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Springfield Hellcat Review

The Capacity King of the Micro Subcompacts

Photos by Rob Curtis

Why folks choose to carry a 7-round, subcompact pistol is simply beyond us. Now look, if you’re in a no-sh*t, if they find my gun they’ll kill me/fire me/whatever real-deal, nonpermissive environment, then OK — that makes sense. But, if not, why handicap your abilities by carrying a pistol that you’re not at the top of your game with? So you can wear your skinny jeans and a size smedium shirt? C’mon.

OK, try this one on — here’s an all too familiar scenario. You and your family are in a large grocery store, restaurant, or fair and a couple of active murderers decide today is the day and they’re between you and the exit. Is carrying that 7-round single stack really where you want to be?

The Hellcat’s frame is a bit wider than the slide, making the slide release easy to hit and turning the takedown lever into a thumb-rest, for those inclined to use it that way.

With that said, there’s a compromise, when the situation necessitates it, and that compromise is a new classification of pistol called the micro-compact. Like Sig Sauer’s P365, these micro-compacts are capable of comfortably carrying 10 to 15 rounds of 9mm ammunition in a small, concealable package, but are also highly shootable and extremely accurate. OWB, IWB, AIWB, pocket carry, ankle carry, off-body carry, these pistols are capable of doing it all. Huge bonus points if they have the capability of accepting a miniature red-dot sight to make up for their extremely short sight radius. By adding a red-dot into the mix, you have the closest thing to a carbine in your pants as you can get. That is what we’d want if things go sideways.

The latest addition to this new segment is Springfield Armory’s Hellcat micro-compact carry pistol. Within the handgun market, Springfield is probably best known today for its popular polymer-framed XD-series pistols. Whether you love the XD or hate it, the Hellcat isn’t one. In fact, the Springfield Hellcat is an all-new, from-the-ground-up design for Springfield, and it just may prove to be its best yet. Time will tell, but it may claw its way to the top of this new micro-pistol classification.

After spending some time with the Hellcat, it quickly became obvious that someone, or someones, inside Springfield Armory have been paying very close attention to the market, or has accepted some guidance from a group that knows a thing or two about what makes an ideal carry pistol.

Dimensionally, the Springfield Hellcat falls right in the middle of the micro-compact class, measuring 1 inch wide, 6 inches long, and 4 inches tall. The barrel is 3 inches in length, and the whole package weighs in at just 17.9 ounces for the OSP model, with an empty flush-fit magazine.

The Springfield Hellcat’s frame is a bit wider than the slide, making the slide release easy to hit and turning the takedown lever into a thumb-rest, for those inclined to use it that way.sprinfield hellcat

Two versions are available; one with iron-sights and one milled for the popular Shield RMS-C footprint with co-witnessed iron sights. Our test pistol is the milled version and came equipped with an RMS-C, nestled extremely deep within the slide, just the way it should. So deep, in fact, that the bottom of the lens is almost level with the top of the slide. The low-profile, snag-free iron sights are visible within the window of the sight and are positioned just above what would be considered lower 1/3 co-witness height. Both models feature the same front sight, featuring a high-vis yellow circle that surrounds a tritium insert and a U-notched rear sight with a white outline … that’s easily blacked out with a Sharpie.

Frame

To kick things off, Springfield Armory nailed the undercut of the Springfield Hellcat trigger guard, allowing a high-firing hand grip, bringing the already low-bore axis that much closer to the top of the hand. The pistol snuggles deep into the web of your hand, and the extended beavertail allows for an extra high-grip without any fear of railroading.Grip texture is strategically placed on the grip frame, allowing just enough bite to keep the pistol firmly within your grasp during rapid-fire strings, but not so coarse that it’ll easily abrade skin or light clothing. Springfield accomplished this with different sized and shaped pyramids. Tall and small pyramids are staggered; the tall ones have a flattened top, while the short versions have a pointed one. Essentially, a firm grip will allow the small pointy pyramids to bite into your palm and fingers locking the frame in place, while the large ones add ancillary grip, yet reduce abrasion to textiles and skin that they may brush against.

