First off, I love derringers and own models made by several companies. I love shooting them and generally carry one in addition to a main carry weapon. This is an unbiased assessment of all the brands I have, for anyone looking to purchase a derringer. I am not a gun writer, but have carried derringers on-duty and off prior to retiring, and for 30 years. I consider derringers fun range guns and have gone to the range with just derringers for a derringer range day. Most do not consider them range guns, but I love shooting derringers. My thought for this article is to help a new buyer evaluate the different brands fairly. I will give the plus and minus, as I see them, and my experiences dealing with orders or repairs. That I am posting this on a Bond site, for testimonials, does show my love for this brand. This is purely my opinion, based on my experience over the years. I will also add in a few tidbits that most gun writers miss and that I learned the hard way.
I own 3 Bond derringers, a Snake Slayer (.45/.410, 3 1/2″), a Ranger (.45/.410, 4 1/4″) and a Texas Defender (.40, 3″). In addition, I own several barrels to interchange, a .357 in 3 1/2″, .45 acp in 3 1/2″, and .22 mag in 3″. A Bond is what I generally always carry. The caliber is usually a .45/.410 since I live in the country. Snakes, skunks, and other critters sometime take exception to my “live and let live” policy, or try to push the boundries of it… and need to be dealt with (I mean seriously, does a skunk need to come up to the house and spray the vehicles several times a week, just to let me know he lives out in the pasture, under the barn?).
I have only had one problem with a Bond item. It was the ejector on the .22 magnum barrel. The ejector broke at the barrel during a long range session. I called to get an ejector to replace it and planned to replace it myself. Bond recommended I send the whole barrel to them to maintain warranty on it. I received a new barrel back in a few weeks. Wow, I expected repair, not a replacement. Top marks. The person I spoke to was really friendly (they are in Texas). Service was fast and ordering replacement grips and extra barrels from them was faster (2-3 days for me).
Bond derringers are very well made. I will not go into all the specs on them since it is listed on this site. They are slightly heavier than all the other brands, and slightly larger in the barrel lug area. Weight is the trade off for high quality, and using steel instead of aluminum or some metal alloy. Yes, you can easily coat pocket carry them but a holster or front pocket carry works best. There are also boot holsters and most are inadequate. A word of advice. Make sure the holster attaches to the boot with more that a clip. The gun weight on the top of the boot can make it come loose while walking or moving fast during an encounter (trust me, you hate to see you boot derringer and holster slide across the pavement). Run a cord through the boot pull and the holster or something. I finally had snaps put on the holster and boot to snap it in place. Bonds carry well in ankle holsters. I usually carry the Ranger around our place, in a pair of derringer suspenders, under a vest or over shirt. (there are sellers for these suspenders on the web…I replaced the back elastic with leather since elastic will die quickly due to having 23 ounces of weight sitting in the built-in holster on one strap). You generally have to use a derringer without a trigger guard for these suspenders. Which brings us to the next point.
Bond Arms has a trigger guard on some models. It can also be easily removed. I really like this. Most brands do not have trigger guards. The DoubleTap has a trigger guard too, but it is not removable like Bond Arms trigger guards are…you can have it both ways with Bond Arms.
For quick shooting, say in a self defense situation, a trigger guard is of no consequence since you are probably going to pull the trigger after cocking it anyway. But for more careful aiming or less stressful shooting situations, it is nice to have a place to put the finger safely away from the trigger after cocking the hammer, such as on the outside of the trigger guard.
Overall, Bonds are an excellent choice for a buyer. The barrels open easily with one lever push and lock automatically when closed. The extra choice of barrels in different calibers and lengths is outstanding. I prefer 3 1/2″ barrels. The reason is for added barrel length. The additional 1/2″ to a 3″ barrel is not much to conceal but adds accuracy. The 4 1/4″ barrels are very accurate but harder to carry in a pants pocket and generally need some type of holster. When you think of barrel length, remember that in a derringer, the cartridge inserts into the barrel. So you lose the length of the cartridge when you consider the overall length of the barrel. Example…. The case of a .357 or .45 colt is about 1.3″ long, basically the round is about 1 1/2″ long total. So if you insert that round into a 3″ barrel, you are actually shooting a weapon with a 1 1/2″ barrel (3″ barrel minus the 1 1/2″ round= 1 1/2″ of barrel remaining). So a 3 1/2″ barrel length in a derringer really gives you the equivalent of a 2″ barrel length, like a 2″ barrel for a snub nose revolver in .357 or .38. Since 45.acp and .9mm rounds are shorter, the same size barrel length gives you a little more usable barrel (about 1/4″). More barrel length makes the gun more accurate. With a 4 1/4″ barrel, we are talking about roughly 3″ of usable barrel length and that makes it more accurate. With practice, these derringers will hit the center target area at 7 yards when using a cartridge round.
