I have owned several small 9mm pistols. From Kel-Tecs, Kahrs, Springfield XDs, and many others, I feel like I’m familiar with the breed.
Almost every major pistol manufacturer sells a 9mm small enough to fit into your pocket. Many of them allow you to carry 10, 11, or more rounds. We have the Sig Sauer P365 to thank for the start of this manufacturing trend.
Released in 2018, the P365 was an immediate hit. It originally had a few glitches but has since been fixed, and is a reliable pistol. In its original form, it offered 10+1 rounds of 9mm in a package small enough to fit in a normal-sized pocket.
That set the ball rolling. Several pistol manufacturers moved away from small .380s to the 9mm. Small 9mm pistols were not new – I owned some from Kel-Tec and Kahr.
What is new is the capacity of these 9mm guns has grown immensely. In some cases, they have even doubled.
Let’s take a look at one of these new generation 9mm pistols, the Springfield Hellcat.
Hellcat RDP Review Summary
The RDP or Rapid Defense Package version of the Springfield Armory (SA) Hellcat is very popular. The main reason for this is the gear they include out of the box:
- 11- and 13- round magazine
- Red dot sight by Hex Wasp
- A self-indexing compensator
Add in its build quality, accuracy and reliability, and this gun is the perfect carry gun for many buyers.
Also, a 15-round magazine is also available. This makes the gun not only great for carry but also an effective home-defense weapon.
I have two 15-round plus the 11- and 13-round magazines – this gives me 54 rounds of 9mm at my disposal. With the extra round in the chamber that’s a lot of firepower!
Moreover, its standard accessory rail underneath the barrel is great. Stick a light on and you could have the perfect home-defense handgun.
Whether you carry it or keep it ready it at home, it’s a great buy.
Pros & Cons
- Capacity – 11 or 13 rounds included, with 15 round mags available
- Reversible mag release
- Red dot sight – also co-witnessed with installed iron sights
- Muzzle compensator included – self-indexing
- Trigger pull weight and reset – comfortable to operate
- Zippered storage bag included
- No extra backstraps to adjust grip fit
Those are all the “cons” I can think of. I’ve had the gun a few weeks and have shot it a lot – I like it.
The main ‘con’ is the price but this is not such a big issue if you consider the base-model Hellcat starts at $569. If you add to that the cost of the Hex Wasp red dot and the well-designed compensator, the $899 MSRP isn’t bad at all.
The Wasp alone sells for $299, with the compensator not far behind. The RDP package represents a good buy.
The lack of extra backstraps I mention because some readers might notice and comment on it. It doesn’t bother me one way or the other as the gun fits my hand very well.
The Springfield Hellcat came out in September 2019 and outgunned the Sig Sauer P365. Springfield included an 11- and a -13 round magazine whereas the Sig had only 10.
The RDP version came out in February 2021, which includes the red dot sight and the muzzle compensator. The gun was immediately accepted and seems to be very popular.
It was not an extension of an existing model, like the XD evolutionary line of pistols. Instead it was designed from the ground up.
The ‘stack-and-a-half’ magazine is the key. Sig built their P365 around the magazine.
In fact, Sig Sauer is suing Springfield Armory as of May, 2021. Why? They believe Springfield is infringing on their magazine patents. I am looking forward to what they conclude.
Anyway, the brand-new Hellcat came with an 11- and a 13-round magazine. This offers greater capacity than the P365’s two 10-rounders.
The Springfield Hellcat won “gun of the year” by American Rifleman magazine in 2020.
The Hellcat RDP goes even further than most micro 9mms. Its capacity, sighting, muzzle compensation and quality makes it hard to beat.
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Who Is This Gun Aimed At?
(OK, so much for trying to be funny. I mean, what is this guns’ prospective market?)
The Springfield Hellcat RDP is for those who want a well-built and reliable gun for concealed carry with a bit more. The red dot sight and compensator are not usually traditionally for concealed carry. But red dot sights are becoming more popular so the Hellcat RDP puts you ahead of the curve a bit.
The gun’s price will limit, to a certain extent, who can buy it but as I said above, it’s not a bad price for all you get.
Who is not going to buy it?
Firstly, buyers with tight-budget constraints. Secondly, first-time buyers. A red dot sight and compensator can be intimidating for a first-time buyer. Plus, new firearm owners won’t be looking for these features on a pistol-they want simple.
