Springfield XD as Beretta M9 Replacement?

This morning, I received, by email, a link to a post on humanevents.com. The author of the post states that the United States Marine Corps should adopt the Springfield XD-45 as a new service pistol. While I generally weigh what people have to say carefully, some of the comments he makes strike me as quite ridiculous, leading me to question much of his knowledge base on the subject.

He bases this recommendation on three major points -

1. That the .45ACP cartridge is a massive improvement over the 9mm Parabellum cartridge.

2. That the Beretta M9 is prone to early failure.

3. That the XD-45 is a significant improvement over other handgun designs.

Let’s take the first point – caliber.

The author states that:

“The momentum that the .45 carries with it into the target almost doubles that of the 9mm with a broader impact surface resulting in a much heavier hit, like taking on a National Football League back after playing high school tackle.”

Let’s compare and contrast this with a quote from WWII armorer and author, Roy Dunlap, who says:

The old claim of “the .45 knocks ‘em down if it hits ‘em in the arm of leg” carries no weight with anyone who has actually seen any bullet work on humans. Sometimes a .45 might flatten a man with a minor wound, but I have known of Jap soldiers who absorbed a burst in the body from a Thompson and went down fighting. The .45 carries a lot of shocking power, it is true, but the point nearly every pistol argument misses is that a hit with any bullet above a .22 rim fire will slow a man enough from what he is doing – running away, running toward you, or shooting at you – to give you time to put in a fatal hit or hits. “

While the author of the HumanEvents article defends the notion of “stopping power,” he fails to provide any evidence to back up this claim beyond football tackle analogies and a basic discussion of “energy.” True, there’s a statistical difference in “energy” – but what difference does it make in the real world? All handgun cartridges are pretty similar in terms of energy when you compare them to centerfire rifle cartridges.

Next, he states that the Beretta M9 is prone to failure at early round counts – between 22,000 and 35,000 rounds, he says. However, he never presents data on the XD-45. There’s only limited data available on the internet regarding XD high round count testing – specifically, a 20,000 round test. Even so, this was for the XD-9 – not the handgun the author fervently adores. To me, hard data based on thousands of Beretta M9s and the lifespan of their components is far more reliable than a single example where an XD was not even shot to the lowest supposed failure point of the M9.

Beyond that, as Helmuth von Moltke  says, “No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength.” How does that apply to handguns? Well, no piece of gear ever survives first contact with junior enlisted infantrymen and armorers unscathed. It’s easy enough to say that the XD would be a more durable handgun, but its lack of adoption by any significant department or unit in the United States or abroad leaves many unanswered questions.

The story of Beretta M9 maintenance has been fraught with failure, both in terms of training the end user in how they should maintain the handgun and in training small unit armorers in how often critical components need to be changed. The XD is not a magic wand, and is going to be just as susceptible to such failures if 500,000 of them were fired 20,000 times each over the course of 25 years, all while not being maintained practically until they fell apart.

Finally, he states that the XD-45 is nothing short of a revolutionary advance compared to handguns such as the Beretta 92/M9. I’m a little confused by one comment – he states that Glocks have problems with balance because of their “composite materials” – while stating that the XD uses an “all metal framing.” It’s not clear to me whether he is aware that the XD is substantially similar to a Glock in terms of construction – both have polymer frames with metal components which the slide and other internal parts interface with – or if this was just a poorly stated comment referring to the minor differences between the two. Regardless, this is the first comment I’ve heard stating that the XD is better balanced than other handguns. Generally, this is one of the first things people complain about with regard to the XD – a “top/forward heavy” feeling.

In addition, he describes the XD as having “a cocking indicator on the rear face of the slide like a Glock.” Unless Glock handguns have changed since I last bought mine, they do not feature cocking indicators on the rear face of the slide. These comments lead me to seriously question the basis for his opinion. Everyone’s entitled to one – and the ability to express theirs – but articles such as this have no basis in a serious discussion of service handgun performance or selection.

