I met Gordon Bond for the first time this year, and I walked away from our meeting completely convinced of his passion for the guns that bear his name. He wanted to know if I had ever had a chance to put one through its paces. I had to confess that, although I had handled the guns, I had never really run one save for a round or two here or there. This would never stand for Gordon Bond; he asked if I would try out one of his guns and give him a true assessment if he loaned me one. Well Gordon, I did, and here is what I think.
What’s in a Name?
The history of the derringer is all in the name. If you look up the definitions for derringer you will quickly find the following:
Derringer /ˈdɛrɪndʒə/ noun
- a short-barreled pocket pistol of large caliber.
The original pistol was named after Henry Deringer (1786-1868), an American gunsmith who invented it in 1850. Note that Deringer’s name was only spelled with one R- the misspelling “derringer” appeared on the many counterfeits and imitations. Unfortunately for Henry the misspelling stuck, and the word derringer is now used to refer to any small pistol with a large bore. You win some, you lose some.
I am reminded of this time-honored phrase: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” When your brand name becomes the generic term for the entire class of products you’re developing, you have done something more than right. Here are some other examples of companies who have achieved the same status through their innovations.
Bond Arms has broken out of the “generic derringer” category by providing quality, durability and style that sets it apart from the junk out there barely earning the “derringer” classification. These attributes are the result of the vision that the Bond Arms company was founded on in 1995. Bond developed a goal of reviving the Remington model 1895 Derringer as a true modern pocket pistol through the use of modern manufacturing techniques. This vision was tested in the crucible of competition, courtesy of the Single Action Shooting Society (better known as SASS). Competition is one of the surest ways to expose any and all weaknesses in your equipment, and with 13 World Championship Derringer wins under their belt, Bond Arms has stood the test well.
When Gordon asked which model I wanted to try out, I told him to surprise me. I was anxious to get the package open after bringing it home from my dealer. I actually opened it before I even made it home!
I found that Gordon had chosen to send me the Backup model, including both the 9mm. and .45 ACP barrels. The optional barrel is installed with an Allen wrench (included in the box, thankfully) via the swivel pin on the top of the frame. Gordon was kind enough to include both a belt holster and a pocket holster for me to test the gun with.
The Backup is a two-tone affair, with matte-black frame and grips and a matte-silver finish on the barrels, hammer, trigger and trigger guard. The cross bolt safety and very substantial barrel-locking lever are also done in the same matte-silver finish.
The best word I could use for my first impression of this blaster is: Substantial. Even though the full package is compact, there are no half measures taken in materials or workmanship. The gun weighs in at 18 ½ ounces. The overall length of the gun is 4 ½ inches. At its widest point (the grips) it’s almost 1 ¼ inches wide, with the barrel coming in at just under three quarters of an inch. Its height from the top of the sights to the bottom of the grip is right at 3 ¾ inches. This is a small gun that feels substantial.
- Barrel: 2.5 inches
- OA Length: 4.5 inches
- Weight: 18.5 ounces
- Grips: Rubber
- Sights: Front blade, fixed rear
- Action: Single
- Finish: Stainless steel, black textured
- Capacity: 2
- MSRP: $490
Preparing for the Range
I had some substantial and unkind concerns about this compact package. With a 2 ½ inch barrel, I really wondered how effective this gun could be at delivering fire. This leads right into a big concern: How would the ammunition perform out of the attenuated barrel? I also will confess my own insecurity: If this gun could do its part, would I be able to fire it accurately and reliably? Could I control the Backup, or would it be too much of a handful for me?
I decided that the plan of action would require some objective testing to answer these concerns. The chronograph would be my go-to tool to answer the ammunition performance questions. Accuracy would be a two-part test: A headshot required at 5 yards without any warm-up, followed up by a 25-yard hit on a man-sized target. To avoid any user issues I would run these accuracy tests with multiple shooters.
Since I did not have an unlimited supply of ammunition, I selected Sig Sauer .45 ACP 230 grain full metal jacket, with a muzzle velocity of 850 feet per second (fps), and the Sig Sauer 9mm 115 grain full metal jacket, with a muzzle velocity of 1,185 feet per second. I decided to use these rounds because they are an exact match to the Sig Sauer V-crown jacketed hollow point personal defense ammunition. This would allow me to replicate the velocity and recoil of carry ammunition, and how multiple shooters would handle them.
