Hellcat RDP Review: Rapid Response 9mm

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When Springfield Armory released the Hellcat, it was clear from the reviews that they had developed a very capable micro 9mm handgun that would have a strong following in the CCW community. With such a success, I would have thought that the engineers would have leaned back, kicked their feet up, taken a deep breath and relaxed. When you have success, it’s nice to take some time to reflect on the win.

Apparently, that isn’t how Springfield rolls.

Instead of letting off the gas, it seems that Springfield put its ear to the ground, listened to how they could make a great product even better, and got right back to work. The result of Springfield’s efforts is the new Hellcat Rapid Defense Package (RDP), and it’s a truly unique offering and adaptation of the Hellcat design.

Radical or just right? The new Hellcat RDP shows off its new optic, compensator and Gen 2 trigger. A manual safety is now optional.

As a regular contributor to The Armory Life, I often get a chance to try out exciting new guns and gear. So, when the editor contacted me and told me he had this new gun for me to review, how could I refuse? And once I had the new Hellcat RDP in my hands, I wasn’t disappointed.

Overview of the RDP

The Hellcat RDP is a package of custom-grade premium features which provide you with a high-performance, defensive pistol at a fraction of the cost of the typical custom gun.

Right side view of the Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP pistols
Outfitted as well as any custom gun, the Hellcat RDP comes from the factory ready to handle anything you might throw at it.

The foundation of the RDP is of course the small, shootable, light, 11+1 capacity (13+1 with the included extended magazine) 9mm Hellcat. With its small footprint and impressive capacity, the Hellcat has become an extremely popular handgun for concealed carry. The RDP takes the Hellcat to the next level, making the gun even more shootable right from the factory.

Compensator

When looking at the Hellcat RDP, the most striking feature is the new Self Indexing Compensator. Comps have been a popular accessory for competitive shooters for years and, more recently, some defensive shooters have investigated the benefits of comps for carry guns.

Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP compensator slow motion demonstration
The compensator on the Hellcat RDP reduces muzzle rise by redirecting gases during the firing cycle.

Comps have generally been an aftermarket accessory or a part of a custom-built gun. Springfield Armory has changed the game by offering the compact, Self Indexing Compensator on the Hellcat RDP straight from the factory.

What does a compensator do? A compensator uses physics to help reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise.

It’s actually pretty simple. When the pistol is fired, hot gases push the bullet from the case and down the barrel. As the bullet moves down the barrel and escapes out of the muzzle, the gases begin to expand in the compensator. The expansion of the gasses exerts a force on the gun driving it forward and down due to the design of the compensator and its porting.

Normally, a gun pushes back and the muzzle upward under recoil. The opposite forces that the comp produces counteract these physics. The result is a softer-shooting and faster-recovering handgun.

Do compensators really work? Yes — the aluminum compensator on the Hellcat RDP definitely works! I found that it made a measurable difference in both the amount of muzzle rise and the speed of my follow-up shots. Both are improvements that are a win in a defensive handgun.

Compensator a Compromise?

As my buddy Joe Weyer from Alliance Police Training likes to say, “There is no free lunch.” When it comes to compensators, the tradeoff is typically in terms of weight, size, complexity and expense. Joe is right that your lunch isn’t free, but in the case of the compensator included with the RDP, I think your meal is significantly discounted.

Self-indexing compensator on Springfield Hellcat
The self-indexing design of the RDP’s compensator makes installation and removal easy.

The Self Indexing Compensator is machined from 8082 aluminum and Hardcoat-anodized matte black to match the finish of the Hellcat. I found that its aluminum construction added virtually no perceivable weight to the front end of the Hellcat RDP, so no downside there. The compensator itself weighs a mere .7 oz.

To mount the compensator, the Hellcat RDP features an extended .5×28 threaded 3.8″ hammer-forged barrel. When attached, the compensator adds just a single inch to the overall length of the pistol. While some might argue that added inch might be a negative on a CCW pistol, I actually want a longer pistol for concealed carry.

