The Springfield XD's Weird Croatian Grandpa

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Those of you who have ever looked at the slide of your Springfield XD have long ago realized that the pistol was made in a faraway land by the name of Croatia. There, the gun started life in 1999 as the HS2000 pistol. However, what you may not know is that the old HS owed its beginnings to a weirder looking design that preceded it.

The Springfield XD
(This...is the XD's grandpa, the PHP MV9)

IM Metal

The Balkan European country of Croatia is famous for inventing the necktie, and saving Europe a few times from Turkish invasions, among other things. Croatian immigrants (Nikola Tesla included) helped build the modern United States and their descendants here include such well-known persons as Nick Saban, Eric Bana, and John Malkovich.

Once part of the polyglot People's Republic of Yugoslavia (and before 1918 the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Croatia had to fight for its independence in the 1990s.

The Springfield XD
(The Croatian Army, locked in a war for independence from Yugoslavia in the 1990s, needed guns)

More than 12,000 Croats died in a four-year period before their country stood as a free nation. Among those veterans of that conflict were Ivan Abčić and Marko Vuković. The pair set about producing pistols for the struggling Croatian army during the war from their company known as IM Metal.

The First Croatian Pistol

Abcic and Vukovic soon came up with a hybrid pistol design they called, logically, the Prvi Hrvatski Pistolj (First Croatian Pistol). When we say hybrid, we really mean it. You see there was a war going on in the country and time was of the essence. You don't invent totally new products and processes in an emergency situation-- there just isn't enough time for research and development. Therefore the two did the next best thing and went with what they knew worked.

In the early 1990s the best-known and immediately available combat pistols in Europe were the Beretta M1951/92, the Browning Hi Power, and the Walther P-38. Between these guns, enough lessons can be learned to figure out a crash course in modern firearms design.

The Springfield XD
(When you strip a PHP, left, and compare it to a Walther P-38, right, you see the immediate resemblance. The HS2000/Springfield XD has a very different internal arrangement.)

These guns were all 9x19mm Luger, so the PHP was 9mm from the ground up. From the P-38, the standard German army handgun for some five decades, the designers took the basic short-recoil, tilting locking system as the heart of their gun. Also from the German gun, they 'borrowed' the manual decocking lever, trigger system, and safety. From the Beretta came the recoil spring system and a few internal improvements that the Italians did (ironically) to the P-38 while the double-stack mag looks like an exact clone of the one for the 92. From the Hi-Power came the direct-feed magazine design and American-style magazine release.

The Springfield XD
(The PHP MV17 with natty wood grips)

The result was an all-steel 34-ounce (unloaded) double action semiautomatic 9mm pistol with a safety-decock lever. Coming in at 7.7-inches overall, the gun had a 4.15-inch barrel and decent, but fixed sights. Its 15-shot mags were easily changed due to the U.S. style push button release rather than the more traditional heel-mounted European style one.

Variants

The guns overall look like a Walther P-38 with a little different slide and frame. The PHP MV 9 has a full-length frame and slide while the PHP MV 17 long-barreled variant has an extra inch and a half to it due to the 5.53-inch overall barrel.

The Springfield XD

Both have Croatian flag crest on the top of the slide (much like where you see the SA crest on today's XDs). The plastic pebbled grips were basic and very much like the ones found on the inexpensive German police contract P-1 Walthers (aluminum framed P-38s).


Breaking down and cleaning

These two guns served in the Croatian military and police where needed but were soon replaced by the HS2000. Overall, they had less than a decade in service.

The Springfield XD
(Long barreled PHP MV17)

This means that surplus versions of these gatts have been imported and are available on the US market for as little as $220 if you shop around. Individual sales are even lower sometimes. They are often sold complete with their brown russet U.S. Army 1911-style flap holsters marked HV (Hrvatska Vojska- Croatian Army), which makes a nice bonus in collectability.

These aren't bad guns overall, they are just clunky and, well, odd.

The Springfield XD

Epilogue

By 2000, with peace settling over the country, they designed a modern polymer framed pistol with the use of CNC machines and CAD-CAM systems that they dubbed the HS2000. It was a short recoil, locked breech mechanism, self-loading, safety locked action pistol with a slightly different striker-fired operation than either the polymer framed Glock or the more conventional all-metal handguns of the time.

It weighed in at the same size and had the same exterior dimensions of the Glock 19 9mm pistol-- but was about $100 less. Unlike the Glock, the HS gun had a grip safety, which appealed to many users. Early models of the HS2000 were a hit overseas and were soon appearing around the world. By 2001, Vukovic and Zabcic renamed the company HS Produkt , after their pistol.

In 2002, they signed an agreement with Springfield to start importing it to the U.S. under the name XD.

The rest, as they say, is history, and now you know about the oddball grandpa in your XD's family tree.

The Springfield XD
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