Gun Review: Bond Arms Texas Defender

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A few years ago I was looking for a boot gun for deep concealment, and a spare pistol to keep in the truck. As a kid, I often carried a single-barreled .410 pistol. I knew the caliber’s capabilities and limitations. So when I saw a Bond Arms derringer online for about half MSRP, I jumped at the chance to own one . . .

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I’ve carried that Bond Arms derringer (that’s mine, above), trained and experimented with it for years before RF presented me with the Texas Defender (with a slightly smaller barrel) to review. As the only person on the staff with significant Bonding time, I was granted a little T&E.

First off, derringers aren’t like other pistols; it takes training to handle the guns quickly and reliably. That said, the recoil isn’t as bad as you’d expect. Even with maximum pressure hand loads, a derringer chambered in .45LC, isn’t terrible. I can fire one single-handed without discomfort.

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A .410 derringer is a different animal entirely, especially with 3″ shells out of a 3 1/2″ barrels. One of the main challenges: the hammer and trigger configuration. There is no such thing as a great derringer trigger. Because of the basic design, it simply can’t be done. But it’s not the breaking rocks with a sledgehammer trigger pull so many people make it out to be.

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A lot of people make it harder on themselves by using a high grip. Held that way, the gun’s easy to handle — but difficult to fire. Any forward pressure on the cocked hammer dramatically increases the trigger pull weight. You have to hold a derringer with a small handle even lower. To keep my hand completely off the hammer when it’s cocked, I can barely put two fingers on the standard small handle. In .410, that makes for some uncomfortable shooting.

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The same goes for two-handed shooting; a “good grip” hinders firing. The trick: hold the gun with your strong hand and pull the trigger with your weak hand. I grip derringers fully with my right hand, pointing my right index finger straight down the barrel. I use my left hand to grip the gun over my right hand, with my left index finger on the trigger and my left thumb under my right thumb along the barrel on the left side. See pics above and below (a picture really is worth a thousand words).

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I trained myself to draw and fire using this grip; it’s surprisingly fast and natural. The result is comfortable, fast shooting and — for the platform — accurate. I can manipulate the Texas Defender’s hammer with either thumb. In this configuration, my left thumb is faster and keeps the muzzle pointed in the direction of the target.

The Texas Defender comes with a crossbar push-button safety. In all the years I’ve owned one of these guns, I’ve never used it. The Defender must first be fully cocked to fire. The hammer is a rebounding hammer; it does not rest fully forward. You can’t fire this or any other Bond derringer unless you cock the hammer first. If you drop it, nothing.

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The Bond Arms derringer disappears nicely in an Inside-the-Waistband holster. D.M. Bullard out of Azle, Texas crafted the one I used for the review. I usually make my own leather holsters, but Bullard’s IWB holster (above) was so perfectly shaped and finished I wouldn’t waste my time trying to do one better.

Holstered IWB, the Texas Defender is small enough to not been seen — but it will be felt. It’s no lightweight. At 20 ozs there are lighter, more capacious pocket guns out there, but not many in .410. And you appreciate any weight you can get when you fire something so powerful in something this small.

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The Texas Defender boot carries well. Bond Arms sells a couple of different options for boot carry. As usual, the best is also the simplest. A sleeve with a rubbery side out (that squeezes in between your boot and your leg) holds the gun in place comfortably and comes right out on the draw.

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Boot carry is not ideal. In fact, I’d say it is the least best way to conceal a gun. But if you’re in a place that demands deep concealment (e.g., wearing ssuit pants and a button down shirt), there aren’t may options available if you don’t want to take off your clothes to get your gun. As usual, the key is training. You need to understand that getting to your Defender means losing mobility for a few seconds. And that it’s best to take that first shot from the kneel.

Ok, but can it hit anything?

The Texas Defender is a small-handled gun with a short barrel and significant recoil. But if you do your part, you’ll be surprised at the accuracy you can wring out of this pistol. Loading and unloading the Texas Defender is as easy as riding the town bicycle: push down of the derringer’s release bar and flick your wrist. Done.

