By Daniel Shaw
As you undoubtedly know already, the Hellcat “micro-compact” is the latest release from Springfield Armory. To get a good first impression before a high round count review that will come later, I took the Hellcat out to the range with a couple of friends. Together we shot precisely 110 rounds of Federal 115 grain range ammunition, and what you’ll read below is what we found.
The grip on the Hellcat is not what I expected. In fact it’s better than expected. In fact, it actually kind of sparkles in the light. Springfield refers to this grip texture as “adaptive grip texture.”
Basically, the outer portion of the grip surface is squared off to provide extra texture without sticking to clothing or abrading skin. When you squeeze it, however, the outer area is compressed to allow the – stand by for a very technical term here – grippy portion to be exposed. This makes it more…well, grippy.
Another small but related detail the recessed trigger finger index point on the frame. It’s a seemingly innocuous feature, but I like textured trigger finger index points. The location and recess combined with the adaptive grip texture promote positive trigger finger discipline while the shooter is not in the act of firing.
The trigger itself is a mostly flat-faced design with a slight curve at the bottom. I personally love flat triggers and have them on most of my handguns these days, so I thought this was a great feature for a stock weapon. On the press, the trigger feels similar to other striker fire guns of this size, like the Glock 43 and Sig Sauer P365.
It isn’t as spongy feeling as some XD models. Instead, the way I would explain the trigger press on my Hellcat in words, is that it’s a smooth medium length and medium to heavy pull.
I use the word ‘smooth’ because there are no distinct changes in required pressure throughout the medium to long wall as the trigger is pressed. From looking at the internals and feeling the trigger, my guess is that that this design could be easily modified into a much shorter and crisper trigger press without reducing the weight, assuming that a modification of the handgun makes sense for a shooter’s particular application.
I like the weight of the trigger, but I would definitely prefer a little crisper wall. Unfortunately, short, crisp walls are not common among striker-fired handguns and even less so on striker-fired pistols of the Hellcat’s size.
I like that Springfield has added a rear sight with a slightly forward-leaning edge for emergency one-hand slide manipulation, and I was able to use it to rack the slide on my belt without difficulty. Similar to my opinion on stock Glock sights, I don’t care for the white outline ‘U’ on the rear sight. This is purely my own preference, and I am sure there are many people out there who love the stock Glock rear sight and will love the rear sight on the Hellcat.
I find it to be too busy and too close to the inner edge of the sight for my own personal tastes that prefer a flat black rear sight. Despite my personal issue with the rear sight, I do love the front sight. The green photoluminescent outer with the tritium inner dot pops for me and makes it easy to track on presentation and fast shooting.
The Springfield Hellcat feels a lot like the Sig P365 in the hand while managing to feel a little less snappy than the P365. I have relatively large hands and found that the grip fits very well with both the extended 12-round magazine and the 10-rounder, which I explain in more detail below. The Hellcat will be super easy to conceal year-round, and it would work for pocket carry for someone wearing dad jeans with big pockets.
I almost gave up on the super small subcompact handgun class entirely a few years ago. I’m able to conceal some pretty large handguns that shoot much better and hold many more rounds than the little guys despite my 5″10, 180 lbs frame (as long as I’m using the right holster), so why would I?
Because of their increased capacity and slightly more substantial grip than other single stack options out there, the Hellcat and P365 have made me reconsider this policy. If you’re interested, Travis Pike compared the two pistols in his in his P365 vs Hellcat article.
Magazines and capacity
I received the standard Hellcat, which comes with a 10-round and a 12-round magazine. The 12-rounder has an extended base-pad that provides a little extra room at the bottom, so it feels great. The 10-round magazine has a short pinky extension that is just enough to offer a spot for my little finger.
Like any handgun this size, you are going to have to manipulate your hand a little to ensure it isn’t in contact with the baseplate and that it isn’t going to drop free when you press the release. Typically, I like flush fit mags for carrying purposes, but the Hellcat proved concealable with any of the magazine options currently available.
The Hellcat comes with a flush fit base plate that you can change out on the 10-round mag. With the flush fit baseplate, I had no room for my pinky finger, so it had to hang out under the magazine.
The Hellcats slide serrations are of a somewhat unique design, which makes them smooth against the skin until pressure is added. With dry and damp hands, I was able to easily rack the slide using the front and rear serrations, but they were not very effective with completely wet hands. This nitpicky detail may not matter to everyone but could be an important consideration depending on climate and application for some people out there.
Because the serrations didn’t provide a positive enough purchase after submerging my hands in water, I had to drastically change the way I rack the slide from the most commonly used method. I was able to rack the slide by using the rear sight against the knuckle of my index finger, but with difficulty.
Shooting the Hellcat
We had a few 5 in. steel plates on the range that the Hellcat handled efficiently at fifteen and twenty yards. I didn’t shoot paper for groups or get any data beyond the gun not missing the plates at twenty yards. The Hellcat’s recoil feels a little softer than the Sig P365, but the real comparison will be when I have the opportunity to run defensive loads through it. It feels good, and while it is a little snappy (as you would expect a weapon of the Hellcat’s size to be), it turned out to be less snappy than I expected.
I spent about thirty rounds shooting one-handed and found that the Hellcat was easy to control. Given the way the front sight popped so much, I was able to track it back into the rear sight notch and target with little effort at a pretty fast pace. The slide locked back on every empty magazine, and all 110 rounds cycled flawlessly ̶ which at this round count could mean a lot or nothing.
This brings us to…
It’s hard to comment on the reliability of a new handgun after firing just 110 rounds through it. That said, I’ve received “media guns” from popular and trusted companies guns for review that didn’t make it through the first magazine, so I was pleased to see the Hellcat run with zero negative issues at all. During our high round review, we’ll be keeping tabs not just on how our own sample performs, but also on other reviewers out there who are doing the same thing. Time will tell, but I remain optimistic.
Hellcat review: final thoughts
I didn’t think I was going to like the Hellcat for its size, and I’ll admit to being less than crazy about the XD line despite loving many other Springfield Armory guns. I have to admit, though, I like the Hellcat.
I appreciate the small but meaningful choices Springfield made in its design. I think it could have a place in my summertime EDC just as suitably as it could my wife’s year-round EDC based on her typical clothing choices. I hope it continues to perform well and proves to be a reliable concealed carry option you could trust with your life.
Springfield Hellcat magazines: feed your machine
Springfield Hellcat: read more about it
My next step is to black out the rear sight with a paint pen and put many more rounds through it. I have an optics version coming soon. That one I’ll also run through a much higher round count article/video that will be published here as well as to Gunmag TV. Keep your eyes out for that and as always, buy all your Hellcat magazines (and for that matter every other magazine you need) at Gunmag Warehouse.
About the Author, Daniel Shaw: Daniel Shaw, Marketing HMFIC for GunMag Warehouse, is a retired Marine infantry unit leader, writer-videographer, and owner of Shaw Strategies. He’s the host of GunMag TV as well as host of the long-running gun podcast Gunfighter Cast.