Springfield’s Echelon 9mm

This is a rigorously tested handgun.

In today’s market a new introduction had best have some measure of innovation. The market is no longer panic driven. Firearms are actually being chosen based on merit rather than simple availability! At an average price of around $650 the Springfield Echelon pistol is fairly priced for a service grade handgun. Close competitors include the CZ P10, Glock 17, Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm and IWI Masada. Will one of these actually shooter better for you on a combat course? There is little  one will do that cannot be accomplished with another pistol in the handguns of a trained shooter. Nuances of hand fit and feel and the pistol’s innovations make it desirable.

The pistols manual is on line although we older shooters may request a print edition if you really must. The pistol is issued in a lockable box. A gun lock a 17 round magazine, a 20 round magazine, and two spare grip inserts are included.  The steel slide is nicely machined with a taper toward the forward cocking serrations and a rugged corrosion resistant finish. A U notch rear sight and tritium front are standard. My pistol has the optional three dot night version. Most optics ready handguns were re-designed to accept optics. Starting fresh the Springfield VIS system is a true innovation.  A few pistols use a direct mount but most require adaptor plates. Springfield uses a pattern of cuts in the slide under a covering plate. A set of pins for each footprint or mounting pattern allows the use of at least 30 different red dot sights. The Variable Interface System VIS is a selling point for the Springfield Echelon. Pertinent features include forward cocking serrations, a light rail, and  4.5 inch barrel. I especially like the backstrap design. It is secure but simple. Place your finger inside the magazine well and press a tab to release the backstrap. Slip another into place easy as that.

Adding a red dot sight means much more than learning  to fire  with both eyes open. There is a subtle difference in the draw and draw stroke as well as wrist tile. The low riding VIS system makes adjustment minimal. Another innovation for Springfield is the central operating group. The COG is easily removed from the frame. If the Echelon chassis concept is to pay off Springfield must offer grip modules. I think they will eventually offer different modules to enhance utilization of the Echelon.  Fieldstripping the pistol is simple enough. A take down lever is rotated to remove the slide. Pick out the recoil spring assembly and next the barrel.

Standard safety features such as the trigger lever in the case of the trigger and a firing pin block are standard. All controls operate in a positive manner. The balance of adhesion and abrasion on the grip frame are well suited to combat shooting. The sights are well designed. The pistol’s trigger action is crisp with a rapid reset. The slide lock is well designed- you will not lock the slide open unless you intend to do so. Speed loads are sharp and rapid. Firing tests have gone well. The pistol is pleasant to fire and use has been well received among friends and cohorts. I have not kept an exact count but I have a good sized bucket of spent brass despite having missed some brass on the range floor. A good bet is just under to just over 1,000 cartridges the past couple of months. There have been no failures to feed chamber fire of eject. Many of the cartridges have been the cheapest possible. Some run dirty. The pistol was cleaned around 700 rounds. Combat shooting is absolutely excellent in every regard. As for absolute accuracy I have sacrificed a number of my carefully hoarded defenses loads in testing. The Hornady Critical Defense and Critical duty loads were tested for accuracy at 25 yards. Locking into a solid barricade firing position I fired several five round groups at 25 yards. The pistol is exceptionally accurate. The Echelon is a success in testing and should serve well.

Accuracy testing

5 shot groups25 yards
Hornady 115 gr. Critical Defense 2.4 inch.
Hornady 135 gr. Flex Lock1.75 inch.
Handload 124 grain XTP/Titegroup 1200 fps2.1 inch

I fired the pistol with a good selection of ammunition ranging from the cheapest box store FMJ ammunition to premium defense loads. There have been no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject. Recoil isn’t very different between loads. This is a light kicking 9mm. A big 9mm should not kick much but this one is docile. As expected combat shooting is excellent. I fired quite a few rounds off hand at 25 yards and didn’t embarrass myself terribly trying for head shots. The pistol is a good shooter. As for absolute accuracy I leaned into the MTM Caseguard K zone shooting rest for a little help. Firing at 25 yards I used a couple of premium loads. By any standard the Speer Gold Dot 124 grain loading is one of our most proven 9mm defense loads. I also used Federal Punch, a loading with good cartridge integrity that has proven accurate in several tests. It was almost one big hole. Each put five shots into less than two inches average.

The Springfield Echelon is reliable which is the baseline for service and defense. It is also user friendly and more accurate than expected. It is well worth the money and may be the best service sized pistol available for carry and defense use.

Springfield Echelon specifications

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Magazine capacity 17 and 20, two magazines supplied
  • Height: 5.5 inch
  • Length: 8 inch
  • Width: 1.2 inch
  • Weight: 24 oz. Unloaded
  • Frame: Polymer
  • Slide: Melonite coated steel
  • Barrel length: 4.5 inch
  • Sights fixed: U Notch rear, tritium front, optional three dot tritium
  • Average retail: $675.00
  • Springfield-Armory.com