Review: 15-Round Springfield Echelon 9mm

By Richard Johnson
Posted in #Guns
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Review: 15-Round Springfield Echelon 9mm

January 29th, 2024

6 minute read

Adaptability. It’s a key survival trait in the wild and important for anyone forced to defend themselves in a more civilized world. You never know from where or when an attack may come.

15-Round Springfield Echelon 9mm
The new 15-round version of the Springfield Armory Echelon opens the gun to residents of jurisdictions where normal capacity magazines are restricted.

Adapting for self-defense can also include modifying your carry gear based on the political realities of where you live. To help folks along, Springfield Armory provides defensive weapons that help you meet the government-imposed realities of your environment.

Capacity Reality

The Echelon is a state-of-the-art defensive pistol that is suitable for home protection and duty use. As such, the gun was designed with standard 17- and 20-round magazines.

Sadly, there are some jurisdictions in the U.S. that, despite evidence to the contrary, seemingly believe the myth that restrictions on law-abiding citizens can magically reduce the violent behavior of criminals. One of the misguided restrictions placed on some lawful citizens is the requirement for reduced-capacity magazines.

15 round Springfield Echelon handgun
The Springfield Echelon handgun shares all of the same features with the 17-rounder, regardless of the magazine capacity.

Springfield Armory believes all citizens have a right to self-defense, and the company is committed to delivering high-quality firearms to law-abiding Americans wherever they have made their homes. For example, we’ve seen the new Springfield Armory California compliant pistols. The company was able to get the pistols through the Golden State’s process to get them “on the roster” for its citizens.

To help residents of Colorado and other locales with similar restrictions, Springfield is now offering the Echelon with lower-capacity 15-round magazines.

15-Round Magazines

Without a doubt, the Echelon is an impressive handgun. Loaded with features, the 9mm pistol is a real standout in a market filled with good options. You might be wondering if any features were deleted from the gun for additional legal compliance concerns. Nope.

15 round magazine for echelon
The 15-round magazine for the Echelon has witness holes to help you identify how many rounds are currently loaded.

None of the gun’s features were neutered, modified or deleted. While the reduced capacity 15-round magazines may be required where you live, you get the same top-tier handgun the rest of the country enjoys.

[Read Massad Ayoob’s review of the Springfield Armory Echelon.]

Spare Magazines

Springfield ships this Echelon model with two 15-round magazines. For many people, that is enough. However, I like to have no fewer than five magazines for any handgun I own. For a gun I rely on for defensive use, I will buy 10 or more as they can take a beating in regular training.

low capacity magazine for echelon
The 15-round magazines worked flawlessly for the author in his testing and evaluation.

The company does offer additional 15-rounders. Even though they required additional development and tooling, Springfield does not charge you extra to cover that cost. The suggested retail price is the same for all Echelon magazines.

Should you move to a jurisdiction without arbitrary magazine limits, the pistol is 100% compatible with the standard capacity 17- and 20-round magazines. If you get pulled into a jurisdiction that limits capacity to 10 rounds, Springfield also offers those at the same price as the rest.

The Guns

Springfield Armory has two Echelon variants that will be shipping with the new 15-round magazines. One model uses the company’s excellent U-Dot sights while the second model uses three-dot tritium sights.

Both pistols are chambered for the 9mm cartridge. While the .45 ACP, .40 and other rounds are also good choices for defensive use, there is no doubt that the 9×19 round is the most popular centerfire handgun cartridge in the United States. It makes perfect sense that a company would launch a new pistol chambered for this round.

Springfield Echelon in leather holster
As seen here, there is no difference in dimensions between the 15-round and 17-round Echelon magazines.

These are full-sized handguns. The 4.5” barrels are, in my opinion, a perfect size for both duty and defensive use. Springfield Armory uses steel barrels that are hammer forged with a 1:10” twist. Each has a Melonite finish to improve resistance to corrosion — a must for a weapon carried in all kinds of weather conditions.

[Read more about modern gun coatings here.]

The same Melonite finish is used on the billet machined slide. But that’s not the most interesting thing about the slide. In my opinion, the best feature is the Variable Interface System for attaching optics. The Variable Interface System uses a special slide cut with moveable pins that allow for the direct mounting of a wide variety of red dot sights. I’ve tried this system with a range of optics, and it works exactly as advertised.

Central Operating Group

Another fascinating feature of the Echelon is the use of the Central Operating Group. This is a collected group of parts that is self-contained and includes the primary operating components of the handgun. It is also the part considered the “firearm” by the BATFE.

Springfield Echelon EDC gear
If you are saddled with a magazine capacity limit of 15 rounds, the new Echelon models will meet your needs.

Since the Central Operating Group is the serialized part, the polymer grip module can be swapped out for different sizes and colors without the need for additional paperwork or background checks. Currently, there are small, medium and large grip modules. All are in black, and each module has an accessory rail for a light or laser.

I have no special insight into the company’s plans for the gun, but I sincerely hope there are additional modules in the works. Grips in different colors, cuts and textures would be a welcome addition to the line. I’d love to be able to swap in an OD green or desert tan frame without needing to buy a whole new handgun.

In Control

Springfield made the wise decision to use its Adaptive Grip Texture on these guns. This is the same texture that proved to be an excellent performer on the Hellcat line of pistols. I’ve found the texture really grips your hand without feeling harsh.

As a former cop in Florida, I spent a lot of time in the rain. Even if it wasn’t raining, it was almost always hot and humid. I would have really appreciated having this texture on my duty gun as it would have improved control under recoil.

drawing Echelon from IWB holster
While the lower capacity requirements imposed by various government jurisdictions are very frustrating, don’t let them impact your decision to protect yourself.

When talking about control and the Echelon, I would be remiss if I failed to discuss the ambidextrous slide stop and magazine release. These allow shooters to operate the gun equally well regardless of which hand is their primary.

And, the guns are truly ambidextrous. I’ve seen some manufacturers try to claim a handgun is ambidextrous when they really mean the controls can be moved from one side to the other. These Echelon pistols have all of the controls on both sides of the gun.

Beyond the standard controls, Springfield included new controls, of a kind, in the slide. At the rear of the slide are flared “shelves.” Part of the slide for complete durability, these flared portions give your hand a stop against which to brace when operating the slide. Similar to the grip texture, these parts increase your ability to reliably run the gun under pressure.

Final Thoughts

These pistols are the best new duty gun on the market in my opinion. The awards from the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers, Guns and Ammo and other organizations tend to bolster that view. Even so, there are political challenges that this gun — and all guns — face.

Springfield Armory Echelon low cap magazine
Springfield Armory continues to support citizens in all jurisdictions, and the new 15-round Echelon pistols are an example of this commitment.

Arbitrary restrictions on firearms promise a panacea for crime to the uninformed. Actual solutions require a lot more work and will be politically difficult for many. Until Americans demand better, we are saddled with various and sundry restrictions on our arms.

As I stated earlier in the article, Springfield is committed to supporting lawful gun owners in all jurisdictions. While an artificially reduced magazine capacity is not ideal in any context, it is a hurdle that many people are stuck with. If you live in one of these jurisdictions, this pistol is an amazing option for your consideration.

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

Product prices mentioned in articles and videos are current as of the date of publication.

Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

Having made many odd choices in his youth, Richard was left with two career choices: aerospace engineer or cop. After failing his second year of chemistry, Richard pursued a law enforcement career where understanding covalent bonds was not a requirement for success. Along the way, Richard discovered a passion for writing. Consequently, he hung up his uniform and now publishes where he reviews firearms and other shooting gear to feed his frequently annoyed family.

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