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3 Best Bond Arms Derringers [Hands-On]


In a gun world of Glocks, HKs, and M&Ps derringers tend to be snubbed – pun intended – as small and useless.

Bond Arms Snake Slayer .410 Shot 2
.410-loaded Bond Arms Snake Slayer

It’s true that they’re tiny and their self-defense applications are extremely limited but that doesn’t mean they have no use whatsoever.

Every gun owner should have a well-made derringer in their collection.

Why? I’ll tell you why.

Check out these awesome guns from derringer maker Bond Arms.

Table of Contents



But first…some quick history!

It was sometime between 1852 and 1868 when a tiny percussion pistol, the Philadelphia Deringer, was produced by gunsmith by the name of Henry Deringer.

Henry Deringer

Deringer didn’t patent his design, though, and a rather impressive number of copies flooded the market. Those copies included counterfeits bearing the gunsmith’s proofmark (a proofmark was a gunsmith’s unique stamp identifying his firearms).

Those copies were derringers – yeah, there’s your second “R” –  the additional “r” actually being a misspelling by the guys who stole his work.

John Wilkes Booth Gun
John Wilkes Booth’s Deringer used to assassinate Lincoln.

Today the derringer is spelled with two R’s and tends to be associated with the Old West. There’s way more to them than that, though.

For example, did you realize a .44 caliber Philadelphia Deringer was used by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln?

Never say a derringer can’t be lethal.

Why Bond Arms?

Quite a few manufacturers make derringers but as with any gun on the market they’re not created equal.

Not even close.

Bond Arms just might be the market’s premier derringer manufacturer and that’s why we’re focusing on them today. The company was founded in 1995 by Gordon Bond (who is pretty awesome himself).

Bond Arms
Bond Arms

Bond has put a lot of work into carving out his company’s place in what is an admittedly niche market and the results speak for themselves. A lot of other manufacturers produce derringers by using cheap alloys but Bond Arms derringers are manufactured using the lost wax casting process to produce stainless steel components.

Put simply, his guns are extremely well made. Check out this trio of pint-sized pistols.

Best Bond Arms Derringers

1. Bond Arms Mama Bear

Called the Mama Bear and for good reason.

When you get a mental picture of this derringer just go ahead and picture an actual female grizzly: diminutive compared to the boys but ferocious as all get out.

It has rosy-pink grips – and no, I am not a fan of pink, but some people are – and it ships with a .357 Magnum barrel (more on this feature later).

Bond Arms Mama Bear
The Bond Arms Mama Bear chambered in .357 Magnum and yes, those are pink grips.

It has an overall length of 4.5-inches making it 0.5-inches smaller and a few ounces lighter than the Papa Bear model (of course there is a Papa Bear). 

Barrel side note: Bond Arms derringers are made using interchangeable over/under style barrels that are compatible with every Bond Arms derringer.

How that works is the Mama Bear ships with a .357 Magnum/.38 Special barrel but if you want to you can buy a different barrel to run it with different chamberings.

Other options include 9mm, .45 ACP, .45 Long Colt, and .410. Barrel length varies between 2.5-inches and 4.25-inches depending on caliber.

This derringer – all their derringers – feature multiple safeties. There’s the obvious push-button cross-bolt safety but there’s also a rebounding hammer.

Bond Arms Mama Bear
The hammer, firing pin, and crossbolt safety on the Mama Bear.

And unlike many manufacturers, Bond Arms derringers have a rotating mechanism to keep the barrel locked in place while you’re shooting. The cross-bolt safety is located behind the barrel at its center and is easy to manipulate engaged with your thumb or forefinger.

The barrel-locking mechanism can be unlocked by pressing down on a cylindrical metal arm on the left side of the gun behind the trigger. Opening the barrel with this mechanism is how you load and unload the gun.

Bond Arms Mama Bear Open
Loading and unloading is done by open the barrel using the lever.

All you have to do to lock it back down is press the barrel back in place; there is an audible “click” when it engages. 

The hammer of the Mama Bear was pretty stiff at first but it did smooth out with use; once I ran it for awhile I could manipulate it one-handed.

Front blade and fixed rear sights come standard on these derringers but you do need to remember that shot placement depends on which of the two barrels you’re using. Point of aim versus point of impact, anyone? 

