Custom Competition-Ready Echelon with Springer Precision By: Yamil Sued

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In this article, Yamil Sued examines upgrades from Springer Precision for the Springfield Armory Echelon. The parts were provided to the author for the purposes of this review.

I recently took a trip down memory lane to the fall of 1993, when I was doing one of my weekly range sessions at the Rio Salado Shooting Range. Something piqued my curiosity. Located right next to the main range was the Practical Pistol ranges. I decided to peek in on one of their monthly events, and I was then immediately hooked on “practical shooting”.

Springer Precision Springfield Armory Echelon
Springer Precision offers an incredible range of high-quality upgrades for the Springfield Armory Echelon.

Not long after that while visiting the late great gunsmith Jake Kempton at the Accuracy Speaks Gunsmithing Shop at the same range, he showed me a custom Springfield Armory pistol he had built. This handcrafted beauty was chambered in 9x21mm, popular at the time for USPSA Open Division. 

Back in ’93, the initial investment into getting into Open Division was substantial, and with today’s inflation and rising costs, Open Division can be unreachable for many beginners.

But what exactly is Open Division? USPSA and Steel Challenge are two of the most exciting shooting sports out there in my opinion, and the Open divisions pretty much allows the shooter to go crazy with modifications on their pistols to make them go as fast as possible. Modifications can include optics, compensators, magazine wells, heavier guide rods, basepads and more.

In terms of getting started today, is there a way to get into one of these high-speed shooting sports without taking out a second mortgage or having to sell a kidney? Fortunately, there is. 

Springer Precision custom Echelon 9mm handgun
The author worked with Springer Precision to create a custom competition Echelon 9mm handgun.

In my humble opinion, the best new pistol of 2023 was the Springfield Armory Echelon. From the day I took it out of the box, I was immediately drawn to it. This pistol provided me with anything and everything I had ever wanted in a service/full-size pistol for training, defense and, yes, competition.

But what if I wanted to be fully “race ready” with the Echelon? Fortunately for us there is Scott Springer, the genius behind Springer Precision. Springer Precision is a leading aftermarket designer and manufacturer of parts and mods for Springfield pistols. Scott started in 2008 with the XD line and since then has developed hundreds of superb parts for Springfield pistols (as well as other brands).

It didn’t take Scott long to come up with custom parts for the then-new Springfield Echelon, not only for competition but also to enhance the shooting experience. As soon as Scott received an Echelon he got to work on several ideas and, before you could say “comp gun,” had come up with a great selection of custom, easy-to-install parts to take the Echelon from a great pistol to a superb race-ready competition gun.

For my own Echelon, the first parts Scott sent me were basepads. Scott had created a couple of designs exclusively designed for the Echelon magazine. The basepads were initially manufactured in two models.

The first I want to talk about is the 140mm basepad, designed with competition in mind to fit the requirements of USPSA competition. This magazine requires the purchase of the custom Springer magazine spring to fit the inside dimensions of the basepad. This extended 140mm basepad allows the shooter to load up to 22 rounds in the magazine. This basepad is manufactured from aluminum and, at the time of this publication, the pads were available in gray, black and tan.

Echelon base plates from Springer Precision
The Springer Precision basepads are available in two sizes, including these 140mm extensions.

The other basepad is called the Competition basepad, and it adds about .420” in length to the magazine to help with positive mag changes during competition and training. The Competition basepad is manufactured in both aluminum and brass, which adds extra weight to aid with reloads. Even though the Competition basepad doesn’t add capacity to the magazine, I’ve found it to be an ideal training tool.

The first batch of aluminum pads Scott sent were “in the white”, meaning they were in the raw aluminum and had not yet been anodized. Scott has a lot of experience with manufacturing basepads, so after shooting hundreds of rounds it was no surprise I did so without a single failure to function.

The brass competition basepad has the same exact dimensions as the aluminum version, just with the extra weight that helps the magazine fall freely during reloads.

The Echelon ships with a one-piece polymer captured guide rod assembly. This system works perfectly well, but if you want to add weight and the versatility of customizing your recoil spring to match your custom reloaded ammunition, that’s where the Springer Guide Rod comes in.

guide rod
Guide rods are available from Springer Precision for the Echelon. They are designed to work with ISMI recoil springs with rates of 14 to 22 lbs.

The Springer Guide Rod is available in solid stainless steel. While the factory Echelon guide rod weighs approximately 5.4 grams, the Springer one weighs in at an amazing 54.5 grams. This is 10 times the weight of the factory guide rod. And it’s this added weight at the front of the pistol that helps aid with controlling recoil and muzzle rise.