We can remove both of those features. Springfield includes a cover plate for the optic adapter and a threaded muzzle cap. This leaves you with a normal Hellcat but with a longer (3.8″) barrel.
Still, I cannot see a beginner shooting this small 9mm easily, as it can be a bit snappy.
A beginner might feel more comfortable with a larger XD-variant from Springfield. Alternatively, other guns that might be a bit easier for a beginner to handle might include the Smith & Wesson M&P, Glock 19, Taurus G3, Walther’s new PDP or any gun with a 4-inch-or-so barrel. There are many compact 9mms out there, and each shooter has to experiment to find what’s best for them.
I still think that, in general, micro 9mms are best for more experienced shooters
I had a Kahr CM-9 which is a tiny 9mm. The CM-9 holds 6+1 rounds and barely has a two-finger grip. When I’d touch off a self-defense round, I had to hang on tight.
There are other, more comfortable and controllable guns out there than a micro 9mm.
|Barrel||3.8" hammer forged steel w/compensator, threaded (.5 X 28), Melonite® finish, 1:10|
|Slide||Billet machined, Melonite® finish, optics ready|
|Frame||Black polymer w/Adaptive Grip Texture|
|Sights||Tritium/Luminescent front, tactical rack U-notch rear, Hex Wasp red dot|
|Recoil System||Dual captive recoil spring w/ full-length guide rod|
|Trigger Pull||5 lbs., 10 oz. tested|
|Magazines||(1) 11-round, (1) 13-round extended|
|Weight||19.3 Oz w/empty flush mag, 19.6 Oz w/empty extended mag|
|Height||4" w/flush mag, 4.5" w/extended mag|
Springfield Hellcat RDP Hands-On
The gun comes in a very nice box with the Springfield Armory logo on the lid. When you open the box, you see the gun inside its logo’d, zippered case. The envelope you see contains the owner’s manual and other goodies.
I did not expect this, and it’s a nice touch. It will protect the gun (and the red dot) in your gun safe. Also coming with the gun is one of those rigid magazine loaders like Glock provides.
I don’t use them as I own two Uplula Magazine Loaders. These are easier to use and take the strain off your thumb when shoving rounds into a magazine. But, if you don’t have the Uplula, this one will sure help as the mags can be a bit tight to get rounds into.
Here is a photo of all the doo-dads that came with the RDP…
- Magazine Loader
- Extra flush-fit mag baseplate
- Optic slide cut cover plate
- Allen key for the Wasp
- Sight adjustment wheel for the Wasp – it makes it easy to “dial the dot in” with this round helper
- A couple of screws for the cover plate
- Threaded muzzle cap
Springfield Hellcat Ergonomics
I like the word ‘ergonomics’. I looked it up once upon a time, since I tend to like words in general as my readers would no doubt attest to. We tend to throw ‘ergonomics’ about when we talk about how a certain gun fits us (or doesn’t fit us). We bandy the word about almost to the point where we have no idea what it actually means and how, exactly, it applies to guns. Here is one definition I saw that sums it up pretty well:
Ergonomics (from the Greek word ergon meaning work, and nomoi meaning natural laws), is the science of refining the design of products to optimize them for human use.Definition from TechTarget
We sometimes examine how a guns’ ergonomics can benefit from its design. A gun designer always thinks about how their new, whiz-bang gun is going to be perceived by shooters.
They want to make sure that the gun they are designing will fit the person shooting it. This is especially true of long guns. Handguns are easier to fit because less of the gun contacts the shooter than a rifle or shotgun.
Where am I going with all this in relation to the RDP? How does this pistol rate for ergonomics? Is it easy to use? Are there any design features that could be improved to make it better?
After handling and shooting this gun, I say the Springfield Hellcat has won the ergonomics battle. (Or rather, I should say the company H.S. Produckt has won, since they manufacture the Hellcat for Springfield).
(Below) The gun in profile with the included 11-round magazine. Note the textured places on the grip and above the trigger. This is for your trigger finger to rest on when not in the trigger guard. On the other side, there is grip for your support hand thumb to sit in. The ergonomics here are good – your hand interfaces with the gun very well.
Speaking of ergos (yet again), here is a representation of the grip texturing (“Adaptive Grip Texturing”, according to Springfield)…
We see flat-topped, higher structures with pyramid-shaped pointed shapes lower down.