Carrying the Hellcat RDP concealed
The Rapid Defense Package (RDP) version of the Hellcat delivers a compact and powerful, yet extremely shootable CCW pistol.

I find a carry gun with a longer slide and a short grip is very easy to carry, doing a better job resisting the inevitable rotation of the grip away from the body. It also will be easier to shoot well. I’ve been pining for a 4” Hellcat. The RDP delivers.

From a production standpoint, fitting compensators can be difficult, expensive and time-consuming. In the past, the threaded compensator has had to be fitted to the pistol or shimmed to ensure proper alignment and timing. Springfield has solved this issue with the self-indexing system for the Hellcat RDP.

To install the RDP compensator, you simply depress a retention lever on the lower portion of the device and thread the unit all the way on. Then reverse it one-half rotation. Depress the locking lever and rotate forward again until it stops. Rotate again in the reverse direction with the lever released until it locks into place.

Hellcat RDP compensator
Compensators have almost always been aftermarket custom additions. The Hellcat RDP’s compensator helps to limit muzzle rise and felt recoil.

An additional new feature offered on the Hellcat RDP (and now all Hellcat pistols as well) is a frame-mounted, manual ambidextrous safety. The Hellcat RDP is available with an optional ambidextrous manual safety on the frame of the pistol. It is a low-profile, unobtrusive design for those who want that option for their Hellcat. My test pistol for this review did not feature this option.

Some Extra Sting

The Hellcat RDP has the word “package” in the name, so you might be wondering what exactly makes up that package. In addition to the new Self Indexing Compensator, the Hellcat RDP is an optical sight pistol (OSP) topped off with an exciting new product — the HEX Wasp. But more on that in a moment.

For those not familiar with the term “OSP,” it indicates that the pistol comes from the factory with a slide cut to accept optics. Like the original Hellcat OSP, the RDP features a removable plate on the top of the slide that reveals a mounting interface for micro red dot optics. These optics direct mount to the slide and sit low enough that you can co-witness the iron sights through the optic. That way you have the best of both worlds.

HEX Wasp optic mounted to Hellcat pistol slide while co-witnessing U-Dot sights
The HEX Wasp optic direct mounts to the Hellcat’s slide, situating it low enough to co-witness with the pistol’s excellent U-Dot sights.

Speaking of the iron sights, the Hellcat RDP comes with the Hellcat’s excellent Tactical Rack U-Dot sights. These are made up of a U-notch rear sight that can be used to rack the slide against a hard surface, and a high-visibility tritium and luminescent front sight.

HEX Wasp Optic

Remember that new optic I mentioned? Paired with this new version of the Hellcat pistol and making up the second part of the Rapid Defense Package is a new red dot optic, part of the exciting new HEX line of optics from Springfield Armory. That optic is the HEX Wasp.

HEX Wasp micro red dot sight mounted on Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP pistol
The HEX Wasp micro red dot features an always-on 3.5 MOA dot that auto-adjusts for ambient lighting conditions.

The Wasp is a compact 3.5 MOA red dot that is a perfect fit on the Hellcat, and it features the “Springfield Micro” footprint (compatible with the Shield RMSc footprint).

The IPX7 waterproof optic featured a rugged 6061 T6 Hardcoat anodized aluminum body as well as a scratch-resistant, anti-glare glass lens. The “always-on” optic features auto-dimming of the dot to match ambient light conditions and has a two-year run time on a single 2032 button battery. No fumbling to turn the optic “on” when you need it; it’s always on. Personally, since these batteries are so cheap and common, I would recommend changing them out annually.

The rear of the Wasp’s housing is scored with horizontal lines to help reduce glare, and I found the lens to be just the right size to contain the dot for fast follow-up shots. The Wasp is small enough to be “right” for a CCW-sized pistol, but with a window big enough to actually be usable. This is a rugged optic that is designed for concealed carry and duty use. And, it’s backed by a lifetime warranty.

