Gun Review: DoubleTap Tactical Pocket Pistol

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By Jeremy S.

It seems like we’ve been waiting years for this little piece of presumed-to-be vaporware. After a falling out (and with an ongoing lawsuit) with Heizer, the company that was originally going to manufacture Ray Kohout’s unique derringer, this gun is now being made by Kohout’s own DoubleTap Defense, LLC (which is on Earth, as you can clearly see on the pistol’s frame). They call it a “tactical pocket pistol,” and while I maintain that’s an oxymoron, I did think it was interesting enough to plunk down $499 plus tax to give one a whirl . . .

The DoubleTap’s primary selling point is its extreme thinness. At only 0.665” wide – just over 5/8” – it’s definitely svelte. To put this in perspective, the rim of a .45 ACP round is .480” wide, and while my DT is the 9mm version, it’s also available in and easily swappable to .45. The gun’s dimensions, in either caliber, don’t change.

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Also contributing to comfortable pocket carry is its diminutive length (5.5 inches) and height (3.9 inches), completely smooth sides with no controls sticking out at all, and rounded corners everywhere but on the muzzle(s). You can attach a lanyard to the pin in the back of the grip, too, if you want to be sure to keep tabs on it at all times.

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Barrels are stainless steel and the frame is available in either CNC milled aluminum or titanium, which DoubleTap says is “designed more for the hard core military type end user.” Tipping the scales at 12 ounces for aluminum and 14 ounces for titanium (both empty), it won’t weigh you down. Those weights are for the .45 ACP version with ported barrels, and it turns out it weighs less in .45 than it does in 9mm – as .45 is both larger in diameter and lower in pressure, the barrels in the big boy caliber are thinner. The laws of physics being what they are, less steel = less weight. My scale, which I just checked and confirmed for accuracy, gave me a reading of 15.5 ounces with no ammo and no stripper clip (17.375 oz fully loaded) for my 9mm, non-ported version.

The DoubleTap’s machining is extremely nice. It’s clean and precise and the MIL-STD anodizing is flawless. For fit and finish this gun definitely ratess top marks.

Field stripping is as easy as pushing out the front pivot pin and pulling the barrels off of the frame. This is actually as far as you can disassemble the DoubleTap. The owner’s manual makes it very clear that there are no user-serviceable parts inside of the gun and that you shouldn’t so much as touch the bolts that hold the two clamshell halves of the frame together. “Any attempt to remove, or merely adjust, these screws could result in damage to them and to the Pistol itself.” I’m sure some folks will be happy about this – a nice, sealed unit that doesn’t require any maintenance – and some folks will not like the fact that it can’t be detail stripped without voiding the warranty. Here’s a little PSA video and an explanation of why you don’t have the right tool to mess with those bolts, anyway:

 

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At a couple of ounces over 15 pounds, the DoubleTap’s trigger takes the title for heaviest pull weight in my safe. DT says the trigger rides on roller bearings and, yeah, it’s semi-smooth considering the travel distance and weight. It moves most of the way with about 6 pounds of force, stops hard, creeps just a touch, then breaks when you squeeze past 15 lbs.

I actually have no problem with this pull weight. I think if I were to rate guns most likely to be carried in a pocket without a holster covering the trigger guard, this one’s probably right up there at the top of the list. It may be prudent to keep it nice and heavy, and it’s not going to stop you from squeezing off both rounds when you’re determined to do so. It’s a true double action trigger so it will continue cocking and releasing the hammers over and over and over again as long as you keep pulling. DT says there are only four major components in the trigger system, and I do like that simplicity.

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Pull back on the ambidextrous barrel release latch with your thumb, and the barrels flip up under spring tension. That’s how you extract spent rounds. At first, I was grabbing the empties with my finger nails and pulling them out, but if you turn the pistol upside down and give it a shake they’ll usually fall free.

Two spares fit in the butt of the pistol on an included stripper clip, so pull those guys out, pop ‘em in the chambers, push on the top to click the barrels back down onto the frame, and you’re back in business. Also included in the box is a 6-round stripper clip, which fits sleekly into a pocket. DoubleTap says this is for carrying spare rounds but not for feeding them into the gun directly, whereas the 2-rounder can be used for that purpose.

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The front sight is a tiny nub machined as part of the barrels, and the rear sight is a groove or trench machined into the frame. The sights are really small and the front is hard to see. Obviously this isn’t a target pistol and is designed more for contact ranges. No real surprise there.

Being able to swap out the barrels out so easily, though, does leave the door open for some different options. Eight-inch target barrels with an accessory rail on top (or target style sights w/ the rear on the barrel)? Something in .22 LR or WMR, perhaps? Why not?

