Springfield Armory Echelon 2000 Round Test

What happens when you run a brand-new pistol design through a punishing reliability test?

by
posted on December 17, 2023
Echelon reliability test

An all-new, clean-sheet-of-paper pistol from one of the big players in the handgun market and designed for the duty sidearm market is a very rare occurrence.

The P320 from Sig Sauer is among the newest, and it hit the market roughly a decade ago. Smith & Wesson’s M&P M2.0 lets you know right in the name that it’s an update of the M&P pistol that was first released in 2005, and the FN 509 that’s currently filling LAPD holsters is Fabrique Nationale’s refinement of 2009’s FNS 9. Most notoriously, every Glock sold today is a slightly refined version of a pistol that Gaston first started selling in Reagan’s first term.

Part of the reason for the innate conservatism in service pistol releases is that there’s an expectation that these handguns will be put through the wringer.

Duty-Grade? Let's Test That

There are several 10,000-agent federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in the U.S.A. and, while some percentage of the smaller ones pick duty sidearms based on what the sheriff likes or what the chief uses for IDPA competition, there are quite a few very large agencies who award handgun contracts only after extensive competitive trials, and thousands of smaller ones who piggyback their choices off of the ones made by these big agency decisions.

Dirty gun
That's a well-used gun

The Echelon from Springfield Armory is very much aimed at these sorts of contracts and so it’s going to be expected to put up with big round counts. While time and budget constraints limited our ability to give the thing a full-on 30,000 round test with mud and dust and flinging it out of a helicopter onto a manure pile while frozen inside a giant block of ice, we could sure give it a 2,000 round test a la Todd Louis Green, so we did.

In the most basic terms, there’s nothing super revolutionary about the Springfield Armory Echelon. You’ve got your basic striker-fired pistol with a polymer frame containing a detachable fire control system which is the actual serialized part of the pistol. Said frame assembly is topped with a Melonited slide that is already cut for optics. While is very modularity hints at future expansions of the line, at launch time the Echelon was available in any color, caliber, and size you wanted, as long as what you wanted was a full-size 9mm in basic black.

The initial review of the pistol for Shooting Illustrated involved 750 rounds of assorted ammunition fired over the course of a couple months. During the time it received nothing more than the sort of cursory cleaning of the “pull a Bore Snake through it a couple times and call it good” sort, and rewarded that semi-neglect with performance free of either drama or malfunctions of any type.

target and gun
The pistol kept it's accuracy throughout the test.

But how would it hold up to some real blasting without any further cleaning or lubrication?  Two thousand rounds fired in the space of a week or two, in daily range sessions of 200 or more rounds as fast as we could load the mags and dump them downrange, puts different stressors on the gun, the optics mount, and the optic than a casual fifty or hundred round morning at the range.

Ammunition used for the test included full metal jacket loads from Remington, Winchester, Speer, S&B, and even TulAmmo, while hollow point offerings in various weights included IMI Die-Cut, Federal HST, and Hornady Critical Duty.

The Test Is Over, And The Results Are In

Long story short, the boring reliability exhibited during the initial review testing continued throughout the 2,000 Round Challenge, with the pistol not once failing to go through the complete cycle of operation.

Further, even though the slide would get noticeably warm to the touch in those “200 rounds in less than 30 minutes” range sessions, the new VIS optic mounting system held up and never shifted, and the Trijicon RMR held zero all the way through.

Two things were learned, though: The shape of the Echelon’s trigger did tend to be a little rough on the tip of my poor index finger over the course of multiple mag dumps in a limited amount of time. After a 250-round session left a small blood blister, I took to wearing a Mechanix glove on my shooting hand for the last few sessions. Outside of unnaturally high round count scenarios like a training class this might not be a problem, but it’s worth noting.

The other thing was I was reminded how handy Thyrm CLENS lens protectors are. There are few things more annoying that trying to scrub soot off the lens of your Surefire or Streamlight WML after a training session, but the lens of my X300U remained largely grime free thanks to these handy peel-off clear stickers.

Thus far this particular Springfield Armory Echelon has given me no grief over the course of 2,750 rounds. I guess I’ll have to find out how much it will cost to keep it. Maybe I can get a discount because it’s so dirty?

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