At seven yards, firing the .45LC round or the .41 caliber FTX slug from Hornady’s Triple Defense round, I can make shots into the vitals, either chest or head, all day long. Shooting my own hand-loaded .45LC rounds with two hands from the kneel, each round shot from the bottom barrel will land within a three-inch circle. Each round from the top barrel will land in a three-inch circle as well, just about nine inches higher.

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To test the Bond Arms Texas Defender, I fired a load I worked up for my derringer years ago: a 250gr LFN round with nine grains of Unique. It’s a stout but accurate load for this gun. Oddly enough, the Winchester Silver Tip round did ‘t do as well, shooting a full inch wider at this range, and some of the rounds were slightly key-holed. At 25 yards, shooting standing with two hands, I can guarantee that each shot will strike a 19″ metal silhouette target. That’s about as good as I can get.

But mind the spread! The bottom cylinder is aligned with the sights, not the top. At 10 yards, you have to start accounting for this to keep your rounds inside the eight ring. The accuracy of the .410 defense rounds depends entirely on the type of the round fired.

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At seven yards, all of the projectiles from both the Federal .410 Handgun Personal Defense load and the Hornady Triple Defense rounds landed inside the 16″ silhouette. At 10 yards, the .41 caliber FTX projectile landed solidly every time from the Hornady round, but one of the smaller . 35 caliber balls often did not.

For the Winchester .410 round, at the 10 yard line, I was often only getting three of the five 0000 buck projectiles onto steel. At the 25 yard line, it was hit or miss entirely with the balls. I could count on the .41 caliber FTX round to the hit the silhouette . . . somewhere.

In terms of reliability, the Bond Arms Texas Defender is a tank. A tiny, shiny tank with a couple of .45 caliber main guns. I put 100 rounds of .45LC, and 40 rounds of .410 defense ammo through the gun with zero issues. At that point, shooting was starting to be uncomfortable. (The real reason I stopped is that .410 defense ammunition ain’t cheap by any means and I’d just be wasting it.)

I’ve shot many hundreds of rounds through my identical Bond Arms derringer with zero issues. It’s a pretty simple device, there isn’t much to go wrong. No magazine, no slide or cylinder to cycle. Equally, the Grandbury gunmakers  didn’t skimp on quality. I’d trust my life with the Texas Defender any day of the week.

Anyone carrying this gun for self-defense needs to be realistic about the .410’s lethality. At close range — inside of seven yards — the .410 defense rounds are, at best, adequate. They aren’t moving fast enough from such a short barrel for guaranteed penetration. At three yards or five yards? Yes, you are absolutely shredding the target. But don’t expect a single pass through.

As far as the .45 caliber round, even pushing the hand loads to a max load, I still get just less than 400 ft-lbs from the muzzle. So, even though you can hit something at 25 yards with the Defender, don’t expect it to have much of an impact.

With the slugs, I would imagine a heavy leather jacket would inhibit the round from reaching the vitals at that distance. With the balls, I doubt they would fully penetrate at all. At the short ranges, where the vast majority of self-defense scenarios occur, either round is plenty. Just mind the distance. And the round count.

For personal defense against man and snake, the Texas Defender is a solid performer. But the gun has a less tangible utility: it’s damn cool. If someone’s carrying one, they are probably worth talking to.

One time I was walking through a convention hall and noticed a woman wearing a Bond Arms T-shirt. I stopped her to strike-up a conversation and showed her my custom-handled Century 2000. It turned out she was Ms. Amy Graves, the spokesman for Bond Arms. A couple of years later I secured a custom Ranger II for Governor Rick Perry, delivered by the owner of the company, Gordon Bond, himself. I’ve seen him show that gun off I don’t now how many times, and it always turns heads.

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(L to R), Jon Wayne Taylor, Gordon Bond, Governor Rick Perry

And now the super cool part: buy a Bond Arms Derringer and you’ve bought a barrel and a frame held together by a single screw. (No, that screw will never break.) You can swap out barrel lengths and calibers with a few turns of an Allen wrench. In less than two minutes you can change barrel lengths from 2.5 inches to 4.25 inches, in many different calibers. There are a total of 25 barrel and caliber combinations, as well as a range of handle lengths, also swappable. I think my next barrel will be a 4 1/4″ 10mm. But a 2 1/2 inch barrel with a short handle in 9mm would be super sneaky.

