It isn’t every day you get to open up the box of a brand new firearm the hasn’t even reached the market. Enter the Springfield Armory Hellcat Micro-Compact Pistol. More specifically the Hellcat OSP (Optical Sight Pistol).
Just this morning (September 24th) I received Springfield Armory’s newest entry into the handgun market. An offering that strives to bring together what shooters have been wanting from a concealed carry pistol. A thin profile, compact, lightweight, high capacity 9mm that is loaded with features.
Let’s start with the inspiration for this gun. I had a chance to talk with Dave, the head of Research and Development at Springfield Armory. The Hellcat set out to be “The World’s Highest Capacity Micro-Compact” Pistol. And to that end, it offers some substantial capacity for its size. Shipping with a flush fit 11 round magazine and an extended 13 round magazine. Giving the shooter a 12 or 14 round carry pistol (with a loaded chamber).
But we are getting ahead of ourselves, let’s look at what the market has been looking for. People have been trying to find that perfect small compact pistol that doesn’t give up on capacity. Something thin and easily concealable, a provision for an optic, good carry sights, and all of those little extras like front cocking serrations, etc.
Well, I think the Hellcat comes in checking most of those boxes. Here’s the specs.
Barrel: 3” Hammer Forged Steel, Melonite Finish 1:10 Twist
Slide: Billet Machined, Melonite Finish
Frame: Black Polymer with Adaptive Grip Texture
Sights: Tritium & Luminescent Front, Tactical Rack U-Notch Rear
Recoil: Dual Captive Spring with Full-Length Guide Rod
Capacity: 11+1 Flush Fit Magazine / 13+1 Extended Magazine
Height: 4” with Flush Magazine / 4.5” with Extended Magazine
Weight: 18.3 oz. with Flush Magazine / 18.6 oz with Extended Magazine
MSRP: $569 or $599 OSP (Optical Sight Pistol) Variant
With that out of the way, what was my experience like? I took the new Hellcat Micro-Compact OSP out to the range and opened it up for the first time. I unboxed the pistol, threw on the Cross Breed IWB (Inside the Waist Band) holster that got sent with it, loaded up the two magazines with some 124gr. Minuteman Munitions 9mm and shot the Baer Solutions Cold Start Drill.
I’ll be honest, I failed it. Definitely did not pass the par time and I dropped 2 rounds. Was it the pistol’s fault? Absolutely not, it was me trying my hand with a brand new pistol, holster, and optic straight out of the box (I didn’t even zero the optic for me, just shot it). Not to mention my ability from a cold start.
After that, I began working my way back on a reduced B/C Zone AR550 Steel Target by TA Targets. There is something gratifying about the sound steel makes and the Hellcat made it happen. 10 yards was incredibly easy, even in rapid succession, with the RMSc optic on the Hellcat OSP. Stepping back to 25 yards, while I had to slow down some, the Hellcat easily kept all the rounds on steel. So I pushed back even further.
I’ll be the first to say, I think 50-yard pistol shots are pretty far outside the realm of probable for most self-defense use. And mind you this is a 3” barreled Micro-Compact pistol. But, if I really worked for it, I could get some hits at the 50. For me personally, that is where I fell apart. Being able to break the trigger right when I needed it to.
Which is a good segue into the Hellcat’s trigger. It is a largely flat-faced trigger that has a slight curve on either side, rounding it out the edges a little bit. In the middle of the trigger is a blade safety that has to be depressed in order for the trigger to fire. A common set up for striker-fired pistols. The trigger breaks at 90 degrees which is nice and is right around 5 – 5.5lbs.
Personally, when people talk about how nice triggers are, there is a huge disparity… By way of example, I just came off shooting a 2-day competition, The Tactical Games, with a Springfield 1911A1. While that pistol didn’t have a “Great” trigger for a 1911, it was infinitely better than any striker-fired pistol. The person that cracks the code and makes a striker-fired pistol as clean as a 1911 will win. But I digress. For me, the Hellcat’s trigger was exactly what I expected from a striker-fired gun. Depress it, get to the wall and push past. Did it break like a glass rod? No, it broke like most any other stock striker-fired trigger. It didn’t strike me as better or worse than any of the other reputable offerings out there.
As far as the feel of the pistol, it fit my hand well. The form factor is small enough to easily conceal and at the same time, not so small that it becomes insubstantial and hard to hold onto. I think the texturing, “Adaptive Grip Texture”, works pretty well too. It provides some grip but isn’t so abrasive that it would probably cause discomfort with prolonged carry.
The sights, while I didn’t use them much, are nice and bright. The front sight is a high visibility dot around a tritium vial. On the back of the gun is Springfield Armory’s Tactical Rack U-Notch. A large U shaped cutout highlighted in white and made with a shelf for racking the pistol slide off of objects.
Since the model I received was the OSP (Optical Sight Pistol), it came equipped with a RMSc Compact Reflex Mini Sight (to be clear, the OSP version will come milled for an optic but currently doesn’t come with one). The optic worked great on the pistol and complimented its size nicely. On top of that, since the slide was actually milled, the RMSc sat so low that you could use the iron sights through it. That unto itself is a pretty nice feature, alleviating any need for higher suppressor height sights.
On top of all of these things, the pistol also offers some nice added features that more and more people have been asking for. The list includes front and rear slide serrations, undercut trigger guard, reversible magazine release (for left or right-handed shooters), high extended beavertail, a textured index point above the trigger guard (for your thumb), and last but not least, a standard accessory rail. Rather than something proprietary, it uses the same mounting system as most manufacturers use, such as Streamlight and SureFire.
One added feature which caught my eye but that I didn’t have time to test for myself, was a built-in Stand Off Device. Basically the end of what would be the guide rod is a textured piece that won’t move back. It allows the pistol to be pushed against a target and still fired. Think about a contact shot in extremely close quarters. The idea being it will keep the pistol from going out of battery and allow the shooter to fire if need be.
As far as an accuracy standard, I just shot at some targets printed into 1/2” squares at approximately 7 yards. Why? Because it is a 3” barreled micro-compact made for self-defense. While I think people should find their limits as well as that of their equipment, the lions share of shootings takes place fairly close.
Using a number of different defensive loads, this is what I ended up with, shooting 5 shot groups unsupported at 7 yards.
Suffice to say, the gun can outshoot me. And if you are curious about that last group, I was fatiguing by the end of it and threw all those rounds. Just me being human.
All said and done I fired over 300 rounds throughout my day at the range. Including Winchester, Remington, Sellier & Bellot, Sig Performance (as well as 365), Minuteman Munitions, Asym Precision +P and G9 Bullets. During all of it, I had zero malfunctions. Occasionally my grip would override the slide release (this happens when you use a high grip to control recoil on most pistols), keeping the pistol from locking back on an empty magazine. This is not the pistol’s fault but completely attributable to how I was holding the gun.
What are my thoughts…? I think it is an incredibly solid offering. The pistol includes literally every feature that people are/have been looking for in a carry pistol. To summarize, it’s tiny, it holds more rounds than anything else in its size class, it has high vis night sights, tactical rear sight for emergency racking, it’s optics ready and will allow co-witness with stock sights, front and rear serrations, reversible/ambi mag release, good grip texture, undercut trigger guard, high extended beavertail, solid self-defense trigger, stand-off device, non-proprietary light/accessory rail, it’s reliable, and it’s got the backing of Springfield Armory. I can’t think of much else I’d want.
It might be time to upgrade to a high capacity carry gun, with a small footprint and provision for optics, I’d take a hard look at the new Springfield Armory Hellcat.