(Ed. note – since the writing of this article, the Double Tap Defense company made additional ammunition recommendations that remove the gun from any recommendation I could give it. Skip down to the ammunition problems & update sections, and the conclusion at the end of the article to read more.)
Armed citizens are frequently looking for a balance of concealment and firepower in a handgun. For a cop, a compact backup gun can literally make a life-or-death difference when that routine patrol call goes horribly wrong.
There is a balance each citizen and officer must strike between caliber, concealability, price and reliability. DoubleTap Defense has a small double barrel pistol that has caught the attention of many people looking for that ideal concealment gun, but concerns across the internet about its recoil and reliability have surfaced.
Rather than trying to be a gun for all occasions, the pistol tries to serve a very specific need: small enough to be carried all the time, but powerful enough to stop an attacker. Does it succeed?
I had the chance to shoot one of the DoubleTap pistols in both .45 and 9mm. It fared well, but with some serious drawbacks. It might make sense for some people, but only in limited circumstances. Let’s take a look at the gun and my experiences with it.
The DoubleTap Tactical Pocket Pistol is a two-shot handgun that is available in both .45 ACP and 9mm. Ray Kohout, inventor of the Tactical Pocket Pistol and founder of DoubleTap Defense, designed the gun around the venerable .45 cartridge due to his appreciation for the round.
“I’ve been a .45 carrying guy all my life,” said Kohout during a conversation I had with him at the company’s Florida manufacturing facility. However, Kohout wanted a .45 caliber gun that was easier to carry than a full-size 1911, but still “tactical.” Kohout sketched the original design and specs for the handgun in November 2010, and the gun entered full production in 2013.
The three inch stainless steel barrels are aligned one over the other, and tip up for loading and unloading. A single trigger controls independent firing pins that are part of a cam system. When the double action trigger is pulled, one barrel fires and the cam rotates to the next barrel. When the trigger is pulled a second time, the second barrel fires.
A handgun with more than one barrel is an old concept, but the DoubleTap takes the idea to a whole new level. The pocket pistol is manufactured in a high-quality facility, a reliable double action trigger and serious defensive calibers. See photos from my tour of the DoubleTap manufacturing facility here.
One prominent feature of the pistol is the gun’s extreme thinness: a mere .665” wide. Unlike some other pistols, the width is uniform across the entire gun, making it very flat. The gun has an overall length of 5.5” and is only 3.9” tall.
Guns are available in both aluminum- and titanium-framed models. My unloaded aluminum-framed gun, with the ported .45 ACP barrels, weighed 13.5 ounces unloaded. The titanium pistol of the same configuration is rated at 15 ounces from the factory.
Initially, the Tactical Pocket Pistol was available only in either .45 ACP or 9mm. The company subsequently announced a pistol chambered for the .40 S&W cartridge, and a gun that will fire both .45 Colt and .410 bore shotgun shells. However, I do not know if any actually have made it to production yet. (Ed. note: As of June 2016, no other calibers have made it into production, nor do I expect any to be made in the foreseeable future.)
Barrel conversion kits are also available so that an owner of any of the guns can convert the pistol to any of the other calibers.
Caliber changes are very easy with the Tactical Pocket Pistol. The barrel assembly pivots on a single pin. When the barrels are tipped up, the pin can be pushed out and the barrels will come right off. A new caliber can then be dropped into place, and the pin pushed back in. It takes less than 20 seconds to swap the barrels.
DoubleTap pistols are rated to shoot standard pressure loads only. When talking to Kohout, he was careful to emphasize that high-pressure ammunition should never be fired in the Tactical Pocket Pistol. A lot of self-defense loads in 9mm are loaded to +P pressures, and they cannot safely be used in a DoubleTap.
There are some +P loads, predominately with a 185 grain bullet, in .45 ACP. So, be careful with your ammo selections should you pick one of these guns up.
The break action springs open smartly when activated. The release is ambidextrous, and can be operated with either the thumb or the trigger finger of the shooting hand. While working with the gun, I found that I could most easily operate the latch using both the thumb and the trigger finger together in a very natural motion.
