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I Carry: Springfield Armory Hellcat OSP Pistol With Swampfox Optics Sentinel Red Dot Sight

Firearm: Springfield Armory Hellcat OSP (MSRP: $599)

There’s a reason we keep coming back to the Springfield Armory Hellcat OSP. Several reasons, actually. Thirteen (plus one) reasons, you might even say. There’s something about near-full-size capacity in a pistol roughly the size of a five-shot revolver. Add in the ability to add a red-dot sight for more precise aiming, and it’s destined to become one of the “go-to” handguns for concealed carry. The Hellcat, quite simply, is a backup-size gun that can fulfill full-size duties.

We’ve covered how the red-dot sight makes the short sight radius of the 3-inch barrel less of an issue, and how the slightly extended 13-round magazine puts the Hellcat awfully close to mid-size capacity. What’s harder to convey in a video is the shooting experience; the Hellcat, while small, doesn’t feel like a small gun on the range. That makes a world of difference when it comes to practice and training – the Hellcat is a bridge between a gun you carry a lot but shoot little, and a gun that’s fun to shoot but hard to conceal.

So often, a “hybrid” tends to be a compromise – take, for example, a hybrid mountain bike/street bike. It’s definitely not the best on the trails, and leaves a lot to be desired on the open road, too. It’s a compromise, performing two tasks passably, but not necessarily well. In the case of the Hellcat, though, it really is the best of both worlds. It’s easy to conceal and it’s easy to shoot, which is a rare combination. The recoil is noticeable, yes, but not overwhelming. It’s pocket-size if needed, or disappears with the thinnest of cover garments. Even with a red-dot sight attached, it’s still small enough to carry all day.

If it sounds like we like the Hellcat, well, we do. The Hellcat we’re using in today’s episode is my personal firearm, and it’s got well over 1,000 rounds through it without a hitch. Heck, I haven’t even cleaned it yet and it’s still running fine – although I do need to periodically clean the lens of the red-dot sight. It may not be for everyone, but it’s an option that really does bear investigation for someone looking for a great all-around carry pistol. 

Holster: JM Custom Kydex AIWB holster (MSRP: $70)

With the popularity of the Hellcat, more and more companies are offering accessories for the little pistol. JM Custom Kydex has several Hellcat-compatible holsters in its impressive lineup, and we’ve opted for the AIWB for today’s kit. One of the many advantages of a gun the size of the Hellcat is the ability to be carried in a wide range of positions, including the appendix position. The Hellcat is quite comfortable carried in the 1 o’clock position, even with a red dot attached.

We’ve been quite impressed with the fit and finish of the JM Custom Kydex line. The AIWB is form-fitted to the Hellcat, with a generous cut for an optic. Retention is positive and an audible click confirms the firearm is fully seated. We’ve opted for DCC monoblock clips for low-profile carry, as well as an FDE finish and the optics cut mentioned earlier. The DCC clips are no-charge, while the finish adds a whopping $2 and the optics cut adds $5. JM Custom Kydex offers a wide variety of finishes, attachment options and extras, so making the holster your own is definitely doable. 

Optic: Swampfox Sentinel (MSRP: $279)

There’s quite a number of micro-red-dot options available for tiny pistols, and interestingly they all, save one, use the same footprint. Today we’re featuring the Swampfox Optics Sentinel red-dot option, which features a 3-MOA dot that has either 10 brightness settings or an automatic brightness sensor. Unlike a lot of optics this size, the Sentinel is available in a manual configuration that allows you to toggle through brightness settings to find the perfect level. No worries on battery life – after a period of inactivity, Swampfox’s proprietary Shake ‘N Wake system turns the dot back on to its most recent setting.

That’s not all, either. This is an aluminum unit, not polymer, with a glass lens. It’s water-resistant and shock-rated to 1500G. Swampfox estimates two years of battery life on a single CR2032 battery, which is located, like many others this size, under the unit – yes, you’ll have to take it off to change the battery. While it is expected that the Sentinel will keep the same zero, there’s only one way to be sure, so make sure you hit the range after putting in a new battery.

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