), I decided to open up to more modern pistol designs and more specifically, to polymer framed guns. Polymer framed guns have been around for quite a long time, but at this point, I had never owned one. Way back in the late ‘80s, I shot a friend’s Gen 1 Glock 17 and I recalled not liking it at all. Not only did the grip feel like I was holding a slightly rounded 2×4, but when I was shooting it, I somehow kept hitting the mag release just enough to unseat the magazine so the gun failed to pick up the next round. That said, I did not discount Glock out of hand because they have a proven record of reliability and they have gone through a few generation changes which not the least of things, addressed ergonomics which was my sole complaint with the G17 I had shot.
I spent hours and hours researching various guns via the internet, and that helped me to narrow my choices down to two guns to fit the bill for a house gun, to be kept loaded and ready (in the lock box as we have 3 kids) at all times, the Gen 4 Glock 17 and a 4” Springfield XD. Both guns have an excellent reputation for reliability, and both have endured serious torture tests. While most people are familiar with the Glock torture test, few know about the extensive test one man put his XD through consisting of 20,000 rounds and acres of abuse (XD Torture Test).
The one and only weakness of the XD that I could find mentioned enough on the internet to be concerned about it was that the cocked striker indicator has a tendency to break, but there appears to be no rhyme or reason to why. That said, in every case I found where it broke, it did not affect the guns ability to function. Additionally, the XD has a lifetime warranty and Springfield replaces them for free.
With reliability being a moot point, there were two features on the XD that kept me coming back to it. Knowing this was going to be a gun that my not-so-gun-savvy wife may have to employ in a time of need, I wanted it to be very easy for her to be able to discern if the gun was indeed ready to go. The cocked striker indicator and the loaded chamber indicator are both easy to see and feel and they instantly tell the user the gun is ready. Additionally, the grip shape would better fit her smaller hands so that clinched it, the XD would be it, so I ordered one.
When I got my first XD, a 4” 9mm Duty model in flat dark earth. I fired it a few times to test it, cleaned it and put it on the shelf. Problem is, I enjoyed shooting it so much, I shot it some more. The more I shot it, the more I liked it, far more than I thought I would, and that house gun in turn ended up being my daily carry gun. So much for buying a house gun. Knowing why I chose that gun for my wife, but realizing how much I in fact liked it, I bought its smaller brother, a 3” sub-compact 9mm in plain black which will accept full capacity magazines and even comes with the grip extension. Now, no matter which of the two I am carrying, the other remains at the ready in the lock box.
18 months passed and I found out my department, which has carried nothing but Sigs since we transitioned from revolvers in the mid ‘90s, will soon be authorizing privately owned Glocks to be carried as our primary duty weapon. I have always carried a backup gun, but since Sig does not make a compact gun that shares magazines with their full size offerings, I carried a S&W Airweight .38 hammerless J-frame. When looking at what I was currently carrying, the Glock option has some serious appeal. To be able to share ammo supplies between the two guns, that is a big deal to me. Also, I am a big fan of how much lower the bore axis is in relation to the shooter’s hand, especially when compared with my Sig.
None of this is intended as a bash on Sig in any way. I still own several Sigs, have owned several others over the years, and have carried department issued Sigs, and they all have been undeniably reliable. I have never once experienced a non-shooter induced malfunction in my 17 years of carrying and shooting a Sig.
Knowing the Glock thing would be coming down the pike, I purchased a Gen 4 G26 and a Gen 4 G17. As with any new gun of mine, I soon sat down and out of curiosity and dismantled the entire gun. Immediately, I was awestruck by just how well engineered the Glock is. Using only 1 tool, a punch, I can completely dismantle the entire gun. Not only was I impressed by the ability to disassemble it with just that 1 tool, but the number of parts, or more accurately, the lack of parts needed for this gun to operate as it does is amazing. Gaston Glock did one helluva job designing this thing!
Now to the nitty gritty, the comparison.
Both guns are excellent weapons. They both have an excellent reputation for reliability, although the Glock has been around almost 20 years longer. The XD, while relatively new in the US market, is no spring chicken. It was first produced in 1999 for the Croatian military (under the name HS2000) and has been in constant service with them since. It is also carried by at least 6 other smaller nation’s militaries.
Appearance: This is purely personal, and everyone’s opinion will vary, but I am torn. I like different aspects of both guns. Overall though, I think I am going to lean toward Glock on this one.
Weight: This goes to Glock (1 lb 6.3 oz). The XD is slightly heavier (1 lb 8.9 oz) and it carries that extra weight in the slide, making it feel a little top heavy when compared to the Glock. That said, when I compare it to my Sig I do not notice the top heavy feeling.
