Changing my carry gun…maybe

Posted: April 18, 2012 in Handgun, Information, Product Reviews

Hey guys! Sorry for the long delay in posting. If you follow my other blogs (here and here) you’ll know that I’ve been pretty busy. However, I actually have been shooting quite a bit lately. My range is so incredibly convenient, even a guy like me, with a new baby just days away and a house in the middle of a remodel can find some time to sneak away and convert money into noise. So that’s awesome. But I’ve been shooting enough that I’ve discovered a disturbing problem with my carry gun. Or maybe a potentially disturbing problem. Or maybe nothing to worry about. Let me ‘splain.

I carry a full-size Springfield XDm 9mm (in OD because black guns are so 2008) every day. I’m a big guy (6’3″ and 210) so the full size in a Concealment Solutions holster is pretty easy to conceal. However, as I’m heading into the summer months, I’ve decided that this year I don’t want to wear my jacket unnecessarily, which I have done a lot in the past. I also don’t want to carry off body in a man purse, which I did for much of last year. So I’ve been thinking that switching to a compact is a good solution. The only time my gun prints is when I bend over, and even then it’s just the very bottom of the grip that sticks out. Is it something that the average person would notice/recognize/identify? Probably not. But it bugs me, because I think concealed means concealed. So anyway, this inspired me to start looking into purchasing a new gun for carry. But, because I’ve been shooting a lot more recently, something I’d noticed kept me from running right out and getting the XDm compact, like I’d originally planned to.

Okay, you see the slide release? I’ve got big damn paws, and the knuckle of my thumb rests right on that lever. What that means during most situations isn’t much. There’s no upward pressure on it from the magazine so it should stay down anyway. But when you fire the last round in most semiautos, there’s upward pressure from the now-empty magazine that pushes this lever upward, and catches the slide in recoil, causing it to lock back. This can be called “shooting to slidelock”, a term familiar especially to people who shoot IDPA. It’s pretty much the most obvious indicator that you’re empty, as well. Experienced shooters can often feel the difference in the recoil when the slide locks back, and will immediately perform a reload without consciously recognizing that the gun is empty. If your slide doesn’t lock back on empty, your first indication that you are now holding a doorstop might be when you press the trigger and you get a click. Since you don’t know you’re empty, that means now you tap and rack, then try again. You get another click, or your slide stays back this time when you rack it manually. Both are indicators that you need to reload.

So here’s the thing. Since my thumb rides that lever, I don’t get slidelock probably 9 times out of 10. On the range, that just means I get a lot of practice at tapping and racking, which is good. In competition, particularly IDPA, which is the only competition I do currently, that means I’m not allowed to drop my empty mag and reload; I have to retain the empty mag. In a defensive situation, that might mean an extra few seconds with a dead gun. You see the issue? It used to be a once in a while thing, now it’s almost every time. As I got better about keeping my grip high and tight on the gun, my thumb just naturally hits that spot every time. I really don’t want to modify my grip, since I shoot very well with it now. It feels natural, and helps me manage recoil during rapid fire. So that’s good, and I don’t want to try to retrain myself away from this grip I’ve worked hard at.

What’s a man to do, then? On the one hand, I have a gun platform that I love, is reliable as hell, and that I shoot very well. On the other hand, it really isn’t the best trigger, and I have the slidelock issue. So, do I stick with the gun that has worked well for me through half a dozen classes, dozens of matches, and countless hours of range time, but has a few issues? Or do I move to a different platform? There are plenty of great ones out there to choose from. My second choice right now would be a Glock, probably a 19 or 26, for concealment purposes. I’m leaning more towards the 19, as the 26 is just so small, I’d be worried about being able to control it adequately. The Smith & Wesson M&P line is well-respected, but they don’t really blow my skirt up. I’d definitely be willing to give them another chance, though. I even have a bit of a soft spot for the Walther P99, as I think it’s one of the most feature-rich pistols I’ve ever seen, and have a friend who really loves his. Magnum Research has one that’s exceedingly similar to the P99 (to the point of being an overt knock-off) but has a very slightly wider frame that I like even more. Anyway, that whole discussion is contingent on me deciding that the XDm doesn’t cut it anymore. Clearly, I can live with the trigger. It’s not the best, but it’s serviceable and I’m comfortable with it. Could it be better? Obviously. But it’s not a deal breaker. So really, the slidelock issue is the major question.

Is a gun that consistently refuses to lock back on empty suitable for carry? Even the compact XDm holds 13+1 rounds, so the only time that would even be an issue is if I found myself in some kind of crazy running gun battle with a team of ninjas. Average defensive shooting is 3-5 rounds, from what I’ve read, so 14 is more than enough rounds for any situation I can reasonably expect to find myself in. So there’s that. There’s also the fact that revolvers, which most any expert thinks are good enough for daily carry (and though I’m not an expert, I tend to agree), don’t have any indicator of being empty beyond the click on a dead chamber. So maybe this issue isn’t the deal breaker I was thinking it was. Maybe I’m just getting myself all spun up over nothing? That seems pretty likely, as “overthinking” is probably my third favorite pastime.

Anyway, thanks for listening to me rambling. I think I’ve talked myself into the compact XDm for carry, because I’ve enjoyed the full size so much. This will also give me the option of putting a better trigger into the full-size for use in competition, if I so choose. I’m leaning even more heavily towards the Glock for competition, though, as the slidelock issue on the XDm comes up multiple times per stage during competition. But hey, at least one decision has been made, right? Thanks for reading.

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