Context is everything. In the worst possible scenario, the DoubleTap would be the last gun you would want. And that’s exactly what it’s for.

For anyone in the law enforcement community, or in any line of work where there is the possibility of a life-threatening situation, the DoubleTap would not be your primary gun, not even your secondary backup; this is the gun you hope you never need to go for. The DoubleTap is, in point of fact, functionally one of the oldest ideas in firearms history—a double-barrel derringer, a gun commonly used when every other option has been exhausted. Firearms historians can trace the basic design back to the famous Elliot’s Remington O/U derringer, introduced in 1867 and chambered in .41 caliber rimfire, a fairly large caliber cartridge at the time for so small a firearm. The William Elliot design was so successful that it remained in production by E. Remington and Sons until 1935, and essentially became the basis for every over/under derringer made today. The DoubleTap, however, has taken the idea to a new level.

Larger than most derringers, but a remarkable 0.665 inches in width (about the same as the plane view of the average man’s index finger), the gun is constructed from titanium and available in 9mm, .45 ACP, .40 S&W and .45 Colt/.410 calibers (using interchangeable barrel sets). The ultra-lightweight, double-barreled tactical pocket pistol weighs 15 ounces (and you need every gram of that to absorb recoil), measures 5.5 inches in overall length and 3.9 inches in height. It disappears in a pocket.

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The model I tested is the first production version of a design that has been in development for several years and has gone through a number of changes since being unveiled as a prototype in 2011. Invented by DoubleTap founder Ray Kohout, the two-shot pistol is built to be carried in any number of ways, as discretely or covertly as needed from a pocket holster to an ankle holster, belt rig or in a concealment garment. For uniformed officers, the DoubleTap would fit handily in a cargo pocket or another storage pocket in tactical pants, for undercover work in a concealment undershirt, tucked into a boot or simply attached to a tether, whatever is required to keep this little double gun hidden until needed. But what of the rest of us whose lives have nothing to do with law enforcement, danger or intrigue? Where does the DoubleTap fit in for us?

RELATED: DoubleTap Defense’s 9mm/.45 ACP Pocket Pistol

For the general consumer, this hand-filling over/under has the same capabilities, especially for individuals who do not want to carry a conventional revolver or semi-auto, or prefer as simple and as durable a gun as possible. For the latter two requirements the DoubleTap excels. But here is the rub: The DoubleTap is no smaller and only a fraction narrower than, say, a Ruger LCP, which carries seven rounds, not two. So what is the DoubleTap’s advantage aside from larger caliber ammunition? What makes the DoubleTap most viable from a concealed-carry standpoint is the fact that it has a totally enclosed action. In other words, there is no way (or need) to disassemble the gun. All maintenance is conducted on the outside; just clean the barrels and wipe down the exposed surfaces. And that’s all you can do. There is no way to get inside the two-piece (clamshell) fire control grip housing, which is secured with five locking screws that cannot be removed with conventional tools. In fact, the instruction booklet flatly states, “Do not attempt to open the frame (receiver) for any reason.” Doing so, or even attempting to (for those who just can resist a challenge), voids the warranty. The upshot is that this gun is less likely to get dust or foreign matter into the action if carried without a holster, since all the moving parts (except the trigger) are sealed inside the frame.

Now, I am not advocating carrying the DoubleTap without a pocket holster, simply that if you were to decide otherwise, or need to do so by necessity, there are very few repercussions. The only regular check one needs to make is to open the action, unload it, and make certain the barrels are clear of any obstructions. A little blast from a canister of compressed air (the same type used to clean a computer keyboard) and that’s all the maintenance it needs unless you fire it. Externally, it is tough as nails with its hardcoat anodized matte black appearance, and it has a whopping total of two external operating features, one of which is the trigger!

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So what makes the DoubleTap tick? It’s a little like a clockwork inside the sealed fire control housing grip frame. The trigger, averaging 15 pounds of pull in 0.5 inches of travel, operates against a lever and ratchet that cycle two spring-tensioned strikers that hit internal hammers in rotation: upper/lower, or depending upon how the gun was last cycled, lower/upper, which is preferable for accuracy. Not counting the dual hammers, there are only four primary moving parts to the action ,which is contained in the upper two-thirds of the grip. The lower third is a storage compartment with a hinged cover where two additional rounds on a speed strip can be stored for quick reloading. If the DoubleTap were any simpler it would be a WWII FP-45 Liberator (which also stored extra rounds in the pistol grip!)

RELATED: DoubleTap Defense Tactical Pocket Pistol | VIDEO

With a 15-pound average trigger pull, no other external safety is necessary. The first half of the trigger pull is relatively light, with heavy stacking for the last 0.25 inches. The trigger has a quick reset, and with a little practice the first 0.25 inches can be taken up as soon as the trigger finger engages (about 9.5 pounds of resistance), leaving the rest of the trigger pull around 5.5 pounds. Although heavy, it is very consistent and smooth to operate. And considering the gun’s substantial recoil, a heavy trigger is an advantage in preventing a recoil-generated, accidental “double-tap” if you’ll pardon the pun.

The removable over/under barrel set is attached to the frame by a single hinge pin similar to those used to mount the upper receiver on an AR-15. The barrel group is locked by a lug integral with the barrel that engages a catch in the frame. To release them, an ambidextrous thumb latch on the side of the gun is pulled to the rear and the barrels automatically tilt upward driven by an internal stainless steel spring permanently affixed to the frame. The only other noteworthy parts are two pairs of retracting ball bearings bordering the firing pins. These are used to apply pressure to the cartridge rims and assure they remain firmly seated in the barrels. The space created behind the shells by the ball bearings is a de facto loaded-chamber indicator, as the cartridge rims remain exposed. Of course, this is no guarantee that the cartridges haven’t been fired, just that there are rounds chambered. However, given the nature of the gun’s design, it is unlikely one would forget if it had been fired!

