The Springfield Armory Echelon™ is extremely well thought out both in design and execution of manufacture. In this first article, we'll cover some of the attributes of the pistol and what we at Apex see as the possible/probable design intent behind these features. In future articles, we'll go into greater detail in future articles as we look at the Grip Module, Central Operating Group (COG), Variable Interface System (VIS), and how their operational envelopes dictate how we design aftermarket support.

Let's get started.

Echelon Frame Features

The Echelon pistol meets the requirements established by the Modular Handgun System Request for Proposal (XM17) used when the U.S. Army wanted to replace the M9 Service Pistol. As such, this opens up the opportunity to tailor the pistol to a much larger range of hand sizes. With three available Grip Modules and 3 different backstrap options (included with the pistol) at release from Springfield, no one should ever have to feel like they're being forced into a “one size fits all” situation.

We also surmise that a variety of grip lengths will also be available in the future.

The Echelon pistol's "Adaptive Grip Texture"

The grip texture is described by Springfield as “Adaptive Grip Texture”. You can read more about it on their site.

For our purposes, I like to think of this as inverse stippling. Normal stippling on a metal frame is often executed with a small triangular or conical shaped chisel punch and a hammer. By varying the angle, depth, and overlap of chisel impacts, this creates an irregular pattern of triangular shaped pockets in the metal that the tissue of the hand press into to improve traction. In polymer however, this method is not ideal due to its ductile nature.

With the Echelon, the approach is opposite. If you took a latex mold of a metal stippled surface, the impression would show a series of irregular pyramid-like projections. This is what you see on the Echelon, Hellcat, and Prodigy. The more pressure applied to the grip, the better the traction. The texture is less aggressive to casual skin contact, making it more comfortable for concealed carry.

The Echelon's magazine release

The Magazine Release is ambidextrous and large enough for people with small hands to easily depress. The frame has a raised protective shroud on the tail end that prevents the support hand from contacting the paddle and inadvertently releasing the magazine.

For those who carry the pistol on duty or concealed that might be worried about the ambi release being exposed outward of the body, Apex will be releasing a reversible single sided magazine release shortly.

The textured indexing surface on the underside of the Echelon trigger guard

The underside of the trigger guard has a textured indexing surface that provides a non slip, tactile reference for the index finger of your support hand. The textured surface is cut into the trigger guard, allowing you to get a slightly higher support hand grip than you would otherwise.

The textured indexing points serve a dual purpose. First, it aids in establishing more consistent support hand placement when using the “two thumbs forward” style two hand grip. With very little practice, your support hand thumb will naturally come to seek this surface as you finalize your shooting grip.

The second and perhaps more important purpose is for tactile positioning of the trigger finger when there is no intention to fire the pistol (running, negotiating obstacles or even engaging a threat when you have NOT made the conscious decision to discharge the firearm).

It should be pointed out that the location of the concave surface and triangular wedge that's positioned below the indexing point may help prevent accidental slippage of the trigger finger into the trigger guard during a sympathetic muscle contraction such as can occur when startled or falling.

The ambidextrous slide stop takes a minimalist approach. This prevents the flesh of the support hand from contacting the paddle and inadvertently activating the slide stop.

The Echelon's design also reduces the chance of holding the slide stop down when the shooter has large hands or longer thumbs. Because the paddle protrudes horizontally from the frame, the slide can be manually locked to the rear or released forward without difficulty.

Unlike the current U.S. Army sidearm, the Echelon trigger has a centrally mounted pivoting safety.  The trigger has a flat face profile and the location of the safety pivot is near the top of the trigger guard, ensuring that the safety tab will be depressed regardless of trigger finger position on the face.

Echelon Slide Features

The slide cocking serrations are large and cover a nearly 60% of the slide length. The slide cuts for the front and rear serrations are cut deeper toward the centerline of the pistol as they move from front to rear. The cuts terminate in a deeper scallop which prevent possible slippage if hands are wet.

The rear scallop also provides the shooter a grasping surface when a mounted optic obscures access the rear serrations.

The Echelon utilizes an extractor based Loaded Chamber Indicator rather than one that requires a notch cut into the barrel hood and top of slide. The latter method can sometimes allow oil and debris to be expelled upward toward the slide mounted optic lens.

The Echelon pistol’s slide incorporates a cartridge pocket on the side of the breechface opposite the extractor. This pocket positions and holds the ejecting spent casing in the exact same location relative to the ejector.

This means that the ejection pattern will be consistent regardless of how many cartridges are in the magazine, or even if there is no magazine present at all. 

Final Thoughts

Rather than go into the versatility of the pistol’s Variable Interface System, Iron Sight options, or barrel (which I am sure will be covered by a wide variety of media and subject matter specialists) I'll share we at Apex are currently working on for the new pistol:

  • Stainless Steel Guide Rod (available at Springfield Armory’s Echelon launch)
    • Two versions available – Natural Stainless Steel and ArmorLube DLC black finish
  • Checkered slightly extended single sided reversible Magazine Release
  • Apex Action Enhancement Trigger Kit
  • Apex Grade Barrel – Semi Drop-in and Gunsmith Fit versions

The Springfield Armory Echelon is a tremendous value for the price. It is feature rich and configurable to an exponential degree. The design intent behind every feature on this pistol is logical and based upon real world events/experiences. While no one service pistol can be “ideal” for everyone, the Echelon approaches that threshold.

About Randy Lee:

Randy is President and CEO of Apex Tactical Specialties.