There are few guns that captured my attention when I was young more than the Steyr AUG bullpup. While it certainly was not the first bullpup design rifle, it was the first that made me drool. Importation restrictions and other factors influenced me to buy more traditional semi-automatic designs as I became old enough and employed enough to do so. However, the bullpup has always been an itch left unscratched all these years later.
Then, word spread throughout the gun owning community late last year that Springfield Armory was about to announce something special. Try as I may, I could have never guessed that it would be the coolest and most useful bullpup I have ever laid eyes upon. Gun rights advocate Colion Noir might have put it best when he posted a photo of the new rifle on Instagram with the simple caption, “Springfield just said ‘hold my beer’ with their new Hellion bullpup.”
This is a gun that will live in my collection. I don’t recall a time in the last five years or so when I have been as certain of a future purchase. I am not able to get to the range as often as I used to because, as we all know, life just gets busier as we get older. However, variety has become more important to me as available range time diminishes. I can shoot all of my ARs, AKs (74, not 47), M1As, M1 Garands, and the like, but the Hellion is going to be the future spice in my shooting recipe that has gotten a little too bland.
So, what is a bullpup? By definition, it is a rifle that has the breech and action located behind the firing grip. The general purpose is to make a rifle that has a shorter overall length. After all, compact rifles are cool and useful. This is why short-barreled rifles registered pursuant to the National Firearms Act (NFA) always get the attention from bystanders when they are brought to the range. The great thing about the bullpup is that you get the short package without the $200 federal tax, paperwork, and long approval process. The functional benefit of the bullpup is you get the compactness without losing bullet velocity due to a shorter-than-ideal barrel length.
Springfield Armory’s very popular AR-15, appropriately dubbed the SAINT, has the 16-inch barrel mandated by federal law for all non-NFA rifles. It has a collapsible stock and is as short as over-the-counter AR’s can get. Its overall length is 32.25 inches. The Hellion’s overall length is 28.25, which is much closer to the minimum length of 26 inches for rifles as mandated by the… you guessed it… NFA. Some will say four inches doesn’t really matter. Those are people who probably don’t like good bourbon.
Because the action and magazine are located behind the firing hand, the balance of a Hellion bullpup takes some time to adjust to, but once this phase ends, the rifle feels right. As I shot the Hellion on the range, getting on target, especially from a low-ready position, seemed as easy and fast as any rifle I have ever shot. I did not run standardized timed drills that I have run since my college days to verify this, but I would put money on it as I write at this moment. My advice is to accept the fact that it takes a little getting used to and have faith. Do not deny yourself the magic that is the Hellion.
The rifle is a blast to shoot, and shoot it I did, firing 360 rounds of three different brands of ammo on a 50-yard range. It operated flawlessly. At one point, I dumped four consecutive 30-round mags through it at 25 yards as fast as I could reload and pull the trigger. As expected, it got extremely hot but not too hot to shoot without gloves. I used an old school EoTech 556 zero-magnification optic mounted on the integral picatinny rail and was still getting sub-2 MoA groups when I zeroed. It is safe to say it would have shot 1 MoA or better if I had used a magnified scope. My eyes are getting older, though I am not.
Lefties are welcome at Springfield Armory. The Hellion has ambidextrous controls, a reversible case ejection system, and QD sling mounting cups on both sides of the gun. Other excellent features include well-designed flip-up iron sights, two-position adjustable gas system to accommodate suppressor use, and five-position adjustable stock with cheek riser.
A compact rifle that has serious down-range capabilities is reason enough to own the Hellion. Then, of course, there is the cool factor that simply will not quit. It is the ultimate conversation piece in the safe when friends come over for Sunday football. It also promises to be the spice that makes any day at the range that much more special.
SPRINGFIELD ARMORY HELLION SPECS:
ACTION TYPE: Short Stroke 2-Position Piston, Gas-Operated, Semi-Automatic
CHAMBERING: 5.56 x 45 NATO/.223 REM
RECIEVER: Polymer with Steel Insert
STOCK: 5-Way Adjustable with Cheek Riser
BARREL TYPE: Cold Hammer Forged 4150 Steel with 1:7 RH Twist
BARREL LENGTH: 16 inches
OVERALL LENGTH: 28.25 inches
MAGAZINE: 30-Round Polymer Magpul PMAG
TRIGGER: 6 Pounds, 10 Ounces
SIGHTS: Integrated Flip-Up with Elevation and Windage Adjustment, 5-Position Rear Aperture
WEIGHT: 8 Pounds
FEATURES: Picatinny Top Rail, M-LOK Compatible Polymer Handguard, Ambidextrous Controls, Reversible Ejection System