48 comments

  • I might concede the first point to him — there was an interesting post, made within the past month or so on one of the 100 or so gunblogs I follow, about a trauma room nurse who noted most of the 9mm victims she’d seen lived, but most of the .45ACP victims didn’t.

    OTOH, the other two points are pretty much worthless (as you’ve well deconstructed), leaving me to remind myself that even a broken clock is right twice a day, and this ‘recommendation’ might have just gotten lucky on Point 1.

    • I agree with the author. As a former USMC Officer- Viet Nam Era and now a LCDR /USPHS/DOJ /R I feel that the Berretta is a superior weapon. It has the endurance of being field tested in battle in the Midle East alone for over 10 + years . It is a superior weapon. Remember the 9 mm is as valuable as the 45 in that if you initially disable the combatant on the first shot the kill shot will follow quickly. Gentelmen, thanks for the” comments and the “HEADS UP”. Semper Fi ! Be well and watch your ” 6″. Doc:)

    • I’m always skeptical of anecdotal reports with too many variables. Where were the patients shot with .45? Where were they shot with 9mm? Were .380 rounds mistakenly identified as 9mm? Is a local PD using .45 JHP, and all the local gangbangers use 9mm FMJ? Does it matter more whether a bad guy dies 6 hours from now in the ER – or is out of the fight RIGHT NOW because I could place more rounds on target in a shorter period of time?

  • I carry and XD.45 Compact. I really like the thing, but I have to acknowlege your criticisms. Mostly we have no real torture testing knowlege. So here’s what I propose. Someone give me an XDm .45, and 50,000 rounds of ammo. I’ll shoot the thing until it breaks or I run out of ammo. It’s a win-win. You all get data, and I get to shoot more often.

    I’d like to see the Army get rid of the Baretta. I hated the thing. The whole Double-Action/Single-Action thing is a relic of that time period that basically no one uses anymore. Polymer pistols are the way to go.

    • If it works for you, great – I don’t think it’s a bad handgun, and there are a lot of good shooters who use XDs.

      I don’t think the M9 needs to be replaced, though. It’s a serviceable sidearm with an established logistical base. There may be better gunfighting handguns out there, but other considerations apply on a macro level.

    • On that note, such a 50k round torture test has been completed with Heckler and Koch’s Hk45, like ‘em or not. :)

      http://pistol-training.com/archives/4027

      • I wonder how much real value there is in a single weapon being tested. It’s luck of the draw at that point. You really need a lot more to be statistically valid. Such as Andrew’s point of having 500,000 M9′s fire 20,000 rounds over 20 years.

      • I think the HK45 went to 90,000…the P30 went to 50,000…or maybe it was vice versa.

  • for what it’s worth, momentum is mass times velocity (energy is 1/2 * mass * velocity squared. )
    let’s see if he’s right, assume a 147 gr 9mm with a velocity of 1210 ft/s and we’ll use a 230 gr at 900 ft/s. Some quick goat math and leaving the units alone says 177,870 gr-ft/s vs 207,000 gr-ft/s respectively. Someone help me out, I don’t see the 9mm as having half the momentum. I mean, I can take the lightest slowest round of one and the heaviest fastest of the other and compare them, but would it matter? I believe energy is what you want to transfer to your target, right? so 474 lb-ft vs 414 lb-ft. Not seeing double or half there either.
    I like the 45 and the 9mm. I actually abhor the XD though: the bore height is too great, the balance sucks, I hate the gimicky grip safety and grip for that matter, I don’t care about a loaded chamber indicator, not a fan of the trigger. Croatia can keep them. Then again, I don’t like that sledge hammer of a Beretta either.

    • That is an awfully hot 9mm you’ve got there, in the +P+ range.

      I’m a 9mm man, if only for the cheapness of the ammo, but be fair. I DO shoot rounds that hot, but they’re my defensive loads; the military rounds are nowhere near as powerful, being about 124grs at 1200ft/s.