Once open, both chambers are tilted up toward the eyes in just about the perfect position at which to insert rounds. Once loaded, pressing down on the top of the barrels snaps the gun back into a closed and ready to fire position. The process is very easy and natural.
I found the trigger pull is very heavy, and was more than my 12 pound trigger pull gauge could handle. According to DoubleTap, the trigger pull is intentionally heavy to help prevent a negligent discharge. While this will undoubtedly please some people and police department administrators, I see it as worry over nothing. I would much rather have an 8-10 pound trigger pull on this kind of gun.
As with many subcompact guns, the sights on the DoubleTap pistol leave a lot to be desired. The front sight is very small and difficult to see in all but optimal lighting conditions. The rear sight is a shallow gutter machined into the top of the gun.
The grip has a small compartment that can hold a pair of spare rounds on an included plastic speed loader. The included loader is reminiscent of the classic Bianchi Speed Strips.
During my time with the pistol, I found that the retention latch on the compartment door became very loose, and would fall open during normal handling. Using a tiny screwdriver, I was able to tighten the latch. I suspect a drop of Loctite would permanently fix the issue, but would have hoped this would have been handled at the factory.
All DoubleTap guns are 100% CNC machined with no injection molded parts, stampings or plastic components. The machining seemed flawless, and the black finish was without blemishes. The DoubleTap logos, QR code and engravings were all crisp and held up well to multiple range trips.
The only areas of the gun that showed any wear during testing were the edges of the trap door in the pistol’s grip.
|caliber||.45 APC, 9mm|
|weight (empty magazine)||13 oz|
|sights||bump and groove|
|finish||matte black, stainless steel|
|MSRP||$499 - $799|
There is no way to sugar coat this – recoil is harsh in this pistol. Felt recoil is so strong in this gun that an entire page of the pistol’s instruction manual is dedicated to a recoil warning. As a guy who has shot a lot of powerful handguns, I found this gun to be the least fun of them all to shoot.
In an effort to tame the recoil, the Tactical Pocket Pistols can be purchased with ported barrels. Even with the ported barrels, shooting standard pressure .45 ACP ammo is just downright painful. Anyone who says otherwise has nerve damage or is a liar.
Standard pressure 9mm rounds are easier to shoot, but are still not fun.
To increase control over the gun, the DoubleTap instruction manual suggests wrapping the support-hand thumb over the top of the shooting hand. This method has been taught to many revolver shooters, and can help control the muzzle flip.
I also suggest wearing a good pair of padded gloves if you plan on shooting more than a couple of rounds at any one time. I purchased a new set of Mechanix Wear gloves for my second range trip with this pistol – marking the first time I have ever wanted to wear shooting gloves because of recoil.
The heavy trigger pull and lack of good sights did not make shooting the gun any easier or more enjoyable. But for extremely close work, neither is likely to make much of a difference. Of course, accuracy at distance becomes even harder due to the barrels – more on that below.
The DoubleTap pistol produces a relatively impressive muzzle flash – especially with the ported .45 ACP version. A very large, bright flash is visible in full daylight conditions. In low light it is fairly blinding.
Since my test gun came with both .45 ACP and 9mm barrels, I measured self-defense ammunition performance from both.
.45 ACP Performance
|Federal HydraShok 230 gr JHP||727 fps||270 ft-lbs|
|Hornady XTP 200 gr JHP||704 fps||220 ft-lbs|
|Remington Golden Saber 230 gr JHP||680 fps||236 ft-lbs|
Performance measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at an approximate distance of 15' from the muzzle of the pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots.
|Hornady Critical Duty 135 gr FTX||868 fps||226 ft-lbs|
|Speer Gold Dot 124 gr JHP||970 fps||259 ft-lbs|
Performance measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at an approximate distance of 15' from the muzzle of the pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots.
As was expected, measured velocities were substantially lower than what is seen from a full size pistol. However, the velocities are also measurably below those of other compact handguns. For example, from an STI Escort (3.24″ barrel), the same .45 HydraShok averaged 795 fps and then 780 fps from a Desert Eagle 1911U (3″).
