Springfield Echelon Review – Hands-On With the New Pistol

by Ryan Cleckner

March 29, 2024

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4.4
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The Springfield Echelon really surprised me – I thoroughly enjoyed shooting it at the range, it feels great in the hand, and it’s a pistol that I have no problem recommending.

In fact, the more time I spend with this pistol, the more I love it.

If you know me and/or GunUniversity, however, you know that we shoot straight (with guns and our opinions on guns) so I’m also going to share a couple things that I didn’t like.

So, how does the new Echelon from Springfield Armory stack up? What grade does it earn after our hands-on testing?

Read on in this Springfield Echelon review to see…

Springfield Echelon Specs

  • Caliber 9mm Luger
  • Action Striker
  • Capacity 17+1 or 20+1
  • Rear Sight U Notch or 2-Dot Tritium
  • Front Sight White Dot or Tritium
  • Slide Steel
  • Frame Polymer
  • Barrel Hammer Forged Steel / Melonite
  • Twist Rate 1:10
  • Barrel Length 4.5 in
  • Grip Width 1.2 in
  • Overall Length 8 in
  • Height 5.5 in (w/ Flush mag)
  • Weight 23.9 oz

Springfield Echelon Background

Springfield made a significant turn in their handgun offerings when they launched the Springfield XD line of pistols.

Previously, Springfield Armory was known for classic military firearms. For handguns, that meant 1911s.

However, the XD was their first modern handgun – a polymer striker-fired handgun imported from Croatia. I remember the XD before it was licensed by Springfield as the HS2000.

In early 2002, while I was still in the military, I was at a gun show with a Ranger buddy who was looking to purchase two budget 9mm pistols. He really liked the Smith & Wesson Sigma despite how much I tried to talk him out of it. I used an analogy then that I still continue to this day: buying a semi-auto pistol from Smith and Wesson is like buying a hamburger from Taco Bell… don’t do it.

As you can imagine by the fact I chose to share this story here, two days later at the range he regretted the Sigma purchase as it flat-out wouldn’t run and the “risky” HS 2000 purchase worked flawlessly and he ended up really liking it.

Later that year, Springfield Armory licensed the HS2000 from the Croatian manufacturer, HS Produkt, and imported it and sold it as the Springfield Armory XD line of pistols.

The XD line was both good and bad depending on who you asked – it was good in that it was an ergonomic budget striker fired pistol that I’ve recommended more than once to certain shooters. It was bad in that it was morphed into so many options with some non-American styling and marketing choices (grip safety, “grip zone,” etc).

Many years later, Springfield worked with HS Produkt again to bring us the Hellcat pistol, their answer to Sig’s P365. As I wrote in that review, the Hellcat is a GREAT little pistol and the only real complaint I have for the marketplace is the price was exactly the same as the p365.

This new Echelon pistol is the latest HS Produkt handgun and it shows that they’ve learned a lot of lessons from the Hellcat. It truly feels like a 3rd generation of pistol (counting the XD as the first generation).

This new Echelon is being marketed as a “duty grade’ pistol and clearly looks to be a replacement for the older XD line.

The Echelon has a lot of really cool features and I am really excited for it. Check out the features and my hands-on experience with this pistol below…

Springfield Echelon Features

1 Flared Slide

Makes it VERY easy to grip/manipulate the slide

2 VIS Optic System

Unique system fits 30 pistol optics without mounting plates.

3 Sight/Barrel Options

Available with multiple sights and a threaded barrel.

4 Picatinny Rail

For mounting lights or other accessories.

5 Chassis system with trigger-safety

Chassis system (similar to a p320) but with a double sear for safety and a bladed trigger safety.

6 Ambidextrous Magazine-release

Well-designed button size and height for the mag release

7 Multiple Frame and Backstrap Options

The chassis system allows for multiple frame options each with interchangeable backstraps.

8 Ergonomic Frame

From the beavertail to the undercut trigger guard and unique stippling texture and locations, a lot of thought went into making this a great-feeling gun.

Echelon Pistol Review –  Our hands-on opinion

This is the part about GunUniversity that I’m starting to not enjoy – when I really like (or dislike) a gun.

I am known for being critical and honest about my thoughts about products. In fact, some manufacturers are down-right scared to send me products to review.

