When it comes to a self-defense handgun, there is no higher priority than reliability. And what I’ve found when it comes to the Hellcat family of pistols is that reliability is simply a given. I had the pleasure of taking a single Hellcat to 20K in an extremely demanding torture/survival test. The result? I had a gun at the end of that test I would have been comfortable sticking in a holster and carrying right then. Plain and simple, the Hellcat family of pistols simply run, and can handle a lot of abuse.
As important as reliability is, I think we sometimes miss the idea that a gun and its ammo must also be compatible. In smaller guns with tighter geometry, this can be even more important to confirm. It is sometimes helpful to make an analogy between guns and cars. You can have a perfectly capable vehicle, but if you match it with the wrong fuel it’s going to fail. Put the most expensive premium unleaded in your diesel truck, and you’re going to have a problem.
The same can be true with your defensive handgun. It’s important to confirm that your gun and the premium defensive ammo of your choice are compatible. So, I reached out to my friends at Springfield and let them know that I wanted to experiment with this exact question, and I wanted to try it with the Hellcat Pro. Next, I reached out to True Shot Gun Club, a great source for ammunition. Fortunately, both were on board.
The compatibility test in concept was simple. I would run anything and everything in 9mm I could get my hands on through a pair of Hellcat Pros to see what worked and what didn’t. I would mix ammo within magazines so the gun would not be firing only one type at a time.
Here is how we did it.
First, The folks at True Shot Gun Club supplied us with an extremely wide variety of 9mm ammunition (supplemeted with some loads from my personal supply to increase the variety further). It was made up 2,500 rounds of ammunition, with 13 different brands and 21 different loads, in both standard pressure and +P loadings.
Projectiles weights ranged from 65 grain to 165 grain and everything in between. Advertised velocities ranged from 800 feet per second (fps) all the way up to 1,800 fps. Projectiles were made up of full metal jacket (FMJ), truncated cone, jacketed hollow point, solid copper machined and even injection-molded rounds. Cases were of brass, nickel-plated brass, aluminum, steel, and even some two-part stainless cases.
Next, I took all that ammo and divided it in half. Splitting it resulted in two equal 1,250-round groups. Each half was made up of the same number of every specific round I had on hand. Since this was not a pure volume of ammo test like the 20K round test, I decided to split the ammo up between two samples of the gun to increase our sample size and make sure that it was not just one gun that could potentially beat this test.
I emptied each 1,250-round batch into a labeled ammo can to make sure each gun was running from the same batch of ammo throughout the test. I also shook the can with vigor to ensure the rounds were evenly spread out in the batch.
Finally, I shot. I simply loaded up 18 of the 15-round magazines I had on hand and ran them. I’ll be honest, the shooting wasn’t easy (more on that in a bit). Several of the rounds had some stout recoil, so I limited my shooting to a total of 540 rounds per range session, 270 through each Hellcat Pro.
When it came to the guns themselves, all I did was shoot them. No fancy cooling protocol, no cleaning, no lubrication. I plain shot them. In fact, one of the two Hellcat Pros is my personal carry gun. When I was finished, I simply loaded it back up with my carry ammo and went about my day.
Ammo Used in the Hellcat Pro Testing
- Ammo Incorporated 115-gr. TMC
- Ammo Incorporated 124-gr. JHP
- Ammo Incorporated stelTH 165-gr. TMC
- Black Hills Ammunition 124-gr. JHP
- Black Hills Ammunition +P 100-gr. HoneyBadger
- CCI/Blazer Ammunition 115-gr. FMJ (brass case)
- CCI/Blazer Ammunition 115-gr. FMJ (aluminum case)
- CCI/Blazer Ammunition 147-gr. TMJ CF (aluminum case)
- Federal/American Eagle 124-gr. FMJ
- Grind Hard Ammo 115-gr. FMJ
- Hornady Critical Duty 135-gr. FlexLock
- Norma Ammunition 65-gr. NXD
- Norma Ammunition 124-gr. FMJ
- NovX Ammo 115-gr. MCHP
- NovX Ammo +P 65-gr. Cross Trainer
- PMC Bronze 115-gr. FMJ
- Sarsilmaz 115-gr. FMJ
- Red Army Standard 115-gr. FMJ
- Remington HTP 115-gr. JHP
- Remington 124-gr. Golden Saber BJHP
- Speer Ammo Lawman 147-gr. TMJ
Bullet weight measured in grains. Abbreviations: bonded jacketed hollow point (BJHP), full-metal jacket (FMJ), jacketed hollow point (JHP), high terminal performance (HTP), monolithic copper hollow point (MCHP), Non-eXpanding Defensive (NXD), total metal coating (TMC), total metal jacket (TMJ), total metal jacket, clean-fire (TMJ CF).
