21st Century Derringer! Bond Arms Back Up .45 ACP & 9mm Defender—Full Review

Send to Kindle
The Bond Arms Backup derringer packs in two barrels of 9mm or .45 ACP power for deep-cover defense.

The Bond Arms Backup derringer packs in two barrels of 9mm or .45 ACP power for deep-cover defense. The result is an extremely compact yet very powerful defensive pocket gun. Note that when using a two-handed hold, be sure to keep your support thumb safely away from the muzzle.

For more information, visit http://bondarms.com/ .

To buy a Bond Arms Backup on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Bond%20Arms%20Backup

I met Gordon Bond for the first time this year, and I walked away from our meeting completely convinced of his passion for the guns that bear his name. He wanted to know if I had ever had a chance to put one through its paces. I had to confess that, although I had handled the guns, I had never really run one save for a round or two here or there. This would never stand for Gordon Bond; he asked if I would try out one of his guns and give him a true assessment if he loaned me one. Well Gordon, I did, and here is what I think.

What’s in a Name?

The history of the derringer is all in the name. If you look up the definitions for derringer you will quickly find the following:

Derringer /ˈdɛrɪndʒə/ noun

  1. a short-barreled pocket pistol of large caliber.

The original pistol was named after Henry Deringer (1786-1868), an American gunsmith who invented it in 1850. Note that Deringer’s name was only spelled with one R- the misspelling “derringer” appeared on the many counterfeits and imitations. Unfortunately for Henry the misspelling stuck, and the word derringer is now used to refer to any small pistol with a large bore. You win some, you lose some.

I am reminded of this time-honored phrase: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” When your brand name becomes the generic term for the entire class of products you’re developing, you have done something more than right. Here are some other examples of companies who have achieved the same status through their innovations.

Chart1

Bond Arms has broken out of the “generic derringer” category by providing quality, durability and style that sets it apart from the junk out there barely earning the “derringer” classification. These attributes are the result of the vision that the Bond Arms company was founded on in 1995. Bond developed a goal of reviving the Remington model 1895 Derringer as a true modern pocket pistol through the use of modern manufacturing techniques. This vision was tested in the crucible of competition, courtesy of the Single Action Shooting Society (better known as SASS). Competition is one of the surest ways to expose any and all weaknesses in your equipment, and with 13 World Championship Derringer wins under their belt, Bond Arms has stood the test well.

Unboxing

The Bond Arms Backup is a compact derringer with a matte-black and stainless steel finish.

The Bond Arms Backup is a compact derringer with a matte-black and stainless steel finish.

When Gordon asked which model I wanted to try out, I told him to surprise me. I was anxious to get the package open after bringing it home from my dealer. I actually opened it before I even made it home!

I found that Gordon had chosen to send me the Backup model, including both the 9mm. and .45 ACP barrels. The optional barrel is installed with an Allen wrench (included in the box, thankfully) via the swivel pin on the top of the frame. Gordon was kind enough to include both a belt holster and a pocket holster for me to test the gun with.

The Backup is a two-tone affair, with matte-black frame and grips and a matte-silver finish on the barrels, hammer, trigger and trigger guard. The cross bolt safety and very substantial barrel-locking lever are also done in the same matte-silver finish.

The best word I could use for my first impression of this blaster is: Substantial. Even though the full package is compact, there are no half measures taken in materials or workmanship. The gun weighs in at 18 ½ ounces. The overall length of the gun is 4 ½ inches. At its widest point (the grips) it’s almost 1 ¼ inches wide, with the barrel coming in at just under three quarters of an inch. Its height from the top of the sights to the bottom of the grip is right at 3 ¾ inches. This is a small gun that feels substantial.

The author received a Bond Arms Backup for testing with a pair of 9mm and .45 ACP barrels. Shown with optional belt holster.

The author received a Bond Arms Backup for testing with a pair of 9mm and .45 ACP barrels. Shown with optional belt holster.