Your palm contacts the flat-topped areas, but when you bear down with your grip, the pointy pyramids secure your grasp.
Having just now set the gun down, I can attest to the fact that this style of texturing works. My hand does not slip at all when I have a shooting grasp on the gun.
This is a big tribute to this style of texturing. I am one of those guys who like the equivalent of 60-grade oxide grit paper on my polymer grips. I like it rough, so that my hand stays put. One time, I found some stair tread tape at Rural King and put that on several guns. I do like this Springfield Hellcat grip. It’s “sticky” enough for a good, non-slip grasp but not overly so – it won’t “rub you the wrong way” when you carry IWB or appendix without an undershirt of some type.
This is one sweet-handling gun. The grip is thin enough to conceal well, but not too thin. I can get a good shooting grasp, with my fingers secure. When you are carrying the gun, the grip allows you to get a grasp of the entire grip as you draw the gun. This is especially true with the 15-round magazine in place:
Field-Stripping the Hellcat RDP
Like most of SA’s pistols, the Hellcat uses a swinging take-down lever like Sig. Here’s the drill:
|1||Make sure the gun is empty and remove the mag. (I know - who doesn’t make sure the gun is clear? Well, an “empty” Taurus once put a cast .45ACP bullet into my reloading bench as I pulled the trigger. MAKE SURE it’s clear when field-stripping!)|
|2||Lock the slide back.|
|3||Rotate the takedown lever 90 degrees up, clockwise. (Yay to the fact it has a takedown lever!)|
|4||Pull the trigger and release the slide the forward slowly.|
|5||Remove the slide and separate into components.|
Here’s what it looks like.
Reverse the process to re-assemble. Lock the slide back with the slide stop before rotating the takedown lever.
To remove the barrel, you must first remove the compensator. Here’s how:
|1||Take the slide off the frame, as above.|
|2||Press in on the lever on the bottom of the compensator and unscrew it several rotations. At that point, you can release the lever and continue to unscrew it until it comes off. Remove the barrel and clean as you would any other similar gun.|
|3||To re-install the comp, hold the lever in and begin to screw it onto the barrel. Keep holding it in as you continue to screw it on. You will feel the comp stop. Back it off a half-turn or so until it clicks into place. That’s it… it’s where it needs to be. If you don’t like the comp, remove it and replace it with the included threaded cap.|
For maintenance, treat this gun as you would any fine striker-fired pistol. Lube in the usual places and keep it clean. You might want to spend a little time with a swab around the comp ports to get the gray gunk out of there.
Here are some photos I took so you could see the gun up close…
Note pads above trigger guard for support hand thumb/trigger finger, and the flat trigger.
The frame, up top.
The compensator with the 3.8” barrel. SA barrel feed ramps are among the highest-polished I have ever seen.
Dual-wound recoil spring on a steel guide rod.
Slide, left (top) and right. This shows the Hex Wasp off very well. Note how small it is, and the adjustment markings. Nicely done.
No doubting this this is the Hex Wasp, and not the larger Dragonfly!
Included magazines, an 11- and a 13-rounder. And, just released, the 15-rounder…
I shot the RDP at my backyard range one day between rain showers. I set up targets at 15 yards, since this is typical yardage for this guns’ intended usage.
I will label each target with the ammo I shot it with. The targets are available for download on this site.
Fiocchi Defense Dynamics, 115-grain FMJ.
Not bad… the red dot helped.
Fiocchi Range Dynamics 115-grain FMJ.
This ammo is designed to be sold for a little less, but it still works very well for practice.
Lee 124-grain cast RN over 4.8 grains of Long Shot. Looks like I carved a “W” into the paper, even though I wasn’t shooting Winchester ammo. This load will work for practice, no doubt.
Fiocchi Training Dynamics 115-grain FMJ.
All three of the Fiocchi loads were pretty much right on the money, and represent a good value in practice ammo.
I have no doubt that the SpringfieldHellcat RDP will digest whatever 9mm ammo I can stuff into its magazine… my test is my handload. If a gun likes that, there’s usually no factory load it won’t work with.
Hex Wasp Red Dot
Of course, the Hex Wasp red dot was an invaluable aid in shooting and fast target acquisition. I have become a red dot user, since I have access to them for testing. I’d never used one before due to the cost factor. Prices have come down, which makes them available to more shooters.
I like the Wasp form factor and size. Stick the gun in a good holster and you don’t even know it’s there until you draw the gun and put the “dot” on the target.
