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Springfield Hellcat 9mm Subcompact Review

The new Springfield Hellcat 9mm subcompact pistol — standard and OSP models — may claw its way to the top of the concealed-carry market with better ammunition capacity.

Springfield Hellcat 9mm Review
The new Springfield Hellcat 9mm will be a popular subcompact among the concealed-carry crowd with its ability to carry 11+1 and 13+1 (extended magazine) rounds of ammunition. (Photos by G&A Staff)
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Since 2017, Springfield Armory has been at work to challenge the dominant SIG Sauer P365 9mm. The newest pistol, the Springfield Hellcat, has done more than that. If the P365 had received a Version 2.0 update, it might look like the Hellcat. In short, both are subcompact 9mm striker-fired pistols with excellent ergonomics and accuracy. However, the Hellcat takes the contemporary subcompact concept farther.

The Hellcat 9mm subcompact is currently available in two configurations: Standard (# HC9319B) and OSP (# HC9319BOSP), which is an acronym for Optic Sight Pistol, a term applied to a few recent XD models. The greatest achievement for the Hellcat is that its engineers managed to stuff an additional round into both flush-fit and extended magazines. Having a competitive retail price of $569 for the Standard and $599 for the OSP model, the Hellcat undermines the existence of the SIG P365.

With a 3-inch barrel, the Springfield Hellcat Standard weighs 1 pound, 2.2 ounces, with an empty flush-fit magazine, which is a half an ounce heavier than the SIG P365. The Hellcat feels a little larger than the P365, which might have something to do its improved capacity over the P365. The Hellcat’s flush-fit magazine will carry 11 rounds, while the P365 holds 10. The extended magazine, included with the Hellcat, takes capacity to 13 whereas the P365’s next-up magazine holds 12.

Springfield Armory achieved this capacity gain by accident. Reportedly, an engineer was only tasked with matching the P365’s capacity while respecting SIG Sauer’s three magazine patents. He returned to the project manager later and asked, “Is it OK, if it holds one more round?” It wasn’t a joke. No matter how they looked at the design, there was room for one more while maintaining reliable functioning.

The magazine type used by SIG Sauer for the P365 and the Honor Defense pistol is often described as a “stack and a half.” However, at the bottom of the magazine it is more like a double-stack magazine. At the top, the body tapers to form a single stack. This centers each round to the feed ramp each and every time.  

Springfield Hellcat
For the Hellcat 9mm subcompact, Springfield’s design team created a patented magazine that can hold 11 rounds in the flush-fit mag and 13 rounds into the extended version. Even with the higher ammunition capacity, the Springfield Hellcat is for perfect for concealed carry. Check here for some holster options from Crossbreed.

Let’s put the Springfield Hellcat’s magazine capacity in perspective. The Hellcat, with the smaller, easier-to-conceal, flush-fit magazine inserted, matches the capacity of two six-shot revolvers. Carry the Hellcat with the extended magazine, and the Hellcat duplicates the capacity of the original Browning Hi Power 9mm.

The Hellcat’s frame is a textured, polymer-made tactile with molded stippling. The original mold was hand stippled with high and low points for two levels of aggressiveness, depending on how hard you grip the frame. It’s just large enough to offer a full grip with the extended magazine. The Hellcat’s textured surfaces improve on the ergonomics of the P365 with texturing on the Hellcat’s thumb shelves (above the reversible magazine release). This texture also appears above the triggerguard where your idle trigger finger would naturally rest between volleys or your support-hand thumb on the opposite side. With the two pistols side-by-side, you can’t argue that Springfield Armory did a more effective job at covering the frame with textured touchpoints.

At the back of the grip, the beavertail extends beyond the rear of the slide and encourages a high grip that works in conjunction with the high triggerguard cut above the frontstrap. The results are minimal muzzle rise during recoil. As a result of our tests, Guns & Ammo Staff has determined that grip angle is a subjective preference despite a company’s marketing. Regardless of your opinion, the Hellcat manages to transcend those advertisements and pleases virtually everyone.

Springfield Hellcat
The Springfield Hellcat has a trigger lever safety, but unlike the striker-fired XDs, there is no grip safety. The back of the frame has a generous beavertail. (Photo courtesy of Springfield Armory)

We found that most G&A evaluators experienced an instinctive sight alignment with the generous U-notch rear and Ameriglo Pro-Glo front sight. That front sight is a tritium night-sight vial surrounded by a bright, luminescent, yellow-green ring. If you step up and purchase the Springfield Hellcat OSP, you get the same front sight, a smaller dovetailed rear U-notch and a removable optic sight plate that affords us the option of mounting a Shield RMSc, J-Point or SIG Sauer’s new RomeoZero mini red dot. If a red dot is used, you’ll find that Springfield Armory milled the footprint low so that standard-height metallic sights will co-witness with the red dot. (Brilliant.)

