Springfield Armory Hellion – Rifle of the Year?

Pairs nicely with the kit you already have

Well sports fans, this is a big day for a lot of you. By the time you are reading this, the all-new Springfield Armory Hellion bullpup will be headed to a dealer near you. How can people be anticipating a product that isn’t even known about yet? Because of Springfield Armory’s unique relationship with HS Produkt, and what we have all known that should mean. Eventually. Because while the Hellion is absolutely new, it has deep roots in the HS Produkt VHS. Which is not an obsolete form of media in this context.

Perfect for vehicle crewmembers

VHS stands for Višenamjenska Hrvatska Strojnica, which I wouldn’t attempt to butcher on film. It roughly translates as Croatian Automatic Weapon, so we will stick with VHS and Hellion. The VHS has a huge fanboy following for a variety of reasons, not least of which it has never been made in large numbers. It has served in the Croatian Army since 2009, though budget constraints have kept the long-term requirement for 50,000 rifles from being fulfilled. It has seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Croatian contingent. 10,000 more were sold to Iraq around 2015, which has added to the popularity. Almost like a Sasquatch sighting, people collect pictures of the VHS. Seriously, run Iraq+VHS through a search engine. The results yield a dozen blogs with pictures of the VHS in action with the Iraqi SOF, Kurdish Forces, and Syrian fighters. For a gun that might be below 100,000 built to date, it has had a disproportionate impact on the battlefield.

4 prong flash hider

For that matter, you could say the VHS was born in war. Development began in 1992, during the Croatian War of Independence. ( Not for nothing, this is also when HS Produkt was born. The Croatian War was an incredibly hard-fought victory, which Americans tend to know very little about. HS Produkt was founded so that Croatia would never be at the mercy of imported arms again.) The VHS started as a bullpup AK variant, which ultimately had serious flaws. Further prototypes were presented in 1996, 1999, and 2004.

Safety lever

Just because it was made by the home team didn’t mean HS Produkt would have an easy path to entering military service. Being fresh off a War for Independence will have that effect on people. The VHS had to survive an entire series of torture tests, and prove it could match or best the H&K G36. It did, with one of those tests allegedly being 50,000 rounds without a major parts breakage.

Folding charging handle

This brings us to our Hellion. People have been screaming at Springfield Armory for years to get a civilian legal version of the VHS into the United States. Which is not as easy as it sounds. Import rules are less than ideal on weapons. But finally, that day is here. With some Springfield unique touches to a joint product for the US market.

In resting position

The Hellion features a 16-inch barrel, which we would expect for a bullpup. Kinda the entire point is to have a full-length barrel in a smaller overall package. The bullpup design shows the influence of a FAMAS, an IWI Tavor, and a G36. One nice point about our Hellion is that it accepts standard AR-15 magazines. The Croatian VHS uses G36 magazines since their Army has more of those on hand.

Flip-up cheek piece

The Hellion is truly ambi, with ejection port covers on both the left and right sides. The safety is very different from something like an AR-15, but very well designed. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do, it works flawlessly. The Hellion also takes standard AR-15 grips, so you can add your favorite if you like.

Integrated flip-up sights

The carry handle doubles as a top rail, which offers a huge amount of real estate for optics and accessories. Our test model was wearing a Night Force 1×8, and had no problem positioning it for optimal eye relief. It being the year of our Lord 2022, the Hellion features Mlok slots at the 3,6, and 9 of the handguard.

Stock adjustment

Besides the operating system, 3 features really stand out on the design side. First, the trigger. While there is some take up, the Hellion has by far the best trigger I have ever seen in a bullpup. The gauge also says it breaks at 7 pounds, which I have a hard time believing. I put new batteries in to be sure. That sounds bad on paper but does not translate as such in real use. I am not going to tell you I prefer it to say, an AR Gold in a traditional rifle, but it feels really nice. I would easily call it better than a mil-spec M-4, and a very clear winner among bullpups.

Ejection port cover open

Second, the magazine release and mag well are fantastic. The magazine release is centerline behind the mag well, which means it is nearly impossible to accidentally hit. It is also very wide, so depressing it with a thumb when you need to is very easy. The mag well itself is positioned such that this is the first bullpup I have shot you can reload without moving the stock out of your shoulder. It is amazing. I usually count slow to reload as a negative to choosing a bullpup in general. With a bit of practice, it isn’t impossible to say you could reload the Hellion FASTER than an M-4.

AR grips

Third, the stock. Chassis. Whatever you call it on a bullpup. The Hellion has a very well-designed adjustable pull-out stock, that gives you about 4 inches of adjustment. Like a smaller version of a 6 position AR stock. That little bit of adjustment, on this gun, makes all the difference. Between that and the flip-up cheekpiece, the system is incredibly comfortable.

MLOK compatible forend

Overall, Springfield Armory has hit one out of the park here. In a two-year period that has seen very little overall development, this one is going to be hot. I hope they can bring them in fast enough.

Caliber: 5.56×45 NATO ( .223 REM)

Operating system: 2 positions Adjustable, Short Stroke Piston

Length: 28.25”-29.75”

Barrel: 16 inch, Melonite, 1:7

Weight: 8 pounds

MSRP: $1999

Visit Springfield Armory to learn more.

Lots of sling attachment points

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Gunny G USMC August 4, 2022, 11:56 am

    I bought one new at just over $1600.
    Running a Vortex 1-4 Ranger but, thinking about switching to one of my Aimpoint PROs.
    Not crazy about the sight height but it is in line because of the design of a Bullpup and, it works.
    Still getting used to the length of pull also.
    I have many firearms and I have to say, Overall, so far, I Love this rifle.
    I love to buy American. Springfield is and American company. Best of both worlds.

