Gun Review: Bond Arms Roughneck and Rowdy Model Derringers

Bond Arms Rowdy Roughneck derringer

Bond Arms Roughneck and Rowdy Derringers (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

About a decade ago I started boot carrying the Bond Arms Derringer in .410/.45 Colt as an everyday backup and deep concealment pistol. I absolutely loved it. Four years ago I got to review a slightly different version for TTAG. I loved that one, too.

Since then I’ve bought different holsters, different grips, and different barrels. I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. The Bond Arms derringers are the highest quality derringers ever made, with materials, craftsmanship, and quality second to none. But man, they ain’t cheap.

Bond Arms Roughneck and Rowdy (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Bond Arms Rowdy (top) and Roughneck (bottom) derringers (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Now, though, with two new models — the Roughneck and the Rowdy — Bond Arms has dramatically reduced the price point of their exceptional little guns, all while keeping intact everything that makes a Bond Arms derringer great.

What’s the difference between the Roughneck and Rowdy? The Rowdy ships with a 3″ .45 Colt/.410 barrel and the Roughneck ships with a 2.5″ 9x19mm barrel. That’s it.

But, other than a couple hundred dollars in the MSRP, what’s difference between these models and Bond’s previous ones?  The only difference between the other models, like the Texan and the Texas Defender vs. the Roughneck and Rowdy, is the finish.

Bond Arms frames raw (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Bond Arms raw frames (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Bond Arms has been trying to figure out how to make a lower priced product that’s still true to the brand for years. According to Gordon Bond, the eureka! moment hit him not when looking at a derringer, but instead when he saw Ruger’s new Wrangler revolver.

I can understand why. When the Wranglers went up at my local Cabela’s, they couldn’t keep them on the shelf. They were so cheap, I thought, what the heck, I’ll try one out.

After I did, I bought a couple more. I shoot the heck out of them and keep one in the truck. The mechanics are sound, but with just the absolute minimal amount of finishing and fitting done to get the gun to shoot reliably. Nothing more.

Endless hand polishing (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Endless hand polishing (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

That got all the folks at Bond Arms thinking. They went through their derringer design, through every process and material, and looked at what was the minimum required to get the gun to function perfectly and look good, and how low they could get the price on that gun.

The difference was about $200 on the MSRP, a huge savings on the cost of most of their guns.

Modern machining and basic polishing at the Bond Arms factory (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Modern machining and basic polishing at the Bond Arms factory (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Although the finish is the only real difference, that’s not a small amount of work. I took a walk through of the Bond Arms facility and was surprised by the amount of hand fitting that goes on with the guns.

Sure, it’s a modern facility with modern CNC machines, but the level of polishing and perfection they expect is well beyond what we see in the plastic fantastics, or most production 1911s for that matter.

Rejected guns. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Rejected guns. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Each gun is inspected and often sent back several times for cosmetic blemishes. When I took a look at their “rejected’ guns, I couldn’t find the errors on many of them. That’s because the flaws were internal, such as a lack of acceptable polish on surfaces that can’t be seen unless the gun in taken apart.

That level of polish isn’t done on the Roughneck and Rowdy guns. The performance is still there, but not the same aesthetic. Bond Arms says that, just by reducing the polishing, they can make four Roughneck guns in the same amount of time it takes them to make a single Texas Defender. Those savings are passed on to the customer.

Fully polished barrel top, Rowdy and Roughneck polish below. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Fully polished barrel top, Rowdy and Roughneck polish below. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The response has been what’ you’d expect. They can’t keep up with the orders for the more affordable guns and they’re adding machining capacity to meet the demand.

Although the frame is left pretty much unfinished, the flats of the barrel itself have a basic polish to them. The result is not what I would have expected. If someone had described the guns to me like that, I would give them a hard pass.

