2023 Editor’s Choice Award – Springfield Armory Echelon

Springfield Armory Echelon

The best all-around duty pistol?

The full-size duty pistol market immediately began cooling once the US Army’s Modular Handgun System was awarded. As if on cue, customers and the industry shifted their focus entirely onto the new Micro Compact segment, causing explosive growth like we’ve never seen. It seems Springfield Armory took full advantage of this distraction and began developing a new project that just might be the best all-around duty pistol we’ve encountered to date.

Serving as the Echelon’s foundation is what Springfield calls the Central Operating Group (COG), which consists of an entirely self-contained, serialized fire-control group. While not a new concept, it does offer a clue to the modular components to come.

Its name, Echelon — an effective and still relevant military formation invented by the mighty Spartan army in 371 BC — provides a subtle hint of where Springfield’s sights are set, and once in hand, its target becomes strikingly obvious. Fire a magazine through the pistol, and you’ll quickly realize you’re holding the next-generation duty pistol, one the rest of the industry will need to work hard if they’re going to come close to matching.

The Echelon comes with a fully ambidextrous slide stop and magazine release directly from the factory. Springfield’s Adaptive Grip Texture locks your grip in tighter the harder you squeeze; it works exactly as advertised. Three different-sized backstraps are included to fine-tune fitment. A flush-fit 17-round and extended 20-round magazine accompanies every free-state Echelon model.

Springfield Armory reminds us of another manufacturer that began recruiting the right folks from within the industry, creating a dream team of talent, engineering prowess, and marketing genius that collectively set out to conquer. Springfield Armory is on this same path and is putting out products that have been developed by shooters for shooters. The Echelon, much like the company’s Hellcat micro-compact pistol, is a fantastic example of this. Engineers did market research, solicited feedback from the right end users, looked at the aftermarket, and created a pistol buyers wanted to buy.

To start, the ergonomics are simply spot on. If you don’t feel that same way, you can swap the removable backstraps until you do. In hand, the pistol has all the right contours in all the right places. Springfield’s Adaptive Grip Texture is strategically placed on the grip frame and creates just enough bite to keep the pistol firmly within your grasp during rapid-fire strings but not so coarse that it will easily abrade skin or clothing.

Springfield’s ingenious new Variable Interface System creates a plate-less optic mounting platform that uses self-locking pins to adapt all of the popular optic platforms. The standard Echelon is equipped with a 4.50″ hammer-forged barrel, but a 5.28” threaded-barrel model is also available. On Target’s test pistol wore Tritium luminescent front / white-outline U-Dot rear iron sights; 3-dot Tritium is an optional upgrade.

Moving backward, the slide release is well positioned for a quick sweep from the firing-hand thumb to chamber a fresh round. While not the best nor the lightest striker-fired trigger out of the box, the Echelon is light years ahead of the most common polymer-framed service pistols out there. The pull was a bit mushy at first, but after a few days of dry fire, several hundred rounds at the range, and a dab of lube on the trigger components, the parts began wearing on each other, and the pull really smoothed out. The trigger shoe is flat, in line with current trends, and it breaks right at 90 degrees with minimal overtravel. Shallow serrations are molded into either side of the protruding trigger safety but go mostly unnoticed. One of the features I absolutely love about this trigger is its length of pull, which breaks earlier than later, minimizing the pistol’s movement before the shot breaks.

The Echelon performed consistently well from the 25-yard line, with its best-of-testing performance being the 2.07″ five-shot group shown here, printed with SIG Sauer’s 124-grain JHP V-Crown.

The COG, or Central Operating Group, is a fire-control chassis that houses all the trigger components. And it’s removable. This tell-tale sign will lead observers to conclude that more is coming for the Echelon in the form of additional modularity. The slide is optic-ready and is equipped with what Springfield calls a Variable Interface System (VIS). By utilizing a set of movable pins, the VIS on the Echelon achieves a low, direct mount optics solution for improved sight picture and natural alignment of the aiming point on target. The VIS is genius and allows over 30 different miniature red dot optics to be directly mounted to the slide without the need for adapter plates. If you’re not on board with the dot life just yet, the Echelon has an outstanding set of iron sights, too. A couple of combinations are available to include high-visibility tritium-powered variants.

Between the Adaptive Grip Texture, low bore axis, and outstanding striker-fired trigger with its short travel and reset characteristics, putting rounds downrange rapidly and accurately is the Echelon’s specialty. Our test pistol ran everything it was fed with 100 percent reliability.

Capacity is king, and the Echelon does not disappoint in this department. A flush-fitting 17-round magazine meets the standard, while a 20-round spare exceeds it. Both magazines are drop-free and are constructed of steel for longevity and reliable function. Speaking of reliability, the Echelon was 100% reliable on the range and ate up range ammo nearly as fast as it consumed duty ammo, spitting 124-grain chunks of copper and lead into tight little groups at 25 yards.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen such innovation in a duty-sized pistol, and we applaud Springfield Armory for catering to the professionals who serve and protect. And for such effort and acute application, we’re honored to bestow the Echelon with a 2023 Editor’s Choice Award. See the Echelon ($679 to $739) at your nearest dealer, or for more information, contact Springfield Armory; Tel.: (800) 680-6866; E-mail: [email protected]; Web: www.springfield-armory.comChris Mudgett


Action:                                  Striker Fired

Caliber                                  9mm

Barrel Length                        4.50 inches

Weight:                                 23.90 ounces

Capacity                                20 + 1 Rounds

MSRP                                    From $679