When desperate measures are needed, this last-ditch, two-shot pocket pistol may be your final option.
By Steve Tracy
Last ditch. Final option. Desperate measure. These final chance statements describe the intended use of the DoubleTap over/under handgun. It’s a backup for your backup. In its initial offering chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge, this double barrel is the smallest and lightest firearm offered in the classic big bore caliber. It’s also available with interchangeable barrels in 9mm and .40 S&W, as well as in .45 Colt/.410 Shotshell. However, the DoubleTap is not rated for +P ammunition in any of its chambered options.
The concept of a small, two-shot firearm was created for settling disputes over the distance of a card table. Henry Deringer’s name has become synonymous with small single or double barrel handguns ever since John Wilkes Booth infamously made use of Deringer’s tiny single shot muzzleloader in 1865.
The Remington .41 rimfire is often referred to as a “Derringer,” although that is not its proper model name. A derringer with the “double r” has become synonymous with any tiny handheld firearm. Several makers produce similar models today. These replicas and improved designs are chambered in every caliber from .22 long rifle up through .44 Magnum and beyond.
The DoubleTap is just 5/8-inch wide and it weighs just 13 ounces with its aluminum frame (a titanium frame is optional and it adds 2 more ounces) in .45 caliber. The double barrel is made of stainless steel and the entire firearm is coated with a MIL-STD black and corrosion resistant finish.
Ported or Non-Ported Barrel Options
The test pistol came with the optional ported barrels, along with a spare barrel set chambered in 9mm. Swapping barrels is as easy as swapping uppers on an AR-15 style rifle. Actually, it’s half as simple since there is only a single hinge pin to push out in order to change calibers.
The internal hammer and rounded edges mean the DoubleTap is snag-free for pocket carry. The double action trigger takes 15 pounds of pressure to pull through its full travel. It’s certainly not going to go off accidentally. Since there is no manual safety on the DoubleTap, conscious thought and purposeful trigger finger mechanics are necessary to shoot it. The internal hammer alternates between the top and bottom barrels, automatically switching between them from shot to shot.
The two halves of the frame are secured together by specialized screws unique to the manufacturer and DoubleTap strongly recommends against disassembly. Cleaning takes very little time since the barrels do not need to be removed.
The front sight is a rudimentary blade machined as part of the barrels and it’s rather difficult to see. The rear sight is a channel formed into the frame, but it does not line up in the normal fashion where the front sight drops into the rear notch. The rear channel instead forms a sort of wide rectangle in bright light and the square front sight rests on top of it. In dim light or with less than excellent eyesight, the sights pretty much disappear. But across a card table’s distance, this is a “point and shoot” weapon.
Officer initial impressions of the DoubleTap were always at first curious. The DoubleTap is unique and nothing else looks like it. Everyone was impressed with the quality of the manufacture and finish. The question that consistently came up was, “My Ruger LCP or S&W Bodyguard is about the same size, but it holds a total of seven rounds of .380 ACP ammunition and the DoubleTap only holds two rounds.” While this is true, the over/under tactical pocket pistol (as DoubleTap refers to it) fires two rounds of .45 ACP firepower.
The operation of the DoubleTap is different than any other gun and it’s ingenious. The ambidextrous barrel release is located on both sides of the frame. When this spring loaded latch is pulled to the rear in a very natural motion, the double barrels become unhooked and pop up, rotating on their retaining pin hinge. Loading two rounds into the chambers is as straightforward as it gets. The barrels then snap back down, usually with just your offhand thumb’s pressure.
The two loaded cartridges can be seen from either side through the gap at the rear of the chamber area. This acts as visual confirmation of a loaded chamber. Spring loaded bearings keep the cartridges properly positioned in their chambers for firing.
After both rounds are fired, popping open the barrel action allows the empty cases to be plucked out. A trapdoor at the bottom of the grip pulls open by using your offhand thumb. Pulling it down and forward reveals two extra rounds secured in a rubber stripper clip. The extra cartridges on the stripper clip are then inserted in their chambers together and the rubber strip is peeled away. This reloading act is accomplished quickly with just a bit of practice. A six-round rubber stripper clip is included with each DoubleTap pistol for discrete carry of extra cartridges.
