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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Springfield Armory Hellcat: One of the Best 9mm Guns on Earth?

Springfield Armory Hellcat
Springfield Armory Hellcat 9mm. Image Credit: Springfield Armory.

In the context of World War Two aviation, the word Hellcat conjures up the Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter plane, the warbird that finally gave the U.S. Navy air superiority against the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero. In the context of present-day pistols, Hellcat is the moniker of a handgun that might be a tad underpowered against enemy fighter planes, but is more than adequate for protection against two-legged assailants. 

I am a longtime fan of Springfield Armory handguns, as those of you who have read my reviews of their Mil-Spec 1911-A1 and XD .45 ACP pistols will recall. More recently, I’ve been hearing great things about Springfield’s Hellcat series of striker-fired 9mm semiautomatic pistols. Last week, while attending an event for U.S. Senate candidate Jonathan Emord — who is looking to unseat rabidly anti-gun incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine — I met a fellow CCW permit holder whose carry piece of choice was a Hellcat that he praised to the high heavens. Intrigued, I decided that it was finally time to give this Hellcat a try. 

Springfield Armory Hellcat Early History and Specifications

The Springfield Armory Hellcat series debuted in September 2019. As the manufacturer’s official info page proclaims: “The Hellcat series of 9mm pistols offers CCW enthusiasts a pistol that combines impressive capacity with utterly capable performance. The micro 9mm Hellcat features best in class capacity of 11+1 and 13+1 with included extended magazine, and the RDP (Rapid Defense Package) variant adds in a high-performance Self Indexing Compensator and included HEX Wasp optic. The Hellcat Pro extends the barrel to 3.7” and lengthens the grip to offer an astounding 15+1 capacity. The result? A Hellcat for any need.”

Regarding the Micro-Compact, it weighs a mere 18.3 ounces empty, with a barrel length of 3 inches, an overall length of 6 inches, a height of 4 inches, and a width of 1 inch. 

Personal Shooting Impressions/Range Report

This past Saturday, I was off to the excellent Silver Eagle Group indoor shooting facility in Ashburn, Virginia, to try out their rental Hellcat. Given the choice of the standard Micro-Compact Hellcat or the Hellcat Pro, I chose the former.

The ergonomics on the gun were pretty darn good, especially where the slide stop lever and magazine release sat in relation to the thumb of my firing hand. It is very slim & trim. Trigger reach was not an issue. Sight picture was good, with a white dot front and an unusual u-shaped white semicircle on the rear sight.

For ammo, I used 50 rounds of MagTech 115-grain full metal jacket “hardball.” I divvied up course of fire as follows: Fifteen head shots at 21 feet; 10 torso shots at 50 feet; 15 head shots at 75 feet; and 10 head shots at 150 feet. I fired at the ICE-QT paper target.

At all distances, my shots were consistently printing to the left (except at 50 feet, for whatever reason). At 150, they’re not even worth mentioning.

That said, all 7-yard head shots connected. At 50 feet, they all stayed in the 5-zone, with half landing in the tiebreaking 5x ring; this was the only distance where the hits drifted right instead of left. At 75 feet, five struck the head, with the remainder straying into the right shoulder, but grouped fairly tight. At the max distance, I was lucky to land four rounds in the torso, and while those were still in the 5-zone, they were spaced way too far apart to be considered an impressive group.

Trigger pull was much stiffer and more grating than I expected. It wasn’t enough to ruin my accuracy, but nowhere as enjoyable as the XD, my Glocks, or the Smith & Wesson Shield EZ 9mm that I test-fired on the same day. As with the DAK (Double-Action Kellerman) trigger on the SIG P229 that I carried as an ICE Special Agent, I dare say I fired the Hellcat accurately in spite of the trigger, not because of it. 

While the 9mm Parabellum cartridge is not known as a hard-kicking round, the first couple of strings of fire with the Hellcat stung the hell out of the web of my hand. The last time I remember a non-Magnum caliber autopistol stinging this badly was with my 9x18mm Makarov before I swapped the factory grips for the aftermarket Makawrap grip — and later the Pearce Grip

Then there was the issue of filling the magazine. While double-stack “Wonder Nine” magazines have a reputation for being thumb busters in terms of spring tension, the Hellcat’s 11-round mag spring was awkwardly hellacious when trying to get the last round loaded.

That said, reliability was flawless. 

Want Your Own?

The Hellcat Micro-Compact carries an MSRP of $633 to $843. According to True Gun Value, “A SPRINGFIELD ARMORY HELLCAT pistol is currently worth an average price of $545.95 new and $409.31 used . The 12-month average price is $562.06 new and $409.31 used.”

Sportsmans Outdoor Superstore has two pages’ worth of Hellcats listed for sale, starting as low as $499.99 and topping off at $979.99 (the latter equipped with red dot sight). 

As previously mentioned, I know other shooters who love their Hellcats, so if you buy one for yourself, I wish you joy and contentment. They are certainly accurate and reliable. But based on the negatives I experienced, the Hellcat wouldn’t be my first, second, third, or even fourth choice for CCW purposes.

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.  In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports. 

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).