Springfield Armory Echelon

The Lego Of The Gun World
; .

The latest high tech combat handgun to come out of the Springfield Armory skunk works is the 9mm Echelon. Launching into a crowded field already full to bursting, the Echelon has a high bar to clear if it hopes to impress guys like me. However, after rolling around in the dirt with a brand new copy, I can honestly report they cleared the bar by a wide margin. The Echelon flirts with ballistic perfection.


The “Variable Interface System” is a patent-pending self-locking
pin-and-socket system for mounting over 30 different optics
without the use of adapter plates.

The Heart of the Matter — the Central Operating Group. It’s not
a secret paramilitary unit, but the “guts” of the Echelon, offering
the ability to change grip modules as desired.


For the time being at least, the Echelon is a full-sized service pistol. This means it occupies the same basic footprint as a GLOCK 17 or an HK VP-9. However, if you hold the new Echelon pistol up to your ear, you can hear thunderous hoofbeats approaching in the distance. I suspect this thing is about to become just about everything you could imagine in a tactical handgun.

Modularity is the new holy gospel in military and Law Enforcement circles. Everybody, and I do mean everybody, makes polymer-framed pistols these days. Some of these are rarefied pieces of mechanical art. Others are bodged-together claptraps as ugly as politics. The Echelon pushes the current state of the art in modular pistols through the stratosphere.

To be considered truly modular, a combat handgun needs to sport a removable serialized fire-control module. This allows you to buy a single central chassis and use it to create a wide variety of pistols. For the purist, there is currently really only a handful of contenders for the coveted title of modular combat pistol. The Beretta APX hits pretty close, but it takes a tool and a little body English to remove the fire control module. By contrast, both the SIG P320 and the Springfield Armory Echelon can be mixed and matched with nothing fancier than a standard-issue set of human fingers.

It was this very modularity earning the SIG P320 the coveted spot in the holsters of U.S. troops deployed operationally around the globe. In its full-figured guise, this is the M17. The stubbier concealed carry variant with the shorter slide/barrel and abbreviated frame is the M18. I own an M17 myself and love it. However, the Echelon benefits from a bit more mechanical evolution.


Springfield Armory Echelon Gear List Tactical Gear: HSGI Polymer Taco Pistol Pouch, Taco Rifle Pouch, Operator Belt, S&W Handcuffs, Eagle Industries Plate Carrier Optic: Trijicon RMR Type 2 Light: Streamlight 7A Federal LE 9mm 124-gr. HST

The few other “Modular” handguns on the market have a reputation
for being difficult to work with but the Echelon can be disassembled
“with nothing fancier than a standard-issue set of human fingers.”

An Awkward Analogy Straight from the Aisles of Toys “R” Us

Toys “R” Us isn’t really a thing anymore. After more than half a century of filling American toyboxes with worthless plastic crap, this esteemed purveyor of playthings ultimately fell prey to the Internet and Amazon. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017, closing its stores in the U.S., UK and Australia. They still have a modest representation in Macy’s stores, but they are a shell of their former glorious selves. That’s a shame. I did so love the place.

One of the bedrock products at Toys “R” Us was Legos. If you have never had the pleasure of stepping on a Lego block in your bare feet at three o’clock in the morning while staggering zombie fashion into the kitchen to get your discomfited little angel a drink of water, then you clearly are not a parent. If this is the case, I sincerely hate it for you but suggest you do enjoy having both money and free time. Actual parents don’t have either of those things. Additionally, stepping on a Lego block unexpectedly in the night is adequate to make a guy get religion.

Legos got their start in the workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen in Billund, Denmark, in 1932. The word “Lego” translates from the Danish term leg godt which means “play well.” The first Lego blocks were actually made out of wood. In 1947, Lego branched out into injection-molded plastic with their “Automatic Binding Bricks.” Now fast forward half a century and those ubiquitous little rascals are absolutely everywhere.

I’m not kidding. Lego introduced minifigures in 1978. In 2011, astronauts brought 13 Lego sets aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor to see how the little blocks might respond to microgravity. Yeah, right. Those lucky dogs already get paid to fly rocket ships. Now they get paid to fly rocket ships and play with Legos — of course it’s a government job.

So, why all this vapid jabber about these addictive children’s toys? Because Legos are the ultimate modular tool. Using a single basic standard, these nifty little interlocking plastic blocks can become most anything you can imagine. Likewise, the new Springfield Armory Echelon is now poised to do the same thing to the world of combat handguns.


The Springfield Armory Echelon is a new striker-fired 9mm which “flirts with ballistic perfection.” Tall praise indeed for a “black gun.”

