The Best Gun is the One you Have with You
What would you think of a gun that you could carry in plain sight, was easily accessible in your back pocket or a belt holster, and wouldn’t attract the slightest attention? Nobody would look twice at it, even if you were in a T-shirt, with no jacket, and they were standing right next to you in the supermarket check-out line, or even if you were wearing only shorts and sneakers playing Frisbee at the park.
This invisible gun could save your life in a desperate situation when its appearance would come as a complete surprise to an attacker. Because it’s invisible, nobody you interact with socially or professionally ever knows you carry a gun for self-defense either. In places where gun ownership is equated with crime and mayhem in the minds of citizens, this invisible gun could save its user a lot of unnecessary social friction.
This idea of an invisible gun is what got the mind of Kirk Kjellberg stewing and led him to invent a double barrel, .380 ACP Derringer with the appearance of a common smartphone. Kjellberg formed Ideal Conceal to manufacture his unique pistol.
“The first rule of gunfighting is to have a gun.” This is perhaps Jeff Cooper’s best-known quote. The famous lawman-turned-tactical-shooting-guru was making the point that self-defense begins with the “self.” Seems obvious, right? Yet in the recent rash of heinous mass-shooting attacks directed against innocent city dwellers in crowded public venues by deranged gunmen, it doesn’t appear that anyone on the receiving end was prepared to fight back. The police responded efficiently to these attacks, but the death and injury inflicted by the gunmen were staggering. In Dayton, Ohio, the police arrived in half a minute and killed the attacker, but not before he shot 36 people.
In the El Paso, Texas, Walmart, it took cops over six minutes to get there and the attacker shot 46 people. At the Gilroy, California, Garlic Festival, the attacker shot 13 people before he was killed by police, just under a minute after he began his rampage. At that event, there was a substantial police presence for security, which apparently didn’t dissuade the attack. Nobody can really prepare thoroughly for dealing with crazy anyway. Nobody can ensure your protection and safety in a public place either, though they may try their best. Your safety is always on you.
CONSIDER WHAT MIGHT have happened in Dayton, El Paso, and Gilroy, if just one good person unfortunate enough to be present at these tragic, insane murder sprees was armed and fired just one shot in response. Let’s say the good person’s single shot missed the attacker and impacted harmlessly into the wall. Might it have diverted the attacker’s attention, caused him to pause, take cover, or perhaps withdraw? It might have saved some lives, or might have cost more. We can’t know. But, at the very least, it would have been an act of active resistance, a brave attempt to bring the murderous madness to a stop.
That is not to say that any private citizen should be expected to demonstrate heroism in that type of situation, though some did, despite being unarmed. Soldiers march to the sound of the guns but ordinary citizens usually don’t. Kids, adults, or elderly, whether soccer moms or welders, truck drivers, or short-order cooks, can’t be criticized for running like heck from a life-threatening situation.
That’s part of nature’s “fight or flight” reaction that all Earth’s living, thinking creatures share. What might you or I do in a situation like that? It would probably depend a lot on the circumstances: alone or with family, close or far from the attacker, armed or unarmed?
The fight is the other side of the survival instinct we all possess. If we must fight, being armed improves our chances of staying alive. If you assume you can maintain a calculating presence of mind in a life-threatening situation, you probably also assume being armed will figure into your choice of actions. Even if you don’t possess what soldiers call “coolness under fire,” being armed at least gives you the ability to fight back when you have no other choice. An old army colonel I worked for years ago once told me, “Even a bunny will fight when it’s cornered.” Personally, if I’m ever that bunny, I want to be an armed bunny.
The thing all these recent shootings have in common is that they took place in urban and suburban settings where a large percentage of the population holds negative opinions toward gun ownership. Just because a person lives in a thickly populated region doesn’t mean they are anti-gun stooges for the Democratic Party, but statistically, they are pretty likely to be, and they’re also likely to be unarmed. That doesn’t make them bad people. They’re usually just ignorant despite the pretensions to education and refined judgment that the more comfortably situated and well-to-do ones often demonstrate.
