Powder River Precision Custom XD-M Elite 3.8” Compact Review

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When it comes to practical pistols, I’m no snob. When I’m putting a blaster on my hip, I’m not typically looking for custom. Instead, I’m looking for reliability. I don’t want fancy; I want function. I recently had a chance to try out the new XD-M Elite 3.8” Compact pistol and was really impressed with it. And, while I don’t normally think about “custom” for my carry guns, this one just struck me as a great platform to take to the next level.

I had been doing some research on custom gunsmithing and had been looking at Powder River Precision. Their background in working on XD-based guns made them a great choice, and the XD-M Elite 3.8” Compact seemed like a great option to have them work their magic on.

Powder River Precision takes the already capable XD-M Elite 3.8″ Compact to the next level when it comes to both looks and function.

Let’s be frank, the Elites are darn close to semi-custom guns as it is. What could Powder River Precision do this already advanced design? I thought it might be fun to find out and share what I found with you in this review.

First Glance

After some discussion with the company, we decided to let them take the gun out for a spin and decide what customizations they might want to do to it. I could not wait to get the pistol back from them and find out what they had decided to do to it.

Custom XD-M Elite 3.8
The XD-M Elite has always been a good-looking pistol. The addition of an optics cut and the two-tone look of Powder River Precision’s version is particularly handsome.

When I first took the Powder River Precision custom XD-M Elite 3.8” Compact out of its Springfield Armory pistol case, I was immediately impressed. The gun has the handsome lines of the XD-M Elite 3.8” Compact, but there were some outstanding accents that really make the pistol “pop.”

Setting Their Sights

Although there are several XD-M Elite pistols available in an OSP platform, the XD-M Elite 3.8” Compact isn’t currently one of them. Powder River Precision took care of that by cutting the slide of this pistol to accept optics. The pistol I received back was mounted with a Shield SMSc optic.

I immediately took the pistol out to the range to try it out. The dot was easy to pick up by adding some progressive pressure with my pinkies on the presentation. The pistol’s 9mm recoil wasn’t an issue as I was able to track the dot between shots without it leaving the window of the Shield red dot.

In addition to the Shield red dot sight, Powder River Precision outfitted the Custom 3.8″ with a set of Dawson Precision suppressor height sights.

I was pleased with how quickly the dot snapped back to the point of aim. It made getting hits a simple process. Pistol-mounted red dot sights are here to stay, and I was pleased to be able to shoot this XD-M Elite 3.8” Compact with a slide-mounted dot. The 3.8” Compact is built for concealed carry, and I think it really adds something to it for the gun to be paired with a capable red dot.

Red dot sight mounted on the XD-M Elite 3.8
A red dot sight looks right at home on the Powder River Precision XD-M Elite 3.8.

The red dot itself is backed up with a pair of Dawson Precision suppressor-height sights. The plain black serrated rear and fiber optic front make it easy to pick up your sights should the dot fail to appear.

Winchester Active Duty ammo
As expected, the Winchester Active Duty, 115-gr. FMJ flat-nose rounds were reliable and accurate.

For my range time, Winchester was kind enough to send me a selection of its 9mm ammo. The gun and the ammo were accurate and reliable.

All in the Accents

Frankly, it’s easy for one polymer pistol to look a lot like the next one these days. Lots of black. Black plastic, black metal, black finish everywhere you look. Now, there is nothing at all wrong with the color. In fact, black has some advantages when it comes to a defensive handgun. For example, it blends in.

But, Powder River Precision decided it wanted to add some accents to the XD-M Elite 3.8” Compact that help make this gun stand out even more. I have always been a fan of two-tone finishes, and that is the angle Powder River took. It’s subtle but classy. The bulk of the gun remains finished just like a typical XD-M Elite from the factory, but it gets the “pop” from stainless accents.

Stainless steel pins for Springfield XD-M Elite pistol
Powder River Precision installed their PRP Trigger Kit into the pistol for the project. Note the stainless pins and mag release.