  • KJ January 20, 2022, 7:21 am

    I own a FN-FS2000, it is a solid platform and the ergonomics are superb! The balance of a bullpup is remarkable. Its VERY accurate too. If you don’t have a bullpup AR my advise is add one to your collection and you will be glad you did.

  • Steve January 19, 2022, 10:39 am

    Hell no! The FAMAS was a disaster…this is more of the same.

    • D January 28, 2022, 8:22 pm

      It has nothing do with the FAMAS. Are all americans illiterate?

  • Mike V January 17, 2022, 6:35 pm

    Man you guys are boring. Sure if you only plan to ever own one semi auto rifle maybe this isn’t it, but live a little ffs. 2k on a rifle that will likely live longer than you ain’t absurd. It’s different, it works, looks cool doing it.

  • Jim January 17, 2022, 3:26 pm

    I’ll wait for a .308 version.

    • Tim January 18, 2022, 9:52 am

      A Tavor 7, one of the best purchases I ever made. Couldn’t be happier.

  • Redbaron8 January 17, 2022, 2:42 pm

    Let me start by saying I love innovation especially in re firearms. But only so long as that innovation is an actual improvement over existing systems. It’s not enough, for me atleast, just to be different.

    $2000-2500 for something that really doesn’t do anything ENOUGH better than my time tested AR pattern rifles. 50,000 rounds is not really that big of a deal in the real world. Ok, it lasted the distance, BUT what was the accuracy degradation at the end of the test. Rate of fire of the test?? It matters as much or more than total round count.
    Parts availability?? Yes my AR might drop a part a little more frequently than the VHS, but every Jim and Bubba’s bait shop has parts.
    Ease of reloading. ARs win. In 40 years of shooting ARs for fun and in competition, I have NEVER accidently dropped a mag. I never needed to remove the rifle from my shooting hand/shoulder in order to reload.
    The heigth of the sights over the bore is IMHO crazy. And needing another part (adj cheekpiece) to accomodate that distance seems counter productive when in search of light and handy characteristics.

    I could go on but I don’t think I need to. There is a reason bullpups are GENERALLY not very successful on the civilian market. Yes, some of them sell well, as their features and benefits warrant the sales numbers. But most don’t really offer enough beyond the novelty factor to sway the majority of buyers into a purchase. But then, I’m an incurable pragmatist. A firearm has to earn its keep for me to be a buyer.

    For the home defense argument: an AR in the SBR configuration will be as or more effective as this bullpup. The 16 inch barrel will make minimal difference in terminal effect inside of 30-50 yards. Outside of 50 yards, I don’t believe the bullpup will do anything better than my ARs in terms of accuracy.

    I am willing to be proven wrong, but I don’t see that happening. Again, I commend SA for bringing something new and interesting to the market, but I don’t see one in MY future. Not when I can accomplish essentially the same with a $5-600 AR and a side folder like the Dead Foot Arms, and a $200 tax stamp and still be at half the apparent retail price of this rifle.

  • Jon January 17, 2022, 12:37 pm

    Bit expensive for plastic. Ill keep my AR’s.

    • D January 28, 2022, 8:21 pm

      And AR’s not plastic? Internals are metal

  • Dee January 17, 2022, 10:56 am

    Might as well say $2000 for an imported what ? I’ll stick to an AMERICAN made AR 15 Thank you

    • D January 28, 2022, 8:24 pm

      Yes. Imported battlefield tested rifle that is quality made. Yes stick to your american made garbage. Good for backyard plinking wana be seals

  • William January 17, 2022, 9:41 am

    A comment about this bullpup was made that it’s the easiest to load. I have an FN 90 and you can shoot it w/1arm and be accurate. It has 50rd mags and has never jammed.

  • Dr Motown January 17, 2022, 9:38 am

    The scope looks about 5-6″ high above the bore….did you find that to be a problem, Clay?

    • Don January 20, 2022, 11:30 pm

      The scope is not overly high. Look at the iron sights and imagine them folded up. The center of the lens is right where it should be.

  • Chief January 17, 2022, 9:13 am

    With that offset; at close range, aim for the nose and hit them in the belly button…

  • Tom Benton January 17, 2022, 8:57 am

    I purchased the Kel Tec RDB serial #80 when they first became available. It has functioned perfectly and everyone who has the opportunity to shoot it says, wow, this is fun. Seems when people compare Bullpups these days they don’t include the RDB. Mine was right at $ 1000 and I have seen them well under that. The new Hellion is much bulkier than the RDB and has a couple of extra features like the adjustable stock. The Hellion and Tavor are also deployed for military use making them battle tested. But myself, and You, are are not in a battle. Our needs are different than a deployed weapon. Tests from several of the popular You Tube firearm channels have proved them to be reliable. The RDB also has survival versions weighing half that of the Hellion. I don’t run 50,000 rounds through by RDB each year. You don’t either. My RDB is my choice home defense rifle. When shouldered, it is shorter than an extended arms pistol and has a 30 round mag with a Holosun circle/dot sight. I am confident it will save my life if called on as it has never failed on the range. The RDB needs accolades in the bullpup discussion. Light, compact, inexpensive and reliable. Oh, I’ll bet the RDB trigger is as good or better than the Hellion. Every writer commented on how the trigger was unlike any bullpup they every handled. I would love to shoot all the bullpups, but for a civilian defense weapon, I don’t think there is another available with the price and features available on the RDB.

    • JohnL January 17, 2022, 9:30 am

      My experience as well. I have a converted 20″ version. I appreciate Kel Tec’s customer service as well! PS just take care of your breach and know your ammo?

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