Welcome to the future.
The new Springfield Armory Echelon is a thoroughly modern pistol that incorporates all of the advancements made during the past 50 years of handgun design while introducing a brand new feature that has been sorely needed.
In this Springfield Echelon review, I will cover all of the gun’s features, introduce you to a near-universal optics mounting system and let you know how the whole system runs.
Let’s get to it.
- General Information & Features
- Springfield Echelon Specifications
- Range Testing the Echelon
- Ammunition Performance
- Final Thoughts on the Echelon
General Information & Features
As I said at the outset, the Echelon incorporates the best handgun features developed during the past five decades. Additionally, the company developed an amazing optics mounting system that I hope they license out to other companies as it should be the new standard for dealing with all of the different mounting patterns out there.
In basic terms, the Springfield Armory Echelon is a polymer-framed, striker-fired duty pistol. It’s chambered for the 9mm cartridge, the most popular handgun round in the world.
Let’s hit some of the highlights.
Echelon COG – Springfield’s FCU
A cog is an essential piece of a machine. In the case of the Springfield Armory Echelon, the COG is an acronym that stands for Central Operating Group. The Echelon’s COG is most definitely essential to the pistol’s function.
The COG is the serial-numbered part of the pistol. Like the fire control unit used by SIG SAUER in the P320, the COG is removable from the grip module. Unlike the competition from Glock and Smith & Wesson, a single COG can be fitted to any number of grip modules and barrel assemblies.
This creates a situation in which third parties could create compatible grip modules of varying sizes – more on that below. Further, you could also purchase a number of different caliber slide and barrel assemblies as they become available.
Personally, I’d like to see a carbine module developed that the Echelon COG could drop into.
Before anyone asks – it is my understanding that the COG is sized appropriately for the 10mm cartridge.
Grip modules are not a new concept, but they are an underutilized concept. Since the COG makes the Echelon a modular firearm, Springfield Armory will likely offer a variety of grip modules in the near future. Modules could be designed to offer larger sizes to fill larger hands or smaller to improve the gun’s concealability.
It is my understanding that Springfield Armory will offer three grip modules soon: small, medium and large. The Echelon ships with the medium module. The small grip module will retain the same thickness and decrease the total length of the grip by about 2mm. The large module will increase the total width by about 2mm and the overall length of the grip by about 4mm.
I genuinely hope that the company will work with third parties to create additional grip modules. Fresh thinking could introduce innovative new grip module designs.
Wilson Combat developed a grip module for the SIG P320 that is amazing. While I like the P320, the Wilson Combat module is a “must” in my book for that pistol. I’d like to see what they could do with the Echelon.
I’d also be interested in options for completely custom grip modules that are fitted to individual shooters. This could give competitors an edge in the shooting sports.
Echelon’s Slide Design
Slide design is not something that shooters frequently discuss. Yet, the Echelon’s slide deserves a bit of examination.
The sides at the rear of the slide are machined such that it has ledges to improve your ability to run the slide under pressure. This is similar to the “charging supports” on the HK VP9.
I was surprised at how much I liked the supports on the VP9. The machined ledges on the Echelon serve the same purpose, but they are a much better design than the HK. Since they are machined into the slide, they are much stronger than the polymer bits used on the VP9.
Forward of the ejection port, the slide is machined in a similar way. While I almost never run the gun using the front of the slide, for those who like press checks, they make the process sure and simple.
The third major point of conversation on the slide is the optics mount. Called the VIS, it is a (near) universal optics mount.
VIS: Universal Red Dot Integration
VIS is an acronym standing for Variable Interface System. What it does is it allows you to mount a variety of different optic footprints directly to the slide. Adaptor plates are not needed for most red dot sights. The few that are not compatible will have plates.
Springfield Armory tested and confirmed more than 30 different optics are compatible. The following optics will direct mount to the slide:
- Trijicon RMR, SRO
- Leupold DeltaPoint Pro
- Shield RMSc, SMSc, SMS2, RMSX
- Eotech EFLX
- Holosun 507C-x2, 507K, 508T, EPS
- Vortex Defender
The complete list is below:
Real Ambidextrous Controls
Springfield Armory designed the Echelon with ambidextrous controls. That includes both the magazine release and the slide stop. There’s no need to reverse the mag release – this gun is truly ambidextrous.
The slide stop has a large enough surface to use it as a slide release. I tried it with both with and without gloves – it works perfectly. No need to buy and install aftermarket parts.
Adaptive Grip Texture
The grip module has an aggressive texture to help you hold the gun without it slipping around. Called the Adaptive Grip Texture, it is the same surface treatment used on the Hellcat and Hellcat Pro.
What I like about the Adaptive Grip Texture is that it is both smooth to the touch, yet it aggressively locks the gun in the hand when you firmly hold the pistol.
