In the world of modern defensive handguns, two key elements stand out: the dominance of polymer as the frame material and the widespread popularity of the 9mm cartridge. Polymer frames are favored for their lightweight, durability, and adaptability to various hand sizes. Meanwhile, the 9mm cartridge has become the go-to choice for its reliability and effectiveness, a far cry from its reputation in the late 1980s.

The Springfield Echelon is a polymer-framed, striker-fired pistol aiming to elevate the brand’s reputation in the crowded field of multi-use handguns. According to Springfield, the name “Echelon” comes from the battle formation used in the Thebans victory over the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC. But the name also carries military connotations, referring to a higher level quality, which I think Springfield Armory hopes to achieve with this new addition.

The Echelon is crafted by HS Produkt in Croatia, the same manufacturer responsible for the Springfield XD line of pistols and the Hellion Bullpup carbine. HS Produkt has been producing quality firearms since 2002, ensuring the Echelon follows in the tradition of excellence.

About the Springfield Echelon

Springfield’s Echelon utilizes a self-contained Central Operating Group (COG) similar in concept to the SIG Sauer P320 chassis system. The critical working components are machined from tool steel to ensure reliability and smooth operation. The serialized COG allows drop-in interchangeability between the three available grip modules — small, medium and large — giving the user the ability to tailor the fit of his or her Echelon. Further fine tuning is possible via the included small, medium and large interchangeable backstraps that each come with their own integrated armorer’s tool for easy swapping.

The grip modules are finished with a balanced stippling that offers a non-slip grip without causing discomfort. Stippling is also applied to ambidextrous magazine releases, the takedown lever, and forward ambidextrous thumb rests for those who shoot from the high thumbs or forward thumbs positions. These also work great as a frame-indexing point for your trigger finger. The front of the trigger guard is slightly recurved and is also stippled. It is undercut at the frame for a rock-solid shooting grip and is oversized to accommodate gloved or large hands. Of course, there is an ample section of molded-in Picatinny rail up front for lasers, lights or a combination thereof.

Two steel magazines ship with the Echelon — a 17-rounder and a 20-rounder in states where they are legal. These eject far more slickly than polymer body magazines.

Trigger

The trigger features a lever type safety that exceeds SAAMI drop-test parameters for impact discharge through the inclusion of a secondary sear. However, I would like to see the option of ambidextrous 1911 type thumb safeties become available sometime down the road for the Echelon.

The trigger pull features a short take-up and relatively crisp release. Pull weight measured 4 pounds, 14.6 ounces. The slide release levers are smaller than many competing designs but are easily accessed by the shooting hand thumbs.

Slide Innovations

Everything I’ve mentioned up until now is fairly standard. But the Echelon’s slide introduces some new and innovative features. The slide features wide front and rear cocking serrations. I find that wide serrations are harder for me to grasp without discomfort and modification. However, Springfield has addressed this with an integral slide flare at the rear, providing a better purchase on the slide without the need for aftermarket slide rack assists. It is a brilliant yet low profile addition that will greatly assist those with diminished hand strength in safely running the Echelon.

A “trench cut” has been added to the front of the slide ahead of the chamber area to aid in press checking, though a chamber viewing port would eliminate the need for press checking altogether. The Echelon’s barrel is cold-hammer forged and available in the 4.5-inch length I tested or as a 5.28-inch threaded barrel.

Atop the slide is another Echelon innovation for fans of red-dot pistol optics: the Variable Interface System (VIS). This system allows the user to mount more than 30 different optics directly to the slide without the need for individual adaptor plates. The patented front self-locking pins ensure a secure and stable mounting system. If you prefer iron sights, the Echelon is available in a three-dot Tritium sight configuration or with Springfield’s excellent white-outline Tritium front sight and white outline U-notch rear sight, which is a particularly fast and visible setup.

Firing the Echelon Handgun

At my friend’s range for testing, we had a surprise opportunity to have a Navy SEAL test the Springfield Echelon. We used SIG Sauer’s 124-grain FMJ practice ammo, CCI’s Blazer 115-grain FMJ aluminum case practice ammo and 124-grain Range and Training practice ammo. To round things out I also had a box of Hornady 9mm 115-grain FTX Critical Defense ammo.

As an honored guest, I decided to let our SEAL friend try out the Echelon first. After loading up first with the SIG Sauer ammo, he proceeded to rapid-fire 15 rounds, chewing out the center of the Springfield Armory sighting-in target at approximately 21 feet. I started out using the Hornady Critical Defense ammo to make sure it ran through the Echelon, which it did.

We continued to test the Echelon using mixes of the available FMJ ammo until it ran out. There were zero malfunctions with any ammo or any shooter. The Echelon performed flawlessly, earning praise for its exceptional balance, comfortable feel and precise accuracy.

Who Should Buy the Springfield Echelon?

The Springfield Echelon has quickly established itself as a top-tier option in the Springfield Armory pistol lineup. Its balance, comfortable grip, and versatile VIS optic mounting system make it a standout choice for anyone seeking a reliable, accurate, and user-friendly handgun. For those who prefer suppressors or compensators, the Echelon Threaded Handgun is available for a bit more.

The Echelon’s price ranges from $679 to $739, depending on the model. If you’re in the market for a new handgun that combines modern innovation with proven performance, the Springfield Echelon is definitely worth considering.

Sources

Springfield: Springfield-Armory.com
SIG Sauer: SIGSauer.com
CCI Ammunition: CCI-aAmuniton.com
Hornady: Hornady.com
Norma Ammunition: Norma-Ammunition.com