The Roughneck is the newest member of the Bond Arms family of two-shot derringer-style pistols. Available in .357 Magnum/.38 Special, .45 ACP and 9mm, the Roughneck is simple to operate, reliable and safe, and with an MSRP of just $269, it’s not only the most affordable Bond pistol, but one of the least-expensive defensive handguns on the market.
Roughneck pistols are built with one purpose in mind — close-range personal defense. The 2½-inch barrels are held in place by a transversely-mounted hinge screw that can be removed with a hex key.
A machined abutment on the top of the breech acts as hinge point between the frame and barrels. When the locking lever on the left side of the pistol is pressed downward, it releases spring tension and the barrels can be tipped up for loading. Cartridges are placed in the top and bottom chambers and the barrels are then flipped back into battery where they lock against the frame.
There’s a crossbolt safety that must be pressed to the right to disengage, and a cutout in the safety allows you to lock the gun and render it inoperable.
When the cocked hammer is released, it strikes one of the two firing pins and after recocking, strikes the alternate firing pin. With the gun unloaded and the barrels tipped upward it’s possible to determine which barrel is set to fire by pulling the trigger and pressing the hammer forward. This will cause one of the firing pins to protrude slightly in front of the breech face, and the opposite barrel will fire next. It’s ideal to have the bottom barrel fire first in personal defense situations because that drives recoil back into the wrist and barrel-rise is less pronounced, allowing for faster follow-ups. A cutout in the sides of the chambers allows for removal of spent cartridges.
Bond Arms utilizes a rebounding hammer that doesn’t rest on the firing pins, which was the case with older derringers like the original Remington. As you might imagine, that arrangement is quite unsafe and is why you shoot those old derringers at the range, if at all, and avoid carrying them loaded. I once heard a harrowing tale from a gentleman who reached into his pocket to retrieve his keys and accidentally pulled his derringer out as well. The derringer hit the concrete porch below his feet, the hammer hit the firing pin, and a bullet hit the roof over his head, narrowly missing his face.
The Bond Arms rebounding hammer eliminates the risk of hammer impact discharges, and if that’s not safe enough for you, the crossbolt safety adds another layer of security.
The Roughneck’s design offers the same reliability as more expensive models, with fewer cosmetic touches to keep cost low. Pricier Bond Arms guns go through an extensive finishing process that requires hand polishing to ensure that the guns going out the door are finished perfectly. This process takes time and labor, and that costs money.
By contrast, the Roughneck receives deburring and minor cleanup, and the metal is then bead blasted. Cutting down on finishing time increases productivity. (The company claims that they can roll out four or five Roughnecks in the time required to produce a single Texas Defender.)
Roughneck pistols come with checkered rubber grips, which are less expensive (and another cost savings), yet comfortable and secure in the hand. Mechanically, the Roughneck is identical to more expensive Bond Arms pistols, and the barrels are still made from stainless steel, so you’re getting Bond Arms quality at a very un-Bond Arms price.
The Roughneck 9mm that I tested measured just 4½-inches long, 4-inches tall and 1½-inches wide at the grip. It weighed just 19 ounces. That makes this gun one of the most compact carry guns on the market. It’s easy to slip in a pocket holster or hide under lightweight summer clothing.
In addition to the Roughneck, Bond Arms is also introducing a .45 Colt/.410 2½-inch derringer with a similar look and feel for 2019. Known as the Rowdy, the larger version features a 3-inch barrel and measures 5-inches long. Weight of both guns is similar (the Rowdy weighs in at 20 ounces), but the .45/.410 version is equipped with a manual extractor. MSRP for the Rowdy is $299.
Daily Carry and Range Testing
The Roughneck’s bird’s-head grip and wide rubber panels help keep the gun planted during firing. With powerful defensive loads, this gun produces significant recoil, but it’s hardly unmanageable. The hammer spur is easy to control when shooting, and a removable triggerguard comes standard. The Rowdy that I tested had a trigger weight of 5¼ pounds.
The front-sight blade is machined into the slide and the rear sight is simply a trench cut into the barrel abutment. It’s about as rudimentary a sight setup as you’ll find on a modern carry pistol, but at short range it’s enough. Average 15-yard five-shot groups were between 6.8 and 8.4 inches, but there’s a caveat: Making two barrels strike at the same point-of-impact (POI) requires an expensive process known as regulating. (Which is why double rifles are so expensive.) When accuracy is calculated for a single barrel, group size drops dramatically. Firing just the top barrel at 15 yards generated groups that averaged around 3 inches.
Out to about 15 feet, both barrels shot very close to the same POI, so at defensive ranges this variation is of little consequence. My splits between the first and second shot averaged 1.29 seconds using a Competition Electronics timer. It was possible for me to squeeze off a faster second shot, but was difficult to do so accurately. With more time on the range I don’t think that one second splits for aimed shots are out of the question, and you will shoot faster if you fire the bottom barrel first. The lower barrel pushes the gun back into the arm while the top barrel rises more sharply. After shooting this gun a few dozen times you’ll know which barrel fired by the feel of the recoil.
At one point during the test I allowed my thumb to rest on the c-shaped cutout for the safety while firing, which drove the cutout portion of the frame into the side of my thumb, something I don’t recommend. I found that placing my thumb along the widest portion of the frame was a better option.
Extraction of spent cartridges isn’t a problem. Most fall out, and a small percentage require manual removal. The base of a spent cartridge is a very effective tool for unsticking jammed cases.
Concealment isn’t an issue. It’s light and compact, and perhaps just as importantly, it doesn’t have a profile that betrays it as a firearm. The rounded grip and ultra-short profile make this gun look more like a cell phone or wallet than a firearm, and even under light clothing it practically disappears. I run trails several times a week, and there’s little doubt that runners in remote areas are targets for criminals. With the Roughneck in an elastic belly band holster equipped with a Velcro strap behind the hammer to secure the gun in place, I could comfortably jog for miles.
It isn’t the fastest firearm to access since the strap must be removed and the gun drawn and cocked before firing. But the Roughneck you have on your side while running is more effective than the double-stack 9mm that’s locked in a gun safe at home when you’re alone and exhausted deep in the woods. And if you’re going to carry under such conditions where a gun will be beaten and abused, having rubber grips and a basic finish makes perfect sense.
As with other Bond guns, the Roughneck allows you to swap grip panels and barrels, but in its basic form it’s perfectly functional. It’s also simple to use, and new shooters will find this pistol easy to master.
While the Roughneck doesn’t offer the magazine capacity of a subcompact single-stack 9mm, it’s very easy to carry and offers a solid one-two punch when you need it most. With an MSRP of just $269, it’s also an affordable backup gun if you already have a larger carry pistol, and the Roughneck will fit easily in an ankle or deep concealment holster.
Bond Arms has taken the concept of a personal defense firearm and distilled it down into a lightweight, robust, easy to use pocket pistol that the masses can afford, and that makes this gun a very attractive option for any shooter.
Bond Arms Roughneck
- Action: Single-action derringer
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 2
- Barrel: 2.5 in.
- Overall Length: 4.5 in.
- Width: 1.5 in. (grip)
- Height: 4 in.
- Weight: 19 oz
- Finish: Matte stainless
- Sights: Fixed iron
- Trigger: 5.2 lbs.
- MSRP: $269
- Manufacturer: Bond Arms, bondarms.com, (817) 573- 4445