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In a recent TTAG Question of the Day, RF asked how much fun was shooting. I had to answer “not a lot.” Most of the time, it feels like maintenance and too much like work. But every once in a while, a gun comes up that puts a smile on my face. The Bond Arms Texas Defender derringer is one of those guns. In .410/.45LC, it’s a gorgeous, fun and powerful little firearm. Highly recommended.

Bond Arms Texas Defender
SPECIFICATIONS:

Frame and barrel: stainless steel
Caliber: .410 (2 1/2″)/.45LC
Barrel length: 3″
Total length: 5″
Weight: 20oz
Frame width: .97″
Sights: fixed blade and fixed rear
Grips: Rosewood

MSRP: $493, found online for over $100 less. (In April, 2016 Bond Arms is offering 50 percent off any second barrel purchase with the purchase of the gun. Click here for details.

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * * * * *
The Bond Arms Texas Defender screams quality. The gun’s finish was mirror polished enough that I had to work to keep my reflection out of the pictures. The craftsmanship and overall build quality of all of Bond Arms guns is exceptional. Plus, it’s a heck of conversation starter.  Or, if need be, finisher.

Concealability * * *
Small, but not particularly light.

Reliability * * * * *
Apocalypse proof. When the End Times are through, you’ll find two things still working on my corpse: cockroaches and the Bond Arms Derringer.

Accuracy * * * *
>For what it is, the accuracy is spectacular. But let’s be honest, it’s a derringer. The fact that I can reliably hit a human-sized target reliably at 25 yards is in itself impressive.

Customization * * * * *
There aren’t enough stars for a gun that with one screw you can swap out for 25 different barrel and caliber combinations. With one more screw you can change the handle length, material, color, shape and engraving. Plus it comes in different finishes.

Overall * * * * *
If a Cadillac made sweet love to a Mack Truck and they had a gun for a son, it would be the Bond Arms Texas Defender derringer.

comments

  1. avatar pwrserge says:

    22oz? Wow… That’s like carrying a brick on your ankle. An unloaded Glock 19 comes in at 23…

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      20oz

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        You are happy every last ounce of that is there when you fire it.

        I t seriously helps soaking up a lot of the recoil.

        When you handle it, it feels like it has been carved from a single lump of stainless.

        So, Jon, are you going to pick up the .45-70 barrel for it? 🙂

  2. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    I am growing tired of the word “Texas”:- I am a bit interested in the Patriot though. Maybe .45acp.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      According to their website ( http://bondarms.com/bond-arms-handguns/ ) the MSRP on the Patriot is $105 more than the Texas Defender. I guess you do get the extended grip for that, but you could get the Snake Slayer with an extra half inch of barrel for $30 less.

      Oh, and it looks like the Patriot is just .45/.410.

      1. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

        You can put any of the barrels on any of the guns. I have seen all sort of mixes at Impact guns and my local gun store so I am not sure that I would need to get it with a 45LC/.410. Kinda seems like a waste of barrel length not to start the bullet back farther as you would with a .45acp or better yet a .45gap.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          If you can get your LGS to swap them out that would work. Looks like you can get all sorts of calibers, but buying the gun and then buying extra barrels could really add up.

          I carry a .357 and would like one in that for backup / pocket carry / shitsandgiggles. I’m leaning toward the Snake Slayer with a 3-1/2″ barrel. I think I’d want the extended grip, especially since I carry Double Taps in my revolver and I might someday put the hot loads in it (either by accident or because the SHTF). Looks like they’d load pretty slick from a speed strip.

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          One thing about revolver calibers is that when you put them in non-vented barrels they perform similarly to the same length vented barrels (i.e. a 3″ derringer should produce similar velocities to a 3″ revolver). In a .45acp you’d expect similar performance as a 3″ auto. Not sure about .45, but a lot of the 9mm defensive rounds don’t open reliably out of a 3″ barrel. But there are plenty of 2″ revolvers out there so it should be less of a concern with a revolver cartridge. I agree with you on the .410 though.