Also worth noting here is that, from what I can tell, the proper sight picture is more like a shotgun than a typical pistol. If you tilt the front down to where you’re actually looking through the rear notch, the front sight is long gone. It has to hover there exactly on top of the rear notches, which means you’re looking down the top strap of the gun. Just like a shotgun, if you can actually see the rib, then your eye is too high, and if you start to obscure the front sight with the back of the gun, your eye is too low. Not easy to photograph, but something like this:

 sights

First Impressions:

I carried the DoubleTap in a Remora holster (the one I purchased for my Beretta Nano) for a few days, both IWB and in a pocket. As you might expect, it carries and conceals extremely easily. It’s thin, it’s light, the butt of the grip is rounded…pretty much what you’d expect.

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However, I was surprised when I shot it for the first time. HOLY COW does this thing kick! Shooting light-loaded 115 grain 9mm ammo felt like standard power .44 Magnum from my Ruger Blackhawk with the hard wood grips on it. Only the DoubleTap is less ergonomic. Although the website says “1911 ergonomics,” it just didn’t work that way for me.

Some of it is that awesome thinness, which is a double-edged sword. Specifically, when you fire it, it’s an edge that punches you in the palm and, mostly, the web of the hand like it hates you. I found the deeply curved grip to be a little extreme for my hand size and shape as well, with the back corner of the butt acting as a bit of a pressure point on my palm. Not completely uncomfortable, mind you, but not ideal for the sort of recoil I experienced. At least the 15 lb. trigger pull gets the gun seated firmly in your palm and physically necessitates a secure grip, so there are no surprises.

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Again, this isn’t a target shooting or plinking gun. Stout recoil isn’t something that would prevent me from carrying a DoubleTap for defensive purposes as a backup gun. While I only fired a few truly aimed shots on my first outing, I was pleased to find that I hit my targets (typically a 6”x6” steel plate) at 8 to 12 yards. My initial impression was that it shoots decently straight through those 3-inch barrels, with the real trick being aligning the sights and keeping everything steady with a 15 pound trigger pull.

Initial Problems:

On my first range outing, every round I fired, from first to last, with three brands of ammo, caused the primer to bulge into the firing pin channel, locking up the gun. In many cases it was impossible to open the action. The solution was pulling the trigger a few times and allowing the firing pin to beat the primer back down until the barrels would tilt up.

I also had problems with spent brass and even live rounds sticking in the chambers so hard that I had to put a rod down the barrels and then slam the thing onto a hard surface to pop the case out the back. I expected a little bit of sticking, as the brass expands when fired and there is no ejection rod or other built-in tool to extract it, but this was something altogether different from the norm.

Although I went out to the woods intending to put at least 100 rounds through it, I stopped at about 20 due to frustration and growing concerns that something was wrong to the point where I was risking my safety. I also realized there was no way on God’s green earth that I was physically capable of putting 100 rounds through this gun without, at the very least, padded gloves. For the next couple of days my hand was slightly tender, but nothing bothersome. More on that later.

A Call to DoubleTap and Another Range Visit:

I called DoubleTap to discuss the issues I had with my tactical pocket pistol, and they were quick to blame it on the ammo. Yes, I fully admit, I was testing with two brands of reloads and PMC Bronze. Sorry, but ammo is hard to come by these days. But the real reasons I didn’t think twice about this are, 1) it’s a freakin’ tilt-barrel derringer. Who in their right mind would expect it to be ammo sensitive?, and 2) I have shot about 5,000 of these particular reload brands through six or so different semi-auto pistols (including some ‘picky’ ones), and a few hundred rounds of PMC Bronze, and had zero problems. I had no reason to think that they were ‘off’ in any way.

DoubleTap, though, was very gracious with their time on the phone with me and indulged my theories, while making it clear that they would handle shipping both ways for warranty work, but would be appreciative if I would try it out with different ammunition (if possible) first.

So, taking their recommendation of using U.S. specification, name brand, factory new ammunition (their #1 recommendations were Winchester and Remington, followed by Federal), I headed to the indoor range to try it out. My results there were much better (http://youtu.be/cXdJuWcULtA).

For the second test, I was able to scrounge up a box of Federal 115 grain, American Eagle 147 grain (which is made by Federal), Blazer Aluminum 147 grain, and just a couple rounds of Federal HST 147 grain. I would have had a few more options, but the DoubleTap isn’t rated for +P ammo. The owner’s manual says that aluminum-cased ammo is fine, by the way. I also brought a box of reloads with me just to confirm that the problems still existed with those, which would rule out that the gun had magically fixed itself in the event that it did work properly w/ the brand new ‘merican ammo.

And…it worked! I didn’t have a single instance of the barrels jamming closed and not one stuck case. Oddly enough, the reloads didn’t cause any jamming issues either, but did result in about 50% of the cases sticking badly enough that I needed help from a tool to remove them. So the take-away is this: the tolerances on this gun are tight and, obviously, the design is pretty unique. Ammunition choice does matter. You’ll want to feed your DoubleTap SAAMI-spec’d, factory-new ammo.

