78 years of Hellcats: Springfield Armory® Hellcat®, Grumman Hellcat and Buick Hellcat

The Springfield Armory® Hellcat®. Image above courtesy of Springfield Armory®, Geneseo, Illinois, USA .

9 August 2020 | Central Florida, USA. Mike Humphries, Media Relations Manager for Springfield Armory®, informed Military Aviation Chronicles of the following: “The Hellcat® name was selected as we felt it captured the energy and capabilities of the pistol; it is not tied to the F6F Hellcat aircraft or the vehicle.” But with ongoing ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Americans arming themselves in an era of widespread property destruction, protests, law enforcement de-funding, and policing ‘stand-down’ enactments by local governmental bodies, one simply cannot resist the temptation to make a few comparisons between the apparently unconnected threesome that share a given name.

F6F-3 Grumman Hellcats aloft on 1 January 1943. Image: US Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation photo 2011-003-274-018.

It has been more than seven decades since the Hellcat fighter plane produced by Grumman at Beth Page, Long Island, New York, first took wing after rolling out of the company’s factory. Production models made their combat debuts during September 1943. After the initial aerial engagements with Imperial Japan’s vaunted Mitsubishi A6M Zero ( 零式艦上戦闘機 ) fighter plane, the Grumman aeroplanes, each armed with six Browning .50-calbre (12.7-milimetre) machine guns, earned accolades for generally superior performance, reliability, and durability. In fact the aircraft was the Allies’ dominant fighter from 1943 to 1945, and the type, coupled with the Vought F4U Corsair, enabled the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm to secure air superiority over the vast expanses of the Pacific and Far East.

Fleet Air Arm Hellcat MK Is of 1840 Squadron in June 1944. Photograph A24533 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

During roughly the same developmental timeframe the Buick Motor Division of General Motors designed and produced the armoured M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer. Powered by a Wright R-975 Whirlwind aircraft powerplant, the M18’s speed and utility proved to be great assets on battlefields. These tracked vehicles, which were armed with a 76-milimetre main gun and a Browning .50-calibre (12.7-milimetre) machine gun, competently tackled a most critical task: tactically supporting ground forces. M18s were utilised primarily in Western Europe. These machines also provided valuable service in the Pacific.

Buick Motor Division of General Motors M18 Hellcat. Photo: National Archives.

Although outgunned and outclassed by Wehrmacht (Nazi Germany’s army) heavy combat tanks, such as the Tiger I and Tiger II (King Tiger), M18 Hellcat crews learned to defeat the opponents by using ‘pride’ (group) attacks — not unlike lions (which are ‘pack hunters’) in the wild; as Rory Young, Anti-Poaching Ranger, Instructor, and Professional Guide states in a Quora.com online post Zoology: Are lions the only big cats that hunt in prides and why are other big cats solitary?, “They use herding and other techniques together with stalking . . . to take down large prey. . . .”

M18 Hellcats of the US Army’s 6th Armoured Division halt before a disabled Wehrmacht MK VI ‘King Tiger’ tank (upper right) in Germany on 28 February 1945. Photo: National Archives.

We now have the Springfield Armory® Hellcat® micro-compact pistol. This Hellcat®, a remarkable defensive firearm which, according to Springfield Armory®, was “designed specifically for everyday carry”, fittingly shares the ‘Hellcat’ moniker. The Hellcat®’s intended purpose and tasking is to defend its carrier’s life and physical well-being. In 2019 the Hellcat® was introduced, and in 2020 the firearm received accolades as the National Rifle Association American Rifleman‘s ‘2020 Handgun of the Year’.

Springfield Armory® Hellcat capacity. Photo courtesy of Springfield Armory®.

Springfield Armory® is now marketing its Hellcat® as, “The world’s highest capacity micro compact 9mm.” They are designed specifically for daily carry, having an Adaptive Grip Texture™ (Hellcat® top slide serrations maximize one’s grip on the slide and the ‘Adaptive Grip’ forms a more sturdy bond with tighter gripping), and come with a high visibility tritium and luminescent front sight. The standard Tactical Rack U-Dot™ rear sight enables quick target acquisition in diverse lighting conditions. The firearm is 25-milimetres (1-inch) in width and has a 76-milimetre (3-inch) barrel. Specialty models have a milled slide that will accept the smallest micro red dot sights in an optics ready OSP™ (Optical Sight Pistol) configuration.

A Hellcat® comes with two magazines, a patented 11-cartridge ammunition reservoir with little finger extension and an extended 13-cartridge well. The bottom flush plate on the magazine is designed to minimize the pistol’s ‘footprint’.

The Springfield Armory® Standard Hellcat (left) and optics-ready Optical Sight Pistol (OSP) configuration. Image courtesy of Springfield Armory®.

