Springfield Armory Hellcat, by Pat Cascio

I don’t really hate anyone in this world – I mean, really hate them, but I do have some serious dislikes when it comes to some people. Many readers will know that I have been carrying a Glock Model 26 as my daily carry gun for several years now. About the only time that I didn’t carry it was when I was testing other handguns – and I really do carry every handgun that I test. Sometimes I carry a test gun for a week, other times, it might be carried for two weeks. However, I always go back to my Glock 26 – it just feels like it belongs in my hand. To be sure, Glock doesn’t make the best feeling handguns – most people complain that they don’t fit their hand, I can appreciate that. You just need to get used to the feel of a Glock – that’s about it.

A few months ago, I finally laid my hands on a Glock 43X – tried to snap one up several times from my local gun shop, only to have someone else beat me to it. On the day I wasn’t looking for a 43X, I spied one and made the deal. After testing it, and finding a good holster or two for it, it became my new EDC handgun. I like that it is very thin, compared to the double stack Glocks, and it is compact, and holds 10+1 rounds of the hottest 9mm you can find. So, there I was, retiring my Glock 26, and moving forward with a new Glock 43X. I had owned a Glock 43, but it just was a bit too small for my tastes and I soon got rid of it.

Then came the Springfield Armory Hellcat. It is one dandy little CCW handgun, with plenty of ammo on-board. So, just when I made the decision to retire my Glock 26, and carry the Glock 43X daily, I retired that, and now carry the Hellcat daily – it is smaller than the Glock 43X and holds more ammo, too. I hate those people at Springfield Armory for coming out with the Hellcat. It took me years and years, to find something to replace my Glock 26 from daily carry, and I honestly thought I had it made, with the perfect packing pistol. This is a term, my long-time friend, and fellow gun writer, John Taffin, came up with some years ago, in his own quest to find the “Perfect Packin’ Pistol” and it set me to thinking about this myself.  

I’m old, and getting older, and like most old guys, I’m pretty much set in my ways and like a lot of people, I detest change for the most part. It took a lot of years, for me to retire a 1911 .45 ACP for daily carry and move on to some polymer-framed handguns. And, it took even longer to select and end of the world handgun, as my one and only handgun – if it ever came down to that – ugh!

I thought I had it made with the Glock 43X, and I could have easily lived with it, on my hip for the rest of my  life – until I laid my hands on the Hellcat, and it changed my mind – once again – as to what I would be regularly carrying on my hip. See, now you understand why I “hate” those folks at Springfield Armory?

Springfield Armory Hellcat in FDELet’s take a close look at the Hellcat – it has been out for quite some time, but I just ignored it – even after checking a couple of them out at my local FFL dealer. However, Springfield came out with one in FDE (Flat Dark Earth) color – the polymer frame is FDE and the steel slide has a FDE Cerakote long-lasting color to it – they almost match perfectly in color. The Hellcat is in 9mm, the most popular handgun round in the world. It has a 3” hammer-forged barrel. I love the sighting system, with the front sight being a luminescent front version with Tritium for night use, and the rear sight has a “rack” U notch – for racking it if you need to do so on a belt, or shoe. And, you’d better believe this, that front sight is big – but not too big – and it stands out during daylight and at night – outstanding!

Springfield Armory Hellcat in FDEThe recoil spring set-up is a captive – very nice – set-up, with a full-length guide rod, and it sticks out past the barrel/slide a tiny bit, so if anyone presses against it, it won’t take the gun out of battery – you can still shoot it.  The grip width is only 1-inch wide, and it is 6-inches long and 4-inches tall with the flush-fitted magazine, and 4.5-inches with the extended mag in place. You are provided two magazines, one is an 11-round, and the slightly extended one holds 13-rounds. Yep, you read that right, a tiny little gun that holds either 11-rounds in the mag, or a 13-round mag – and that 13-round mag is only hair longer than the 11-round magazine. The 11-round mag comes with a flat floor plate, but I immediately replaced it with the “pinky” catcher slightly extended mag floor plate for a better purchase on the grip when shooting, and it doesn’t really hurt concealment at all with the longer pinky catcher floor plate on it. The gun only weighs-in at 17.9 ounces with the flush-fitted mag and 18.3-ounces with the extended mag inserted.

This One is in FDE

I wanted to mention that the Hellcat also comes in an all-black finish, but I like the FDE look. It is very eye-catching – not that many people will ever see the gun in my hand. Still, I like the look with the trigger that is black, the mag release and the extended pinky catcher being black – the 13-round has a FDE base plate on it. The controls – slide lock/release and takedown lever at also black. We also have an optics rail if you want to install a light and/or laser on the gun. The slide serrations on the rear of the slide – they go completely over the top of the slide – nice touch. And, you can also optionally get a Hellcat with the top of the slide – at the rear – milled out (“Optics Ready”) for a red dot optic if you like. There are a few slide serrations on the front end/sides of the slide as well.

