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Honest Review: Springfield Echelon (Good, Bad & Ugly)



The Springfield Armory Echelon is the new pistol on the block. The reactions across the internet have run the gamut of criticism and acceptance. While some say it is a mash-up of several different pistols taking the best qualities of each, others will damn the pistol as an outright theft of intellectual design. Then you have reviewers who just love everything that is free. So where does that put the Echelon in terms of our readers who need the information needed to make the decision to Skip, Try or Buy this new pistol?

The Good

One of the most contentious features found on some Springfield polymer pistols has always been the grip safety. There is that segment of the shooting population that for some reason do not believe in a grip safety. As it lacks a grip safety, the Echelon is sure to please these folks. Pick up an Echelon, pull the trigger, and it goes bang.

Now even though the Echelon is lacking those pesky outside safeties, you have to manually deactivate. It looks dangerous enough at first glance, but trust me this girl is safe enough to introduce to your parents. Redundancy galore starting at the trigger safety, then it has drop safety, next a second sear safety. This pistol is only going to fire when you pull the trigger.

Available in nine different combinations, no matter your hand size, the Echelon is going to fit. Like a finely tailored suit, the Echelon will be the most comfortable pistol you have ever shot, with three different backstops that match the three different-sized grip modules.

If you need a pistol that will take you to hell and back, the Echelon has capacity for days. Gone are the flashy chrome XDM magazines, since real tacticians know low key is best. The gun is shipped with two black magazines, giving you a total capacity options of 17 plus 1 and 20 plus 1. Speaking of fully loaded magazines, the Echelon has a full-time ambidextrous mag release that is easier to use than the older XDMs.

Do you even optic bro? All Echelons come with a deep optics mount cut right from the factory. You can decide when you are ready, that deep optics cut will be waiting for you. The Echelon’s Variable Interface System (VIS) can mount over 30 different brands and models of optics—without lame-ass adapter plates that add to the height of the optics. Each Echelon comes with a full complement of screws, locking pins, and indexing pins that will fit practically everything.

If you are ready to carry an Echelon on day one, good news. Springfield is always great at making sure multiple holster companies have product available. The Echelon has been out less than a week and already there are too many holsters for me to count (even when I remove my shoes).

The Echelon may be a lady in the streets, but she is ready for you to ride hard and put up wet. The Echelon’s styling gives you aggressive serrations and multiple index points for you to run that slide, no matter how dirty, bloody, or sweaty your hands are. Each Echelon side is Salt Bath Nitrocarburized (melonite) giving the Echelon a top tier rust resistance that stands up to the elements.

Not sure if you want to be stuck with one pistol in your life? No problem! The Echelon’s biggest secret lies in the Central Operating Group (COG) giving it the ability to change like a chameleon. The stainless steel chassis can be removed from the grip module and installed in another in seconds. Speculation is that different modules from compact to competition modules will follow soon. This means that once you get a feel for your COG’s trigger, you can move it from frame to frame depending on your needs.

The VIS optics mounting system is great if you are extremely organized. It has multiple small ziplock baggies, one with screws and others with kits 2 and 3 of the mounting pins and locks. Once you pick your optic, you look at the decoder chart and use the pins and screws it tells you works with your optic. Careful: these are small and easily lost if you are clumsy. Once you get your optic mounted everything goes into deep storage for another day. The great thing is that Springfield provides you with a full complement of the fitment kits with every Echelon. This will allow you to mount most optics, and it does not even cost you extra.

The Bad

The Echelon is a big girl, not meant for deep concealment. This is a full-sized duty pistol. This big-boned beauty is practically as big as a 4.5 XDM and Glock 17. Now that full size means that it is super comfortable to shoot and recoil is expertly managed. There is plenty of grip available for your hands to get a nice high and tight grip allowing you to control the pistol, not letting the pistol taking you for a ride. Now remember being a modular pistol for sure it is only a matter of time before a grip module and slide kit comes along, allowing you to change the Echelon’s size to something the size of a Glock 19 or even a smaller subcompact.

Another quibble: If you use Doctor or ACRO footprint optics, you’ll discover that not everything can mount on the Echelon natively. Some of the Burris, Crimson Trace, and Aimpoint optics will require an adapter plate. Adapter plates are not the end of the world; it just means those optics don’t sit as low in the slide cut as their natively mounting rivals.

On the flip side there are more optics that fit natively than those that don’t, so you have plenty of options to choose from. Since the Echelon does not include either the Doctor or ACRO mounting plate, if you are dead set on using Springfield’s Hex Dragonfly, you will need to pay just a little extra since you will have to order them.


This next unknown is more of a concern rather than a knock on the gun, and will depend on Springfield. The Sig Sauer p320 and 365 pistols are insanely popular. From the outset, Sig Sauer created a program for aftermarket companies to take the base design and modify it creating an unlimited amount of customization. This customization means that your Sig can be as custom as you want it and can easily be a reflection of who the user is. For now it is unknown if Springfield will allow others to do the same with the Echelon. My hope is that they do, this will make the Echelon direct competition with the Sig modular pistols.

The Ugly

The price of an Echelon is more expensive than some of the competition in its segment:

Glock 1’s are in the low $500’s and go up.

Sig p320s start at $499 and go up.

Sig M&P 2.0 are priced in the $400s and up.

The Echelon starts at $629 and goes up to the $700s.

While price is not always the most important factor, customers will weigh that in the decision to buy. Does the Echelon provide an additional $2-300 hundred dollars in value? When it comes to duty use, Glock owns the market providing deep discounts to all first responders … so what can Springfield do to entice the first responder market?

The Regulator

All in all, the Echelon can quickly become the pistol that pivots Springfield in a new direction. In my opinion, gone are the days of non-modular Springfield pistols. How can Springfield relate a new XDM Elite or Hellcat, when compared to the Echelon the technology looks dated in comparison? That said, it should be easy to develop an Echelon Hellcat or an Echelon Elite, pivoting those lineups to modular pistols. The Echelon is a fantastic, solidly designed pistol, I know several people who now own one, and they are proud of their purchases. This Echelon is an investment if you buy one today.


—James the “XDMAN” Mr. UnPewFessional Himself.


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