Bond Arms top, Remington original below. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

But take a look again. The look is a good one, showcasing a “working gun” with a great contrast in the different polish levels. In fact, the photo above is a fully polished Bond Arms Knucklehead next to an original Remington Model 95 derringer, made well over 100 years ago. Note the polished flats of the barrel, and unpolished frame of the Remington, just like the Roughneck and Rowdy models.

Like all Bond Arms derringers, caliber and barrel length swaps are accomplished easily with the removal of a single swivel screw.  Want to change calibers from a 3″ .45Colt to 2.5″ 9x19mm, .357Magnum, 38SPL, or even a 6″ barreled .410? If that takes you more than 3 minutes you did it wrong.

With and without trigger guard (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

With and without trigger guard (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Like all Bond Arms Derringers, the Roughneck and Rowdy models both have removable trigger guards. I think they look better with the trigger guards, and they can be a bit more controllable with the heavier recoiling models with the guard installed. But if you want to draw and shoot fast, you’ll need to take the guard off. It’s easily done with a single screw.

Trigger interior and trigger guard screw (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Trigger interior and trigger guard screw (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Taking the trigger guard off doesn’t make the gun any more likely to unintentionally fire.  In fact the guns are pretty well overbuilt when it comes to safety.

Note that each derringer includes a large cross bolt safety. It’s completely unnecessary.  The rebounding hammer must be cocked prior to the trigger being pulled. Cocking switches the firing pin location each time the hammer is pulled.

Safety and rebounding hammer (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Safety and rebounding hammer (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

All of the traditional revolver calibers and the .410 bore barrels have an extractor bar that press both cartridges from the breach at the same time, allowing the shooter to finish extracting the cases by hand.

The cartridge rim required for that operation simply doesn’t exist on the 9mm or other traditional semi-auto cartridges, so these will need to be removed entirely by hand. Most folks find that spent cases are most easily pulled using the rim of another cartridge.

Rowdy and Roughneck grip rear (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Rowdy and Roughneck grip rear (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

In my time with these two guns, as well as shooting my Bond Arms derringer in a few different calibers, I’ve never had a cartridge fail to extract with either system.

I’ve also never had the pistol fail in any way. There’s just not much to go wrong. It’s an extremely simple design, and the pinnacle of reliability. Cartridge manufacturer and bullet shape are irrelevant to reliability. If the Bond Arms derringer failed to fire, suspect the cartridge, not the gun.

(During this very review, I had a .45 Colt round fail to fire. It failed to fire in both of the two revolvers I then attempted to fire it. Bad round.)

Roughneck groups (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Roughneck groups (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

“Precision” is not the word that comes to mind when I think of a derringer, but the Bond guns do better than you would think. Using the 3″ .45 Colt barrel, 3″ five-round groups seated off bags were easily doable at a 7-yard distance.  This is what I am used to with my 3 1/2″ barrel as well.

I found the manufacturer as well as bullet weight or charge made very little difference in group size. The limiting factor is an extremely short sight radius, non-adjustable sights, and limited purchase on the gun. Seated with the 9x19mm and shooting off a front bag, 3 1/4″ groups at 7 yards using the diminutive 2.5″ barrel were the norm.

Some rounds packed more punch than others, but none seemed to be much better or worse when it came to accuracy. Again, the limiting factor are the sights.

Note that, as mentioned in my earlier review, you’ll need to mind the barrel position when it comes to point of impact. The top barrel will shoot a 3.5″-ish group, and the bottom barrel will shoot a 3″-ish group. But each group will be a little distance between each other, somewhat depending on barrel length and caliber. I found that the 3″ .45 Colt barrels shoot about 9″ apart at 7 yards.

The author's Bond Arms Texan, 6" .45Colt/3" .410 Magnum (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The author’s Bond Arms Texan, 6″ .45 Colt/3″ .410 (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

For those of you who think the Bond Arms Derringer could never be a realistic self defense gun, I used to agree with you. Then I started really practicing with the gun, delving into delusions of grandeur that I could ever be fast enough to compete in cowboy action shooting matches with them.

