If you’re a fan of the 1994 film Maverick or similar films involving high-stakes gambling and gun fights, you’ll no doubt be familiar with derringer pistols. Derringer pistols are small, very compact, pocket-sized pistols that don’t exactly fit into any other category of firearms like revolvers, pocket pistols, and the like. Unlike mini-revolvers or centerfire pocket semi-auto pistols, derringers are typically chambered in much larger straight-walled cartridges like 357 Magnum, .38 Special, and .45 Long Colt. Up until going through this review, I had not had very much experience with derringer-style pistols but Bond Arms was kind enough to lend me one of their Roughneck derringers, as well as a spare barrel chambered in 9mm so that I could get a feel for the experience and explore what these pistols have to offer concealed carriers.
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Pocket Full of Hate: The Bond Arms Roughneck Derringer Pistol
The Bond Arms Roughneck series of pistols was announced and released during SHOT Show 2020 and the pistol typically retails for a price of $269. That cash will get you access to your selection of one of 3 barrels including a .357 Mag/.38 Spl model, 9mm, or even a .45 ACP barrel. However what’s really cool about the Roughneck is that the pistol, like a bunch of Bond Arms’ other pistols, is capable of having its barrels swapped out in a matter of seconds using a simple hex wrench. This means you can easily swap between calibers if ammunition availability changes or your preferences change.
The Bond Arms Roughneck measures just 4.5 inches in length, weighs 19 ounces, and features rubber grips, fixed sights, and a standard barrel length of 2.5 inches. To put that in tangible terms, the Roughneck is about the same relative size as a Ruger LCP, weighs one ounce more than a Gen 1 Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, and costs about as much as a Taurus G3C.
The overall construction quality of these American-made firearms is quite good. The double barrels and frames of the Roughneck series are made from durable stainless steel which is corrosion resistant and also gives the gun a simple, utilitarian appearance with its contrasting matte and polished finishes throughout the design. The design itself is actually a callback to its name “Roughneck.” Bond Arms sought to make something that wasn’t quite as refined as their other pistols like the Texas Defender, Century 2000, or even their Bond Arms Bullpup 9mm semi-auto pistol. I’ll let Bond Arms themselves explain the thought process behind the appearance of the Roughneck:
Quality Control (QC) on our current guns nearly borders on excessive. Once the guns are shot and all functions work as they should, our QC guys then go to extreme measures to find every cosmetic flaw, scratch, ding, or pit or anything else that didn’t pass our inspection. This means the guns are sent back to be fixed, which in most cases, involve totally disassembling the gun to re-polish or fix any flaw that they may find. On occasion the same gun may go through that same process 3 to 4 times until it passes QC.
With the RoughNeck and Rough N Rowdy series, we do minimal clean up and deburr to make sure there are no sharp edges and then we bead blast the finish. With this gun, part of the COOL FACTOR is that you can actually see the parting lines in the metal frame and trigger guard. As a final touch we left in some of the swirly tool marks on the barrel just to give it that more ROUGH & TUMBLE Look. Also, since we are not sanding and polishing the frame, you may see tiny casting imperfections and rough areas that would never be acceptable for our current line of products.
The primary goal of this rapid production process is to reduce the overall cost to the customer – this means the Roughneck costs about $300 less than the average Bond Arms pistol but doesn’t sacrifice on the quality control side of things – just some of the looks. Despite this, the Roughneck that Bond Arms sent to me looked quite good and I didn’t notice any machining marks or bits that I would call “ugly,” although it’s pretty clear that the hand-finished surfaces aren’t always even as the frame shows pretty uneven spots where it has been deburred.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect on my first range outing with the Roughneck. I brought along both barrels with me and started off with the 9mm barrel using some cheap Tula 9mm 115-grain ball ammo, as well as some Hornady Handgun Hunter 115-grain Monoflex ammo. The 9mm barrel produces some pretty stout recoil and I was quite surprised by just how much recoil there was from such a heavy pistol. If I had to compare it to something I would probably have to say it feels about as uncomfortable as shooting a Smith & Wesson Model 340PD .357 Magnum. It’s not a pleasant experience but it’s also not going to hurt you if you’ve got a proper grip on the gun.
The simple sights are easy enough to use at short range but don’t feature any sort of contrast between the front or rear sights. Maybe rear serrations on the front blade would be a cheap and easy way to improve the contrast between them but in all honesty at the ranges you’d be using this pistol for its intended purpose, the sights really don’t matter all that much.
The greatest hurdle for me when it came to shooting the Roughneck was just how small and compact the grip was. I don’t have particularly large hands but I found it difficult to operate the pistol one-handed without having to constantly readjust my grip. In the optimal position for pulling back the hammer, it was near impossible to pull the trigger, and the reverse is true for proper trigger finger placement, the hammer becomes almost impossible to pull back without breaking your grip.
I found it much easier to use a supporting hand to give myself extra leverage on the gun while cocking it for quick follow-up shots. It took a bit of practice but after running a couple dozen barrels worth of ammo through the gun, I felt like I had a good handle on the optimal operation for the pistol. By the end of my range sessions with the Roughneck, I had installed the .38 Spl/.357 Mag barrel and had a blast shooting .38 Special out of it. 38 special used to be the gold standard for police sidearms for much of the 20th century and so it’s nothing to scoff at defensively. However, the much more powerful .357 Magnums the barrel is designed around certainly pack a wallop and have enough power to give your hand some lingering pain after a couple dozen rounds. For self-defense, I’d recommend Remington Golden Saber 125-grain JHPs if you’re really dead set on pocketing this thing on your way to the next Line Dance.
I had a lot of fun learning my way around a derringer-style pistol. While I don’t think I’d personally ever carry one, I do think they are at the very least a novelty within the firearms world, and having one in your inventory as a conversation piece, or even an occasional range toy is a great way to diversify your firearms collection without a lot of upfront cost. There really isn’t much that I don’t like about the Roughneck other than its difficulties surrounding operating it with just one hand. Other than that, the Roughneck, and for that matter, the entire Bond Arms line are really unique offerings within the firearms world and I think that alone makes them worth checking out.
As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the Roughneck pistol. Do you own one and do you carry it? Let us know what you think down in the comments and a big thanks to Bond Arms for lending me the Roughneck for the review! If you’d like to check out the entire lineup of firearms that Bond Arms offers, you can visit http://bondarms.com/.
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