But why arm oneself with a Springfield Armory® Hellcat® rather than a highly reliable revolver, which remain popular with handgun owners? In an article titled The Wheelgun: Why It Still Has Appeal within the August 2020 issue of American Rifleman, Field Editor Wiley Clapp states (page 74) the following about revolvers as a defensive carry weapon: “Reasonably believable statistics tell us that defensive shootings usually involve three or fewer shots. . . . But, as the pages [page 10 in the August 2020 periodical] of the ‘Armed Citizen’ tell us, often it requires more than the average to stop the threat.”  In fact, credible research has demonstrated that the one shot knockdown or ‘kill’ is often an irregularity.

Additionally, on the first page of the July 2020 ‘Ask the USCCA Staff’ instalment in Concealed Carry Magazine, Senior Editor Ed Combs makes several salient points. First, “The FBI say that the numbers for the ‘average’ shooting work out to about three shots at about 3 yards [1 metre] in about 3 seconds.” Yet even if one is fortunate and the attacker is down and no longer a threat, he adds, “you might well be followed to position of safety by some of your attacker’s confederates.” Therefore, if one carries only a 5-shot revolver or a semiautomatic with a magazine capacity of 6 or 7 the firearm will be dangerously low on unfired cartridges while a threat(s) remains. A worrisome potential supplementary factor on ammo supply could very well be missed shots. Thus the need for high capacity, micro-compact handguns becomes evident.

While it is impossible to obtain a newly manufactured Grumman or Buick Hellcat to operate for evaluation purposes, it was rather a straightforward process to obtain a new, unfired Springfield Armory® Hellcat®. The Hellcat® is manufactured in Croatia, and Military Aviation Chronicles asked two pilot associates to evaluate the product. Both are accredited U.S. Concealed Carry Association Concealed Carry & Home Defence (CCHD) Instructors who possess a degree of Croatian ancestry. The elder is a veteran of the U.S. Army, a Vietnam Conflict veteran in fact, and a former Military Policeman and Army National Guardsman. The younger has served overseas in uniform and is a licensed security officer instructor and security officer who in previous years annually qualified annually with a Glock 19 duty gun. Both have handled and fired scores of handguns over the decades.

JD’s Pawn Shop in Auburndale, Florida assisted in obtaining a Hellcat® for evaluation. Both individuals fired the firearms using Federal American Eagle 9-milimetre Luger 115 Grain Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) ammunition with no issues. Post-firing ‘field’ stripping for cleaning was straightforward and accomplished quite easily. At the conclusion of the evaluation, the duo stated, “Proper trigger engagement [control] by shooters is important to any firearm’s successful discharge, and the Hellcat® is no exception.” They further stressed the importance of frequent drills and training for inexperienced and experienced shooters alike.

JD’s Pawn Shop store front. Image: JD’s Pawn Shop.

A video of a more impressive Hellcat® test is posted (and linked below) on the Armory Life WebPages. Previously, the pistol had demonstrated perfect performance during a documented 10,000-round test. Paul Carlson, owner of Safety Solutions Academy, and a team took this same gun (serial # AT234795) and fired (Hellcat: 20K Rounds & Counting!) 10,000 cartridges of Federal American Eagle 124 grain FMJ ammo. This second exercise confirmed the Hellcat®’s marked resilience and dependability. Not surprisingly, the Springfield Armory® Hellcat® is currently proving to be a very popular ‘Concealed Carry Weapon’ firearm for civilians and armed security officers.American Rifleman Executive Editor Joe Kurtenbach is quoted on the Springfield Armory® website as having stated the following: “Simply stated, I want the Hellcat because the gun is an animal, and it’s bred to fight.”

Based upon impressive sales statistics and word of mouth comments from recent purchasers, the Hellcat® is justifiably and impressively capturing a significant percentage of the defensive carry market. Simply put, Hellcat® models are currently flying off gun store shelves. With the purchase of one the purchaser obtains a compact +P 9-milimetre rated firearm that holds 12 rounds in the basic model and configuration. Thus, those exercising Second Amendment rights in the United States and individuals in countries having firearm-friendly laws enjoy more hitting power, greater bullet penetration, and an impressive ammo supply. 

What about law enforcement adoption of the Hellcat®? With regard to handguns, the Springfield Armory® Hellcat® is an answer to an oversight that brought about severe consequences in the 1970s and early 1980s, a lapse that had been present and largely ignored since the 1920s.

In the online article titled A Brief History of America’s Police Sidearms author David LaPell writes, “For decades the revolvers ruled the roost when it came to equipping the law enforcement officer. . . .” And as the Wikipedia entry Smith & Wesson Model 36 states, “For many years, the Model 36 was the standard police detective and ‘plainsclothes man’ carry weapon for many police agencies.” The Model 36 and other revolvers are wonderful guns, but in Most Popular Police Handguns 1900-1999 by Paul Scarlata and James Walter point out this truth: “[T]oday it is rare to see an American police officer with a holstered revolver. . . .” Why is this? As the excellent book FBI Miami Firefight by former Special Agents Edmundo Mireles and Elizabeth Mireles and Pew Pew Tactical article Police Sidearms: From Past to Present point out, after the 1986 Miami shootout the FBI began searching for a handgun possessing more effective stopping power that would not hamper and endanger the officer with the necessity to reload cylinders during a firefight. Reloading a handgun, especially a revolver, obviously requires precious time which the officer or armed citizen may not realistically have in a quick life or death scenario.