  3. avatar Wv Cycling says:

    Accuracy **** out of *****

    I guess if you objectively compare it to other derringers only. Otherwise, putting this in a pocket ccw category, I’m sure the honest results would sway people away, especially with the innately blasé trigger.

    Please forgive me if I’m wrong, but the stats feel a bit fluffed.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      No forgiveness necessary. It’s hard to compare this gun against anything else, but I’d happily compare it to other 3 inch “pocket” .410/.45LC guns.

  4. avatar FormerWaterWalker says:

    I’m not sure but this may be prohibited in Illinoisistan. And pricey/ heavy. The Doubletap/Heizer 2 shot looks interesting for a true hidey-gun-anyone have experience with it?

    1. avatar FormerWaterWalker says:

      I see TTAG HAS reviewed the Doubletap. And it’s $180 9mm/non-ported at Bud’s(free shipping). And they compared it to a gun I have already had-a TCP. Which ran flawlessly.

      1. avatar pwrserge says:

        Why would it be prohibited in Illinois? For all our craziness, there are very few state level bans in Illinois and they only really cover NFA items.

        1. avatar FormerWaterWalker says:

          Hey ILL bans Heritage six-shooter, laser sights in Chiraq and Thornton and no chance of a silencer either. I can live without all of those. And where I live I can have 30 rd mags and AR’s. And shall-issue CC…

        2. avatar Stinkeye says:

          I think the revolvers in question are banned under Illinois’ idiotic “melting point” law. They require that any handguns sold in the state be made of materials with a melting point higher than 800 degrees, and some of the Heritage models are zinc alloy. This is not an issue with the Bond Arms guns, which are all steel.

    2. avatar Geoff PR says:

      WaterWalker, the Bond is *far* more pleasant to shoot.

      That Doubletap will put a *serious* hurt on your hand…

  5. avatar BLoving says:

    As I explain to any customer of mine who asks: no one carries a derringer because it’s a perfect choice. They carry it because they WANT to. And I want one too.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Pretty much sums the argument up there.

    2. avatar TXGungal says:

      Initially thought why on earth who anyone want a derringer! But as someone who primarily pocket carries but some pants have narrow/shallow pockets. Hmmm, might have to re-think a Bond Arms Texas Defender. Time to pay a visit to gunbroker.com.

  6. avatar onezero says:

    JW, your personal Bond has a different grip. How does that compare shooting to the reviewed gun. I’ve always the gun, but never the grip.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      The long grip makes the 3″ .410 shells much more enjoyable to shoot.

      1. avatar onezero says:

        I guess you figured out I meant to say liked. Is your grip custom made?

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Yes. But I can’t remember by who.

        2. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

          The Patriot (among other models) has a longer better feeling grip.

  7. avatar tdiinva (Now in Wisconsin) says:

    This is “want” gun not a “need” gun. It has no practical use other than a hostage situation where it can be more easily hidden from the bad guys. If you want to carry one just for this contigency. Under pressure it is unlikely that you wii hit your target unless he is standing in your face. There are many pocket pistols which would be more effective.

    1. avatar Another Robert says:

      I have to agree. In fairness, I expect it would do the job just fine in the vast majority of ordinary DGU situations, which I understand ultimately involve 0, 1, or two shots being fired and distances of less than 20 feet. But when there are so many less or equally expensive guns out there which will do the same job and more (as in more rounds, at greater practical-accuracy distance, thus more possible DGU situations))–why would you pick this one? I like the things, if I had $400-$500 dollars to throw away after getting some other things I would rather have (like a good Tokarev without that damned add-on safety) I could certainly see myself getting one. But that’s a lotta “ifs”…

    2. avatar Stinkeye says:

      That hostage scenario is pretty far-fetched, but there’s a much more practical, day-to-day use for a gun like this: snakes. The appeal of a pocket-sized .410 for dispatching venomous reptiles should not be discounted.

