The Revolutionary Echelon 9mm Semi-Auto Pistol from Springfield Armory®

by Boge Quinn

May 28th, 2024

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The Echelon disassembles in seconds for easy maintenance.





The heart of the Echelon is the COG (Central Operating Group).











Springfield Armory's Variable Interface System (VIS) allows a wide variety of optics to be easily installed.



Trijicon RM06-C RMR Type 2 Red Dot Sight.



In 371 BC, Thebes defeated the superior army of Sparta at the Battle of Leuctra. The overmatched Thebans bested the Spartans by virtue of their general Epaminondas' brilliant tactics: Epaminondas utilized an innovative formation which came to be called the Echelon, whereby units are formed in multiple staggered lines, as opposed to the more familiar straight-line or phalanx formations. The tactic is still in wide use in infantry, cavalry, armored, naval, and aerial warfare to this day.

When Springfield Armory chose a name for their new Croatian-made 9mm semi-automatic pistol, they decided upon the name "Echelon" for its connotation as a radically new innovation. To my thinking, the name Echelon also aptly applies to the word's more familiar modern definition: from the French échelle (literally, the rung of a ladder), "echelon" has also come to refer to a hierarchical arrangement of people or institutions, progressing upwards in importance like rungs on a ladder.

Whether taken to refer to innovations such as that attributed to Epaminondas, or to the next step on the evolutionary ladder of 9mm pistol evolution, Springfield Armory's new Echelon pistol is well named. Far from being "just another polymer-framed, striker-fired 9mm", the Echelon features many innovations, two of which have patents pending.

The serially-numbered part of the pistol - legally, the pistol itself - consists of a Patent-Pending stainless steel chassis contained within the polymer "frame", which Springfield Armory refers to as the "grip module". Called the Central Operating Group (COG), this chassis contains the rails upon which the slide reciprocates, the ejector, and all fire-control parts, including the trigger assembly - basically, all the mechanical components with the exception of the magazine release, which is innovative in and of itself (more on this later). The Echelon is by no means the first "polymer-framed" pistol to feature an embedded chassis, but the Echelon is the first to create a chassis designed to be removable and readily swapped between grip modules; this allows the Echelon's grip to be easily customized to the shooter's hand to a degree never before seen, by using differently-sized grip modules available from Springfield Armory. Currently available are three modules: Small with Standard texture, Medium with Standard texture, and Large with Aggressive texture. These grip modules feature a cut-out window which allows the serial number on the COG to show through, and they are available from the Springfield Armory Store for only $64.99 each, with no FFL transfer required. At this price, it would be economically feasible (and fun!) for shooters who have a penchant for tinkering to try different contouring, stippling, and/or color-dipping treatments, as we often see done with other polymer pistols; also, I expect we will see different color and configuration options available from Springfield Armory in the future.

The Echelon also ships with three interchangeable backstraps (Small, Medium, and Large, each with an integrated Armorer's Tool) to further allow the grip to be customized to the shooter's hand. My test pistol was supplied with a standard Medium grip module with the Medium backstrap installed, along with a Small grip module as an accessory. The Medium grip module with the Medium backstrap felt great in my rather large hand, but I figured for the sake of thoroughness, I would try the different grip options available to me. After trying the Medium grip module with all three backstraps, I swapped the COG to the Small grip module, which took less time to do than it took to read the instructions in the well-illustrated manual; after trying the Large and Medium backstraps, I discovered to my surprise that the Small grip module with the Small backstrap was absolutely perfect for my hand. Even though I have fairly large hands, the Echelon's Small/Small combination is the best-feeling polymer pistol frame I have ever grasped; it is hard to describe, but the Small/Small combination feels to me very much like the beloved 1911, at a bare fraction of the weight. Upon dimensional comparison using a dial caliper, the measurements of the Small/Small combination proved to be very similar to a 1911 with an arched mainspring housing.

