S&W Airweight revolver vs Springfield XDM .40 4.5″ semiautomatic pistol

I’m new to handguns, so consider that when you read this amateur review.

First of all, I know it’s kind of weird to compare a small frame revolver to a full size semiautomatic pistol, but they are what I shot today so that’s what I’m going to review.

The upper picture is of the Smith & Wesson Airweight revolver, model 642. The light weight, smooth lines, encased hammer and reliability of a revolver make this a good handgun for concealed carry. It is chambered for .38 Special, which is an acceptable caliber for self defense, though many people think it really isn’t powerful enough to consistently stop an assailant. It is a small framed revolver, so the cylinder can only hold 5 bullets. The hammer is encased, so it cannot be used in single action mode. It is a strictly double action gun, making for a longer and heavier trigger pull.

The lower picture is of the Springfield XDM .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol, with a 4.5 inch barrel. That is the size gun I shot, though it does come in various configurations including shorter and longer barrels, and chambered in 9 mm and .45 calibers. The .40 magazine holds 16 rounds. It was significantly bigger and heavier than the S&W 642: 32 oz. vs 15 oz. The model with the shortest barrel is promoted for concealed carry, but it is not much lighter at 27 oz. The .40 caliber load is much more powerful than the .38 Special, giving it much better assailant stopping power.

What I discovered at the firing range was very interesting. I shot Remington UMC .38 Special 130 gr. metal case bullets through the S&W revolver, and Federal American Eagle .40 caliber 165 gr. FMJ through the Springfield semiautomatic pistol. This review is otherwise completely subjective. I had fired the S&W revolver several times before, and it was the first time with the Springfield pistol. For me, the recoil “kick” was much more noticeable with the smaller S&W revolver! Even with the more powerful .40 caliber load, the heavier semiautomatic pistol absorbed the recoil force much better! I wasn’t expecting that!

My accuracy was also much better with the semiautomatic pistol! Perhaps it was the longer barrel. Perhaps it was the stability of a heavier gun. Perhaps it was that the trigger pull of this semiautomatic was much easier than the revolver’s trigger pull. Perhaps it was a little of all that. Going back and forth between these two guns, I consistently fired more accurately with the larger, heavier Springfield semiautomatic pistol than with the smaller, lighter S&W revolver.

I loved shooting the Springfield XDM, but it might be too heavy for concealed carry. I will have to try the shorter barreled compact model (which also has a smaller magazine) to see how much lighter it is and if that configuration affects my accuracy, and then try other brands, to see what is best for me.