October 14, 2022
By J. Scott Rupp
First came the Springfield Armory Hellcat, a micro-compact that offered an 11+1 capacity with its flush-fit magazine along with an extended magazine offering 13 rounds. Springfield was quick to follow up with an even bigger mag, an extended 15-rounder. Now comes the Hellcat Pro, which provides a 15+1 capacity with the standard magazine.
To go along with that increase in firepower is a gain in barrel length: 3.7 inches for the Pro compared to the three inches of the original. That boosts the weight to 21 ounces, which is three ounces heavier than the standard Hellcat. The hammer-forged barrel, like the slide, is finished in Melonite for resistance to wear and corrosion. The slide is machined from a steel billet, and it has shallow vertical slide serrations front and back. They’re not overly aggressive, but they work fine.
The slide is cut for optics. As of this writing, the Pro is not offered as a package with a red dot installed, which you will find for the standard Hellcat and the Hellcat RDP. We used this particular Pro sample a lot on this season of “Handguns & Defensive Weapons,” and prior to filming, I mounted a Springfield Hex Wasp red dot on the Pro. The Hellcats, including the Pro, feature what I think is one of the best iron-sight systems out there. The front is a day/night post, with a bright green ring surrounding a tritium dot. It’s matched with a U-notch rear sight with a white outline and the company’s Tactical Rack design that permits one-hand slide cycling by hooking the rear on a stout belt or hard surface like a tabletop. These sights are really quick to acquire on the draw and easy to track during recoil. Further, they work in any lighting condition.
The frame has a two-slot accessory rail up front, behind which sit textured indexing pads for thumb and trigger finger. The grip is finished in what Springfield calls its Adaptive Grip Texturing. This design is supposed to increase its “tackiness,” if you will, the more you tighten your grip. I don’t know about all that, but I do know I like the texture. It keeps the gun anchored without being overly aggressive.
With the increase in capacity comes a longer grip. I also like this—a lot. Really small 9mm pistols can be a handful, pun intended, and with the Pro almost every shooter will be able to get a full grip on the gun with all three fingers—without the little gap you get with an extended magazine. The trade-off is the Pro’s 4.8-inch height is almost a full inch taller than the standard Hellcat with its flush-fit magazine, although it’s only 0.3 inch taller than that gun with its extended 13-round magazine.
The trigger incorporates a safety lever, and the pull weight on this sample was five pounds on average. There’s a quarter-inch of take-up and a bit of creep, and the reset is short and crisp. The Pro does not incorporate a thumb safety, and that’s what I prefer for a striker-fired carry gun. The magazine release is an oblong button that’s serrated in its forward portion. Looking at it you might think that because it’s flush with the frame at the rear it would be hard to operate, but it’s not. The contour of the frontstrap falls away from the front of the release and gives you ample space to activate the release.
The Hellcat Pro is simple to take down. Remove the magazine, lock back the slide and ensure the gun is unloaded. Rotate the takedown lever upward, and with the slide under control and the gun pointed in a safe direction, release the slide, pull the trigger and guide the slide forward off the gun. The magazines have metal bodies and have witness holes that are numbered from 4 to 15. If I have one gripe with the Pro, it’s that the magazines are a little tough to load—a consideration if you lack hand strength.
Bench accuracy was good, as you can see in the accompanying chart. Practical accuracy was, too. This sample was used numerous times on the television show, and everyone who used it liked its combination of size and shootability. We shot it primarily with the Wasp mounted, but I’ve worked with the iron sights found on this gun long enough to know I think they’re terrific in practical shooting. And thanks to the longer barrel and frame, the Hellcat Pro really controllable for such a small gun.
In fact, I think this is the best of the Hellcats. I like the balance of size and weight for the shootability, and it’s an easy gun to conceal. Yes, the increase in size kind of takes it out of the micro-compact category—not that there’s any sort of standards for what is a micro and what isn’t. But, wow, the 15+1 capacity is all you could ask for in a concealed-carry gun.