Springfield XDM 4.5 vs. Glock 17 Gen4 Part 1

Springfield XDM 4.5 vs. Glock 17 Gen4 Part 1

The top two blowback actions square off 1:1

By Dennis Adler

Technology in CO2 design, construction, (polymer frames, since the centerfire guns are also polymer), and improved blowback action designs that operate like short-blowback, locked-breech, tilting-barrel design centerfire models, have made CO2 pistols more authentic over the past five to six years, but nothing can touch what Air Venturi and Springfield Armory have done with the XDM Series and Umarex and Glock have achieved with the new Gen4. These are your new top guns for authenticity of design.

I would usually save this kind of comparison for the December Reproduction Air Pistol of the Year rundown, but these two new CO2 models are quite literally the most authentic to their centerfire counterpart air pistols on the market, with perhaps last year’s Sig Sauer WE THE PEOPLE 1911 and the Umarex HK USP being the next closest runners up. Although I have to add, the technology in the Sig WTP is old, internally it is the same as the Umarex Colt Commander and all the 1911-style models that share the same CO2 BB magazines. The outside may be different, certainly better, more authentic, but not new in the sense that the Air Venturi Springfield Armory XDM 4.5 and Umarex Glock 17 Gen4 are. Had either or both of these new guns been introduced back in 2014 or 2015, they would have been hailed as revolutionary in the airgun world. Now, going step by step, generation by generation over the last five to six years, they are evolutionary, and that is still quite a point to make, considering all of the older designs are still in use by most airgun manufacturers.

There have been others before, like last year’s debut of the Umarex HK USP, an outstanding blowback action model that is authentic to the 9mm, hammer-fired, DA/SA semi-auto. It is probably the next best gun for authenticity in this class of CO2 pistols based on centerfire guns with polymer frames.

Lines in the sand

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You could argue that the Umarex Heckler & Koch USP, while an older centerfire design, is equally impressive as a new  CO2 model, but where the lines have been drawn for authenticity by the Glock 17 Gen4 and Springfield Armory XDM models, is right down to the smallest details and the means by which all obvious elements separating the airgun from its centerfire counterpart have been reduced to something you have to look for, rather than older designs that, no matter how nicely executed, scream airgun when you see the white lettering, warnings, manufacturer’s marks, and manual safeties not present on the centerfire models.

Ah, but Umarex and HK didn’t go the distance on the USP and fell into the mold by using white letters for the model name, and placing white warnings and manufacturer markings on the right side of the slide. While we have all three guns in this picture, it is a good time to point out some interesting features, first that the USP is a hammer-fired pistol while the XDM and Glock are based on striker-fired designs. The XDM follows through with the striker status indicator at the back of the slide which extends out when the action is cocked. Also compare sights, all three have white dot rear sights, the Glock and HK white dot front and the XDM a fiber optic which makes this gun faster to get on target under more varied lighting conditions and target backgrounds.

All of this is so well disguised on the Glock and XDM that they truly meet the ideals that airgun enthusiasts have spent years advocating for. Until someone figures out how to make a self-contained CO2 pellet magazine that works exactly like a CO2 BB magazine (i.e., same size and with a follower that locks the slide open when its empty), or invents a way to use 9mm size pellet loading cartridges in a semi-auto air pistol that completely simulates the firing of a centerfire handgun and ejects spent shells, what we are looking at with the Gen4 and XDM is the epitome of blowback action airgun design for the present day. Are they equals, or is one better?

Both the XDM and Gen4 have interchangeable backstrap panels and similar blade safety triggers, however, the XDM has an additional grip safety, making it one of the safest centerfire designs on the market. The safeties on both CO2 models work like the centerfire guns.

Snap shots

Let’s start with a little timeline. The centerfire Glock 17 Gen4 was introduced in 2010, the Springfield Armory XD(M) series in 2008. The Gen4 was evolved from the Glock 17 introduced in 1982, the XD(M) from the original XD Series introduced in 2002. Technically, the XD(M) is derived from a platform that is 20 years newer than the Glock’s. But while the XD(M) has evolved from the original 2002 guns with very similar characteristics, (we start splitting hairs here), the Gen4 was a highly evolutionary improvement over all preceding Glock designs, retaining only a passing resemblance to the original 1982 model. Specifically the general silhouette of the gun and the Safe Action trigger design. The Glock has come a very long way. That the entire evolution of the Glock has been incorporated into the Gen4 CO2 model, no shortcuts other than those absolutely necessary to make it an air pistol, makes a statement about the commitment of Umarex and Glock to building the Gen4 (and Gen5 already on sale overseas) as the most authentic air pistols made.

The Gen4 is the most refined of the Glock CO2 designs and except for the absence of a caliber stamping on the left side of the slide (for the U.S. market) the Gen4 looks exactly like the 9mm model. European CO2 versions have the 9×19 stamp on the slide.

But, the XDM CO2 models 4.5 and 3.8 (basically Glock 17 and Glock 19 sized guns), have jumped in full born, while Glock baby-stepped it with the Glock 19 non-blowback and Glock 17 blowback leading up to the Gen4. Glock and Umarex would deem that prudent marketing to appeal to a broader market by price range. Springfield Armory and Air Venturi had no such pretense; they went for the top of the line with Job No. 1 and that is what brings these two new CO2 models head-to-head with Springfield Armory having the home field advantage.

The XDM is a slightly larger gun than the Glock 17 and has a grip angle closer to a 1911 and a more arched backstrap contour. The XDM is also a little taller.

Sizing them up, the Glock 17 Gen4 and XDM 4.5 are about the same size and have almost overlapping profiles. The Gen4 weighs 27 ounces empty on my scale. The XDM weighs in at 30 ounces empty. The XDM slide is a fraction of an inch narrower and more contoured compared to the squared off lines of the Glock. The XDM 4.5 is also 0.125 inches longer and 0.25 inches greater in overall height, and has a deeper grip frame that more closely approximates the angle of a 1911 grip. In terms of operating features both guns are identical to their centerfire counterparts and both use the dustcover serial number plate as a means of hiding a manual sliding safety.

Both guns have the mandatory manual safety (and I known with the XDM having the same multiple safeties as the centerfire gun, why does it need one), but Springfield decided to make it the most unobtrusive of all not only placing it where the serial number plate goes on the bottom of the dustcover, but putting an actual serial number on it. The Glock manual safety is a little longer and has no serial number, just a bright metal finish. You can also see how Umarex and Glock decided to handle all of the safety warnings by placing them on the bottom of the triggerguard. The XDM has them molded into the frame on the left side, but they look exactly like factory markings, so again very unobtrusive.

Only Springfield went the full distance and actually covered the sliding safety with the gun’s serial number. Both are as unobtrusive as possible. Both utilize a blade safety trigger that functions (Ultra Safety Assurance Action Trigger System on the XDM and Safe Action Trigger System on the Glock), but the XDM adds a 1911-derived grip safety as an additional failsafe. Both also have interchangeable backstrap panels. As blowback action CO2 models go, no two air pistols could be more perfectly matched to face off against each other.

Will the slightly larger Springfield Armory XDM 4.5 deliver better overall performance than the Glock 17 Gen4?

In Part 2 velocity tests, trigger pull, and sight comparisons.

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.


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