Many firearms enthusiasts consider the revolver the best firearm for concealment. While sub-compact semi-autos tend to be slimmer, the shape of the revolver’s frame and its grip’s slenderness offer huge advantages for deep concealment. That said, Bond Arms has the ideal solution: the derringer pistol.
The concept dates from the early 19th century: a small pistol with a single barrel designed to be as small and concealable as possible. A Philadelphia gunsmith by the name of Deringer made the gun famous. In 1866, Remington improved the design with the addition of a second barrel. Dubbed the “double derringer” it’s the general outline of the design we see here today.
The rear of the Bonds Arms backup is constructed like a normal single action-only compact handgun. There’s a small grip and an external hammer with an over-sized spur to make it easier to cock in a hurry. The grip on this version is rubberized, which is definitely appreciated.
Something interesting about the fire controls: there’s a safety. Normally the only safety on a single action only revolver is the fact that you don’t cock the hammer until you’re ready to shoot. The Bond Arms Backup sports a cross-bolt safety as well. The hammer will still fall with the safety engaged, but the firing pin (in theory) should not be struck. Pro tip: just keep the hammer de-cocked unless there’s trouble.
The Bond Arms Backup‘s barrel system is its party trick. Instead of a cylinder or magazine, the cartridge is loaded directly into the chamber (which is directly and permanently attached to the barrel).
The only way to fire a successive cartridge out of that barrel; disassemble the firearm, manually extract the casing, load a new cartridge, and re-assemble the firearm. It’s a lengthy process, made slightly less annoying by the second chance at hitting your target before needing to reload.
Disassembling the firearm is easy. There’s a lever on the left side of the frame that unlocks the barrels, which then swing out of position giving you access to the chambers. Re-assembly is also a snap. Just swing the barrels back into place and they firmly and securely snap closed, ready to fire.
If you don’t like your caliber you can change your caliber. The barrels can be removed and replaced. Our test gun shipped with both .45 ACP and 9mm barrels.
Two barrels mean two firing pins. To avoid two hammers and two triggers, the Bond Arms’ hammer is segmented. It alternates from one firing pin to the other with each pull of the hammer, just like an under/over shotgun. There’s no way to set the priority, other than to pull the hammer back once, release, and pull it back again.
On this model the frame and grip are black. The barrels are made from bead-blasted stainless steel to reduce visibility — good features on a concealed carry firearm. The sights are standard notch-and-post with the front blade built into the barrel and the notch part of the hinge mechanism. I appreciate that the notch and post are both part of the barrel, theoretically ensuring increased accuracy as everything remains aligned and fixed even while changing barrels.
I’m not going to sugar coat it: this thing is a nightmare to fire.
The mechanics alone are frustrating. Given the stiff spring, pulling the hammer to full cock takes some dedication. Once cocked, the trigger is crisp and relatively clean — and heavier to pull than Jabba the Hutt on a Red Ryder wagon.
I can understand why a company would make the trigger so heavy on a double action pistol. With two safeties — the single action nature and an actual cross-bar safety — why such a heavy trigger pull? It was difficult to keep the gun on target through the entire trigger pull for the first 50 rounds of ammunition.
Once the hammer falls things get worse.
With a normal-size handgun the firearm’s weight softens the recoil before the impulse reaches your hand. With the Bond Arms Back Up there’s almost no weight to the firearm. All of the energy is transferred directly to your hand. This is especially troublesome for those with large hands; there’s not much room between the grip and the rear of the trigger guard. Your knuckles get a rapping with each pull of the trigger.
Equally, any fingers in direct contact with any rigid and pointy bits on the gun take a beating. My right thumb had been resting near the takedown lever for a couple of rounds. The force of the recoil bashing into my thumb was enough to split the skin and start bleeding. Not the first (or last, probably) time a gun will take me to the first aid kit, but not something I’d like to do on a regular basis.
Accuracy is also an issue. I wasn’t able to hit the target at our usual testing distance of 30 feet. So I perforated the target above at 15 feet. I fired ten rounds (five from each barrel). As the rounds impacted the target I noticed that I didn’t have one group — I had two.
The top barrel was grouping higher than the bottom barrel, spreading in a different direction. The groups were even offset horizontally by a different ratio. In short, the barrels don’t seem to be all that well aligned. I wouldn’t trust the second round accuracy of this gun beyond bad breath distance.
There’s definitely a market for this gun. Super concealable firearms have been desirable since the early 1800s. Manufacturers keep coming back the “one barrel one bullet” approach to scratch that itch. At bad breath distances, this works.
That said, it isn’t for me. There’s just not enough grip for me to comfortably control the firearm while firing. There’s too much recoil to have an accurate follow-up shot. And while this might seem slightly hypocritical coming from someone who sometimes carries a 5-shot .38 Special revolver, two rounds are too few.
Overall length: 4.5 inches
Available calibers: .45ACP or 9mm Luger
Weight: 18.5 ounces
RATINGS (Out of Five Stars):
The heavy trigger combined with the tiny form factor makes it very difficult to make an accurate shot. Plus, each barrel has a different point of impact.
Reliability * * * * *
Honestly the only thing that would impact the reliability of this thing is the ammunition. Everything else is well made and rock solid.
Overall * * *
If you need the smallest practical firearm possible for bad breath distance situations, look no further. Otherwise, look further.