I have been considering a Bond Arms derringer for some time, going back and forth as to practicality vs. cost vs. need/want. I read everything I could find, and did a substantial amount of research on the Backup 45, a model that has only been on the market for about two years. My research turned up a multitude of forum threads (here and elsewhere) discussing Bond Arms derringers, and a handful dedicated exclusively to the Backup 45. Unfortunately, much of what I found and sifted through was cluttered with, “I’ve never shot one BUT …” uninformed chatter, which did nothing to help me gain insight into the Backup 45. Videos for this specific model are even more scarce, with the best (not surprisingly) coming by way of Hickok45, who really was on the fence about the Backup. I was quite amazed that he could even hold one, due to the large sized mitts he possesses. Thus I was left to either buy or not to buy on my own devices, and ultimately judge for myself … which is exactly what I did.

(Originally Posted here)

My interest in a derringer has been fueled by an ongoing quest to identify the perfect mix of big bore, light weight, and compact size … the three ideal elements that are extremely difficult to find in a handgun. I’ve been a revolver guy for nearly 30 years, and have experienced most of S&W’s attempts to match these three essentials. The Night Guard series was a good idea, but the price point killed the line in a few short years, yet low mileage N-frame 325NGs and 396NGs still command nearly $1K on the used market. Similarly, the discontinued L-frame 696, 296, and 396 Mountain Light .44 Specials boast used prices in the same $1K range, which is big money for any used revolver, but especially those with the much maligned paper-thin forcing cones. Let’s not forget the rare 3″ Model of 1988 in .45 ACP … $1350+ when one can be found on GunBroker. Putting aside these high $ used S&Ws, the closest I have come to melding the three aforementioned ingredients has been with a semi-auto, not a revolver … the Springfield XDs in .45 ACP. Had one, sold it, and may someday buy another as it is a fine little hand cannon that is pleasant to shoot and reasonably priced. Which brings me to the Backup 45, the derringer that covers the caliber/weight/size bases fairly well.

Backup 45

Bond Arms Backup 45

Out of the box, the Backup 45 is a beauty. The bead blasted gray 2-1/2” barrel is perfected mated to the black crinkle coated chassis. Weighing in at ~19 oz, it outweighs the basic alloy S&W J-frame by ~ 4 oz, while being ~ 4 oz lighter than a steel J-frame. Though the barrel is a similar length to a J-frame, the Backup lacks a cylinder, thus its overall profile is noticeably shorter than the J. Also worth noting, the Backup 45 is built like a Ruger Super Redhawk, and feels like a chunk of steel crafted on an anvil. The 19 oz weight is not light, and is actually somewhat heavy for a handgun of its dimensions. For my interests in a larger caliber, every ounce counts, and I was soon to become very appreciative of those 19 oz. (The attached photos show the Backup 45 with a S&W Model 37 Airweight and a SIG 220 Compact. Judge for yourselves the size differential between the three).

The grip of the Backup 45 is standard derringer fare, and takes some getting used to. It is similar to palming a golf ball and requires a counterintuitive hand position, one that places the cocked hammer roughly ¼” above the hand web. The Bond booklet specifically cautions against having a high handhold that causes the hammer to touch the hand web, which can result in an increased hammer pull. This hand position can be somewhat awkward at first simply because a high handhold is generally desired for revolvers and semi-autos. Additionally, as the standard Backup 45 grip is not the extended version, a lower handhold leaves only two (possibly one) fingers and thumb securing the derringer. The Backup 45’s grip consists of two rubber panels (not the traditional Bond wood) but still has an open backstrap. Recoil is as expected, stinging rather than painful, but readily apparent nonetheless. Bond offers an extended rubber grip with a backstrap for $59, and though costing more than Hogue or Pachmayr offerings, it is a proprietary grip that will be beneficial for added recoil protection, as well as a bit more length for getting a firm handhold. I will be ordering one soon.