Magazine wells are one of those must-have features in many pistols to speed up reloads. Magwells really started to gain traction in the mid 80’s, and nowadays they are the one accessory everyone seems to want. For the Echelon, Scott designed a very sleek and wide Carry/Duty Magwell that increases the factory magwell opening to aid with reloads.

magwell for Echelon
The Carry/Duty Magwell for Echelon works with the Springfield Armory 20-round magazine extension as well as the basepad and magazine extensions from Springer Precision.

The Springer Magwell is manufactured from high-grade aluminum and is available in black, gray and tan. It attaches to the pistol via a 8-32×3/8 BHCS Torx screw. The magwell only fits the Echelon medium grip with the medium backstrap, but Scott told me that you can expect to see more options available soon.

The magwell does not work with the factory Springfield Armory 17-round basepad, but it does work with the factory 20-round extension and is compatible with both Springer Precision basepads.

The compensator is one of those often-misunderstood tools in the shooting world. The compensator works by redirecting the gasses upward to help tame both perceived recoil and muzzle flip. Scott designed his Springer Precision Shorty Compensator with a port pointing upward and two small holes on the sides to help with the overall gas venting.

From the outside, the compensator perfectly matches the aesthetics and dimensions of the Echelon slide, almost to the point that it looks like it was made at the factory. The compensator is machined from high-grade aluminum and has a matte-black finish that closely matches the slide’s finish.

Springer Precision comp for Springfield Armory Echelon 9mm pistol
The Springer Precision Shorty Compensator uses 1/2″x28 threads. The manufacturer recommends using it with their guide rod and a 14-lb. spring for maximum reliability with most factory ammo.

The compensator extends 1.35” beyond the end of the slide and was specifically designed to fit the Springfield Armory Echelon factory threaded barrel. The compensator also works with most factory ammo, though Scott recommends a 14-lb. recoil spring and the Springer Precision Guide Rod for optimal performance.

Scott helped me spec a pistol for competition, duty and just plain fun. The pistol is set up with the compensator, guide rod, 14-lb. recoil spring, magwell and both basepads. As for optics, I wanted to use a Leupold Deltapoint Pro, which is one of the sturdiest dot sights currently available on the market. Given that the factory Variable Interface System perfectly accommodates the DeltaPoint Pro, I didn’t need to use one of Springer’s plates.

Springfield Echelon customized by Springer Precision
The author’s Springfield Echelon is equipped with Springer Precision parts and topped with a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro red dot optic.

The fit and finish of all these parts are excellent thanks to Springer’s attention to quality, which makes his parts just about the best on the market in my opinion.

I took the customized Echelon to my local indoor range, C2 Tactical in Scottsdale, Arizona, to shoot a combination of different factory ammunition loads, including Federal Syntech Range 115 grain. I spent several hours pushing this range rocket as hard as I could, shooting fast then slow, and running a few boxes of each ammo until I was out. 

The results were impressive. Not only did the pistol perform flawlessly with the supplied compensator/spring/guide rod combination, but my follow-up shots were considerably faster. I was also able to move from target to target much faster. Muzzle flip was practically negligible, regardless of the ammo used. I have used several compensator designs since the early 90’s, and I can say that this is one of the most effective compensators I have tried — by far. 

author shooting the Springer Precision Echelon
The author found the customized pistol to be completely reliable when using the Springer Precision comp and 14-lb. spring. Muzzle rise was mild.

Even though I didn’t have to experiment with recoil springs, I like the fact that using the Springer guide rod not only afforded me the added weight up front, but the flexibility to change springs in case I needed to tune the pistol to specific ammo. 

As expected, the magwell was a breeze to install. My reloads were not only faster, but I didn’t miss a single speed reload, compared to trying them without the help of a magwell. The only setback, for me is that I prefer the small grip frame and the small backstrap. At this moment, Springer doesn’t have a product for this specific combination, but I am looking forward to when Scott offers one.

As far as the basepads go, Springer Precision basepads are never a challenge to install and I love their ergonomics. However, the brass competition basepad is a game changer for me. I set up one specific magazine as my “drop mag” for practicing reloads.

Even though you can easily do both tactical reloads and speed reloads with the aluminum basepads, the brass basepad makes it so much easier that I now use it exclusively for all my training sessions. When carrying the pistol, I will carry the lighter-weight aluminum basepad. But for competition I will definitely go for the heavier brass basepad.

At the time of this writing, Scott told me he was working on an extended and textured magazine release that would make the magazine reloads much easier. It is up on his site now. I also know that Scott is diligently working on several other projects to take the Echelon even further than he already has.

When I ran out of ammo, I was left with the urge to get more ammo — a lot more. That’s how cool this setup was to shoot. If you’re looking to take the Springfield Armory Echelon one step further, for competition, duty or just having a load of fun at the range, you should look no further than Springer Precision.

Whether you go with just one of their products or go whole hog with all the goodies, you can’t go wrong with Springer Precision. If you do, I think you’ll find there’s no better combination than Springfield Armory and Springer Precision.

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