by B. Gil Horman - Tuesday, January 15, 2013
In 2012, Bond Arms released its most compact big-bore pistols to date. These included the Mini, with a cowboy-style frame and a 2.5-inch .45 Colt barrel, and the Girl Mini, with the same frame and barrel length chambered in .38/.357 Mag. Although the revolver-caliber Minis have been popular, customers have asked for more. They’ve told the company they want Minis that are ammunition-compatible with popular defensive semi-autos, such as the 9 mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. For 2013, Bond Arms provides the answer to this request with the new Bond Arms Backup. But this pistol offers more than just a new caliber. The Backup will launch key innovations soon to be available across Bond's entire line up.
Bond Arms was founded in 1995 with the idea that the Remington Model 95 over-under, single-action derringer could be converted from an Old West anachronism into a modern defensive handgun. The barrel and frame were redesigned to safely fire modern calibers. The beefed-up double barrels and frames are constructed completely from stainless steel, and shaped with modern manufacturing processes. This makes for a pistol that’s both strong and durable.
The original Remington derringer had a half-cock position for the hammer as its only safety feature. Bond Arms installed multiple modern safeties instead. These include a rebounding hammer, a release-lever retention device to prevent the pistol from bumping open while firing and a cross bolt safety. The cross bolt features a tension screw, located on the right side of the frame near the hammer that allows the shooter to adjust the finger pressure required to engage and disengage the safety button. The Backup has one more safety feature that's available on select Bond models, which is a removable trigger guard.
But these features have been available for some time now. What's new for this year is a redesigned trigger and hammer that measurably improve the trigger pull. Shooters these days are not used to the Remington 95's roll-it-down trigger. It can feel strange when most handguns have triggers that essentially feel like they travel straight back. The new Bond Arms trigger is more deeply indented to create a more natural finger rest, and it has a shorter travel distance. The sample gun provided had a 4-pound, 2-ounce trigger pull compared to the 5-pound 12-ounce pull of an older model that was also gauged. The result of these trigger changes is a lighter, crisper feel that should be more familiar to modern handgun fans. The hammer has been modified with a flatter, wider spur to provide better purchase for the cocking thumb. It also requires less pressure to lock back for firing. While the trigger and hammer were not bad to start with, the updated firing mechanism is a real improvement. One more change to the Backup is the slimmer, more rounded profile of the wooden grip panels. It's a subtle difference, but a noticeable one.
The Backup pistol arrived with a 2.5-inch .45 ACP barrel and a 9 mm barrel of the same length. Both barrels can be traded in and out from the frame by removing the hinge pin with an Allen wrench. These are the first two of the Backup barrels to be available, but a .40 S&W barrel will arrive later this year. With the .45 barrel installed, the Backup weighs in at 18 ounces, while installing the 9 mm barrel adds an ounce to that weight since the bore is smaller and leaves more steel in the barrel. The barrels and the frame of the Backup reflect Bond's dedication to high-quality guns. The fit and finish is top notch, and the wooden grip panels fit perfectly.
Taking a Bond pistol to the range is usually a bit of an adventure. Not only are these guns exciting to shoot, but folks are curious to know how you're making big handgun noises with a little pocket pistol. The strong steel frame of the Backup can safely handle the pressures generated by +P ammunition, but not all of the barrels are recommended for use with hot loads. Feel free to use the same +P level 9 mm and .40 S&W loads you use in your other defensive pistols, but Bond Arms recommends sticking with standard pressure rounds when shooting the .45 ACP. The barrels bored to accommodate .45 caliber bullets have thinner walls and may not safely contain the pressure of super-juiced rounds. With the felt recoil generated by standard pressure .45 ACP test rounds ranging from stout to stouter, leaving the stoutest rounds off of the firing line didn't seem like such a bad idea. Shooting the 9 mm barrel was more manageable, with felt recoil levels hovering in the same range as a lightweight J-Frame .38 Spl.
The Backup proved to be reliable with both calibers of ammunition, merrily popping its way through rounds ranging from affordable practice grade 9 mm through some of the best .45 ACP defensive hollow points available. In a previous review, sighting and accuracy with Bond Minis was discussed at length, so the information won't be repeated here. Suffice it to say the short semi-auto Mini barrels, using the same testing methods, produced similar 2- to 3.5-inch groups at 7 yards.
Reloading drills were conducted with the idea that the Backup will come into play when a primary semi-auto has failed, jammed, or been lost. With this in mind, pistol magazines were used as reloading devices. The semi-auto barrels do not have a shell ejector to aid in removing spent shell casings. Instead, a notch is cut into the left side of the barrel so the cases can be stripped out with a thumb or fingernail. With practice, thumbing out the spent cases and reloading two shots into the Backup using a semi-auto magazine could be accomplished in about the same time as it takes to recharge a revolver using a speed loader. If the Backup is going to ride solo, then Tuff Products' six-round, semi-auto cartridge Quick Strips provide a good spare ammunition alternative to a magazine. The cartridges are aligned on the strips to allow two rounds to be inserted into the upper and lower barrels at the same time.
If Bond Arms has had a shortcoming in its product line, it’s been the inability to keep up with customer demand. To remedy this problem, the company has relocated to a larger facility and increased its production capacity. As with the other Bond Arms products, the Backup is built on a fully modular frame so that shooters can take advantage of the wide variety of interchangeable grips and caliber conversion barrels. This particular pistol will arrive with a new style of pocket holster designed to hold two spare rounds of ammunition. The Bond Arms Backup, the latest in its series of Mini pistols, is one of the smallest and toughest handguns available for the calibers it chambers. The trigger and hammer upgrade successfully complete the transformation of an old derringer design into a reliable and powerful modern pocket pistol.
Manufacturer: Bond Arms; Bondarms.com
Model: Bond Arms Back Up
Action: Single Action
Caliber: .45 ACP or 9 mm
Finish: Stainless Steel
Grips: Laminated Black Ash
Barrel Length: 2.5”
Overall Length: 4.5”
Weight: 18 ozs. (.45 ACP), 19 ozs. (9 mm)
Capacity: 2 Rounds
Twist: 1:12” RH
Rifle Grooves: 6
Accessories: Removable Trigger Guard, Pocket Holster, Lockable Hard Case, Manual, Lock
Suggested Retail Price: $399
Caliber-Conversion Barrels: $139 - $189
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