SPECS

  • Barrel: 2.5 inches
  • OA Length: 4.5 inches
  • Weight: 18.5 ounces
  • Grips: Rubber
  • Sights: Front blade, fixed rear
  • Action: Single
  • Finish: Stainless steel, black textured
  • Capacity: 2
  • MSRP: $490

Preparing for the Range

I had some substantial and unkind concerns about this compact package. With a 2 ½ inch barrel, I really wondered how effective this gun could be at delivering fire. This leads right into a big concern: How would the ammunition perform out of the attenuated barrel? I also will confess my own insecurity: If this gun could do its part, would I be able to fire it accurately and reliably? Could I control the Backup, or would it be too much of a handful for me?

I decided that the plan of action would require some objective testing to answer these concerns. The chronograph would be my go-to tool to answer the ammunition performance questions. Accuracy would be a two-part test: A headshot required at 5 yards without any warm-up, followed up by a 25-yard hit on a man-sized target. To avoid any user issues I would run these accuracy tests with multiple shooters.

The Backup employs a top-hinging barrel system and dual barrels. The author is shown here loading it with 9mm.

The Backup employs a top-hinging barrel system and dual barrels.

Since I did not have an unlimited supply of ammunition, I selected Sig Sauer .45 ACP 230 grain full metal jacket, with a muzzle velocity of 850 feet per second (fps), and the Sig Sauer 9mm 115 grain full metal jacket, with a muzzle velocity of 1,185 feet per second. I decided to use these rounds because they are an exact match to the Sig Sauer V-crown jacketed hollow point personal defense ammunition. This would allow me to replicate the velocity and recoil of carry ammunition, and how multiple shooters would handle them.

I selected the IDPA target for my testing. This target represents the size of the human head and body, as well as effective shot placement on the other vital areas.

At the Range

My first trip to the range was a solo affair; I wanted to keep any possible evidence of my humiliation as low-key as possible.

The author put the Backup through a challenging test of shooting from 25 yards.

The author put the Backup through a challenging test of shooting from 25 yards.

After loading up the derringer with two rounds of 9mm, I decided that I would simply test a 25 yard cold center-mass shot to the 8-inch center scoring ring of the IDPA target. I moved the crossbolt safety into the fire position, cocked the exposed hammer, aligned the front post with the rear notch and split the center of the ring. The trigger depression was noticeably deliberate but smooth and short, as a good pocket gun trigger should be. I was rewarded by the top barrel with a hit to the lower portion of the 8-inch ring. The recoil of the gun was less than I had experienced from smaller caliber pocket pistols, which was reassuring. I cocked the exposed hammer again to let loose the lower barrel and fired, and my hit was just barely on paper, hugging the bottom. My first thought was that I had probably yanked the trigger, causing the muzzle to pull low and left of the intended target spot. I decided that the best way to get a bearing on this gun would be to perform what I refer to as a “walk back drill.” This involves starting close to the target and firing rounds while retreating to a point where you can no longer deliver accurate fire.

I stepped up to the 5-yard line and loaded the little Bond Arms with two rounds. I aimed at the center of the head and loosed the first round, which struck true to the point of aim. I then cocked the gun and fired the bottom barrel. This time, rather than striking within the head box, the hole sprung up in the neck. I repeated this drill and was reminded of a lesson I teach to people running a carbine about sight offset. Simply put, you must aim higher to compensate for the distance between the barrel and the top of the sights. The fact of the matter is that with a 2-inch barrel and these distances, the offset is going to make a difference.

I changed to the .45 ACP barrel and achieved similar results, although the recoil was noticeably more pronounced.

Next it was time to check the velocity that these rounds were being launched from the barrel at. When testing Sig Sauer ammunition in full-sized handguns, I have always found my tested velocities to be right at or above the advertised velocities.

Chart2As you can see, going from a 5-inch 1911 to a 2-inch Bond Arms Backup is going to result in an across-the-board velocity loss. That being said, even at a decreased velocity, I believe these rounds will still remain effective at close range with good shot placement. Also, these numbers are pretty good considering the length of the barrels.