I live in rural Kentucky, but I hear these misinformed and defenseless unfortunates on National Public Radio all day long. If you have to live and work in America’s cities and heavily populated areas, you’re stuck with the people there. You’ll want to enlighten them about responsible gun ownership and defend the Constitution’s Second Amendment, but if you do that too much, it can have real consequences for your social and professional life. I recently attended a dinner party with old friends in New Jersey who recently took up target and trap shooting with gusto. However, they warned me not to mention their interest in getting a handgun for self-defense to the other guests. What a shame that they felt they had to keep their recent epiphanies about gun ownership secret for reasons of sociability.
THE SOCIABILITY OF gun ownership was one of the factors that Kjellberg gave considerable thought to in designing his gun so it wouldn’t look like a gun at all. He made the cell phone pistol for people who don’t carry guns at all because they live and work in areas with strong social anti-gun bias. Living in a liberal suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, he’s observed first-hand the negative attitudes toward the shooting sports and the Second Amendment commonly held by urbanites and cultivated by their Democratic city governments and liberal news media. Kjellberg created the IC380 cell phone pistol as a means for those who want to legally arm themselves for protection, to do so with maximum discretion, and avoid the ill will and social fallout of conflicts with their anti-gun neighbors, acquaintances and business contacts. It’s a niche market perhaps, but so were sword canes in the 19th century.
As a two-shot derringer, the IC380 is no Glock 43. However, that was never Kjellberg’s goal. His objective was to get people who don’t exercise their right to carry a concealed handgun for self-defense to start doing it, and just as importantly, to keep doing it.
“I don’t expect or advocate those already legally carrying more efficient and larger capacity revolvers and auto-loading self-defense handguns to switch to the IC380,” he says. “I don’t care what you carry. I just want law-abiding citizens to carry because they make us all safer when they do.”
I will admit a fascination with clever designs. A .380 ACP Derringer disguised as a smartphone is the type of thing you’d expect to see in the next James Bond movie. That’s surely part of its attraction and it caused a stir inside and outside the shooting community. Critics, pro- and anti-gun, claim it’s likely to get people killed in confrontations with police or that it’s a danger to children who are inclined to play with cell phones. Time will tell, I suppose, but I expect this to be the case. I believe that the IC380 is actually the first of many more disguised self-defense arms to come.
ON THE RANGE, my test pistol worked reliably and proved simple to use, as well as adequately accurate for confident self-defense shooting at 7 yards. It’s also built like a bank vault. In fact, Kjellberg drove his minivan over one and the only damage he noted were some small scratches on the gun’s black, hard-coat, anodized finish. The two-part frame and hinged barrel block are machined aluminum and the fold-up grip is sheet steel. The barrels are stainless steel sleeves pressed into the aluminum barrel block. The remaining parts are hardened steel alloys. The frame halves are screwed together, aligned, and largely sealed up from dirt infiltration by a tongue-and-groove joint.
To fire the pistol, the sheet metal grip is first pulled down so it locks in on opposing left and right side ball-detent locks. When locked, there is a small amount of wobble between grip and frame, but I found this unnoticeable in rapid-fire. The grip angle when deployed makes the IC380 a fairly instinctive pointer. The open-front, rectangular, sheet metal grip won’t set the standard for shooter comfort, but it won’t deter its owner from range practice either since the .380 ACP’s recoil is mild. The grip actually provides for better control than a lot of subcompact 9mm guns, simply because there’s enough grip surface for your hand to get a good purchase despite the smooth sides and rectangular shape. The edges of the grip’s open front actually help anchor the pistol in your grasp while shooting. When it comes time to put the IC380 back into stealth mode, all you do is push in the spring-loaded locking balls while folding the grip forward.
The small front sight is milled from the same block of aluminum as the barrel block. It can’t be adjusted but also can’t fall off or get knocked out of alignment. The front-hinged barrel block has a raised central rail along the bottom with two shallow cuts in it that mate with a slot and matching steel recoil lugs in the frame. This ensures the barrel stays in alignment with the frame even if the hinge wears. The barrel locks closed at the breech with a heavily sprung sliding latch along the top of the pistol (or side of the phone in this case). The latch is grooved to provide a grip surface and slotted down the center to form the pistol’s rear sight. It is made of a very strong steel alloy and mounted within the pistol’s steel core. You can’t accidentally open it and it can’t be broken out of its slot.
