Does the Hellcat Have a Safety?
March 13th, 2020
5 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 as I navigate life’s many resplendent ills.
Speaking of Springfield firearms, 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.
While all other Springfield Armory polymer-framed 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 (see Massad Ayoob’s piece on LE use of the Hellcat here, and the amazing story about the two married off-duty officers who stopped a robbery a Raising Cane’s restaurant here).
The Power of Engineering
The only 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.
You’ve got to keep your finger clear of the trigger until you are ready to fire, but that is the reason we train. 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.
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.
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.
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 a two-stage redundant thumb safety on a 1911 that disengages automatically 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.
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. However, combined with its small size and prodigious magazine capacity, 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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