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Springfield Armory’s Echelon 9mm: A comprehensive review

Does the Echelon live up to the hype? We examine its design, safety features and field performance to find out

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Springfield Armory released the Echelon 9 mm Luger handgun in 2023 as its premier striker-fired pistol. The company’s marketing department spared no expense getting the word out and we were bombarded with “initial impression reviews.” Now that the influencer traffic has faded and the initial reviews have come and gone, is the pistol living up to expectations?

Springfield Armory Echelon design and features

The Springfield Armory Echelon is made in Croatia by HS Produkt. Springfield worked closely with HS Produkt to include design features consumers want in a modern service pistol.

The frame’s rearmost section overhangs the tail end of the slide in an abbreviated beavertail to help keep meaty hands away from the slide as it reciprocates. The slide is notched with widely spaced grasping grooves both fore and aft. The grooves taper in and then flare as they go, creating “wings” that aid in retracting the slide with gloved or wet hands. Iron sight dovetails are borrowed from the Springfield XD. No need to reinvent the wheel here.

Factory sights are the buyer’s choice of either a fairly traditional set of tritium three dot or a tritium front with a painted U notched rear. With either option, the rear sight is squared off as an anchor point for one-handed manipulation. Slide release and magazine release controls are fully ambidextrous and mirrored on both sides of the handgun.

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The Springfield Armory Echelon

Photo/Andrew Butts

Modular design

The Echelon is a modular design with the steel chassis (what Springfield calls the central operating group or COG) being removable from the polymer grip section. The polymer grips are available in small, medium and large sizes and then in standard or aggressive texture format. These grips also have removable backstrap inserts so the overall size can be further tailored to the individual user. The Echelon ships with the standard texture medium grip. Additional grip modules can be purchased directly from Springfield Armory. Springfield has introduced tan and green options too for those preferring another color option.

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The Echelon uses an active firing pin block safety as seen here above the firing pin.

Photo/Andrew Butts

Optics and safety

The Echelon’s slide is optics-ready using what Springfield calls the VIS (variable interface system) to attach optics. The slide is drilled and tapped for several different optic footprints. It is also machined to accept different mounting bosses that serve as recoil lugs. Screws and bosses can be used in various combinations that should accommodate most any optic. Additionally, Springfield sells an adapter plate to use with optics built for the Aimpoint ACRO footprint. Other plate options are available from CHPWS for those wanting to use something like a Holosun 509T or the new CHPWS Duty XL. Be aware that some taller sights may be needed depending on which optic is used.

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The Springfield VIS can be used with many different optics. Shown here is the Aimpoint ACRO adapter.

Photo/Andrew Butts

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The ACRO plate fits nearly seamlessly to the slide.

Photo/Andrew Butts

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Viridian RFX44 mounted to the Echelon using the ACRO adapter plate.

Photo/Andrew Butts

Springfield is using redundant features to make the Echelon as safe as possible. The trigger has a small blade or tab inside the trigger that blocks its rearward path unless the tab is fully depressed. The Echelon also uses a mechanical block in the slide that keeps the striker from going forward unless the trigger is pressed.

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The Echelon’s trigger is tabbed to help prevent unintended movement.

Photo/Andrew Butts

Lastly, the Echelon has two sear engagement points. One is the primary sear that releases the striker as the trigger is pressed. A secondary sear sits on top of the primary sear and is there to catch the striker should the primary sear fail somehow and release the striker prematurely. Few, if any, competing designs have incorporated all these safety features in one handgun.

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The primary and secondary sear surfaces.

Photo/Andrew Butts

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The primary sear being depressed with a pen. Note the secondary sear does not move.

Photo/Andrew Butts

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The secondary sear cannot be fully depressed unless the trigger is pulled.

Photo/Andrew Butts

Real-world testing

In addition to the mechanical safeties built into the design, the Echelon does not require any trigger manipulation for routine disassembly. Furthermore, the pistol’s disassembly lever cannot be rotated to the unlocked position unless the slide is open nor can it be rotated if a magazine is in the pistol. This should help prevent the unfortunate but all too common error of trying to field strip a pistol without unloading beforehand.

