Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Like smartphones that grew increasingly smaller until the proliferation of apps and mobile web-surfing caused them to balloon in size again, the benefits incorporated into micro-compact handguns were going to make their way into something closer to a duty-size handgun. Springfield Armory, which saw such success in the micro-compact market with its Hellcat, now offers its Hellcat Pro in a slim configuration with 15-round standard-capacity magazines.
Spec-wise, the 9 mm Luger-chambered Springfield Hellcat Pro comes outfitted with a 3.7” hammer-forged barrel, measures 6.6” long, 4.8” high and a scant 1” wide. Unloaded, the gun weighs 21 ozs. Understandably, the gun bears a striking similarity to its Hellcat sibling, having the same slide serrations and grip texturing. Between the two guns, there’s a 0.6” increase in length and a 0.8” increase in height. The 15-round magazines are no stranger to Hellcat fans, as they’re the same currently offered by Springfield with a grip sleeve as capacity enhancements for the original Hellcat. Given the added length of the grip frame, lower-capacity magazines designed for the original Hellcat will obviously not work in the Hellcat Pro. There is no word yet from Springfield on the possibility of added-capacity magazines designed for the Hellcat Pro.
Like the Hellcat, the Hellcat Pro is cut for an optic, and the version I’ve been shooting is outfitted with Springfield’s Hex Wasp red-dot sight. At launch, Springfield will not make the Hellcat available from the factory with red-dot sights, but a cover plate is included for use without an optic. Springfield’s tritium-illuminated front sight and Tactical Rack U-notch rear sight are included as well, as they’ve been on many of the company’s recent releases. While this particular model is all-black, it’s likely that we’ll see the Hellcat Pro offered with an FDE finish, as on the original Hellcat line.
With the details out of the way, it’s worth taking a look at the Hellcat Pro from some practical angles. An obvious question is, “Why would I want a bigger micro-compact?” On the face of it, the Hellcat Pro seems to somewhat defeat the point, but if anything has been proven with the proliferation of micro-compacts on the market, it’s that some guns can actually be too small. SIG Sauer followed up on its P365 rather quickly with the P365 XL, and that’s become a popular pistol in its own right. True, a smaller gun is preferred for daily carry and concealment, but nobody can escape Mr. Newton and his laws. Firing a 9 mm round out of a diminutive concealed-carry pistol is rarely a pleasant experience, leading to less range time and, therefore, less confidence and capability with a chosen personal-defense pistol. A larger platform with a similar feel and features makes for much more pleasant practice, and with the Hellcat Pro, the skills built with this larger variant are directly applicable to the original.
That’s not to say that the Hellcat Pro can’t be easily carried. Quite the contrary. With so many folks carrying micro-compacts these days, we seem to have largely forgotten that only a few years ago, so-called “duty-size” guns, like the Glock 19, were largely in vogue as the concealed-carry guns of choice. In fact, I still carry my G19 quite regularly, and the launch of the Hellcat Pro gave me an opportunity to do some comparison. The Glock 19 Gen 5 measures 7.36” long, more than ¾” longer than the Hellcat Pro. Height-wise, there isn’t as much of a difference, but the Hellcat Pro saves almost ½” over the G19. The real story is the width, though. While the Hellcat Pro retains its slim 1” width, the G19 measures more than ¼” wider at the frame, and while that doesn’t sound like a lot on paper, it’s the most noticeable dimensional difference between the two guns. The Hellcat Pro simply feels slimmer and sleeker in the hand, because it is. And while even larger micro-compact pistols gave up at least a couple of rounds in capacity over more traditional duty-size guns, both of these pistols have a magazine capacity of 15 rounds of 9 mm Luger.
While a full review of the new Hellcat Pro will be forthcoming in a future issue of American Rifleman, I took the opportunity to spend some time with the gun on the range, and my experience there confirmed that this gun is great on the range. Grip texturing is a somewhat subjective element for shooters, but I found that on the Hellcat Pro to be optimal for me. It's more aggressive than what's found on most guns, but it's not quite as aggressive as some of the texture options out there, like that on Smith & Wesson's M&P M2.0 series. It works well enough to anchor the gun in the hand, but it's not so abrasive as to rub my hands raw during an extended range session. Magazines seated reliably and rocketed out of the ejection port when I actuated the single-side magazine release. The release is reversible for left-handed shooters, however, there is no mirrored slide-stop lever. The subtle finger grooves in the front strap fit my hand well, and I found the trigger to offer a repeatable, dependable break and a tactile reset. Informal accuracy testing from 15 yards produced five-shot groups in the neighborhood of 2", which is respectable for a self-defense handgun.
The Hellcat Pro is the perfect companion for anyone who currently owns an original Hellcat, as it provides a similar feel while cutting down on some of the felt recoil experienced with its smaller sibling. Controls, takedown, trigger and sights are all the same as on the original Hellcat, so the aftermarket support currently building up for the Hellcat is directly applicable to the new Pro. For those who are looking to upgrade their current duty-size concealed-carry pistol without giving up capacity, it's worth a look, as it's one of the first enlarged micro-compact to offer 15-round capacity with a flush-fit magazine. The only drawback, if you can call it such, is the availability of only 15-round magazines. Hopefully, Springfield will up the ante with some extended magazines down the road. With the Hellcat and now the Hellcat Pro, Springfield has built on the micro-compact handgun market in exciting and innovative ways. The end result is that, more so now than ever, American firearm owners have more defensive capability in their hands than ever before. The suggested retail price on the new Hellcat Pro is $634. For more information, visit springfield-armory.com.