Bond notes that the trigger pull for the Backup 45 is 6-7 pounds, something I needed to confirm on a gauge. True to its word, Bond has my Backup 45 right at 7 pounds, but that is only through using the correct trigger stroke … something that I had to learn, and will need to practice. I found out the hard way that squeezing the derringer’s trigger directly back to 3 o’clock (as I have done with every handgun I have owned over my lifetime) results in a trigger that is nearly impossible to engage. My first few shots required a two-finger (both index fingers) pull, and I initially thought there was a problem with the firearm. Re-checking the booklet more carefully, I saw the fine print that clearly stated a trigger pull back and down (to 5 o’clock) was the proper way to engage the trigger. Once again, Bond instructions were accurate, and as I acclimated to the 5 o’clock pull, the trigger became much easier to work. It is still a bit heavy, but should lighten up with usage. Another note from the Bond booklet … dry firing with Snap Caps IS NOT recommended; spent brass is the correct option.

One of the nice things about Bond Arms is that there are regular specials to be had with a little comparison shopping. I was able to get my Backup 45 for $400 OTD through Gallery of Guns, in addition to a March special 50% coupon for a spare barrel purchase. I want to invest in a 3” .44 Special matte finish barrel ($170) so the coupon helps quite a bit. Cost is very subjective, with plenty of folks thinking that Bond derringers are too expensive. I take the other side of the argument … Bond offers quality at a fair price. For the same $1K that I could have spent on a used lightweight S&W revolver, I can accessorize my Backup 45 with at least three other barrels and the extended grip, alternating calibers with the barrels as I choose. Thus, for the $1K investment, I could have a derringer that fires 45 ACP, .44 Special, 9mm, and .38/.357. I might even have a few bucks left to buy a pair of padded shooting gloves.

My initial range visit was an exercise in learning the nuances of the Backup 45. I fired 10 rounds of Privi Partisan 185 grain from a distance of ~10’. Though I won’t win any bullseye competitions just yet, the photo shows all center mass hits on the target, with a lone flyer going high (this was the 10th shot, and admittedly my hand was stinging by then). Considering this was my first time out with the Backup, and factoring in my learning curves with the grip and trigger (and the top and bottom barrels), these initial 10 rounds went exactly where I wanted them to go. With practice, I have no doubt the two-shot groupings with get tighter. I also think a smaller caliber will make for a greatly extended range session, without the physical duress that .45 ACP or .44 Special causes.


It is easiest to explain the pros and cons of the Backup 45 by stating what it is juxtaposed against what it isn’t.

What it is: A short range defensive handgun, capable of putting two rounds on target with relative ease and modest speed.

What it isn’t: A primary sidearm for defensive purposes. Small caliber plinking? Cowboy Action shooting? Snake hunting on the trail? Absolutely. But the Backup 45 is exactly what its name indicates … a backup, perhaps even a backup to a backup. The single action makes it somewhat slow compared to anything double action, and its limited two-round capacity would be detrimental in scenarios that deteriorate into more than a quick shoot-and-run to save one’s bacon. That said, a pair of .45 ACP rounds at close range should do what they are intended to do: stop a given threat asap.

IMO, the best defensive use for the Backup 45 is as an anti-car jacking firearm. Sitting in a car seat makes it difficult to unholster a handgun on one’s hip, but a derringer makes for a perfect console gun, lap gun, or even candidate for a discreet crossdraw/driving holster. Bond has a variety of holsters made especially for its line of derringers, but there is only one model that specifically accommodates the Backup.

So, is the Backup 45 a practical firearm to own? Not for everyone. Truth be told, the XDs is a better compact .45 ACP to carry as a secondary handgun, but comparing the XDs to a Bond derringer is apples and oranges. The Backup 45 has a niche use, and I believe it will serve well in that usage. It’s probably more a want than a need, but it does pack a punch and is far better to shoot than the Double Tap or Heiser “derringer-style” pistols. All told, it’s a beautiful little gun, and one that is growing on me. As always, YMMV.

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