But, sometimes I really like a gun and I just know that the internet “gun experts” out there are going to disagree (with no actual experience) and accuse me of being a shill for saying that a particular product is great. I don’t blame them – they’re either coming from ignorance (which they can’t help) or they’ve been conditioned to expect that from “gun reviews.” We pride ourselves on being the one place you can come for the good and bad of products.

It’s no better when I dislike a product, I get told that I’m clearly biased and just hating on it.

Oh well, all I can do is tell you what I think – after all, that’s why you’re here, right?

Here it goes: I really like the Springfield Echelon pistol. At the right price, this is a pistol that I have no problem recommending.

That said, I think the MSRP is too high when compared to other pistols. Much like the Hellcat, if it were $100 cheaper, it would be a no-brainer. But, at this price, it is directly competing with the best pistols in the market.

Optics Mounting System

Springfield has a new “VIS System” for mounting optics that is really cool and it makes me wonder why someone hasn’t figured this out until now.

The biggest problems with pistol mounted optics so far are competing “footprints” and mounting height.

There are a few different patterns or “footprints” to pin and screw hole locations for optics and if your pistol’s slide is set up for one footprint, it can’t accept an optic of another footprint without an adapter. We break down the different red dot footprints and what optic fits which here: Red Dot Footprint Patterns

For example, if you have a slide that is set up for a Trijicon RMR, then you won’t be able to mount a Vortex Viper. However, some pistols come with adapter plates (like the Glock MOS System). The problem with these adapter plates is that they add height to the optic and thereby make it more difficult to use standard iron sights, they add complication and failure points to the system, and you need to have the proper adapter plate on hand for everything to work.

Springfield-VIS-Pin-sets

The new Echelon uses a really cool system wherein a eccentric pins can be used in the slide to change the pin location and pattern – this allows low mounting (directly to the slide) of over 30 red dots out of the box!

Springfield VIS System
Springfield VIS Optics System

Until our industry decides on a standard footprint, this system should be used by everyone – it is really that smart and cool. It also is designed to put some slight outward pressure on the pin holes to help held optics even more securely.

We have a table that show which pin and screw combinations work for major optics here: Springfield VIS System Fitment Table.

That said, they still did include some adapter plates for some optics like the ACRO and Doctor footprints.

Chassis System

Much like the Sig p320, the Echelon has an internal chassis system – this means that the legal “firearm” is the internal chassis and not the external grip housing.

This allows a shooter to remove one grip housing and replace it with another without having to purchase an entirely different handgun. It also allows for the possibility of using the platform in sub-gun setups.

With this chassis system, what Springfield calls their COG, or Central Operating Group, it is not unreasonable to be able to have a subcompact one day for concealed carry and then snap it into a full size grip and slide for the range or competition.

Two big pluses for this COG system in the Echelon handgun: the trigger safety and the double sear.

As the pistol is fully “cocked,” it is nice to have a trigger safety – it won’t prevent all accidental discharges but it will help prevent ones caused from inertia of the trigger moving the mechanism from dropping/jostling and the double sear is an interesting back-up system should the main one fail.

Let’s cover my experience shooting the Echelon in the categories in which we use on our report cards: Shootability, Reliability, Ergonomics, Accuracy, and Value.

Shootability

In my hands, the Echelon is a flat shooting pistol!

Now, it’s no competition pistol and, yes, there’s still clearly recoil, but for a full-size polymer striker fired pistol, it is a joy to shoot.

The trigger is light and crisp and it has a short, positive reset.

I only have a few hundred rounds through it so far, but I’m planning a 1,000 round test for it (that, of course, we’ll video and share here).

Reliability

So far, the Echelon has been 100% reliable using Remington UMC 115gr ammo. We have a case of Magtech 115gr ammo standing by for our 1,000 round test.

Do you all want to see us “torture” it too? If so, let us know in the comments below.

The one issue I’ve had with the operation with the pistol has to do with my grip and the location of the slide release: most of the time, the slide doesn’t lock back on the last round and with an empty magazine when I’m shooting it.

The slide release is located rearward similar to an Sig p226 location. I actually really like this when it comes to operating the gun. The knuckle of my thumb is able to easily operate the lever.

However, being so far back, my grip and hand size makes it so that I unintentionally hold the lever down while I’m shooting. To be fair, I also end up doing this a lot with a Glock which has a far forward and inconspicuous release – so maybe it’s just me with all guns? The difference is that my support thumb usually engages this on most pistols – on the Echelon, my firing hand does it.

