Springfield Introduces the Echelon

Jul 12, 2023

To build a gun that appeals to law enforcement, you have to know your customer.

Today, Springfield Armory comes out of the gate with a new pistol that certainly looks to be purpose-built for the holsters of police officers.

Don’t take my word for it.

That’s according to the police officers/Gunsite instructors who tried it while I was taking a pistol course at Royal Range in Nashville, Tennessee.

When Springfield Armory asked if I’d like to test “a new pistol” I readily agreed.

Testing new products is a big part of what makes my job fun. After more than 20 years of T&E, I’m seldom surprised with what I find inside boxes sent for evaluation.

Springfield Armory surprised me. I knew I was getting a pistol for testing. But had no clue it would be coming equipped to appeal to what appears to be the target market: law enforcement.

Springfield Armory’s new Echelon arrived with the accessories that trick it out for duty carry (top). It has features that are designed to make it appealing to that very particular market segment (bottom). Expect to see if on “real” duty belts in the future. It performed well when unexpectedly pressed into service last weekend.

The Echelon arrived, along with a prototype Safariland holster designed to carry the pistol and fully patrol-equipped with a Trijicon red dot sight, and a Streamlight 300U+ weapon light.

In case you’re not read-in on LE gear, that’s top shelf “cop shop” equipment. It also included a pair of magazines and two additional adjustable backstraps.

They will appeal to an officer looking to maximize ammo capacities without sacrificing real estate on a duty belt. With all the requisite gear for today’s officers, real estate is scarce.

When I sighted in the pistol, I thought it a bit snappy. Afterwards, I decided to go “full duty” and attach the Streamlight to the front. Once attached, the pistol immediately became more docile.

That’s when I realized it really was designed to be a duty weapon. Springfield hasn’t actually confirmed that, but the gear and launch photography make it pretty obvious they have at least “considered” the LE market.

Springfield’s launch art and T&E unit both give broad “hints” at the market segment where they’ve aimed this pistol. Springfield Armory photo with permission.

It’s what happened after I thought I was done with all my testing for this piece that completely confirmed the feelings.

The Echelon got an unexpected acid test last weekend.

I was attending a three-day Gunsite Academy class at Royal Range in Nashville, Tennessee and had just begun warming up with my personal pistol when it started giving intermittent, but recurring, feed issues. Not what you want when you’re trying to concentrate on learning something other than “failure to fire” drills. A consistently cranky pistol isn’t a confidence builder. When nothing seemed to remedy the problem, I realized I had a second gun with me…the Echelon.

After swapping holsters and getting permission from our instructors to run Safariland’s duty holster in class, I put the Echelon to work. I didn’t impress anyone, but the Echelon quickly got everyone’s attention.

Realizing I was never going to keep a class of “gun guys” away from a new holster and pistol, I pledged everyone to secrecy and then had Range Master Jeff Dooley and Instructor Jason Lovett run some rounds through it.

When it comes to testing, master level shooters’ impressions count a lot more than mine. And the pictures tell the story.

Handing the Echelon off to Gunsite Range Master Jeff Dooley and Instructor Jason Lovett (who both happen to be police officers and high level shooters) confirmed both the accuracy of the gun and the appeal to officers. With a couple of dry fires each on the trigger, they immediately ran the gun (top and middle) quickly and ridiculously accurately. (bottom) The ragged hole contains about 35 rounds …the box is a three inch square, shot from five yards. They say the gun is a “shooter.”


The Echelon ran without a hiccup through their various drills. The gun never had a failure to fire or extract for me through 500+ rounds of Fiocchi 115 grain Range Dynamics ammo.

The class was focused on defending your home/family in various scenarios, so inside the “gumdrop” or “head box” were the only targets we were aiming for. The gun and ammunition were both more than capable. The shooter wasn’t nearly as dependable.

But the story of this gun isn’t just performance. The Echelon is the launch point for several new Springfield features., including a new “central operating group” and an innovative mounting system for red dot optics.

The new COG - Central Operating Group is the only serialized component of the pistol. If you’re thinking “like Sig’s P320 fire control group” you’ve got the right idea.

The COG is designed to simply- and quickly- move between small, medium or large sized grip modules. Like SIG’s system, the COG’s impressive, but I wish I’d invented their (patent pending) optic mounting system.

That Variable Interface System (VIS) allows for the mounting of more than 30 different optics directly to the slide without adapter plates. It uses self-locking pins to adjust to the footprint of your specific optic. That allows a lower and more stable direct mount to the slide and eliminates the need for adapter plates. Fewer parts mean fewer chances for “challenges.” Adjust the pins to the anchor points for your optic, tighten down the mounting screws and you’re in business.

With three different grip modules and the adjustable backstraps, an officer could be assigned a single COG, then select the module and backstrap that best fits their hands -or needs. They all have an enlarged trigger guard to allow for gloves (I ran it with leather gloves - no issues).

It ships in a zippered case, along with a pair of magazines (17+1 and 20+1). Springfield also has “low capacity” (10 round) magazines available for those areas where standard capacities are non-starters.

The unit I tested was their entry price unit stock: tritium U-dot sights, two magazines (1-17, 1-20), a double zipper case and three backstraps. Springfield’s release specifications set the MSRP at $679. The top-end Echelon (threaded barrel and 3-dot tritium sights) MSRP is listed as $739.

Overall impressions? Great shooting pistol, surprisingly svelte pistol. Controls are intuitive without being intrusive and the“adaptive grip texture” allows for solid control.

Would I carry it? Yes. But running it with the 20-round magazine would make it difficult to carry inside the waistband concealed. OWB shouldn’t be an issue. The Streamlight 300 Ultimate makes it a full-fledged duty gun -and the Safariland holster carried it comfortably and securely during long days on the range.

Would I expect to see officers carrying it? Absolutely, and there’s very little doubt Springfield Armory’s looking to the Echelon to lean-into that marketplace.

The Echelon has already surpassed SAAMI drop test parameters -and the COG features a second sear - designed to prevent accidental discharges should the gun be dropped. And it field strips without any tools -or pulling the trigger.

I successfully completed a Gunsite class with a very thoroughly, totally unexpectedly tested- Echelon. All told, I put more than 700 rounds through it.

Gunsite instructors put 300 additional rounds through the gun, using a mix of their ammo. A total of more than 1,000 rounds with only a single field strip, wipe down and lubed -with zero malfunctions. That’s a test that far exceeds my normal round count or testing routine.

Springfield Armory hasn’t come rout and said they’ve designed the Echelon for law enforcement, but having two men with more than 40 years experience in law enforcement shoot it, say they’d carry it without hesitation says Springfield Armory has a pretty clear market identified for this pistol, although it will appeal to “the rest of us”.

If you’re one of those brave souls who answers the call when things go bump in the night, this might be a gun you’d want to check out.

As always, we’ll keep you posted.

—Jim Shepherd

A final note…I wouldn’t unnecessarily change gear for any training. But a high round count and high stress shooting simulations are a great way to see if a gun might work for you. The experience reminds me the old saying “two is one, and one is none” isn’t just an expression. Each of the other students in the class came with multiple pistols -capable of using the same holsters and magazines. Without the Echelon, I would truly have been “unarmed in a gun fight.”