Ninety Rounds Later, and Accuracy Testing:

Like I said earlier, my hand was a little tender after the first outing, but I hadn’t really noticed it. But as soon as I gripped the DoubleTap to take my first shot on the second range trip, it hit those pressure points again and I knew I was in for some serious abuse. To make matters worse, I realized at that point that I had forgotten my padded-palm motorcycle gloves that I meant to bring along.

You may watch that video above and think that I’m a huge wuss, but I really can’t explain how this thing feels to shoot – at least once you start passing about the 20-round mark – better than saying it’s similar to putting your palm up against a wall, web of your hand facing upwards, and smacking yourself right there, on the left of that middle thumb knuckle, with a ball peen hammer. Not like full power, but hard enough to drive a nail. Over and over.

It just kinda smarts the first few times, but you keep hitting that same spot and wondering why you feel compelled to break the 100-round mark just so you can show something about a gun’s reliability and accuracy when you’re just losing money on ammo and crippling yourself doing it. Thankfully I got six other people to help me get through the testing, but I still had to shoot about 50 rounds myself. You see, out of those six people – regular shooters, mind you, four of whom work at the gun shop/range – only two of them were willing to fire the gun more than four times.

The consensus seems to be that the first two rounds are amusing and you think, “Wow, this thing kicks hard…awesome!” Then after firing the second pair that shivs to, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Apparently my 50 rounds is the most DoubleTap has heard of one person putting through the gun in a single sitting (outside of their testing using Ransom Rests).

My thumbs were so damn sore that I had a hard time driving home from the range, and if I had gone there in my manual transmission car, I think I’d still be stuck in the parking lot. If I worked as a mechanic or in some other career requiring me to use my hands, I would have had to call in sick the next day or two.

Just to preempt all of the comments… yeah, yeah, it ruined my love life. And no, this would not stop me from carrying the DoubleTap as a backup self-defense gun. I had zero problems whatsoever putting a pair of rapidly fired shots right on target. By the way, shooting the Federal HST through this thing may have given me PTSD. Hundreds through my Nano, no problem. Two through the DT and I will forever regret it.

Anyway…Three, six-shot accuracy targets at 15 feet looked very similar – sort of like they were targets with two separate, three-shot groups on them. Obviously the over/under design means one barrel is slightly farther from the sights than the other, but the spread was more than that. Possibly a fluke, as I don’t have a Ransom Rest, but either way, these groups are okay considering the lack of real sights, the 15-pound pull, the, um, stout recoil and those short barrels.

target

target 2

This is more than sufficient accuracy for a defensive gun clearly intended for contact ranges. The pistol actually points very naturally, and many shooters were just as accurate simply point-shooting the gun without using the sights at all.

My Tactical Pocket Pistol is now up to about 105 rounds through it, with no failures to fire. Also no failures to open or to allow for easy removal of factory new ammunition. I believe it will be reliable for many, many rounds to come. I just hope I can trick some friends into doing the shooting.

Still A Concern:

Even though the barrels never got stuck closed, which happened originally thanks to reload primers that bulged so badly they were protruding into the firing pin channels, I was still seeing bulges on basically every round fired. They look like overpressure signs, but I don’t think that’s what it is (you can hear me chatting about that with one of the gun shop employees in the video). These bulges were pretty darn consistent across all brands of ammo, including the reloads. They may have been worse on the HST, which does happen to be known for particularly soft primers:

 primers

My best guess is that a necessary and functional feature is actually causing the primer problem: ball bearings on the breech faces. These ball bearings maintain pressure on the back of the rounds and ensure that they are head-spaced (fully forwards) in the chambers, ensuring that they won’t move when the firing pin strikes. This increases reliability in firing, but it also spaces the cases off of the breech faces (say that 3 times fast), leaving a not-insignificant gap there.

Although the ball bearings are spring-loaded and compress back into the breech faces upon firing, I think the case slamming backwards like that is either causing the primer to bulge into the firing pin channel a little, or the primer is already bulged from the shot and slamming into the breech face pushes it all back in place except for the middle part where the firing pin channel is, leaving that perfectly firing pin channel-shaped bulge behind.

It’s just a theory. It could be something else. However, DoubleTap says a small degree of this is normal due to the design and I’m apparently seeing a touch more than what is expected. After seeing the photos of the rounds, they did request that I send my gun back for some testing.

firing pins

Here’s a screen grab from the first test video which is, unfortunately, the best shot I could really get of that gap:

 gap

I will follow up when the gun comes back from the factory (EDIT: everything checked out on the gun). As an aside, they may be sending me a .45 ACP barrel to test and/or a ported 9mm barrel so I can see if there’s a true difference shooting the gun with the ports. I should remind you that the gun is about 3 ounces lighter in .45 flavor than in parabelum. DoubleTap says the .45 is “about 30%” more punishing. Woo hoo.