The grip modules are extensively textured with what Springfield Armory calls an "Adaptive Grip Texture", meaning that the texture feels relatively smooth to a light touch, while a firmer grip engages a more aggressive texture just below the surface. I don't know how SA does it, but it works: the texture is smooth enough so that it will not snag on clothing or compromise concealability, but aggressive enough so that the pistol does not try to squirm in the hand under recoil. The grip is textured around its entire circumference, with smaller textured panels above the very unobtrusive and effective integral thumb rests on each side of the grip module. There are also textured panels on the front and bottom of the hooked and generously-oversized trigger guard, as well as textured and angled index pads on either side of the grip module just above the front of the trigger guard. The takedown lever on the port side is also angled and textured, creating the most effective indexing area I have ever seen; in fact, the Echelon is the only pistol I have ever fired that allows me to easily acquire a comfortable yet firm "thumb-forward" two-hand firing grip, which really helps to minimize muzzle flip. Muzzle flip is also noticeably reduced by the design of the grip module's upper rear, which allows the hand to ride high on the grip for a lower bore axis. Again, this is most comfortable polymer grip I have ever felt.

The grip module's design also allows the Echelon to be a fully ambidextrous pistol; thankfully, there is no manual safety lever to worry with, and the COG allows the slide release to operate from either side. The magazine release, rather than being user-switchable for left-handed operation as is often seen on modern pistols, is also truly ambidextrous and can be just as easily operated from either side. This ambidextrous magazine release is achieved by having the cutout for the magazine release on the front of the magazine rather than the side, with a release mechanism that rocks forward: a grand execution of an excellent idea.

Finally, the grip module features an integrated accessory rail forward of the trigger guard, to which the user can attach a light, laser, etc. I mounted one of SureFire's excellent X300U-A Ultra-High Output LED Handgun WeaponLights. The X300U is SureFire's best-selling WeaponLight, and for good reason: it puts out 1,000 lumens of white light, is easily and intuitively switchable, and incorporates SureFire's excellent Rail-Lock® mounting system. Retailing at $359.00, the SureFire X300U is by no means the cheapest weapon light out there, but you never regret buying the best.

The Echelon's slide is billet-machined, finished in black Melonite®, and is uniquely profiled. The front of the slide tapers inward towards the ejection port in what Springfield Armory calls a "Trench Cut", flaring out just forward of the ejection port; this allows the slide to be easily "press-checked" or "pinch-checked" for status, and aids in racking the slide using the deep, aggressive forward-angled front slide serrations. The front of the slide is also beveled for easy holstering. The back of the slide is flared, creating "cocking ears" that also aid in racking the slide, along with another set of deep, aggressive forward-angled serrations. The slide is very easy to grasp from any angle, and several shooters who have handled my sample remarked on how easily the slide could be racked.

Into the slide is dovetailed a very nice set of open steel sights, which are drift-adjustable for windage correction: the front sight features a Tritium insert with a luminescent ring for maximum visibility in any lighting condition, and the rear sight is a tactical-rack U-notch white-outline. Tritium 3-Dot configuration and suppressor-height sights are available.

The second Patent-Pending innovation featured on the Echelon is Springfield Armory's Variable Interface System (VIS). The VIS is an innovative way of installing an optical sight, allowing maximum versatility at minimum cost; underneath the unassuming-looking slide cover plate lies a series of holes, into which are inserted adapter pins, which are supplied with the pistol. These pins can be configured in various patterns, depending on the optic used, so the need for different adapter plates is all but eliminated. This allows the optic to be directly mounted as low in the slide as possible, for an improved sight picture and the best possible alignment. The Patent-Pending VIS self-locking pins exert lateral pressure on the optic's interior bearing surfaces, centering and locking the optic firmly in place as the optic mounting screws are tightened. The VIS is an ingenious design, which allows over 30 different optics to be mounted without the use of adapter plates. To my Echelon I mounted Trijicon's excellent RM06-C RMR Type 2 Red Dot Sight, using the VIS pins, and the VIS system worked wonderfully. The Trijicon RM06 is rugged, reliable, and intuitive to use in either automatic or manual modes; it runs on one CR2032 (coin-type) battery, is easily adjustable for windage / elevation and brightness, and its 3.25 MOA red dot is the perfect compromise between precision and high visibility. The Trijicon RM06-C retails for $742.00, and is well worth the price.