The Echelon comes standard with a tactical rack U-Notch
rear sight, aggressive slide serrations and a flared rear to assist with racking.

Ballistic Particulars

What really sets the Echelon apart is they did literally everything right. GLOCK makes a great pistol, but their controls are one-sided only and their guns look like they came off the lumber rack at Home Depot. The SIG M17 was good enough to satisfy Uncle Sam, but the front-heavy architecture feels just a bit weird and the stock grip modules don’t include interchangeable backstraps. It is clear the Springfield Armory guys took the mandate to do everything perfectly and ran with it.

They call the serialized fire control module the Central Operating Group (COG). That sounds like a secretive paramilitary intelligence service, but it is readily removable and formed from stainless steel. The COG also includes a unique secondary sear to guarantee the weapon will not go off if inadvertently dropped.

The slide embodies more raw technology than your smart watch. A cleverly-designed forward trench makes it easy to press check or charge the weapon from the front. Flared ears in the back enhance purchase when you are sweaty, rushed, or terrified. Pretty much everything else is still covered in deep easy-to-grab serrations.

The Adaptive Grip Texture covering the touchy bits of the frame is lifted directly from the Hellcat. There are nifty little parking pads left and right to give you a place to keep your trigger finger when you are not actively throwing heat downrange. The oversized trigger guard encompasses a superb flat-faced trigger with a built-in blade safety.

Three readily-interchangeable backstraps come with the gun and let you optimize the fit for your hand size. Interestingly, these backstraps do not alter the trigger reach — they define the frame angle. This way you can best approximate the geometry of the GLOCK or the 1911 as your heart desires.

Small, medium and large interchangeable grip modules do actually alter the trigger reach and makes nine different combinations if my math is correct. If you can’t seamlessly fit the Echelon to your hands, you might not actually be human.

Both the slide stop and magazine release are perfectly replicated on both sides of the gun. Some other bilateral mag releases suck … like a lot. By contrast, that of the Echelon is silky smooth no matter your handedness.

Iron sights come in either three-dot or tritium-powered U-dot variations. The U-dot sights were also pioneered in the Hellcat. What really sets the sighting system apart, however, is the unique Variable Interface System (VIS) for most any imaginable electro-optical sight.

The VIS consists of a series of included mounting pins allowing you to painlessly run as many as 30 different optical sights without a dedicated mounting plate. This design also keeps the optic way low on the gun to minimize parallax. If you can successfully microwave a Pop-Tart, you can swap out optics on the Echelon.

The gun comes standard with a flush-fitting 17-round magazine as well as an extended 20-round version. If you can’t solve your problems with 38 rounds of 9mm jacketed hollow point, you should really consider investing in some new problems. Of course there are also 10-round versions for you poor unfortunate slobs trapped behind the lines in places like New York, New Jersey and California. Be strong, my oppressed brothers.


At 12 meters off of a simple rest, the Echelon is a precision instrument.
Will says, “This gun shoots plenty straight!” Photo: Will Dabbs, MD

Trigger Time

The Echelon has a very nice trigger. Yes, you can split hairs over striker-fired triggers from various manufacturers. I have done so myself many times. However, reality is this one is nice, crisp and short. The controls work perfectly no matter your handedness, and magazines jet out the butt like fruit from a shoeless Sudanese street vendor.

The bore axis is about as low as you can go without bending the laws of physics, and the grip was easy to tweak. The Adaptive Grip Texture is comprised of scads of tiny little pyramids. The tighter you squeeze, the firmer it grips. The Echelon is also 6 oz. lighter than the GI-issue M17.

The gun shoots unnaturally straight, better than do I. It is also as reliable as a politician’s graft. I’m really not sure you could kill it if you set out to do so.


This is the field to beat. The GLOCK 17 is on the top, the Springfield Armory Echelon is in the middle, and the SIG M17 is on the bottom. Will says the Echelon is the best by far! Photo: Will Dabbs, MD


This is a new pistol launch. There’s not the massive tsunami of holsters and support gear waiting at your fingertips as might be the case for your favorite GLOCK or Smith. However, give it about 20 minutes and the inimitable engine of American capitalism will suffocate us underneath all that stuff.

Also, you heard it here first, I’d wager my reputation as a professional gun writer we will see the Echelon in different sizes and an amazing array of polychromatic hues in short order. The Echelon represents the very cutting edge of modern combat handgun technology. I needed a new 9mm pistol like I needed a boil on my butt, but I bought this one. It really was that cool.

MSRP: Starting at $679

Subscribe To GUNS Magazine

Purchase A PDF Download Of The GUNS Magazine January 2024 Issue Now!