During the second half of World War II, the U.S. Navy deployed a redesigned fighter plane that proved to be more than a match for the Japanese Zero, which had, since the start of the war, wreaked havoc across the Pacific. The F6F Hellcat rose to the challenge. In addition to its good flight qualities, the Hellcat was easy to maintain and had an airframe tough enough to withstand the rigors of routine carrier operations. In short, the Hellcat was a tough, powerful and versatile weapon, which — in the right hands — was used to great effect.
It’s no wonder that Springfield Armory decided to name its new, striker-fired compact pistol the “Hellcat.”
This little 9mm is quickly becoming incredibly popular in the concealed carry market. It is simple to use and maintain, is durable and includes design attributes that make it an excellent choice for use in a fight. Touted by Springfield Armory as the highest-capacity micro-compact 9mm pistol in the world, the Hellcat can easily carry 13+1 with its extended magazine, and the flush-fit magazine holds 11 rounds. The gun is delivered with both of these options, so that means right out of the box you could be carrying your pistol and 25 rounds of 9mm ammo in a package that is easy to conceal, comfortable to shoot and very fast to get on target.
Touted by Springfield Armory as the highest-capacity micro-compact 9mm pistol in the world, the Hellcat can easily carry 13+1 with its extended magazine, and the flush-fit magazine holds 11 rounds.
Springfield Hellcat Specifications
As far as concealability goes, the Hellcat carries a 3-inch barrel and is 6 inches long, 4 inches tall (with the flush-fit magazine in place) and just 1 inch wide. That 1-inch measurement seems to be the gold standard for modern concealed carry pistols, and the Hellcat matches that dimension thanks largely to a patented magazine that offers enhanced capacity in a narrow space. The rounds ride in the magazine offset from each other, but not in what would truly be called a “double-stackA double-stack magazine’s cartridges are held in a zigzag arrangement. The cartridges of either column are fed into the chamber.” configuration.
The magazine catch is easily reversible, and all the other controls are intuitive and easy to access, with the slide lock/release and the takedown lever on the left side of the pistol. Like all good fighting pistols should, the Hellcat slide locks to the rear after the last round is fired. The release lever is subdued yet easy to operate. There is nothing to hang up on your clothing and, if you want to load a round into the chamber by pressing down on the lever, you should have no trouble doing so.
The grip texture on the Hellcat is oddly comfortable yet aggressive at the same time. If you have handled some other polymer pistols made by Springfield Armory, you know their grip textures to be aggressive — even rugged. The XD-M series of handguns is famous (or notorious) for its grip texture. The Hellcat uses a unique double-pyramid design, with the taller pyramids sporting flattened tops and the smaller pyramids remaining pointed. This provides comfort in the holster and great purchase when you grip the gun firmly. The texture fully surrounds the grip frame (with openings near the magazine catchThe magazine catch holds the magazine in the pistol. Typically, this also includes a button or lever that, when pressed, will release the magazine from the pistol.), making for easy access while still allowing for great grip. There are also two textured “index pads” above the front edge of the trigger guard that allow for quick tactile reminders for proper trigger-finger discipline.
Taking It Down
The takedown of the Hellcat for fieldstripping is incredibly simple. Remove the magazine and lock the slide to the rear to make sure the firearm is completely unloaded. With the slide locked to the rear, rotate the takedown lever. Then, release the slide and press the trigger to allow the slide to come off of the front of the frame. This method is much safer than some other pistols that require you to start the takedown process by pulling the trigger when the slide is in battery. Since Springfield’s takedown method starts with the slide locked to the rear, you can very easily visually and physically inspect the chamber prior to continuing.
The gun comes apart into the four basic components: slide, recoil spring assembly, frame and magazine.
From top to bottom, the slide offers aggressive serrations both fore and aft for easy operations. You may be one of those people who feels that front serrations are not needed, and if that’s the case, you don’t have to use them. But the serrations on the Hellcat slide are comfortable and attractive and work very well for their intended purposes.
Since Springfield’s takedown method starts with the slide locked to the rear, you can very easily visually and physically inspect the chamber prior to continuing.
The recoil spring and guide-rod system is a captured dual-spring operation that is very easy to remove, clean and reinstall. There is typically no need to tear the components of the spring and guide rod down any further. Just clean them, add a bit of lubricant and reinstall the entire unit during your regular maintenance.