The Backup lacks shell extractors for both barrels, as these are rimmed cartridges. It has notched chamber openings via a square, slightly larger than ¼ inch, cut into the left side of the barrel. These shells were easily removed by use of the MK – 1 fingernail that was supplied in the original equipment issued to the shooter.

The primary controls of the Backup are a crossbolt safety located just forward of the hammer and the barrel release lever behind the trigger.

The primary controls of the Backup are a crossbolt safety located just forward of the hammer and a barrel release lever behind the trigger.

The sights on the Backup are a basic and straightforward notch rear unit and a substantial blade front sight integral to the barrel.

The sights on the Backup are a basic and straightforward notch rear unit and a substantial blade front sight integral to the barrel.

On my next trip to the range I gave a quick debrief to my shooters on running the offset of the gun, and began acting as ammo-bearer for them. Things quickly turned into an ad hoc competition, as usually happens when people gather at the range. And when a new toy gets thrown into the mix, the challenges can get interesting. More than one shooter was able to deliver a well-placed headshot at 7 yards firing the gun with their strong hand only. These were not cold shots, but they were impressive to watch nonetheless.

The only firing issues occurred when a shooter would attempt to only load one barrel, and the hammer would attempt to fire the empty chamber. These instances were quickly remedied by re-cocking the gun and depressing the trigger. I don’t think this is a real issue in a self-defense situation, as you shouldn’t be finding yourself trying to use only one barrel when it’s go time. Aside from this one quirk, there were no malfunctions or failures of the ammunition or the gun.

Final Thoughts

I was concerned when I got this gun, not from a safety perspective but rather from an accuracy and terminal ballistics perspective. When it was all said and done, this gun did not disappoint, and it is truly worth the $490 retail price. I carried this gun both in the belt holster and in the inside-the-pocket holster. The bond Arms Derringer conceals easily in either holster configuration. I am toying with the idea of making it my dedicated cross-draw driving-only gun, keeping it easily-accessible and strapped into a vehicle for close-up defensive work.

Well, Gordon, thanks for letting me borrow your gun! Now you know what I think of it. By the way, did you want it back? If I don’t hear back I’ll just assume you want me to keep it. I don’t mind at all, really!

The author was able to get some very good "head shot" groups on target at five yards with the Backup.

The author was able to get some very good “head shot” groups on target at five yards with the Backup.

The author had several range mates try out the Bond Arms Backup as well. Note the strong two-hand stance he is using.

The author had several range mates try out the Bond Arms Backup as well. Note the strong two-hand stance he is using.

Two-handed shooting. Note how the cocked hammer rests in the web of the hand without pinching.

Two-handed shooting. Note how the cocked hammer rests in the web of the hand without pinching.

One-handed shooting at five yards resulted in some very good hits.

One-handed shooting at five yards resulted in some very good hits.

{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Stan d. Upnow March 6, 2017, 9:16 am

    I must point out an error the author made. He said the 9mm Para and .45ACP are rimmed cartridges; Wrong!
    They are both rimless.
    Oh, and a $500 derringer that doesn’t at least have extractors? Keep it.

  • Stan d. Upnow March 6, 2017, 9:10 am

    Was in the firearms trade for a number of years and therefor had the opportunity to handle the Bond Arms derringer. My impressions were that the gun was well-made, BUT……… It was large and very heavy. Only two shots, when you could have a compact and Much lighter true pocket pistol with 6 rounds. The trigger was on the other side of Hell- long, heavy pull with a gritty feel. Front sight blade too tall; sights pretty crude(but, it is for ECR use).
    I must say that I am referring to their all-stainless model, as this tested model wasn’t out at the time. I also didn’t shoot it.
    With all the foregoing, my question is: WHY would you want one?
    If you Must have a derringer, look at a Cobra. Much more compact & lighter, as a derringer should be.

  • Bill February 27, 2017, 10:43 am

    Good review, are there any reviews on the Bond Arms with a 44 magnum barrel?

    • Stan d. Upnow March 6, 2017, 9:11 am

      Seriously?

