The Truth About the Springfield Armory Echelon

The Springfield Armory Echelon hit the market a few months ago. To be honest, my first thought was “Just what we need, another polymer framed, striker-fired 9mm.” I am generally not a Springfield Armory fan. My daughter has one of their pistols, the Hellcat, as her EDC, I didn’t particularly like shooting it but she loves it.

Still, the Echelon did have one aspect that made it stand out from the crowd. It sported an interesting optics mounting system that seemed like a good idea, but it wasn’t really something making me want to run out and buy one. However, an opportunity to get one at a very attractive price, so I ended up getting one. That turned out to be a very good thing.

The Specs on the Springfield Armory Echelon

As I mentioned, the Echelon is a polymer framed, striker fired 9mm. The initial release has a 4.5-inch barrel and, at 8 inches overall, it is a full-size gun. It is very similar in size to a Generation 5 Glock 17.

 EchelonGlock 17 Gen 5
Barrel length4.5 inches4.49 inches
Overall length8 inches7.95 inches
Height5.5 inches5.47 inches
Weight with empty mag23.9 ounces24.87 ounces

The Echelon comes standard with 2 magazines. In free states, they are 17 and 20 rounds each. There are 2 possible sight configurations on the Echelon. One is a tritium front sight with Springfields U Dot rear sight. The version I bought is a 3-dot sight, all tritium. Personally, I prefer 3-dot. The flat face trigger is smooth, without a lot of mush. My trigger gauge measured the weight typically between 4.5 and 5 pounds. The reset is short, audible, and tactile. Internally, the gun has a double sear that is designed to prevent any discharge from dropping the pistol or hard blows to it.

You can see more specs and how to purchase one here.

The Ergonomics of the Springfield Armory Echelon

This is where the gun really starts to shine. I shoot a lot of Sig Sauer pistols, as well as Canik and Smith & Wesson and others. It is not easy for me to say that the Echelon may have the best ergonomics of any gun I’ve shot that sells for under $1000. But that’s exactly what I have to say. Springfield put a ridiculous amount of thought into engineering the ergonomics of this gun.

As soon as you pick it up, you feel texture. Everywhere you touch the frame is textured. It has texture on the grip, along the frame, in the front of the trigger guard, on the takedown lever, on the bottom of the trigger guard, and even on the rear slide plate. I’m not even sure why there is texture there, but it’s there. The texture itself is quite good. Rough enough to keep your grip solid in rain or sweat, but not so abrasive that it’s uncomfortable. It’s a perfect warm cup of porridge. The edges of the magazine bases have the same texture.

Built into the frame are ledges on both sides. They serve as an index point for your trigger finger when you have your finger on the frame and, if you have a thumbs forward grip, can act as a “gas pedal” to manage recoil on the other side.

Now let’s talk about the slide. It has deep, usable serrations on the front and rear of the slide. That’s nothing too special. What is different then? The front of the slide, just before the barrel, has a cut-out that makes manipulating the slide from the front super easy, barely an inconvenience. (pictured below, right) It makes press checks effortless. But wait, there’s more. The rear of the slide had a small “wing” built into it, giving you a raised surface to grab, making it easier to rack the slide. (pictured below, left) For most men, this isn’t an issue, but for smaller statured shooters, this can be a big deal. My wife finds this feature to be a game changer for her when it comes to manipulating the slide.

Ambidextrous and Simple

I am left-handed, so I always appreciate it when a gun is ambidextrous. If you’re sitting there thinking that it means nothing to you as a right-handed shooter, think again. A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Sig Academy for a class on one-handed shooting. There may be a time and place when you aren’t able to use your dominant hand to defend yourself or your family. And when I say it’s ambi, I mean it is straight from the box. Unlike my Sig Sauers, Ruger LCP Max or Glocks that I had to reverse the mag release on, the Echelon has a release that works from both sides.

Takedown of the Echelon for cleaning is simple. There is nothing tricky about it. I didn’t even read the instructions (I know, I’m supposed to). Took it apart, cleaned it, and put it back together without a single hiccup. I can’t say that’s always the same with my P320s.

The Modularity

Like some other pistols on the market, the Echelon is a modular design. At the heart of the gun is the Central Operating Group or COG. The COG is the serial-numbered part of the gun. This means you can buy one and put it into frames of various sizes and colors. It’s like grown-up Lego. This is especially of interest to people who live in states that make it difficult to exercise your 2nd Amendment rights. You essentially buy 1 “gun”, the COG, and can build different guns out of it.

In a similar vein is the Variable Interface System, or VIS. This is a truly innovative feature. Typically, when you buy a pistol and want to put an optic on it, you are somewhat limited. There are many different “footprints” for optics and if your slide isn’t cut for that one, you have to buy an adapter plate. That adds another $50-90 to the price, a wait for it to deliver and the optic sits a little higher than a direct fit would. By utilizing a set of movable pins, the VIS allows a direct mount solution for around 30 or so of the most popular optics on the market. No adapter plates to buy. Lower profile. I haven’t put a red dot on the gun yet, but I intend to run a parade of dots on it to test the VIS fully.

Performance of the Springfield Armory Echelon

In a word, it has been flawless. There are only about 600 rounds through the gun at this point. All the rounds have been 115-grain FMJ from either Magtech or Blazer. I’ve had zero malfunctions with the gun. Between the sweet trigger, well-thought-out ergonomics, and the cold hammer-forged barrel, the accuracy has been excellent. It was almost like I didn’t have to try. The recoil impulse was great and manageable.

Just holding and dry firing the gun was enough to make my wife stop rolling her eyes while I tried to explain why buying this gun was such a good idea. Then she took it to the range and she fell in love with it. She was already scheduled to take a shooting class in late October and decided to take the Echelon to the class instead of the Gen 5 Glock 19 she had been using before. (When she named the gun, I knew I was probably losing ownership) So I put in an order to Firearms Depot to get a few more magazines and I ordered her a new holster from Black Scorpion Outdoor Gear. She had no issues with the gun during the class and it was evident from her targets that she was shooting better groups.

The Wrap Up

The gun comes with 3 changeable backstraps. It also comes with the little posts needed to change around the VIS and a zippered case. It also has a weird magazine-loading tool that I found to be pretty useless. Use a Maglula Uplula instead.

Now, my opinions are my own and based on a sample size of 1 pistol. I saw a couple of YouTube reviewers who had a problem with the baseplate coming off the magazine. All of them were able to put it back together and it worked fine from there. I just checked that mine were properly seated and had no problems.

If you are looking for a full-sized 9mm, I highly recommend that you take a look at the Springfield Armory Echelon. It can easily fill the role of a duty-sized gun, a home defense gun, concealed carry, or even an entry-level competition pistol. Holster companies like Safariland, Black Scorpion, and others already have holsters for it. Give it a try.

Have you tried the Echelon? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Some other articles you may like:

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First Shots: The Canik SFx Rival

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