When SIG SAUER sprung the little P365 on the world a couple of years ago it shook the carry gun market. No one could figure out how they stuffed ten plus one rounds into that little form factor. Then, once buyers took a look at it, they wondered why no one had done it sooner.
Other makers of concealed carry handguns have been playing catch-up ever since. With the recent rollout of the Springfield Armory Hellcat pistols, SIG now officially has some very worthy competition.
This is going to be a standard review of the Hellcat in its own right. We’ll do a separate side-by-side comparison post of the Hellcat and the P365 since 1) that’s the competitor Springfield clearly had in its sights when designing the new gun, and 2) you, dear reader, no doubt want to know how the Hellcat stacks up against the big boy on the block.
Oh, OK. Here’s one photo of the two of them together . . .
But that’s all until the head-to-head comparison post later this week.
Read our post comparing the Hellcat and the P365 here.
For now, suffice it to say that the new Springfield Armory Hellcat does everything the SIG P365 does (and gives you one more round while doing it).
The striker-fired Hellcat has been introduced with two models; a standard configuration and one Springfield calls the OSP for Optical Sight Pistol. The only difference is the OSP has a slide cut for a micro red dot. We got the OSP model with an excellent Shield RMSc sight pre-mounted (see Jeremy’s review of the Shield RMS here).
I’m not someone who likes to tote a concealed carry gun with a red dot, but if you are — or even you think you might be — you should opt for the OSP model.
It’s only $30 MSRP more than the standard model and a lot less expensive than getting your slide milled later. If you have the OSP and you want to add a reflex site to your Hellcat down the road, it’s ready for the RMSc or similar mini reflex sight.
The RMSc red dot co-witnesses nicely with the Hellcat’s standard U-Dot night sights (more on those later).
The new Hellcat 9mm handgun comes with two magazines; an 11-round flush-fit magazine and an extended mag that packs a lucky 13 rounds.
If you want ultimate concealability, the flush mag is the way to go, though that makes the Hellcat a two-finger gun. Springfield includes a pinky extension that you can add to the 11-round magazine to catch that dangling digit if you wish.
The extended magazine not only gives you two more rounds, but a full-fisted grip as well. It also, however, adds a half inch in length so won’t conceal quite as easily.
Whether you buy the standard or OSP model, the Hellcat sports an excellent set of sights, what Springfield calls their U-Dot sights. The rear is a drift-adjustable metal U-notch outlined in white.
On the business end, Springfield mounted an Ameriglo Pro-Glo high visibility tritium night sight. It features a tritium vial surrounded by a day-glo rim that’s easily visible in almost any light. It also co-witnesses perfectly with the RMSc optic.
Just about my only real complaint with the Hellcat’s design is the slide serrations. Springfield puts them fore and aft and even extended the serrations over the top of the slide at the rear “for positive engagement in adverse conditions,” as they say in the marketing materials.
The problem is the serrations just aren’t aggressive enough. They’re relatively shallow, both front and back, and if your hands are wet or sweaty, there’s a good chance your grip could slip when racking the slide.
If you run your Hellcat OSP with an optic mounted, that will serve as a good handhold. The rear metal sight isn’t ramped so you can use it to rack the slide on a hard surface (a tactical rack) if you have to accomplish it one-handed for any reason.
Have you noticed what isn’t on the Hellcat? That’s right, this is the first striker-fired Springfield pistol with no grip safety. There’s no frame safety either. The Hellcat comes equipped with a familiar safety blade on its forward angled flat trigger.
Springfield even managed to squeeze a short length of rail on the Hellcat’s diminutive dust cover. The good news: it’s a standard rail (not a proprietary one, thank goodness) that lets you attach a light or laser to the Hellcat if you want.
Springfield went into great detail describing the grip texturing they selected for the Hellcat. They called it an “adaptive grip texture” that’s supposedly made up of two levels of tiny pyramidal shapes. They claim the taller ones have been flattened for more comfort and less wear when you carry the gun. The shorter ones come into play when you grip the pistol.
I’ll have to take their word for it because I’ll be damned if I can see anything like that with the naked eye. The good news, though, is that the grip texture is nearly ideal. While it may look like skateboard tape, it’s not nearly as abrasive, and still provides a solid, positive grip, even with sweaty hands.
The grip is textured all around including the upper thumb position above the magazine release. There’s also a small section of texturing on the forward part of the frame. This is a handy place to index your finger while holding the gun. It’s also just right for positioning your weak side thumb using a thumbs-forward grip when shooting.
Carrying the Hellcat
As someone who regularly carries a single-stack GLOCK 43, the transition to packing a Hellcat was a smooth one.
For instance, here’s the Hellcat snuggled up against my G43. The slides are the same width. The Hellcat’s grip is 1/8th inch wider. That’s because it’s packing an 11-round magazine as opposed to the GLOCK’s 6-round single stack mag.
Yet the Hellcat is a comfortable 22 ounces when fully loaded with the 11-round magazine and one in the chamber. That’s a very reasonable weight that most concealed carriers can handle. And 12 rounds of 9mm Luger is a capacity standard they won’t want to do without.
Hellcat At the Range
The Hellcat’s accuracy is impressive for a little 3-inch barreled micro-compact. I shot it both with and without the red dot and fed it a steady diet of FMJ range ammo and a lot of personal defense rounds. This is, after all, a concealed carry gun that should be carried with JHP ammunition.
Bullet weights tested ranged from 115 to 147 grains including JHPs such as Federal HST, Remington Golden Saber, Hornady Critical Defense and Winchester PDX1 Defender. Nothing gave the Hellcat problems. Everything fed and fed reliably.
As you can see from the image above, it’s extremely accurate at personal defense distances. I also shot the Hellcat braced using the red dot at 25 yards. I’m no Jerry Miculek, but I managed a 4.25″ group. Shooting with a pistol as small as the Hellcat, that’ll do.
As for recoil, it’s…not bad. With the flush magazine, it’s slightly snappier than my G43. But the difference is negligible and with the extended magazine (and three fingers on the grip) it’s no big deal at all. Follow-up shots were easy and accurate.
While I’m no trigger snob, the Hellcat’s trigger is clearly one of the best bangswitches I’ve shot on a striker fired carry pistol. It may not be at the top with the likes of Walther, but it’s definitely up there. There’s a clean take-up with an ever-so-slight bump right before it’s fully staged. Then it breaks very cleanly at 5.7 pounds.
The very perceptible (both tactile and audible) reset kicks in about half through the release. That means follow-up shots can be made quickly and accurately.
In the end, the Hellcat is an extremely attractive concealed carry package. Springfield took a couple of years to come up with an answer to the SIG P365 and you can see the work that went into the final product. The Hellcat is a very worthy competitor to the SIG and one that many buyers will think is the more compelling choice.
Specifications: Springfield Armory Hellcat 9mm Pistol
Height: 4″ (flush magazine), 4.5″ (extended magazine)
Barrel Length: 3″
Overall Length: 6″
Capacity: 11+1 (flush magazine), 13+1 (extended magazine)
Sights: Drift-adjustable rear U-notch, Ameriglo Pro-Glo front night sight
MSRP: $569 (Std), $599 OSP (OSP) model – $499 and $529 retail
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style: * * * *
Springfield’s polymer guns have never been known for their style. Then again, very few plastic fantastics are particularly eye-catching. But as polymer frame guns go, the Hellcat is better looking than most and it’s the best-looking Croatian gun Springfield has produced. That may be damning with faint praise, but there you go.
Ergonomics: * * * *
It’s obvious that a lot of thought went into the Hellcat’s design. It’s both comfortable in the hand and easy to shoot. The beavertail should prevent slide bite for large-handed shooters and it has a reversible mag release. The magazine release is easy to access without adjusting your grip. The only downgrade here is for the serrations in the Melonite slide which just aren’t grippy enough.
Concealability: * * * * *
This is a very easy gun to carry. As someone who totes a slim, single stack G43 daily, the Springfield Hellcat gives me five more rounds in virtually the same size and form factor. That’s a big capacity upgrade and one that won’t be lost on most gun buyers.
Reliability: * * * * *
As always, with a new design, time will tell for sure. But we fed the Hellcat a full range of ammo; everything from cheap range stuff to a variey of personal defense loads in different bullet weights. It shot everything without complaint.
Customize This: * * * *
As a brand new pistol platform, there aren’t a huge number of customization options out there yet. That said, there are already holsters available from Crossbreed, Alien Gear, Galco, DeSantis and more. The Hellcat has a small standard rail (thank you, Springfield, for not making it proprietary) to add a light or laser, if that’s your thing. And if you’re someone who likes a red dot on your carry gun, buy the OSP model. What else is there, really?
Overall: * * * * 1/2
Going back to the beginning, Springfield Armory — like so many gun makers — is playing catch-up to the P365. And with the Hellcat, they’ve come up with an admirable answer to the standard that SIG has established. This is an extremely attractive, competitively priced micro-compact that gives the gun buyer more carry capacity and does it in a package that’s easy (and even fun) to shoot. The Hellcat will give the SIG a serious run for its money.