It’s never easy for a new company to enter a competitive market without the name recognition of more established manufacturers, but that is exactly what Inter Ordnance has done with the Hellcat semi-auto pistol. The Hellcat is a small, lightweight .380-caliber pistol that is intended for use as a backup pistol for law enforcement personnel and for concealed carry applications with licensed civilians.

IO Inc., located in Monroe, North Carolina, is a company that began by importing military surplus parts and equipment nearly 15 years ago. They are well known for their AK-style semi-auto rifles, but due to the increasing scarcity of military surplus rifles and equipment suitable for sale to the domestic American market, the management of IO made the decision to start manufacturing a handgun of their own design.

.380 Strike

The IO Hellcat maintains the current lightweight trend—it only weighs 9.4 ounces. The pistol operates via a double-action-only trigger mechanism, and, though it uses a hammer-fired system, it is not capable of single-action operation. The IO Hellcat is a single-strike design. As such, if the cartridge fails to fire, the slide must be retracted to recock the hammer. This procedure will also eject the malfunctioning round while at the same time chambering a fresh round from the magazine.

The IO Hellcat is chambered for the .380 ACP cartridge and the magazine capacity is six rounds, plus one loaded in the chamber. Many commentators believed the .380 ACP round was the absolute minimum in terms of power and penetration when it came to self-defense cartridges. The advent of new and vastly improved self-defense bullets in this caliber has changed this perception. So, this new level of acceptance, combined with the light weight and smaller size of these pistols, makes it easy to understand their popularity. They are easy-to-carry, easy-to-conceal, short-distance pistols for self-defense.

The width of the IO Hellcat is 0.82 inches and its height is 3.6 inches. It’s an easy choice to carry concealed under light, warm-weather clothing or as a backup to a regular duty pistol for armed professionals. The 2.75-inch-long barrel features six-groove rifling with 1-in-16-inch twist rate. The Hellcat also features a magazine with a bright orange plastic follower.

IO Breakthrough

I ran three different loads through the IO Hellcat. The first consisted of several boxes of Federal Hydra-Shok and the second was approximately 80 rounds of the regular Federal JHP load. All of these performed perfectly and without a problem of any kind. Well in excess of 150 rounds total ran without a problem in the Hellcat, with the magazine utilizing the orange follower in the magazine.

With an empty magazine, the IO Hellcat weighs less than 10 ounces. In combination with its overall size, this light weight makes it an easy choice to carry concealed under light, warm-weather clothing or as a backup to a regular duty pistol for armed professionals. The short 2.75-inch barrel length did not hinder its overall accuracy, thanks in part to its six-groove rifling. My main concern was to test the pistol’s reliability—it excelled.

It has always been a difficult situation for any new product from a new manufacturer to achieve market success, but the IO Hellcat’s solid design is proving once again that a gun doesn’t have to come from a major manufacturer to be a great value. For more information, visit or call 866-882-1479.

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  • azsunbum

    this is an awesome gun to have, the feel in your hand is very firm and tight, this gun was also very easy to hold and chamber a round which can be hard with the ruger which is very similar. This gun was easier than all others when it came time to load a round due to the grip obtainable by the design of the slide.