There are certain constants in the universe. The Earth rotates around the sun, politicians waste money, and gun owners always want something new. The last of these truths plays out everyday on the internet. While some companies pay lip service to this cry from the wilderness, Springfield has taken their response to an all-new level. Starting in 2022 Springfield will be offering its first bullpup rifle to the market, the Springfield Armory Hellion.
Springfield Armory Hellion
Like many of you, I did a double take when I saw the first images of the Hellion. The new rifle is refreshing as it represents a unique and innovative approach to firearms design. For my fellow gun nerds out there, you will see that the gun has a very familiar French FAMAS rifle vibe to it. A quick look at the gun and we see the rifle features a bullpup configuration where the action is located behind the trigger. The bullpup modular platform allows us to maintain all the ballistic benefits of a longer barrel in a shorter package without sacrificing overall length, accuracy, and muzzle velocity.
The rifle features an overall length of just 28.25 inches while still possessing a 16-inch barrel. The Hellion sports ambidextrous controls, working in concert with a reversible case ejection system, allowing firing from either shoulder. A design feature that Springfield does not say much about is the cheek riser on the butt stock. The raised front of this riser acts as a spent casing deflector. The result of this design is that you can shoot the gun right- or left-handed and not get brass in your face regardless of which ejection port you have open.
Like so many interesting and desirable guns in the industry, the Hellion has a military pedigree. The rifle is based off the internationally proven VHS-2 bullpup (Višenamjenska Hrvatska Strojnica—”multifunctional Croatian machine gun”). The Croatian armed forces employed the Hellion in demanding environments ranging from Iraq to Africa and beyond. The Springfield Armory Hellion offers American shooters a civilian-legal, semi-automatic 5.56mm version of this unique firearm. During Croatian military service, the French military also reviewed the rifle, as did law enforcement. It also competed in trials to replace the FAMAS rifles. The U.S. Department of Defense also has procured a number of the VHS-2 rifles.
A more detailed walk through of the gun shows some well thought out features. We start at the 16-inch barrel. Springfield has included a hammer-forged, high-performance, precision barrel to give us solid accuracy. It has a twist rate of 1:7 and has a durable Melonite coating. Above the barrel we have an adjustable gas system. The Hellion uses a short-stroke gas piston design which is clean and reliable. The gun features a two-position adjustable gas block with “S” suppressed and “N” normal modes. The resulting firearm easily and quickly adjusts to fit conditions and ammo availability.
I am a huge fan of this feature because it makes adding a suppressor to the rifle a breeze. Springfield also knows that gun owners will want to add lights and other accessories to their new rifle. With that in mind, the polymer handguard of the Hellion features nine M-Lok slots for mounting accessories, three each at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. This gives us plenty of real estate to add pretty much whatever we want.
The rifle also has a G36esque full-size pic rail. An uninterrupted strip of Picatinny rail runs along the top of the Hellion, ensuring you can mount the optics of your choice. This extra-long rail will allow the inclusion of thermal or night vision devices as well. Included on the rail are integrated flip-up sights. They are a sturdy spring-loaded metal design with a diopter rear and fully-enclosed blade front sight.
The gun has a five-position adjustable stock for a more customized length of pull and uses the BCM Gunfighter Mod 3 grip. As I mentioned, the gun is fully ambidextrous. The Hellion features a reversible ejection system for fired cases that requires no additional parts or tools. The other three primary controls, safety, charging handle, and the magazine and bolt releases are also easily accessed on both sides of the gun. Another unique feature that Springfield does not mention is the magazine well.
When you look closely, there appears to be a sleeve of some sort in the main magazine well. This is a design feature of the original VHS-2 rifle. This feature allowed gun modification to accept a variety of magazines. While the version we have here in the U.S. will take standard STANAG or AR-style magazines, the VHS-2 could also take FAMAS and G36 magazines we well.
Springfield was kind enough to send a Hellion out for some additional testing. The rifle I received came complete with a Nightforce NX8 1-8×24 optic. This nice piece of glass would serve me well during testing. First impressions of the rifle were very positive. While in some people’s minds, Croatia is not a hotbed of weapon manufacturing, they produce some solid guns. The Hellion is well made, free of rattle and play and comfortable to run.
The manual of arms for a bullpup will undoubtedly present a few hiccups to the uninitiated, but they are soon overcome. I will be honest and say that indexing the safety selector was a bit of a reach for my less than giant hands. I found myself using my thumb to move it into “fire” position on the left side of the gun, and my trigger finger to move it back to safe on the right side of the gun. Your experience may vary as people with bigger hands won’t face this challenge. The bolt release is set back behind the magazine well and is operated by a pinching movement. The charging handle is reminiscent of the H&K G36 and is spring-loaded. It is non-reciprocating and sits parallel to the barrel and can be pulled to the left or right as needed. I found it to work well.
The trigger on a bullpup is a bit of an experience. By necessity, it has a much longer travel than what we are accustomed to on our AR rifles. The trigger on the Hellion is not exempt from this phenomenon. What I can say however, is that the press is smooth and consistent. Some guns in this category have simply abandoned any hope for a decent trigger, but Springfield has put some work into it. It will never be a 1-pound precision trigger, but that is not what the gun is meant for anyway.
One thing I noticed regarding magazines was that they did not immediately drop free like we see in most ARs. This is once again, a slight change in our manual of arms and operating procedures. During mag changes, I had to press the mag release then pull the empty magazine out before replacing it. With practice this became easy and fast. I can not say for certain, but I believe that as rifles get broken in, that magazines will begin to fall free when released.
Accuracy-wise, the gun shot well. Off-hand at 25 yards saw five rounds almost all touching. At 100 yards, I was able to get a nice 1 1/8-inch group with good ammo. The Springfield Hellion comes with a Magpul Pmag which worked well. I also ran a variety of other mags including old school metal mags, polymer ETS mags and Lancer mags with equal success.
The nature of the bullpup is to give us an SBR-sized gun with a full-length barrel. The Hellion serves that role well. I found it very easy to maneuver and fast to run. The ambidextrous nature of the gun made barricade work a breeze. As I mentioned earlier, the raised end of the cheek plate worked well to deflect brass. I ran the run with the right-side ejection port open, but ran the gun left-handed multiple times. I did not experience any brass in my face at all. Then I quickly adjusted to the trigger and was able to put the pedal to the metal on all my drills.
While the trigger is not as fast as my standard ARs, I did not find it to be any real impediment to the gun’s performance. In short, I would offer the same suggestion I make on all guns. Learn the trigger of your gun and master it. Disassembly of the gun for cleaning and maintenance requires no special tools and is easily accomplished.
At the end of the day as I picked up brass I was running through the gun in my mind. At each turn I found myself liking the Hellion more and more. It is a very soft-shooting rifle that works well in both close quarter applications as well as distance shooting. Springfield has indeed brought us something new and I believe it is a winner. If you are tired of the same old AR-patterned guns hitting the shelves, you would be well served to take a long hard look at the Springfield Hellion.
The Springfield Armory Hellion retails for $1,999. Look for a full report in an upcoming issue of March/April issue of Tactical Life magazine. Get your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.
Springfield Armory Hellion Specs
- Color: Black
- Barrel: 16-inch Hammer Forged 4150 Steel, Melonite finish
- Twist: 1:7
- Front Sight: Integrated Flip-Up, Elevation Adjustable
- Rear Sight: Integrated Flip-Up w/ 5-Position Aperture, Windage Adjustable
- Bolt Carrier: Proprietary, Melonite finish
- Gas System: 2-Position Adjustable, Short Stroke Piston
- Handguard: Polymer, M-Lok
- Stock: 5-Position Adjustable w/ Cheek Riser
- Muzzle Device: 4-Prong Flash Hider
- Charging Handle: Ambidextrous, Non-Reciprocating
- Safety selector: Ambidextrous
- Grip: BCMGUNFIGHTER™ Mod 3
- Magazines: (1) 30-Round Magpul PMAG Gen M3
- Weight: 8 pounds
- Overall Length: 28.25 – 29.75 inches
- MSRP: $1,999