      If you were gonna run a fair comparison, run 9mm and .45 ACP, 230grs at 900ft/s or so and 147 at 1050, and then run 9mm +P+ and .45 Super, with 147 at 1175 and 230 at 1100.

      For the non plus rounds, we get an unadjusted momentum of 207Kgrs-ft/s for .45 and 154Kgrs-ft/s for the 9mm. Just to throw it in there, the NATO loading of 9mm (124@1200) comes to about 149grs-ft/s. This isn’t really a big difference in power, but it’s significant. Doesn’t matter as much when you realize that the two rounds have entirely different terminal characteristics, and their own upsides and downsides once they leave the barrel.

      For the plus rounds, we have 253Kgrs-ft/s for the .45 Super and 172Kgrs-ft/s, which is actually a bit bigger margin. This is due, I think, to the fact that the .45 ACP is really low pressure and the .45 Super isn’t as low pressure, so there’s a bit more growing room between the .45 ACP and Super than there is between the 9mm vanilla and +P+.

      As a nugget, I’ll throw in the venerable .38 Special police load, which was sworn by for many years. With a 158gr SWC bullet at 750 ft/s, it comes to a scant 119Kgrs-ft/s.

      • I have to defer to your expertise, I just grabbed two rounds off wikipedia for a quick example. I just wanted to figure out where the double the momentum comment came from.

  • I’m curious if this is another example of, “gubberment issue = lowest bidder = junk,” type thinking. “The M16/M9 are too weak and unreliable, we never should have given up the M14/1911.”

    I’m willing to bet that even if the phaser from Star Trek came out tomorrow that was light as a feather and lethal enough to vaporize someone on command in a split second, there’d still be complaints.

  • This reminds of the an entry I read on black 5 talking about PDW weapons in Iraq. In the incident, the guy empties his Colt Commander into an insurgent who was attacking one of his guys and was literally on top of the soldier. Finally, the guy has to pound on him with his empty Commander until he actually bents the alloy trigger guard which finally knocks him out. Meanwhile, people are bad mounting the 9mm ball round. Hey, news for you: all FMJ rounds are generally ineffective. And there are many incidents where the 45 did not get the job done. Such as this incident: http://www.lawofficer.com/article/training/officer-down-warriors-sacrific

    So get over it 45 people. It’s a pistol round.

  • Whenever a new commander would take over during my time in the Army, from company level or division level, the new officers always changed things up to “leave their mark” and offer their own solution to problems that didn’t exist. I always thought it was to spruce up their service record for the next promotion. The “Army of One” slogan and change of BDU caps to black berets are examples.

    I get the same feeling from the Major who authored this article. I’d have no problems if a proposed change is well researched and is proven; his article does not.

    We’ll see if he gets hired on to Springfield’s payroll after he retires.

  • The M9 is a fine handgun, lowest bidder or not. From a few videos seen at this years Shot Show, the M9A1 is supposed to have improvements that will help to extend the service life of the M9. I don’t see anything groundbreaking in the XD that doesn’t exist in other handguns using the browning , short recoil design. I have always been trained to distrust loaded chamber indicators (other than your finger) anyhow, so that doesn’t sway me in any way. I can reliably hit the kill zone of targets with the Beretta at 25 yards in both double and single action modes.

    Some day they will make a Sig P226 that is as slim as a 1911, holds 17 rounds of .45, and weighs the same as a Glock 19. Until then, the M9 is probably a good enough choice.

    • “Some day they will make a Sig P226 that is as slim as a 1911, holds 17 rounds of .45, and weighs the same as a Glock 19.”

      *Sigh* One can only dream…

  • Michael Bakowski

    1 Word… NATO

    Because of them I doubt the US will never adopt the .45 cartridge for a service pistol. Or switch from the fine working pistol of which they already have millions of to a brand new pistol that has almost no track record in comparison.