Magazines: The Glock’s plastic body/metal lined mags are reliable and cheap, but they are also a little bigger than most standard double stack mags. They also have been known to not drop free from the gun on occasion, although I have not experienced that with my current Gen 4’s. The G17 has a 17 round capacity, which with a few factory parts and minimal expense, can increase the capacity to 19. The XD uses metal mags. The factory mags are made from shiny stainless steel, which while easier to clean and maintain, is silly for a combat handgun (hey Springfield, ever hear of glare?). The full size factory mag holds 16 rounds, while the Mec-Gar flush fitting mag (black mag in the picture) not only comes in a matte black smooth finish, it holds 18 rounds and functions flawlessly.
Ergonomics: Here, this is a no-brainer to me, XD all the way. The grip shape is practically identical to a Browning Hi-Power which is notoriously one of the best feeling handguns of all time. The grip to trigger distance is short, yet even someone with large hands such as I can manipulate it easily. The magazine release is easy to operate, and is ambidextrous. The slide stop/release is within easy reach of my thumb and it is easy to use without being overly large. The Glock’s ergos have been vastly improved since it first hit the market back at the end of the disco era, and can be personalized for little money with the factory Glock extended slide release, add-on beavertails (or Gen4 back strap sets), enlarged and/or reshaped mag releases, all of which are easy to install and inexpensive. One annoying thing I found firing my Glock was that the corner of the trigger guard hit my middle finger right at the knuckle and firing the gun repeatedly caused a small bruise. But, out of the box, the XD just fits and fits perfect. (Note: the grips on both of my XD’s have been retextured to aid in grip retension, but the shape has not been altered)
Sights: The factory sights on both guns are adequate, with the nod going toward the XD only because theirs are metal whereas the factory Glock sights are plastic. Either set of factory sights, so long as not abused, would serve the owner well. However, based the fact that more than half of my shift is spent in the dark, I need night sights. I recently discovered Trijicon’s new HD series sights, and absolutely love them. I have installed them on all my carry guns. Not only do they have the standard tritium inserts, but the front sight dot is extra-large and, comes in either bright orange or bright yellow, I prefer the orange.
Accuracy: Both guns are plenty accurate for what they are, combat handguns. For that matter, they are far more capable than I in this respect. While I am no marksman, I find them both easy to shoot and to keep on target. I do find that I shoot the XD more accurately than the Glock, but I chalk that up to my next item, the trigger.
Trigger – physical feel/appearance: Hands down, the XD is the winner. The feel of the XD trigger is nice and smooth. When using it, you have no idea that is has the Glock style trigger safety so many manufacturers are fond of installing on their striker fired guns. I find the Glock trigger to be very annoying. The trigger safety does not go flush with the trigger, sticking up a noticeable amount about the main trigger, which I find distracting. The XD trigger is just there, not making you take notice of it, which is exactly what I like about it.
Trigger – action: Here I also give it to the XD, except on the matter of trigger reset. Where trigger reset is concerned, the Glock is king. When the Glock resets, you know it, as does the guy shooting next to you. Once reset, it is ready to go with almost no slack to take up. The XD reset is a little longer, and not nearly as pronounced, but it is still enough that you can easily feel it. However, once reset, it does have about 1/8” of slack to take up. Not perfect, but nothing to sneeze at. As for everything else trigger pull related, for me it is XD all the way. Concerning trigger action, pull weight and let off, the XD is smoother with a clean break but, nothing that causes the gun to move. For the life of me, I cannot fire the Glock (dry or live) without the front sight bobbling just a touch. I have dry fired it a bazillion times and no matter how slow I go, or how hard I try, I cannot keep the front sight from moving. I have no such issues with the XD, or any other gun I own for that matter.
Summary: The Glock is an excellent weapon, and the engineering is nothing short of impressive, but the ergos and trigger of the XD tip the scales for me. Speaking of tipping the scales, the 2 oz of extra weight in the XD is barely noticeable when holding both guns fully loaded.
One thing I found I came to love about the XD, that was neither a plus or minus when originally comparing them, is the grip safety. I find it very comforting when I am holstering the XD, because so long as I am not pressing on the grip safety, if a piece of clothing or something else were to find its way into the trigger guard, it is near impossible to have an accidental discharge (AD) with the XD. Not so with the Glock, an issue that has been demonstrated many times over the life of the Glock. I am already carrying my G26 as my on-duty backup, and I find myself very nervous when I am holstering it under my uniform shirt in its vest mounted holster. This is a fear I would not have if that were my sub-compact XD instead.
All that said, if “pimping you gun” is your idea of fun, if you enjoy swapping out bits and pieces such as recoil springs/guide rods, triggers, little bits of bling, then the Glock is definitely your gun. The Glock has been in the public market for a very long time, and has a very strong following in the military, law enforcement, civilian and competition markets. Just about every single piece of the Glock can be bought from an aftermarket company is some souped up race or combat version.
Whichever gun you select, you cannot go wrong when choosing between these two. However, given that choice, I choose the XD.
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