Shallow finger grooves exist on the front strap, which fit XL hands like they were made for them and position the firing hand middle finger tightly beneath the raised contour, shielding the magazine release. The mag release itself is elongated and provides the benefits of an extended magazine, without actually being raised. If you place the pistol on a flat surface, it’s the slide release, takedown lever, and contoured material that surrounds the magazine release that make contact. This minimizes any chances of an accidental mag release while also demonstrating how streamlined this carry pistol was designed to be. And it’s reversible, for you wrong-handed shooters out there.

The frame of the Springfield Hellcat is wider than the slide, which is one of the reasons some people like Glock pistols. It gives shooters a spot to place their support-hand thumb and acts like a gas pedal when wringing out the pistol. The takedown lever is well positioned and shaped to further enhance support-hand thumb placement, locking your grip in place and offering horizontal groves to ensure your thumb stays locked in position — even during rapid-fire strings.

Textured indentations are placed on either side of the frame, just before the railed dustcover. They’re completely useless, atheistically or otherwise, but we imagine they were molded in as index points for your trigger finger when not used to fire the pistol. A short universal rail section is molded into the dustcover, but it didn’t fit any of the miniature pistol lights we had on-hand, such as Streamlights TLR-7/8 or SureFire’s XC-1/2. With the trend of small CCW-oriented weapon lights becoming more prevalent, there’s no-doubt we’ll soon see models that fit these small sections of rail.

Moving backward, the slide release is well positioned for a quick sweep of the firing-hand thumb to chamber a fresh round. It is a little far rearward, but it’s certainly functional. Locking the slide back required a slight grip modification on our part, but was otherwise trouble-free.

Trigger

While not the best, nor the lightest striker-fired trigger out of the box, the Springfield Hellcat certainly is on the podium. The pull was a little mushy at first, but after a few days of dry-fire, and a several hundred rounds at the range and a dab of lube on the trigger components, the nickel boron-treated parts began wearing on each other, and the pull really smoothed out. The trigger shoe is flat, in-line with current trends, and it breaks right at 90 degrees, with minimal over travel — thanks to stop molded into the rear of the shoe. Shallow serrations are molded into either side of the protruding trigger safety, but go mostly unnoticed. One of the features worth noting about this trigger is the length of pull. It’s similar to a full-size service pistol and makes this pistol very easy to shoot well, especially one-handed, as it minimizes movement of the pistol prior to the shot breaking.

The slide offers front and rear slide serrations that offer good purchase for press checking, or fully retracting the slide. The standard model sees the rear serrations wrap over the top of the slide and provide good purchase for you sling-shoters out there. Those opting for the RDS, can simply use the sight as a giant charging handle. A small cutout at the rear of the barrel hood offers a glimpse into the chamber and an external extractor bumps out slightly when a round is chambered. When combined, these two features offer a visual and tactile indications of the status of the pistol. Absent, is the striker indicator found on the XD-series of pistols, thankfully. The front of the slide is slightly bull-nosed and beveled, continuing its streamed lines.


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The Hellcat’s stout, dual captive recoil spring helps control muzzle flip.

Magazine capacity is 11+1 with the flush-fit version, and 13+1 with the extended, making the new Springfield Hellcat the capacity king of the micro subcompacts. No small feat, especially given the competitiveness of this segment of the market. While the flush-fit magazine makes this pistol capable of pocket, purse, or ankle carry, there’s value in the leverage gained with the extended model that not only bumps capacity up by two, it’s contoured and textured to match the frame and offers a little more surface area to the grip. Springfield is quiet when asked about the design of its magazines; the company only talked about the magazines when they asked us to refer to the flush-fit magazine as patented. We’ll see how that all flushes out in the future, given Sig Sauer’s three patents on their P365 magazines. But, in the meantime, the consumers are the ones benefitting.