  • Stupid article. Great blog! The people that actually shoot people for a living use Glocks, 1911 and SIG’s. Pick your tool…they all work fairly well save for some of the new SIG’s which have been lacking in QC. If the Corp is going to get a new handgun it should be made in America by Americans.

    The Smith and Wesson M&P handles well. Low bore axis, modular and accurate. Travis Haley and Chris Costa seem to be getting alot of use out of that gun. If my Glocks were not assembled in the US, I would have gunbrokered’em and picked up some M&P’s.

    I love this blog!!

  • If you want more powerful round, build a new bullet for the 9mm. Lead with a little copper over it is old tech. 5.56, 7.62 and .50 get all the attention, give a little love to the 9 and it’ll love you back.

  • Peeps…. Let everyone enjoy their gun of choice. Re caliber, a bigger hole is slways better (I don’t own a. 45). However, I think the FNX-9 would be a better choice :). In addition, I’d rather see why you don’t think the xD (or other firearm or caliber) would be a better choice.

  • Here is the FBI document on the issue of calibers and wounds. Interesting read. Click on the image to download the pdf.

    http://www.firearmstactical.com/hwfe.htm

    The issue of 9 vs. .45 is so overdone it is crazy. The scenario of shooting at people is so dynamic with so many variables that it is almost impossible to compare any two incidents when trying to gather data. If 9mm is so ineffective, then I will gladly shoot any volunteer with a standard 115gr FMJ and then a 147gr +p hollow point. All they have to do is let me know which one hurt more.

  • ‘Well, no piece of gear ever survives first contact with junior enlisted infantrymen and armorers unscathed.” Absolutely! Reminds us of the old cliche about how they could break bowling balls. Having a 16 year old just adds icing to that cake. They are innately talented at deconstruction.

    Since that is the user group – which is largely ignored in most discussions – it brings up just what it would take to make a tactical grade bowling ball. Bear with a minute and think – it would have to resist impact at free fall speeds of a 30 ft drop onto concrete, thermal extremes of zero degrees to 140 in seconds, being left to lay in a slurry of sand, gravel, and powdered grit for hours while rattled and shaken on a third world road, all the while remaining virtually dust free with unobstructed finger holes.

    We ask our weapons to do exactly that – and know it cannot be done. How much simpler a bowling ball? Had the commentator gone thru the mental exercise, he’d likely not have so many errors for Andrew to question here.

  • The .45 ACP has this mystique of STOPPIN POWAH. It’s just a pistol cartridge, and not even a particularly powerful one by Western standards. Plenty of other cartridges that aren’t even in the Magnum class which have been used for years are equally powerful.

    Hilariously, here in Colorado I’ve heard tales of people going out looking for bear with their .45 ACP 1911s because of the STOPPIN POWAH.

    Gimme a break.

  • Among many, especially American shooters .45 ACP has an undeserved reputation as the be all, end all pistol cartridge and many of those that believe in this myth are incredibly stubborn about their beliefs. I’ve tried to show many cult followers how many of their beliefs supposedly proving the .45 ACPs superiority over all other cartridges are just second hand misconceptions they gladly accepted without question because it supported notion they already held.
    Countless times I have quoted many reputable sources explicitly saying that momentum or energy do not wound and equating them with wounding is erroneous (Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness), that the US Army medical department of WW2 rated the .45 ACP cartridge as “of little value as a wound-producing agent except in the softer tissues and at near ranges” and Axis sidearms with muzzle velocities of approximately 1,100 f.p.s. as “much more effective as antipersonnel weapons” (Wound Ballistics – Chapter 2). I have quoted the reputable forensicist Dr. Vincent Di Maio, who in his book “Gunshot Wounds” explicitly states that .45 ACP is overrated and 9x19mm is underrated (by American shooters), a notion that does not conform to scientific studies. Even the abstract of an FBI study whose only purpose was to give an answer to whether .45 ACP is more effective than 9x19mm that explicitly states “none of the eight experts were able to say definitively that the larger .45 automatic round caused more damage than the 9mm round; and four of the eight experts found that there was no difference in the wounding effects of either caliber given equal penetration” wouldn’t convince any of them. They would simply reject all that information as outdated/politcally motivated/erroneous. When asked if they could provide any sources to back up their claims they would come up with anecdotes, quote dubious sources such as internet sources with no or questionable information about the qualification of the author or twist single clauses of my sources to fit their notion while ignoring whole passages that contradict them. Some people just cannot accept that a belief they hold for no good reason is wrong, no matter how much verifiable information you show them.

