By Massad Ayoob, GUNS Magazine
Derringers; they were the short tanto to the long katana of the Colt Peacemaker in the eyes of my generation, which grew up on 1950s TV Westerns. Paladin carried one for backup, it was Yancy Derringer’s namesake, and, in a Western movie, Robert Mitchum played an outlaw preacher who packed a Derringer in a hollowed-out Bible.
The double-barrel, single-action Remington Derringer endures, and may reach its zenith in the Bond Arms series. Many have called Bond the Cadillac of Derringers. Updated with a cross-bolt safety and a rebounding hammer to cure the ancient original’s notorious tendency to go off when dropped, and the Bond guns even offer models with triggerguards—a feature that cures yet another Derringer safety concern.
We recently tested three. The occasion was the introduction of their pink-gripped Bond Girl variation of their Mini in .38 Special/.357 Magnum, but affable CEO Gordon Bond also sent along a Mini in .45 Colt and a USA Defender that would chamber either .410 shotshells or .45 Colt in both barrels. Only the latter had the desirable (in this writer’s view) but non-traditional triggerguard.
I made the mistake of trying to assign the pink gun to IDPA state and regional shooting champ Gail Pepin, who considers the whole “pink gun stuff for women” thing to be condescending, and prefers her hardware in basic black. Some friends were hosting a shooting day for a group of teens, so the Bond Girl gun went there. “Aww, that’s cute,” they said, as if it was a kitten. (Hey, if somebody didn’t like pink gun stuff, the industry wouldn’t be selling so much of it.) The girls thought the Derringer was fun to shoot, with .38 Special wadcutters. They then returned to their regular schedule of 9mm polymer pistols.
Trigger pulls had a very smooth roll, but for some reason felt heavier than they actually weighed out. The .38/.357 averaged 6 pounds, 4.3 ounces, the dedicated .45 caliber went 1/10-ounce under 6 pounds, and the .45/.410 averaged 6 pounds, 1.5 ounces—all on a Lyman digital scale. These are solid, good-sized Derringers, and virtually all of the several shooters of both genders remarked how well the curve of the backstrap mated with the hollow of the hand. Low-bore axis—particularly in the lower barrel, of course—limited any muzzle rise. Petite Terri Strayer enjoyed shooting the Bond Girl model with 110-grain Winchester .357 Magnum.
We have to bear in mind that historically these are “belly guns,” designed for somewhere between muzzle contact and the width of a poker table. Note that Bond Arms’ own advertising depicts very short ranges. There simply isn’t much room for rifling in barrels this short. We tried 25-yard bench rest shooting, and gave up after three state champion shooters, firing 10 shots between them, were only able to hit a Bianchi Cup target (roughly 2.5′ high by 1.5′ wide) anywhere with five of the 10 shots—from a bench rest, yet.
Shortening the distance to four paces, the dedicated .45 kept both shots (barely) in the 4″-diameter 10 ring, the one from the lower barrel beginning to keyhole slightly, with Remington’s usually very accurate 250-grain lead bullet. With all three Derringers, the top barrel tended to shoot high, and the bottom barrel low. The .410, with an ordinary Federal 2.5″ shell, spewed its tiny No. 7-1/2 pellets across the entire target, and some may have missed entirely… from 4 yards. Only two tiny pinprick holes were found in the 4″ diameter center X-ring where the shot was centered. A Federal “.410 Handgun” shell sprayed No. 4 birdshot in a 14.9″ in diameter, with eight of the tiny pellets in the 4″ X-ring; none quite exactly at point-of-aim. Against a large, poisonous snake, I would have felt more comfortable with another Federal load, specifically their specialty 000-buckshot shell for .410 handguns. At the same 4 yards, it delivered its four .36-caliber balls into a 1.65″ group. Much more promising close-range snake medicine.
I can’t in good conscience recommend a thumb-cocking “two-shooter” for self-defense, even if its original 1866 design has been made vastly safer and more powerful by Bond Arms. What I can recommend it for is fun, and I’ll tell you why.
From teenage girls to grizzled geezers, each and every person who shot the Bond Derringers had a smile on their face when they set one down! The recoil wasn’t nearly as bad as expected, none of the Derringers ever misfired, and across the generations, the most common remark after shooting it was, “That was cool!” And to this reviewer, that’s reason enough to own one.
Maker: Bond Arms
P.O. Box 1296 , Granbury, Texas 76048
Action type: O/U Derringer
Caliber: .38/.357, .45/.410 (tested), many others
Barrel length: 2.5″, 3″ (.45/.410)
Weight: 18-19 ounces,
Finish: Satin stainless
Grips: Rosewood or pink
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