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Hammered in Vegas: Springfield goes "old-school auto" with a compact 9mm XD Variant.

Since Springfield Armory introduced the XD at the turn of the century, variations on the main theme have included ergonomic enhancements, plus different frame sizes, calibers, magazine capacities, sights, barrel lengths and cosmetic schemes.

But until the single-stack 9mm XD-E-which the company recently premiered in Las Vegas--all models stuck to the original striker-fired template, which included a grip safety.

The XD-E, however, sports an external hammer and a "traditional" DA/SA system. The grip safety is conspicuously absent. The safety/decocking lever is ambidextrous and manages to successfully walk the fine line between accessible and unobtrusive.

Dimensionally, its intended concealed carry niche is obvious. The weight (sans magazine) is 23 ounces. Barrel length is 3-3 inches (OAL is 6.75). Height is 5 inches with the 9-shot grip extension mag in place. The grip width? One inch. But numbers don't really tell the whole story.

Gentlemen (and ladies) of the "sporting media" are not shy about burning up ammo when it's on the house, so those little guns (production guns all) got a high-volume, daylong workout at the Clark County Shooting Complex.

The ammo we used was Federal's American Eagle polymer-coated 115-grain Syntech, which may have had something to do with the lack of barrel fouling we saw. I had no malfunctions with the stuff.

With the XD-E, Springfield has addressed a couple of issues concerning carry autos. The gun has what's termed a Low Effort Slide. The company claims it takes over 27 percent less effort to rack than a comparable striker-fired model. And by cocking the hammer, you can reduce the effort still further.

I don't know percentages from dry-roasted peanuts, but I do know it was easier to rack than my old striker-fired XD 9mm. The gun is also remarkably soft-shooting with the standard-pressure ammo we used, thanks in part to the company's Grip Zone textured stocks.

We all shot the XDE in various simulated defensive scenarios covering distances from 6 feet to 60 yards. At the longer yardages I'd have preferred a larger, longer-barreled XD. But we're talking "carry" here. And for this, the XD-E did just dandy. The single action trigger was around 4-1/2 pounds, while the double-action pull was a revolver-like 12+ pounds.

The XDE appears to me to be an ideal CCW platform for the 9mm. Both the flush-fit 8- arid 9-round magazines dropped free and clear upon hitting the release button and the low-profile 3-dot sight setup was fairly quick to acquire. And the fact it gives you a wider range of "carry conditions" than does a striker-fired gun, is going to be a definite plus for folks who are ambivalent about a trigger-mounted safety.


I've associated rattlesnakes with bird hunting since I was 12, when I was after quail in mid-October a few miles south of the aptly-named town of Thermal near Southern California's Salton Sea.

I'd knocked a bird down at the edge of a big tumbleweed and was singlemindedly hustling over to grab it when my Uncle Mick grabbed me, pulled me back, unlimbered his Remington 870 and shredded the coiled, 4-foot Western Diamondback I was on a collision course with. It appears I'd been too pumped up by my only successful shot of the morning to notice the snake.

Since then I've run across a pretty good cross-section of other rattler species in different parts of the country--Southern Pacific, Prairie, Speckled, Eastern Diamondback, Red Diamond, Sidewinder and the justifiably-feared Mojave Green.

But the closest I've come to an unpleasant surprise was when I was hunting dove or quail. Both seasons open during prime time when it comes to snakes. Having grown up in Southern California, I pay more attention to the thermometer than the calendar in trying to ascertain my chances of running into a rattler. April through October is generally considered "rattler season" in the Southwest, but a couple of hot days in mid-Winter can stir them up and out.

The problem? A hunter is usually concentrating on a whole lot of other things than snakes. Setting up for dove before sunrise in an agricultural/desert area in the Southwest? Maybe you're trying to figure out what salt cedar, line of brush or stand-pipe will best break up your outline when the birds start coming in. Or where the nearest other hunters are, or where your kids are setting up.

