Springfield Hellcat | A Micro Workhorse

I remember far enough back in time that I was excited when Sig announced the P228. Finally, a compact pistol that was small and carried 13 rounds. How exciting! I was certain that it was a wonderful time to be alive in the CCW world.

Sig Sauer P228.

At that time, the Sig P228 was all the rage, and with good reason! It offered decent capacity in what was, at the time, a compact size with lots of accuracy. For that time period, it didn’t get any better than that!

Now when I pick up my P228, it feels huge, like a full-sized service pistol. To be sure, it’s still a stellar pistol in every respect. Except that today’s tiny pistols have spoiled us, in that they pack as many rounds as the P228 carries, in a sinfully small package.

Fast forward to present day, and there is a bewildering array of small, efficient pistols that pack more rounds than we have any right to expect into their little frames.

Enter the Springfield Armory Hellcat, that company’s response to the Sig P365. Just how tiny is it?

Springfield Hellcat 9mm pistol next to Sig P238 for size comparison.
Next to a Sig P238 for size comparison. The Hellcat holds six more rounds and is not much larger!

The weight is 18.3 ounces with an unloaded magazine inserted. The height is four inches, the length is six inches, and the width is slightly under one inch. All in all, fairly small and light. The barrel is three inches long and is hammer forged, so lead bullets can be shot through this pistol with no worries.

Overall, this pistol has many nice touches that elevate it from good to excellent. There are front and rear slide serrations, not only on the sides of the slide but also a set just forward of the rear sight on the top of the slide, which is a nice touch. Also, the corners of the slide have been radiused, and
the front of the slide has been rounded to facilitate holstering. The Melanite finish on the slide is durable and looks pleasing.

Springfield Hellcat Slide serrations and chamber window behind the breech block.
The serrations on top of the slide. The loaded chamber window behind the breech block can also be seen.

There is a front accessory rail that is not proprietary, so all lights and lasers on the market for micro pistols should fit nicely if you’re into that sort of thing. This adds versatility to the Hellcat.

Springfield Hellcat Magazine with SpyderCo Para 3
The controls can be easily seen. Just forward of the takedown lever is a small area that has been textured for those who like to rest their thumb there. Note the witness holes in the back of the magazine and the Spyderco Para 3 knife.

The magazine release is very nice on this pistol. Rather than merely making it round or square, Springfield Armory (SA) designed it to be elongated, and this seems to work very well,
making it easy to activate. The mag release is also reversible, which is a good option for some people.

There is a loaded chamber indicator in the form of a window cut out on the top of the slide to verify that a round is in the chamber, as well as an extractor that sticks out when a round is in the chamber to it can be verified by touch.

The sights on this pistol deserve special mention; they are stellar!! The front sight features a bright yellow/green fluorescent circle around a Tritium insert, and is amazingly easy to pick up, even for my aging eyes. The rear sight is a “U Dot” in white. Together, they make for a very visible combination that makes acquiring the sights fast and easy. The rear sight has a ledge for racking the slide on various objects (belts, shoe soles, etc.). Both sights are steel and are really first-class and jump out at you when you need them.

Springfield Armory Hellcat sights.
The sights are outstanding!

Springfield did a great job on the Polymer grip with this striker fired pistol, as well, which features a very positive texture. The texturing is comprised of staggered pyramid shapes, both tall and short. The taller ones are flat on the top, with the smaller pyramids being pointed, so that when the pistol is gripped hard, the shorter ones “bite” into the shooter’s skin. Except that it’s not uncomfortable at all, but rather feels mildly like sandpaper (but nowhere nearly as abrasive). This offers a super secure grip under any conditions.

To be honest, I can’t see pyramids when I look at the grip; rather, it resembles stippling, but I’ll take SA’s word for it. Bottom line…Springfield Armory hit a home run with this grip! Not only is the texture outstanding, but the grip size and shape works for a wide variety of hands and is just plain comfortable.

