Skip to main content

Springfield Echelon Striker-Fired Semiauto 9mm Pistol Review

The new Springfield Armory Echelon striker-fired semiauto 9mm handgun is a cut above the competition thanks to attention to detail and smart design.

Springfield Echelon Striker-Fired Semiauto 9mm Pistol Review

(Michael Anschuetz photo)

Affiliate Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. We earn from qualifying purchases.

It’s tough to launch a new 9mm striker-fired pistol that turns heads in this crowded marketplace, but Springfield has done just that with its new Echelon. My first impression was that the Echelon looks and feels very much like a full-size Hellcat pistol, and I think the former has just as much potential to change full-size 9mms the way that the latter has revolutionized the micro-compact pistol. What makes the Echelon special? It doesn’t completely change the overall design for full-size 9mms, but it improves the recipe. I can cook a steak with salt, pepper and a little oil, and it will taste good. Give a Michelin chef that same cut of prime meat, and your entrée will be much better.

That’s largely what has happened with the Echelon. Like the XD, the Echelon is made in Croatia, but the design team at Springfield didn’t reinvent the full-size striker-fired 9mm; it made a better 9mm by paying close attention to every detail. Let’s begin with the frame. The Echelon features a serialized COG (Central Operating Group, basically the chassis). This allows Springfield to offer multiple grip frame sizes so the pistol is modular. Modularity has become important to 9mm buyers because it allows a level of customization not traditionally found on semiauto pistols. The Echelon will come with a medium grip frame, but expect large and small variants as well. There’s no need to buy multiple full-size 9mm guns when one will accomplish everything. You can transform this pistol into a compact carry gun or a full-size competition or home-defense pistol.

Springfield Echelon takedown lever and mag release close-up.
The Echelon’s takedown lever doubles as a “gas pedal,” and the mag release is easy to operate. Fitzpatrick was particularly impressed with the slide stop design. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

But the modularity isn’t the only impressive feature of the grip frame. Springfield’s Mike Humphries explained to me that a great amount of time went into designing the grip geometry to optimize control and comfort. For starters, it’s nicely angled so the hand rides high on the pistol and the wrists naturally lock to steady the gun and absorb recoil. The Echelon uses microtexturing—Springfield calls it Adaptive Grip Texture—that’s similar to the Hellcat. It wraps all the way around the grip with no breaks, which improves control without resorting to an overly aggressive texture design.

That same texturing pattern continues down onto the “grab tabs” on the side of the magazine floorplate. It’s also located forward on the gun along the depressed finger and thumb grooves above the ambidextrous magazine release, on the magazine release itself and on the angled surface of the takedown lever and angled thumb rests on the forward portion of the frame below the barrel. The takedown lever and ambidextrous angled forward rests act in much the same way as the popular “gas pedals” that have become trendy aftermarket accessories.

Springfield Echelon Central Operating Group chassis makes the pistol modular
The Central Operating Group is a serialized chassis that makes the pistol modular. The COG is made from stainless steel and is precision machined to tight tolerances. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

For most modern shooters who utilize an aggressive thumbs-forward approach, the gas pedal acts as a pronounced resting place for the thumb of the non-shooting hand. This allows the shooter better control and promotes a strong grip with the non-shooting hand, which stabilizes the pistol. Springfield was very clever to integrate a bit of the gas pedal function into its gun without adding width. This may seem like a minor addition, but it points at something bigger about the Echelon design: Springfield knows what works and what shooters want, and it’s finding ways to provide these features. The Echelon has a Picatinny rail under the barrel and a trio of interchangeable backstraps, but Springfield’s backstraps will fit all three grip frame sizes. It was a challenge to create such a system, Humphries says, but it creates a better end product for users.

In addition to the multi-purpose takedown lever on the left side of the gun and the ambi magazine release, there’s also an ambidextrous slide stop. I’ve been critical in the past of the undersize and virtually worthless slide stops that some companies add to their pistols. Springfield got the slide stop design right with the Echelon. The ambidextrous slide stop extends just about 0.165 inch on either side of the slide and rests within a molded shelf in the frame. The molded shelf and slide stop barely add any width, and the rounded design prevents the slide stop from ever hanging up during a draw. But the best news is that the flattop design of the slide stop makes it easy to operate consistently even while wearing gloves. It’s the best slide stop design I’ve seen, period. There’s also a small cutout in the base of the molded shelf that allows you to sweep up with the thumb and lock the slide back with the thumb when no mag is in place.

