The XDM 3.8 Part 4
The 1:1 Shooting Test conclusion
By Dennis Adler
If you had to pick which one is an air pistol at a glance, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the .177 Springfield XDM 3.8 in my right hand (larger .45 ACP muzzle) from the 9mm XDM 3.8 in my left. For authenticity, the XDM’s with Melonite-type black and Bi-Tone polished slides are a perfect match for their centerfire counterparts in both the looks and handling department. But how does the CO2 model stand up against the 9mm for defensive shooting practice?
This last installment is really what practical shooting with a CO2 understudy is all about. What we learn from these shooting drills is the fundamental handling of the centerfire model, and in a 1:1 shooting test at practical defensive distances the lessens are almost entirely interchangeable from holster draw, aiming, and firing. What the photos don’t show is the difference in felt recoil and the sound of a 9mm pistol discharging. Otherwise, what you see with one gun is the same as the other, and that is the bottom line value in training with air. Even if you’re not training to carry concealed, or even considering a 9mm pistol for home protection, the total equivalence of the XDM 3.8 CO2 and centerfire models is beneficial for basic handgun skills, even for shooting air pistols.
The 3.8 in .177 is an exact match in dimensions to the 9mm, so everything you do with the air pistol mimics handling the centerfire gun.
The right fit
One of the features of the XDM models is the ability to change backstraps to fit specific hand sizes and this is duplicated on the CO2 models. The backstrap change is the same on the 4.5 and 3.8, with the addition of magazine grip extensions for the 3.8, although you do not have to use them, you could just have the lower portion of the magazine exposed from the bottom of the 3.8 magwell. The reason for changing backstraps is to either increase or decrease the distance from the palm of the shooting hand to the trigger. Both hand size and length of fingers are reasons to make the backstrap swaps. All three backstraps are marked S, M, or L (with corresponding magazine grip extensions for the 3.8) and the guns come with the M panel installed as this fits the majority of users. Determining which backstrap panel best suits your hands is a matter of personal preference, unless there is an obvious problem with properly gripping the gun, such as your trigger finger over extending or coming up short of the trigger shoe. Ideally, the first joint of your trigger finger from the tip to the fold should cover the trigger. My guideline for the grip size from the palm of the hand to the trigger is to end up with the middle finger wrapping around the grip far enough for the tip of the shooting hand thumb to rest on top of it. If your thumb extends well past or comes up short, you need to consider changing backstraps. Here’s how it is done with the XDM models.
Hand sizes and finger lengths vary, so the XDM models in centerfire and CO2 have fully interchangeable backstrap panels, and the 3.8 has added magazine grip extensions. They are easy to change and fit to one’s individual needs.
You will find the steps outlined on page 9 of the excellent XDM instruction book. You do not need to remove the magazine to do this on the 4.5, but you do on the 3.8. Also, be certain you have cleared the gun and dropped the slide. There is a locking pin in the lower portion of the grip that passes from one side to the other and through a channel inside the grip frame to lock it down. Using a small hex head Allen tool (not included), push the pin through from left to right and remove it. With the pin removed, grip the base of the backstrap and lift it away from the grip frame. Insert the smaller or larger backstrap into the top lip of the grip frame, lower into place and reinsert the retention pin.
This is a setup I learned from my local Sheriff, who carries a 1911 in a belt rig with a spare mag pouch in front. This is one way to carry (more open than concealed since he is wearing a badge!) but it does work well for CCW if you want the gun and a spare mag on the strong side. Shown with Galco Combat Master XDM belt holster and Galco mag pouch, the CO2 pistol and magazine are a perfect fit.
The XDM CO2 models are an exact fit for XD Gear holsters and magazine pouches as well as aftermarket holsters and pouches like the Galco Combat Master belt holster and SMC (single magazine case) belt mag pouch worn by the author.
So how does this set up work as opposed to carrying an extra mag on the off side hip? As I release the empty magazine from the XDM 3.8 CO2 model, I begin pulling the spare mag from the pouch. It is turned in the pouch with rounds facing in, so as I pull it out and bring it up to load, the magazine is facing the correct way…
…as the spent mag falls I am pulling the reload and will rotate it up and into the magwell in one move.
Shooting it out in 9mm and .177 calibers
I shot two 10-round strings with the 9mm XDM, one at 7 yards (21 feet) aiming at the bullseye, and one from 10 yards (30 feet) aiming high at the 8 ring. I used Federal American Eagle 115 gr. FMJ rounds, which produce lower recoil than higher velocity jacketed hollow point ammunition. The Federal American Eagle is also less expensive per box of 50 rounds vs. 20 rounds of the Federal 147 gr. Hydra -Shok Personal Defense ammo.
Care to guess which gun I am about to shoot? This is the 9mm XDM 3.8 being test fired 21 feet from the B-27 cardboard silhouette target. After 10 rounds, I’ll move back to 30 feet and fire my second 9mm test.
Here is the final B-27 target with 20 rounds of Federal American Eagle 9mm ammo into tight groups at 21 feet around the bullseye, and at 30 feet in the area around the 8 ring at 12 o’clock. Best group measured 2.0 inches with seven of 10 inside the X ring at 1.437 inches from 21 feet and 2.25 inches with seven of the 10 (including one overlapping pair) at 1.25 inches from 30 feet.
My 10-shot X ring group at 21 feet, placed all shots within 2.0 inches with seven of 10 inside the X ring at 1.437 inches. Moving back to 10 yards (30 feet) and again firing using a two-handed hold and Weaver stance, I put my 10 rounds aimed at the 8 ring at 12 o’clock into 2.25 inches with seven of the 10 (including one overlapping pair) at 1.25 inches. All shots were fired at 1-second intervals. Just for comparison, muzzle velocity with the Federal American Eagle 115 gr. FMJ is 1180 fps against 300 fps for the XDM 3.8 CO2 model. The 21 foot test with the air pistol should be a fair comparison, while pushing the .177 caliber rounds to 10 yards at that velocity may see a slight drop in accuracy.
Nothing changes but the decibel rating and recoil when I switch to the 3.8 CO2 model. Handing, aiming and trigger pull are virtually identical.
Using the same type Law Enforcement Targets cardboard B-27 silhouette target, same shooting stance and the CO2 model at 21 feet, my 10-round group aimed at the X ring gave me a total spread of 1.06 inches with all hits inside the X and three overlapping hits. At 10 yards, the spread opened up a little and shots hit low, around the 9 rather than at the 8 ring at 12 o’clock which was POA. That group had a spread of 1.50 inches with a best five rounds at 0.875 inches. Without the recoil of a 9mm, the XDM 3.8 CO2 is easier to hold on target and shot commensurate groups with the 9mm XDM.
At 21 feet, I put 10 rounds aimed at the X ring into a spread of 1.06 inches with all hits inside the X and three overlapping. Stepping back to 10 yards the spread opened up a little and shots hit low around the 9 at 12 o’clock rather than at the 8 ring, which was POA. That group measured 1.50 inches with a best five rounds at 0.875 inches.
As a training aid, the CO2 model fills in perfectly and every lesson learned with air using this gun will benefit shooting its 9mm counterpart. As for accuracy with the 3.8, the same laws apply, aim small, miss small. The Springfield Armory XDM 3.8 blowback action CO2 pistol misses small and delivers big.
A word about safety
Blowback action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and this is one reason why they have become so popular. Airguns in general all look like guns, blowback action models more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.