For the past few years, the Springfield Armory Hellcat has been amassing a huge base of customers. The vast majority of people who buy the Hellcat do so for the purpose of portable personal protection, i.e., concealed carry. But as was intended, it is a very small gun that is not really suitable for “larger” work such as duty carry. There are also some folks – mostly larger folks, who find carrying a micro pistol more difficult because it becomes so deeply concealed that it is hard to access under stress. If you wanted a larger Springfield Armory 9mm polymer framed, striker-fired handgun your next stop in the catalog would be the XDM Elite sub-compacts, which despite the name are considerably larger. Much of that additional size comes in the form of width. What we needed was something in between.
The Hellcat Pro is poised to be that in-between Goldilocks pistol that can serve equally well as a concealed carry handgun and a duty gun worn openly OWB. It is essentially a Hellcat that is longer and taller, carries more rounds – and remains as thin as its sibling. This puts it into a sweet spot that many handgun shoppers are after.
The Pro is .6” longer and .8” taller than the standard Hellcat, but is the same firearm in every other way. This new size might raise the interest of folks that might not have previously been looking at the Hellcat, so let’s dive into the specs of the gun.
The Hellcat began its life as the micro-nine with the most capacity when it debuted as the 11+1 holding pocket-sized pistol. It’s easier to add size to a gun than to remove it, so stretching the length and raising the height is not only a natural… ahem… extension of the Hellcat, but it adds a few things. More capacity, for starters. The Hellcat Pro comes with two 15-round flush-fit magazines that boosts the onboard total to 16 rounds with one chambered. That is a duty-gun-worthy number. The added grip height necessary to stuff all those rounds into will make it a bit more difficult to conceal in the traditional way, but certainly not impossible. Far from it – we’ve been carrying much longer-gripped guns for decades. What we gain from that height is more handle to hold on to. Even the guys who can palm a basketball will be able to comfortably wrap their pinkies around the grip of the Hellcat Pro. Those same guys that shop at the “Big and Tall” store are also the ones that generally complain about the micro pistols simply being too tiny for proper carry.
Size has been added in the other direction too, of course. The extra length means this gun won’t get “folded in” when bigger folks tuck it away. It also means a longer barrel – which implies some extra accuracy and velocity. The most tangible benefit though is the longer sight radius, which makes that excellent U-Dot sight picture even more accurate for longer shots. If you’re not familiar with Springfield Armory’s U-Dot sights, it consists of a bright neon-yellow ring around a Tritium® dot out front, which drops nicely into a white “U” around the notch of the rear sight. It makes an excellent sight picture at any length.
With the additional length of the barrel and slide comes an increased area of utility rail for accessory mounting. The 1913 Picatinny rail on the dust cover can accommodate more than the shorter version – even the full-sized Streamlight TLR-2, which is usually reserved only for duty pistols.
SHOOTING THE HELLCAT PRO
My first impression with the Hellcat Pro at the range was that it feels exactly like a Hellcat, only with a full grip. That may seem like a ridiculously obvious statement, but very often when a small gun is enlarged for a new model there are subtle changes made that alter the feel a bit. A curve or an angle extended further can change the ergonomics while preserving the aesthetics. Not so here.
Having enough handle to wrap all four fingers around also makes for a more stable shooting grip, with greatly reduced twisting and muzzle lift. This puts the shots more consistently into tighter groups – faster. The sight picture is exactly the same as the standard Hellcat, and the extra length is not something I particularly noticed while shooting – though I doubtlessly benefited from the additional distance between sights.
The trigger in the Hellcat Pro is the Gen 3 trigger, which is extremely nice. Out of the box it delivered crisp breaks and smooth strokes with a very tactile reset. After shooting a few hundred rounds I measured it using the Lyman digital trigger gauge and got a 5 lb. 11 oz. average. Perhaps as important as pull weight and smoothness, the ergonomics of the trigger are very good. The shape and reach are comfortable and the trigger safety blade was imperceptible while I was shooting.
As previously mentioned, the U-Dot sight picture is one of my favorites, and I honestly think I shoot better with guns that have them. It is a sight picture that is fast to acquire and easy to keep on target for quick follow-up shots. With a HEX Wasp mounted on the handgun, the sights co-witness perfectly – making it a reliable and redundant system.
As noted, the grip is longer (taller) but not any larger in the circumference area. So, while the added real estate provides a more comfortable grip for large hands, it does not change the feel for smaller hands.
I shot four rested groups from 15 yards with a variety of commonly available ammunition, all of which performed well. Each group consisted of five shots, and the best three shots are also measured because that helps take shooter errors and inconsistencies out of the equation. All of those ‘best three’ groups were inside one inch. The best overall group of five was produced with Fiocchi 124 grain ball ammo, at just under 1.4 inches.
Off-hand shooting at about 12 yards was also very consistent, and as the shooter settled in the groups got tighter and tighter. The Hellcat Pro – like the Hellcat – is a shooter.
Subjectively, I appreciate the ergonomics of the Hellcat Pro. I find it comfortable to hold with all the controls being just where I need them. The index points on both sides of the frame are nice for placing the support hand thumb for more grip, and for resting the trigger finger when it’s not actively on the trigger.
JUST MY OPINION
I say it all the time – it’s great to have choices. The Hellcat Pro exemplifies this by taking a wildly popular micro-nine pistol and stretching it to fit a more duty-sized use case. It’s not just folks with big hands that will benefit. I found having the longer grip not only very comfortable, but I truly believe that it gave me additional leverage on the gun and reduced muzzle lift.
I used a HEX Wasp red-dot sight, co-witnessing with the marvelous U-Dot sights. The pistol comes ready to accept this optic or your favorite micro-sized red-dot. But shooting the open sights on this gun is by no means “slumming”.
The added capacity in a flush-fit magazine, combined with more gripping surface, more sight radius, and a longer barrel make the Hellcat Pro an option for another category of handgun – the duty pistol. The added pic rail makes it real-world practical. Yet, it remains a very concealable gun that would easily disappear beneath a cover garment. Springfield Armory continues to give its customers strong options among its favorite models.
Learn more here: Hellcat Pro