 

A Necessary Comparison:

The last review I sent TTAG’s way was for the Taurus TCP, a .380 ACP mouse gun. It holds 6+1 rounds and weighs 10.2 ounces empty and 12.25 ounces fully loaded. It’s shorter in length (5.25”) and height (3.75”), but a bit thicker (0.87”) although still extremely thin. The footprint is smaller due to the grip angle and the height from the top of the slide to the bottom of the trigger guard. Very close, really, but it happens to fit in the next size smaller pocket holster.

size comparison

Yes, they’re totally different guns. I’m sure plenty of people would rather have two rounds of .45 ACP than 7 rounds of .380 (and much faster reloads). And the DoubleTap may be able to fit and function in places a small semi-auto can’t. Anyway I thought I’d include these photos, though, just for comparison’s sake.

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Taurus on top 2

Also, a little 80’s inspiration, maybe?

80s

At The End of The Day:

Don’t shoot reloads with your DoubleTap. Gloves are a good idea if you want to get very far into double-digit round counts in a single sitting. Or, even better than gloves, make somebody else shoot it (see video above). It’s plenty accurate at bad breath distances and beyond, even with the 15-lb trigger, rudimentary sights and short barrels. It conceals and carries very easily. Machine work, fit and finish are top quality. It’s fun to shoot for up to four rounds, and the Tactical Pocket Pistol will no doubt stand up to more rounds fired than you can. By all appearances I think it will continue to be fully reliable for me well into the future.

Specifications:

Caliber: 9mm (9×19) and .45 ACP barrels available. Manual states never to use +P ammo.
Action: over/under, break-barrel derringer. True double action trigger.
Capacity: 2 rounds
Barrel Length: 3.0 inches
Overall Length: 5.5 inches
Overall Height: 3.9 inches
Weight: 15.5 ounces empty in 9mm with non-ported barrels. 12 ounces empty in .45 ACP with ported barrels.
Sights: ramped front, ‘groove rear’
Finish: MIL-STD hard coat anodizing
MSRP: $499 (aluminum, non-ported barrel), $569 (aluminum, ported), $729 (titanium, non-ported), $799 (titanium, ported)… barrels in either caliber are $199 without ports and $269 with.

Ratings (out of five stars):

Ergonomics: * *
It points fairly naturally and the barrel release levers are in the right spot. Two stars for that. Otherwise, ergos suffer as a result of putting everything into such a compact package. Did I mention it’s slightly less than comfortable to shoot a lot of rounds through?

Concealability: * * * *
Maybe even 4.5 stars. Super thin, which is awesome. Rounded corners almost everywhere, which limits printing. It would get a perfect score if not for the sharp edges and corners around the front of the barrels, which do print a little in a pocket. And the fact that its footprint isn’t all that small. And the gun isn’t that light, either. But this is because I have the Taurus TCP (smaller & lighter) and a Beretta Nano (just a tad larger and weighs unloaded what the DT weighs w/ 2+2 rounds) for direct comparison. In the grand scheme of things, the DT is very small. OK, 4.5 stars it is.

Customize This: * * *
Four quick-swap barrel options (so far) in two calibers (so far), and two frame options. DoubleTap already offers a range of accessories like holsters and lanyards. Although the gun itself really can’t be modified (grips, sights, trigger, etc.), the fast barrel/caliber swaps bump it up to three stars here.

Reliability: * * * *
Quite simple mechanically, I have no reason to believe it will not continue to fire with 100% reliability. Factory new rounds ‘eject’ with ease. Frankly, I don’t think pulling two spare rounds out of the butt and reloading in the middle of a defensive scenario is realistic anyway, so even if a case sticks now and then or even if, worst case, the barrels stick closed a little, I’m not really dinging it. This is a two-shot gun. Minus one star, though, for ammo sensitivity and primer nipples, even if it’s no longer causing any hang-ups.

Accuracy: * * *
Plenty for its intended role, but not what you would call an “accurate” gun per se. And not as accurate as some mouse gun competitors.

Overall: * * *
More than most guns, the DoubleTap’s rating is going to move aggressively one way or the other depending on you, the shooter. Some people will love how thin this thing is and how cool and different it’s designed. They’ll love the fact that it should shoot every time –  no matter what – and will consider it a 5-stars gun. Then again, some people will never see past its inherent capacity limitation and the punishing shooting experience (sadomasochists notwithstanding), and won’t give it the time of day. I would give it four stars without hesitation if its price point were [quite a bit] lower.