Guns and Gear

TFB Review: Springfield Armory Hellion 20-inch (Part 2)

Welcome back to Part 2 of my Springfield Armory Hellion 20-inch review. Part 1 was more of a first look at this gun than a full review. It was a quick-turn piece timed for the announcement date of the new Hellion rather than an in-depth piece. Now that I have spent more time with the Hellion, it is time to share my thoughts with the benefit of some recollection and range time.

Springfield Armory @ TFB:

Accuracy Testing

I shot some more groups with the Hellion to see if the results in Part 1 were representative. The following are averages over multiple 5-round groups fired from a Caldwell Precision Turret rest:

  • Handload (77 grain Sierra Matchking over Varget) – 2.4 MOA
  • Handload (55 grain FMJ over Ramshot TAC) – 2.9 MOA
  • Winchester Ranger 64 grain soft point – 4.4 MOA
  • Hornady Frontier 68 grain BTHP – 3.2 MOA
  • Hornady Frontier 75 grain BTHP – 3.5 MOA
  • PMC XTAC 55 grain FMJ – 2.4 MOA
  • American Eagle 55 grain FMJ – 2.3 MOA

Those results are fairly good considering the very bullpup trigger in this gun. Bullpups generally just do not have match-grade triggers. The Hellion is no exception to that rule. It’s jarring to go from something like an AR with a Geissele two-stage or a Steyr Scout to the Hellion. The pull is long, heavy, and has a few stages of sorts. Several shooters who tried it stopped pulling the trigger partway through to verify that the safety was off. Despite all of that, it still puts up very respectable groups with most ammunition.

The Hellion is not trying to be a match rifle, though. What matters more is its performance in practical shooting situations. While it was hot from other shooting, I fired some 10-round groups to see how they compared to the 5-round groups:

  • American Eagle 55 grain FMJ – 3.7 MOA (10 rounds)
  • PMC XTAC 55 grain FMJ – 2.9 MOA (10 rounds)

Both of those groups had one distinct flier. If that one round is discounted, the groups improve substantially.

  • American Eagle 55 grain FMJ – 2.6 MOA (9 rounds)
  • PMC XTAC 55 grain FMJ – 2.3 MOA (9 rounds) 

Those are great results for 9-round groups of bulk-grade FMJ ammo. If the aftermarket ever gets around to creating a trigger pack for this rifle (something like the Geissele Super Sabra, but a Hellion version) it may be a very impressive shooter.

TFB Review: Springfield Armory Hellion 20-inch (Part 2)

The Duramag Speed 20-round magazine fits nicely on the Caldwell Precision Turret Rest.

Safety Changes

One little difference from the 16-inch Hellion is the safety design. Springfield was smart and revised it for the new model. Rather than sitting at an upward angle, it is now horizontal. I did not even notice this change at first because it felt like the safety that always should have felt on this gun. In my review of the 16-inch Hellion, I struggled with this safety layout. With the lever offset at 90 degrees to the direction it pointed it was hard to tell if the gun was on safe or fire. Changing to a straight lever removes that awkwardness. This is a great upgrade and I hope it is added to all Hellion models moving forward.

TFB Review: Springfield Armory Hellion 20-inch (Part 2)

The straight safety lever of the 20-inch gun (top) is a marked improvement over the angled lever of the older 16-inch (bottom) model.

Iron Sights

The iron sights are another Hellion feature that deserves a shout-out. These are not an afterthought, like so many other backup irons. Other sights feel like a “feature” that is not actually much of a feature. Not so on the Hellion. These sights feel more like what you would expect on a rifle designed for irons rather than optics. 

I did a fair amount of the shooting with the Hellion using only the irons. Part of that is because I like shooting irons generally, but these are irons that are easy to enjoy. Both the windage and elevation are adjustable without using tools. The front post is tapered but still easy to pick up. And instead of a simple rear sight with one or two settings, the Hellion has settings from 100-200 up to 500. I do not know for sure if they are marked in meters or yards. I would guess they are meters, but I found that they lined up fairly well with yards when using .223 Rem ammo and meters with  5.56 NATO ammo, which is loaded a little hotter. The settings tracked at every setting out to 500.

TFB Review: Springfield Armory Hellion 20-inch (Part 2)

Hooded front sight with tapered post. Also note the elevation adjustment screw, which is helpfully labeled.

 

TFB Review: Springfield Armory Hellion 20-inch (Part 2)

Windage adjustments are made on this knob at the base of the rear sight.

 

TFB Review: Springfield Armory Hellion 20-inch (Part 2)

Note the “1-2” setting on the rear sight, as well as the indicator mark for tracking windage changes.

Suppressor Setting

Another major strength of this rifle is the suppressor setting. It works very well. Most of my usage has been with a SilencerCo Omega 300 on a Griffin Armament A2 adapter. The ejection pattern with the suppressor attached and the suppressor setting is just about the same as without a suppressor on the regular gas setting. Unlike some guns that have tons of gas settings, like the FAL, the Hellion has only two. It is hard to get lost when there are only two choices. I did forget to switch back to unsuppressed after removing the silencer and the gun continued to function. It would not lock back on an empty mag with .223 ammo but otherwise functioned fine. One last note though, the gas regulator does get hot after shooting so be sure to wear gloves or use a tool to turn it if you have been shooting a lot!

TFB Review: Springfield Armory Hellion 20-inch (Part 2)

A silencer on any 20-inch barrel is lengthy, but the Hellion does keep it a little shorter than a traditional layout rifle.

Bolt Hold Open

One feature that is still a glaring omission is an external bolt hold open lever. It should have one. Reaching up into the magazine well to lock the bolt back should not be necessary on a modern rifle. I did not have to clear any malfunctions during the last three months, but I also had good magazines, and good ammunition, and was not in the muck and grime. Eventually, there are always malfunctions. Being able to lock the bolt open without stripping the magazine and reaching inside the mag well blindly would make that easier. It is also a good feature to have when you need to lock the bolt open and show clear on the range. 

TFB Review: Springfield Armory Hellion 20-inch (Part 2)

Conclusion

Despite a few notable flaws, like the trigger and lack of an external bolt hold open, I do like the Hellion overall. The 20-inch barrel really capitalizes on the strengths of a bullpup, namely a lot of barrel in a small package. It’s a rugged gun and it handles suppressors like a champ. If you are looking for an interesting and unique gun that can provide the velocities that 5.56 was meant to have while being quite a bit shorter than a 20-inch AR, the Hellion 20-inch may be the gun for you.



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