****Super big tip, I recommend buying a .22 or .22 magnum barrel to match the same length barrel of the derringer you own. This is for practice. The barrels easily interchange in a minute. All bigger calibers have varying degrees of recoil when fired, and to some point, it is also subjective and depends on the shooter’s experience, abilities, etc… The .22 or .22 magnum has very little kick in a Bond derringer. Less recoil makes range practice enjoyable, you are able to shoot longer, and your accuracy will greatly improve. You can practice without the harder recoil, thus getting your accuracy down. Plus it allows you to use the derringer for plinking. I like the .22 magnum. It is more expensive to shoot than .22 long rifle, but is an excellent varmint round for snakes, rats, etc., and all around shooting.
As for shogun loads in a .45/.410 barrel, the pattern will spread more with a shorter barrel. But at the barrel lengths we are dealing with, it is a wide pattern already…so the difference in 3″ or 3 1/2″ versus 4 1/4″ barrels is minimum. At 3 yards, birdshot from a 4 1/4″ will cover a human silhouette target, with noticeable pellets outside the sihouette. This means pellets hitting outside the intended target in a self defense situation. The defensive shotgun loads for derringers have patterns much tighter at 3 yards and remain on target, but at 7 yards, there can be fliers outside the silhouette. This means a chance of hitting someone other than the intended target. Add in the stress of the situation, it becomes likely if others are near the target. The recommended defense loads are great, but meant for really close range, almost “breathing” range. About shotgun shells …. For derringer use, buy shells with smooth sides, not the corrugated sides. Most normal .410 shells, especially shot shells, have a corrugated plastic hull. Some makers use a smooth side shell. Buy these. The smooth side shells eject easier and I have never had one stick in the barrel. The corrugated ones expand more when shot and are hard to remove, often requiring a screwdriver or long rod poked down the barrel to eject it. This means that barrel is useless until that shell is removed. I had one stick so bad at the range, I just had to pack the gun up and take it home, with shot shell still firmly lodged.
Accuracy….. Derringers are built with one barrel sighted in, the other barrel will hit slightly higher or lower on the target. Generally the bottom barrel seems to hit most accurate for me on most brands, with the top barrel hitting slightly higher. I am guessing most makers manufacture their guns with the bottom barrel sighted in. But I have had some brands where the sights seemed to be just decorative. With the bottom sighted in and due to the design, this means the bottom barrel recoils more backward than up (as compared to the top barrel), allowing a quicker followup shot with the top barrel. But how you hold the gun and view the sights can change some of this visual line-up. Figure out which barrel you hit most accurate with, and cycle the action so that barrel will shoot first. Info on how to do this is somewhere on Bond’s site. That way, in a defense situation, you are more likely to score a hit on the first shot. Bond Arms are very accurate. I have found the bottom barrel to hit almost point of aim on my Ranger (4 1/4″ barrel) with .45 colt. The top barrel hits about 2″ higher, this is at 3 yard range… At 7 yards, I still hit center black and the top barrel hits about 3″ up. I do not generally practice to shoot past this range. With the shorter barrels, I tend to hit less accurately, but still in the center at 3 yards though not at 7 yards. Your experience and abilities will vary from mine.
As a few last things about Bond Arms, before mentioning how they compare to others, I will say the Bond Arms warranty is, hands down, a major deal. I have had to pay for repairs to other non-Bond derringers, that should have been covered. With Bond, I have not had any problems, other than the mentioned ejector they replaced. Also, I love the extended grips. They make the gun more manageable and do not add much to concealability problems. The Bond derringers I usually carry have these extended grips. Bond also sells other grips. I did buy the standard grip in Buffalo horn for my Texas Defender. Oh man, they are beautiful grips, fit perfect, and feel great. Grips like that make you appreciate the quality of the gun more.
I own the Alaskan model, .45/.410. I believe they call it the M4 model. It has a 4″ barrell. This is probably the most similar to a Bond derringer and started the .410 derringer phase. It is also the only other model of derringer I own that is made of all steel, like Bond (all the others are aluminum or some other type metal frame). This was the standard before Bond. They are very well made and have a traditional derringer design and grip, especially with the barrel release lever. They are harder to find new, cost more, and most are used guns. They do not have a life time warranty. I love the spring safety under the hammer that automatically releases when the gun is cocked. These derringers are slower to reload than a Bond, due to the traditional barrel release lever. You must unlock the lever and then relock it, this moves a cam that holds the barrel in place. The Bond relocks itself. Plus on the American Derringer, the release lever has a spring in it that requires you to push the lever in, before moving it… Then repeat to relock the barrel. Not pushing the lever in will cause wear to the release over time, and need for repair… not covered under warranty. I really wish I had known that when I got it.
I had a firing pin break on my derringer and it needed replacing. I had to pay to replace it. To their credit, I was driving to Austin and back in one day. I stopped in Waco at their store, early in the morning. They fixed it and I picked it up on the way back home that afternoon. They were polite and helpful. I got lucky with the timing of their shop and had called ahead the previous day. Top marks for service and repair. But still, I had to pay for a repair that should have been covered and one that would not have happened if I had been told or if it was in the product info when I bought the gun. All that aside, I love the gun. It is beautiful, well made, and gives that classic old west feel, especially with smokeless powder cowboy rounds in .45 colt (special smokeless powder still creates some smoke, awesome fun). I carried it right up until I bought my first Bond derringer, a Snake Slayer. Now I shoot the American derringer just for fun, it stays in a case. The Bond wins for everyday use and practicability… but the American is too fun, pretty, or whatever it is that makes me not sell it.
I own a Cobra in 9mm, a C9 model I believe. I carried it on-duty in my pocket. I chose 9mm since my on-duty weapon was a 9mm. Some people like to always match their backup weapon ammo to their main carry, if possible, so they can interchange if there is a gun problem (another plus for Bond’s different caliber barrels). This Cobra model is small and light. I saw some new Cobra derringer models at a recent gun show and they seemed larger than what I have. Maybe just my perception since I have carried Bonds for so long, and not this Cobra. It retired when I did. I bought the extra stag grips for it and like them. I had a problem with it, I do not remember what it was for sure. Maybe it was the lock up latch for the barrel and light striking on one barrel with the firing pin. Anyway, Cobra repaired it, no charge. But the gun did not have many rounds fired through it before it needed repair. Overall, other quality was ok and it took a beating when I carried it… but it does not match the quality of a Bond derringer or American. The smaller size makes it easy to carry but gripping it is kind of hard for my paws. My accuracy with it was limited to really close range. Maybe the newer ones are better, I do not know. I did see that many calibers are now available. Mine was made of some unknown alloy.
I have a Davis .22 derringer. It is really small, basically an old style derringer shrunk down to .22 size. I am not sure if these are still made. It was made of some alloy with barrel inserts. The size means it was easy to carry in a pocket or vest, but it was hard for me to shoot. I bought the Davis as a practice gun for the Cobra derringer. Quality was ok and I never had problems with it other than the finish chipping. But the small size meant it was not shot much and rarely carried. Accuracy was not that great.
I have a Double Tap in .45, the aluminum non-ported model. This is a double action derringer, no cocking of the hammer needed. This derringer is the only other model, besides Bond, that has interchangeable barrels, currently only available in .9mm and .45 acp. Supposedly, other calibers are planned. But honestly, at around $300 each for an extra barrel and the limited use of this derringer, I will not be a buyer even if that happens (unless in .22 or .22 magnum for practice). This slim gun fits easily in a back pocket or vest pocket. It weighs about 15 ounces It is well made and I like this derringer. If I am dressing where a Bond derringer may show, or can not go in a front pants pocket, I carry this instead. I have only shot it a few times since it is a recent purchase and have not taken it to the range yet. It does kick when shot. Due to the design, it hits you right in the center and web of the hand, along a thin line. Recoil is not distributed as in a normal gun grip. It is not a range gun or fun to shoot like a Bond. In fact, it is not fun to shoot at all unless you are like me and really like to shoot guns that recoil. The recoil may be too much for alot of people, so they will never practice enough with it to be comfortable carrying it. You can buy a rubber shooting slip-on grip to reduce recoil for practice. I did, and do not see that helping much. I bought the gun basically new but used. The previous owner fired it twice and was willing to take a $100 loss to sell it. He did not want to shoot it again. He was not small in stature either, so that may tell you something. It is built for defense only at point blank range and fits that niche quite well. It is easy to open the barrel for reload and automatically locks back when closed (DoubleTap and Bond are the best ones at this), and 1 set of reloads fits in the bottom of the grip, which is nice. The sights are almost non-existent and limited shooting in my back yard shows it kinda hits where I aim at 3 yards. I have not figured out which barrel is sighted in best yet. To me, this is purely an instinct pointing gun, extremely close range defense gun only. By design, it qualifies as a derringer. It does not have the more traditional look of Bond or any of the other derringers. And it does not have the versatility of use or availability of calibers as Bond or some of the others. Still, it perfectly fits the small niche it was made for, and given those limitations, it was not meant to be a fun gun or do much else.
That’s about it. It is long winded, I know, I am glad you made it this far. I know some will agree and some will not. Some probably already knew this stuff or could add to it. My point was to show my experiences, some differences and help buyers new to derringers understand them. Your experiences may vary. There are a few other derringers out there, such as the Hi-Standard (still available new), and some older no longer made models, but I do not currently own one, so I left them out. And yes, I am partial to Bonds. I compared the others to Bond since Bond is now the standard. Of the brands listed, Bond and Cobra are probably the most prevalent models out there at this point, with Bond being the major brand found in most gun stores and the highest quality. The others, including Cobra, probably require going to a gun show and buying from a seller you may or may not know. Lastly, I have tried to be fair to all brands as best as I could, based on my experience with the derringers I own. Bond Arms did not influence this article in any way, other than by the quality of their product. I am just a customer with a love for derringers.