Holding 11+1 rounds in its micro-compact magazine, it’s no mystery that the Springfield Armory Hellcat, reviewed by Dan here, has its sights set squarely on the famously standard-setting 10+1-round SIG Sauer P365 (reviewed by John Boch here and followed up by me here). Even though SIG wasn’t the first to shoehorn double-digit rounds of 9×19 into a “mouse gun” — heck, the Kel-Tec P-11 came out in 1995, has always held 10+1, and is the same or smaller than the P365 in length, width, and height — they sure enjoy the credit for it.
And P365 sales have been good. Extremely good.
No surprise there. The CCW pistol market continues to grow and the P365, after some initial reported QC issues, has proven to be a fantastic gun. The one in these photos is mine and it has been my EDC for nearly 18 months now.
A highly abbreviated version of my SIG SAUER P365 review would be: it’s teeny and easy to carry, holds 10+1 rounds in its flush mag, has a great trigger, great sights, has been 100% reliable with every possible type of ammo, and typically makes me look like a better shooter than I really am because it just shoots so freaking well for a micro-compact.
So I’m going into this as an obvious fan of the P365 and, to be completely candid, with some personal umbrage toward Springfield Armory. But that’s my thing and I’m not here to tell you what to think, just what I think about these two firearms with all emotion and external factors disregarded entirely.
Somehow the backstrap on the Springfield ends up longer than on the SIG but the frontstrap ends up shorter. Again, in practice I didn’t find an advantage to one over the other. Possibly one of the two will print more at a certain angle or when carried in a certain location and the other wouldn’t. But we’re talking really small differences here and any advantage could easily be reversed in a different location at a different angle.
Except, perhaps, for the additional round of 9mm the Hellcat magazine holds. Yes, yes, what’s one measly round? Well, it’s a 10 percent bump in capacity, that’s what. That’s nothing to sneeze at in a segment made hugely popular exclusively because of increased capacity over the competition. The SIG is the competition; the Hellcat holds 10 percent more ammo.
The Springfield pistol also has a one-slot Picatinny rail, whereas the SIG’s rail is a proprietary design. Now, considering how short the Hellcat’s accessory rail area is anyway, you’ll find that various lights don’t actually fit, but many will. Choices for the SIG have to be made exclusively for the SIG.
The positive aspects of a skinnier frame are obvious for a concealed carry gun, but there are some positives to that ever-so-slightly wider frame, too. Namely, the Hellcat has a marginally wider magazine well with a more pronounced taper/funnel around the perimeter.
Lots of commenters requested photos of one gun on top of the other, but their silhouettes are so darn close there’s very little to see. In the photos above and below, the two pistols are obviously resting on their sights and I’ve lined up the muzzles with a straight edge (also known as the spine of one of their magazines). Seen above is the P365 in front of the Hellcat.
And this is the Hellcat in front of the P365. No earth-shattering revelations here. The biggest difference is likely the angle of the magazine baseplate, with the SIG’s canted toe down. The Springfield’s is almost imperceptibly canted toe up, but for all intents and purposes, is parallel with the bore.
One meaningful difference that was apparent almost immediately were the slide serrations. The Hellcat’s look good but they’re so dang shallow they’re approaching aesthetic in nature only. With the optic mounted I tend to just karate chop the darn thing, so no concerns there. But without the optic it’s surprisingly easy to slip right off the back of the Springer’s slide.
Not helping matters is the fact that the Hellcat has a stiffer recoil spring. Not hugely stiffer, but it’s very clearly noticeable. So it takes a little more force to rack the Hellcat’s slide and it has some of the least effective slide serrations going.
While I realize that, in the photo above, the P365’s serrations don’t look like anything special, they are sufficiently deep with sufficiently square edges that they’re completely and confidently functional. I’m afraid that Springfield may have let the industrial designers win an argument with the engineers on this one.
I could say the opposite about each company’s most extended magazine offering, though. While the Hellcat’s 13-round mag smoothly and seamlessly extends the grip, the P365’s 15-round mag leaves a weird ledge on the backstrap that goes unfilled. The P365’s 12-rounder, however, is of the flawless extension variety with a forward-angled pinky ledge that feels great and a curved, backstrap-matching rear portion.
Weird backstrap transition issues aside, I have been carrying the 15-round job as my backup magazine and, on the range, it shoots just fine.
Speaking of the range…
I shot a magazine through my SIG. I shot a magazine through the Springfield. I shot a magazine through my SIG, then a mag through the Springfield. Rinse and repeat a half dozen times.
Then I put a Range at Austin target out to 7 yards and fired 10 rapid shots at the head of the silhouette with my P365 as fast as I could line up the sights just well enough to feel I’d probably stay in the blue; legit rapid-fire. They all stayed in the silhouette and a couple or few started to bore a larger hole right in the center of the group. Nice.
I then did the exact same thing with the Hellcat (no optic). The group above shows both groups of 10 rounds shot on top of each other. Literally the same dispersion in the same place, with a few more enlarging that center hole.
Clearly I should have done a before-and-after photo, but I wasn’t planning on including this in the review — I just thought it was funny and interesting that I couldn’t tell which rounds came from which gun and they seemed to just put ’em in the same place with the same overall spread.
Both pistols have excellent triggers. While the P365’s is “better” in the classical sense in that it’s lighter (about 4.5 pounds) and slightly crisper and has a shorter reset, I could easily argue that the Hellcat’s is “better” for CCW purposes. It’s a clean and nice trigger with a pronounced, fairly short reset, but weighs in at a heavier ~5.5 pounds.
Overall the SIG’s trigger is a better trigger when taken on its own (it even feels better on the finger), but paired with the intended use of these little guns it’s my opinion that the pull weight of the Springfield is more appropriate.
I preferred the all-black rear sight and eye-grabbing front sight setup of the P365 to the Hellcat’s white U-notch rear and eye-grabbing front. Then again, I do like shooting a pistol with an optic and Springfield is only charging $30 more for the optics-cut Hellcat. That’s awesome.
Dan and I both agreed that the P365 shoots slightly softer than the Hellcat. Hard to say why, but there was a just-noticeable increase in sharpness with the Springfield. That’s almost grasping at straws here, really, to find any meaningful difference in the shooting experience between these two guns.
The fact is, they feel in the hand and shoot on the range like fraternal twin brothers.
I have close to 2,000 rounds through my P365 without one single hiccup, and Dan put his almost 700 through the Hellcat in the course of its review, including mixed hollow points and other stuff, and then I piled on a couple hundred more with four different brands and types of ammo. It’s another zero-failures-of-any-sort-whatsoever success case since leaving the box.
When the dust settles the Springfield Hellcat has its additional round of capacity up its sleeve and the OSP version is optics ready, but it’s left holding rather slippery slide serrations. Perhaps, after all, that optics mount is the single largest difference between the two.
If the extra round doesn’t tip you to the Springfield side and you have no plans to run an optic, it’s such a tossup between the Hellcat and the SIG that for many buyers it’ll probably come down to brand loyalty or opinion, place of manufacture (the P365 is made in New Hampshire, the Hellcat in Croatia), and perhaps aesthetics.
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)
Weight: 17.9 ounces
MSRP: $569 (Std), $599 OSP (OSP) model – $499 and $529 retail
Specifications: SIG Sauer P365
Barrel Length: 3.1″
Overall Length: 5.8″
Capacity: 10+1; optional 12+1 and 15+1
Weight: 17.8 ounces
MSRP: $599 (as low as $499 via Brownells)