The Echelon's 4-1/2" barrel is precision hammer-forged, and finished in black Melonite® for corrosion and wear resistance. A 5-1/4" version with 1/2x28 thread pitch is available for those who wish to attach a suppressor or other muzzle device.

As mentioned above, there is no manual safety lever on the Echelon, and this is a good thing. There is also no magazine disconnect safety, which is another good thing; it makes no sense to me that someone would want their pistol to be disabled when no magazine is inserted. The slide features a visual and tactical loaded-chamber indicator. The Echelon's Central Operating Group (COG) is designed with safety in mind, featuring a trigger safety, an internal safety, and a dual-sear design for maximum drop protection. The Echelon field-strips easily with no tools, and unlike other striker-fired pistols, the Echelon does not require the trigger to be pulled for stripping. The trigger action is excellent, with a clean takeup, a crisp break averaging just over 3 pounds, and a short, positive reset.

The Echelon includes a flush-fit 17-round magazine, yielding a total payload of 18 rounds. A second 20-round magazine is included, with an extension that is textured similarly to the grip module. For those living under the iron boot of oppression, a version of the Echelon with two 10-round magazines is available; I recommend U-Haul and a good real estate agent as a solution to your problem.

Specifications - Springfield Armory® ECHELON 4.5" Handgun

Part # EC9459B-U
Caliber 9mm Luger (9mm Parabellum, 9x19mm)
Barrel 4.5" Hammer Forged Steel, Melonite® Finish, 1:10
Slide Billet Machined, Melonite® Finish, Optics Ready
Grip Module / Frame Black Polymer
Recoil System Captive
Sights Tritium / Luminescent Front, Tactical Rack U-Dot™ Rear
Grip Width 1.2 Inches
Weight 23.9 Ounces w/ Flush Mag, 24.3 Ounces w/ Extended Mag
Overall Length 8 Inches
Overall Height 5.5 Inches w/ Flush Mag, 6.5 Inches w/ Extended Mag
Safeties Automatic Striker Block Safety, Trigger Safety, Loaded-Chamber Indicator
Trigger Pull 3 Pounds, 1.9 Ounces
Magazines Included (1) 17-Round, (1) 20-Round
MSRP as of May 2024 $679.00 US

Some Keyboard Commandos have been very vocally less-than-impressed with the appearance of the Echelon, but I couldn't disagree more: I consider myself a traditionalist, but I find the Echelon to be quite attractive in its own way. These same nimrods have done everything their little minds can conceive to tear the Echelon down, but I have found that most of the Echelon's detractors have not fired, or even handled, the pistol. When I first received my advance sample of the Echelon, I thought I was looking at a pistol costing well over a thousand dollars; I was very pleasantly surprised to find a quality pistol packed with so many innovative features while retailing at only $679.00, representing what I consider to be one of the best values on the handgun market. I can find no fault with the Echelon, but beyond that, the Springfield Armory Echelon has quickly become my very favorite striker-fired 9mm pistol. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Check out the Springfield Armory's extensive product line at

Springfield Armory Echelon Series pistols

Springfield Armory Store:

Order Ammo Online at Lucky Gunner:

Trijicon Optics:

Trijicon RMR Type 2 Red Dot Sight:

SureFire lighting systems:

SureFire X300U-A weapon light:

Buffalo Bore Ammunition:

Boge Quinn

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Tritium / Luminescent Front Sight.



Tactical Rack U-Dot™ Rear Sight.



Fully Ambidextrous Magazine Release.



The Echelon comes with one 17-round magazine and one 20-round magazine.






Loaded-Chamber Indicator.







SureFire X300U-A weapon light.