Pistol Review: Springfield Armory Hellcat
Russ Chastain 04.13.20
When it comes to which carry pistol is best, there is no one answer that will suit everyone. That’s like asking what food tastes the best. Different people have different tastes, and when it comes to personal protection we have different needs. And for my own needs, the Springfield Armory (SA) Hellcat is currently the best carry pistol.
When I reviewed SA’s XD-S Mod.2 3.3 9mm last year, the article was subtitled “My new favorite carry piece,” and I liked it so much that I bought it instead of sending it back after the review. But ever since I got my hands on a Hellcat — whose name is SO much easier to say — the Mod.2 has lived in the safe. You can check out a thorough comparison of the two pistols by clicking here.
And now to the Hellcat itself. Mine came in a soft zipper case (lockable with a separate small padlock, not included) inside a nice cardboard box. Accessories include one 13-round magazine, one 11-round magazine with flat and pinkie-extension floor plates, one red plastic chamber indicator, paperwork, and one of those cheap trigger locks.
SA calls the Hellcat a “micro-compact” pistol. I’m not sure what that means, but I can attest that the Hellcat is very similar in size to even my old Kel-Tec PF-9, which I carried happily for years. Thickness of the Hellcat is a mere 1.055″ at the widest point, making it less than 1/16″ wider than the PF-9.
I selected the non-optics-ready model, but if you prefer to clutter up a carry gun with optics there is a version available for you. Here are the specs on mine, per SA’s website:
- MODEL: Hellcat HC9319B
- CALIBER: 9mm Luger
- COLOR: Black
- BARREL: 3″ Hammer Forged Steel, Melonite® Finish, 1:10 twist
- SLIDE: Billet Machined, Melonite® Finish
- FRAME: Black Polymer w/ Adaptive Grip Texture
- SIGHTS: Tritium/Luminescent Front, Tactical Rack U-Notch Rear
- RECOIL SYSTEM: Dual Captive Recoil Spring w/ Full Length Guide Rod
- GRIP WIDTH: 1″
- MAGAZINES: (1) 11-Round, (1) 13-Round Extended
- WEIGHT: 18.3 oz w/ Flush Mag, 18.6 oz w/ Extended Mag
- LENGTH: 6″
- HEIGHT: 4″ w/ Flush Mag, 4.5″ w/ Extended Mag
- MSRP: $569
Shooting the Hellcat is pleasant, and although the trigger feels a bit creepy when dry-fired, on the range I had no problem with it. Hellcat’s trigger breaks at about 6 pounds, and its pull is light-years better than the XD-S Mod.2 3.3. But I prefer the more curved trigger of the previous model. Maybe I’m just old school, but I find curved triggers more comfortable. Hellcat’s trigger is mostly straight.
As usual, I can shoot more accurately with a rest of some variety. I fired the 28-round group below using a two-hand grip with my strong hand leaning against the bed of a UTV. Rate of fire was somewhere between fast and slow, and as you can see all rounds are well within “minute of bad guy.”
I like how the Hellcat shoots and to tell you the truth, I’m probably going to have to buy this pistol because I really don’t want to send it back.
Hellcat’s sights are similar to the XD-S Mod.2 3.3, but better. The tritium front sight is aided by a striking white “U” on the rear sight. The white paint lies in a groove formed into the rear surface of the sight, so it should last for a long time.
The front sight has some pretty sharp corners, and the rear sight’s top rear edge is also a bit sharp. One nice feature is the Tactical Rack “hook” formed into the rear sight to allow you to “rack” the slide one-handed using your clothing or a nearby object.
SA calls this a “tritium U-Dot sight picture,” and it’s not bad at all… just be aware that the rear sight does not have tritium and does not glow in the dark. I found these sights easy to see and use.
There is no external safety switch on the Hellcat, nor is there a grip safety. The only thing you can call a “safety” would be the little Glock-esque lever in the trigger, which prevents the trigger from traveling fully rearward unless the lever is depressed.
