The 380 ACP cartridge and the pistols which
are built to fire it have been two of the hottest items in the
gun industry for the past couple of years. The trend towards the
increasing popularity of small pocket autos that are chambered
for the 380 cartridge started several years ago, as more and
more states stopped denying citizens of their right to keep and
bear arms. “Keep and Bear” means to own and carry, and
thankfully, those of us who have done so for decades can now
carry without the threat of jail time for exercising our
God-given rights. As the citizens of many states have demanded,
the governments have passed concealed carry “shall issue”
laws, which means that local officials can no longer deny a
carry permit without just cause to do so.
With more and more citizens choosing to go
heeled, the ease of concealment, light weight, and reasonable
power of small polymer-framed 380 auto pistols has kept
manufacturers working hard to meet the demand. There are several
good choices on the market, and I own a few of them myself. The
newest manufacturer of which I am aware that is building such
pistols is I.O., Inc of Monroe, North Carolina.
I just recently received a Hellcat 380 from
I.O. for review. The first thing that caught my attention upon
receiving the pistol is that it is made in the USA. I like that.
Next, upon opening the box, I immediately noticed that the
pistol comes with an extra magazine. I like that too. Also
included is a nylon holster that can be used in the pocket, or
as a right-handed inside-the-pants holster. There is also a
padded nylon zippered carry case included with the hellcat 380.
These accessories add value to the pistol, and are items that
are not included by the pistol’s comparably-priced
competition. I especially like the extra magazine.
Upon examining the Hellcat 380, it is
apparent that it is built of quality materials, and the pistol
shows no machining marks, inside nor out. The pistol shown here
has a nickel-plated slide, but the Hellcat is also offered with
a matte blued finish as well. The stainless steel magazines each
hold six shots, for a total loaded capacity of seven shots in
the pistol. Like most pistols of this type, the slide must
pre-cock the hammer, resulting in a smooth trigger pull with
single-strike operation. Therefore, if a cartridge fails to
fire, the slide must be retracted slightly to again pre-cock the
hammer to fire. That is no big deal, as if a cartridge fails to
fire, I want to get it out of the pistol immediately. Also, this
type of action results in a lighter trigger pull weight than if
the trigger had to fully retract the hammer from the fired
position. The trigger pull measured a smooth six pounds, five
ounces on the test pistol. The Hellcat weighs only nine and
one-half ounces with an empty magazine in place. Maximum height,
including magazine base and sights, measures 3.615 inches.
Overall length is 5.2 inches. Maximum thickness is .782 inches.
The barrel length is 2.75 inches.
The recoil spring system uses dual springs
and a steel guide rod. The barrel is made of blued carbon steel.
The frame, trigger, magazine base, magazine follower, and
magazine latch are glass-reinforced polymer. The extractor is
nickel-plated, and uses an external flat spring. Disassembly is
simple and quick. With an unloaded pistol and the magazine
removed, slightly retract the slide and pull out the disassembly
pin, allowing the slide to move forward off the frame. To load
and fire the Hellcat, chamber a cartridge by retracting and
releasing the slide after inserting a loaded magazine. Contrary
to the misprint in the owner’s manual, there is no slide
hold-open device, but disassembly is not hampered by not having
one. The slide does not lock open on an empty magazine.
The Hellcat has a pronounced curve to the
back of the grip, and is very comfortable in my hand. I fired
the Hellcat with every brand and type of 380 auto ammunition
available to me to check for reliable function. I fired a
variety of ammunition over the chronograph to check velocities,
with the results listed in the chart below. Velocities are
listed in feet-per-second. Bullet weights are listed in grains.
JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint bullet. DPX is a hollow nose
homogenous copper bullet. FMJ is a full metal jacket roundnose
bullet. FP is a full metal jacket flat-nose bullet. PB is Cor-Bon
Pow’RBall. HC is a hard-cast flat-nose lead bullet.
Velocities were taken at an elevation of 541 feet above sea
level, ten feet from the muzzle, with an air temperature of
ninety-eight degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity.
|Buffalo Bore JHP
|Buffalo Bore FMJ
|Buffalo Bore HC
While on the subject of ammunition for small
380 autos of this type, they are made to run on premium. These
pistols are built for resolving serious social conflicts of the
gravest importance and with the utmost urgency. Leave the cheap
discount ammo to your range guns, and load your defensive weapon
with the good stuff. For a more detailed explanation on this
topic, please read my brief piece on that titled Ammunition for
your Fighting Handgun. http://www.gunblast.com/Ammo.htm.
The I.O. Hellcat was easy to control, even
when using the high performance ammunition from Cor-Bon and
Buffalo Bore. I had one failure with the pistol, that I
attribute to being my fault. I had the pistol apart for
photography before firing, and I apparently put the recoil
springs in backwards. The inner spring worked its way through
the front of the slide in the hole for the guide rod. One end of
the spring is flattened, and that should go towards the front. I
put the other end towards the front, and it caused a stoppage,
so pay attention to how you reassemble the weapon after
cleaning. It was easy to correct, but again, I should have paid
better attention to what I was doing. That was the only problem
encountered, and again, appeared to be my fault. Every type of
ammunition tested performed flawlessly.
The Hellcat 380 is a pistol well-suited to
personal defense. It is small enough and light enough to always
be within reach. A twelve gauge shotgun is a great weapon for
personal defense. A 45 caliber 1911 is another fine choice. If
knowingly heading into a fight, a small pocket auto would be no
one’s first choice. However, the gun which will save your life
is the gun that you can immediately reach when a fight comes to
you. The Hellcat 380 in your pocket is much better than any gun
which you cannot reach, and the 380 premium ammo on the market
can get the job done. It is very concealable, and can ride
unnoticed in your pocket everyday, everywhere, ready for
immediate use. I.O. provides the extra magazine in the box. All
you need is ammo, and the Hellcat is ready to go to work.
Check out the Hellcat 380 online at www.ioinc.us.
The pistols are already in full production,
and Davidson’s, as well as other distributors, have plenty of
them in stock at this time. Have your favorite dealer contact
Davidson’s (1-800-367-4867), or order online at www.galleryofguns.com.
To order the high performance 380 ammo shown
here, go to www.cor-bon.com
|To buy this gun online, go to: