Springfield Armory Echelon Pistol, by Pat Cascio

If memory serves me correctly, I purchased my first Glock in 1987. This was an early-production Glock 17 – the only handgun model that Glock had yet produced, back then. It was a 17-shot 9mm pistol and the frame was made out of “plastic” – today we call it “polymer” instead. I felt sure that the gun wouldn’t last, after a lot of shooting. I was wrong!

Since owning that first Glock, I’ve probably owned almost every model they produced over the years, and I still own more Glocks than any one person should…guess I’m a Glock-a-holic.

A long, long time ago, I made a decision, that when the SHTF, if I were limited to owning just one handgun (oh no!) it would be a Glock 19, a compact 9mm handgun that held 15 rounds of ammo – and of course some 33-round extended magazines, for reloads. This was my number one handgun, and needless to say, I’ve carried a Glock 19 for many years – never had any issues with it, either. Coming in a close second would be the SIG Sauer M17 – and there too, my sample has worked without any issues.

Well, considering the above, this all has changed, with the introduction of the 9mm Springfield Armory Echelon. I didn’t believe that any handgun would take the place of my Glock 19 – or the Model 17 or similar models as my End of the World handgun, and I had to think long and hard about this.

I’ve had my Echelon for a little more than three months now, and I knew when I first picked one up, it would be a battle between my other 9mm striker-fired handguns. First of all, the Echelon feels great in my hand – and a number of testers agreed with me on this – and my wife is very picky about how a gun feels in her hand – she now wants an Echelon of her own – maybe down the road when our finances are in better shape.

I won’t list all the specs on the Echelon, you can read them for yourself on the Springfield Armory website. As already mentioned this new 9mm is a striker-fired handgun – like so many other similar handguns are. The gun operates using that Central Operating Group (COG) that can be removed for a good cleaning or spare parts replacement – it is a very simple task to pull this COG out of the frame.

JWR Adds: Legally, the serialized COG constitutes the  “frame” of the Echelon pistol. All of the other parts can be bought via mailorder, with no restrictions. This is the same design approach used by SIG with their P320/M17 family of handguns.

The slide is made out of a billet of machined steel and has a black Melonite coating, that matches the black polymer frame. The stainless steel barrel is also a welcome addition. The slide is designed to accommodate over 30 different red dot sights, just takes a minute or two to change out the red dot sight – you’ll need to get the sold-separately set of “pins” that Springfield sells – they are inexpensive in order to make sure you red dot sights sits firmly on the top of the slide. A neat set-up if you ask me.

The slide has aggressive serrations on the front and rear of the slide – on the sides of the slide. Plus there are “wings” on the rear of the slide for a super grip when chambering a round. My Echelon sample came set up for medium-sized hands. However you can replace the grip frame with small or large grip frames, as well as three diffferent backstraps, This is easy enough to do. The sample I have fits my hand perfectly. The front sight is a night sight, and the rear sight has a white “U” shape and I love this set-up. You can also get an Echelon with a factory installed rear sight on it. Prices vary from $679.00 to $739.00 – more than a fair price, in today’s inflated Dollars.

On the grip frame, we have an ambidextrous slide stop/release. That is small but easy to reach – no switching it from side to side is required. The magazine release is also full-time ambidextrous. On both sides of the frame there are textured points for placing your trigger finger on when you are not firing.

I can easily get a full grip on the gun, and there are aggressive texture point on the frame for a sure hold on the gun – all the way around the grip. The radius is only 1.2-inches. The barrel is 4.5 inches – the perfect size for a duty-sized handgun, and it’s not too big for concealed carry, either.

The Echelon only weighs in at 23.9-oz unloaded – plenty light enough for all-day carry. Springfield also has a good selection of concealed carry holsters, too. I used an Uncle Mike’s Nylon pancake holster, and it kept the gun high and tight to my side. For duty-style carry, I had an old Uncle Mike’s tactical thigh holster that I had modified to carry some other similar handgun, and the gun rode nicely against my right thigh – a very nice fit.


Unlike many gun writers who rushed to do an article on this gun, I took my time and fired over 1,000 rounds of various 9mm ammo through it in my testing. Plus, I also have some no-name ‘range” ammo sitting around that my local gun shop donates to me – some is really “ugly” ammo – however it all fed and functioned and fired without a hitch. I had several testers helping me with the shooting. Somehow, I never lack volunteers when there is a new gun and free ammo on hand.

Almost every one of my testers loved the way the gun handled and shot, and they all loved the trigger pull – right at 4.5-lbs – and trigger reset travel was only about 1/8th of an inch – so follow-up shots were very fast. Only one tester wasn’t overly impressed with the Echelon – he didn’t think the gun was any different from any other 9mm striker-fired handgun – then again, he is a dyed-in-the-wool 1911 shooter. He didn’t find anything “negative” to say about the gun – so that’s a good thing.

Each Echelon comes with two magazines, one 17-round and one 20-round. However, Springfield was out of the 20-round magazines for three months – they now have a good supply on hand and I’m waiting for a couple of those 20-round mags to arrive. One good point is that these magazines are easy to load – no mag loader is needed and my wife and myself were glad of this. Besides the grungy range ammo, I also had some Black Hills Ammunition and some new Ammo Inc ammo on hand for my shooting. Ammo Inc is a fairly new ammo company and their ammo is very affordable in 115-gr JHP and 115-gr FMJ. From Black Hills, I had their 124-gr JHP +P and 115-gr FMJ. Once again, I had zero problems with any of the ammo during my testing. I do all the accuracy testing myself. And, if I think I might have pulled a few rounds, I’ll repeat the shot group.

For accuracy shooting tests, the gun was fired over the hood of my Dodge Ram pickup, over a rolled-up sleeping back. This gun is a real pleasure to shoot, even with the +P rounds. The Ammo Inc loads were loaded in shiny brass, and the bullets were Sierra JHP. If I did my parts I was getting 2.5-inch groups most of the time with all the ammo I fired. I did get a few smaller groups – but not on a regular basis.

It has been a lot of years since any company offered me an “incentive” to endorse their products. To be sure, they all learned that they couldn’t “buy” my endorsement. No one actually offered me any money per se, however on more than a few occasions, I was told that they would make it worth my while if I promoted their products or came right out and asked for me to endorse their products. One guy said he was going to sue me if my article was published. He had some kind of martial arts device that he claimed was better than a 12 GA shotgun. At that time, I was publishing a little newsletter called Police Hot Sheet and one of my writers was the late Brad Steiner – a very well-known martial arts instructor. Brad said the device was just junk…and as always, I published his articles without question. The fellow who threatened to sue me, but he never did. On another occasion, a well-known gun maker wasn’t happy with my article on one of their guns – they said they would pull their advertising from the magazine I was writing for if they published my article. I sent their gun back to them on three occasions – they never did get it “right” and that gun is no longer in production.

I wouldn’t hesitate to carry this gun on a daily basis or carry it into combat – it is “that” great of a gun. I’m not about to give up my Glocks or my SIG M17. However, I will say this: “The king is dead – long live the king.” Springfield has marketed the new Echelon to police and military units all over the world. And, to be sure, these guns are in short supply right now. Check one out, and I’ll bet you’ll love it. I would recommend or endorse the Springfield Echelon to any police department or military organization, hands down.