Gripping a derringer “properly” is a kind of a misnomer. It’s seriously small pistol so gripping it in a way that gives you the best-possible control and shot placement is going to vary by shooter.

Bond Arms Mama Bear
Yes, it’s a little gun, but loaded with .357 Magnum the Mama Bear packs a big punch.

You can try a classic thumbs-down grip and it might work for you but I’ve found a tightly thumbs-forward grip works, too.

One rather important detail: make sure your thumb doesn’t activate the barrel-locking arm during recoil or you’re going to be staring down the flipped-back barrel of the gun.

Ask me how I know.

Accuracy is another story altogether with derringers. These are pistols meant for super-close-range shooting.

It’s possible to get a bull’s eye hit were at 3 yards using .38 Special and you can get in the general vicinity of the bull’s eye at that distance with .357 Magnum. As soon as you move back to four yards you can stay in an 8-inch circle with .38 Special. If it’s .357 Magnum, accuracy drops a lot faster.

at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The Mama Bear delivers 0.25-inch and 0.5-inch four-shot groups with .38 Special and .357 Magnum, respectively, at three yards. Pairs fired with .38 Special at 12 yards stayed were accurate but not precise.

Basically the further out you go the more difficult it gets to control point of aim and point of impact. Practice helps but come on, this is a teensy little gun. 

Best .38 Spl Training Ammo
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Bottom line? If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times. Bond Arms manufactures high-quality, reliable derringers.

They’re fun to shoot although I do recommend moderation but they have some uses, too. They make great little guns for snakes while hunting and can certainly be used as backup guns if that’s your jam.

Above all, they really are one of those guns collectors should have. As Gordon Bond says, try a hand cannon (believe me, you’ll feel its recoil like a diminutive cannon). They can pack a lethal punch, up close and personal. 

at Sportsman's Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What’s your take on the Mama Bear?

Readers' Ratings

4.99/5 (334)

Your Rating?

2. Bond Arms Snake Slayer

Moving on to the gun I have used for what it’s named after: the Bond Arms Snake Slayer. This one just might be my favorite of all their derringers.

The Snake Slayer is a great derringer for venomous reptiles in general. One thing I will say: if you’re going to shoot a snake make it a venomous one.

Don’t shoot harmless snakes like rat snakes or eastern indigo snakes; there are a ton of snakes out there that help us rather than harming us. Anyway, back to the gun. 

The Snake Slayer sports a set of beautiful extended rosewood grips etched with the Bond Arms name and, yes, a snake. Its overall length is 5.5 inches and its empty weight is 22 ounces.

The Bond Arms Snake Slayer with a .45 Colt/.410 barrel.
The Bond Arms Snake Slayer with a .45 Colt/.410 barrel.

That gives it a tiny bit of heft which helps somewhat offsetting recoil. Like I said before, each of the company’s derringers has an interchangeable over/under type barrels compatible with every frame.

This one ships with either a .38 Special/.357 Magnum barrel or a .45 Long Colt/.410 barrel, the latter of which being what I have.

Similar to the Mama Bear, the hammer of the Snake Slayer was stiff when the gun was new but did improve with use. Fixed blade sights are standard.

The trigger on this derringer is curved and a little heavy, at least considering the size and shape of the gun giving me a measured pull weight of seven pounds, five ounces.

Bond Arms Snake Slayer .410 Shot 2
That .410-loaded Bond Arms Snake Slayer, though…

The way the trigger is made means you’re pulling the trigger slightly downward and backward simultaneously, a motion that can throw shots low. It takes practice but you can master it.

Over time I’ve put several hundred rounds through the Snake Slayer in an uneven balance of .410s and .45 Long Colts. If this was any other handgun I’d say several hundred isn’t much but since it’s a derringer I’m cool with this round count.

at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Bull’s eye hits can be accomplished at three yards using .45 Colt; trying to make precise shots at ten yards resulted in shots within the 8-inch circle that didn’t really group at all. Running it with .410 was a different story altogether.

It did hit the paper and shots were generally sort-of-kind-of centered but the derringer only patterned tightly at extremely close range. Think point-blank. If you’re using this gun to shoot a rattlesnake the muzzle of the gun is going to do its best work about eight to ten feet away from their heads.

You might have enough velocity and accuracy to kill one at longer distances but it’s iffy.