The Most Important Interface

While you can have the coolest accessories and features on your carry gun, there is one, single part that is the most important interface with the shooter — the trigger. As with every product offered, Springfield Armory is constantly considering every product it offers and how it can enhance or refine the designs. To that end, the Hellcat RDP features the new Gen 2 Trigger.

Hellcat RDP Gen 2 trigger
The new Gen 2 trigger of the Hellcat has a higher hinge point and enhanced ergonomics to suit the broadest range of hand sizes possible.

Recontoured for enhanced ergonomics, the Gen 2 trigger is designed to offer the most comfortable shooting experience for the broadest range of shooters. Designing such a small pistol to fit a broad range of hand sizes can be a challenge, but the Gen 2 trigger features a higher hinge point and a smooth face to allow shooters with shorter or longer fingers to comfortably engage the trigger.

I liked the original Hellcat trigger, and the new Gen 2 worked just as well for me.

How It Shoots

If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably figured out what I’m going to say here. Yes, the Hellcat RDP shot like a custom Hellcat.

On my first range day with the new pistol, I quickly put more than 300 rounds of Federal Premium American Eagle 147-gr. FMJTC through the pistol. As I expected, the gun and the ammo were 100% reliable.

Shooting the Hellcat RDP at the range with muzzle flash visible
The author found the Hellcat RDP and its HEX Wasp optic to be a pleasure to shoot at the range, and utterly reliable.

The HEX Wasp was a pleasure to use. I found it very easy to pick up the dot on presentation and track the dot in the window from shot to shot. I liked that the sides of the aluminum body were designed as “grasping grooves” to you give you more purchase when racking the pistol’s slide. In addition, I noted that the forward face of the optic’s body was angled forward to offer additional protection for the lens. Nice. I really liked the serrations on the rear of the housing. It seemed to make the window less of a “window” and just part of my normal vision. The glass was clear and the dot bright.

The Self Indexing Compensator made the Hellcat RDP even more pleasant to shoot than I expected. The Hellcat is a small, light pistol chambered in 9mm that is rated for +P ammunition. It has recoil. That is an unavoidable side-effect of physics. However, the Self Indexing Compensator tames that recoil. I had a solid 10% reduction in muzzle lift when shooting the RDP with the comp compared to without. My split times between shots also dropped a measurable amount with the Self Indexing Compensator mounted on the Hellcat.

Throughout this review, I found that the combination of the HEX Wasp, the Gen 2 trigger and the compensator allowed me to increase my precision. After getting the gun sighted in, I was able to consistently drill a 2″ target at 10 yards with rapid follow-up shots. With practice, I’m sure my skills with the Hellcat RDP will improve even more.

Hellcat RDP Specifications

Chambering 9mm
Barrel 3.8″, .5×28 threaded
Weight 19.3 oz. w/ flush mag, 19.6 oz. w/ extended mag
Overall Length 7″
Sights U-Dot
Optic HEX Wasp
Grips Integral, polymer
Action Striker-fired
Finish Black
Capacity 11+1 (one), 13+1 (one)
MSRP $899

Conclusion

If you have been thinking about picking up an optics-ready carry gun, the Hellcat RDP deserves a serious look. For an MSRP of just $899, you’re getting a carry gun with custom-grade features and an optic at practically a stock gun price.

Top view of Springfield Hellcat RDP pistol
The Tactical U-Dot sights and HEX Wasp red dot provide excellent aiming options in this CCW pistol.

The Hellcat RDP is available with or without a manual thumb safety, and the package includes the pistol, a HEX Wasp optic, the Self Indexing Compensator and one each of the 13- and 11-round magazines.

The HEX Wasp optic is built with a level of durability in mind that would appear to outclass the other micro red dots available. The improved trigger makes the Hellcat more accessible to a wider variety of users. The comp allows for faster follow-up shots with no real compromise in cost, weight, or size.

Conceal the next generation carry gun.

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