      1. avatar tdiinva (now in Wisconsin} says:

        No kidding.

    3. avatar Hannibal says:

      And I’d suggest that other guns fill even that role better.

  8. avatar B.Malloy says:

    My wife saw an ad for one of these and informed me that we need to add one to the collection. I was curious as to why, because she doesn’t usually express a lot of interest in guns. Her logic was “because is looks cool, and i want one”, i wont argue with that.

    1. avatar wrightl3 says:

      Sounds like a keeper.

    2. avatar scott says:

      Sounds like a smart woman. Does she have a sister?

  9. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    I think one either loves derringers, or hates them.
    I love them. My first was a high standard .22 mag.

    1. avatar Benzo says:

      I’ve always loved them, but have never been willing to buy one. Just too many other items on the list above one of these…

    2. avatar jwm says:

      Only stack barrel pistol I was interested in. Never got to use one.

  10. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    I was thinking of getting one of these in .357, so the weight would be a plus. A 3″ non-vented barrel should generate subsantially more energy than a 1-7/8″ vented barrel like an LCR and the extra weight should help minimize the recoil. Theoretically.

    1. avatar Stuki Moi says:

      By the standard pistol, and I assume Derringer, case head to muzzle metric; the LCR has a barrel length pretty close to 3 inches as well.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        If you’ve ever shot a revolver in the dark or twilight (or stuck your thumb out near the front of the cylinder) you’d realize that the cylinder gap releases a significant amount of energy before the bullet has a chance to get to the end of the barrel. This is why they call it a ‘vented barrel’. Non-vented barrels (semi-autos, derringers, etc.) generally obtain similar velocities to vented barrels (not counting the cylinder). With a round like .357 magnum there’s a huge difference between a 1-7/8″ barrel and a 3″ or 3-1/2″ barrel.

        1. avatar Stuki Moi says:

          You need to get yourselves some newer revolvers, or have a smith tighten your cylinder gaps up. The velocity drop is not entirely inconsequential, but for tight guns, it’s not that big a deal either.

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Revolvers typically have ~.005″ cylinder gap. That’s not a lot and if it’s tightened up too much it can create reliability issues just like an overly tight slide to frame fit. So it is what it is. A 4″ revolver will produce similar velocities to a 4″ auto with the same round. On the other hand the auto needs a slide that protrudes well behind the back of the barrel, so the slide length will be similar to the overall barrel/cylinder length on the revolver. The revolver has a longer overall length because the grip arcs behind the rest of the firearm instead of jutting straight down at a near 90 degree angle. When it comes to carry this translates into an advantage for the revolver because the beaver-tail doesn’t jab you in the side.

          The derringer is the best of both worlds when it comes to compact power. Non vented barrel and no reciprocating slide. The downside is you’re limited to 2 rounds.

  11. avatar Swilson says:

    I agree with most of y’all. Seems more like a want than a need. Hell, I want one just for the fun of ’em now. For me, it’s a hard sell though to spend $3-400 on a piece I can’t convince myself has at least a little practicality. Wood-shed gun? I come across some snakes out there from time to time. Too many other items on the list ahead of this piece though.

  12. avatar Evan says:

    These are definitely very ‘cool’ guns, great maybe as a BBQ boot gun or just to have as part of your collection – but I just can’t see why you’d actually carry one. A .380 auto like the taurus TCP has basically the same length & height but is thinner, weighs half as much, carries 3.5x as many shots, reloads faster, shoots faster, and all for about half the price. If you’re worried about reliability you could easily carry one in each boot and have up to 14 rounds of backup – not counting spare mags – while still barely equalling the weight of one of these derringers. And if you’re worried about not looking as cool, just imagine how cool you’ll look as you dive through the church doors, doves taking flight, two-fisting a pair of TCPs, raining lead down on the bad guys as brass tumbles around you – all in slow motion.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Taurus doesn’t make the TCP in .45/.410. Or .357 magnum.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        And Bond has a .45-.410 and .45-70 combo barrel.

        Hey, Tom, you’re a certified recoil junkie, would you shoot a .45-70 derringer?