Springfield Echelon Variable Interface System allows multiple optics footprints.
The Variable Interface System allows you to use optics with multiple footprints. Best of all, there are no plates to worry about. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

There are other thoughtful touches on this new gun as well. The bottom of the trigger guard is slightly recessed and, as I mentioned, is covered in the same microtexturing as the grip. This offers a comfortable resting place for the index finger of the non-shooting hand. It also makes it comfortable to squeeze the index finger and thumb of the non-shooting hand toward one another, which does an excellent job securing the pistol to aid in faster, more accurate shooting. When you pick up the Springfield trying to do just that, you’ll find that you can steady the gun effectively by just holding it with the non-shooting hand. Try that with another pistol and see how it goes.

There’s also a molded shelf above the magazine release that offers yet another resting and stabilizing point on the pistol. The mag release is oval and is easy to access, offering a crisp feel without any of the sponginess found in some other designs. Two magazines are included with each Echelon pistol, a flushfit 17-round mag and an extended 20-rounder. For those who live in restricted states, there are also 10-round reduced-capacity magazines available. For years Springfield has shipped its guns with sturdy, high-quality stainless steel magazines, so I was a bit surprised when I noticed that the magazine on this pistol had a black metal finish. Don’t worry; it’s still a stainless steel magazine, but it features a Melonite black nitride finish like other metalwork on the gun.

Black nitriding doesn’t just coat the metal but actually changes the structure of it, adding lubricity—a great feature for a pistol magazine—while protecting the metal. It’s probably safe to say that Springfield offers the toughest magazines of any production pistol. The slide is also protected with a Melonite finish and offers four distinct contact points for improved control while working the slide. These contact points include fore and aft deeply angled serrations, a trench cut along the front of the slide, and flared “ears” at the rear.

Springfield Armory Echelon Accuracy Results Chart

The design offers a much better contact interface with the pistol. The serrations provide a solid anchor point when operating the gun, and the forward trench makes it easy to perform press checks. Rear tabs offer a solid anchor point for regular slide operations while loading and unloading. Humphries told me one of the things that strikes him about the Echelon is the low bore axis, and I would agree with him. Between the well-angled grip and exceptionally low bore axis, the Echelon sits low in the hand, which makes it very manageable to shoot. Hammer-forged, 1:10 barrels are protected by a Melonite surface treatment, and buyers have a choice between a standard 4.5- or a 5.28-inch threaded barrel with a 1/2x28 thread pattern.


Springfield has always used quality sights on its pistols, so it’s no surprise that the Echelon comes with a good set of irons. The U-notch Tactical Rack rear sight is dovetailed into the slide, and the front tritium/luminescent front dot is also dovetailed. Springfield also sells a version of the Echelon that ships with three-dot tritium night sights. Like almost all modern full-size pistols, the Echelon comes with a slide that is cut for optics. However, the Echelon’s optics cut is a revolutionary one that’s long overdue. “We wanted to make order out of chaos when it comes to optics mounting,” Humphries says. “And I think we can agree mounting a reflex sight is chaos.”

I second that, but Springfield doesn’t think mounting a reflex sight should involve the hassle of finding plates that fit your optic and your gun. Instead, the engineers took on the challenge of creating what they refer to as a Variable Interface System (VIS). The concept is rather simple: Movable pins allow you to configure the pistol to fit more than 30 common reflex sights without the need for optics plates. Simply configure the pins to the footprint of your red dot and direct mount the sight to the pistol. This allows the sight to sit very low on the bore, reducing the overall height of the pistol and allowing most iron sights to co-witness with the optic.

Springfield Armory Echelon Accuracy Results Chart

VIS is a fantastic system that’s long overdue. In the past I’ve had to go as far as machining my own plate to make a test optic fit, and I promise I won’t do that again. Nor will I wait to have the appropriate plate shipped or fumble with a bunch of plastic parts trying to find the combination that works for me. This is a superior optics mounting system, one that other companies will have to answer. The Echelon does not have a manual safety, but that does not mean there aren’t plenty of passive safeties built into these guns. There’s a traditional bladed trigger safety that requires the trigger to be pulled fully rearward to fire the gun, as well as a striker block and drop safety.

But Springfield took things to the next level by adding a secondary sear safety that acts only in the event the original safety fails. “The second sear offers additional drop safety,” according to Springfield. “The sear does not move the striker rearward as the trigger is pulled. This helps give you a great trigger pull. The second sear engagement, while redundant, can aid as a fail safe.” The stainless Central Operating Group, which improves overall rigidity, and the additional sear safety provide the Echelon an extremely smooth, consistent trigger pull. The test pistol’s trigger broke at 4.5 pounds. There’s smooth, even, light take-up and a clean break. It’s the best production striker-fired trigger I’ve tested—and it contributes to the Echelon’s excellent accuracy.

