Today we have a Springfield Armory Hellion rifle with an 18 inch barrel, and we’re topping it with an EoTech sight and magnifier.
Springfield Armory Hellion 18 Inch Barrel Rifle - MSRP: $2,106
Bullpup rifles are lightning rod for gun owners. Some people think they’re absolutely terrific, giving you full-size performance in a compact package, other people think they’re just awful, with lousy triggers and awkward controls. As for myself, I have no feelings either way. I’m cross-eye dominant, and usually shoot rifles with my left hand, which means that unless the gun is set up to bottom eject or similar, or can be swapped around for left-handed use, bullpups are of limited use to me.
This task is made a bit easier because the Hellion has ambidextrous fire controls and a non-reciprocating charging handle that works with either hand. The magazine release is usable by either hand, as is the bolt release. The only thing that isn’t ambidextrous right out of the box is the ejection port, which can be changed around in just a few minutes without any special tools.
Putting the fact that it’s a bullpup aside, the Hellion has all the other features you’d expect on a modern rifle, such as an adjustable gas block, M-Lok slots on the handguard, a length of Picatinny rail on top of the gun for mounting optics and in case those give out, there are also flip-up backup sights at the front and rear of the gun. The version we’re shooting has an 18 inch barrel, which, because of the bullpup design, looks and handles almost exactly the same as the original, 16 inch barreled version. In a conventional AR-15, that extra two inches would mean a bit more extension of the handguard and a shift in the balance of the gun towards the front. On the Hellion, however, you really don’t notice it.
When it comes to triggers, well, the Hellion isn’t going to have the same trigger feel as your AR-15. Bullpups have a lot more distance between the trigger and the hammer than conventional rifles do, and that’s going to affect how the trigger feels. The trigger on the Hellion, though, is quite nice. Yes, there is a lot of travel and takeup, but the break is clean and crisp, and, according to my trigger gauge breaks at just over 4 pounds. Not bad.
EoTech EXPS3-2 Holographic Sight - MSRP: $789
A modern rifle demands a modern sight, and EoTech’s holographic sights have been a favorite of military, law enforcement and armed citizens for years and years. One of the reasons they are so popular is their rock-solid reputation for performance in the worst conditions imaginable, making them a favorite of people who need their optic to just work, no matter where they might be.
The huge viewing area of an EoTech sight makes them very easy to use. Inside that window is a reticle with a 68 MOA ring that is great for “minute of bad guy” encounters at close distances, and the bottom of the ring gives you an aiming point at 7 yards if you zero your rifle at 50 yards. Speaking of a 50 yard zero, the model we’re using is the “-2” version, which means there are two aiming dots inside the circle. The top one gives you an aiming point for 50 and 200 yard targets, while the bottom one is set up for 500 yard targets.
The EXP series uses a single CR123A lithium battery for long life and a short footprint on top of your rifle and offers illumination offerings that are designed to work with night vision gear, a feature that makes it popular with anyone who needs to go looking for two or four legged critters in the middle of the night.
Eotech G43 Magnifier - MSRP: $545
Holographic sights and red dot sights are all one power optics. They give you an aiming point, but they don’t magnify the target in the viewing window. This is an LPVO, or low power variable optic, are a popular choice for people who want to reach out and touch something at longer ranges. Being able to zoom out to 4x, 6x and up to 10x is a compelling argument in favor of an LPVO, but they do have some disadvantages as well. First off, all that glass inside the tube means they can be quite heavy. In addition to this, it’s rather difficult to get the field of view of an LPVO at one power to make the field of view of the human eye, something that’s not a problem with a dot. Adding a magnifier like the EoTech G43 solves the magnification problem, and a dot + magnifier will weigh less on average than an LPVO and mount will weigh.
“But,” I hear you say, “An LPVO gives me 4X or more, and everything in between. This magnifier is fixed at just 3X, why do I want that?”
Well, I’ll tell you why. After both using an LPVO in 3 Gun competition and watching other competitors use theirs, an LPVO is either used at 1X for close targets or at max power at longer ranges. As for the lower power, a 3X magnifier is ideally suited for targets up to 300 years, which is the upper limit for the vast majority of encounters. Is it possible you might need to use your defensive rifle for something more distant than that? Sure. Is it likely? Almost certainly not. For me, having the speedy sight picture of a 1X red dot for inside the home encounters trumps the need to reach out hundreds of yards, but your mileage may vary.