My agency only authorizes duty weapons for off-duty carry. If I want to carry another pistol, I am supposed to get a CCW. There are a lot of times I don’t want to carry my full-size handgun off duty, so about a year ago, I started a personal project to decide the perfect off-duty handgun for me. Over several weeks, I listed the details on a sticky note at my desk as I thought about them. Apparently, Springfield has been snooping around my desk because when I went to the Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous in Driggs, Idaho, they handed me a gun that looked exactly like what I had envisioned.
Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP Details
First, I wanted a micro 9mm. Gone are the days when I insist on a caliber that starts with “4.” I had good reason to do so 20 years ago, but I have seen the ballistic testing and seen 9mm match or beat .40 and .45 with today’s polymer-tipped hollow-point bullets, all day long. 9mm is cheaper, has less recoil and increases my ammunition count. Someday, .45 ammunition performance may once again trump 9mm, but right now, I insist on 9mm. The micro 9mms are comfortable to carry, like my five-shot revolver, but have more than twice the ammo capacity and reload far faster and easier.
Next, it needed to have red-dot sight. I started carrying an RDS pistol about seven years ago. The learning curve was a little slow, but after six months, I was convinced it was a vast improvement over iron sights. In addition, as my eyes age, it gets harder to see my front sight clearly without glasses. With an RDS, this is a moot point. I can focus on my target.
I also want night sights as a backup in case the batteries on the RDS fail. But I see batteries go dead on red-dot sights all the time. So I check my RDS sight every morning when I pick up my gun and change out the battery whenever needed. Once I know approximately how long the batteries last, I set a reminder on my calendar to switch out the battery when it is getting close to dead. However, I still want tritium back-up iron sights just in case. I would much rather have it and not need it than vice versa.
The next feature I wanted may raise some eyebrows: a threaded barrel. Why do you need a threaded barrel on an everyday carry gun? Because I also plan to carry the smallest suppressor I can find. Something the size of Thompson Machine’s Poseidon or the Gemtech’s Aurora-II. I prefer to shoot suppressed whenever I can. If I’m in a gunfight, I won’t have time to put the suppressor on the gun. However, if I am dispatching a coyote my car hit on the side of the road while road tripping with my buddy Mike Detty to Rendezvous, I would prefer to put a suppressor on the thing, so my ears aren’t ringing for the next two hours.
Light Up the Night
Lastly, I want a powerful white light on the pistol. They have gotten small enough for everyday carry. White light is important on any tactical gun because they can blind an attacker, and they help prevent accidental shootings in low-light situations. Nothing is sadder in law enforcement than a “blue-on-blue” shooting when a cop shoots another cop. These are typically caused by cases of mistaken identity, and a good white light will prevent most of these. The same holds true in the civilian world when something goes bang in your garage, and you aren’t sure if it is someone breaking in or your buddy returning your circular saw.
I reached out to Surefire and requested one of their XSC tactical lights for this test. I’ve trusted Surefire lights for my entire career because of their superior craftsmanship and performance. The XSC was made specifically for micro pistols, and it fit great. The 350 lumen/2,000 Candela light is extremely bright. It features an ambidextrous switch with instant on/off or a tap to turn it on and leave it on. It comes with a dual charging cradle and even has a button on the battery to show how much charge is remaining. The Surefire XSC proves weapon mounted lights are no longer too bulky to be mounted on your everyday carry gun.
Hellcat RDP Pistol Details
All of the features I list above describe the Hellcat RDP (Rapid Defense Package) to a “T.” It is a micro 9mm that comes with two magazines: one carries 11 rounds and the other carries 13. It has a HEX Wasp micro RDS that comes with a lifetime warranty. The HEX Wasp is always on and, it has an auto-dimming feature when you go from sunny to dim conditions. It is machined from solid 6061 T6 aluminum and has scratch resistant, anti-glare lens. They also claim two years of battery life. With an MSRP of $299, they are not a cheap sight.
But for my life, I’m not looking for cheap; I’m looking for the best. The HEX Wasp also sits low enough that regular iron sights co-witness, instead of needing suppressor-height sights. The front sight on the Hellcat RDP has a tritium insert. Again, I don’t carry iron sights without tritium. Bad things happen more frequently in the dark, and if I need my iron sights, odds are I won’t be able to see them unless they glow in the dark.
Tame That Recoil
The most notable feature on the Hellcat RDP is the compensator that hangs off the front of the gun. Does an everyday carry gun need a compensator? Probably not. But I want a threaded barrel which means the barrel is going to stick out an extra1/2 to 3/4 inch out the front of my gun. I normally would have a thread protector on it, and Springfield includes a normal thread protector with the gun. But they started thinking, as long as we have the threaded barrel, why not put a comp on it to tame a little of that snappy recoil that afflicts every micro 9mm pistol?
Normally a comp needs to be put on by a gunsmith, so it aligns correctly. Springfield put a notch behind the threads and a spring tensioned lever that falls into that notch on the compensator. The result is you can take it on and off without any tools, and it lines itself up perfectly when the lever snaps into place.
The other features are what we have come to expect from Springfield. Great ergonomics, reversible magazine release, forward and rear cocking serrations, accessory rail for laser or light, dove-tailed front and rear irons sights, and it can be ordered with or without a frame-mounted safety lever. A flush-fit magazine base is also included for those who want to maximize concealability, as well as a slide plate in case you decide to take off the RDS and run it solely with iron sights.
The Hellcat RDP turns heads and several buddies joined me on the range to test it. Normally a micro 9mm should be tested around 7 yards. This is a hideout gun. But I knew we would just have single, ragged holes at 7 yards, so I stretched the test all the way back to 25 yards. This gun has the Hellcat Gen 2 Trigger. It is still a very standard trigger for a striker-fired pistol. It has a long initial take up and then the break is little mushy. But show me a factory combat trigger today that isn’t. This was designed for reliability under adverse conditions, not for precision shooting competitions. The gun ran flawlessly with a wide variety of ammo.
One shooter had a high grip, and he rode the slide catch with his hand, so it didn’t lock to the rear when the mag was empty, but he was the only one. I threw on an old Gemtech Trinity 9mm suppressor with some Ammo Inc. stelTH ammunition and it still ran perfectly. Your personal defense is only as good as your ammunition, so we also tested top of the line Hornady XTP (Extreme Terminal Performance) and Federal’s Combo Pack of Syntech Training Ammunition that comes with an equal amount of Personal Defense HST jacketed hollow point. The training and carry rounds are designed to shoot identically so you can practice with cheaper Syntech ammo and get the experience of how the HST will feel when you shoot it.
Conclusion: I think I found my new every day carry gun. The Hellcat RDP has exactly the features I have been looking for: a red-dot sight, a threaded barrel, high capacity, great reliability, a white light and an extremely small package. But I still need to find out who from Springfield has been snooping around my office. For more information, visit springfield-armory.com.
SPECIFICATIONS: Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP
- Caliber: 9mm
- Barrel: 3.8 inches
- OA length: 7 inches
- Weight: 19.3 ounces (empty)
- Grips: Polymer
- Sights: HEX Wasp red-dot and tritium/luminescent iron front, U-notch rear
- Action: Striker-fired
- Finish: Black
- Capacity: 11+1, 13+1
- MSRP: $899
Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP Performance
|Ammo Inc. stelTH 165 TMC||838||2.65|
|Federal Syntech Training Match 124||1,139||2.87|
|Federal HST JHP 124||1,145||2.68|
|Hornady American Gunner 115 XTP||1,090||3.03|
This article on the Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP originally appeared in the April-May 2022 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Get your copy or digital subscription at OutdoorGroupStore.com.