With a 4.5-inch barrel the Echelon measures eight inches long and weighs 23.9 ounces (24.3 with the 20-round magazine). The slide measures just over an inch wide and total width is 1.3 inches. Height is 5.5 inches with the flush-fit magazine and no optic. With the flush-fit mag in place overall height is 6.5 inches The Echelon impresses when you unbox and hold it, but it’s even more impressive on the firing line. I tested the standard version of the pistol topped with a Trijicon RMR sight and found the Echelon to be extremely comfortable in the hand and accurate. The high grip/low bore does help mitigate recoil and allows for faster shots.

Springfield Echelon trigger
You won’t find a production striker-fired 9mm pistol with a better trigger than the Echelon’s. Break weight is just 4.5 pounds, and that aids in accuracy. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

I carried the gun in a Safariland Level III retention holster, and with a Surefire X300 series light in place the gun’s weight swelled to 31.1 ounces unloaded—enough added forward weight to keep the muzzle level while firing and help the pistol remain on target. I suspect police officers will be carrying this pistol/light/holster combo in the future, and they’ll appreciate the performance, moderate recoil and comfortable grip. Even without the light in place, recoil is manageable, and combined with a good trigger the gun shoots flat and smoothly. Because of its many shooter-friendly features the Echelon would make a fine pistol for the first-time shooter, who will also benefit from the recoil reduction.

Takedown is fast and simple, and easier than with other guns of similar design. There’s no trigger pull, and the angled and textured takedown lever is easy to operate. The Springfield proved to be accurate from the bench, rivaling some custom 1911 single-action pistols for accuracy. The best groups were in the 1.2-inch range at 25 yards from a static rest, and every one of the five loads tested managed to average between two and 2.5 inches—about a half-inch better than most competing red-dot pistols I’ve tested.

Aside from the machining and materials quality, I believe there are two primary reasons for this accuracy. First is the trigger. It’s closer to the feel of a two-stage rifle trigger. The second reason is the gripframe design. The faux gas pedal and nicely rounded, angled grip lock you into the proper position and make it easy to press the trigger. I did notice the bladed trigger pinched my finger a couple times, but overall I was impressed. The trigger guard is also oversize so wearing gloves is no issue. There were no failures to feed or eject throughout the test. Twice the slide did fail to lock back following the last round, and the slide came forward once when the magazine was jammed into place. But overall performance on the range was exceptional. Earlier I detailed the Echelon’s dimensions, which place the gun in competition with the Glock G17 Gen 5 MOS, SIG P320 X Full, and the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 M2.0 C.O.R.E. Pro series.

Springfield Echelon textured grip is not overly aggressive.
The texturing is not overly abrasive and secures the pistol in the hand. Each grip module size comes with three interchangeable backstraps. (Michael Anschuetz photo)

Price-wise, the standard Echelon is less expensive than any of those guns. Suggested retail price for the standard Echelon with U-notch/Tritium sights is $679 while the version with night sights is $719. The model with the threaded muzzle comes in at $739. I think the Echelon stands up well against the competition, and in fact in many areas Springfield is setting a new standard for features and performance. This is certainly true with regard to the trigger performance and the simplicity of the VIS optics-mounting system. Exceptional is a good word for the Echelon. It’s tough for any gun to stand out in the world of striker-fired 9mms, but the Echelon manages that. Now it’s time for the competition to start tweaking its designs to keep pace, for we may have a new frontrunner in crowded field of striker-fired 9mm pistols.


  • TYPE: Striker-fired semiauto
  • CALIBER: 9mm
  • CAPACITY: 17, 20; 10-round mags available
  • BARREL: 4.5 in.
  • OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 8.0/5.5 (flush mag)/1.3 in.
  • WEIGHT: 23.9 oz.
  • CONSTRUCTION: Black Melonite-finished steel slide; stainless steel COG chassis; polymer grip module w/3 interchangeable backstraps
  • TRIGGER: 4 lb., 8 oz. (measured)
  • SIGHTS: Tactical Rack rear, tritium/luminescent front (as tested)
  • PRICE: $679 (as tested)
  • MANUFACTURER: Springfield Armory,

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.

Smith & Wesson M&P in 5.7 and .22 Mag. Calibers

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.

Streamlight Updates Its Wedge Flashlight with Tail Cap Switch

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.

Hodgdon Adds Match and HD to Its Winchester StaBALL Powder Line

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.

Crossbreed Rogue Holster and System with Mag Carrier

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.

Smith & Wesson Model 350 Hunting Revolver In .350 Legend

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.

First Look: Taurus GX4 XL

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.

A Perfect 10? The S&W M&P 10mm

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.

S&W M&P Shield Plus

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.

A Perfect 10? The S&W M&P 10mm

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.

Beretta A1 Carry

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.

First Look: Federal .30 Super Carry Pistol Cartridge

Scott Rupp and Richard Nance correct some common shooting advice.

Bad Shooting Advice

Handguns Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Handguns App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Handguns stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now