  • Al August 8, 2016, 7:58 pm

    Interesting review but not for everyone.
    Why carry 2 shots when you can have 6 or more is the same size package?
    I would just like to point out the tested velocities as shown for the 9mm is very misleading. The correct differential for the 9mm is 196 fps. It is shown as “hundred 96” fps.
    Chart2

  • steve Hammill August 8, 2016, 4:30 pm

    I have a .45/.410 and love it. The reason I love it has to do with the magnificent feel and quality. This is not a go-to weapon. I keep it at my bedside to get me from the bed to a shotgun and revolver. I too keep the gun loaded with 000 buck. I also have two DoubleTap .45s. I’ll take my Bond any day, but those too are good for the purpose. …and I have two NAA .22 mags which do serve as go-to weapons because they are ALWAYS carried.

    All are guns of last resort.

  • Mike K August 8, 2016, 1:08 pm

    There are so may 9 mm autos out there today that are as light or lighter and carry 7 or more rounds, and I would bet are less expensive. Why buy this contraption? Hell, my 3″ 1911 doesn’t weigh much more than this.
    Sorry, I just don’t see it.

    • Scotty Gunn August 8, 2016, 8:27 pm

      I agree. I carry a XDS in 45 acp when working (they ban carrying while working, but you are driving in the city a lot). I suspect the XDs is about the same size as the Bond, and holds 5+1 with the smaller mag.
      I used to work retail guns, the Bonds were a tough sale, and resale was worse for guys looking to unload one…

      • Phil Whitehead March 6, 2017, 8:30 am

        Guys, you are both missing one relative point. It’s not about what you want.

        It’s about what’s out there, and being able to make choices.

        My EDC is s 1945 Remington Rand which was damaged by previous owners and refurbished so I could carry the pistol that I carried on active duty.

        Others have said, “Why go to the expense and trouble to rebuild a dinosaur of a pistol when more modern versions are readily available?”

        My answer? Because I can.
        My choice…

  • Irish-7 August 8, 2016, 12:41 pm

    A Bond derringer in .410 GA/.45 LC is at the top of my “Want” list. I’d prefer a model with an extended grip for better control with the large calibers. I think the 4.25 inch barrel kind of defeats the purpose of carrying a small gun, though. A Taurus Judge Public Defender holds 5 rounds and is $100 cheaper. Regardless, I will buy a Bond eventually!

    • Larry Arley August 8, 2016, 2:16 pm

      @irish-7 If you want a bond 410/45 you want the 3 inch barrel. I had a machinist bore out the 1/2 inch of rifling for the 45 long colt so I can put a 3 inch 410 with 000 buck. no man or beast can take 5 36 cal. slugs to the chest at 1600 fps. I will advise that taking out that bit of rifling makes it an illegal weapon depending on your state laws. but the intimidation factor of seeing that pumpkin ball right in the end of the barrel would sure make me back down from a fight.. again check your laws b4 reaming out the rifling.

      • Irish-7 August 12, 2016, 6:33 pm

        Thanks Larry! I am undecided which length barrel that I want, 3 or 3.5 inches. The Bond representative at the Harrisburg Outdoor Show told me that the 3″ shoots 2.5″ .410 shells and the 3.5″ is required to handle the 3″ rounds. I imagine the 3″ shells have more kick. I have multiple defensive loads for my Governor and Public Defender, Winchester PDX, Hornady Critical Defense and Remington Home Defense. I know that Winchester makes a 3″ round with 4 defense disks and 15 BBs. Hornady only sells the 2.5′ shells. Does Remington make the 3″ #000 buck that you referenced? The Home Defense is 4 #000 buck balls.

      • ejharb September 6, 2016, 12:36 pm

        Guess what?
        You clean the rifling out of the barrel it patterns better because of no spin of the projectile/s however,
        You just manufactored a illegal short barrel shotgun.even if you don’t run .410s

      • ejharb September 6, 2016, 12:39 pm

        Check your velocity on your 410 rounds.
        You ain’t getting 1600fps more like 850 on a good ďay. 1600fps is what your 18″” & up will get.

