By: Greg Chabot
Photos by: Sasha Steadman
In 2018, Sig Sauer released the P365 micro-compact, which took the market by storm and became the best-selling handgun in the US two years in a row, leaving Sig’s competitors behind in the micro-compact market.
Not to be outdone, Springfield Armory, working with HS Produkt of Croatia, began designing a micro-compact to compete against the P365. Introduced in September of 2019, the new pistol called the Hellcat, hit the US market to great marketing hype and expectations.
Released with an 11-round, flush-fitting, and 13-round, extended magazine, the Hellcat holds the title of the highest-capacity micro-compact at the time of this writing. Packed with great features and in various configurations, the Hellcat has made quite a dent in the market once dominated by the P365.
I have been working tirelessly to acquire a sample to T&E with not much luck due to the China virus and tyranny of the Brandon Regime causing a surge in gun sales nationwide. Early in September, I managed to acquire the Hellcat OSP (Optic Sight Pistol) with the Hex Wasp optic for testing. The focus for this article will be on the Hellcat itself, and, if there is interest, I will review the optic in more detail in a future article.
The Hellcat came in a small cardboard box. Inside was a soft case with the pistol and one 11-round, flush-fit magazine and a 13-round extended magazine. Also included was a pinky extension for the 11-round mag and the Hex Wasp Optic. Tools to remove the slide plate and mount the optic are included.
The manual was well written and easy to follow for those new to shooting. A lock and safety flag also come with the weapon. After reading the manual, I proceeded to field strip the Hellcat to do a quick cleaning and lubrication before heading to the range. (Note: 15-round magazines are now available from Springfield Armory.)
Disassembly is very straightforward: remove the magazine lock the slide to the rear. Check the chamber to ensure the weapon is empty. Rotate the takedown lever up, release the slide. The slide will go about half off the frame. To complete disassembly, pull the trigger and remove the slide from the frame. I know many out there don’t like the fact some weapons require the trigger to be pulled for disassembly. My opinion, if you are not positive a weapon is clear, then double or triple check the chamber before pulling the trigger. If one cannot do that simple task, maybe you shouldn’t own a firearm, enough said.
Overall quality on the finish and internals was outstanding. No machine marks or any defects were found. Barrel fit was tight, as was the slide to frame fit. The Hellcat slide is finished in either a black Melonite or FDE, depending on model. The slide is serrated both fore and aft, with the aft serrations going all around if the optic is not installed.
The rear iron sight is of the u-notch type with a highly visible front night sight. The rear sight is high enough to use for one-handed manipulations. Frame texture is very sticky without being overly aggressive. The trigger guard is undercut to allow for a high grip for controlling recoil. The frame comes with a non-proprietary rail for lights or lasers. Full specs are available on Springfield Armory’s website.
The Hellcat is also equipped with a built-in, stand-off device that is innovative on Springfield’s part. For safety features, the Hellcat comes with a loaded chamber notch that allows end users to check the chamber visually, eliminating the need for a press-check. The trigger is equipped with a blade style safety, like many striker-fired guns on the market.
I managed to scrounge 700 rounds of various makes, weights, and bullet types to see what the Hellcat could do, as there is quite a bit of interest in this weapon. I wanted to provide readers with the best information possible so they can make an informed purchase.
The Hellcat comes with a 3” cold Hammer Forged Barrel with a 1:10 twist that uses the proven Browning system. Trigger weight on the sample came in at six pounds even. Take-up was smooth, with a slight bump and very clean break and short reset which only got better as it was fired.
The irons were very easy to pick up and required no adjustment. Starting off with slow fire on-steel produced consistent hits at combat ranges. After familiarizing myself with the Hellcat for a hundred rounds, it was time to shoot some drills. Holster used was the Reckoning IWB by Crossbreed holsters. The Hellcat performed well while shooting the El Pres and Mozambique drill. I also did some Dozier drills without accuracy issues. The irons were very easy to see while transitioning between targets and on the move. I really liked the crisp trigger and short reset for follow-up shots.
Recoil wasn’t bad on the Hellcat, though it felt snappy compared to other micro-compacts. Due to the grip texture and excellent ergonomics, I didn’t have any issues keeping control of the weapon during rapid fire. The controls were easy to reach and operate. Mag changes were easier to do compared to the P365. My chief complaint is the slide serrations are too slick. I like aggressive serrations, and though they look aggressive, I had some difficulty working the slide with bare hands.
For my next test, I coated my hands in mineral oil to simulate blood. I then proceeded to shoot more drills. The grip texture was aggressive enough for me to keep control of the weapon while doing rapid fire. To further test the texture, I put on some surgical gloves and coated them with oil with the same results. The slide proved very difficult to manipulate with oily hands. It is nothing some grip tape cannot remedy, or one can install an optic. I can’t praise the accuracy enough with the irons. If end users practice the basics, they should have no issues hitting their target.
I have not embraced red dots on handguns like many in the community. I prefer irons; that is what works for me. To be thorough, I did take the time to shoot with the red dot. I found it more beneficial at longer ranges than combat ranges for me. Included with the OSP model is everything you need to install and zero the Hex Wasp. No complaints on accuracy with the red dot. Where I put the dot is where my rounds went. Use of a red dot is the preference of the end user, if it works for you use one.
The standoff device is very innovative. A quick check on the web shows quite a few aftermarket ones for sale for various weapons. Springfield made theirs part of the recoil spring assembly. It protrudes past the muzzle enough to be effective without requiring a specially made holster like some aftermarket devices. To test it out, I fired multiple rounds against an old heavy bag. The weapon fired without any malfunctions. It was also placed against a tire with the same results. For very close-in fighting, the Hellcat should function properly if placed against a threat.
I enjoyed my time shooting the Hellcat; it was accurate and 100% reliable. Ergonomically, it fit my hand better than the P365. It was an easy weapon to conceal ,even with the 15-round magazine, which is a game changer in such a small package.
Would I trust my life to this weapon? Absolutely, If I were to buy one, I would add grip tape to the slide for better purchase. That is my personal preference; readers may find the slide serrations are adequate for them. My advice: rent one, if possible, and try it yourself to see if it meets your standards for a defensive handgun. The Hellcat has proven itself to be a worthy competitor to the Sig P365, which has dominated the micro-compact market for many years.
Big thanks to the War Room
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Greg Chabot is an Iraq Combat Veteran freelancer, writing from New Hampshire.