Some will bemoan the lack of external safeties, but I actually prefer not to have a “safety switch” on a carry gun. If you ever need to use your carry piece, you will have to use it quickly and under stress, and simplicity of operation is your friend under those conditions.
Hellcat comes with two double-stack stainless steel mags, with the shortest one holding 11 rounds. That one can be used with either of the two included floor plates; one flat and one extended for the pinkie finger.
With the pinkie extension, the front edge of the 11-round magazine is just as long as the 13-round magazine. I carry with the larger magazine and have no trouble; I really like having the extra rounds without sacrificing size or weight.
Just for comparison, when loaded with Federal Premium Hydra-Shok Deep 135-grain JHP:
- XD-S Mod.2 3.3 9mm fully loaded with 7+1 rounds weighs 25.3 ounces
- Hellcat fully loaded with 14+1 rounds weighs 24.9 ounces
Both Hellcat magazines are of good quality and functioned perfectly.
The grip of the Hellcat is quite narrow for a double-stack 9mm pistol, and I find it comfortable. it’s less deep (front to back) than the XD-S Mod.2 3.3 but it’s about the same width. Even my long fingers find it comfortable and easy to use.
The grip has a rough texture, which SA dubs “Adaptive Grip Texture” and claim it “forms a stronger bond the tighter you grip it.” It does make the Hellcat much easier to hold onto than the XD-S Mod.2 3.3.
While it felt good in my hand, I quickly found that while carrying the Hellcat without an undershirt, that adaptive grip texture does a fine job of adapting my hide the way sandpaper adapts a board. So I reached out to a friend at Talon Grips who quickly set me up with a set of adhesive rubber grip enhancements for the Hellcat.
This produced a night-and-day difference in carry comfort, and I highly recommend trying Talon Grips if chafing becomes an issue. It can also help you grip your pistol better in most cases.
The Hellcat’s mag release is not ambidextrous, meaning it only protrudes from one side of the frame. The default side is the left, making it easy for a right-handed shooter to operate. SA does say the magazine release “is easily reversible at the user level,” but the Hellcat manual does not provide instructions on how to reverse it.
I like this mag release because it’s low-profile but still easy to use. The XD-S Mod.2 3.3 mag release is a bit too obtrusive.
Loaded Chamber Indicator
The loaded chamber indicator, if you can call it that, is nothing more than a semi-circular hole at the top rear of the barrel, which allows the cartridge case to gleam at you if there’s a round in the chamber. Unlike the indicator on their XD-S Mod.2 3.3, there’s no tactile feature you can feel, so you can’t verify a loaded chamber in the dark or without taking your eyes off your target.
Solution: Always carry chambered; you should do this anyway.
The extractor does stick out a tad when there’s a round in the chamber, so that can serve as an indicator of sorts.
The Hellcat’s slide is shorter top-to-bottom than its predecessor, and has better serrations; the rear serrations wrap over the top of the slide and Hellcat also has some serrations up front. These non-aggressive grooves in the slide allow for carry comfort as well as good grip — plus, they look cool.
The Hellcat tears down for field stripping just like other Springfield Armory (SA) pistols; lock slide back, rotate disassembly lever 90 degrees clockwise, move slide forward until spring tension is relaxed, pull trigger, then move slide assembly forward off the frame. I describe the process in more detail including photos on page 4 of this post (click here).
As with other SA pistols, the guide rod sticks out front a little. This helps prevent the slide from being pushed out of battery if the muzzle is pushed up against somebody or something.
What more can I say? The Hellcat is a good little pistol and I don’t think it will disappoint you. And if you already have a XD-S Mod.2 3.3 9mm, you owe it to yourself to check out the Hellcat, which is about the same size but allows you to carry more ammo in a smaller, lighter package. Click here to order one from Brownell’s.
Hellcat? Hell yeah.