As near as I can determine, the texture is made up of pyramid-like spikes with the pointy tops smoothed off. In this way, there is a great deal of friction when pressure is applied, but the surface will not abrade clothing that rubs against it while the gun is carried.
I’ve tried nearly every pistol on the market. The Adaptive Grip Texture is my favorite texture.
The Echelon has a standard capacity of 17+1 rounds of 9mm ammo. The 17-round magazine fits flush in the pistol.
Also included with the pistol is a 20-round magazine. This mag extends beyond the base of the pistol frame and gives you an additional 3 rounds on tap for an emergency.
If I was to carry this on duty, I would likely carry the pistol with a 17-round magazine in the gun with a pair of 20-rounders as my reloads. Having carried a duty gun for a significant part of my adult life, I feel like the side bolsters of the seats in many patrol cars might press against the extended magazine and make the system a touch uncomfortable.
Springfield Armory includes an additional extended baseplate so you can convert the 17-round magazine to hold 20 rounds.
The Echelon has a long list of additional features. While I hit some of the big ones above, here are some of the rest.
Scalloped Magazine Well – A double-feed is one of the worst (but fixable) malfunctions you can run into. When it happens, you frequently have to remove the magazine from the pistol. The problem is the double feed will often prevent the mag from dropping free.
To resolve this, you have to strip the magazine from the pistol. To help with this, Springfield Armory designed the grip frame with a scalloped area on the side of the pistol where it ends above the magazine. This scalloped area does not have the Adaptive Grip Texture.
The magazine baseplate does have the company’s grip texture on it, which helps you get a good grip on it when stripping it out of the pistol. My verbal description isn’t very good, but how this feature was designed into the gun is.
Backstraps – The gun ships with three different backstraps. In addition to the grip modules discussed above, Springfield includes three different sized backstraps to better fit the gun to your hands.
Oversized Trigger Guard – The trigger guard accommodates both fat fingers and gloved ones. Additionally, the guard is undercut to allow a higher grip on the pistol. With the low bore axis, the gun is well set for controlling muzzle flip.
Trigger – I like the trigger a lot. It has a safety built into the middle of it – similar to those used on the XD line of pistols. The trigger and trigger safety are all nicely radiused to eliminate any sharp edges or pinching.
Drop Safe – Perhaps due to the ballyhoo surrounding several other companies having alleged problems with accidental discharges, Springfield Armory made it quite clear to me that they tested the pistol beyond SAAMI specifications for being drop safe.
Sights – While the VIS optics mount is the real star of the party, Springfield Armory did not forget the traditional sights. Standard sights are, in my opinion, the best available on any duty pistol.
The front sight has a center tritium vial that glows in low light conditions. Surrounding the vial is a wide ring of photoluminescent material that absorbs ambient light and glows in darkness. The result is a large, bright front sight in all lighting conditions.
On the back is the company’s U-notch rear sight that makes it easy to find the front sight. Additionally, the leading edge of the sight is suitable for running the slide with one hand in an emergency.
Springfield Echelon Specifications
Here are the specifications for the Springfield Armory Echelon:
|Magazine Capacity||17 and 20, one of each included|
|Barrel||4.5″ forged steel, 5.28″ threaded optional|
|Frame||black polymer, swappable|
|Backstraps||black polymer, swappable|
|Sights||U-Dot: tritium & luminescent front sight with U-notch rear; 3-dot tritium optional|
|Weight||23.9 oz with empty 17-round mag|
|MSRP||$679 – $739|
As the company adds additional models, I will update the specs list above.
Range Testing the Echelon
I’ve said it many times, and I will repeat it now: a gun is useless to me if it is unreliable. My primary concern with a handgun is reliability. This has to be tested on the range, which is exactly what I did.
For this review, I shot more than 2,000 rounds through this pistol. The bulk of the shooting was done with Blazer Brass ammo – a mix of 115-grain and 124-grain FMJ loads.
I also ran a variety of self-defense loads through the pistol. Some of these were +P or hotter loads. Here are my takeaways:
The Echelon was utterly reliable. I had no malfunctions with any of the ammo. Not much else to say about this.
Recoil was very manageable. It’s true that the 9mm cartridge doesn’t generate the same recoil that a 10mm or .40 S&W will. Nevertheless, the cartridge can kick. Good gun design such as the low bore axis and high grip combine to make the recoil very easy to control with the Echelon.
Accuracy was excellent. The gun fits my hand extremely well which, when combined with the excellent sights, delivered very good accuracy. I found it to be at least as good as any factory, striker-fired pistol.
The trigger was good, but just shy of excellent. When I first picked up my Echelon, the trigger was gritty and subpar. Within about 50 pulls dryfiring, the trigger smoothed right out.
