Springfield Armory's Micro-Compact Hellcat

A paradigm makeover for 9mm carry guns?
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The new Springfield Armory Micro-Compact Hellcat concealed carry pistol packs as much 9mm as you might carry in a full-sized Browning Hi-Power — all going into a trim little package small enough to hide comfortably. At this point, the Hellcat might be the ultimate iteration of modern Information Age concealed carry firearms. Easy to run, utterly reliable, meticulously engineered and now offering a service pistol-grade magazine capacity, the new Hellcat changes things.

Palm-sized, the Springfield Armory Micro-Compact Hellcat still holds 14 rounds of 9mm.

Origins

John Hay and John Nicolay, the special assistants to President Abraham Lincoln, nicknamed Abe’s epically fulminant bride Mary Todd “The Hellcat.” Mrs. Lincoln, with the benefit of hindsight, likely suffered from raging bipolar disorder. Her incendiary temper was the stuff of legend.

The 76mm Gun Motor Carriage M18, a World War II-era tank destroyer of some renown, also proudly bore the moniker. With a top speed of 50 mph, the M18 was the fastest American tracked armored vehicle of the war. It also enjoyed the highest kill-to-loss ratio of any tank or tank destroyer the U.S. produced.

In 2015 Chrysler debuted a new supercharged version of their 6.2-liter Hemi engine titled the Hellcat. This muscle-bound plant powers both the Dodge Charger SRT and Challenger SRT Hellcat muscle cars as well as a souped-up version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT called the Trackhawk. However, all of this pales in comparison to the singular Hellcat ruling them all.

The big-boned Grumman F6F Hellcat swept the skies clean of Japanese Zeroes and helped turn the tide of the war in the Pacific. Powered by an 18-cylinder Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine producing a cool 2,000 horsepower, the F6F Hellcat was the Navy’s premiere fighter plane for the second half of World War II. Rocking half a dozen Browning .50-caliber heavy machineguns, the F6F claimed 5,163 aerial kills in two years of full-bore service.

The new Springfield Armory Micro-Compact Hellcat has some big shoes to fill.

Elements

Simply put, the Micro-Compact Hellcat is a revolutionary firearm. The chassis is small, occupying about the same space as Springfield Armory’s current line of XD-S single stack concealed carry pistols. However, what these guys have done with this space is pretty amazing.

The standard Micro-Compact features aggressive charging grooves both front and rear on the billet, machined steel slide. There are also matching grooves on the top rear of the slide for optimal purchase when sweaty, rushed or terrified. The OSP (Optical Sight Pistol) variant has the rear portion of the slide deck cut to accept a micro red dot sight. This allows you to run your deep carry pistol with a state-of- the-art Information Age electro-optical sighting system.

The U-Notch iron sights on both guns feature a generous tritium-powered dot up front and a white semicircle in the back. Imagine a Cyclops happy face and you’ll visualize the sight picture. The rear sight is of the “tactical rack” sort. You can jack the slide against your belt or a handy firm surface one-handed if your day suddenly becomes extra sucky.

Both versions sport a 3″ hammer forged steel barrel with a 1-in-10″ twist and Melonite finish. Dual captive recoil springs ride around a full-length guide rod with a textured standoff tip. The gun will still run even if pressed vigorously against a firm surface. The pistol is 6″ long and a mere 4″ to 4.5″ tall depending upon the magazine you choose.

The flat trigger connects to a Nickel Boron treated fire control group for maximum smoothness. The striker-fired trigger system is predictable from the first shot to the last. You take its measure in the first magazine, and then it feels just like home.

The Feel

The frame is black polymer and features an adaptive grip texture comprised of a series of microscopic pyramids. The top versions are left flat, while the lower sorts are still sharp. This keeps the gun from gnawing up your sensitive flesh but still grips more vigorously the tighter you squeeze. I couldn’t see the details without a proper magnifying glass.

There is the niftiest little textured parking spot on both sides of the frame giving you a designated place to keep your trigger finger when you are not actively unleashing chaos. We all appreciate your trigger finger is the primary safety on any combat pistol. This just formalizes the fact. All combat handguns need these.

There’s also the expected blade safety built into the trigger as well as the fail-safe internal drop safety system. The magnificent Springfield Armory grip safety is gone and I mourn its passing, but this design is cut to the bone to keep everything tiny. It still remains utterly safe. However, the Micro-Compact Hellcat is really built around its remarkable magazine.

The gun comes with two magazines and three floorplates. The 11-round version sits flush with the bottom of the frame with the flat floorplate installed and I’m thinking it is really too short for most folks. The same magazine can be fitted with an included extended pinky rest for a little extra purchase.

