Springfield Armory Hellion 20” Rifle

Springfield Armory Hellion 20” Rifle

By: Dave Bahde

This civilian-legal version of the Croatian VHS-D2 assault rifle makes for an extremely capable compact DMR rifle

I’ve been a longtime fan of bullpup-style rifles. Bullpup rifles tend to fit my stocky build, especially when wearing winter clothing, and the majority of their weight is generally closer to the body, making them feel less barrel-heavy. Controls have always been intuitive for me, making most any manipulation faster. Typically, with a 16-inch barrel, the overall length is about the same as a 10-inch barreled conventional design, making them compact without the NFA hoops to jump through. Ever since using an AUG nearly 30 years ago, to this day, my “at hand” rifle is a bullpup, so when the opportunity arose to test Springfield Armory’s new 20-inch barreled Hellion model, I jumped on it.

Barrel cooling fins and an integrated bayonet lug — both faithful to the design of the original VHS-D2 assault rifle — are unique to the 20” rifle version of the Hellion. The four-prong flash hider was swapped out for a Silencer Central (www.silencercentral.com) Banish 223 suppressor for a portion of testing. The easy-to-reach adjustable gas block protrudes from the front of the polymer M-LOK / QD sling cup-equipped handguard and provides two gas settings: “S” for suppressed and “N” for normal operation.

Springfield Armory Hellion 20” Rifle

While the Hellion is produced in Croatia, Springfield Armory had quite a bit of input on this commercial design. Based on the HS VHS-D2 service rifle designed for use in Croatia’s war in Serbia, the Hellion is essentially a semi-automatic version with quite a few changes for import into the US market.

The easy-to-reach adjustable gas block protrudes from the front of the handguard and provides two gas settings: “S” for suppressed and “N” for normal operation. Unique features of this model’s 20-inch CMV, Melonite-coated barrel are cooling fins and an integrated bayonet lug, which is true to the VHS-D2 assault rifle’s design. A four-prong flash hider comes threaded to the muzzle’s 1/2×28 threads. Sixteen and eighteen-inch barreled models of the Hellion are also available.

Bullpup rifles will always require a different manual of arms compared to more conventional platforms like the AR-15, but the Hellion’s controls are well-placed, quick, and intuitive. The magazine release paddle sits directly behind the magazine well, and the bolt release tab is directly behind that. The ambi ejection port can be set up to spit empty cases out of either the right or left side of the gun.

The short-throw safety selector operated smoothly and sits in pretty much the same spot as an AR selector. The AR pistol grip — a BCM Gunfighter model — makes the Hellion even more intuitive for AR shooters. The bolt and magazine releases ride behind the magazine well and can be operated easily with either hand. The charging handle sits in the centerline of the rifle underneath the optic rail and can be operated from either side, which is very similar to the HK G36 design. While the rifle ships with the ejection port configured for right-side eject, it can be switched to the left without the need for tools or additional parts. The extended Picatinny optic rail, which doubles as a carry handle, incorporates a set of fully adjustable iron sights that lay recessed into the top of the rail until needed, in which case they spring to attention with the press of a button.

The Hellion’s stock is adjustable, with an appropriate length-of-pull range for a bullpup design. The polymer handguard has QD sling attachments and M-LOK slots for accessories.

The BCM Gunfighter AR pistol and the short-throw safety selector, which sits in roughly the same spot as an AR selector, go a long way toward making the Hellion more intuitive for AR shooters. While still long in take-up, the trigger proved much better than its bullpup competition. The folding charging handle rides in the centerline of the rifle, does not reciprocate, and can be operated from either side.


My test rifle was equipped with a Trijicon (www.trijicon.com) Credo 2-10x36mm scope. These scopes are lightweight yet are tested to Trijicon’s highest standards for durability and quality. Glass is incredibly clear and bright. The “Precision Tree” reticle is illuminated, mounted in the First Focal Plane (FFP), and available in both MOA and MRAD versions. Tactical knobs are tactile, graduated in either .25 MOA or .10 MRAD and include a return to zero feature. The Credo’s main tube is 30mm, making it perfect for a bullpup where low mounting is preferred. The scope was mounted in a Trijicon Bolt Action Mount with Q-LOC technology. Q-LOC mounts are also available in a taller cantilever design for AR-style rifles and the like, but the Bolt Action model worked perfectly for keeping a reasonable height-over-bore measurement.

As far as bullpups are concerned, the Hellion has no shortage of unique features — one of the better examples being its five-position-adjustable, spring-loaded buttstock in place of what would typically be a fixed stock. Its adjustable cheek riser doubles as a shell deflector, and QD sling swivel cups can be found on either side at the very rear.