How They Performed
The Hellcat Pros didn’t surprise me at all with their performance. Plain and simple, they ate everything I threw at them. These guns performed flawlessly under conditions that I, as a shooter, struggled with myself.
Let me explain.
The Hellcat Pro never missed a beat. It didn’t matter what round the gun had just fired and what round it was loading next. Both of the pistols just ran. Over the course of the test with all of the variables I had thrown into the mix, the guns loaded, fired and extracted every round. Every time.
But for the guy pulling the trigger, it did matter. Every time I pressed the trigger, I had a surprise waiting for me. Sometimes the recoil was almost nothing and the gun stayed flat. Other times, the recoil was significant, and the Hellcat Pro danced in my hands. The report was different. The muzzle flash varied. I found it difficult to know how much energy I needed to put into the gun to bring it back to my point of aim. I lost the dot. I over-corrected. I under-corrected. I jerked the trigger. I missed timing the recoil. This was some of the most difficult shooting I’ve done, and after only a bit more than 500 rounds I found myself worn out from the mental focus it took to shoot at my best.
I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I’m not. I’m incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to shoot 2,500 rounds like this to test out a pistol. I bring up the struggles I had with the shooting to illustrate the fact that as difficult as I found the shooting to be, the Hellcat Pro had zero problems. To the gun, the ammo simply didn’t matter.
I can say, with confidence from my experience, if the box is marked 9mm, the ammo is going to run in the Hellcat Pro. But that does not mean you should take my word for it. When you select your defensive round, go test it in your gun. That’s non-negotiable. Even if you saw yours in my list here.
Not all ammunition is created equally. When it comes to defensive ammunition, this is just as true, and it’s vitally important. You’re trusting your life to the compatibility of your ammunition, your gun and you! Start out with a known quantity. Select defensive ammunition with a track record of performance in both the FBI protocol testing and on the street.
Once you decide on your defensive ammo, I suggest picking up a decent number of rounds of the ammo you think is right for you and take it for a spin. It should run 100%. If you have a Hellcat family pistol, you should have a good idea how this is going to turn out. Test it anyway.
But there is also more to it than simply reliability. Is the ammo you picked compatible with you? Can you manage the recoil? Can you make rapid follow-up shots? Is the muzzle flash reasonable? If you are forced to shoot in low-light conditions, you want as little muzzle flash as possible.
If the answer to these questions is “yes!”, then carry on. Literally. If not, head back to the drawing board and make another selection.
I really am lucky to get to run tests like this. As difficult as the shooting was, there were lessons to be learned. There are three big takeaways that I have from this rollercoaster of 2,500 rounds through the pair of Hellcat Pros.
- Shoot your defensive ammo. This seems so obvious, but with the cost of ammo, I understand why it doesn’t happen. There is no doubt in my mind that I shoot training ammo differently than I shoot defensive ammo. The recoil impulse is different. Buy your defensive ammo in bulk annually and once a month when you go to the range expend a mag or two of the good stuff. If you ever really need it, you will thank yourself.
- Keep it consistent. If you are particularly concerned about intermediate barriers or any other anomaly you might encounter, select quality defensive ammo that will be successful in your situation. Carrying an alternating mag with one defensive round followed by an FMJ is just asking for trouble. you also invite in the frustration of dealing with two different recoil impulses.
- The Hellcat Pro is a hell of a gun. I’m not kidding. It’s pleasant to shoot (when you have a mag full of consistent ammo), it is as reliable as they come and (if experience here counts for anything) it’s compatible with just about anything you’d want to run in it.
The Hellcat Pro is the gun I choose to carry every day, and the 2,500 rounds I just put down range through it and the other Pro only helped to solidify my confidence in the Hellcat Pro as my carry gun.
Editor’s Note: Please be sure to check out The Armory Life Forum, where you can comment about our daily articles, as well as just talk guns and gear. Click the “Go To Forum Thread” link below to jump in!