Does the Hellcat Have a Safety? As Much as You Might Want

By Will Dabbs, MD
Posted in #Guns
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Does the Hellcat Have a Safety? As Much as You Might Want

March 13th, 2020

6 minute read

There’s a lot to love about Springfield Armory handguns. I have access to literally everything the industry produces, yet it is Springfield Armory iron that rides underneath my scrubs.

One of the recurring questions I receive is does the Hellcat have a safety? Depending on your perspective, the answer is both yes and no. The Hellcat sports a variety of intrinsic safety mechanisms. Nowadays, however, the Hellcat can be had with as much or as little manual mechanical safety as you might desire as well. Perhaps an in-depth explanation is in order.

Side view of trigger safety on the Springfield Hellcat
The micro-sized 9mm Hellcat offers shooters a reliable and powerful compact EDC pistol.

Hellcat Safety Features

The impressive new Hellcat packs a full fourteen rounds of 9mm firepower (with the extended 13-round magazine, included along with the standard flush-fit 11 rounder) into the same volume lesser guns might use to tote half that. If you really want to turn capacity up, add a Hyve magazine extension to squeeze 1-3 more rounds into those mags.

Comparing the grip safety of the XD-M to the safeties on the Hellcat pistol
Springfield Armory pistols such as the XD-M Elite Precision 5.25″ (left) feature a grip safety, while the Hellcat (right, shown with 13-round magazines installed) does not.

While many other Springfield Armory pistols sport a grip safety, the ultra-compact Hellcat does not. The lack of a grip safety, however, in no way means the Hellcat is unsafe. It is simply that the gun’s redundant mechanical safeties are tucked away inside where you can’t readily see them.

In fact, the Hellcat is proving to be a very popular CCW firearm for civilians, as well as a great back-up gun for law enforcement. I recommend reading Massad Ayoob’s piece on the Hellcat as the best backup gun for police, and the amazing story about the two married off-duty officers who stopped a robbery a Raising Cane’s restaurant.

3/4 view of the Hellcat showing the face of the trigger safety
A bladed safety on the face of the Hellcat’s trigger ensures it cannot be depressed until you place your finger against it.

The Power of Engineering

The Hellcat’s primary manual mechanical safety visible on the outside of the Hellcat is built into the trigger. This modest blade serves the same purpose as did manual safeties on combat handguns of yesteryear.

Keep your finger clear of the trigger, and the gun is on safe. Put your finger inside the triggerguard and place your finger on the trigger, and the safety comes off automatically.

Woman drawing Hellcat pistol from concealment
Despite holding up to 14 rounds of 9mm, the Hellcat is slim and trim enough for unobtrusive carry.

You’ve got to keep your finger clear of the trigger until you are ready to fire, but that is the reason we train. If you don’t already own one, I’d recommend looking at the Mantis X10 Elite shooting performance system to improve your training.

The Hellcat even has little textured finger pads on the sides of the frame upon which to rest your trigger finger when you’re not actively throwing rounds downrange.

This trigger safety is standard equipment on most but not quite all popular defensive pistols produced today. Its effectiveness is well-established. You keep your finger clear of the trigger when you don’t need to be prickly, but such discipline is a prerequisite for embracing the responsibility of carrying a firearm. The real magic, however, takes place inside the gun.

Side view of the Hellcat clearly shows the grip without a safety
Textured pads are located above and forward of the trigger, giving you a location to place your finger when it is not on the trigger.

A Heart for Safety

In my world firearms are fun, fellowship, security and vocation. However, for all their undeniable mechanical elegance, at their hearts, defensive firearms are designed to stop a threat. It behooves us to treat them with respect.

No matter how safe you are with a firearm, there is always the chance that it can be dropped. For those rare times when a gun might strike the ground, you want that thing in a non-negotiably safe state. The Hellcat has you covered.

Inside of Hellcat slide showing where the firing pin block safety is located
The silver protrusion (above) sticking up from the frame moves a firing pin block (the silver cylinder just to the rear of the breechface in the slide) clear when you press the trigger.

Disassemble the Hellcat and turn over the slide. You will notice a shiny silver cylinder just to the rear of the breech face.

Now take a glance at the frame and note the sizable steel protrusion that sticks up on the right. That cylinder is a spring-loaded firing pin block that locks the firing pin away from the cartridge in its default position.

That protrusion I mentioned slides forward when you pull the trigger and disengages the firing pin safety automatically. None of these critical operations requires any conscious thought.

Rear shot of Hellcat handgun
Combining compact dimensions and impressive firepower, the Hellcat is simultaneously safe and capable.

Grand Scheme

Practically speaking, this means that as your Hellcat sits inert on the tabletop or in your holster, the firing mechanism is locked out via two independent safety systems. The firing pin cannot contact the primer unless the trigger is pulled, and the trigger cannot be pulled unless your finger first disengages the blade safety within the trigger face.

Think of it like an automatic two-stage redundant thumb safety on a 1911 that disengages without conscious thought only when you squeeze the trigger. In the Springfield Armory Hellcat, you find the absolute state of the art in both reliability and automatic safety systems. But now there’s more.

Man holstering Springfield Hellcat handgun without a thumb safety
Your Hellcat’s multiple safety mechanisms ensure it is safe for carry, yet ready for deployment at a moment’s notice.

Fresh New Options

Nowadays Springfield Armory offers the Hellcat with yet another layer of mechanical safety for those who desire it. Most every cop in America carries a gun with the sorts of automatic safety mechanisms described above, and they do just fine. However, some of us are just a bit more comfortable with a manual switch. The Hellcat’s new optional low-profile ambidextrous manual thumb safety operates in the same manner and location as that of a 1911.

Hellcat pistol with manual safety
The new Hellcat RDP has an optional manual safety for anyone desiring another level of handgun security.

This unobtrusive lever is reproduced on both sides of the gun and offers a little extra peace of mind, particularly for civilian concealed carriers. Use it if you want, or leave it off and ignore it if you don’t. It’s there if you need it, and I like the option.

I work closely around kids, and I prefer the manual safety myself. The manual safety lever is indeed one more thing you have to address should you ever need your Hellcat for real, but that’s yet another reason we train. I find that disengaging the safety as part of the draw process is both intuitive and fast.

Reliable Partner

With the Hellcat, you get a defensive tool that is as reliable as a tire iron yet remains utterly inert until you put your finger on the trigger and squeeze. Just as you would with any firearm, you still have to respect the cardinal rules of gun safety religiously. Don’t know the rules? Check out our article on the rules of gun safety.

However, combined with its small size, prodigious magazine capacity and combat U-notch sights, the Hellcat also provides you with an utterly safe firearm that can be counted upon to be there when you need it — and also be stone silent and safe when you don’t.

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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.

Will Dabbs, MD

Will Dabbs, MD

Will was raised in the Mississippi Delta and has a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After eight years flying Army helicopters, he left the military as a Major to attend medical school. Will operates an Urgent Care clinic in his small Southern town and works as the plant physician for the local Winchester ammunition plant. He is married to his high school sweetheart, has three adult children, and has written for the gun press for a quarter century.

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