Part of the reason is the way the barrels of the DoubleTap are designed. The DoubleTap barrel length includes the chamber portion, so the bullet does not get the use of the barrels’ stated length to build velocity. Figure them for closer to 2″ of effective length.
Accuracy with all of the ammo was a bit of a problem beyond near contact distances.
According to Kohout, the barrels are not regulated. The means when shooting the gun at a single point of aim, essentially two groups appear: one for each barrel. The farther the distance between gun and target, the wider the groups are from each other. The groups will essentially stack on top of each other like the barrels on the gun.
At seven yards, groups ranged from a best of 3 7/8” with the .45 ACP Remington Golden Saber 230 grain JHP to nearly 10” with the 9mm Speer Gold Dot 124 grain JHP. I found that the group sizes varied greatly depending on the load shot, with the .45 ACP appearing to have smaller groupings than the 9mm.
In the target photo above, the .45 Golden Saber rounds are the top six holes. The holes close to the center were the first shots of each string while the upper three holes were the second shot from each string. The two holes closest to the bottom of the photo are 9mm rounds that were high from shooting at another target.
The lower photo shows a target with 9mm holes. Although these string a little up and down, the three lowest were the first shots while the three highest are the second shots.
My experiences were mirrored by Dennis Adler in his review over on Personal Defense World, though he saw larger splits between the groups with the .45 than the 9mm.
Shooting the gun at more than seven yards significantly increased the odds of at least one round of either caliber not striking the intended target. That is something of a concern.
All of the loads functioned flawlessly, save one. When shooting 9mm Magtech Guardian Gold 124 grain JHP rounds, I encountered a consistent, repeatable problem. With two rounds loaded, the first Magtech round would fire fine. The second shot, however, would result in a pierced primer and a shot that would fly wild.
I spoke with Kohout by phone about the pierced primers and he advised the problem was with the ammunition. Kohout suggested the ammo may not be loaded to SAAMI specification and could be loaded at too high of a pressure. Kohout suggested shooting only ammo from US-based manufacturers for best results.
In an e-mail exchange with a Magtech representative, I was informed that the specific ammo I was shooting was loaded to SAAMI specification. Magtech promised to contact the factory and try to determine if there was potentially a problem with the ammo.
After several weeks and attempts to follow up, the Magtech representative has not responded with any additional information from the factory.
Unfortunately, I’ve had other problems with Magtech ammunition including rims shearing off of .308 cases and hollowpoint ammunition arriving with crushed tips. At this time, I have discontinued use of all Magtech ammo in all of my guns.
The problem is that without any information from Magtech, I cannot say for certain that the problem was ammo or gun related. Based on the problems I have experienced with the ammo, I suspect the problem lies there.
However, there have been a number of reports of problems with double fires with the DoubleTap guns. One such case is well documented at the Pocket Guns & Gear blog. Bruce shows the problems he was having with the pistol and provides video stills of the gun firing two rounds at once. I’ve found Bruce’s work to be very thorough and reliable. I have no doubt that his related experiences are accurate.
At some point after the writing of this article, Double Tap Defense updated its website with additional information and warnings about the use of ammunition in these pistols. Among its many warnings and instructions, the company states:
- never use anything other than standard pressure, SAAMI spec ammo;
- do not use reduced recoil loads either;
- when first shooting the gun, ONLY use the kind of ammo that matches the fired brass that comes in the box with the gun – a 230 grain FMJ from Remington or Federal for .45 ACP, or a 115 grain FMJ fro Remington or Federal for 9mm (no explanation given);
- only use ammunition made in the United States, and even then there are plenty of loads to avoid (see below);
- do not use aluminum cased ammo; and
- do not use frangible ammunition.
One might think that these warnings are more stringent that one should expect from a quality firearm. However, it goes further…
The company states the following loads are to be avoided in both calibers:
- CCI (both brass and aluminum cases)
- Federal Ballisticlean
- Federal Champion
- Federal Hydra-Shok
- Federal Guard Dog
- Fiocchi FMJ
- Hornady Critical Defense
- IMI (all)
- Liberty Ammunition (all)
- PMC Starfire
- PMC (anything considered “arsenal grade”)
- Ruger ARX
- Sellier & Bellot FMJ
- SIG SAUER Elite Performance V-Crown
- Winchester (anything considered “arsenal grade”)
Frankly, a gun that is not safe/reliable to shoot with standard pressure defensive rounds like Hydra-Shok, Critical Defense and the SIG V-Crown ammo is not worth buying.