The 13-round extended variant costs you an extra half-inch but fits my mitts perfectly. If this bit offends you unduly you can pack the big mag as a spare, but the gun is still only 4.5″ tall and 1″ thick even with the large magazine installed.

To put this in perspective the single stack GLOCK 43 is a quarter inch taller and slightly thicker yet packs six rounds onboard. The SIG P365, magnificent firearm that it is, offers 10 rounds at 4.3″ tall and the same grip width as the Hellcat. I have no idea how the Springfield Armory guys did it. Magic, I suppose.

The Glass

My Micro-Compact Hellcat came fitted with a Shield Reflex Mini Sight-Compact (RMS-C). The RMS-C lacks any external controls and feeds from a Lithium CR2032 battery. The sight includes an automatic darkening feature adjusting the brightness for ambient light conditions. Though the sight is technically on all the time, it will still run three years or more on a single battery.

The RMS-C weighs a paltry half-ounce and is sufficiently tiny as to ride on a legitimate pocket gun. The sight doesn’t interfere with the superb Crossbreed IWB holster and can even be pocket carried should you be so led. Tiny, bright, and all but indestructible, the RMS-C mounted atop a Micro Compact Hellcat adds science fiction capabilities to your deep carry gun.

How Does It Run?

It’s frankly uncanny. With the flat floorplate mounted on the stubby magazine the gun packs 12 rounds onboard and is just stupid tiny. At a mere 4″ tall it’s really not much bigger than your cell phone. I pocket-carried the gun in this configuration comfortably even with the red dot sight in place.

The extra half-inch afforded by the extended magazine didn’t bother me one whit underneath my clothes. I’m a skinny guy living in the Deep South, so I am as naked as decorum might allow when wandering about town in the summer. The gun still rides on my right hip without poking out unduly. The Hellcat really does offer you service pistol-sized capacity in a chassis as concealable as puny single stack pocket guns.

Despite the compact dimensions, the high beavertail and undercut trigger guard do a splendid job of controlling recoil and mitigating muzzle flip. Slip on the pinky grip floorplate, and the gun feels that much better. With the extended magazine the Hellcat is still shorter than lesser guns. This is the most comfortable configuration of the three.

This is a tiny gun running full power 9mm Parabellum, so it jumps around a bit. However, at defensive ranges I could keep all 14 rounds inside what’s essentially one jagged hole firing offhand and at a decent cadence. I could even connect on my steel plate out at 60 meters a surprising percentage of the time. All Springfield Armory guns are accurate, and the Hellcat is no exception.

Running at speed the Hellcat lacks any snaggy bits, so it presents quickly and painlessly. The stubby mag runs just fine, but the extended version felt better to me. Recoil is snappy without being onerous, and follow-up shots flow forth like snot in a daycare full of two-year-olds. Sorry, the MD in me gets out at times.

I’d gladly tell you if I found some ugly little secret about the gun making it somehow less cool than it appears, but I was vexed. The Hellcat carries like a dream, shoots like a much bigger gun and packs enough downrange horsepower to get you out of the stickiest of spots. The Hellcat does alter the landscape a bit.

Bemusements

I really, really like the name. All the major machines in the Dabbs family have their own names. My big Stihl chainsaw is Beavis. My blue New Holland tractor is Bluelzebub — so coined by my bride who does not technically hold my tractor in great esteem. My zippy little homebuilt airplane is Tommyrot. It means “Foolish, silly, or ill advised.” Also contrived by my Anglophile bride who feels even less affection for the airplane than she does the tractor.

I think titling this new Springfield Armory high capacity Micro-Compact pistol the Hellcat gives the remarkable little gun a healthy dose of character.

A personal defense firearm is more than just a tool. It’s not like a box wrench or a screwdriver. If you ever have to use this thing for real it will suddenly be worth more than your entire 401K. This will be the machine standing between you and your family and tragedy inexpressible. There’s therefore an implied intimacy to the relationship. I think it entirely appropriate such a hallowed contrivance earns its own moniker.

Your local gun emporium is cluttered with sundry defensive pistols all chock full of features, widgets and tactical ditzels. I have myself fallen for more than a few over the decades. The Springfield Armory Micro-Compact Hellcat is bet-your-life reliable, more capable than anything in its genre, and a class act from heel to muzzle.

The Hellcat has, in one fell swoop, rendered all my concealed carry guns obsolete. If you’re interested I’ve got a handful of low mileage single stack defensive pistols I’ll let go cheap. It seems I have no need of them anymore.

For more info: www.springfield-armory.com

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American Handgunner’s Will Dabbs takes a close look at the new HELLCAT 9mm micro-compact polymer pistol.

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