Springfield XDM 4.5 vs. Glock 17 Gen4 Part 2
The top two blowback actions square off 1:1
By Dennis Adler
Two guns that are so much alike yet built on two different principles offer features that make each distinctive in its handling and operation. Which is better? Statistically it would be the Glock, which has the longest history and is in use by more law enforcement, military, government, and private sector agencies than the Springfield XDM. But in terms of handling and safety, the newer Springfield design offers certain advantages as a centerfire pistol compared to the Glock 17 Gen4. This comes down to the additional grip safety on the XDM, the balance of the gun in the hand (1911-like grip angle), slide design, and a feature that I find very important, the striker status indicator. This is not an original idea, but rather is based on the design pioneered by Walther and used on the groundbreaking polymer frame, striker-fired P99 semi-auto in the late 1990s. It is simply the most effective way to know if the striker firing action is cocked. If it is, the indicator protrudes from the small opening in the back of the slide. If it is flush with the opening, the action is not cocked and the gun is not ready to fire. You have no way to verify this with a Glock unless you look at the trigger position. As for a loaded chamber indicator, both guns have one, the Springfield’s, which is positioned on top of the slide, is easier to see and feel than the indicator on the Glock, which is parallel with the ejection port.
How do these two features relate to the matching CO2 models? The loaded chamber indicators are static features on the air pistols, since there is no actual shell case to affect the indicator, thus it remains flat against the side of the slide on the Glock, and on the XDM it is designed to stay in the raised position indicating a loaded chamber. Of the two, I prefer Springfield’s approach, along with the striker status indicator, as they teach you how to feel for the indicators and quickly know if the gun is cocked and has a round chambered. In a real world situation this would be most beneficial under duress or in a low light or nighttime situation. In daylight, they are also more easily seen with the striker status indicator staring you in the face and the loaded chamber indicator just below your line of sight.
The next minor design advantage to the XDM vs. the Glock is the sights. Now this is really a personal choice. Some people prefer old style black sights, others a single white dot front sight and black rear sight, still others (including most armsmakers) favor a white dot front and dual white dot rear. Glock uses a white outline rear sight and white dot front. It is a traditional Glock design. Springfield began with white dots and evolved to the current line, which has the dual white dot rear and a red fiber optic front for improved sighting under more varied lighting conditions. The fiber optic is second best to tritium sights, which present themselves as white in daylight and illuminate to green in low light or darkness. Very few CO2 pistols offer a fiber optic front sight and none have tritium sights. And there is one other advantage to the XDM design; the magazine release is ambidextrous, even on the CO2 model, which makes this gun a perfect choice for left-handed users.
Weights and balances
Trigger pull, trigger reset, and how well the gun balances and points are all essential components of a quality semi-auto. Average factory trigger pull on the centerfire Glock 17 is 5.5 pounds. The Springfield triggers test anywhere from 5.5 to 7.5 pounds, but generally a pound heavier than the Glock. The CO2 models come close with the Glock 17 Gen4 trigger averaging 5 pounds, 5 ounces, which is right on the factory 9×19 Glock trigger pull specs. The Gen4 has a short take up and reset that does not require a full let off on the trigger. The Springfield has a much lighter trigger pull than the standard 9mm model. Average for the CO2 pistol was 3 pounds, 14.5 ounces which makes it a light, almost competition weight trigger. It does, however, have a 0.5 inch take up but almost zero resistance until the trigger breaks the shot, and this is where the entire pull weight is felt. The Glock Gen4 CO2 model’s trigger has 0.312 inches of take up with light stacking throughout the pull to a clean break. We may find that the lighter, smoother trigger pull on the XDM offers some advantage for downrange accuracy.
For the velocity checks both guns have fresh CO2 and a total of two 10-round strings will be fired to find the average velocity. The first tests will be done using Umarex Precision steel BBs, and then a second run using Hornady Black Diamond black anodized steel BBs.
Starting with the Umarex Glock 17 Gen4, the average velocity for the first 10 rounds was 310 fps with a high of 313 fps and a low of 307 fps (this is down from the previous article on this test gun where average velocity was 317 fps, so off by 7 fps). The second 10 averaged 312 fps, but the instruction book with the Gen4 says 300 fps, so the gun is still doing better than factory spec. With Black Diamond, average velocity was up slightly, to 314 fps. This leaves the decision, at least for velocity, up to the XDM 4.5 with its single large recoil spring vs. the Glock Gen4’s dual recoil spring design.
During the velocity test I experienced a few issues with the XDM test gun, which locked open three times during the test before the magazine was empty. I might add that even with the loading assist tool that comes with the XDM, this is one of the most difficult magazines to load BBs into with the heavy follower spring and very small follower tab. That said, I like the magazine design overall for its looks and the excellent design for the base pad’s removal.
The XDM, which also has a slide that imparts a palpable sense of recoil, delivered an average velocity with Umarex steel BBs of 307 fps, a high of 313 fps and a low of 300 fps, but most shots were consistently between 305 and 307 fps with several duplicates at 306 fps. Still, the gun is listed as capable of “up to 325 fps” which I did not get with any of the test BBs. The Hornady Black Diamond delivered an average of 307 fps.
The XDM falls short of the mark for ease of loading and promised velocity compared to the Glock. The XDM magazines are both over built in some respects, and a little under built in others, like the small plastic follower tab and needing a loading assist tool that, at best, is awkward to use. Once the magazine is loaded (buy extras!) all things are equal, but at this point, before shots are fired downrange at a target, the Glock Gen4 holds a slight edge over the Springfield Armory XDM.
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.