Then I ran into (then) world record holder Garret Martin at the Range at Austin. Using .38 SPL self defense ammunition I pulled off the shelf, he shot two rounds into a target at 7 yards away, in 7/10th of a second. He said that was so slow he didn’t really want me to show the video. I put in on my IG anyway.

How many of you can draw and fire two, hitting both, with your carry gun and ammunition in well under a second and consider it slow? Not I.

The Bond Arms Derringers have a huge following in the cowboy action shooting world, and now probably even more since one was featured in the newest John Wick movie.  I’m an unabashed fan of the company and the product, and stoked they produced a lower priced model.  I’m stoked because now even more people will be shooting these fun and reliable guns, and because now I can afford to buy another one.

Specifications: Bond Arms Rowdy

Caliber:.45LC/.410
Barrel Length : 3″
Grip Material: Rubber
Grip Size: Standard
Sights: Front blade, fixed rear
Length: 5″
Weight: 20 ounces
Trigger Guard: Yes
MSRP: $299 (Found online for $270)

Bond Arms Roughneck

Caliber:  .357Mag/.38Spl, .45ACP, 9mm
Barrel Length:2.5″
Grip Material: Rubber
Grip Size: Standard
Sights: Front blade, fixed rear
Length: 4.5″
Weight: 19 ounces
Trigger Guard: Yes
MSRP: $269  (Found online for $259)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * * *
Somehow Bond Arms pulled off a great look on a minimally finished revolver. It’s interesting that these turned out to look more like the original 150-year-old designs than the more polished versions do.

Customization * * * * *
All the stars and then some. It’s incredibly easy to change barrels and calibers, as well as the trigger guard and grips. Many options are available on the manufacturer’s website.

Accuracy * * * *
Variable depending on barrel length, the determining factor for sight radius. Since the machining is extremely high quality, the inherent accuracy of the gun is outstanding.

Reliability * * * * *
Supreme.

Overall * * * * *
If I could give a gun 10 stars out of 5 these would get it. They’re exceptional builds, a great value, and tons of fun to shoot and own.

 

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comments

  1. avatar KIMBERLY GRIFFITH says:

    Not a derringer fan and never have been. I support its use and ability to carry for those that choose. I joined this site because of its topics and information flow. I am very happy I did. Blessings to all,

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      i should consider joining.

      1. avatar Kevin says:

        Subscription fees are 50% off through the end of April.

        1. avatar Joel says:

          Now that’s funny right there….

  2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    some of these bonds have been on sale lately, under 4bills.
    i think they’re neato.

    1. avatar Geoff "Guns. LOTS of guns..." PR says:

      I like the sheer mass they have, makes them a lot more pleasant to shoot…

      1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        .38 should be fine. true magnums might be overkill, even 10mm.

      2. avatar Joel says:

        Too me the mass has always been the biggest downside to these. They weigh the same as many single stack 9mms loaded. I’m sure they shoot well enough, but weight plays a larger role in carryability than size for me. If I often bought $400-$600 range toys just for fun I’d probably have one.

        They make better bludgeons than any plastic fantastic though……

  3. avatar Geoff "Guns. LOTS of guns..." PR says:

    A ‘sandblasted’ finish is perfectly appropriate for those guns.

    If they ever decide to offer their extra barrels with a similar ‘finish’ for a similar cost savings, they might sell a whole lot more of them.

    I could never justify the high cost of the extra barrels for those guns, if they apply the same basic finish on them, they will sell a lot more of them.

    I, for one, (who welcomes our insect democrat overlords) would *love* to carry one of those and have an inexpensive long barrel for plinking…

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Agreed, although the correct term for finishing is “bead blasting” (sandblasting is typically for stripping/cleaning metals of debris and grime). For this application, the finish is just fine. I sure wish I could get one in CA, but “safe gun roster” and all that jazz…

      1. avatar Ing says:

        If there ever was a gun that proves the CA “safe roster” has nothing to do with guns functioning safely, this little guy is it. You don’t get any safer or more idiot-proof than a single-action derringer with a redundant cross-bolt safety. But hey, muh roster…

        1. avatar Totmacher says:

          Sadly it’s a feature, not a bug. It was never about safety. No micro-stamp = no Cali approved Roster addition.

  4. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

    I have been carrying a 4.5″ Snake Slayer in .45acp as a pocket BUG for a couple years now. It is the gun that I always have within arm’s reach. It is natural pointer for me and I push 230gr HSTs to an average of 966fps with it and the 2nd shot still comes quick. I accidentally ordered the .45acp barrel in 4.5″ rather than 3.5″ and it made little enough difference in pocket carry that I stuck with it. As a BUG and pocket gun I am very happy with it. I have never regretted the purchase for a moment.

  5. avatar Fred says:

    I love the look, but I have to remind myself that I have a 6 shot 9mm that is about the same size and weight. I don’t see any gain in conceal ability, at a loss of 4 rounds.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I have the same mindset.

      I do not see any utility in derringers.

      Don’t get me wrong: I think they are interesting and I do not begrudge anyone who owns and/or carries them. They simply are not my cup of tea when I can carry a sub-compact semi-auto in .380 ACP that is actually easier to conceal AND shoot. Again, though, that is my utilitarian side.

      1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

        I ain’t saying you’re wrong, far from it – I don’t have any data that compels me to think so. However, I have taken to the notion that the first shot is by far the most important and every potential shot after that has less chance of being the ‘winning’ one because of one’s earlier shots vying for that honor and and return fire/strikes making them less likely to occur. For a BUG, my first criteria is draw speed, then potential damage per shot, then number of potential shots. That is just my gamble/play. Even if I am somehow right statistically, the situation I might find myself in may favor lots of shots, in which case I will wish I had chosen the small auto-loader. We can’t know how well we chose until we get there.

      2. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

        I looked and found that I also responded to you on Nick’s Bond Arms Backup review on January 10, 2017. I hadn’t bought a Bond Arms yet then.

  6. avatar possum says:

    A two shot gunm isn’t all that practical anymore, but dang the are so cute you just gotta have one

  7. avatar Scott says:

    Bond Arms – the company that charges for “upgrades” that amount to recalls.

    I have an older model with the really squirrely trigger requiring a different technique than anything else and is probably dangerous as a result. Last time I checked they will “upgrade” for only $125.00. I wouldn’t mind cost sharing, but this sounds like full cost.

  8. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

    Let’s see…two shot, relatively heavy, bulky and expensive and for the rimless cartridges a new definition for manual extraction.

    I have shot the Mini model in .45 Colt…not a lot of fun.

    My LCR or M642 drops into a boot just fine.

    Congrats to Bond Arms for building a quality firearm someone somewhere wants.

    1. avatar Dave G. says:

      Plus one on the 642. At 14.7 oz. it makes a 19 oz. derringer seem kind of clunky. And I get two and a half times the number of shots.

      1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

        …that half-shot may be the one that saves your fundio…

  9. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

    I liked the one I shot a few years back, but couldn’t justify the price for 2 shots when there was other guns I “needed”. At $250 and in 9mm… Maybe. Thanks for the review.

  10. avatar JimK says:

    Having owned TWO JUDGES and the S&W Governor in 410/45 Colt and experienced the fairly stout if not brutal recoil, I never wanted to use the stack barrel versions. Prolly break my hand. I’d rather use a blade if I’m going to be presented a target that close.

    No, I’d much rather see a review of the recent Bond Arms acquisition: the Boberg line of firearms that create what are essentially bullpup pistols. Also a design that turns standard designs on their head.

    1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

      Why not spend a few seconds to look for it? https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/gun-review-bond-arms-bullpup-9mm/

  11. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    This backs up what I’ve said in the past about CNC machining and how it wasn’t going to be a magic way to produce a new-model Python at sub-$1K prices.

    Finishing a gun takes time and skill. There aren’t many good ways to automate it.

  12. avatar jwm says:

    I would buy one in .45 colt if it was available in CA. I have a fondness for old west looking firearms.

    1. avatar Geoff "Guns. LOTS of guns..." PR says:

      Well, if you were ever on vacation in a free state, you could buy a used one, couldn’t you?

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I would have to register it with the CA DOJ or be a felon. And I don’t know if our roster applies to out of state purchases.

        I keep my fingers crossed that scotus is going to slap some of this shit down in the near future.

        It’s all about the judges. Trump 2020.

  13. avatar dwest says:

    I have one in .45 colt/.410, purchased it over a decade ago, and it’s still a fantastically over built tank of a firearm. My gf, now wife, calls it a fistful of fnckyou. She fired it once and refuses to ever do it again.
    Cheap is not a word that belongs anywhere near these things. They are heirloom quality and worth the extra coin in my opinion.
    Thanks and shoot straight 🙂

  14. avatar CentralVirginian says:

    Can the 9mm take plus p rounds? Didnt see it listed on their website, in the manual, or faq.

    1. avatar John Bryan says:

      Since you can buy the .38SPCL gun and swap on a .45ACP barrel I’d venture to guess the 9MM would hold up to +P just fine.

      1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

        Maybe not. Considering that the SAAMI specs for 9 mm standard pressure start about 10,000 psi higher than 45 ACP +P maxes at (38 Special +P max is even lower).

        1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

          The bore is in the same size barrel so the walls are much thicker in the 9mm and the area for the pressure to act on the base of the case and thus the force on the lock is less in the 9mm, no?

        2. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

          Don’t know…do you want to trust your hand to a guess? Call or e-mail Bond Arms and see what they say in re 9 mm +P. Those 13k+ additional psi chamber pressures add up to a great deal of extra stress on the metallurgy.

        3. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

          Of course, I was offhandedly discussing internal ballistics with you because it is a slow day, not advising CentralVirginian to fire away with +p.

        4. avatar CentralVirginian says:

          Ill check with Bond Arms, thanks for the reply’s. Bond arms manuals could be more specific on chamber pressure allowances and exact sammi spec allowable cartridges.

        5. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

          @CentralVirginian

          Perusing the Bond site I noticed that they offer their barrels in 10 mm. If they are proofed for .357 mag and 10 mm the odds are great that 9 mm+P should work…please check with them first before chambering / firing +P ammunition (They specifically prohibit 45 ACP +P in their firearms).

    2. avatar Geoff "Guns. LOTS of guns..." PR says:

      “Can the 9mm take plus p rounds?”

      I will be very surprised if there was any ammo in any calibre that a Bond derringer couldn’t handle…

  15. avatar Will Drider says:

    “Quality”? I don’t understand why Bond doesn’t “regulate” the barrels for a better POI than a 9 inch spread @ seven yards (3 inch barrels in the example). On an industrial scale is it too hard to drill and cut riling “parallel” in one block of steel?

    When you consider the less than optimal characteristics of a derringers combined with “stress”: it easily makes that 9 inch spread misses @ seven yards.

    Okay for a Range Toy, not a “if your life depended on it gun”. YMMV (Its your Life)

  16. avatar The Rookie says:

    I know this guy named Sartana who wants one…

  17. avatar Hannibal says:

    In terms of using as a defensive weapon, there are two kinds of people: those who can use these little guys to put a couple of holes center mass of bad guy 10 yards away under pressure, and those who cannot.

    Those who can use them effectively are probably experienced enough that they would not carry them for self-defense anyway, given the options available.

  18. avatar BusyBeef says:

    These are SO well built – unfortunately the trigger is horrible and they’re incredibly hard to shoot. Not to mention the size of a good J-frame / LCR with less than half the capacity.

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