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15-Round Magazines improve the Springfield Hellcat RDP

Residing on the compact end of the slider scale of handguns, the Springfield Hellcat fits into the latest subcategory of concealment-focused pistols. As a handgun gets smaller, it typically sacrifices ammunition capacity while simultaneously increasing the felt recoil. Think putting identical engines into a large truck, as well as into a miniature 1-seater: they're not going to feel the same. The Springfield Hellcat RDP is blending a little bit of reality, especially when combined with their new 15 round magazines. As if the ghost of Aristotle were calling to the future, this combination reaches toward the “golden mean” between size, capacity, and felt recoil, for those interested in EDC 9mm pistols.

springfield hellcat RDP
The base model of the Springfield Hellcat RDP.

Form Factor

The term “stagger stack” in our current environment doesn't really mean what it sounds like, as it technically only encompasses magazines that are somewhere between a double and single stack in design, width, and capacity. The Goldilocks-mamma bear of handgun magazines, the pistols designed around them will typically have the following features: standard controls (magazine release, etc), compact frame, and often be capable of hosting a red dot or micro reflex sight.

hellcat split

The Springfield Hellcat was born on the early edge of Micro Red Dot Sights becoming common for micro handguns, and so it could be found either cut for an MRDS, or not. The Springfield Hellcat RDP, however, took the micro handgun and gave it a compensator and Hex Wasp optic, two of the four vital parts that made a Roland Special. Now that 15-round magazines are available, as well as make/model specific Surefire XSC weapon lights, the Hellcat is only gaining in function and possibilities. Recognizing the bones of the firearm, Apex made a DIY Hellcat Trigger Job kit to clean up some of the rough edges.

Judging the Springfield Hellcat RDP by it's parts

The Springfield Hellcat RDP has to overcome the challenge that all handguns of its size deal with. Out of the box, the trigger is a bit better than acceptable, but lacks the refinement of older striker-fired handguns. In sensitive hands, the two-stage trigger almost has a shadow third stage, just before breaking. This is because although there is a clean distinction between the first and second stage, the latter is about a millimeter long, with a feint, almost imperceptible “wall” at its end. At the range, it felt a bit long, and one could certainly tell when they were shooting sloppy.

hellcat RDP compensator

One feature that has evaded some micro-compact handguns in the past, is the slide release. For many that have fit them in, their slide releases are often nearly inoperable, being either too stiff or so low profile that they cant be manipulated reliably. In contrast, the Springfield Hellcat RDP is an example of what one should be: in the right place, and easy to operate. The magazine release is a little less tactile, but this isn't a competition handgun: reloads were not timed.

Let's Talk About Magazines

The original magazines for the Springfield Hellcat RDP had the option for a “pinky extension” and had a capacity of 11 rounds. For shooters with larger hands, this satisfied the grip size on the front end, but left the back lacking. While the pinky wrapped securely around the extension, the meat of one's palm would swell awkwardly beneath the magazine. This wouldn't cause too much ruckus on a cool, easy flat range, but for the big-handed, performance started to show in sweaty hands.

springfield hellcat RDP stacked
The magazines stacked on top of each other comparing their size. The FDE magazines hold 13 rounds.

The 13-round Springfield Hellcat Magazines fills this uncomfortable space without adding too much bulk. The less than half an inch extension changes the entire feel of the pistol when held, especially in sweaty hands. Out of the box, the compact handgun is certainly dancing on the line of uncomfortable, which is expected for handguns of its size, but the 13- and 15-round mags are a game changer.

11, 13, 15 round magazines hellcat

Now if the 13-round magazine feels better in the hand, the 15-round magazine hardly feels like a micro-compact, filling one's palm. Much of the lost bulk comes from the width and depth of the pistol grip, which, although stretching the height to just shy of a Glock 19, it doesn't nearly take up as much space. It's not going to put the older firearm out to pasture, but it does challenge its hegemony. The new 15-round magazines do, however, extend its viability throughout the year, where smaller magazines can be rotated out when the weather turns gold, naturally encouraging magazine rotation.

Optics and Optics Ready

On the Springfield Hellcat RDP, the iron sights and Hex Wasp MRDS show the evolution of pistol optics, as they fit together seamlessly. The tritium front sight nests into a u-shaped rear sight, visibile without having to be “suppressor height” as a channel runs through the Hex MRDS wide enough to retain the use of irons.

hex wasp hellcat iron sights

The Hex Wasp does not reinvent the wheel, but shows signs of deliberate refinement. The frame is made of T6 6061 Aluminum, and features serrations on the side that resemble other Springfield products. The dot is auto-adjusting and has no way to power it off. Indoors, the refresh rate is visible, especially under incandescent lighting, but in brighter environments this is less noticeable. The color cast is present, but not obtrusive.

hex wasp MRDS

The challenge with evaluating the Hex Wasp is that the crux component is somewhat subjective. On the one hand, the auto-adjust feature shines in dynamic environments. The shortcoming is that the user retains no control over the brightness, and if the sensor is sitting in a shadow, but the target is lit, the dot might not be bright enough or adjust quick enough, getting washed out in the process. The user should practice switching between iron sights and the dot.

Springfield Hellcat RDP At the Range

While the self-timing compensator will turn heads in regards to its mounting design, performance is judged on the range. Chewing through a mixed bucket of rounds, the Springfield Hellcat RDP reliably cycled both range and defense ammunition of various makes and qualities. The compensator took some of the bite out of the recoil, and paired with a 15-round magazine, made the complete package feel very controllable.

Springfield RDP Glock 19 comparison
Both firearms carry 15 rounds as configured.

The trigger is the weak point out of the box, as the longer take-up and reset either slow the shooter, or exacerbate bad form. Most noticeably, on a hot day, after a few hours on the range, especially with the 11-round magazine inserted, rounds started drifting low and to the left (right handed shooter), partially as the length of the trigger allowed for more influence from the trigger finger, and partially because the shorter magazine had less material to resist it. This was much less noticeable with the 13 round magazines, and the 15-rounders continue this trend.

glock 19 hellcat rpd
When comparing width, the Hellcat RDP lacks the bulk.

Loose Rounds

The Springfield Hellcat RDP does bring quite a bit to the table. The pairing of a compensator and MRDS treat the platform well, certainly adding value. But the whole package shines when combined with the newer, larger magazines. The trigger, although sufficient for its design purposes, can be improved, and thankfully there are solutions available. The Springfield Hellcat RDP comes across as a buy-once-carry-often handgun that doesn't try to be something it's not, and will stay relevant for the foreseable future.

hellcat magazines

Springfield Hellcat RDP

Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 3.9 inch threaded barrel (1/2 x 28)
Overall Length: 7 Inches
Weight Unloaded:
– Flush Mag: 19.3 ounces
– 13 Rd: 19.6 ounces
– 15 Rd: 20 ounces
Height (Including Hex MRDS) :
– Flush Mag: 4.75 inches
– 13-Rd: 5.25 inches
– 15 Rd: 5.5 inches
MSRP: $899

More on 9mm Pistols and the Springfield Hellcat

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