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