Springfield Hellcat Pro Review: 4,000 Rounds & One Year Later [Hands-On]
Check out our in-depth review of the Springfield Hellcat Pro, a polymer-framed, striker-fired semi-auto pistol we love for its affordability, reliability, and fantastic design.
Licensed Concealed Carry Holder
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Building on a 25-year legacy of making polymer-framed striker-fired semi-automatic pistols, the Springfield Armory Hellcat Pro is often overshadowed by some other micro compacts with more prominent name recognition but the Hellcat deserves an honest look by anyone seeking a dependable and capable handgun for personal defense.
We’ve been evaluating our test gun for months and have an in-depth and honest review.
In This Article
- Exceptional Reliability
- Superior Ergonomics
- Impressive Magazine Capacity
- Excellent Value
- Optics Compatible
- Lacks the serialized fire control unit, limiting customization
- Lacks Ambidextrous Controls
- Tends to get hot after around 200 rounds
- Not as capable beyond concealed carry
We’ve tested lots of handguns over the years and the Hellcat Pro is tough to beat for its combination of affordability, features, reliability, accuracy, and magazine capacity.
It builds on the strengths of the original Hellcat with outstanding ergonomics and is slim and trim enough to carry comfortably.
How’d the Hellcat Pro stack up on our 60-point scale?
Accuracy from the Hellcat Pro was more than acceptable for a carry gun. While not a fine target gun meant for Olympic competition, you can rely on it at self-defense distances.
The ergonomics are superior to most other factory-standard carry guns on the market. In our opinion, all 9mm EDC pistols should feel this good. It only gets a point knocked off because it doesn’t have ambi controls.
For a $500-$600 striker-fired polymer-framed pistol, the Hellcat Pro comes about as loaded as you can ask. It has great sights, good surface controls, great ergos, an outstanding magazine capacity as well as extended mags available, is optics-ready, has an accessory rail, and there are factory options for manual safeties and threaded barrels.
We only knocked off a point since it uses a legacy grip frame concept rather than a serialized fire control unit such as on the P365 or Beretta APX and is thus more limited in its modularity.
Fit & Finish: 9/10
Everything about the Hellcat Pro fits well and allows proper function with nothing extra or any pain-inducing hot spots that are noticeable in use or carry.
During over 4,000 rounds of ammunition of numerous types, we only had three malfunctions, most of which were likely a mix of user error and filthy gun/ammo.
The pistol works today just as well as on the first range trip after more than a year of hard use. Springfield has documented test guns running over 20,000 rounds in extended range sessions with no lasting issues.
The Hellcat Pro is just about impossible to beat in its price range for the quality you get and stands up well against the rest of the micro compact 9mm crowd. I was never a fan of the Springfield XD series, but the Hellcat has me turning into a fan of Croatian pistols.
15 rounds in the flush fit magazine w/ one in the chamber (17+1 extended available)
21 ounces (unloaded no mag)
1 inch (widest point over grips)
3.7-inch hammer forged steel with Melonite finish & 1:10 twist
4.8 inches with flush mag / 5.3 with extended
Black or FDE Desert Tan
Tritium luminescent front / Tactical Rack U-Notch rear
5 pounds on average / striker-fired
Optional manual safety variants are available. All models have internal drop and trigger safeties.
What Is the Hellcat Pro?
In an abridged version of the pistol’s backstory, engineer Marko Vuković’s I.M. Metal concern in the newly independent Croatia began working on a domestic pistol design dubbed the PHP in 1990.
A cross between a Beretta 92 and a Walther P38, this evolved through trial and error and field tests into the very SIG P226-like HS 95 and then the more Glock-inspired HS 2000 by 1998.
It turned out that the HS 2000 worked well and proved an instant success, winning both local military and police contracts and was selected for importation into the U.S. by Springfield Armory as the XD in 2002.
With I.M. Metal rebranding as HS Produkt, the XD went through several generational changes and improvements then, with the revolutionary SIG P365 hitting the market in 2017, a clean sheet project to essentially produce a better and more dependable version of the P365, with a higher magazine capacity, resulted in the H11 line by 2019.
Featuring a 3-inch barrel, 18.3-ounce unloaded weight, and 11+1 round capacity, the H11 was soon imported into the U.S. by Springfield Armory as the Hellcat.
With initial reports that the H11/Hellcat was a bit snappy on the range, the pistol received a slight update with a longer grip to accommodate a re-engineered 15+1 round magazine while the barrel was lengthened to 3.7 inches with the additional mass translating to reduced muzzle flip and faster follow-up shots, while still keeping the gun svelte and hitting the scales at 21 ounces.
Thus, the Hellcat Pro was born, hitting the market in March 2022.