In a life or death situation, you’re not going to care much if your shooting hand smarts for a little while. Hand pain is readily acceptable compared to the alternative of death or great bodily harm.
The DoubleTap is not a gun made for plinking, target or casual shooting practice. If you ever let a novice fire this weapon, he/she will most probably never want to shoot a gun ever again. The DoubleTap is made to save your life.
At the range, 9mm 115-grain full-metal jacket rounds were test fired at a silhouette target stationed 5 yards away. Gripping the pistol, I found my large hands made almost no contact with the waffle pattern sides of the frame that act as a grip. The angle and cutout at the rear of the frame held steady in the web between my thumb and trigger finger. The bottom of the rear grip area pushed firmly against my palm. I could only get a finger and a half (full middle and half ring finger) on the front grip area. Care needs to be taken to keep the offhand fingers away from the ports on the barrel. This came naturally for me, but officers who use a thumbs forward grip need to be doubly careful.
Lining up the sights and point shooting seemed to work equally as well, because the sights are almost non-existent. The grip pointed upward in my hands and concentration was required to point the muzzle at the center of the target. It is best to dry fire the DoubleTap to get used to the heavy trigger pull. With a strong pull from the middle trigger finger joint, the pull could be made smoothly.
Even with the light 115-grain bullets in 9mm, the DoubleTap really smacks your hand hard. The muzzle does not recoil upward much at all. Muzzle flip is minimal. The recoil is directed straight back and into your palm. The first two rounds struck the 10-ring at 5 yards. However, as I progressed to fire a total of 10 rounds, the group spread into the 9-ring, with one round in the 8-ring and another flinched off to the right in the 7-ring.
The top barrel shoots a little higher than the lower barrel. They are directly in line and parallel with each other. After 10 rounds, my right hand told me I was done shooting for the day. Test firing the .45 barrels would have to wait until another date. On a later trip to the range, the .45 barrels were found to be slightly more punishing than the 9mm barrels, but not much. They were quite similar in recoil, no matter if 185- or 230-grain bullets were chambered.
Practicing with enough rounds to give yourself confidence that you can hit your target is difficult. But, that’s where the DoubleTap slip on neoprene sleeve comes in handy. This $25 option helps (but does not eliminate!) buffer the frame-to-skin contact when firing the DoubleTap. The rubberized cover for the grip area still allows access to the extra rounds in the trapdoor. The sleeve is rather sticky and would impede a pocket draw, so it’s made for range use, not for carry. Both 9mm and .45 ACP rounds were fired with the neoprene sleeve and it made the DoubleTap much more user-friendly.
Insertion of live rounds and extraction of empty cases came and went without incident or stickiness. The checkered barrel release latch did rotate out of its rectangular recess, but continued to function and just needed to be gently rotated and pressed a bit back into place. It didn’t move under recoil, but only when the barrels were released and snapped back into place repeatedly.
Primers were severely cratered, but not from excessive pressure. It would seem that the case and primer move to the rear under recoil. The bearings allow the case to move rearward while the firing pin is still forward, igniting the primer. All in all, it’s nothing to worry about.
A Backup for your Backup
The DoubleTap Defense pistol is a very well-made and finished backup for your backup gun. The non-ported, aluminum version of the handgun has a suggested retail price of $499; the ported barrels add another $70. Extra barrels cost $199 or another $70 with ports. Its size is comparable to many .380 pistols that carry more rounds, but the .380 isn’t a .45 or .40 or 9mm. While it only holds two rounds, the DoubleTap does reload quickly with the stripper clip and those two (or four) rounds are major caliber cartridges.
The St. Louis, Mo. manufacturer offers ankle, belt, clip, and pocket holsters on its website for the DoubleTap pistol. A lanyard is also available to attach to the lanyard ring in the backstrap.
The old style over/under two-shot derringers were deep concealment handguns used to settle life-threatening disagreements. If you can manage the recoil, the DoubleTap Defense tactical pocket pistol provides two last-chance shots that are more powerful than any other firearm in a similar size and weight. PM
Steve Tracy is a 26-year police veteran with 24 years of experience as a firearms instructor. He is also an instructor for tactical rifles, use of force, less-than-lethal force and scenario-based training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.