Having talked to others that have shot the Echelon, my experience seems to have been unique. It seems other reviewers had nothing but positive experiences right out of the box. I can only assume some small bit of grit or trash was in the system somewhere, and the dryfiring knocked it loose.
Since the initial grittiness, the trigger has been much better. At this point, the trigger is where I would expect a good duty pistol to be. It has a reasonable amount of take up with a clean break. The reset is relatively short and tactile.
Are there better triggers on the market? I think so. But, this one is not bad. It’s certainly better than the first-generation M&P pistols, and few people would argue that those were failures.
As stated above, the Echeclon was completely reliable with all of the ammo I tested in it. Here are the measurements I took during the testing.
|Blazer Brass 115-gr. FMJ||1,098 fps||308 ft-lbs|
|Blazer Brass 124-gr. FMJ||1,060 fps||309 ft-lbs|
|Federal BPLE 115-gr. JHP +P+||1,241 fps||393 ft-lbs|
|Federal HST 124-gr. JHP +P||1,202 fps||398 ft-lbs|
|Hornady American Gunner 124-gr. XTP +P||1,181 fps||384 ft-lbs|
|Hornady Critical Defense 115-gr. FTX||1,103 fps||311 ft-lbs|
|Liberty Ammunition 50-gr. JHP +P||2,055 fps||469 ft-lbs|
|Remington UMC 115-gr. JHP||1,137 fps||330 ft-lbs|
|SIG SAUER V-Crown 147-gr. JHP||977 fps||312 ft-lbs|
|Speer Gold Dot 124-gr. JHP||1,014 fps||283 ft-lbs|
|WInchester Forged 115-gr. FMJ||1,079 fps||297 ft-lbs|
All velocity measurements were taken using a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at an approximate distance of 5′ from the front end of the muzzle. All measurements are an average of five shots.
Final Thoughts on the Echelon
As I stated at the start of this review, the Echelon is the gun of the future. By that, I mean that the gun incorporates all of the best advancements in pistol technology into a single defensive tool. On top of that, it adds an all new and near universal optics mounting solution that should be the new standard for all pistols moving forward.
Beyond the features, the Springfield Echelon proved to be a solid performer. I found it reliable, accurate and just plain fun to shoot.
One of the big takeaways on this pistol is how much more I like it than the XD-M line of pistols. While the XD-M line is good, excellent really, the Echelon feels to be the first “real” duty pistol in the Springfield polymer handgun catalog.
For me, the Echelon simply fits my hand better than the XD-M ever has. It has a solid grip, innovative optic mount and a lack of superfluous grip safety.
With this gun, Springfield Armory is really winning me over. I started carrying the Hellcat shortly after it was released, and I’ve since added the Hellcat Pro – probably my favorite CCW pistol.
With the Echelon, Springfield Armory now offers me a full-size pistol that deserves equal consideration with the Glock, SIG and Smith & Wesson duty weapons. I think all are valid choices for professional work.
If you need a full-size pistol for home defense, security or law enforcement, the Echelon deserves your consideration.
There are typically a number of questions I am asked about the guns that I review. Here are some of the questions and answers that might help you.
Why is the pistol named Echelon?
I talked to the folks at Springfield Armory about the name. According to them, the name was derived from the combat formation developed by the Athenians to defeat the Spartans around 371 B.C.
During that time, Sparta was considered nearly unstoppable on the battlefield. Athens did not have the same military tradition as Sparta and needed a tactical advantage when meeting the Spartans on the field.
The diagonal formation developed by the Athenians was called an echelon, and it proved to be the tool needed to crack the Spartan war machine.
Springfield selected the name as the pistol represents a new approach intended to break the “status quo” of the gun industry’s approach to service weapons.
How much does the Springfield Armory Echelon cost?
The suggested retail price of the Echelon ranges between $679 – $739, depending on the model purchased. The model I reviewed has an MSRP of $679.
If you want a model with factory 3-dot tritium sights, the price jumps up to $719. Add a threaded barrel with the tritium sights and you hit the most expensive price point: $739.
Actual “street prices” will be substantially less once these guns saturate the supply chain. I would expect these to land in the $525-575 range for the base model.
What holsters fit the Echelon?
The Echelon is being supported right out of the gate by a lot of holster makers. Safariland and Comp-Tac are both offering duty holsters while companies like DeSantis and CrossBreed are making CCW and range rigs. Check out my Echelon Holsters page for additional details.
Where is the Springfield Echelon made?
Like the Hellcat, the Echelon is made in Croatia by HS Produkt.
Is the Echelon worth the money?
Yes. The Springfield Echelon is definitely worth the money. It offers an incredible feature set, complete reliability and fits my hand extremely well. I would happily pay full retail for one, and anything less would be a real bargain!
Where can I find a copy of the Echelon’s user manual?