There is an expected loss of velocity which .45 Colt (short little barrel, guys). It is extreme enough I would suggest the Snake Slayer is not a good candidate for shooting any living thing loaded with .45 Colt (that and the accuracy issue).

Impossible? No, but it’s a gray enough area I’ve refrained from doing it.

Loaded with Fiocchi High-Velocity 3-inch 11/16 ounces #9 shot the Snake Slayer does create a mighty slam into your hand but it is controllable.

at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Even with a pair of rapid-fire shots I’ve had no problems hitting my target with those shotshells although I will say again that distance matters like crazy with derringers.

As for .45 Long Colt I like Inceptor 158 grain ARX rounds partly because I do like frangibles and also because there’s less felt recoil than with other loads.

at Sportsman's Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

If you want to diversify your handgun hunting collection in a unique, species-specific way, consider a derringer. Nothing like a well-rounded gun owner. It’s a cool little gun in general, too. 

3. Bond Arms Roughneck

This is a sort of honorable mention I’m listing because it was introduced in 2019 and Bond Arms put it out specifically to be more budget-friendly.

Gordon Bond and his team decided the ideal way to come out with a derringer with a lower price point was to cut back on the level of aesthetic finish. He refused to reduce quality, so this is the same high-quality stainless steel derringer as the rest, just more basic.

bond arms roughneck
Simple, but effective

It’s still stainless steel and it’s still put through rigorous quality control. Instead of hand-polishing the guns and making them visually gorgeous – face it, a lot of Bond Arms’ derringers are seriously gorgeous – the Rough Series takes a simpler approach.

The frame is smoothed to be sure there are no burrs and it’s bead-blasted, but it isn’t hand polished.

This one’s shipped with a 2.5-inch 9mm barrel, unsurprisingly, given the popularity of the cartridge. There’s also a Rough-N-Rowdy offered with a three-inch .45 Colt/.410 barrel priced a tiny bit higher (but still a lower price point than the majority). 

Best 9mm Self-Defense (124 gr)
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Trigger, hammer, and trigger guard – which is removable – are MIM. Bond Arms does give the trigger a nice finish to ensure it’s comfortable to press. The hammer is polished over the upper surface where it contacts your finger during manipulation.

Grip panels are rubber. Barrels are still interchangeable, just like the rest of Bond Arms’ derringers.

Accuracy with the Rough Series pistol mirrors that of the company’s other derringers. These are meant for close-range work and when I say close, I mean reach-out-and-touch-you distance.

If you’re using it as BUG it’ll quite literally be your last resort firearm. It’s nice to see that just because this model – and series – isn’t as eye-catching as the rest doesn’t mean it doesn’t maintain the same level of performance.  

So if you want to take a leap into the kickass world of derringers, this particular Bond Arms model might be for you. It isn’t as sexy as, say, the Snake Slayer, but it runs just fine.

at Sportsman's Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Not a bad way to get started in teensy-tiny guns.

Parting Shots

Don’t get me wrong — derringers should not be your daily carry guns. They have limited capacity, wildly short range, and majorly restricted capacity.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have their uses or that you shouldn’t know how to shoot one accurately. Being a well-rounded shooter is about more than claiming you can shoot both a Glock and a 1911.

You should also be cool running revolvers, bolt pistols, and derringers (among others). Broadening your horizons benefits you overall. And it’s just fun!

Desert Eagle
Options are always fun!

Bond Arms makes fantastic quality guns and I absolutely recommend them to anyone interested in derringers.

Do you have a derringer? Was it for real use or just for funsies? Let us know in the comments! For some more CCW oriented sub-compact offerings, take a look at the Best Sub-Compact Single Stack Pistols!

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10 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar

    My truth about Bond Arms.

    I really loved these guns and Bond had a good reputation so after much research and waiting I bought a Roughneck 45acp.

    About 200-300 shots into it, the bottom barrel was light striking and therefor would not fire.

    Very upset I took it back and got my money.

    Cowboy Defender
    Thinking it was the place I bought it from that was the problem, I spent $579 on a cowboy defender .410 lc.

    It worked fine for a couple of weeks until I bought 9mm and 45acp barrels for it. You are supposed to be able to swap any of their barrels with no problem.