Springfield Echelon Grip and Slide

Ergonomics

HS Produkt and Springfield has come a long way with ergonomics since the XD series – this is a very ergonomic and well-thought-out pistol!

In fact, this might be the most ergonomic pistol of its class in the market (for my hands, at least).

The stippling is just right for me – not too rough but firm enough when you squeeze down on it. One minor complaint with the stippling is that they went a little crazy with all of the locations.

Some make sense like stippling the takedown lever which is shaped well and acts as a “gas pedal” of sorts for your support side thumb.

However, other places make no sense like the front of the trigger guard (Miami Vice?) and the forward end of the guide rod. To be fair, if I’m not going to use the forward end of the guide rod for grip, it shouldn’t matter – it just struck me as odd. Perhaps it looks better than just a smooth piece of plastic sticking out?

It is fair to say that the frame shape and the stippling locations make the Echelon look and feel like a high-end custom pistol (especially if you compare it to a very plain-looking Glock).

The slide is my FAVORITE part here. If this slide was made for Glocks and Sigs, I’d buy it and change out my current pistols.

Especially in the heat (and after main-lining coffee) my hands can get sweaty and the aggressive cuts on the slide make it VERY easy to manipulate without being so aggressive that they are too rough or catch on things.

Also, the “trench” (as they call it) forward of the ejection port is perfect for locking the slide to the rear and the flared rear of the slide gives it little cocking “ears” similar to a VP9.

I handed the pistol to my wife and asked her to lock the slide to the rear for me – she, without any real hesitation or effort, quickly locked the slide back – this is not something she can do on my Glock 19.

Accuracy

The Echelon is accurate enough.

It is not near the top of “most accurate” handguns I’ve ever shot but it sits squarely in the middle of the pack, or just above the middle.

The accuracy is good – especially for a duty pistol. This is not a “bulls-eye” pistol after all.

I will post accuracy groups when I go back out to put at least 1,000 rounds through it.

Value

This is the only part that is a hang-up for me.

Is the Echelon worth what they’re selling it for? Sure. I don’t think you’d be over-paying for the gun as I am so impressed with it.

However, considering value alone, it isn’t clear-cut that this is a winner.

If this were $100 cheaper, I think it’d be a slam dunk and a clear choice for many shooters.

At this price range however, it is clearly not in the “budget pistol” category as is competing directly with professional use pistols.

I might change my mind here after I put a lot more rounds through it. At this point, it’s not replacing my Glock as my go-to duty gun. But, who knows, maybe I’ll grow to love it and trust it even more?

Final Thoughts

I REALLY like the Echelon.

I think the Springfield Armory is bringing a great pistol to market. The ONLY hesitation I have above is on the “Value” grade.

Of course, I am basing my opinion off of only one sample of this firearm (one they sent me to borrow and test). If the production/retail versions are as good as mine, however, this is a big upgrade over an XD and I’d happily take one of these over an M&P.

One other issue that I didn’t mention above, that may just be a perceived issue and not a real one, is that the smooth plastic of the mag-well and the sharp/hard edges of the magazine can sometimes catch or hang-up on each other.

In fact, my pistol reloads are generally smooth but I find that I end up with little tiny hang-ups when I’m reloading quickly – perhaps this is just me?

Echelon Vs Other Strike Fired Pistols

It seems unfair to do this, however, the best thing I can do to give you an accurate view of my impression of this pistol is to let you know where I think it ranks among other similar pistols.

Ranked from lowest to highest in my personal overall opinion of polymer 9mm striker-fired “duty” pistols. I get it, this comparison makes no real sense because there are so many factors to compare.

However, if we were sitting around a fire sharing a beer, instead of you reading my thoughts in an article, and you asked my opinion of the Echelon versus any one of these brands/handguns, this is how I’d answer.

The Echelon is a “better” handgun than the following brands/handguns (in no particular order):

  • Springfield XD
  • Smith & Wesson M&P
  • Hi-Point
  • Ruger
  • Canik
  • IWI
  • Mossberg
  • KelTec
  • Sccy
  • Bersa
  • Taurus
  • Chiapa
  • Steyr

The Echelon is comparable to the following brands/handguns (in no particular order):

  • FN 509
  • CZ p10
  • H&K VP9

The Echelon feels a bit behind the following handguns/brands (in no particular order):

  • Glock Gen 5 Pistols
  • Sig p320

Springfield Echelon Pros and Cons 

  • Ergonomics – This pistol feels great in the hand and is great to operate
  • Reliability – So far, this pistol has been 100% reliable in my testing
  • Optics Ready – Really cool optics system (VIS)
  • Trigger – Light and crisp trigger with a short and tactile reset
  • Safe – With the trigger safety and the double sear, it should be safer than other full-cocked striker fired pistols without these features.
  • Slide Release Location – This is difficult to consider a “con” because it is so easy to use, however, I have a difficult time not riding it.