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The disassembly lever cannot be rotated unless it is lined up with the corresponding notch in the slide.

Photo/Andrew Butts

To test the VIS, a Viridian RFX44 was installed using the Springfield ACRO adapter. The RFX44 is an enclosed emitter optic and is a new, slightly narrower version of Viridian’s previous RFX45. The Viridian’s electronics are in the top of the optic thereby allowing the optic window to sit lower on the slide. This means taller sights were not necessary even with the added thickness of the ACRO adapter plate. One somewhat novel feature of the Viridian is its use of a green dot. The human eye is more sensitive to green so the dot, in theory, should be easier to see under adverse lighting conditions.

Performance and reliability

Over the course of several months, I fired 2,000 rounds through the Echelon with no cleaning or maintenance aside from an initial cleaning when the gun came out of the box. I fired everything from frangible ammo made by Sinterfire and PolyFrang, duty ammo from Speer, Federal and Hornady, and remanufactured ammo from Wilson Combat and Stand 1 Armory. I also used domestic and imported practice ammo with brass, aluminum and steel casings. I even burned up some old cast lead bullet reloads.

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Firing residue in frame after firing 2,000 rounds.

Photo/Andrew Butts

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Firing residue in slide after firing 2,000 rounds.

Photo/Andrew Butts

Somewhere near 850 rounds, when using these reloads, the pistol failed to eject. Immediate action cleared the malfunction. Two more ejection failures occurred immediately after. Testing stopped and the gun was inspected for mechanical failure. Nothing appeared to be damaged or broken. It was my belief at that time that a small piece of grit or debris impeded full movement of the extractor. Testing continued for another 1,050 rounds without any issues. Then, during the last few mags, the pistol failed to eject again. It turns out that casings have been hitting the front of the optic as they are expelled from the gun. Could cases be getting occasionally knocked back into the pistol as they bounce off the optic? Additional testing with a different optic on the slide is needed.

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Marring to the glass and optic housing caused by ejected cases.

Photo/Andrew Butts


The Echelon seems both reliable and accurate which are, obviously, critical in a defensive handgun. Ergonomics seem good although that is subjective. Some people will like the way the Echelon feels and handles and some won’t. Others won’t have a preference either way. All these camps would probably be happy with the Echelon with some familiarity training. The only thing at this point I’d recommend is keeping an eye on the VIS. The mounting hole on the right is drilled clear through, exposing the extractor spring. Care must be taken to avoid using a screw that’s long enough to contact the spring. Also be sure to avoid getting thread locking compound into the spring channel. This open screw hole would seem to be the VIS’s Achilles heel.

Safariland currently offers two duty holsters for the Echelon. Concealment holsters are available from BlackPoint Tactical. We used the Safariland 6390RDSO and Blackpoint Leather Wing with good results. Other manufacturers are releasing holsters as the gun gains in popularity.

Adoption and future prospects

The Echelon has already been adopted by several law enforcement agencies and numerous other agencies have placed the Echelon on approved duty lists. There is no doubt other departments are evaluating it as this is written. How successful will the Echelon be in a fairly saturated police handgun market? Springfield’s timing seems good with a competing design suffering from lingering concerns over safety. Now all Springfield needs to do is support the pistol with more barrel, slide and frame options that capitalize on the Echelon’s modularity. Surely midsize and compact versions are on the way. Come on, Springfield!

I would like to thank Hornady Manufacturing, Wilson Combat, Global Ordnance and SG Ammo for their generosity in assisting with this project.


  • Caliber: 9 mm Luger
  • Barrel: 4.5" 1:10 twist
  • Weight: 23.9 oz w/ flush mag, 24.3 oz w/extended mag
  • Overall width: 1.2"
  • Length: 8"
  • Height: 5.5" w/ flush mag, 6.5" w/extended mag
  • Magazines: (1) 17-round, (1) 20-round
  • MSRP: $679.

Available to qualified buyers via Springfield’s FIRSTLINE pricing program.

Andrew Butts has served as a soldier in the Army National Guard and also served as a correctional officer in Montana, and recently retired from a federal law enforcement agency. Butts currently holds an Expert classification in IDPA and an A classification in USPSA in both Limited and Single Stack Divisions.
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