In our opinion, the Springfield Hellcat OSP version is an excellent value, and the same retail price as the SIG P365. If you don’t think you want a red dot, you can run the OSP with the sight plate installed. If you change your mind, you won’t have to trade in the Hellcat OSP for a red-dot-ready model later. While the OSP model doesn’t ship with a $400 Shield RMSc red dot, it offers a much simpler, cheaper way to add one at a later date. (A couple editors on G&A’s staff has already paid $125 to $150 each to have slides milled for red dots.)

In case you didn’t notice, the Springfield Hellcat lacks a grip safety. With the exception of the hammer-fired XDE — where a Model 1911 meets a subcompact XD — the Hellcat’s lack of a grip safety is a significant departure for Springfield Armory who has been producing striker-fired XD pistols with the feature since 2001. Besides the absence of the grip safety and manual safety lever, controls on the Hellcat are familiar and predictable. Unlike the P365, the Hellcat features a safety blade within a flat-faced trigger.

Springfield Hellcat
The Springfield Hellcat OSP ships from the factory with the ability to accept a Shield RMSc red dot sight (sight not included), and the iron sights co-witness with the red dot.

The flat-faced trigger feels excellent and makes the trigger feel crisper than it probably is. Springfield Armory’s flat-face trigger will win over hands with longer fingers because it gives the Hellcat a slightly longer length of pull.

G&A obtained two of the first 10 production Springfield Hellcats available — one Standard and one OSP model — and trigger pull weights averaged between 5 pounds, 7 ounces, for one and 7 pounds for the second. Both exhibited consistent and clean pulls. The staff opined that the P365 offered a better feeling trigger, but pull weights were similar. Still, the Hellcat’s trigger did not interfere with the pistol’s accuracy potential.

There’s not much to discuss, but we feel that it also is worth noting that the Hellcat’s dustcover includes a rail that accepts most light and laser accessories on the market. The P365 features a proprietary rail that somewhat limits the list of available accessory products.

Both the Springfield Hellcat Standard and Hellcat OSP functioned flawlessly during our 30-day evaluation where thousands of defensive rounds and a lesser number of range loads were fired through them. Ammunition ranged from lightweight 100-grain Honey Badger from Black Hills to heavier 147-grain Federal HST. The pistol managed the wide ranging of bullet weights and velocities and proved its reliability in various hands. Groups generally averaged between 2 inches and 3 inches with 10 brands of ammo. Using 124-grain projectiles and the 100-grain Honey Badger, we produced a number of 1.6- to 1.8-inch, five-shot groups. The accuracy is incredible for a pistol of this size, and on par with the P365.

In our opinion, the two-year-old SIG Sauer P365 and Springfield Hellcat Standard and OSP models antiquate all other subcompact, 9mm pistols. However, our long-term conclusion is that either Hellcat bests the original P365 and currently offers the better value for a defensive carry pistol — red dot or not.

Springfield Hellcat
The Springfield Hellcat proved an excellent shooter, with the ability to deliver fast follow-up shots thanks in part to an innovative grip stippling design.

For more information, detailed photographs and test results, pick up a copy of Guns & Ammo, December 2019 issue.

Springfield Hellcat Specs

  • TYPE: Striker-fired semiauto
  • CAPACITY: 11 + 1, 13 + 1 (extended mag)
  • BARREL: 3 inches
  • LENGTH: 6 inches
  • HEIGHT: 4.12 inches
  • WIDTH: 0.88 inches
  • WEIGHT (standard): 18.3 ounces w/ flush mag., 18.6 ounces w/ extended mag.
  • WEIGHT (w/ OSP): 17.9 ounces w/ flush mag., 18.3 ounces w/ extended mag.
  • FINISH: Melonite (steel)
  • SIGHTS: Ameriglo Pro-Glo tritium/luminescent front, white-outline U-notch rear; removable optic plate to accept Shield RMSc on OSP model
  • SAFETIES: Trigger lever, striker-pin block
  • PRICE: $569 (standard), $599 (OSP)
  • MANUFACTURER: Springfield Armory, 

For more information, detailed photographs and test results, pick up a copy of Guns & Ammo, December 2019 issue.

Need more information? Check out what Handguns had to say about the Springfield Hellcat.

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