Another plus – it’s always on. It boasts, from what I can tell, a 65,000 hour battery life… that’s almost 7 and a half years! It’s rugged and it works.
The adjustments are fine and they work well. It came co-witnessed to the iron sights so not much adjustment is required. The co-witnessing is nice, as you have double verification of your aim point.
Muzzle Compensator: Thumbs Up/Down?
Recoil was not a factor in my shooting – the way the gun fits my hand tends to help with any problems I might have in shooting it, but there’s another reason recoil was reduced…
I attribute at least part of that lack of felt recoil to the comp. Even though the ports are “straight: up/left/right”, it did help soften any kick.
The ports let the muzzle stay pretty much where it started out – isn’t that what they’re supposed to do? I give it a thumbs up, especially over shooting an un-comped Hellcat.
All in all, my shooting experience with the RDP was (and is, every time I shoot it) excellent. I enjoy shooting this gun. The extras make it very nice to take to the range and help to insure my time will be well-spent.
What Other Guns Are Out There?
I can’t talk about the Springfield Hellcat RDP without mentioning some of its competitors. It is one of the more expensive options which opens up the floor to several competitors:
- Sig Sauer P3656 – This $599 gun started the micro 9mm/higher capacity craze. Even though the stock version holds one round less, it is still a viable alternative. My home state police agency adopted this gun as a backup to their Sig P220s.
- Smith & Wesson Shield Plus – The new $553 S&W Shield Plus is a popular gun right now. With 10-round and extended 13-round magazines, this gun is the logical offshoot of its single stack predecessor.
- Taurus GX4 – This $392 gun is the latest entry into this specialized market. It exhibits a completely new design with some excellent build characteristics. This 9mm may well be the sleeper micro 9mm of the year. It comes standard with two 11-round magazines. You can buy 13-rounders, night sights and other accessories online with ease.
Of course, none of these other guns will include a red dot and compensator out of the box like the RDP does. This is a huge advantage for the Hellcat. Not only do you not have to install a red dot from scratch, the one that’s on it is already co-witnessed with the iron sights as mentioned above. Plus, you don’t need shims because the compensator self-indexes.
With the Springfield Hellcat RPD you have a definite winner-winner-chicken-dinner.
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There are some very nice accessories out there for the Hellcat that are available now. I don’t have to list a red dot for it, nor a threaded barrel/compensator since those are already included. I’ve already mentioned the 15-round magazine, so let’s talk about a holster or two. Here is one that works, one that was a recommendation by my friend at Springfield Armory. (I’m left-handed, so my options are limited).
Here’s the Pegasus holster, from DeSantis (otherwise known as the Veiled Partner). Listing at $59.99, it’s a good way to tote your RDP around. You can get it as an IWB holster; the one shown here is OWB and in left hand.
Another IWB holster option is the N82 OT2 Micro IWB holster. This is a new model that I just received yesterday and should sell well, from my experience with it. My Hellcat rides around easily in it, and it is comfortable with its large backing pad and suede next to your skin. For around $40, you could sure do worse. The clip allows cant adjustment, and the elastic “shell” allows you to use this with more than one gun – it also fits my new Taurus GX4 well. (It should fit any gun in the size range of the ones I’ve mentioned here). Here it is:
The only downside to an elastic-based holster is you must remove the holster to replace the gun in it, after you draw. But, this one is sure comfortable to wear.
There are other accessories out there for a Hellcat, but I could chase my tail for hours listing them all. Suffice it to say that the Hellcat is one popular gun and many companies make third-party items for it.
To wrap this review up, let me say that the Hellcat RDP fills a void in the concealed carry market. That void is an already-tricked-out carry gun with important accessories factory-installed.
We have seen the value of a red dot on pistols. Those sights are popular with many people but they’re especially popular me, as I age. My eyes don’t like focusing on more than one plane at a time anymore, so the red dot is very welcome.
The compensator is a no-brainer to keep the muzzle down as you deliver fast follow-up shots and doesn’t detract from the ability to conceal the gun well.
If you are in the market for a micro 9mm, check out the Hellcat. If you go that far, you should go all the way and get yourself the Rapid Defense Package.
I don’t think you’ll regret it. If you own a Hellcat (and especially if it’s the RDP model), let us hear from you below. As always, keep ‘em in the black and stay safe!