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Bond Arms Roughneck: Cyberpunk Derringer

The middle of a pandemic-inspired firearms panic rush isn’t a convenient time to be looking for a self-defense-oriented handgun. Especially if you’d prefer it to be chambered for a reasonably common modern caliber and not be made of recycled Matchbox cars. Things were looking grim until I happened to glance in the showcase at Indy Arms Company. There on display, among the dust motes and the Sig P320 grip modules artfully arranged to make it look like the handgun shortage wasn’t so dire, was a used Bond Arms Roughneck with a price tag that was tantalizingly close to my cutoff point.

Sure, you have to forego such luxuries as a slide or a magazine or capacity or real sights, but it’s undeniably an all-steel 9mm Luger handgun.

The derringers from Bond Arms are an anomaly in the modern handgunning world, with no real parallel except maybe the mini revolvers from North American Arms. They’re well-made, the machining is first rate, they’re durable and reliable … and they were largely rendered obsolescent 20-some years ago when Kel-Tec shipped its first P32.

The Roughneck is, broadly speaking, the same size as a Kel-Tec P32, while being much heavier, only holding two rounds, and requiring the hammer to be laboriously cocked for each shot.

Bond Arms derringers are usually extremely well finished and finely machined, sporting price tags that seem completely out of proportion to their utility from a modern perspective. The MSRP on one of these shiny steel two-shooters is usually north of $500.

This led the Texas-based company to introduce two more affordable alternatives to their main line: The “Rowdy,” chambered in the 45 Colt/410 that’s most often associated with Bond Arms, and the “Roughneck,” available in 38 Special/357 Magnum, 45 Automatic, or 9mm Luger like the subject of this piece.

Bond Arms keeps the price down on these by performing only the most rudimentary of finishing. The frame on the Roughneck is fairly coarsely bead-blasted, the flats on the side of the barrels are done in a polished — but not mirror-polished — finish, and the mold line from the casting is visible on the trigger guard.

The trigger guard is the main way that Bond Arms derringers differ visually from the original Remington Derringer of the Old West. Other than the trigger guard and an unobtrusive crossbolt safety, it’s similar to the classic 41 Rimfire pistol used as a hideout gun by riverboat gamblers and card sharks in the saloons of Hollywood Westerns.

Mechanically, the biggest difference between the modern Bond Arms and its 19th century progenitor is the rebounding hammer that makes it safe to carry with the hammer down on loaded chambers — and, on the 9mm Roughneck, the lack of an extractor. 

Derringers in classic rimmed revolver chamberings have a simple manually operated sliding extractor between the barrels that simultaneously lifts both cases out of their chambers. Since the 9mm has no rim for the extractor to work against, the Roughneck has a simple relief cut for you to use a fingernail to pry out spent cases.

bond arms roughneck
Out to five yards, at least, the Roughneck can be plenty accurate enough. The sights make it iffier much past that.

This arrangement seemed simple enough, at least until practical experience on the range showed that some loadings were a lot more amenable to being pried out with a fingernail than others. As often as not, TulAmmo 115-grain FMJ required a pocketknife to free it from the chamber.

Even with +P loads, recoil wasn’t terrible. Any snappiness was mitigated by both the soft rubber grips and the fact that the Roughneck weighs in at a chonky 20.9 ounces empty.

The rear sight’s notch is shallow, and the fat front sight blade fills it with almost no light on either side. The trigger pull is 6¼ pounds, but the scale doesn’t tell the whole story — there’s no real take-up in the trigger and only a bit of overtravel. Essentially, the trigger has two states: “ready to fire” and “fired,” separated by something vague and heavy, like a stack of philosophy textbooks.

Out to five yards, these handicaps can be overcome, and it was pretty easy to put five rounds of 115-grain TulAmmo into a 2-inch group offhand. Double the distance to 10 yards and the group opened noticeably, exacerbated by a tendency to print low with the 115-grain test ammo. 

The end result of all this is a gun that’s a bundle of contradictions. It can fire any type of 9mm Luger ammo you’d like with no worries about feeding due to weird bullet profiles. It’s well made and constructed entirely of stainless steel. The very idea of a 9mm Luger stainless derringer has a sort of cyberpunk vibe to it, like a hideout gun for a riverboat gambler … in space.

But it’s still a derringer … There must be a hundred more practical choices for a self-defense handgun, but it sure beats a handful of nothing.

The Awesome

Two shots for sure.

Quality stainless steel construction on a (relatively) shoestring budget.

Simple to operate. Anyone can figure this thing out in about 5 minutes of fiddling around.

The OK

It has a safety, but it’s clumsy and not really necessary.

Grips are good for recoil, but sticky on clothing and pocket lining.

The sights get a solid C+. Usable enough out to five-ish yards, but increasingly iffy beyond that.

The Awful 

Brick-like weight compared to many modern pocket 380s.

Trying to thumb-cock the gun one-handed in a hurry is a clumsy process.

Once you’ve fired your two shots, you might as well drop it in a sock and use it as an impact weapon. You won’t be reloading this one on the clock, unless the clock is a sundial. 

Bond Arms Roughneck

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 2 Rounds
Overall Length: 4.5 inches
Barrel Length: 2 inches
Weight Loaded: 20.9 ounces
Purchase From: Indy Arms Company, Indianapolis, IN
Price Paid: $194

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One response to “Bond Arms Roughneck: Cyberpunk Derringer”

  1. Bill says:

    Should make a great surprise carjack defensive gun. .410 in the face should slow them down until you can get your real piece out.

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  • Should make a great surprise carjack defensive gun. .410 in the face should slow them down until you can get your real piece out.

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