I selected the IDPA target for my testing. This target represents the size of the human head and body, as well as effective shot placement on the other vital areas.
At the Range
My first trip to the range was a solo affair; I wanted to keep any possible evidence of my humiliation as low-key as possible.
After loading up the derringer with two rounds of 9mm, I decided that I would simply test a 25 yard cold center-mass shot to the 8-inch center scoring ring of the IDPA target. I moved the crossbolt safety into the fire position, cocked the exposed hammer, aligned the front post with the rear notch and split the center of the ring. The trigger depression was noticeably deliberate but smooth and short, as a good pocket gun trigger should be. I was rewarded by the top barrel with a hit to the lower portion of the 8-inch ring. The recoil of the gun was less than I had experienced from smaller caliber pocket pistols, which was reassuring. I cocked the exposed hammer again to let loose the lower barrel and fired, and my hit was just barely on paper, hugging the bottom. My first thought was that I had probably yanked the trigger, causing the muzzle to pull low and left of the intended target spot. I decided that the best way to get a bearing on this gun would be to perform what I refer to as a “walk back drill.” This involves starting close to the target and firing rounds while retreating to a point where you can no longer deliver accurate fire.
I stepped up to the 5-yard line and loaded the little Bond Arms with two rounds. I aimed at the center of the head and loosed the first round, which struck true to the point of aim. I then cocked the gun and fired the bottom barrel. This time, rather than striking within the head box, the hole sprung up in the neck. I repeated this drill and was reminded of a lesson I teach to people running a carbine about sight offset. Simply put, you must aim higher to compensate for the distance between the barrel and the top of the sights. The fact of the matter is that with a 2-inch barrel and these distances, the offset is going to make a difference.
I changed to the .45 ACP barrel and achieved similar results, although the recoil was noticeably more pronounced.
Next it was time to check the velocity that these rounds were being launched from the barrel at. When testing Sig Sauer ammunition in full-sized handguns, I have always found my tested velocities to be right at or above the advertised velocities.
As you can see, going from a 5-inch 1911 to a 2-inch Bond Arms Backup is going to result in an across-the-board velocity loss. That being said, even at a decreased velocity, I believe these rounds will still remain effective at close range with good shot placement. Also, these numbers are pretty good considering the length of the barrels.
The Backup lacks shell extractors for both barrels, as these are rimmed cartridges. It has notched chamber openings via a square, slightly larger than ¼ inch, cut into the left side of the barrel. These shells were easily removed by use of the MK – 1 fingernail that was supplied in the original equipment issued to the shooter.
On my next trip to the range I gave a quick debrief to my shooters on running the offset of the gun, and began acting as ammo-bearer for them. Things quickly turned into an ad hoc competition, as usually happens when people gather at the range. And when a new toy gets thrown into the mix, the challenges can get interesting. More than one shooter was able to deliver a well-placed headshot at 7 yards firing the gun with their strong hand only. These were not cold shots, but they were impressive to watch nonetheless.
The only firing issues occurred when a shooter would attempt to only load one barrel, and the hammer would attempt to fire the empty chamber. These instances were quickly remedied by re-cocking the gun and depressing the trigger. I don’t think this is a real issue in a self-defense situation, as you shouldn’t be finding yourself trying to use only one barrel when it’s go time. Aside from this one quirk, there were no malfunctions or failures of the ammunition or the gun.
I was concerned when I got this gun, not from a safety perspective but rather from an accuracy and terminal ballistics perspective. When it was all said and done, this gun did not disappoint, and it is truly worth the $490 retail price. I carried this gun both in the belt holster and in the inside-the-pocket holster. The bond Arms Derringer conceals easily in either holster configuration. I am toying with the idea of making it my dedicated cross-draw driving-only gun, keeping it easily-accessible and strapped into a vehicle for close-up defensive work.
Well, Gordon, thanks for letting me borrow your gun! Now you know what I think of it. By the way, did you want it back? If I don’t hear back I’ll just assume you want me to keep it. I don’t mind at all, really!