Taking Down the Springfield Hellcat

How a pistol breaks down and is field stripped is the most minimally important feature of a pistol, but we noticed a few things worth mentioning. The first is, when the slide is locked to the rear, the takedown lever is flipped upward, instead of downward. Next, the trigger must be pressed to remove the slide from the frame. Not a big deal if you actually pay attention to the status of your firearm, which you should do.

springfield hellcat taketdown

The Hellcat’s takedown lever slides up instead of down, and pulling the slide off requires the trigger to be depressed.

Inside, there aren’t any machining marks on the slide’s interior, but there are some, shall we say, remarkable similarities to a certain manufacturer’s work. The locking block, slide release, trigger bar, trigger shoe, trigger safety, trigger return spring, connector, pin placement, etcetera are all eerily similar to a Glock, but, that’s more of a compliment, than not. It’s a proven design, and the patent has expired. The customer wins in the end.

So, How Does it Shoot?

Just about everyone knows what a Glock 19 shoots like. For comparison’s sake, the recoil of the Springfield Hellcat is similar to one shooting +P+ loads. Recoil is surprisingly soft for a pistol this size. The staggered pyramids bite into your hand and prevent the pistol from torqueing in your hand under recoil. The dual captive recoil spring and full-length guide rod not only contribute to the reliable function of the pistol, they also work overtime to deaden felt recoil and are one of the features responsible for the lack of muzzle rise. A polished, extended feed ramp ensured flawless feeding, and a beefy extractor and ejector consistently grabbed and launched spent cases into a neat, mounding pile.

No matter how you try and spin it, the Hellcat doesn’t handle like a long-slide competition gun, but it certainly doesn’t feel like shooting a diminutive subcompact pistol either. It strikes a balance between the two — which just might be the ideal compromise for concealed carry, if you must.

Although only one piece of the accuracy puzzle, pistol barrels have gotten so good that we’ve come to expect 10-ring accuracy at 25 yards, even out of short 3-inch barrels. The Springfield Hellcat didn’t disappoint and printed a best five-shot group of 1.8 inches using Federal Premiums 124-grain HST standard pressure duty loads and a 1.2-inch group utilizing Federal’s 124-grain Syntech Training Match round. The red-dot sight certainly helped with a consistent aiming point, but the mechanical accuracy of this pistol simply speaks for itself.

Springfield Hellcat Mods

We know what we like, and we know what works for us. If only manufacturers would get these pistols right from the factory by spending a little time on a message board or social media group, it’s not all that hard to decipher.

Well friends, it’s as if someone was paying close attention when spec’ing this pistol out, because when studying the new Springfield Hellcat, the only modification needed was adding a little texture to the underside of the trigger guard to help solidify our support-hand grip. Yet with all of the ergonomic enhancements this pistol offers, maybe it’s unnecessary.

springfield hellcat stat sheet

Springfield nailed it with its feature-rich Hellcat. Deeply milled RDS sight pocket from the factory, check. Co-witnessed irons, check. High-vis, tritium front sight, U-notch rear with no dots, check-check. Undercut trigger guard, small beavertail, great grip texture, front slide serrations, flat trigger, 90-degree break, extremely shootable, highest capacity in its class, check, check, check!

For those times when a full-sized service pistol is just not feasible, the new Springfield Hellcat is the next best option. For plenty of our readers, the Hellcat represents that magical combination of the greatest ammunition capacity that’s comfortable to carry concealed. It’s very obvious that someone at Springfield has been paying very close attention indeed.

Photos by Rob Curtis


More on the Springfield Hellcat

  • For how to do your own Hellcat Trigger Job from Apex, go here.
  • For the stats of the Hellcat, check them out here.




One response to “Springfield Hellcat Review”

  1. Joseph Coppola says:

    I rea lly enjoyed your articles about “Best of 2020” and about the “Hellcat” by Springfield. I was wondering why the Hellcat didn’t make that list?

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