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The barrels are 3 inches long, with 1.169 inches and 1.171 inches, respectively, being taken up by either a 9mm or .45 ACP cartridge, so actual rifled barrel length for the bullet’s travel is just shy of 2 inches, i.e., snub-nose revolver territory. The good news is that there is more than sufficient triggerguard length to permit a solid, two-handed hold on the gun with fingers well behind the muzzle. And, if opportunity allows, using two hands is the best way to shoot the DoubleTap.

RELATED: Testing DoubleTap’s Pocket Pistol | VIDEO

Designed with aerospace technology and constructed from titanium (there is also an aluminum-framed version weighing 13 ounces), top-of-the-line models feature a progressive barrel porting option that cuts muzzle rise and recoil. This option is essential with .45 ACP.

This is one of the few contemporary pistols that requires its own rules of engagement. Because of the one-piece design, the over/under barrel configuration and the extremely narrow titanium grip frame, nearly all of the recoil is transferred into the shooter’s hand, with the exception of gasses escaping from the ported barrels. Weighing under a pound, the felt recoil is significant, but it’s not punishing. Harsh recoil is less of a problem with micro-compact semi-autos because of the dynamics of the gun’s operation, but with a derringer there is nothing to take up energy, and the one principle that no one has yet figured a way around is Newton’s laws of motion—for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. With the DoubleTap the reaction is a hefty kick. The gun is also ammo specific, which means absolutely no +P loads; it’s best used with traditional FMJ (full metal jacket) rounds. This meant that for the test 9mm ammo was limited to 115-grain Winchester FMJs and CCI/Blazer Brass 230-grain FMJs for .45 ACP.

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Sighting the gun is about as basic as it gets, with a very small integral blade front and a notched rear channeled into the frame only. As handguns go, the DoubleTap does not point naturally, and one has to be deliberate in aiming down the top of the barrel notch, though in the very close-quarters combat conditions where the DoubleTap would likely be used, aiming is less of an issue as the target might well be looming over you, or less than 10 feet away. It is preferable to have the gun set to fire the lower barrel first for better accuracy since the lower barrel fires closer to point of aim (POA). You can do this by opening the action (making sure the gun is empty) and placing your index finger over the top firing pin. Pull the trigger, and if the firing pin hits your fingertip, you know the bottom barrel will be discharged next. If it doesn’t hit your finger, pull the trigger again to set the firing order for the bottom barrel.

RELATED: DoubleTap .410/.45 Colt and .40 S&W Barrel Conversion

For the combat test, a full-size B-27 silhouette target was set up at 25 feet, and all shots were fired in pairs using a two-handed hold. Since the over/under barrels are not regulated, the upper barrel averaged from 3-6 inches above POA depending upon distance from the target and the ammo used. It is possible to compensate by changing POA if you know which barrel is firing and by how much to correct, and that’s exactly what I did with the 9mm.

Once I got it dialed in, I put the majority of my shots from both barrels into the 10 and X rings. It is more difficult to do this with .45 ACP, but at 25 feet all shots were still striking center body mass. A total of five sets were fired in 9mm and .45 ACP. With practice and chronograph time, a total of 50 rounds were put through the DoubleTap. That’s a lot with this gun. While the recoil with .45 ACP was harsh, it was not unmanageable, and with 9mm, recoil and kickback into the web of the strong hand was about equivalent to a .38 special snub-nose revolver.

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The barrels are easy to switch out, taking about a minute from start to finish when using a small punch to drive out the hinge pin. Fired cases in both 9mm and .45 ACP were easily extracted as soon as the barrels tipped up; most fell out by simply tilting the gun back. A few hang-ups only required a slight pull to remove. With rounds chronographed 10 feet from the muzzle, the Winchester 9mm clocked an average of 1,044 feet per second (fps) and the Blazer .45 ACP traveled downrange at 625 fps. The big question, of course, is accuracy, and the DoubleTap was a bit of a surprise with 9mm. After getting my POA adjusted for top and bottom barrels, I was able to place eight rounds in the 10 and X bull with a total spread of 5 inches; three in the X, two just off the edge of the X in the 10 ring at 7 o’clock, one round just off the top edge of the X in the 10 ring at 12 o’clock, and two more that would have to be called flyers hitting in the 10 ring at 9 o’clock and just outside at 3 o’clock, respectively. The balance of 9mm rounds struck high in the 9 ring at 11 and 12 o’clock. The best five-round group measured 3 inches.

With .45 ACP, the bottom and top barrels presented a greater spread, thus hits are grouped here by barrels, with the bottom barrel placing its best group across a 9-inch arc from the 8 ring at around 9 o’clock through the 9 and 10 rings and into the 8 ring at around 3 o’clock. All shots were across the low center body mass of the B-27. The upper barrel produced a slightly tighter 6-inch grouping through the 8 and 9 rings from 11 o’clock to 2 o’clock, with two overlapping, all in the upper thoracic area of the target.

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Between 9mm and .45 ACP, I prefer the 9mm for tighter accuracy in the DoubleTap, although there is little to match the blunt-force stopping power of a .45 ACP hardball. With the forthcoming .40 S&W barrel option, there will also be a cartridge in the middle to consider, as well as the .45 Colt/.410-gauge barrel set, allowing the DoubleTap to cover all the bases in its own unconventional way.

The bottom line: Shooting from 25 feet with a barrel that is functionally under 2 inches in length (counting only rifling that engages the bullet), the results I achieved with the DoubleTap at that range are more than sufficient to qualify this little two-shot pocket pistol for its intended purpose—saving your life. And that puts the DoubleTap in proper context.

For more information, visit http://www.doubletapdefense.com.

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