      • ejharb October 15, 2016, 12:05 pm

        1600fps from a short barrel with 410 buck is a fantasy.750-800tops
        Don’t believe me check it out on a chronograph.

        410s break a grand from 18″ shotgun barrels

  • Willam A Palmer August 8, 2016, 10:15 am

    I’ve carried the SnakeSlayer as a backup for 2 years now along with my XDS 45. The derringer is a close up weapon not a distance shooter. Less than 15 feet would be my limit.

  • John Tumms August 8, 2016, 9:58 am

    I have had a Snake Slayer for some time and find it enjoyable to shoot. I had my 357 Mag and 45 barrels MagaPorted, after which it shoots much better. Considerably easier on hand and little flip. Great little gun, well made.

  • Terry Davis August 8, 2016, 8:07 am

    I had the Texas Defender. I loved the concept, however, my XDs in 45 with a 3.3″ barrel weighed 26 oz with 1 in the pipe and 5 in the mag. The Defender weighed 21.5 oz with 2. I gave it to my daughter because it had a star on the grips and she’s a big UT Longhorns fan. It’s great as a car gun when loaded with #4 .410 loads. A dose of that in the face and a misguided youth might give up carjacking entirely.

  • SteveK August 8, 2016, 5:51 am

    Here we go again. Another company decides, “Hey, let’s make our beautiful polished stainless steel jewels look like crappy, dull aluminum”. Thankfully, I bought my Snake Slayer back when they made them look BEAUTIFUL.

  • Michael Mahoney August 8, 2016, 5:34 am

    Are they ever going make one that is in compliance with the ma laws?

    • Gary August 8, 2016, 8:23 am

      Only if they make it look like a single shot shotgun..and the same size.
      But I feel your pain, as I live in NY!!😞

    • Stan d. Upnow March 6, 2017, 9:24 am

      Keep voting for idiot, anti-gun politicians like Elizabeth Warren, and you’ll be lucky if you can own ANY gun soon.

  • REM1875 July 17, 2016, 6:32 pm

    I want one in 327 fed mag and a back up barrels in 44-40, 38-40 and 40 S&W no if I can just get the BOSS to agree with me, (and I already offered it to her as her gun but that didn’t work)

  • Al July 9, 2016, 1:29 am

    This gun is very well crafted. I could never understand why derringers have such horrible accuracy but snubnose revolvers don’t. Maybe a two-stage sight for top and bottom barrels would allow more consistent groupings. But I suppose it’s too easy to forget the designed purpose: A point and shoot belly-gun.

  • Robert Smith July 8, 2016, 11:58 am

    Good review. How about a follow-up review with a side-by-side comparrison of the Bond, Doubletap and Cobra. Someone looking to buy a new production derringer will probably wind up with one of those three.

    • Bill Jabin August 8, 2016, 10:12 am

      Great suggestion Robert. I did just that and went with the Double Tap. I liked the flat style of the weapon and the (short) sale offer on weapon at the time. (Priced at $189.00 for the .45 ported barrel model from Bud’s) No parts to get caught on clothing and fits well in a front or rear pocket. Can purchase and after market rubber training grip for a more pleasurable shooting experience.

    • Bill Jabin August 8, 2016, 10:12 am

      Great suggestion Robert. I did just that and went with the Double Tap. I liked the flat style of the weapon and the (short) sale offer on weapon at the time. (Priced at $189.00 for the .45 ported barrel model from Bud’s) No parts to get caught on clothing and fits well in a front or rear pocket. Can purchase and after market rubber training grip for a more pleasurable shooting experience.

  • NEVIN M HVARRE July 7, 2016, 8:58 pm

    I am the proud owner of the “SnakeSlayer” model , … I find you article to be honest and straight up. I own the 2 1/2″ , 3 1/2″ , and 4 1/4″ barrels in .410 / .45 colt calibers . A VERY EXCELLENT SHOOT ! ! !

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend