XD-9 Mod.2 Tactical:  The Humble Marksman?

Today’s market is flooded with striker-fired polymer pistols.  In fact, I just read a review of a new offering by CZ where the author claimed it to be a “problem solver” for the handgun market.  That comment left me perplexed, as I wondered “what problem is this new pistol solving?”  Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing CZ products or predicting they aren’t going to bring a wonderful pistol to the shooting public.  However, when thinking about what is unique about it, I’m left blank.  When Springfield announced their Mod.2 revision of the XD platform earlier this year, I had a similar reaction:  “Yawn… an XD with a recontoured slide and grip with some no-snag sights.”  That is, until I starting thinking further.

Years ago, I purchased a gently-used stainless XD-40 service model at a pawn shop.  I was looking for something in .40 as an alternative to a Glock 22, as the Glock ergos didn’t suit me (and still don’t, although I do have a G22 in my stable).  Surprisingly, the XD-40 was accurate.  Meaning, superbly accurate.  For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what made this rather pedestrian pistol so good.  The only thing I could come up with is the trigger pull.  It’s long, but smooth with no discernible “wall” before the break.  This “almost revolver DA style” feel may create such as smooth pull that it encourages good trigger control.  I liked the XD so much that I’ve held on to it, upgraded it with some nice night sights and a Streamlight TLR-1, and put it in my bedroom as my “oh my God I need a handgun at 2 am what the hell is that noise” pistol.  So, as I started thinking more about another handgun to replace some of the hammer fired DA/SA units I’ve sold recently, the Mod.2 hit my radar screen.  After about a month of reading reviews, dry-firing at local stores, and checking prices online, I stumbled into the local Cabelas to buy a pair of hiking boots.  Per our usual MO, my son and I breezed past the gun counter.  Hanging off an XD-9 Mod.2 Tactical (meaning it has the 5″ barrel) was a price tag of $479.  After chatting with the sales person and finding out the pistol had been mis-priced, I scooped it up on the spot.  Oh, and I didn’t buy the boots (in case you were wondering).

My first outing with the XD-9 Mod.2 was less than memorable.  The trigger on this one wasn’t quite as smooth and light as on my older XD-40, which may be somewhat attributable to not being broken in.  the pull was heavy enough that I felt some modifications were in order.  For a measly $12 or so, I was able to purchase a reduced pull Powder River sear and hammer spring and had them installed in about an hour.  This immediately brought the trigger from around 6 – 6.5 lbs down to around 4.5 lbs… a huge difference.  It now had a lighter and seemingly smoother pull.  

On 11/20, I was able to take the Mod.2 out again.  My main reason for shooting that day was to finish up some targets with my Dan Wesson PM-9 for a virtual competition I was in, but I wanted to see how the XD shot with the new springs as well.  I ran only 20 rounds through the XD, 10 at 7 yards and 10 at 15 yards.  Not focusing on this pistol, I shoved those targets back into the range bag and went back to the PM-9.  If you read my last post, you know the PM-9 is now my “reigning champion” of 9mm accuracy.  That pistol is so smooth, so tight, and so accurate that it’s practically a laser.  Well, tonight I decided to take a look at those XD-9 targets from a couple weeks ago.  Low and behold, here’s the results:

Now, keep in mind, this is not my best shooting.  But, remember that this is only two groups, 10 shots each, from 7 yards and 15 yards, with a pistol that is practically brand new to me.  The first group is 1.375″, the 2nd is 3.75″.  Again, not amazing by any means, but in the five 7 yard 10-shot groups I’ve shot with the Dan Wesson PM-9 I’ve averaged 1.775″ and only have one group that is better than the group from the XD above.  My 15 yard average with the Dan Wesson is 3.275″, which my 15 yard XD group would have bested by 1/8″ if not for the one flyer I had outside the black.  

What’s the conclusion here?  Well, the PM-9 is still, by far, my most accurate handgun.  But, the XD-9 Mod.2 Tactical is showing some glimpses of real promise.  Its initial outing with the new springs surprised me once I really sat down and looked at them objectively.  This new polymer pistol is going to see some more range time soon to work out more of its potential.  Regardless, I think it’s safe to say I’m initially pleased with the purchase and excited to see what more it will do!

Note:  I looked at, but did not opt for the XDM.  The XDM’s grip, to me, felt much bulkier and I preferred the ergos of the XD-9 Mod.2.

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A Changing of the Guard in the 9mm Stable

Good guns are easy to find, but great ones are truly special.  In today’s market, it’s hard to find a handgun from a major manufacturer that doesn’t function as it should with a reasonable degree of accuracy and reliability.  For $500, there are dozens of modern designs that will do everything 99% of the population would need from a pistol.  And, the differences often come down to the splitting of hairs related to minor details.  Personally, I’ve bought and sold a number of perfectly good service pistols in the search of something special.  In my quest for remarkable accuracy, I bought (and later sold, and regretted doing so) an STI Spartan in 9mm that was by far the most accurate 9mm I had owned up to that time.  Since then, my Beretta 92fs has held that title and continues to be my “go to” range gun for making small groups from a “9”.  However, today, I believe another pistol has come along that will claim that distinction.

Rewind about 3 – 4 weeks ago when I decided to “thin the herd.” Since then, I’ve sold a Sig P226, Sig SP2022 (and have a little seller’s remourse already on that one), a Springfield Armory Loaded Target in 9mm, and an old (but perfect condition) Tanfoglio TZ-75.  These transactions left me with some cash to get into something nice.  I knew I wanted another 9mm, but not a standard service pistol; I was looking for something supremely accurate and high qualty.  Being a 1911 guy, this immediately led me to looking at “nicer” 9mm 1911s.  Les Baers were more than I wanted to spend.  The Sig target 1911 in 9mm intrigued me, but having owned a Sig 1911 in the past I knew they were nice but not up to the level of quality I was seeking.  I thought about a Springfield Range Officer, but then realized I’d basically not be any different than I was with the Loaded.  Even the Kimber Team Match II crossed my mind, but $1,600 seemed like a lot for a Kimber (sorry Kimber fans).  STI and Dan Wesson seemed like the most logical choices as “mid tier” 1911s that exhibit quality and fit without getting into the 2k range.  After a lot of online shopping and cruising posts on the 1911 forum, I decided the Dan Wesson Pointman 9 was my logical choice.  $1,399 seemed about the going price for a new on Gunbroker, and when I saw a 2015 manufactured Pointman in like-new condition for $1,199 with no bids I bit.  One hour later, it was mine; couple weeks later it was in my hands.  Immediately I changed out the factory trigger to my standard Greider short solid unit (I make this modification on all my 1911s) and swapped the grips to prepare for her maiden voyage to the range.

Today was a beautiful day in north Texas, and my son and I hit the local range and were surprisingly some of the only people there.  Accompanying us were my Dan Wesson Pointman 9 and Beretta 92fs.  I’ll break this down now quickly:  I love my Beretta, but this Dan Wesson is now already one of my all time favorite pistols.  It exhibits an extremely high quality of parts, fit, and finish.  The trigger breaks crisply at 3.5 lbs with no hint of creep or grip.  The slide glides on the frame like it’s on ball bearings with no movement besides a perfectly clean back and forth motion.  The barrel hood and muzzle are locked in like a Ft. Knox bank vault, and overall the pistol shows a high degree of attentioin to detail.  Having had all the guts out of the frame to fit the Greider trigger, I can tell you the interals are very high quality and the sear is the nicest I have seen.  I do have another Dan Wesson, the .45 Specialist, and it is very similar in terms of fit and finish.  These Dan Wessons are fit even nicer than my S&W Performance Center 1911.  I’ve heard the Dan Wessons compared favorabley with high end 1911s, and I can understand why.  For $1,500 I seriously do not think you can find a higher quality 1911.  Reps from Dan Wesson are also active on the 1911 Forum and routinely step in to help customers, which says something about their attention to shooters.  

Anyway, here’s the results of my first outing with the Dan Wesson as compared to what I did with the Beretta.  The Beretta is no slouch and I believe it can almost keep up with the DW, but not quite.  The trigger and fit on the DW is just that much nicer that it will likely outshoot the Beretta in apples to apples comparisons over the long run.  

Here’s shooting from 7 yards, Weaver stance, 5 shots per target.  The Beretta is on the left, the DW on the right.  Yes, the upper right target has five shots.  

Moving back to 50 ft the Beretta flexed its muscles and turned in a nice 7 shot group.  The DW did well too, but shot a larger group.  However, I pulled the two bottom shots and knew it when it happened so that’s reflective of me, not the pistol.  

My workplace is having a virtual pistol competition this fall, and here’s some targets I shot for that today.  It’s three groups of 10 shots on each, one from 7 yards, one from 10 yards, and one from 15 yards.  Check out the 10 yard target especially, it shows what the DW can do in even my hands.

Well folks, there you have it.  the Dan Wesson Pointman 9 is a pistol that I see getting a LOT of range time in the future and one that I think is a great example of a high quality 1911 that won’t require a 2nd mortgage to purchase.  I’m really enamored with these Dan Wesson 1911s now, and may even pick up a Valor at some point just because they are such nice pistols and I have to believe they will only continue to increase in price.  If you are in the market for “one” 1911 to own that you’ll never feel like you compromised in buying (and don’t want to spend $2,000+), take a look at a Dan Wesson… you will likely be pleasantly surprised.  

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Thinning the Herd

So, here we are in the back half of 2016.  I’ve been to my new favorite range a few times in the past couple months, and it seems the same handguns always make the cut while other perfectly servicable ones sit idly in the safe wishing for their day in the sun.  My Beretta 92fs, Walther PPQ, S&W PC1911, and a few others continue to be my “go to” pistols when it comes to punching holes in paper.  

A month ago I attended license to carry training in Texas.  Part of that included timed qualfication on the range. My Beretta 92fs accompanied me on that trip and, while I scored perfectly well during the training, I realized the manual of arms with the Beretta may not be ideal in even a little bit of a stressful situation.  Specifically, I found myself inadvertantly dropping the safety and lowering the hammer when racking the slide.  While not a big deal at the range, this in a life or death situation could be catastrophic.  It also opened my eyes to the fact that I really need to focus on two types of handguns:  defensive pistols and range toys, with not much in between.  I’m not saying you can’t enjoy a defensive pistol at the range, but having a bunch of handguns in my safe that aren’t my “go to” pistols for either purpose just doesn’t make sense.  

As a result of the points above, I’m now thinning the herd when it comes to handguns.  Five have been put up for sale as of yesterday, and two are already gone including the Sig P226 shown above.  Please don’t misunderstand, as I realize the P226 is a perfectly suitable defensive pistol used by police and military across the globe.  But, it never makes the cut for me as my primary home defense pistol and its performance at the range has always been been decidedly average in my hands at best.  

A few more pistols are for sale, and I may sell even more.  With that, I intend to buy at least one more very nice dedicated range gun (possibly a Dan Wesson Pointman 9) and maybe evaluate another defensive pistol purchase (S&W M&P or HK VP9 are peaking my interest).  What will happen in the end is unclear, but at least some safe queens from my collection are going to other places where they may get the attention they rightfully deserve.

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S&W PC1911… Still King of the Hill


When it comes to handguns, I’m always looking for something better.  And by better, I mean more accurate.  Sure, there are many different ways to measure firearm value.  Concealability, capacity, ease of use, reliability, and other criteria come to mind, and I have pistols that perform each of those functions superbly.  My primary obsession though is small groups.  I think this comes from growing up shooting varmint rifles and always looking for the right load that could shrink three shots below 1/2 MOA.  Maybe it’s because, by nature, I’ve always gravitated toward what I consider precision-focused past times (shooting, golf, billiards).  Or, it could be because I have several firearms that do the same thing without much distinction from one another and accuracy is a key differentiator.  Whatever the reason, it is what it is.  

Nearly three years ago, I began my search for a highly accurate 1911 that wouldn’t require me to send my kids to a coal mine for extra income.  I looked at Les Baer, Springfield’s TRP, Dan Wesson, and a host of other handguns.  Then, a fairly newer model from the Smith & Wesson Performance Center peaked my interest.  A couple articles and some positive range reports sealed my decision, and shortly thereafter I was the proud owner of a full-size PC1911.  I immediately knew a few things handed to change.  For one, the ambidextrous thumb safety was mushy and didn’t inspire confidence by “clicking” into place.  And, being a righty, I view the starboard side lever as an unnecessary protrusion.  The grips, while handsome, were also way too thick for my liking.  Similar to all 1911s I own, the trigger was begging to be replaced by a Greider short solid unit.  A short while later an Ed Brown single side safety, a new trigger, and a set of Custom Outfitters G10 grips (which feel wonderful in hand, by the way) were new additions to my PC1911.  This pistol immediately impressed me by being one of the only 1911s I’ve owned that didn’t require me to tinker with the pull weight.  As well, it proceeded to outshoot all my other handguns.  A SIG Nitron Rail 1911 that has since come and gone from my collection came close but couldn’t keep up in the end.  My Kimber Custom Target was woefully outclassed.  And, even my new slick as glass Dan Wesson Specialist isn’t quite yet doing what the S&W does in my hands.  An EAA Witness Elite Match, while not a 1911, recently joined my stable and may show some promise.  The Kimber was recently upgraded with a tight fitting EGW bushing which, after the first range trip, seems to have had an immediate impact on shrinking groups.  But, the good ole’ PC1911 continues to be my “go to” when I want to see what I can really do.  The picture in this post is from last weekend and represents a 5 shot group from offhand at 50 ft using cheap Wal-Mart Perfecta ball ammo.  While I know many of you can do better than this, 1″ at this distance for me is a pretty good showing.  

Maybe I’ll find something someday that unseats this pistol in terms of accuracy, but my “don’t wanna go over $1,500” rule for a handgun may limit that pursuit.  Which, at this point, is just fine.  I think I’m done trying to find something that can top my PC1911 as King of the Hill for awhile and will enjoy it for what it is: the best in my stable.  

Note:  the stock magwell funnel was replaced recently with an Ed Brown unit.

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Dan Wesson Specialist vs. S&W PC 1911


Today was a beautiful day in the greater Dallas area. Temps are coming down to the 70’s, and my oldest son and I decided to hit the local range.  He took his Savage Rascal .22, which by the way is a great first rifle (I’ll write a review on it later).  I decided to let the new kid to my collection, the Dan Wesson Specialist, stretch it’s legs against the current heavyweight champion of my stable:  the S&W PC1911.

I won’t go through the details of each pistol, as I have already discussed both in previous posts. However, I will provide a summary: the S&W won the day. But, keep in mind the Dan Wesson is new to me and I’m still getting used to its feel. Also, the DW’S trigger breaks around 4.25 lbs whereas the S&W came with a factory break that has lightened up to 2.5 lbs. That doesn’t sound like much difference, but when punching paper it’s kind of a big deal. See the targets below; I shot one group with my own SWC hand loads through each pistol, went through one group’s worth of some inexpensive stuff I found at Wal-Mart, and then hit the handloads again. Finally, just to see what would happen, I ran eight through the Specialist off the bench.

Bottom line, the Specialist shows potential but I intend to lighten the pull weight slightly and see what happens. The same change in my old Sig 1911 (that I have since sold) made it come alive and run with my S&W.  

In other news, the DW only failed to feed on the 2nd shot; every other round chambered, fired, and ejected as it should.  This includes both factory ball ammo and my SWC “light” handloads.  

Here’s the targets, side by side.  S&W PC1911 is on the left, DW Specialist is on the right:


Note: I have no idea what happened to me on this group with the DW.  I just fell apart for some reason, as even cheap “Perfecta” brand ammo shouldn’t shoot this poorly.

Here’s eight rounds off the bench at 50 ft.  While the entire gruop isn’t impressive in total size, seven of the shots were in a 1.25″ space.  That shows me the gun can run, I just need to get comfortable with it.

The range was having a competition to coincide with the timing of the Texas State Fair.  For $5, you could purchase a target and fire 10 shots from 7 yards.  If all shots were in the X ring, you got one box of ammo half off.  If you got them all in the 9 and 10 ring, you got a free range pass.  Needless to say, the PC1911 and I got a box of ammo at half off. 

I decided to take my Glock 22 along as well and just put 10 shots downrage from 50 ft, just for the heck of it.  Of course, the Glock isn’t a target gun and isn’t even one of my favorites.  But, it never gets any love so I figured I’d take it out today.


Here’s a pic of my big guy shooting his Rascal at the range today. All in all, a great outing!


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A “Special” Specialist

Welcome to my first blog post in well over a year.  Since my last post, I’ve changed jobs and moved half-way across the country… now calling the Lone Star State home.  Needless to say, it’s been very busy and blogging has taken a back seat.  However, this weekend I’ve found something to write home about (as the expression goes).

As many of you know, I hold the 1911 platform in high regard.  While it’s well over 100 years old at this point, I find its balance, action, and characteristics to be ideal for what I want in a range gun.  Admittedly, I’ve become a little more discriminating in terms of what I look for in a 1911.  Tight bushing fit, no movement in the barrel hood, tight but smooth slide to frame fit, and a crisp trigger at or below 4 lbs. is pretty much mandatory for me at this point.  For a couple years I’ve read people wax poetic about Dan Wesson 1911s and I finally made the plunge with a brand new Dan Wesson Specialist.

Dan Wesson used to make revolvers with interchangable barrels, but that Dan Wesson is no more.  Instead, what exists today is a Dan Wesson that is a subsidiary of CZ USA.  Dan Wesson 1911s are known for having very precise tolearnces and excellent tool steel parts.  While the product line starts with the “plane Jane” Heritage around $1,100 and runs up to the popular Valor around $1,500, all Dan Wesson 1911s use the same quality parts and receive the same level of fit and finish.  They have, in many circles, been compared favorably with Ed Brown pistols (which is no small thing).  There is a well-known ‘smith who pitted a number of 1911s against one another in multiple Ransom rest tests, and the Valor ran just as well (and in some cases better) than products from Ed Brown, Les Baer, and the Springfield Custom Shop.  While that’s not an exhaustive respresentation of 1911 peformance, having a pist0l that can be had brand new for under $1,500 with all tool steel parts that will run with the “big dogs” is quite impressive.

Back to the Specialist.  It is a full size 1911 with a Clark style rib on the slide, ball cuts in the front, fixed “straight eight” style ledge sights (with tritium inserts), VZ G10 grips, an Ed Brown style magwell (it might even be a Ed Brown part), ambidextrous thumb safety, and yes… a rail.  Some 1911 purists abhor the rail, calling it an unnecessary pimple on the otherwise clean lines of John Moses Browning’s most well-known design.  However, find one “modern” designed handgun in today’s world without a rail.  Tough, eh?  Well, may reasoning for a rail isn’t for mounting a taser/laser/radar/sonar capable device, but more because I like the slightly different balance and weight the rail provides.  Silly, but true.  Anyway, I’ve had the Specialist down to the individual parts as I replaced the standard trigger with a Greider short solid trigger (something I do with all my 1911s), and I can tell you this pistol is quality.  The frame and slide mate together with absolutely no movement between the two, but they glide together as smooth as glass.  The small parts are all very well finsihed, high quality tool steel.  The trigger break is crisp and clean with no creep, set right above 4 lbs.  There is absolutely no movement in the barrel hood, and the frame/bushing/barrel fit is tight… but not ridiculously so.  I’ve heard Dan Wesson pistols described as being fit “just right,” and based on this example I believe it.  In fact, besides changing the trigger I don’t know that there is much more I’ll do with this pistol.

I haven’t had this to the range yet, but will post updates once I do.  Based on my initial observations, this is better finished and higher quality than my S&W PC1911, and that’s saying something.  Will this translate into down range performance?  We shall see… stay tuned!

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Springfield XD-40… With Upgrades!

Those of you who follow my blog know that I am a big fan of my Springfield XD-40.  While there is no one unique feature of this pistol that stands out among the overcrowded market of polymer striker-fired handguns, the combination of a “just right” grip and a trigger that has a constant pull from initial pressure to break works very well for me.  Truth be told, this is one of my most accurate handguns.  When I need to shoot well, this one makes my short list.  However, from the factory it did not come with night sights so it hasn’t occupied space in my bedroom safe for quite some time.  That has changed.

I looked at a number of various night sight units on the market and finally purchased a set of Truglo Brite-Site TFOs for my XD.  These are unique as they combine fiber optic rods in both the front and rear units with tritium dots in both as well.  In daylight, the three dots glow like any fiber optic sight… which is very brightly.  In pure darkness, they glow like any tritium night sight.  While the instructions said to only install these with a sight pusher (and with the aid of a professional ‘smith), I used a hammer, bench vise, brass punch, 2×4 scrap, and old t-shirt to put these on myself.  While it took about 15 minutes, I got the job done and no damage came to the pistol or sights.  And, my blue pen cleared up any brass marks on the sight (a trick I learned by watching a Dawson Precision video online… they use the blue pen when installing sights on 1911s).  Anyway, I was able to take this to the “range” (i.e. my farm) a few weeks ago and the sights were dead-on.  Needless to say, I was very pleased and, after getting this home, took the Streamlight TLR-3 off my Glock 22, loaded up a magazine of Winchester Ranger LE rounds, and put the XD in my bedroom safe.  Sorry Glock 22, but you’re relegated to “main safe” storage now.

I’ve posted some pics below of the XD-40 with the new sights, along with the TLR-3 light.  The TLR-3 is extremely bright, easy to use, and seems very durable.  Plus, it comes with a lifetime warranty.  The pic below that shows the light on is taken in a dark hallway, pointing to a wall 25 feet away.  This light is bright… very bright.

So, my XD-40 is now what I would consider completely outfitted. While I don’t get into naming my guns, I can’t help but a parallel between this gun and a hammer, as they both do the same thing:  hit exactly what they are aimed at, hit it hard, and hit it consistently every time.




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