    100 rounds into the 9mm and it was light striking the primer on the bottom barrel as well! I used 3 kinds of different Ammo- same issue.

    I switched to 45acp- 250 rounds (2 kinds of different Ammo) into it it was light striking the primer of the bottom barrel too.

    I sent it in to Bond. Eight weeks later I get it back and although they scratched and roughed up my 410 barrel, they filed the other barrels, put a new trigger spring into it and I have had no problems (WITH THAT).

    Today at the range my f-ing trigger stuck and will not get unstuck. I did trouble shooting all to no avail. Aware that this was more like a back up gun it was my carry gun with the 410 barrel. What a joke.

    I am so fed up with these people and this novelty gun. I know some of you will swear by your bond arms, so I think they must have changed the quality of their manufacturing.

    My advice- save you money, save your time, invest in a company that actually is high quality and doesn’t just pretend to be. I hate this gun now and regret ever considering bond arms.

    April 20, 2021 3:17 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Connie Janulewicz

    Where can I try out these derringers in Kansas City, MO area before purchasing one? I need a salesperson that can show me the differences between them.

    March 26, 2021 1:19 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    A friend owns the 45-70 and I have fired it about 2 dozen times. I am a big guy and the hardest part is holding on to the grips. With the add on longer grips, it is manageable. Firing at night is blinding as the flash is a ball of bright orange, bigger than a basketball.
    3 meters or less, the hits can be well placed. I can say that at 25 meters, using the sights, was a few feet off the target.
    I have seen someone NOT hold it tightly and that had a spinning derringer put 2 gouges on his head. Definitely not for everyone, but it is a threatening weapon if facing the barrel side.

    August 14, 2020 9:49 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Dr. DeMasi

      Bond Arms DOES NOT make a 45/70 derringer. Anyone shooting any pistol with 45/70 round should expect loss of control and serious pain. Even in an older Thompson Contender 45/70 single shot with 10” barrel is very hard, and painfull to shoot.

      November 11, 2021 12:46 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    i've had a high standard .22 mag. derringer for 45 years. i'ts for when you absolutely have to have a gun but limited space to carry. good for 8' and recoil is nothing with .22 mag. the advantage is that it's lean and controllable. the bond is just the opposite, it's cumbersome and hard to control with the larger calibers. for edc i use a shield in .357 sig, accurate with 8 shots.

    February 9, 2020 9:01 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Douglas Andrew Gracey

      I too have the high.standard in .22 mag, I have a wallet holster I use alot . I have dispatched alot of rattlers over the years in the yard with snake shot. I was always told that deringers are belly guns, with that in mind they are great to for in the pocket for tire changing, convenient stores , getting the mail. All that said the bond arms have my interest! Used for what they were designed for, deringers should be in everyone's collection.

      February 9, 2020 5:30 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    My Bond Snake Slayer IV is a work piece...my constant companion while driving. The ease and speed of access are unequalled. The .45/.410 offering is definitely a serious tool.

    February 6, 2020 7:23 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Fred Houston

    I have a Bond Texas Defender in .357. It is absolutely beautiful and as you said, top quality. When I take it to the range I usually use .38 special, which in this gun has pretty much zero recoil. I don’t get anywhere near that accuracy. Sometimes I don’t even hit the paper and it’s literally 10 feet away. It’s very difficult to have any consistency with this thing. I’m sure it’s my fault, but I would love to learn how the hell to shoot it with ANY accuracy. I’ve had it for about a year and I’ve put around 500 down range.

    February 6, 2020 4:30 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Really just try and relax at the range .. take a sip of water.. breath relax .. pick up the piece and smoothly aim breath and relax and dry fire your target 10 time.. each time visually the lead bullet pushing threw the target.. then load the pistol
      Look at your target ...relax then engage with your eyes and let the barrel of the pistol be your finger as you point and squeeze.......don’t flench your eyes and shoulders relax hold steady...

      February 9, 2020 9:17 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      ricardo lopez sr

      I also have one Texas defender 38/357 and it shoots awesome and I practice from 5- 10 yards using live size silhouette paper targets I shoot at the center of the target and make hits, they may not be next to each other but they hit around the upper torso and that's were I aim now shooting from the hip at that distance the shots scatter, but I still makes hits practice is the main key.

      August 27, 2021 10:14 am
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