The DoubleTap excels at the thing it was designed to do: be discreetly carried. An armed citizen can slip this gun into a pocket while a uniformed law enforcement officer can easily carry the DoubleTap in an ankle holster or on a vest.
For a plainclothes or off-duty officer, the DoubleTap can easily be carried in a crotch holster or in a belly band. I have known narcotics officers who have had to carry the tiniest of guns when undercover, and this pistol gives them at least one more option to consider.
The pistol virtually disappears in all of these locations due to the small, flat nature of the gun.
The gun could also make a great handgun to carry in a jacket pocket. In the past, I have carried a “hammerless” J-frame revolver in a winter coat pocket knowing that I could discreetly access the gun in an unknown situation and fire the gun from the pocket if I needed. Since the Tactical Pocket Pistol lacks any external moving parts, it is theoretically as reliable as the revolver when shooting from a pocket.
I carried the Tactical Pocket Pistol in three different ways: a pocket holster, a belly band and an ankle holster. All three methods of carry were comfortable and presented no problems.
When compared to a snub nose revolver, I found the gun offered a reduction in printing due to the thin, flat design.
The DoubleTap Tactical Pocket Pistol is a niche gun that serves a very specific purpose: close-in defensive work for people needing a gun that conceals very well. This is not a firearm that you will take to the range for an afternoon’s shooting, nor will you want to run this gun through an eight hour block of range instruction.
Capacity is limited, as is ammunition selection. It would be easy to dismiss this gun because of what it is not.
However, if you find yourself belly-to-belly with a felon, fighting for your very life, you can jam this into his side and end the fight with a pair of .45-caliber holes through the thoracic cavity. A contact shot will not take the gun out of battery, and there are no moving parts for clothing to get caught in preventing a follow-up shot.
It’s tough for me to recommend this gun. I did not have any show stopping problems during my testing of the gun that I can definitively say was a gun issue. However, the ammunition problem and the documented issues that other people have had do cause me a great deal of concern.
Also, the lack of accuracy beyond several yards creates a real problem for me. Especially when the gun only has two rounds in it to begin with. Frankly, I think there are better choices for subcompact pistols on the market that require just a slight compromise for a larger size.
If you understand what the gun’s strengths and weakness are, you may find it has an important place in your safety gear. For me, it does not.
As stated in the above section, the gun offered serious concerns about its place as a defensive handgun. However, with the company now having a long list of ammo that will not work reliably with this gun, I have to withdraw my tepid recommendation of this pistol.
At this time, I cannot recommend this firearm as anything more than a curio or collector’s piece. Based on my shooting of the gun and the company’s own list of warnings associated with the use of standard pressure, common defensive rounds, I no longer have the confidence that this gun is safe and reliable for its intended purpose.
Long time readers know I disclose all of my potential biases in each review. For new readers, this may come as a surprise, but I tell you all of the dirty details behind each review I write.
This gun was loaned to me by DoubleTap for the purposes of review. I initially wrote a review for Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement magazine, then updated it for this article. The magazine review was substantively the same as this review, though shorter by about 2,000 words and edited by others for space and content. This is a more complete and comprehensive review.
No promises were made, offered or solicited by anyone to do a positive evaluation of this gun. In fact, I think the folks at DoubleTap and Magtech were both displeased by both this article and the one that ran in the magazine. That’s unfortunate, but maybe that will serve as an incentive for both companies to improve their products.
You, the reader, is my customer. I believe strongly in providing you the best information possible since you may be relying on this for information prior to making a purchase. I’m not about to sing the praises of a gun that doesn’t deserve it any more than I am looking to bad mouth one because of some fan boy tendency. I give it to you straight – the good and the bad.
DoubleTap is not a sponsor or advertiser, nor am I in any talks for them to be one.
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