The IC380 is loaded and unloaded by drawing back the latch/rear sight, which allows the spring-loaded barrel block to pop up, exposing the chambers. Extraction is manual via a rectangular sliding button on the left side of the barrel block. Both cartridges are lifted ¼ inch from the chambers (just enough to pluck out with your fingers) by pressing down on the dual-legged extractor button while simultaneously drawing it to the rear. The extractor button retracts automatically when released, allowing for the insertion of new cartridges. Once loaded, the barrel block is closed and automatically locks in place under the latch/rear sight. When the barrel block is opened, the pistol automatically resets to fire the top barrel first. The second pull of the trigger fires the bottom barrel.
The IC380 is double action only with a smooth 7/16-inch-long trigger pull that breaks at the end of the pull with no apparent overtravel. As a result of its design, the trigger pull of the upper barrel is heavier than that of the bottom, 12.5, and 10.5 pounds respectively, though the trigger’s broad shoe makes it feel somewhat lighter. The distance from the front of the trigger shoe to the back of the grip frame is 3.9 inches, which might be a little too long for people with very small hands. For me, it worked fine.
As a word of caution, I noticed that I could switch back and forth between barrels by partially depressing the trigger and releasing it. If for whatever reason, you only partially pull the trigger back instead of drawing it all the way through to fire, you’ll find you have switched barrels the next time you pull the trigger. This could leave you in an awkward spot on that next pull if you really need a bullet to come out and you inadvertently switched to a barrel you already fired. You would need to pull the trigger again to get back to the barrel you accidentally skipped.
Contrary to what I’d seen on the company’s many videos, the online manual stated that the pistol can discharge if dropped. If true, that would be a serious flaw considering how often I drop my cell phone, so I asked Kjellberg about it. He explained the “lawyers” insisted on that, though he believes there is no way for the pistol to accidentally discharge because neither striker has a load on it until the trigger is pulled to compress the spring, and it has a firing pin lock to keep the pins from moving forward unless the trigger is pulled. Since he designed it, I’ll take his word.
The most accurate and highest velocity ammunition tested was Speer Duty Ammunition 90-grain Gold Dot hollowpoints averaging 949 feet per second. Five shots from the upper barrel grouped in 2.11 inches and 3.11 inches from the bottom. Hornady 90-grain XTP hollowpoints were close behind. Velocity was 895 fps and the same test produced a 3.08-inch group from the top and a 3.59-inch group from the bottom. Winchester Super X 85-grain Silvertip hollowpoints moved at 873 fps and grouped 3.51 inches from the top and 3.97 inches from the bottom.
In rapid double-tap drills, I found my shots more tightly clustered in the silhouette’s center mass when I started with the bottom barrel. When I started with the top barrel, my shots would curiously cluster in two distinct groups, one low and left and the other high and right. I’m no physicist, but this may be related to the bottom barrel being closer to my hand. The gun doesn’t have much muzzle flip, to begin with, but that bottom barrel may have just a little bit less than the top. That could cause the pistol to have less rise before the second (top) barrel is fired, resulting in a tighter grouping of my shots. If I carried this, I’d set the bottom striker to go first.
Ideal Conceal is in the process of working with a respected laser supplier to add a laser aiming option to the pistol soon. Expect that to add $100 to $125 to the retail price of the standard pistol. The button on each side in front of the trigger is where the laser control will be so it can be easily, and ambidextrously, activated with the trigger finger.
The pistol is fairly quick to deploy from the pocket and a specially designed skeletonized belt clip holster will be available soon. It resembles a normal smartphone holster. The pistol’s grip can be opened up to the fire while it is mounted in the holster on the belt so as to have it in a ready position in times of expected danger. The holster also allows for the pistol to be fired while sheathed, just in case it’s pulled off the belt and stays on the gun during the draw.
Kjellberg is refreshingly transparent about his pistol’s development, which he holds both design and utility patents for. It’s smartly designed and shows quality workmanship. He proceeded slowly and was able to incorporate improvements to his design along the way based on customer feedback. There’s a good chance the smartphones of 2028 will look a lot different from today. But even when smartphones eventually change in appearance and size, the IC380 still won’t look like a gun, and that’s the whole point.