The Bond Arms Bullpup started out life as the Boberg XR9. TTAG reviewed Arne Boberg’s ballistic bauble back in 2012. We were not impressed. The author’s jam-o-matic experience would soon be shared by Boberg customers. While the design was interesting, the XR9 wasn’t ready for prime time. Enter Gordon Bond …
Bond Arms makes the world’s best derringers. Gordon’s guns are tanks, boasting solid design, world-class machining and extreme product testing. Not to mention Texas-style go-the-extra-mile-for-a-smile customer service. None of which applied to the Boberg design or its founder’s customer relations.
Gordon Bond wanted to break out of his niche (there’s not much more niche than fairly large, heavy, two-shot derringer). Gordon took a shining to the innovative original Boberg. Well, not the pistol as it was. The pistol as it could be …
I’m not sure what engineering and construction challengers Bond Arms faced trying to fix the XR9, but I would have bet they were significant. And I would have won that bet. Bond Arms world-champion cowboy-action shooter Garrett Martin told me that the “new” Bond Arms Bullpup is the company’s ninth or tenth iteration of the XR9.
Man, I hope it was worth it, financially. Because shooting it totally is. But first the tech specs …
The Bond Arms Bullpup uses a locked breech, short recoil design with a rotating barrel. The set-up spreads the recoil over a longer time period while reducing the amount of space occupied by the mechanism.
The Bullpup’s barrel has a lug that runs in a channel in a locking block. After the cartridge ignites the barrel rotates 14 degrees, then unlocks and allows the slide to travel to the rear. Ejection and extraction are similar to most semi-auto handguns.
That tiny spring is not a recoil spring. It’s the slide-return spring (with a service life of around 8,000 rounds). The Bullpup9’s barrel is 3.35-inches long — in a gun that stretches a mere 5.1 inches. That makes the 7+1 Bond Arms Bullpup roughly an inch shorter than the 6+1 GLOCK 43, whose barrel is a measly .04 inch longer.
The stainless-steel slide moves easily; an arthritic septuagenarian could rack the Bullpup. If you know someone who has difficulty chambering a round in a semi-automatic pistol, this is the semi-automatic pistol for them.
I was going to ding the Bullpup for not having a ledge rear sight for single-handed slide racking. I can’t. The slide is so easy to move that even the small amount of vertical space on the rear sight provides enough grip to fully cycle the slide.
What makes the Bullpup a, umm…bullpup? The gun draws the next cartridge backwards from the magazine and lifts it directly inline with the barrel.
“The rearward feeding concept of mechanism is not unique,” Garrett Martin admits. “The Browning-designed M1919 has a rear-feed mechanism that maintains complete control of the round from the magazine to the bore.”
Yeah, but the Bond Bullpup9 isn’t a 30-pound machine gun. It’s a tiny pistol. I’m pretty sure that makes this bullpup design one of a kind.
The Bullpup’s magazine is actually a “magazine-clip” (clip-a-zine?). There’s no follower because it doesn’t need one. The rounds insert forward into the magazine, with the base of the cartridge out and open.
The Bullpup’s trigger doesn’t feel like a 1911, or any striker-fired plastic pistol I’ve ever fired. The hammer-fired double-action-only semi’s trigger feels as smooth and pure and controllable as a Korth’s go-pedal. That’s no exaggeration. The Bullpup’s trigger is that good, right out of the box.
The trigger pulls through a revolver-like length of travel (there is no external safety) without any grit or stack, right until hammer time. The stock trigger breaks with 7.5 pounds or pressure; customers can order a 6.5-pound or 8.5-pound version.
Takedown is super simple. Clear the weapon, drop the magazine, pull the slide back, rotate the takedown lever on the left side of the gun, move slide forward. Easy peasy. Just like the Beretta 92 series or the Sig P series, and many, many others.
The Bullpup’s engraved rosewood scales enable a positive, full grip on the little gun, with the wide backstrap well-positioned along the web of my hand. While the gun’s geometry soaks up recoil, the grips’ wide rear also helps control the impulse.
And renders the Bullpup less concealable. But not by much.
I boot-carried the Bond Arms bullpup and stashed it in an inside-the-waistband holster without difficulty. Customers can order the gun with plastic grips only slightly wider than the frame, which would make the Bond Arms Bullpup a true pocket pistol. Even thinner G10 grips are in the works.
The Bullpup’s sights are a quality drift-adjustable three dots. They’re large enough to deliver an excellent flash sight picture while still facilitating precision shots — more than you have a right to expect on a pistol this size.
Given that the gun loads by withdrawing the round out of the magazine rearwards, locking back on an empty magazine wouldn’t make any sense. After dropping the magazine, you would still have to drop the slide and re-rack the pistol to chamber a new round. So the Bullpup doesn’t lock back on empty. But it does go click.
The Bond Arms website includes a prominent ammunition notice. The issue — the bullet crimp. As previously noted, the Bullpup’s action yanks the bullet backwards to align it with the barrel. Bullets that aren’t well crimped can separate.
True story. When RF was shooting IWI’s 115-grain die cut ammunition, the mechanism pulled a bullet from the case, spilling the powder out and, obviously, causing a malfunction. RF shook the powder out, cycled the action and kept firing.
Since I didn’t know about the notice until later, we just kept shooting. RF and I put at least 350 rounds through the Bullpup. I put another 500 rounds through it since. Only one out of some 400 IWI rounds separated.
Truth be told, of the more than 850 rounds of ammo put through the gun, not a one was on the recommended ammunition list. I shot the last of my Cap Arms 115-grain FMJs, the IMI 115-grain Die Cut round, Wilson Combat 124-grain +P XTP, Wilson Combat 147-grain XTP, Blaser 124-grain FMJ, and Remington’s 115-grain HTP round. No issues of any kind. I never disassembled the gun or provided any maintenance (I forgot to lube it).
I should also note that I almost always ran the gun as 7+1: a full magazine with one in the chamber. Many small pistols, like my Kahr PM9, have issues consistently firing a full load. Not the Bond Arms Bullpup.
When a 9mm pistol’s total length is smaller than my hand, something usually has to give. Most of the time, it’s accuracy. Not so much with the Bullpup.
With any of the rounds mentioned, I was shooting under 4-inch five-round groups at 25 yards. The Wilson Combat 124-grain +P XTP round printed 3.5-inch five-round groups for a 4-group average. Remington’s HTP round shot just a little better. That one shot a groups right at 3 inches, but averaged 3.25 inches because of a few fliers.
That’s impressive bench accuracy for a boot gun from the bench. How it performs off-hand is even more remarkable.
The Bond Arms Bullpup weighs slightly less than the GLOCK 43, but stays on target far better. There’s simply no “snap” when shooting this gun. It recoils more like a compact SIG SAUER P229 than my Kahr PM9.
Fast controlled pairs at 7 yards and under were easy enough, either single handed or double. I tried drawing the Bullpup from the 4 o’clock position, driving the heel of the butt into my ribs and emptying the magazine, as I would a J-Frame Smith & Wesson revolver. The result was highly effective. (Nothing says “get off me” like eight 9mm rounds from zero distance.)
Gordon Bond didn’t invent the Boberg XR9. He perfected it. The Bond Arms Bullpup is a small, reliable, comfortable, easily manipulated, highly concealable, self-defense 9mm pistol with an 8-round capacity. A gun that’s a lot more than merely accurate at combat distances. At a Franklin more than a grand, the Bullpup isn’t cheap. But that’s a price worth paying if you want the ultimate in innovation, quality and utility in an American-made compact pistol.
Grips: Bond Arms Engraved Rosewood Grips
Barrel length: 3.35-inch barrel
Overall Length: 5.1 inches
Width .96 inch
Height: 4.2 inches tall
Weight: 17.5 ounces (empty)
Sights: Dovetail drift-adjustable non-illuminated 3-dot
Action: Double-action only (DAO)
Trigger Pull Weight: 7.5 pounds
Style and Appearance * * * * *
It’s a different sort of gun, but I like it. It’s built with the kind of flawless finish and minute attention to detail Bond Arms customers have come to expect. The rosewood grips are high quality, beautiful and functional.
Customization * *
So far, you can change the grips to plastic models as well as change the trigger-pull weight. More options on the way.
Reliability * * * * *
The only issue I witnessed was a bullet separation using ammunition not recommended by the manufacturer. I personally shot more than 500 rounds through the gun without issue, and all of it with ammunition not recommended by the manufacturer.
Accuracy * * * * *
Three- to 3.5-inch groups from a gun with a total of length of 5 inches is outstanding. Take into account that it did this with a broad range of ammunition not recommended by the manufacturer. The sight radius is the limiting factor.
Overall * * * * *
The Bond Arms Bullpup deserves six stars. It’s the end result of innovation, improvement and attention to detail. Mouse-gun size, compact-pistol velocity and handling. Outstanding.
Ammunition approved list from BondArms.com:
- Hornady Critical Duty 135 gr. FlexLock
- Hornady Critical Defense 115 gr. FTX
- Barnes Tac-XPD 115 gr.+P TAC-XPD
- Federal Low Recoil 135 gr. Hydra-Shok JHP
- Sig Sauer 124 gr. V-Crown JHP
- Sig Sauer 147 gr. V-Crown JHP
- Federal 124 gr. Hydra-Shok JHP
- Speer Gold Dot 115 gr. GDHP
- Federal HST 124 gr. HST
- Black Hills Ammunition 115 gr. Tac- XP +P
- Sig Sauer 124 gr. JHP
- G2 RIP 92 gr. HP
- G2 Telos 92 gr. HP +P
- Hornady American Gunner
- 115 gr. XTP 1160 FPS Avg.
- Hornady American Gunner
- 124 gr. +P XTP 1100 FPS Avg.
- Hornady Critical Defense Lite
- 110 gr. FTX 1140 FPS Avg.
- Hornady Critical Duty
- 135 gr. +P Flexlock 1060 FPS Avg.
- Hornady Custom
- 147 gr. XTP 928 FPS Avg.
- Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown
- 115 gr. JHP 1186 FPS Avg.
- 124 gr. JHP 1066 FPS Avg.
- Black Hills Ammunition
- 124 gr. JHP 1097 FPS Avg.
- 147 gr. XTP 910 FPS Avg.
- 124 gr. JHP 1138 FPS Avg.
- Federal Premium Ammunition
- 147 gr. Hydra-Shok 929 FPS Avg.
- Federal Premium Ammunition
- 150 gr. HST Micro 881 FPS Avg.
- Winchester PDX1 Defender
- 147 gr. Bonded JHP 928 FPS Avg.
- Team Never Quit
- 100 gr. Frangible HP 1208 FPS Avg.
- Hevi-DUTY by Hevi Shot
- 100 gr. Frangible HP 1106 FPS Avg.
- 115 gr. HTP JHP 1033 FPS Avg.
- 115gr. +P HTP JHP 1166 FPS Avg.
- 147 gr. HTP JHP 900 FPS Avg.
- 124 gr. Golden Saber JHP 1052 FPS Avg.
- Magtech First Defense Guardian Gold
- 115 gr. +P JHP
- NOVX 65 gr. 9mm Luger +P 1800 FPS
- Monarch Brass 115 gr. FMJ
- American Eagle 115 gr. FMJ
- American Eagle 124 gr. FMJ
- American Eagle 147 gr. FMJ
- American Eagle Syntech 115 gr. TSJ
- Federal RTP 115 gr. FMJ (Range Target Practice)
- Fiocchi 115 gr. FMJ
- Winchester 124 gr. NATO FMJ
- Winchester SXZ 115gr. FMJ
- Winchester SuperClean 90 gr. Zinc FMJ
- Aguila 115 gr. FMJ
- Aguila 124 gr. FMJ
- Aguila 147 gr. FMJ FP
- Browning 115 gr. FMJ
- Sellier & Bellot 115 gr. FMJ
- Winchester White Box 115 gr. FMJ (TOP CHOICE)
- Winchester White Box 124 gr. FMJ
- PMC Bronze 115 gr. FMJ
- Speer Lawman 124 gr. TMJ
- Herters Brass Case 115 gr. FMJ
- MaxxTech 115 gr. FMJ
- Remington UMC 115 gr. FMJ
- Remington UMC Mega Pack 115 gr. FMJ
- Remington Range Bucket 115 gr. FMJ
- Remington UMC Leadless 124 gr. FNEB