Without a doubt, bigger, heavier pistols with more sight radius, longer slides, and more magazine capacity are easier to shoot. The mass of bigger, heavier pistols soaks up recoil and the bigger grip area spreads it across more surface area of your hand. We all know that when we carry our small concealed carry gun that we’re giving up a certain amount of shootability for the lighter weight, less bulk and greater ability to comfortably carry concealed. The question is, how much are we giving up with some of the better micro high cap pistols today?
I decided to see. While this isn’t a scientific test by any means, I think it is an interesting example of just how good the Springfield HELLCAT really is.
I entered the local 2 gun match twice (paid two match fees) so that I could shoot both the Springfield HELLCAT and my personal custom 2011 (double stack 1911 in 9mm with parts chosen from multiple manufacturers) that I’ve been shooting for years in sort of a head to head matchup. I ran the same rifle, a Seekins Precision AR-15 with both pistols.
There were 41 shooters in the match. Most were shooting AR-15’s for their rifle with one optic but there were a few open shooters that could use multiple optics and bipods. There is also a division called 2×4 that allows the shooter to shoot an AR-15 and a PCC (Pistol Caliber Carbine) in place of shooting a handgun (they’re shooting a 9mm rifle at pistol targets).
For a handgun, most shooters are shooting some type of hi-cap pistol with a plethora of fancy 2011 style hi-cap 9mm’s, Glock 34’s, full-size S&W M&Ps, and CZ’s. The open shooters are running red dots and compensators/muzzle brakes.
I shoot the most popular division (ST) that allows only one optic on your rifle. If you add an optic to your handgun it puts you in the open division.
Believe it or not the Springfield HELLCAT and the custom 2011 I was shooting are in the same division. If I were to have shot the OSP HELLCAT and put an optic on it, I would have been in the open division.
So, in other words, I was competing against myself for score. Targets are scored for hits and time. Missed targets receive a time penalty (they add to your time). The shortest time wins. There were no targets during the match that I didn’t hit, although some required a makeup shot, or two.
I didn’t have an outside the waistband holster for the HELLCAT and so I tightened up an old Bladetech holster I dug up and made it work.
FIRST STAGE – 2011 outperformed the HELLCAT by a large margin.
Unfortunately, I’m the wildcard, the variable; my performance can’t be the same exact every time. I often shoot better after warming up. On the first stage of the match, it was 18 degrees Fahrenheit and I’d never fired a Springfield HELLCAT, ever. My first shots ever from the HELLCAT were at a plate rack that was partially obscured by barricades and barrels at about 22 yards. It wasn’t pretty. I really believe if I could have taken a mulligan and had a do-over that I would have greatly improved on my performance with the HELLCAT on the first stage of the morning.
SECOND STAGE – In between stages I went and shot the HELLCAT into the berm to see where it was hitting. My confidence increased and I only had two makeup shots with the HELLCAT on stage two and I had two makeups up with the 2011. I might have shot the 2011 slightly faster but, still. The 2011 is a $2500 gun and the HELLCAT MSRP’s at $569. Also, on stage two there was plenty of time to do a reload and so the capacity disadvantage wasn’t a disadvantage at all. Technically there were 12 pistol shots and so if I’d known I could have done it with only one makeup shot I wouldn’t have needed to reload the HELLCAT. My 2011 holds 23+1 rounds while the HELLCAT holds 13+1.
THIRD STAGE – This was a weird stage where we began with guns empty and the magazines all had to come out of the dump box. The spinner was at an angle and you definitely wanted to be straight on with it. The HELLCAT had a disadvantage here with only a 3-inch barrel. Velocity suffered compared to the six-inch barrel on the 2011 and it took more shots to make the spinner go over. Also, the spinner was only one shot from being over when I had to do a reload. The capacity and shootablility of the 2011 here was an obvious advantage even though I didn’t perform my best with the 2011.
FOURTH STAGE – This stage encompassed a shoothouse. The pistol targets were static steel at 12-14 yards and required two hits each. There was also a plate rack at about 12 yards. I screwed up the rifle portion of the stage when I shot the 2011 but the pistol portions were very similar and by this stage, I was getting pretty comfortable with the HELLCAT. I burned through this stage and would say that I was at no disadvantage shooting the HELLCAT on this stage. I only had one extra shot on the 6 plate, plate rack at the end with the HELLCAT and I was going fast.
I’m actually extremely impressed with the HELLCAT. I shot my own reloads and didn’t have a single malfunction of any kind. I think most of my squadmates were also impressed with the HELLCAT, as I beat most of them while shooting it against their substantially bigger high cap match guns.
The texture on the grip of the HELLCAT was aggressive enough that even in 18-degree temperature I could hold on to the gun while not taking my skin off. I liked it. It reminds me of a very high-quality custom stipple job. It’s not going to “eat you” when you conceal carry it but it’s grippy enough to control recoil as you can see in the videos.
I love the sights on the HELLCAT. The front sight is extremely bright and naturally draws your eye to it. For a concealed carry gun, it’s essential that it have tritium, for low light, which it does. The rear sight is shelved with a 90-degree angle so that you can hook the rear sight and rack the gun in an emergency.
The trigger on the HELLCAT is as good as the best striker-fired factory triggers and better than most. It also improved as I shot it. It felt smoother by the end of the match. That’s saying a lot because my 2011 has a 2lb trigger that breaks like the proverbial “glass rod” (I’d love to be enlightened on the glass rod if anyone has one they could loan me to break. Where did that saying even come from?).
I really like the slide cuts on the HELLCAT. My fingers were cold all morning and the serrations weren’t too aggressive. There are serrations on the front, rear, and top of the slide.
I didn’t actually ever shoot a group. However, after getting through the first stage of the day, I didn’t have many makeup shots with the HELLCAT, which is saying something because I was going as fast as I could go and still stay in control and be safe. You don’t win by backing off on the gas. Matches like this measure speed and accuracy and the HELLCAT was sufficiently accurate to be competitive against the other 40 pistols and PCC’s at the match.
The HELLCAT ships with two magazines. A 13 round and an 11 round. There are witness holes that I found extremely useful during the match. I could instantly tell if a mag needed to be topped off. The magazines performed flawlessly and were dropped in the dusty, nasty range dirt every time I did a reload.
The magazines were extremely hard to get the last couple of rounds in when I loaded them for the very first time before shooting the first stage but got easier and easier to load the more times I loaded them.
I’m probably not going to sell my 2011 and start shooting matches with a HELLCAT. However, I am truly impressed with how well it performed with me shooting it, especially when compared with the benchmark of the 2011
With the 2011. I took 2nd in my division, 3rd overall against all divisions, including open. I was only 5 seconds off of winning the entire match. I took 5th overall against all divisions with the HELLCAT and 3rd in division, second to myself. Not bad for being rusty. I should also point out that I shot the rifle better overall in the runs with the 2011 than I did with the HELLCAT. The 2011 is definitely easier to shoot but I was surprised by how well the HELLCAT did against it.