        Especially if you worked up a load for .45-70 in a 2-inch barrel?

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          That would be interesting considering that the .45-70 overall length is over 2.5 inches.

      2. avatar Evan says:

        Sure – but is there any real significant ballistic difference between 7 shots of .380 and 2 shots of .357/.45/.410 out of a tiny gun? And that’s just the TCP in your right boot. And what’s the followup like on the second shot of .357 out of a derringer? How easy is it to cock before each shot when you’re shooting with one hand while fending off an attacker with the other? Other than looks, the only real advantage I see with a gun like this is that 20oz of stainless will be far more effective when it comes to the point of having to club someone over the head with it.

        1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

          Even though 7 rounds of .380 adds up to roughly the same total energy as two rounds of .357, the .357 has a huge advantage in penetration. Face off against a really big dude who’s hopped up on jenkem and your .380 might not cut it. Personally I’d feel about as confident either way. Either should suffice against a single foe and both are insufficient against multiple threats. If you can keep straight which barrel your shooting the derringer would have an advantage at 25+ yards, both in accuracy and especially power.

  13. avatar Hannibal says:

    I have nothing against derringers. But if I want to carry one I’m going to carry one that is highly concealable. This thing doesn’t even do that right but it’s still sacrificing accuracy and capacity.

  14. avatar TruthTellers says:

    Cobra makes a .410/.45 derringer too, they call theirs the Titan.

    But because it’s Cobra, don’t expect it to be cheap. Price you can expect to pay is something like $350 and when the Bond Arms barrel swaps are considered, BA is probably the better choice.

  15. avatar Stuki Moi says:

    Never owned nor shot a Derringer. Never even thought much about them. Always assumed they would have a mechanism, and hence nice trigger, like a miniature break open over/under shotgun/rifle. Any reason, aside from history, that they don’t?

  16. avatar Mike in Texas says:

    JWT – it’s Granbury not GranDbury.

  17. avatar Mr. Antisocial Guy says:

    I have the Snake Slayer with the 410/.45colt barrel plus a 9mm barrel as well. Love that gun!!! It sits on my night stand every night ready for action. I also use it as a car jacking defense gun. Using the 9mm barrel makes practice cheaper than using 410 shells. Here is a link to my Bond Arms Derringer on the Pro 2nd Amendment of Lawrence Co. IN Fakebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lawrenceco2a/photos/pb.242538152616204.-2207520000.1461071556./320287684841250/?type=3&size=528%2C386&fbid=320287684841250

  18. avatar JohnF says:

    I can see this gun as a novelty, a fun gun, an “obscure object of desire,” if that floats your boat, but I cannot see it as serious defensive pistol, as the name “Defender” implies, even as a backup. For that size, that weight and that cost, I can think of a long list of options that would give me better concealment, more speed on target, better accuracy, more capacity, faster reloads, etc., all of which I would much rather have in a gunfight.

  19. avatar Dan l says:

    It’s 5 ounces lighter than the plastic framed taurus judge. Asaik it’s the lightest 410 out there. I almost got one, but then I found 357 shot shells for my 360pd. The bond arms 410 is a great ranch gun for snakes and hogz imo….

  20. avatar John W says:

    I just won a Texas Defender in a raffle and I was excited! The 45/410 combo was something that I was looking into. But my question for those who are far more experienced with the weapon is this: when I tried it for the first time, used the 410, it was SO LOUD that it HURT my ears. In fact, I wanted to fire two rounds and I very seriously considered not firing the second round. Is this normal for this gun? Thanks for any input.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Yes, it’s a super short barreled shotgun going off about 30 inches away from your face. That’s going to be very loud.

  21. avatar Ima Donar says:

    Nice to see Mr Perry with a Bond. I dislike snakes sooo bad especially since I saw one in a rest area on 287 on the way to Amarillo one year. Just looked at one at RK and the sales person said to stay clear of it. I hope the Zuni’s will give me some slack if I shoot a few snakes if necessary. Lets hope the next few years improve upon from where we are today, Feb 2017. I need a referral to help pay my share of that 20 trillion on the accounts payable.

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