The desirability referenced directly above would logically be applied to backup firearms as well. In fact, retired police captain and legendary firearms expert Massad Ayoob believes (Hellcat: A Cop’s Best Friend?) the Hellcat® is an excellent, readily concealable secondary gun for uniformed and plain clothes constables; Ayoob’s endorsement carries considerable weight because he has taught law enforcement shooting techniques and civilian self-defence principles and marksmanship since 1974.

Considering Springfield Armory® Hellcat®’s performance, perhaps one day soon they will become a recommended standard for peace officer departments throughout Canada and the United States. Having gained a ‘National Tactical Officers Association’ recommendation earlier this year will undoubtedly promote agency purchases. The ‘Pew Pew Tactical’ article Police Sidearms: From Past to Present implies that, “when police departments start carrying a new type of handgun, civilian ownership is often not far behind.” With regard to the Springfield Armory® Hellcat® and its exceptional popularity with civilians for concealed carry and home defence, the aforementioned tendency would effectively be reversed; the Hellcat® would then become a trend setter.

The authors of Police Sidearms: From Past to Present note that “Among law enforcement, these represent the big three in sidearms—Glock, Sig Sauer and S&W—and the three cartridges of choice—9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.” They add, “However, Ruger, Beretta and Springfield Armory handguns remain in the running, too.” The inclusion of Springfield Armory®, especially for backup usage, is quite noteworthy as the old guard establishment cannot keep a superior weapon down for long!

Could military employment of the Hellcat® additionally soon be in the offing? Considering the Hellcat name pedigree and the latest capabilities and attributes of the Springfield Armory® Hellcat®, perhaps the Royal Canadian Air Force and U.S. Air Force will soon supply Hellcats® to aircrew and military police units? If so, ‘Hellcats’ would once again be in Allied military service.


The author (John T. Stemple) thanks Springfield Armory® and Springfield’s Media Relations Manager Mike Humphries. JD’s Pawn Shop in Auburndale, Florida is owed a debt for providing support related to obtaining a Springfield Armory® Hellcat® for evaluation.

Editor’s Note: Readers are directed to two seminal works which partially address the subject of shooting analyses: Alexis Artwohl and Loren W. Christensen’s Deadly Force Encounters: Cops & Citizens Defending Themselves and Others and Michael Martin’s Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals.

Suggested Viewings

Hellcat: 20K Rounds & Counting!

Sources and Suggested Readings

24 images of the highly successful M18 Hellcat tank destroyer


2020 Handgun of the Year: Springfield Armory Hellcat


A Brief History of America’s Police Sidearms


Artwohl, Alexis and Loren W. Christensen. Deadly Force Encounters: Cops & Citizens Defending Themselves and Others. Win the Fight Win the Aftermath. 2nd Edition. Columbia, SC, 2019. (ISBN-13: 978-1650012193)

Colt Official Police




Does the Hellcat Have a Safety?

Grumman F6F Hellcat


Hellcat® 3″ Micro-Compact 9mm Handgun

Hellcat: A Cop’s Best Friend?

Hellcat Digital Magazine: Volume 1


Hellcat® Micro-Compact Handguns

Hellcat® 3″ Micro-Compact 9mm Handgun

How the Hellcat Got That Way


Tested: Springfield Armory’s Hellcat


JD’s Pawn Shop


M18 Hellcat


M18 Hellcat – Tanks Encyclopedia


M18 Tank Destroyer


Martin, Michael. Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals. 2nd Edition. West Bend, WI: U.S. Concealed Carry Association/Delta Defense, LLC. 2018. (ISBN-13: 978-1467561440)

Massad Ayoob


Mireles, Edmundo & Elizabeth Mireles. FBI Miami Firefight. Mireles Consulting LLC: Stafford, VA. 2017.

Mitsubishi A6M Zero

Most Popular Police Handguns 1900-1999

National Tactical Officers Association

Police Sidearms: From Past to Present

Smith & Wesson Model 36


Springfield Armory Hellcat


Springfield Armory® Hellcat® Receives NTOA Member Tested and Recommended Award

Tested: Springfield Armory’s Hellcat


The American M18 Hellcat Was The Fastest and The Deadliest Allied Tank Destroyer In WW2


The M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer

Tiger I

Tiger II

U.S. Concealed Carry Association

Vought F4U Corsair


Wright R-975 Whirlwind


Zoology: Are lions the only big cats that hunt in prides and why are other big cats solitary?