Springfield’s recent introduction of a high-capacity small-frame 9mm marks a high point in polymer-frame pistols, at least in my opinion. The 9mm is our most popular caliber, and Springfield pistols are some of the most reliable handguns ever manufactured. Leading up to this test, I have used a number of modern 9mm handguns extensively.
I have a Glock 19 I carry sometimes, particularly in the summer months. It isn’t affected by perspiration. A pistol I like even better is the CZ P10 S. If you go much smaller than the CZ P10 S, pistols become more difficult to shoot well. I haven’t been willing to compromise my standards on accuracy and control.
Springfield recently introduced a subcompact 9mm that will probably replace several handguns I carry for personal defense. I don’t say this lightly.
Springfield Hellcat Features and Specs
The Springfield Armory Hellcat is as easy to use well as some larger guns, more accurate than smaller guns, and holds 14 rounds of 9mm with the extended magazine in place. That is a good reserve of ammunition. There is an optics-ready version of the Hellcat as well. My example is the standard, fixed-sight model.
The pistol is similar to the Springfield XD-S handguns, and this means proven technology and reliability. The Springfield Hellcat is smaller, however, and features a high-capacity magazine. The steel slide features standard and forward cocking serrations, and even a set of cocking serrations on top of the slide.
The U-notch rear sight is the type that was once called the old man’s sight. It is easy enough to rapidly acquire this sight, and once lined up, the combination of a U-notch rear sight and the fiber-optic rear sight makes for excellent visibility. The rear sight may be locked on a gun belt and used to rack the slide.
The barrel is three inches long. The Hellcat disassembles easily enough for routine maintenance. Simply unload the pistol, double-check to be certain the chamber isn’t loaded, lock the slide to the rear, rotate the takedown lever, and then release the slide lock and run the slide off of the frame.
The pistol is well-finished and there are no obvious tool marks. The recoil spring is a big part of the pistol’s recoil-absorbing qualities. This is a dual-spring setup, the hot number for controlling recoil in very light pistols. As for dimensions, the pistol is only six-inches long and 4.5-inches tall.
The pistol features a flat trigger with an obligatory bladed lever safety set into the trigger face. The pistol is striker-fired. The trigger isn’t difficult to manage with minimal acclimation. The magazine release is positive in operation. The tapered magazine makes funneling the magazine in the magazine well fast. This is a small gun with fewer trade-offs than some.
The grip stippling is not overly abrasive, but offers a good balance of adhesion and abrasion. I often carry my Springfield Lightweight Operator 1911 under a pulled out T-shirt. While it isn’t difficult to conceal with a proper holster, the shredder-type grips are pretty abrasive, sometimes uncomfortable, against my back unless I wear an undergarment.
The Springfield Hellcat doesn’t present this problem. The pistol comes in a cardboard box. Inside is the pistol and a zippered nylon case. Two magazines are supplied, one 11-round flush fit version and a 13-round extended version. While I can fire the pistol fine with the shorter magazine, the longer magazine gives the shooter more purchase. The pistol features a high beavertail tang that offers excellent hand fit.
The trigger guard is slightly undercut. The result is excellent hand fit. While pistols are supposed to be functional tools, they are more than tools. They should come with some pride of ownership. The Hellcat 9mm managed pride of ownership with its excellent performance.
Shooting the Springfield Hellcat
Firing the Springfield Hellcat is interesting. I learned some things about ammunition performance, handling and super-small 9mm handguns. The pistol isn’t a hard kicker.
Recoil is straight back and muzzle flip is limited. This isn’t like shooting a Glock 19, but it is a good shooter at usual combat ranges. I fired at man-sized targets at 5, 7, and 10 yards in the initial firing stage. By this point, I had fired the pistol extensively with a wide variety of ammunition without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire or eject. I had good results on the first outing and enjoy better results in fast shooting and accuracy today.
I took the pistol out just this morning as I write this and fired 100 rounds of Winchester’s Active Duty. This is a full-power 115-grain FMJ intended for practice and training. It is a clean-burning loading that demonstrates good accuracy. It isn’t difficult to get on target quickly. Unlike many small pistols, the grip frame leads the shooter to an accurate first shot.
Control is good and fast follow-up shots are good — not as good as a full-size pistol, but good. Fire, allow the trigger to reset during recoil, and get back on target.
I fired 100 cartridges as quickly as I could refill the magazines, with good results. The magazines are little stiff, but they must be to offer feed reliability with a short slide and high slide velocity. The pistol handled well and offered good results on the firing line. It wasn’t difficult to get solid X-ring hits, quickly, to 10 yards. If the range is longer, you need to slow down a little to get hits, true with any pistol.
I also fired a smaller number of Winchester’s 115-grain Silvertip with good results. The pistol is reliable and Winchester ammunition is a good match. I have fired the pistol extensively with a wide range of ammunition. At 15 yards, firing from a braced barricade position, five-shot groups of two to 2.5 inches are possible.
That is plenty accurate for personal defense. You are far from helpless with this pistol at extended combat ranges. I think the Hellcat is going to be a great addition to the personal-defense world.
Carrying the Hellcat
I used an inexpensive holster in the beginning, the Galco Stow-N-Go. This holster offers a strong belt clip and good concealment. I like the simplicity and easy on and off feature. However, once I elected to make the Springfield Hellcat a keeper, I went for something more advanced. The Galco Scout offers a reinforced holstering welt.
The Scout is very well finished and tightly fitted to the handgun. The pistol and holster combination demands some acclimation and a break-in. In the end, after some effort, you will have a brilliantly fast system. I feel well armed with the Hellcat, and it has less compromise than most any handgun its size.