What this derringer lacks in capacity it makes up for in versatility. Bond Arms is based out of Granbury, Texas, and its derringers are manufactured exclusively in the United States. It has eight models to choose from with 16 barrel and 22 cartridge combinations. In fact, one Bond Arms derringer—with additional barrels—can be used to fire everything from a .22 LR to a .410 shotshell.
Back when men like Bat Masterson were killing buffalo and fighting crime, the derringer was a popular sidearm. It was the smallest firearm available for protection and survival. Today, revolvers and semi-automatic handguns can weigh less than a pound and fit in a pocket. The capacity and compactness of modern handguns makes a two-shot derringer less appealing.
A lot of hunters like the idea of carrying a small handgun. It can be used to put the final shot on a downed animal, for survival, as a signal device or even as protection from a snake or bad guy. But not all hunters are pistoleros who want to carry a Glock or a hog’s leg revolver.
Bond Arms’ derringers are a break-open design, but instead of the barrels breaking down, they fold up. The pivot pin above the barrel is threaded and can be removed with a hex head wrench. This allows a barrel change in about a minute. The frame and barrels are CAD-designed and CNC-machined out of stainless steel. These double-barrel derringers have a cross-bolt safety, a rebounding hammer, retracting firing pins and a spring-loaded extractor.
Curious how these modern derringers might work as a back-up/protection handgun for hunters, I asked Bond Arms to loan me one of its Snake Slayer models. The Snake Slayer has a 3.5-inch barrel and will fire .45 Colt or .410 shotshells. There’s only one hammer and one trigger; a neat little striker plate built into the hammer alternates between the top and bottom barrel each time the hammer is cocked. This plate can be seen when the hammer is cocked. If it’s up, the top barrel fires first. If it’s down the bottom barrel is first. So, practically speaking, you could load a .45 Colt round in one barrel and a .410 shotshell in the other, positioning the one you want to fire first based on the position of the striker plate. If the need dictated, you could lower the hammer to switch to the other barrel.
By modern compact handgun standards, the 22-ounce Snake Slayer is not all that light, and at 6 inches long it’s not all that compact. However, if you have ever fired a .410 shotshell or a full-power .45 Colt load from a handgun you’ll know why. That heft and hand-filling grip give you something by which to hold onto all that power. Fortunately, Bond Arms offers a variety of quality leather belt holsters for its derringers. The horizontal, Velcro-attachable model was particularly convenient when riding in a vehicle or when sitting.
At 7 yards it was no problem to hit a 10-inch circle every time with Remington 225-grain semi-wad cutter or Federal 225-grain hollow-point .45 Colt loads, which had a muzzle velocity of about 900 fps. However, there was about a 6-inch separation between the points of impact of the top and bottom barrel. This same separation was also found with the .38 Spl./.357 Mag. barrels.
For defensive purposes the .410-bore Winchester PDX 1 load was the clear winner. It put the three "Defensive Disks" into a 4-inch cluster while the 12 plated BBs peppered the target, covering about 24 inches. Of course, if you wanted to use the Snake Slayer to finish off a wounded critter, the .45 Colt loads would be the best choice. For snakes, common .410 shotshells work wonderfully.
With a suggested retail price of $475 and extra barrels from 2.5 to 4.5 inches long selling between $109 and $189, the Bond Arms Snake Slayer is a durable, two-shot option as a back-up/survival/protection pistol for the hunter. With its barrel interchangeability, it’s about the most versatile option you’ll find.