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Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP: Runt-Sized Roland

One of the most significant changes to the semiautomatic pistol in recent years has been the introduction of the midsized compact pistol. Smaller than a standard duty pistol, but with more than twice the capacity of a typical subcompact, these small pistols are setting a new standard when it comes to concealed carry.

Manufacturers have been reducing slide length and grip height for close to 70 years, but with advances in materials science and engineering, gunmakers have been able to increase magazine capacity without making the grip too wide

Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP
The threaded barrel isn’t just for the compensator; a silencer like the Gemtech Aurora II can be easily mounted as well.

Springfield Armory introduced a new stagger-stack standard in the form of the Hellcat (see CONCEALMENT Issue 16), and what you see on these pages is Generation 2. Easily concealable and reasonably accurate, it goes toe-to-toe with other mid compacts in the same sized package. It includes two magazines that hold either 11 or 13 rounds depending on basepad selection.

The most significant change for the RDP was the addition of Springfield’s house-brand micro red-dot sight, the HEX Wasp. Another major departure was the introduction of a threaded barrel complete with a self-indexing compensator.

Many veteran shooters may now be shaking their heads at the idea of a compensator on a small 9mm pistol. Traditionally, compensators on pistols were designed to tame recoil on mighty blunderbusses or allow for faster follow-up shots in the competitive shooting circuit. But on a carry gun?

Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP
Disassembly of the Hellcat RDP is quick and easy due to a takedown lever on the left side of the frame.

Sometimes the end results may be different than what we perceive.

In this case, the purpose is two-fold. Obviously, there isn’t a downside to faster and more accurate follow-up shots. However, the secondary benefit here is to keep the lens of the weapon-mounted light (WML) clean (if you choose to carry one) from carbon caused by the firing of the pistol.

This is something we’ve experience first-hand. During a day/night fighting course, we discovered a WML no longer operating midway through. Batteries were replaced and still there was no dice — it turned out that the lens on the WML was completely coated with carbon, courtesy of about 400 rounds of 45 ACP through a compact pistol. A quick rub with a pencil eraser solved the problem. The real lesson is to always check your gear.

THE ROLAND SPECIAL

It started as a joke. Many years ago, retired Army Special Forces operator Chuck Pressburg was looking for a way to keep carbon off of his WML. For grins, he added a compensator and it actually worked.

His end result was a Glock 19 equipped with a WML, Trijicon RMR, suppressor height sights, and a compensated barrel by KKM. It was basically a turn-key race gun, but one you could carry.

Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP
The top of the slide may look a little busy with a red-dot, irons, and a compensator, but the Hellcat RDP is all business when it comes to shooting.

Springfield took the same conceptual approach with the Hellcat RDP, but fun-sized for CCW.

THE BARREL

Sporting a threaded barrel with a thread pitch of ½x28, the Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP has a self-indexing compensator that’s easily installed or removed by depressing a spring-loaded level on the bottom while turning. Want a silencer instead of a comp? Us too. 

The Gemtech Aurora II uses no baffles, pistons, or boosters. Its light weight allows easy cycling of the pistol and, with the wipes, last for a pair of magazines before requiring replacement (See RECOIL Issue 37 for a full review).

But if you want to keep the comp, don’t fret as there are no funnels of flame to blind or injure you. It won’t knock your glasses off your face, set your clothes on fire, or any other gun shop or keyboard commando horsesh*t to worry about. It simply keeps the gun from rising under recoil and allows for quicker follow-up shots.

THE SIGHTS

It can be easier to become a glass snob than a firearm snob in most instances. For decades, the advice handed down to new hunters and shooters was to spend at least the cost of your firearm on an optic. Alas, times change as technology in optics, and how they’re manufactured has come a long way.

Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP
The HEX Wasp sight is a robust red dot that aids in accuracy, while living up to the tasks demanded of a carry pistol.

The HEX Wasp appears to be a robust and low-mounted red-dot sight that holds zero, is easily adjusted, and allows the shooter to co-witness the dot with the existing low-mounted iron sights. The sight serves as a very enlarged charging handle for manipulations with your hand, or your pants and boots if needed.

The Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP’s existing iron sights include a front tritium dot and a U-notched-type rear. These iron sights would be great in their own right, but the Wasp with its 3.5 MOA dot makes them truly secondary (unless you forget to swap batteries in a couple years).

O LIGHT BALDR RL MINI

The small size of the Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP demands a scaled-down WML to fit the single slot rail. Solely due to size and availability, we tried the Baldr RL Mini from O Light. This WML has an overall length of 2.24 inches and spits 600 lumens — plenty enough for the range of this pistol. An integral laser serves as an additional sighting system. Runtime is 37 minutes, and the light can be recharged in about an hour by means of a magnetic USB cable.

Due to the contour of the frame, the WML has a slightly downward angle; it doesn’t affect the performance in any way but it looks a bit off. The light didn’t loosen or show any signs of diminished output while on the pistol. Most importantly, the lens of the light stayed clear throughout the range session.

AT THE RANGE

The Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP is a striker-fired pistol with a surprisingly smooth trigger that breaks at around 4.5 pounds. For testing, we hit the range with a variety of ammo including Wilson Combat 147-grain +P FMJ, Fiocchi 115-grain FMJ, and Winchester 115-grain JHP.

Prior to actually shooting, we didn’t expect much from the aluminum compensator but were pleasantly surprised with its performance. It has a slotted vent on each side and one on the top. It’s exactly like shooting a miniaturized race gun. The quick reset of the trigger coupled with the compensator made for an extremely fast-shooting pistol while maintaining accuracy. 

Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP
The self-indexing compensator’s design is ingenious; it allows mounting and alignment without additional parts like shims, set screws, or washers.

At 50 feet, the groups stayed within 2 to 3 inches. No malfunctions of any kind, though time will tell the tale of overall reliability. It’s clear that modern firearms are only improving across the board. Overall, despite the diminutive profile, this is a pistol you can shoot all day and never get tired of it.

LOOSE ROUNDS

There’s a lot going on with the Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP, but the integrated HEX Wasp is the most significant upgrade; battery life is two years, and it’s always on. The housing on the HEX projects a bit forward of the lens for protection, and it makes for an unbelievably effective slide racker.

The compensator design is truly one of the sleeker designs we’ve seen in a long time. The self-indexing feature is one of pure genius as it involves no shims, washers, set screws, or special timing. Of equal importance, the barrel has a proper thread pattern to mount almost any 9mm suppressor if you don’t care for the compensator.

Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP
A scaled-down Roland Special about 1-inch thick with double-digit magazine capacity? Yes, please.

The only criticism here has to do with the single-notch accessory rail for mounting a light/laser. It may need to be cut slightly deeper or need to be squared-off a bit better to maximize compatibility. The slightly downward cant was a bit distracting and proved challenging to zero the laser.

This isn’t a cheap pistol with a MSRP of $899, and with everything on dealers’ shelves these days at a premium, you can probably expect to pay a little more than that until things normalize. However, it’s a complete ready-to-go package if you’re jonesing for a turnkey mini-Roland. 


Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP

Caliber: 9mm
Weight Unloaded: 19.3 ounces
Capacity: 11, 13, or 15 rounds
Length: 7 inches
Height: 4 inches
Width: 1 inch
Barrel: 3.8 inches
Sights: U-notch rear, Tritium Front
Optics: Hex Optics WASP 3.5 MOA
MSRP: $899
URL: springfield-armory.com


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