More About the Springfield Hellcat
The barrel is hammer-forged for quality and performance. Yes, it is only 3 inches long, and that doesn’t mean you are going to get match-grade accuracy out to 50 yards, but any barrel — especially the chamber area — takes a good bit of abuse when gunpowder is forcing projectiles down the bore. You want a good, durable barrel that is built to exacting tolerances that will perform when called upon. The Hellcat magazine may give you 13 rounds, but the barrel allows you to put all of them on target.
The polymer frame is, well, a polymer frame. Since we first saw widespread use of polymer for frame-building way back in the mid 1980s, gunmakers have continued to improve upon the medium and have pretty much perfected it. The frame houses a nicely appointed trigger system with the standard center-lever trigger — standard with one exception, that is: The trigger, when the center lever is depressed, is flat. This makes for very smooth and controlled operation. The flatness is not something you’d tend to notice, but it gives the trigger operation a great feel that is a bit difficult to describe.
The Hellcat magazine may give you 13 rounds, but the barrel allows you to put all of them on target.
The factory trigger pull weight falls between about 6 pounds and as much as 10 pounds on the Hellcat. It’s not supposed to be a match-grade trigger. This is a fighting pistol that should be used from 15 yards and closer. The factory trigger works well for the expected combat uses. If you want to improve the trigger, Apex Tactical is already making an aftermarket drop-in unit that puts the pull weight at a very smooth and crisp 5.5 pounds after the suggested 200-round break-in period.
The Hellcat also offers an optional frame-mounted manual safetyA manual safety is a button or lever that is designed to immobilize the firing mechanism of the gun, preventing it from firing. for people who like such things. It is ambidextrous and operates smoothly with the thumb, as it should. If you like it, ask for that option. If you don’t like it, well, then you don’t like it and don’t have to have it.
The magazines for the Hellcat have steel bodies, good springs and stout followers. The extended magazine, which gives you 13 rounds, includes a spacer that fills the gap between the bottom of the frame and the bottom of the extended magazine. The best part is that OEM magazines are only about $30.
With an empty magazine installed, the Hellcat weighs just over 18 ounces, making it a dream to carry every day and in just about any carry location. The gun rides well on the hip, in the appendix carryAppendix Carry (AIWB) means to carry a firearm inside the waistband of one’s pants at the 12 to 1 o’clock position (if the person is right handed). position or in a pocket holster. It even rides well in an ankle rig or other carry option as a backup gun. It is small enough to work well with off-body carry in a purse, sling pack or satchel.
Better Than Good: Hellcat Sights
Saving the best for last, it is time to talk about the Hellcat’s sighting system. The pistol comes standard with a big bright tritium front sight that is made even easier to find thanks to a deep, wide, U-notched rear sight. The combination makes getting this little pistol on target super-fast. For certain, these sights are not what you would call a “fine, match-grade” system. They are fast, and they provide fight-stopping accuracy at combat distances. If you wish, you can opt for a fiber-optic front sight, which is also incredibly easy to find in that wide-open rear notch.
The rear sight is also designed properly as an alternate cocking method, allowing for great purchase on a belt or boot heel in the event that you need to operate the slide with just one hand. Too many “low-profile” sights on fighting handguns ignore this. While it may be true that the odds of ever having to cock your gun by dragging the rear sight down across your belt are really low, the stakes at that point in a gunfight are really high. Having the option is better than not having the option.
Of course, the Hellcat can be had with the slide milled for a red-dot sight. The Hex Wasp is the sight offered on the Springfield website. It is recommended for the little pistol, and it works very well. The rear notch in the Wasp allows those great Hellcat sights to co-witness with the red dot on the sight, so if you choose to run the red dot, you never have to worry that you won’t be able to see your sights if the electronics should fail.
Springfield also offers a threaded barrel for the Hellcat, which allows you to run a suppressor or compensator. Springfield calls its version a “self-indexing” compensator that makes installation and removal very easy. Shooting with the comp in place seems to reduce muzzle flip, but the recoil on the pistol is not so overwhelming that it can’t be controlled with a good grip. Some people like a compensator. Some do not.
All in all, Springfield Armory is making a big splash in the striker-fired micro-compact 9mm polymer-pistol market. The Hellcat is well-built, functional and good-looking and offers all the features one might want in a great pistol for concealed carry. With a base price of $569 and a fully tricked-out model with a red dot and a compensator coming from the factory for $899, there really appears to be no downside to this little gun. If you are in the market for a micro-compact 9mm that carries 13+1, the Hellcat deserves a closer look.