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.