Springfield Hellcat polymer grip.
The grip is very accommodating of different hand sizes and makes managing the recoil easy.

The slide release is small and very stiff, which I imagine will loosen up over time. Personally, I rarely use the slide release, instead preferring to release the slide by grabbing the top of the slide and pulling back to rack it. This uses gross motor skills rather than fine ones during stress.

The trigger is flat and has a safety in the center, first pioneered by Glock. I am not a fan of such safeties, but it is what it is, and they are here to stay. Trigger pull is similar t that found on most Glocks, in that there is a long take-up, followed by a period of increasing pressure, and finally a break. The break is crisp and the overall trigger pull is pretty good, weighing in the neighborhood of 5.5 pounds.

Springfield Hellcat Capacity

By now, some people might be wondering how many bullets we can stuff into this little thing. Well, I’ve saved the best for last! There are two magazine capacities available, and each Springfield Hellcat comes with two magazines. One holds 11 rounds, with the extended magazine holding 13. Yes, this little pistol holds as many rounds as the Sig P228 that I mentioned at the beginning of this article.

The magazines are of robust construction, being made from stainless steel with witness holes in the back so you can see how many rounds are in there. On the extended magazine, there is a floor plate that matches the grip texture. With the 11 round magazine, there is a pinkie extension, again with the texture.

Springfield Hellcat 11-round and 13-round magazines.
11-round and 13-round Springfield Hellcat magazines.

Another option is a flat floorplate that can be installed so it doesn’t stick out. I personally would not prefer the flat floor plate because the pinkie extension barely adds any length, but it does make the grip more comfortable. Even the extended magazine does not add a lot of length to the pistol, and the extra rounds are certainly welcome.

How It Shoots

Springfield Hellcat 9mm micro-compact pistol Federal Champion ammunition Mechanix Gloves
A satisfying range session!

The action of the Springfield Hellcat is very smooth, similar to its big brothers in the XD series. Considering that it is a micro-sized pistol, there is a bit more muzzle flip than one will find on standard-sized pistols.

Honestly, though, the double captive recoil spring does an admirable job of keeping recoil down to a very manageable level and rapid follow-up shots are not a problem. Compared to some other tiny 9mm sized platforms, it is a joy to shoot. The grip really helps a lot here because it fills the hand nicely while accommodating a wide variety of hand sizes.

Accuracy is good, as well. I did not bench rest the pistol, but rather did some rapid fire as quickly as I could reacquire the sights, and the rounds went where I wanted them to at ten yards. Obviously, closer range shooting yielded tighter groups. This tiny pistol is easily as accurate as full-sized service pistols.

Rapid fire at 10 yards. The Springfield Hellcat 9mm micro-compact pistol is as accurate as most full-sized service pistols.
Rapid fire at 10 yards. The Springfield Hellcat is as accurate as most full-sized service pistols.

There are a few different versions available other than the standard Springfield Hellcat: there is an OSP (Optic Sight Pistol) with a cutout in the slide to accommodate a red dot sight, which are becoming all the rage these days among shooters. And there is also a version that is Flat Dark Earth colored, for those who desire something other than flat black.

Springfield Hellcat in Flat Dark Earth.
Springfield Hellcat in FDE.

Field stripping and cleaning was straightforward, with no hidden surprises, and is carried out in the same manner as most semi-auto pistols, including the XD line.

Springfield Hellcat 9mm micro-compact pistol, field stripped.
Field stripped, the Hellcat has the same components as most other semi-auto pistols.

All in all, the Hellcat offers a reliable, small defensive package. It is 100% reliable, easy, and light to carry, and accurate. A shooter looking for a defensive carry piece would be hard-pressed to find a better pistol than the Springfield Hellcat. I must say, at this time, that the Hellcat is one of my favorite small pistols, and I highly recommend it!

Be sure to check out the new guns and gear at SHOT Show 2021 On Demand!


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