A Concealed Carry Powerhouse
The Springfield Hellcat is meant from the frame up to be a carry gun for self-defense.
The very nature of its carved away or “melted” design concept, in which everything not absolutely needed is contoured out of the frame or slide to allow as few snag points or extra ounces on the belt points to this.
While there is certainly no reason that it cannot be carried openly, it has been optimized for concealed carry, ideally in some sort of inside-the-waistband holster system.
So, in the end, the person best suited for the Hellcat Pro is someone looking for a micro compact concealment handgun that is still as capable as many full-sized pistols in terms of reliability, capability, and magazine capacity, thus alleviating the old phantom for EDC pieces of having to trade away the ability to carry a capable gun in favor of a trade-off to a smaller size and caliber for ease of carry.
Fit & Feel
While its Croatian uncle, the Springfield XD/HS 2000, is downright chunky and will never win an award for its looks, the Hellcat feels great in the hand and is almost anorexic by comparison.
This thin frame is akin to a lean sprinter, not a hefty brawler, but the excellent mixed geometry grip texture and textured pads on index hotspots – what Springfield calls an “adaptive grip texture” — helps “stick” the Hellcat Pro to the user’s palm.
The texture does this by intermixing flattened taller pyramids that help keep things comfortable in the waistband and avoid excess clothing wear, with shaper shorter ones that lock into your grip and fight recoil impulse for a secure hold.
Frame & Grip
The straighter grip angle of the Hellcat Pro frame — about 18 degrees off square– is closer to that of the vaunted M1911 and is similar to that seen on the XD and guns like the S&W M&P.
This, combined with the trim top frame and slide fitment, allows the user a higher purchase on the back of the grip translating to a lower bore axis, especially when compared to the more raked 22-degree angle used on pistols such as the Glock.
Taller than that of the more height-challenged standard Hellcat and SIG P365, the grip of the Hellcat Pro presents a natural point of aim for most users, with the sights lining up immediately rather than pointing down and having to correct.
The slide stop on the Hellcat Pro is positioned intuitively, making it easily accessible without the need to adjust my grip, and makes for efficient operation. It’s smooth and responsive, without hanging up on the last round hold open, allowing for quick engagement and release.
The magazine release is quick and easy to access, dropping the stick with the right amount of pressure and facilitating swift magazine swaps. The button is prominent enough to locate by feel, yet unobtrusive enough to prevent accidental engagement.
This balance is crucial in a compact pistol like the Hellcat Pro, where every component must serve its purpose without hindering any other functionality.
The 3.7-inch hammer-forged steel barrel on the Hellcat Pro is hard as nails and carries a hard-wearing protective Melonite finish.
In a year of testing with almost 4,000 rounds downrange, we’ve never noticed any barrel-related issues such as keyholing, shaving lead, or excessive fouling and the 1:10 twist rifling has remained crisp with regular cleaning.
Springfield also offers an extended 4.3-inch threaded barrel for those looking to add a suppressor or muzzle device such as a comp.
Not only is the Hellcat Pro one of the smallest double-stack 9mm semi-auto pistols on the market but it has one of the better factory striker-fired triggers on the market, especially in its price range.
It is a two-stage Glock-style trigger (with a center dongle safety lever) that we found to break at about 6.5 pounds, lightening up a bit after the first 1,000 rounds to closer to 5.5 pounds on a digital trigger gauge.
The trigger’s pull is smooth, consistent, and predictable, with a short take-up and clean, crisp break, giving the user a sense of precise control that instills confidence. Reset is short and tactile, enabling quick follow-up shots thanks to audible and tactile feedback that makes the operation intuitive and eliminates guesswork.
Additionally, the trigger’s ergonomics are well thought out. The trigger shoe is comfortable against the finger, disappearing into the background during extended shooting sessions, and the slightly oversized trigger guard enables you to get your trigger finger deep into position and accommodates extra large hands and chunky fingers without issue.
The Hellcat Pro features a well-thought-out slide that is slim– at just under an inch across– which helps with carry and concealment.
The slide has both front and rear serrations that help with reliable manipulation. Unlike many polymer-framed pistols with blocky slides, the Hellcat Pro has a beveled nose, which, besides a better aesthetic, helps with holstering and presentation.
The slide on all Hellcat Pros has a factory-milled optics cut with what the company calls the “Springfield Micro” footprint, which is a 4-lug and 2-screw footprint compatible with the Shield RMS, opening the gun to many of the most popular micro red/green dots on the market.
However, the iron sights are so good that many won’t even want to add a dot. The Pro ships with an easy-to-pick-out green Tritium luminescent front sight complemented with a Tactical Rack U-Notch rear, giving the user an excellent day/night option.
The white outline on the rear sight makes it surprisingly easy to line up shots quickly.
