REVIEW BY DARREN LEE
In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve been a big fan of Springfield Armory guns for at least the last 30 years. My wife would say I own too many. These include a Saint, a precision M1A, the ridiculously accurate 2020 bolt-action rifle, the more-rifle-than-pistol XDM-9, and the storied FBI Hostage Rescue Team’s TRP. I refuse to sell any of them, even as I consider downsizing my collection.
So, when I first heard the rumors of a true micro-compact 9mm, optics-ready handgun that packed more rounds than it has any business packing, I could not wait to get my hands on one. Life got busy, and some time passed, but I finally had that chance as I prepared for this review. The great men and women of Springfield Armory did not disappoint. I want to dance.
In 2020, the Springfield Hellcat OSP 9mm won prestigious Handgun of the Year awards from Guns & Ammo and the NRA for good reason. OSP stands for Optical Sight Pistol, by the way. I don’t know how these awards are doled out, but the process worked this time. Springfield has designed and built a truly tiny self-defense pistol that really shines in today’s threat environment. Countless others have tried and failed.
At six inches long, four inches tall, and one inch wide, the Hellcat’s dimensions give the company the right to claim title to the smallest fighting handgun on the planet. That it comes with an 11+1 capacity carried with the flush-fitting magazine and a 13-round second magazine only back the claim. Springfield’s marketing materials don’t miss the opportunity to appropriately boast the “world’s highest capacity micro-compact 9mm.” The tiny package weighs in at only 17.9 ounces unloaded. Weight is not a big deal when carrying a gun on the belt, but every ounce matters when carrying off-body, especially for women who carry in a purse.
I wear a medium-size glove, and my entire hand rides comfortably on the grip of the Hellcat even with the slightly shorter 11-round magazine that sports a frontend extension. Unlike many other short-gripped pistols, my pinkie finger isn’t treated like an inconsequential appendage. Having all four fingers on the grip helps control recoil for quick follow-up shots. For those who must have the smallest possible overall profile, a completely flat baseplate comes with the gun and two fingers on the grip prove sufficient to manage recoil.
Because the 13-round magazine only grows the height by about 1/2 -inch, I will be tempted to carry this gun with the higher capacity magazine in it and the 11-round magazine as the back-up. Really, in today’s strange and unpredictable world, I will probably simply order another 13-rounder and carry it and the 11-rounder in my off-side pocket. Having this tiny fighting gun on me with 38 rounds of quality hollow point loads at my disposal will allow me to rest easy.
Small is great, but reliability is king when it comes to a defensive gun. As they say, the loudest noise a gun owner might hear is a “click” when a “bang” is needed. With the “great ammo shortage” haunting all of us, I put 300 rounds through my test gun without a malfunction of any kind. I have no doubt that the pistol would have mowed through 1,000 if I were able to have my usual hours-long session making steel targets “ping.” I couldn’t part with that much of my stash. Fighting accuracy was proven, as the plates of a plate rack fell time and again with deliberate shots at 25 yards.
I have only recently adopted optics on my carry guns. For many reasons (not particularly good ones), I was one of the holdouts. My diminishing near and low-light sight as I age made the transition mandatory. Now I generally refuse to carry a gun without an optic attached. For all of the reasons we use red-dot optics over iron sights on rifles, we should use them on pistols.
One of the first things I noticed when taking the Hellcat OSP from the box is the remarkably low cut on the slide for the seating of the optic. This, along with the direct-mounting system, makes the transition from iron sights to optics easier in every way and allows co-witnessing with the standard-height iron sights.
There are a number of high-quality micro-optics that are compatible with the Hellcat OSP. Make sure you choose a good one because it will help avoid frustration and wasted cash. As a friend at SureFire says—buy once, cry once.
A crisp and well-positioned, push button-style magazine release allows for easy and fast reloads. It can easily be transferred to the right side of the gun for you southpaws out there. Springfield refers to the grip texture as Adaptive Grip Texture. I usually ignore such things, but this stuff really does seem to be special. Even with sweaty hands on a warm day, the gun stayed put during rapid fire strings. The particularly useful shelf for my support hand thumb to apply downward resistance was just icing on the cake here.
The Hellcat OSP sets the standard for the smallest true fighting pistols with meaningful magazine capacity. It looks like my already-too-big Springfield Armory collection has just grown by one because this one is not going back to the factory. MSRP is a bargain at $599. What’s my credit card number again?
MSRP: $599. For specs and more details, visit: springfield-armory.com.