    • Lots of great info. We both linked to the same FBI document, which is a great source of info. I am going to have to look into the other items you mentioned.

    • Your mention of WWII reports reminded me of the book I believe is called, “American Thunder,” which is all about the Thompson submachine gun. I believe there were reports or documents in there about how some Marines in the Pacific wanted to exchange their Thompsons for more B.A.R.’s because they thought the cartridge was of limited use not only in its combat effectiveness, but also inferior in its psychological effect against the Japanese.

  • Since the US Military restricts itself to FMJ pistol rounds, that’s about the only point I’d concede for .45 FMJ over 9mm FMJ. For our civilian defense use, modern hollow points have equalized the field.

    Maybe a comparison of the two FMJ’s terminal ballistics can get the Vuurwapen treatment in the future? As if Andrew doesn’t have enough topics to cover. ;)

  • Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a reasonable amount of responses to the 45 vs 9mm debate as I have here. Tells you about the quality of readers you have here.

    • Yes, I’m very impressed with the comments here and in the past. Technical knowledge and courtesy have been outstanding.

  • I always find the XD fans an interesting bunch. It is a pistol that has a very loyal following amongst civilian shooters and some cops who are allowed to individually purchase duty weapons. Personally, I attribute this to Springfield’s strategy of:

    - Keeping the XDs pricing right between the really low end junk and Glock.
    - Their bundling of lots of accessory packs with the pistols (“Buy an XD, get 2 extra magazines, a cleaning kit and holster!”)
    - Their push to get dealers to keep a lot of them in stock, with a lot of retail marketing materials (banners, posters, polo shirts).
    - High margins offered to dealers in combination with good sales education.
    - Their pushing safety features the same way Volvo did through the 1980s.

    It is as if Springfield did a bunch of focus groups on well-to-do first time guy buyers and worked very hard to tick every box on their wish list.

    Where the XD has received almost no traction however, is amongst two very important groups. First, I don’t know any high-round count course instructors who see a wide variety of firearms on the line putting a lot of rounds downrange recommending them to students. Why not? Second, I don’t see any departments conducting thorough T&E selecting the XD for mass issue. Give the price advantage they would have over even the Glock, why are no high-round count testing department armorers pushing to have them issued to cops?

    • At least as of a year or two ago, Clint Smith was using an XD quite a bit. I think that he counts…

    • I own an XD9 and an XDm .45. I used to own a Glock 19 and a 21. The reason I switched is ergonometrics. The XDm in particular fits me like a glove. I am closing in on 10,000 rounds through the 9, and 1000 rounds through the .45 and so far I have had no problems at all. That does not mean that they should be adopted by the Army. But I do think they have been on the receiving end of some unwaranted criticism.

  • I’ll take the M9 thanks. The XD article is about a solution looking for a problem.

    Regarding .45 vs. 9mm. It all boils down to shot placement.

    Great blog. I especially enjoyed the Tulammo slow speed cycling near fail.

  • Re: 9mm vs .45

    If “stopping power” was the primary concern, we’d all be shooting 10mm.

  • I thought the 10mm didn’t actually a very good track record of “stopping power.” It just makes very narrow wound channel. At least, early loads based on the Norma 200 grain rounds. I think it’s mostly a bullet design failure though. FMJ in 9mm, 45 or 10mm are all pretty ineffective.