Once, while setting up my canvas stool inside a brush patch when the sky was just getting pink in the East, I was surprised to hear my 14-year-old ask, "Dad, you really wanna sit there?" I looked around to see why he was beaming his SureFire just behind the stool where I'd recently planted my butt. What he was lighting up was a young Speckled rattler. The snake was still a bit sluggish in the pre-dawn, but we weren't. So we moved.

I kind of like rattlesnakes, which is why I don't kill them unless they're in a close-to-the-house area where kid/dog encounters are likely. For me, this would have to be a backyard. I figure anything that eats rodents can't be all bad. And, yes, I do have a problem with folks killing them unnecessarily out in the backcountry instead of simply going around them.

But it's tough for me to get sanctimonious about it. One of the saddest things I've ever seen was a guy losing a cherished bird dog to a rattler bite, which is why an avoidance course should be mandatory if you work with a dog.

But there are also those non-hunting adventurous types who don't go around them, don't kill them, but simply mess with them. Which is an extraordinarily bad idea. I can't help but think the endless parade of snake wranglers on cable TV nature shows may have something to do with this.

Assuming you're lucky enough to emulate one of your khaki-clad heroes in successfully picking a rattler up without getting bit, you've still got the problem of putting it down again--unless you're figuring on a permanent relationship. Rattlers are remarkably sensitive to any loosening of your grip, and will respond quickly--much more quickly than you can possibly imagine.

A significant percentage of snakebite victims are males between the ages of 15 and 30 with a BAC around 0.08. And many trips to the emergency ward have begun like this: "Here honey, lemme show ya how to pick up a rattler."

We've all heard the old chestnut, "You're more likely to die from being struck by lightning than by a rattlesnake bite!" Probably true as far as it goes, but what it doesn't tell you is you have fairly good odds for amputation or permanent disfigurement. I know two guys who were bitten--one by a Southern Pacific, one by a Red Diamond. One lost a leg from the knee down, the other's hand is still twisted up.

A full-on bite treatment can get real pricey, seeing as how Cro-Fab antivenin costs several grand a vial and a serious bite can require a whole bunch of vials. Plus, a bite hurts like hell... for a long time.

Bottom line for bird hunters? Don't stick your hand, butt or foot anywhere you haven't checked.


Looking for a lockback folder weighing under 2 ounces? Not some late-night shopping channel import, but one made by a highly respected American cutlery outfit?

Well, if your definition of a "gentleman's pocketknife" is something stylish and not too heavy, check out the Kershaw Fraxion. Not only is it light--1.9 ounces--it's sleek and has an undeniable tactical aura, thanks to its BlackWash finish. It was designed by Danish custom knifemaker Jens Anso and, to put things non-technically, it just looks good.

The weight is a product of G10 scales with a carbon-fiber inlay. It's got an inset liner-lock and a 2.75-inch clip-point blade opened with an assisted-opening flipper for quick blade deployment; the blade, incidentally, features a slight recurve which makes it better for slicing.

The Fraxion's a true featherweight so out-of-the-box sharp I sliced myself just feeling the edge (yes, it's a stupid habit, but I can't help myself). The price is $49.95. Even if you're no gentleman, this might be your everyday carry knife. Kai USA Ltd., 18600 SW Teton Ave., Tualatin, OR 97062, (800) 325-2891,

Caption: Compact in size with a 3.3-inch barrel and 23-ounce weight, the XD-E (above) is a serious entry in the CCW market. The XD-E's comfortable Grip Zone stocks (below) combined with the extended 9-round magazine makes it a very comfortable 9mm to shoot.

Caption: Springfield's Rob Leatham throws everything but the kitchen sink at a silhouette bad guy during a domestic defensive scenario with the XD-E. The external hammer, ambidextrous safety/decocking lever and lack of a grip safety (left) are the first visual cues this new "Carry 9" is not your usual striker-fired XD.

Caption: Getting a bit too grabby for a downed bird can make you a snakebite statistic. Best check things out first.

Caption: When coiled and thoroughly irritated. this Prairie rattler can strike from one-third to one-half of its body length. Photo: Yvonne Venturino
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Title Annotation:GUNS INSIDER
Author:Miller, Payton
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 2017
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