Unlike factory Glock sights, they are made of steel and rugged enough to use when racking the slide one-handed off a barricade.
The Hellcat Pro’s trigger can only be pulled if depressed together with the inset trigger safety lever. It also has an internal Striker Block Safety to keep it from firing if hammered or dropped unless the trigger is also pulled at the same time.
For those who want a manual frame-mounted external safety, Springfield offers that as an option on both the Hellcat and Hellcat Pro series, although most models do not ship with it, so that could be more of a special-order situation through a buyer’s local dealer.
Field Testing the Hellcat Pro
My test Hellcat Pro has done over 4,000 rounds on the range in the past year of testing and training. Between the low bore axis and high grip with excellent ergos, it is controllable and easy to run controlled pairs even with stout self-defense loads.
Reliability and durability are superb, with only a few easily cleared hiccups experienced and even those typically chalked up to moody ammo in a dirty gun or some sort of user error (not seating a magazine all the way, etc.)
Among the most dependable (and affordable) options I’ve found that will run 100 percent of the time is American Eagle 115-grain red box FMJ, suitable for plinking and training, backed up with Federal’s new Gold Medal Action Pistol load in 147 grains when working steel.
For carry, I like Federal’s 135-grain Hydra-Shok Deep 135-grain hollow point rounds, which have an advertised velocity of 1,060 fps and penetrate 15 inches in bare ballistics gel—the ideal depth according to modern FBI standards— leaving a nice big mushroom.
When it comes to accuracy, I can typically run a six-shot Bill Drill from 10 yards and easily zap the A/B zone six-for-six times with JHPs when drawing from concealment via an AIWB holster with the timer holding less than three seconds.
While that is not Jerry Miculek fast, it works for me.
In slow fire at 10 Yards from an offhand position, I can usually come away with touching groups and eat the hole out of the target.
I like working a center mass steel plate at 15 yards in offhand drills from concealment, alternating two-hand, left, right, standing, and kneeling and the Hellcat delivers a “ping” almost every time unless I am rushing.
Things To Love About It
The Hellcat Pro is one of the most compact autoloading pistols on the market and still beats the magazine capacity of most other pistols its size (and many that are larger.)
Even being trimmed down to about what I would consider the minimum size for serious use, it remains usable and feels good in the hand, delivering on target.
It carries well and doesn’t print. Plus– and this is rarely the case with factory guns– I love the sights.
As referenced, the Hellcat Pro isn’t a general-purpose pistol. Where it excels is as a carry gun but could also be used in home defense, especially when a weapon-mounted light and micro reflex dot optic is attached.
It is not meant for serious competition or target use, especially when you consider the fact that, like most microcompacts, it gets extremely hot to the touch after about 200 rounds of rapid fire in a short period and needs to cool.
Yes, you can train with it and train fairly hard. No, you can’t use it as a rental gun all day on a shooting range or pass it around with your buddies at camp and melt down a case of ammo in an afternoon.
What Sets it Apart?
The Hellcat Pro is a small gun when compared to many “gold standard” carry guns of recent years such as the Glock 19 or SIG P229.
That being said, it has the same (or better) magazine capacity and delivers on the range. Thus, it is sort of a Goldilocks kind of gun, which is “just right” without being too small or too big.
Springfield offers an upgraded version of the Hellcat Pro in the form of the Hellcat Pro Threaded, which ships with an extended-length threaded barrel and both a flush 15+1 round magazine and an extended 17+1.
As covered elsewhere in the article, several companies have aftermarket performance triggers available. When it comes to sights, Ameriglo, XS, Swampfox and others make aftermarket replacement sights of all sorts.
For those who want an MRD, Springfield has packages which include a Viridian RFXII, or Shield SMSc MRD (the standard Hellcat package with the HEX Wasp you may have seen reviewed previously has been discontinued.)
Speaking further to support for it, most large holster makers offer patterns for the Hellcat Pro.
For More Modularity: SIG P365XL
Probably the closest competition to the Hellcat Pro is the Sig Sauer P365XL, which packs 12+1 or 15+1 capacity mags in a pistol about the same size and feature set.
The minimum advertised price of a P365XL is usually around $599, which is typically the “good price” of a Hellcat Pro, which has better ergos and a better track record on reliability (P365s have long had complaints of dragging strikers and broken firing pins, something the Hellcat series has not had).
One plus the P365 series has over the Hellcat, however, is that once you have a 365 fire control unit (FCU), you can build out the gun to just about anything you want, especially when you look at options from folks like Zev.
For More Value: Taurus GX4XL TORO
A value alternative to the Hellcat Pro is the Taurus GX4XL TORO, which is close to the same size, feature set, and magazine capacity (13+1) while coming in at about $200 less.
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