New Hellcat 380 ACP Pocket Auto from I.O., Inc.


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

August 15th, 2010


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Ruger LCP (left) compared to I.O. Hellcat (right).





Author's favorite 380 carry load is Cor-Bon's DPX.



The Hellcat is plenty accurate for rapid-fire social work.



Disassembly is quick and simple.



The Hellcat has dual springs on a steel guide rod.






















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.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Cor-Bon JHP 90 927.2
Cor-Bon PB 70 1222
Cor-Bon DPX 80 1043
Handload JHP 88 788.1
Buffalo Bore JHP 90 1033
Buffalo Bore FMJ 95 961
Buffalo Bore HC 100 1056
Remington JHP 88 836.6

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.

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

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

To order the high performance 380 ammo shown here, go to and

Jeff Quinn


To buy this gun online, go to:


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Click pictures for a larger version.


New Hellcat 380 pistol from I.O., Inc.





Pistol comes with storage case, holster and two magazines.



Holster works inside the waistband (for right-handed shooters) or in the pocket (for left-handed or right-handed shooters).





Magazines are made of stainless steel, and hold six shots each.







Soft zippered storage case.



Fixed sights are small, but usable in good lighting conditions.





Magazine release.



Loaded chamber windows offers visual confirmation of a loaded chamber.