Hellcat: 20K Rounds & Counting!

By Paul Carlson
Posted in #Guns
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Hellcat: 20K Rounds & Counting!

July 1st, 2020

2:34:42 runtime

The Springfield Armory Hellcat is the smallest highest-capacity micro 9mm handgun available on the market. But, this isn’t new information for anyone that has been paying attention to the concealed carry handgun market. The Hellcat truly is tiny considering its 11+1 capacity (13+1 with the included extended magazine and 14+1 with the Hyve extension for the Hellcat), and is very easy to carry and conceal.

Hellcat on a bed of 20,000 pieces of fired brass
The Hellcat has proven to be an amazing performer, running through 10K rounds in the first test and taking on 10K more in this test.

When I think about the word small, I think of words like slight, modest, delicate, meager, etc. Frankly, none of these words conjure up an image of a robust and capable tool. And none of those words accurately describe the reliability, shootability and durability of the Hellcat.

20,000 rounds of 9mm ammo stacked
Federal Premium Ammunition provided 10,000 rounds of American Eagle 9mm 124-gr. FMJ. It performed flawlessly.

So, you could say that the Hellcat is a bit of a paradox. Simply put, the Hellcat is small, but also mighty. How do I know this? I found this out firsthand when a group of four other shooters and a support crew joined me to send 10,000 rounds through a Hellcat in a single day.

Hellcat used in the test on top of the test ammo
Paul got his hands on the original 10K round Hellcat for his 10K test of the gun.

Impressive, right? What if I were to tell you that this was the second 10K for this exact gun?

Some Background

In November of 2019, Clay Martin and a crew of shooters ran 10,000 rounds through a Springfield Hellcat with the serial number AT234795. (See the original 10K-round Hellcat test on this gun.)

Shooters with the Hellcat to be tested
The crew. Each of us shot approximately 2,000 rounds through the Hellcat in a marathon range session.

Of course, the pistol performed great with no parts breakages and only a minimal maintenance schedule. Admittedly, 10,000 rounds is impressive for any gun, and especially for a small carry gun which isn’t usually expected to perform at the durability level of a full-size duty gun.

So, I was curious if that Hellcat was up to another 10K rounds. So, I reached out to Springfield Armory and they were game for letting me try it out.

Shooters with the Hellcat after testing
By the end of the day, the shooters were pretty spent. The Hellcat? It was still asking for more.

The Process

We modified the procedure only slightly from the way Clay ran his original 10K test. We ran five shooters of varying experience levels in rotation and peppered in a few mags from my wife and 10-year-old daughter here and there.

Hellcat banner

The gun was rapidly fired for 250 rounds consecutively. We then used an air compressor to cool the gun for five minutes by injecting air into the muzzle of the unloaded gun locked open. We selected this round count due to the warmer temperatures of our testing time as compared to when Clay ran his.

Breakthrough gun oil with a field stripped Hellcat
Paul made sure the Hellcat got a decent cleaning every 1,000 rounds.

Every 500 rounds, we did a wipe down and lubrication in addition to the cooling process. The gun was field-stripped and I made sure to wipe the crud off of the breech face, rails, barrel, etc. I used Breakthrough Clean High Purity Oil to lube the rear of the rails, barrel and barrel hood, and then gave the Hellcat 10 or so dry racks to distribute the lube per the directions in the Hellcat’s owner’s manual.

At each 1,000-round mark, we cooled the gun and then followed up with a field-strip, cleaning and lubrication. Every 2,500 rounds we cooled, field-stripped, cleaned and lubed the pistol, and replaced the recoil spring assembly.

Feeding the Fire

This kind of test doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Federal Premium Ammunition stepped up in a big way to help us to try and beat the Hellcat into submission. They supplied the 10,000 rounds of 124-gr. American Eagle 9mm.

Child loading handgun magazine with 9mm ammo from Federal
Keeping mags loaded was a full-time job. Paul had three dedicated loaders, and the shooters chipped in when they weren’t shooting.

This stuff was fabulous, and I was stoked they sent the 124. Clay tested the 115-gr. American Eagle in his go-round, and I’m glad to know that both the 115 and 124 grain are good to go in the Hellcat. Keep in mind “good to go” could be an understatement. In our test of 10,000 rounds, the ammo performed amazingly. This is quality ammo, and it proved itself on the range with us.

Compressed air cooling the pistol
The Hellcat got hot enough that it was easy to burn your hands. Paul cooled the gun with an air compressor for five minutes after every 250 rounds.

Stoic Steel

Action Target was in deep as well. We hung the paper on Action’s target stands and hit three pieces of Action’s steel, HARD! The steel was impressive as we had zero incidents of lead or jacket coming back at us, even from the 7-yard steel plate. If you’re looking for solid ammo and targets, Federal and Action get my vote.

Steel target by Action Targets
The Action Target steel took a beating. The team did shoot some paper, but the majority of the 10K rounds was shared by the three Action Target steel targets.

Dedicated Volunteers

In addition to myself, four of my shooting buddies came out to the range to punish the Hellcat. My wife and our two kids served as the pit crew and helped keep mags loaded. Eric Shafer, the owner of Black Boar Armory & Coatings, took the day off from the shop to come shoot and he also handled the transfer of the Hellcat used in the test.

Everyone put in a long day’s work to get this done, and my kids were as stoic as the Hellcat. They ran hard from 7am to 11pm without a complaint.

The Hellcat’s Performance

The Hellcat is a very shootable and reliable handgun. The 20,000 rounds through this one has proven that. We had no parts breakage or stoppages that were the fault of the pistol — or the Federal ammo. We did have a few incidences where a shooter inadvertently pressed up or down on the slide lock lever and either locked the gun open with rounds in the magazine or prevented the slide from locking back on an empty magazine.

Shooting the Hellcat with muzzle blast visible
The shooters dedicated a very long day to getting the 10,000 rounds through the Hellcat.

Needless to say, this can happen after a long day of shooting with a small gun and amounts to shooter error rather than an issue with the gun or ammo. Also, at just past 12,500 rounds, we had a round inserted backwards in a magazine. Yeah, that one did not chamber. Pit crew error.

At around 15,000 rounds, we started noticing some grittiness to the trigger and realized that our air compressor we were using to cool the gun was pushing gunk and grime back into the frame and trigger mechanism. We made sure to blow all that clean from there on out and the grittiness went away.

Shooting the Hellcat with a girl timing the event
Eric Shafer, owner of Black Boar Armory & Coatings, is shown here shooting the Hellcat on the clock.

As a result of our testing, I have no doubt that the Hellcat is ready for whatever anyone is going to throw at it on the range and while carrying concealed. Are you planning on putting 20,000 rounds through your carry gun? Do you like knowing there is one you can get that can handle it?

Final Thoughts

The Hellcat is even more capable of a gun than I first realized. I’ve never really considered small guns to be capable of what this Hellcat has accomplished. I’ve liked the Hellcat ever since I first shot my own, and now have even more faith in it. Springfield Armory has earned its keep on this one.

Final shot of the final magazine of 20,000 rounds fired through the Hellcat
Paul shooting the last magazine of the 10,000 rounds. That makes 20,000 total rounds through this Hellcat.

My wife is looking for a new carry gun. I had to send Hellcat AT234795 back to Springfield, but I have another. Well, I should say, had. Now it’s hers. I don’t think I can give a more emphatic recommendation than that.

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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.

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Paul Carlson

Paul Carlson

Paul Carlson is the owner of Safety Solutions Academy, LLC, a professional defensive shooting instructor, content creator in the firearms industry, and most importantly a husband and a father. Through Safety Solutions Academy, Paul teaches a variety of critical defensive skill courses in more than a dozen states annually. When Paul’s not traveling to teach and work in the firearms industry, you can find him with his family, either on the range or in the mountains.

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