Report Card

Shootability

Over the first couple hundred rounds, this pistol is really enjoyable to shoot

A+
Reliability

The Echelon has been 100 percent reliable in our tests.

A+
Ergonomics

This might be the most ergonomic pistol in its class

A+
Accuracy

Good accuracy for what it is – a duty pistol

A
Value

Not an unfair deal but not the most value either.

A-

Our Grade

A+

Reviewed by Ryan Cleckner

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 20 Reviews

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Springfield VIS Optic Fitment Table

This table shows which optics fit on the Echelon using their VIS pin system.

Springfield VIS Optic Fitment Table

Direct Mount OpticPin SetScrew Kit
Holosun 507C-X21OEM
Holosun 507K1OEM
Holosun EPS1OEM
Holosun 508T1OEM
Swampfox Liberty1OEM
Swampfox Justice1OEM
Holosun 509T11C
EOTech EFLX2OEM
Swampfox Kingslayer1OEM
Trijicon RMR11A
Trijicon SRO11A
Leupold Delta Point Pro22A
Shield SMSc3OEM
Shield SMS23OEM
Shield RMSX3OEM
Shield RMSc3OEM
Vortex Defender3OEM
Viridian RFX3511A
Viridian RFX153OEM
Viridian RFX113OEM
Riton 3 Tactic PRD1OEM
Riton 3 Tactix PRD 21OEM
Bushnell RXS-2502OEM
Bushnell RXS-1002OEM
Crimson Trace CTS-15503OEM
SIG Sauer Romeo22OEM
Advanced Optics Stingray1OEM
Advanced Optics Raptor1OEM
Advanced Optics Spike3OEM
Advanced Optics Nuwa3OEM
Ameriglo Haven1OEM
Vector Frenzy-S3OEM

This table shows which optics fit on the Echelon using adapter plates.

Springfield VIS Optic Fitment Table (Adapter Plates)

Direct Mount OpticAdapter PlateScrew Kit
Aimpoint ACROVIS ACRO Platen/a
Steiner MPSVIS ACRO Platen/a
Viridian RFX45VIS ACRO Platen/a
Advanced Optics RD3-009VIS Doctor PlateOEM
Burris FastFire 2VIS Doctor PlateOEM
Burris FastFire 4VIS Doctor Plate1B
Crimson Trace CT RAD ProVIS Doctor Plate1B
Crimson Trace CT RADVIS Doctor Plate1B
Crimson Trace RAD 1250VIS Doctor Plate1B
HEX DragonflyVIS Doctor PlateOEM
Vortex ViperVIS Doctor PlateOEM
Viridian RFX25VIS Doctor Plate1B
Vector Frenzy-XVIS Doctor PlateOEM

Springfield Armory Echelon Video

Springfield Echelon Holsters

The Echelon is launching with holsters from these 8 manufacturers:

Springfield Armory Echelon Starter Pack

These three items are must haves for all firearms owners.

  • Eye Protection: Keep your eyes protected and check out or favorite shooting glasses!
  • Hearing Protection: These are our suggestions for hearing protection.
  • Gun Cleaning Kit: If you are going to put as many rounds through your Echelon as I hope to, you need to keep it well maintained. Check out our favorite gun cleaning kits.  

Springfield Echelon Gun Deals

Best Ammo for Your Springfield Armory Echelon Handgun

We suggest both range ammo for practice and some quality self defense ammo to use when carrying your Echelon.

Range Rounds

Magtech 9mm Ammo

Magtech 9mm 115gr

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Gun.deals $0.23

Defensive Ammo

Federal HST 9mm Ammo

Federal Personal Defense 9mm 124gr Grain HST

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Gun.deals $1.10

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About Ryan Cleckner

Ryan is a former special operations sniper (1/75 Ranger) and current firearms attorney, firearms industry executive, university lecturer, and bestselling author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook.

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