The most noticeable of these accents, in my opinion, comes from the scalloped, extended, stainless steel grip safety. It immediately caught my attention. The next accent to catch my eye was the extended, ambidextrous magazine catch. Pop! Finally, Powder River finished off the looks of the gun with a set of stainless steel pins to match the bright accents of the grip safety and mag release.

The stainless pin set adds to the looks of the pistol while the extended mag release and grip safety work to make the pistol look good and function even more efficiently. I really enjoy the look of a two-tone gun like the Springfield Ronin, and when those good looks are just a bonus to added function, now we are talking.

Enhanced Function

The XD-M Elite’s ambidextrous magazine release has always pleased me. It doesn’t matter whether you are a righty or a lefty — you are set. No swapping of the mag release, just use it. When I mean use it, I mean just plain get after dropping that mag. It doesn’t matter if you release with your primary hand thumb or your primary hand index finger, your mag is going to drop.

Extended magazine release on custom XD-M Elite
I’ve always liked the XD-M Elite’s ambidextrous mag release. Powder River takes it up a notch by extending it.

When it comes to defensive guns and extended mag releases, make certain that your holster and the mag release play well together. There are extended-release and holster combinations that can lead to your full mag dropping from your gun when the first shot is fired. Take the time to ensure that any extended mag release holster combination works as intended.

Custom stainless steel grip safety for an XD-M Elite pistol
The scalloped and extended stainless steel grip safety offers a solid improvement in efficiency, whether shooting or operating the slide.

The XD-M Elite’s grip safety can be a love/hate feature for some. My personal preference is no grip safety, but the Powder River Precision grip safety is an exciting feature. I like the fact that it is an extended grip safety. Whether you are firing critical shots or operating the slide, I am a big fan of this feature. Also, I’m not going to complain that the stainless contrast along with the attractive scallops help the custom XD-M 3.8″ Compact look good while it’s running well!

Important Interface

I have spent a lot of time on quality triggers. I’ve shot duty-weight triggers with zero or post-travel and glass rod breaks. I’ve shot competition triggers that are light and crisp and precision triggers that seem to live a breath away from breaking. I’m rarely surprised by a trigger.

Measuring custom trigger weight on the XD-M Elite
The trigger was impressive. When tested with a digital trigger scale, it registered at just over 4.25 lbs.

Don’t get me wrong, a great trigger is still a great trigger. With the number and types of guns I get to run, I have appropriate expectations of trigger performance. I don’t expect a duty gun to have a hair-trigger.

Shooting the Powder River custom Springfield XD-M Elite
I found the XD-M Elite from Powder River to be reliable and pleasant to shoot.

Powder River Precision really caught me off guard with the trigger in the XD-M Elite 3.8″ Compact. When I say “caught me off guard,” I mean that trigger was amazing.

Powder River installed the PRP Trigger Kit in this pistol. Before I fired the gun, the only clue that the trigger was anything but stock was the stainless roll pin mating the trigger safety and the trigger shoe. When I shot the gun, I knew it was something special.

Powder River offers two triggers for the XD-M Elite, this trigger and the Extreme. Based on my experience with this gun, they are both worthy investments.

Final Thoughts

I have spent a good bit of time running a full-size XD-M Elite Tactical OSP. That is the pistol that lives on my battle belt. I’ve run it hard in both training and practice. I’ve beat it in high round count handgun classes and low light course work so I could give it a thorough review. I haven’t been disappointed.

Powder River Precision custom XD-M Elite pistol
If you are looking to take your XD-M Elite to the next level, Powder River Precision seems to be the go-to for customization.

In fact, there is little I would change about my go-to gun. That is until now. Powder River Precision has put together a solid group of upgrades for XD-M Elite pistols. The adaptations make an amazing pistol even more amazing. If you are looking to take your XD-M Elite to the next level, make sure to give Powder River Precision a look.

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