Springfield Armory Hellcat in FDEOne thing worth talking about is the Adaptive Grip Texture on the grip. This is something entirely new from Springfield and I really like it. When you first pick-up the Hellcat, you can feel a fine “sandpaper” feel to the grip. However, as you squeeze the grip harder – and you will – when you are firing, your hand and fingers will dig deeper into the grip texture, give you a much better grip – hard to explain, easy to feel and much appreciated. It is one of the best grip texture I’ve felt on any gun. The trigger has a “blade” in the center of it – it’s a passive safety, and the gun won’t fire if you don’t depress the lever – plus the trigger is angled and flat – not curved – I like it – a LOT! Three is a little bit of take-up when you press the trigger, but it soon hits a “hard spot” for lack of a better term, and it has a crisp let-off when it fires – trigger pull is about 5.5 pounds.

As of this writing, one Hellcat has gone through 20,000 rounds of testing – abuse, I’d say. And, none of the few malfunctions were the fault of the gun – it was shooter induced. Now, I don’t believe many shooters will ever shoot that many rounds through any handgun, but a crew of several shooters did – check it out on the Springfield web site.

Holsters and Ammo

Springfield Armory Hellcat in FDEThe nice folks at Craft Holsters provided me with an outstanding little belt-slide type of holster for daily carry of the Hellcat. I elected to have a thumb snap on this little gun – because it is so little – not a lot of gun or holster, to hold onto the gun when on my hip. As a rule, I don’t use holsters with a “suicide” strap, but its not a big problem to train yourself to us the safety strap. Now, to be sure, there is no way I would attempt to duplicate a 20,000-round torture test – not on the Hellcat or any other firearm. However, I did want to see what this little gun could do, and I had a great selection of ammo from Black Hills Ammunition for testing. I had their 100-gr HoneyBadger, all copper, fluted round, an outstanding load for self-defense, their 115-gr JHP +P, 124-gr JHP+P, 115-gr FMJ, 115-gr EXP (Extra Power) JHP, 124-gr JHP, and their 115-gr Barnes Tac XP+P so a great selection to run through this little powerhouse.

My lovely wife assisted me with some of the shooting – so long as I loaded the magazines, and one of my volunteer shooters stopped by and keeping a social distance between us – he fired some rounds through the Hellcat. There were zero, none, nada, zip malfunctions of any time – in 500 rounds of testing. I now regret, with the newest ammo drought, firing that many rounds in my testing. Off-hand, I was hitting every rock and fallen tree branch I could see within 25 yards – and the wife did the same thing.

For accuracy testing, I rested the little gun over a sleeping bag, over the hood of my pick-up truck – and instead of a target at 15 yards, I placed it out to 20 yards – a more than fair distance for a little handgun with a 3-inch barrel. The overall winner was the HoneyBadger load – that really pleased me – if I did my part, and I always shoot more than one target with each load, I was getting groups at a bit below 3.5-inches – can’t ask for better than that – and the Hellcat didn’t have a preference of all the loads I ran through it – it shot them all almost equally as well. It was the HoneyBadger load that gave me the best group as I said, a touch below 3.5-inches and I think the gun can do even better, as I shoot it more.

Any complaints? Only one, and it is a minor one: The 11-round magazine is a real bear to load to full capacity…that 10th and especially the 11th round were a real bugger to get into the magazines – I ended up using an UpLula loader, and that made the job much easier. The 13-round magazine was easier to load by hand – still not super easier, but easier than the 11-round magazine. I don’t anticipate having to reload my magazines in a gunfight, so I’m not too worried about the difficulty getting those mags fully loaded to capacity. I’m sure that the 11-round mag will get easier to load once it sits fully loaded for a few weeks and the spring takes a “set” to it.

My wife is eyeing a Hellcat for herself – one of these days – and I’ve already alerted Springfield Armory to the fact I might have to get another one. I wanted to mention Craft Holsters once again, they are a fairly new company, and some of their holsters are made in Italy and some in Slovakia – don’t let that scare you away, the holsters I’ve been testing from Craft Holsters are some of the best of the best, and they are priced more than right, too. Check out their website, you’ll be shocked at all the holsters they make for different handguns.

The FDE Hellcat retails for $610 – the model I tested, and it is worth every red cent if you ask me. But be sure to shop around – they are a bit hard to find these days. Now, you know why I hate Springfield Armory – they made me re-think my EDC handgun all over again – but I might just have the Perfect Packin’ Pistol, as John Taffin calls it.

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