Roland Special has become known as any semi-automatic pistol that has been highly customized by its owner. We are not just talking about dropping in an aftermarket trigger or swapping out sights. A Roland Special build is a reflection of the owner’s needs and personality with aftermarket slides, barrels, triggers, firing pins, optics, magazine wells, custom grip stippling, slide stops, magazine releases, and a whole lot more. There really is no limitation on the amount of customization and aftermarket parts, other than the owner’s bankroll and how much they are willing to spend on a self-customized pistol.
The idea of the Roland Special started as a joke by putting a compensator on a concealed-carry Glock G19 equipped with a SureFire X300U tactical light. The idea to comp a G19 came from a member on the PrimaryandSecondary.com forum back in 2015, and that mod morphed into the Roland Special. Today, the Roland Special has spawned a following of kitchen-table gunsmiths creating customized and personalized Glocks, as well as S&W M&Ps, FN 509s, H&Ks, CZs, and others. Just go to Instagram or Pinterest and search “roland special” to see a massive amount of custom pistols, with some going more for the cool factor rather than performance and usability, in our opinion.
For this match up, we built a traditional Roland Special almost exactly like the original Glock G19 circa 2015, but like kitchen-table gunsmiths before us, we tweaked the build. We also slightly modified a Stoeger SRT-9 Combat with an optic and compensator. Our third pistol is the Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP, which is a factory-made Roland Special version of Springfield’s Hellcat. All of these pistols use a striker-fire system and DAO trigger with a flat face, along with a polymer frame. Other similarities between these pistols is a slide-mounted red-dot optic — green dot in the case of the Stoeger — and a compensator. We chose these three levels of Rolandism to illustrate how Gun Tests readers can adjust their sights on their own handguns to modify them as little, or as much, as they want, according to their needs and their wallets.
The idea behind a compensated pistol is to reduce muzzle flip. We fired all three pistols with and without their compensators and found there is a reduction in flip when using a compensator. The ports in the compensator and the extra weight help to stifle muzzle rise. The benefit of a red/green dot optic is more precise aiming and faster target acquisition. With a red-dot sight, all you need to do is place the dot on the target to aim, there is no front sight/rear sight alignment required.
How We Tested
We first tested for accuracy at 15 yards, where both the Hellcat and G19 gave us one ragged hole depending on the ammo we used and our concentration. We also tested at 15 yards for speed and reloads. The compact Glock and full-size Stoeger were easiest to manipulate. The subcompact Hellcat RDP was smaller, and we had to modify our reloading technique to ensure the magazine was fully seated and we didn’t pinch our fingers.
Our 9mm Luger ammunition consisted of three loads, two training loads with full-metal-jacket ammo and one defense load with hollow points. Remington Golden Saber Bonded, the defense load, uses a 147-grain BJHP bullet. For training ammo, we used an Armscor brand with a 124-grain FMJ and Defender remanufactured ammo with a 115-grain FMJ.
Because you, the shooter, have customized the pistol, you make it yours by adapting the gun to your shooting style. The thing with a Roland Special is you can easily swap out parts if you don’t like how they perform. One thing to remember when doing a custom build, not all parts may work perfectly together, meaning you may initially experience some failures to feed or eject until parts have broken in. This happened with our G19 build, but we were able to quickly work the bugs out and get it to run consistently. Here’s what else we found with these custom and factory builds.
Gun Tests Grade: A (BEST BUY)
You only thought Roland Specials were only full or compact guns? Think again. The Hellcat RDP is subcompact version direct from the factory. We’ve tested Springfield’s Hellcat models in the past and given them high grades. This latest variant, the Hellcat RDP, adds a Springfield HEX Wasp red-dot optic and compensator, two of the items we look for in a Roland Special.
|Action||Semi-auto, short recoil-operated locked breech, striker fired|
|Trigger||Double action only|
|Overall Length||7.00 in.|
|Overall Height||4.0 in. w/flush mag; 4.5 in. w/extended mag|
|Maximum Width||1.06 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||19.3 oz. w/flush mag; 19.6 oz. w/extended mag|
|Weight Loaded||24.03 oz. w/flush mag; 25.19 oz. w/extended mag|
|Capacity||11+1w/flush mag; 13+1 w/ extended mag|
|Slide Retraction Effort||16.0 lbs.|
|Frame Front Strap Height||1.62 in.|
|Frame Back Strap Height||2.50 in.|
|Grip||Textured polymer, finger grooves|
|Grip Thickness (max)||1.06 in.|
|Grip Circumference (max)||5.25 in.|
|Front Sight||Steel; fixed front post with tritium dot|
|Rear Sight||Drift adj. U-notch|
|Trigger Pull Weight||6.18 lbs.|
|Trigger Span||2.80 in.|
|Safeties||Trigger blade, drop|
Despite its size, this was the most accurate pistol tested in this group, and it offered a first-class shooting experience. As we have reported in the past, the Hellcat can be a bit snappy pistol with muzzle flip. The dual captive recoil spring helps to mitigate the snap, but the comp does more. The extra weight at the muzzle due to the self-indexing compensator adds weight, and the three ports — one on each side at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions and one at the 12 o’clock position — stifle recoil snap. Shooting the Hellcat with and without the comp, we noticed a difference. The self-indexing compensator can be easily removed or reinstalled without the use of a tool and worrying if it’s in the right position. A locking lever is pressed to screw the comp on and off.