  • I have really enjoyed this post and all of the comments it has generated. For my .02, it does come down to shot placement. I recently read “We were soldiers once..and young” by Hal More and Joe Galloway. There are numerous instances of heroic American soldiers getting hit by Russian 7.62 in various places and continuing to fight for hours after getting hit. I gotta believe the 7.62 X 39 is far more powerful than any round found in a service pistol.

    As far as the type of pistol, I am no big fan of the Beretta, but it is getting the job done as far as I can tell. It has been in service for what, about 25 years? We probably don’t need to keep it another 25 years, but why create new costs and logistics changes, especially with the deficit the U.S. has now?

  • This is a moot point as a pistol is just what I use to get to a real gun. Just sayin

  • Yeah, the whole “we need a new pistol” clamor is pretty ridiculous when you lo0ok at who actually gets pistols-in infantry units it’s the M240 gunners, for close-range self defense after they run out of the 1200 or so rounds of 7.62mm NATO and 400-odd rounds of 5.56 NATO the gun crews have apiece. Officers and platoon sergeants usually also get the Berettas, and that’s really about it. I’m currently on my third trip to Iraq right now (four deployments overall-one to Afghanistan), and the number of times I’ve seen a pistol employed by anybody to kill the enemy is currently zero. I’ve shot Berettas a few times, and it seems like a nice enough pistol, for a guy who’s never shot pistols outside of the Army. It has negligible recoil, the sights are simple and easy to keep on-target, and it holds a bunch of shots. It’s also easy to strip and clean.

  • I would like to start off by saying that I am not currently in the military and that I have never been in a situation where I needed to use a weapon for self-defense. However, I am a target shooter and firearms are my hobby.

    9 mm vs .45? It depends on the bullet. If you use a 9 mm hollow point, that might be more effective than a .45 ball. Do most .45′s have more energy? Yes. That doesn’t mean it’s the best, but when I see the USMC fielding old 1911′s to their special ops guys and the fact that the FBI switched from the 9 mm to the .40 leads me to believe that there must have been complaints. Then again, the FBI switched a long time ago, so bullet technology may have changed, and the military still uses standard ball. If I had a choice between .45 ball and 9 mm ball, I would go with .45.

    There is always the case of the guy that gets shot 50 times and doesn’t go down, but for normal cases, the .45 will deliver more energy, even though the damage might be less. Like I said, it depends on the type of bullet.

    With respect to the XD. I have never fired one, but by the looks of it, it seems like a good handgun. I have held one and the balance doesn’t bother me. Maybe since it’s a polymer gun shooting a .40 or .45, the front weight might be better, but that’s personal pref. I think they have improved the design a lot especially with the new XDm. Do I think it should replace all military handguns? No. The reason I say that is because the idea of DA/SA is a good one. There are so different possibilities. You can carry cocked and locked or DA and then SA. I imagine there are different preferences out there, so this satisfies the widest range of people.

    Do I like the M9? I have never used one, but I don’t think I will or want to. I do not question its reliability, but it doesn’t impress me. I see the SEALs with Sigs and the force recon guys with 1911s, so that tells me something.

    With regards to the whole, “let’s not field a new handgun since few use it and it costs a lot of money,” I don’t see this as a valid argument. Why did the military move away from the M14 or the 1911? Didn’t that cost money? Sure, but things need to be upgraded. Even the AK47 has been updated, and that gun is one of the most reliable things out there. What the military needs to switch to are weapons that are modular. I don’t care if that means the SCAR, ACR or whatever. But having a base gun that can change barrels and calibers is the future. If the military did that, they could technically keep the same gun forever and just change a few things. Today they use the 5.56 with 14.5″ barrels, tomorrow they may use the 6.8 SPC with a 16″, and the day after a 6.5 with a 20″. But that’s why weapons need to be modular. Invest now, so the future can be cheaper. Sooner or later they will change their weapons…we have not reached the climax of small arms technology yet.

  • Nice blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your design. Thanks

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