The Backwoodsman Magazine – Bond Arms Review

~Charlie Chalk

In the mid-1800′s, Remington developed a double-barrel, pocket pistol, designed to fire a .41 cal. rimfire round.  Mostly used for self-defense, in close quarters, like across the card table from a low down card-cheating snake.  Carried in vest pockets on riverboats, hip pockets of miners in the Alaska gold rush, and ladies muffs in the Victorian Era, the Derringer was chosen as daily partner with a one-two punch.

The Remington design of two stacked barrels, pivoted to swing open for reloading, has existed in many forms over the years, but has never gone out of production.  Today, there are several companies producing versions in various modern calibers, but top of the line, is Bond Arms of Texas.

Bond Arms History

Bond Arms ( manufactures the award-winning Bond Arms Derringer – This 8-time SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) world champion was originally organized under the name Texas Armory.  The company became incorporated as Bond Arms in 1995 and was licensed by the BATF as a firearms manufacturer and dealer.  Bond Arms in the leader in the Derringer industry in new product development.  Greg Bond, and engineer and gun lover designed and built this patented and very unique double barrel handgun.

All guns have the patented barrel interchange system, which means that once you buy any gun, you have the option of 14 different barrels and with those, a choice of 24 different cartridges.

snake slayer interchaneable barrels


Trail Guns

They produce just one frame, but various interchangeable barrels and two grip designs.  Two very popular models are the Ranger and the Snake Slayer.  Other models include the Defender series and the Century 2000.  All, with proper barrels, have the ability to fire .45LC and .410 shotshell.  It is important to note that these shot barrels come in 2.5″ and 3″ and 4.25″ lengths.

Purchasing the “Snake Slayer IV” as a trail gun came about from the ‘itch’ to own a packable, shot firing gun for trail use and if needed, personal defense.  While there are other types of .410 handguns, most are larger and I believe that two shots will probably deal with most issues.  I live in the remote regions of northern New Hampshire and the  there is a certain comfort in packing some type gun wile wandering the woods or while traveling remote back roads.

Snake Slayer holsters

The ‘SS IV’ comes with a 4.25″ barrel, 3″ chamber and extended rosewood grip panels.  The benefit of this model is that you have better control and accuracy when firing 3″ shells.  When testing the gun with shotshells and .45 long Colt, the shotshells definitely will recoil, but the barrel rises only a few inches and puts you hand in position to cock the second barrel.  The .45LC is quite a bit easier on the hand, and accuracy at 15 feel is quite good, allowing placement of both shots on a playing card.  There is a point of aim difference between barrels, which can be compensated with practice.

I found the windage to be dead-on.  Barrel firing selection is automatic, firing alternately.  You can choose which will fire first by swinging the barrels open and cocking the gun.  The front of the hammer has a firing selector that rises and drops with each cock; to fire that barrel.  After firing, the hammer rebounds to rest off the firing pins and cannot touch the firing pins unless the trigger is pulled, an excellent safety feature.  Across bolt manual safety and key-controlled firing lock are also built on each gun.

Test Firing

Gordon Bond assisted in the testing by sending 9mm and .357/.38 barrels, small grip panels and two holsters.  I wanted to test optional barrels for both fit and accuracy, as well as to see how controllable the small grips would be.  It would be a good option to reduce overall size for those occasions when you want concealability.

Swapping barrels only requires a few seconds and an Allen wrench.  Fit and lockup was perfect every time.  The 9mm barrels along with the four other rimless cartridge choices, lack extractors and instead, have a cutout at the breech, which allows you to pop them out with a fingernail.  Both optional barrels are 3″ length which is perfect for pocket carry.

Snake Slayer Shot patternSnake Slayer shotshells

Further reduction to size was accomplished by replacing the extended grips with the familiar, smaller derringer grip panels.  There are many optional grip panel materials available.  Let me say that the fit of all grips is flawless and the extended grips seem to be cut from the same piece of wood, which provides a seamless wrap around design.

Firing both the 9mm and the .38 provided similar accuracy.  These barrels are a good option for the gun and are easily controllable, even with the small grips.  Overall, the gun weighs 20 oz with these changes.  You can also remove the trigger guard to further reduce the profile, but be aware that some states do not allow this and you also must be careful when holstering the gun.

Replacing the .410/.45 barrel, and dropping in a .410, 2.5″ load of #8, gave a good pattern at 10 feet, with 80% in an 8″ circle.  This should be good enough to dispatch any slithering varmints from a safe distance.  Dropping in .45’s and backing up another five feet, gave me two deadly shots on a playing card.  Pushing my luck, I fired several additional rounds at 65 yards, ringing a metal gong three out of four.  At this point, the small grips had grown somewhat uncomfortable and I swapped back to the extended grips.  I recommend them for anyone who plans to shoot regularly.  Confidence in the gun and its ability were well established so it was time to have some fun.  Hand thrown clay targets can easily be broken to impress friends with your shooting ability, with just a little practice.  There is a video on the internet that shows a fellow breaking machine thrown clays, so I suppose there may be some hunting options on small game, with practice.

For self-defense purposes, you have a variety of options with the Snake slayer.  I would opt for shotshells in #4 or 000 buckshot.  Four-ten buckshot is three pellets in 2.5″ and five in 3″.  Either is a deadly combination for personal defense.  The #4 shot charges is perfect for medium size critters raiding your camp.  Of course, you can always load different rounds in each barrel, or toss in a 45/.410 combination.  Chronograph testing showed that the ‘cowboy’ loads in .45 LC leave the muzzle with around 280 ft lb. on average, and some 225 gr. hollow points clock at over 400.

Other options include the .410 slug and the .45LC CCI shotshell, with 1/3 oz. of #9’s.  You certainly have a variety of options with this gun.

Snake slayer 9mm

Carry Options

While any Bond Arm Derringer can be carried in a hip pocket, backpack or purse, the best way in in a holster.  Small products like these are perfect for inside the pants carry options.  All stainless steel constructions and rounded corners and sights make all day carry possible.  While any nylon small auto or revolver holster, will fit these guns, there are some good fitted products right from Bond.  Inside the pant, shoulder, ankle, flapped or belt options are available, but the best choice might be a BAD.  That stands for “Bond Arms Driving”, a horizontal cross-draw of quality leather with a Velcro wrap for easy installation on  your belt.  While seated on an ATV, horse of Jeep, the gun is out of the way and still available.  Concealed by a jacket, the gun has traveled many back roads and trails up here in the Northeast.  Comfort is very good and the custom fitted leather should withstand years of use.

When holstering the gun the cross bolt safely should be on.  The safety must be deliberately set by pulling the hammer back slightly to engage it.  Accidental firing will not happen unless you press the trigger.


Bond Arms Derringers are perfect trail companions for daily use.  The are rugged and you will probably never fire enough rounds to wear one out in a lifetime.  Trigger pull is very smooth and average weight, but if you learn to pull back and down on the trigger it becomes amazingly lighter.  You just have to try that trick to see what I mean.  While you may have to ask for your local gun shop to get you one, they are worth the wait.  I believe the price is reasonable for the quality.  If you have a local cowboy action shoot, you will probably find someone there with one that you can look at or try.  I say that the Bond Arms is truly a ‘double standard’.


Reprinted with permission from Backwoodsman Magazine

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