The HEX Wasp is a micro-sized red dot compared to the larger UTG and Trijicon, and it pairs well with the subcompact slide. The red aiming dot is 3.5 minutes of angle, and we feel this is a good size for an EDC gun. The optic co-witnesses with standard-height sights, which we liked a lot. With taller sights and red dots, you need to modify your aim, not so with the RDP because the dot is the same height as standard sights. You need a wrench to adjust windage and elevation, and the directions are clearly marked. The Wasp uses an automatic dimming feature, adjusting to ambient light conditions. There is no manual adjustment for dot brightness. We’ve come to like a manual adjustment for a red dot, especially in controlled shooting situations, like the range or in competition. In an EDC gun, we like that the sight does the brightness adjusting for us. The sight is always on and runs on one CR2032 battery for 65,000 hours, which comes out to more than seven years of juice, if we did the math correctly. The shooter-facing end is serrated around the lens to cut glare. The aiming dot was very precise, with no flaring. The slide is cut for the Wasp but will also take a Shield RMSc optic. The iron sights feature a front tritium night sight, and the rear is a tactical rack U-notch. We used the Wasp optic to cock the pistol and had no issues. The forward and aft slide serrations offer a good texture, and it took 17 pounds of effort to rack the slide.
Two stainless-steel-body magazines come with the Hellcat RDP; one is a flush-fit 11-round magazine and one is an extended 13-round magazine. A magazine loader is also included in the soft nylon case. The magazines were easy to load, even to the last round. Empty magazines dropped free with a press of the magazine release.
The slide stop is a small tab of metal protected by two raised ridges in the polymer grip panel, and it fell under a right-handed shooter’s thumb. It was easy to operate. The grip texture is like a fine sandpaper that allows for a sure grip. We like the textured indent for the support hand. When a user’s support-hand thumb grips the indent, you know you have a proper grip. It’s like an extra bit of insurance.
Going hot, we found the RDP chewed through any ammo we fed it. It particularly liked the Armscor 124-grain FMJs. Our best group with the Armscor measured 0.51 inch, and the average was 0.71 inch. Great accuracy from a subcompact pistol. The Defender ammo averaged 1.59 inches, and the Remington Golden Saber measured 1.60 inches. This gun spawned confidence with all our team. In fast shooting, we found the comp helped to control muzzle flip and get us back on target faster.
For reloads, we took a slightly different approach than with the Glock and Stoeger. Our small finger extended past the grip, but we needed to extend our small finger during a reload. If we didn’t, the pinkie would get pinched. A slap on the floor plate with your support hand may not fully seat the magazine. We have also found with subcompact guns, it is better to grab the gun with the support hand, with fingers on the slide and thumb under the magazine, and squeeze the magazine into the butt until you hear or feel the click. We had no issues with the RDP.
Our Team Said: The RDP offers light weight, a compact size, and accuracy, all at a low cost. If you are not the kitchen-table gunsmith type, then this is a great alternative to get yourself a subcompact Roland Special pistol.
9mm Luger Range Data (15 Yards)To collect accuracy data, we fired five-shot groups from a bench using a rest and open sights. We recorded velocities using a ProChrono digital chronograph set 15 feet from the muzzle.
|Defender Remanufactured 115-grain FMJ||Glock Gen4 Model 19||Stoeger STRS-9 Combat||Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP|
|Average Velocity||1135 fps||1151 fps||1118 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||329 ft.-lbs.||338 ft.-lbs.||319 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||1.00 in.||1.07 in.||1.33 in.|
|Average Group||1.71 in.||1.21 in.||1.59 in.|
|Armscor 124-grain FMJ||Glock Gen4 Model 19||Stoeger STRS-9 Combat||Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP|
|Average Velocity||1048 fps||1039 fps||1079 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||302 ft.-lbs.||297 ft.-lbs.||321 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||1.02 in.||2.05 in.||0.51 in.|
|Average Group||1.11 in.||2.24 in.||0.73 in.|
|Remington Golden Saber 147-grain BJHP||Glock Gen4 Model 19||Stoeger STRS-9 Combat||Springfield Armory Hellcat RDP|
|Average Velocity||1042 fps||1055 fps||973 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||354 ft.-lbs.||363 ft.-lbs.||309 ft.-lbs.|
|Smallest Group||0.80 in.||2.11 in.||1.21 in.|
|Average Group||0.85 in.||2.35 in.||1.60 in.|