Range Time

Accuracy was excellent once I got used to the trigger. It’s not that it’s a bad trigger (especially not for a bullpup), but the take-up is relatively long and takes some getting used to. Like most bullpup designs, the Hellion’s trigger is more “combat capable” than precision-rifle optimized. My best five-shot group at 100 yards was printed using Black Hills 77 Grain OTM and measured 0.75 inches. The other loads were not far off, with all of them turning in sub-MOA performance. The Hellion was both soft shooting and had remarkably consistent downrange results, which is not atypical for a bullpup.

By simply pulling a few pins, the Hellion can be quickly and easily field-stripped down to what you see here. In fact, we were able to easily do it in under 20 seconds after a couple of practice runs.

Shooting it out to 500 meters produced very consistent results and is also where the 20-inch barrel really shines. Moving between steel at 100, 200, 300, and 500 meters, it was pretty much point, shoot, and hit using either the Black Hills 77 OTM or the 77-grain MK 262 MOD 1-C Mil Pak. This Trijicon Credo was in MOA, so it took me a minute, but once I worked out the holds, the Hellion made centered hits at all ranges every time. Takeaway? This is not a precision rifle (nor was it designed to be), but it is an extremely capable DMR-style rifle.

The lengthy, uninterrupted Picatinny optic rail will accommodate any optic/magnifier/laser combination you need to throw at it. A Trijicon Credo 2-10×36 scope mounted in a Trijicon Bolt Action Q-LOC one-piece mount was used throughout testing. A rear windage-adjustable diopter-style sight and front elevation-adjustable hooded sight deploy quickly via pushbuttons and sit perfectly flush when not in use.

Magazine swaps will require some training unless you are used to similar systems. There is no release at the trigger guard; rather, it is centered behind the magazine well. It is, however, very quick and intuitive once you get the hang of it. The bolt release is similarly placed, although you can also use the charging handle if that’s your preference. Being able to lock the bolt open manually is largely a US thing, so while it can be done on this rifle, it takes a bit of effort. Most military outside the US purposely prevent the bolt from holding open, even on an empty magazine, as to them, it’s nothing more than a place to introduce dirt, mud, or crud into the action. Nor are “speed loads” a thing; you shoot your rifle until it’s empty, reload, and repeat as needed. That said, Hellion does lock open on the last round. In practice, it’s not a big deal to manually lock the bolt open, but if you attend a class that incessantly requires the bolt to be locked open, it might be a tad inconvenient.

Consistent sub-MOA precision was the theme during bench testing. The Hellion’s best five-shot group — printed using the Black Hills 77-grain OTM load — measured 0.75”. All other loads turned in at least one sub-MOA group — impressive performance from a light-contour barrel.

Bottom Line

Bullpup rifles are an acquired taste; in my experience, they are either loved or hated — there’s not much of a middle ground. In many cases, it is just not what most American shooters are used to, and it is clearly different for anyone with military or law enforcement experience; we are primarily an AR-centric market. But, if you’re open to learning a different manual of arms, the Hellion is one hell of an excellent rifle for self-defense or LE applications. Compact, relatively lightweight, and accurate, it’s also a battle-proven platform. With the 16-inch barrel, you get a very compact rifle without suffering any real loss of ballistic efficiency with the 5.56mm round. With the 20-inch barrel, you now unlock the limits of the cartridge in a rifle that is still compact, light, and sub-MOA accurate. Check out what could be the most competent bullpup in current production at your nearest dealer, or for more information, contact Springfield Armory; Tel.: (800) 680-6866; E-mail: [email protected]; Web: www.springfield-armory.com


Caliber:                                  5.56x45mm/.223 Rem.

Barrel:                                    20” CMV, 1:7 twist

OA Length:                            33.75 inches

Weight:                                  8lbs, 6 ounces

Sights:                                    Iron sights / Picatinny rail

Stock/Grip:                            Adjustable/BCM Gunfighter

Action:                                    Adjustable Gas Piston

Finish:                                    Black

Capacity:                               30 rounds

Price:                                      $2,031.00

Ammunition Tested                   Velocity                                Group Size

Federal 69-grain GMM                                2780                                         0.80  Inches

Black Hills 77-grain Mk 262                        2756                                         0.79  Inches

Black Hills 77-grain OTM                            2748                                         0.75  Inches

The rifle was tested for grouping using a bi-pod rest from prone. The best group is shown over five five-shot groups from 100 yards. Velocity was measured using a Garmin C1 Pro.

The Hellion’s recoil impulse is considerably less sharp than that of an AR-15, which gave a noticeable speed advantage in shot recovery time when moving from steel plate to steel plate at various ranges. The Hellion ran with 100 percent reliability throughout testing — both suppressed and unsuppressed.