First Reactions to the New Springfield Armory Echelon
Springfield Armory has released its new striker-fired polymer duty-style pistol, the Echelon. It is named after a military combat formation developed by the Roman army. We focused our assessment of the pistol on what you should expect from a firearm for this purpose at this price point. The Springfield Armory Echelon Series comes in 4 different configurations: the standard Echelon, Echelon low capacity, the Echelon with 3-dot Tritium sights, and the Threaded Echelon with 3-dot Tritium sights. The one we comment on here is the standard Echelon model.
“In 371 BC, an outmanned army faced a certain defeat at the hands of the Spartans. Refusing to surrender they employed a new formation in a final effort to save their city. By staggering their troops diagonally, each unit behind and to the right, they toppled the mighty Spartan army and invented the echelon, a military formation that is still used today. In the same spirit of innovation, Springfield Armory introduces the Echelon, a superior approach to modern pistol design.”
It is important to note that this is NOT a new XD model. This is a completely different pistol. There are several key differences, the biggest one for us was a much-improved trigger. Deservedly or undeservedly, Springfield’s XD line gained a relatively bad reputation over the past 20 years or so. While some like their XD pistols, there is a plethora of disdain for them on the internet. A survey of handgun forums and blog articles will be sure to turn up negative comments about the XD line. If you want to read what someone wrote after drinking a 6-pack of haterade, just Google “XD problems.” From what we can tell, most of the XD problems were associated with heavy use and the average user probably wasn’t as affected which would explain why the XD still has a following. Comparisons to the XD line and specifically the XDM will be inevitable. Overall, we found this model to be significantly better than the XDM.
We really liked the aggressive serrations on the slide. We would anticipate one could operate it under nearly any sort of wet, slimy conditions. The guide rod is polymer instead of steel which we weren’t too excited about. The takedown lever has a ledge on it which provides a really nice place to grip with your thumb when shooting. For those concerned about the bore axis, the bore axis on the Echelon is relatively low. There is a loaded chamber indicator on the port side of the slide but no other status indicators. (The XDM had a cocking status indicator on the rear of the slide; the Echelon does not.)
The ergonomics of the Echelon’s grips are good/standard for the price point and the backstrap is removable. It comes with two additional/different backstrap replacements, giving the shooter more options for a comfortable, natural grip. One thing some shooters might not like is the lack of an aggressive texture.
It is not slippery but is not as aggressive as some of its competitors. If you were trying to handle this pistol in wet conditions, it might leave something to be desired. However, if you prefer a smoother grip, you are likely to love the Echelon. There isn’t much flare on the mag well which some won’t like. Both the mag release and slide release are fully ambidextrous. The forward portion of the grip module has a rail for mounting a light or other accessory.
The sights on the Springfield Armory’s Echelon are fairly standard. The rear sight is a U-notch and the front is a night sight. The front sight is a bright yellow/green similar to the front sight on a Trijicon HD-XR. The rear U-notch sight could get busy, especially with an optic mounted, but we really liked the brightness on the front sight. Another great feature is how low the sights sit on the slide. The Echelon comes optics-ready and includes two additional sets of pins for various optics. It is out-of-the-box compatible with all major optics without needing a floor plate adapter. This will enable the shooter to customize his or her preferred sight while keeping the optic low. This is becoming a common feature on many duty-style pistols, and it is a great thing because it opens up a host of sight choices without having to raise the sight up with a floor plate adapter.
The trigger is one of our favorite things about the Echelon. The trigger guard is double undercut which is a nice feature. It has a trigger safety which is common to many polymer pistols. The trigger itself had some nice, though slight, curvature from top to bottom. Side to side it is squared off, which someone with small hands might not like. The overall feel of the trigger is good.
Pulling the Echelon trigger was a pleasant surprise. There is a fair amount of take-up/pre-travel in the trigger (similar to a Glock), followed by a very crisp break. The wall is very clean and well-defined. There is no “mush” at all, none. As distinct as the wall is, it is only the second-best part of the trigger’s operation. The best part is the reset. The Echelon’s trigger reset is excellent, compared to other firearms in its class.
It is very tactile, and you feel it in your trigger finger the moment it resets. Beyond being easily identifiable, the trigger reset is very short. The short reset combined with its tactile nature results in very smooth, fast follow-up shots. In fact, when shooting the Echelon, you only feel the take-up on the first shot if you pay attention to the reset. If you only allow the trigger to move forward enough to reset, all you’ll feel for the remainder of your shots is that clean break followed by a short reset. This trigger is different AND better than the XDM trigger.
Additionally, Springfield designed the Echelon’s Central Operating Group (COG) to be removed quickly by anyone who owns one.
The operator’s manual gives four steps for removing it and four steps for reinstalling it. It is serialized and can be installed in other grips. For those who like to swap out parts, this is a plus.
Shooting the Echelon
We put a little over 100 rounds through it and were pleased overall. We experienced no malfunctions, although 100 rounds are not enough to give an in-depth review. Beyond the trigger experience already mentioned, shooting the echelon is rather standard. The bright front sight provides a good sight picture. Recoil/muzzle flip were similar to your standard polymer 4.5-inch gun and comparable to a SIG P320, Glock 17, or Smith and Wesson M&P. Accuracy is standard as well. We enjoyed shooting the Echelon.
The Echelon is a good pistol for its purpose and price point. We really liked the aggressive serrations on the slide, the bright front sight, and the natural ergonomics of the grip. The trigger is great for a gun in this category—a really clean wall with a tactile and short reset. There were a few things we weren’t so excited about such as the less aggressive texture on the grip and polymer guide rod. Only time and heavy use will tell if the Springfield Echelon’s durability exceeds the reputation of the XD. We would anticipate it gains a following rather quickly.
Overall, we like the Echelon and hope you do too.