Bond Arms' interchangeable caliber conversion barrels have been available in a variety of lengths for some time now. The original .45 Colt/.410 Bore 3" Defender barrels, chambered for 2½" .410 shot shells only, were soon followed by a 3.5" version designed to handle 3" shells. The Snake Slayer stretched the dual-caliber barrel just a bit more to 4.25" and has been one of the company's all-time best sellers.
A few years ago, Bond Arms shifted its focus to shrinking the platform as much as possible with the introduction of the Backup series of barrels. At 2.5” from end to end, this is just about as short as the over/under barrels can get and still have enough bore space left for some rifling. With the mid-length and shortest barrels well covered in a variety of calibers, there was only one direction left to go.
The customers who have been hoping for barrels longer than the 4.25" Snake Slayer finally had their wish granted earlier this year when Bond released the new .45 Colt/.410 Texan with a 6" barrel. I've been looking forward to the arrival of 6" barrels for several reasons including the potential boost in revolver cartridge performance (take a look at the 10 mm tests). But one feature I've been curious to see in action for years is the addition of barrel porting to reduce felt recoil. These big-bore pistols can be quite a handful so the addition of gas-venting ports to reduce muzzle rise makes sense.
After handling the 6" barrel at SHOT Show this year, it seemed like there was finally enough real estate for barrel porting, so I called Mag-Na-Port International. I had the good fortune of meeting with Kenneth Kelly, the son of company founder Larry Kelly, to ask if it would be possible to use the no-bur Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) process to cut the company's signature trapezoidal Mag-Na-Ports into both of the over/under barrels of a Bond Arms pistol. He was happy to report that not only is it possible but Mag-Na-Port has been providing porting services to Bond Arms customers for years as part of their handgun customization services.
When that call ended I immediately got on the phone with Gordon Bond, CEO of Bond Arms, and shared what I learned. It turned out that Gordon was interested in exploring the possibility of adding Mag-Na-Ported barrels to the Bond Arms catalog. So, we all shared contact information back and forth and I stood back and hoped for the best.
Not long after receiving a Texan for review, a second box arrived with three factory fresh barrels sporting Mag-Na-Port porting. They included a 2.5" .45 Colt Only barrel and a 4.25" Snake Slayer with right and left side ports in both barrels for a total of four ports.
I learned that while all of the single-caliber barrels in any length can be ported, the shortest dual-caliber .45 Colt/.410 barrel that can be ported is the 4.25" model. The 3" and 3.5" don't have a long enough stretch of rifling in order for the ports to work properly.
At the bottom of the box was the Pièce De Résistance, a 6" barrel with not just four, but a total of eight ports for the maximum recoil reduction possible. I was eager to take the Texan and these barrels to the range to see what they could do.
The Texan is built around the same tough, over-built stainless steel bird's head frame as the Snake Slayer. When the extended barrel is removed from the frame, it weighs in at 12.7 oz., making it 4.1 ounces heavier than the 4.25" Snake Slayer barrel. The trigger is single-action only, meaning that the hammer has to be manually cocked for each shot. As the hammer is cycled, it automatically switches between the barrels. The operator can set the order in which the barrels fire, bottom-top or top-bottom, depending on their preferences.
All of the external controls, including the trigger, barrel release, cross-bolt safety and rebounding hammer are also stainless steel. This frame supports a removable trigger guard that houses Bond Arm's second generation trigger group. The 6" barrel is fitted with a spring loaded extractor to aid in reloading.
In addition to the impressive 6" barrel, the Texan has a few added features to set it apart from its compatriots. The right side of the barrel is laser engraved with, "The Texan—Think Twice Before You Mess with Texas." On the left side it says, "Bond Arms Granbury, Texas—The Lone Star State."
The frame's hinge has been engraved with an outline of the state of Texas with a tiny lone star inside.
The rounded, extended, laminated Rosewood grip is custom engraved with the name Texan, another outline of the state of Texas and a group of snakes along the base of the grip inspired by the Gadsden (Don't Tread On Me) flag. Overall, it's another handsome example of Bond Arms high quality craftsmanship.
Holsters for the Texan are still in process but should be available on Bond's online store soon. I did get to try an early production BMT leather belt holster with snap strap. Setting the holstered Texan and Backup next to each other shows just how much of a size difference there is now.
For the range test, I used a total of six barrels, three pistol frames and four loads of ammunition for formal accuracy and pattern testing. The three ported barrels were paired with non-ported versions in the same length and caliber to check for changes in felt recoil. The Texan was used to run the new 6" barrels. I broke out the frames I used for the 10 mm builds a while back to run the 4.25" Snake Slayer and the 2.5" Backup barrel. All of the gear and ammunition functioned as intended without any mechanical or ammunition problems in the course of testing.
The most noticeable change with the 6” barrels is the direction the gun moves when fired. With shorter barrels installed the Bond pistols tend to roll back in the hand much like a classic single-action revolver. The curved birdshead grip helps to facilitate this rolling motion to reduce felt recoil. The 6” barrel causes the pistols to move in a much more straight back direction into the shooting hand with a good deal less muzzle rise. The company may want to consider developing a straight-backed grip to replace the birdshead grip on the 6” models.
Both versions of the 6" barrel, non-ported and ported, were tested for revolver cartridge accuracy, .410 shot shell patterning and variations in felt recoil. The other four barrels were shot side-by-side primarily for recoil comparison since I've already worked with them in other reviews. Birchwood Casey 12x18 Shoot-N-C Silhouette targets were used to capture pattern results because the contrasting colors are so easy to read.
All 6 barrels were tested with SIG Sauer's excellent Elite Performance 230-gr. V-Crown jacketed hollow points with a listed velocity of 850 fps. In general, .45 Colt produces a lower level of felt recoil than .410 shells when fired from the Bond pistols. However, it can still generate a stout kick. The recoil reduction provided by the Mag-Na-Ports was the most pronounced, about 30-40 percent less, when firing .45 Colt ammunition. This brought the stout recoil down to a comfortable, moderate level in all three configurations.
When using the stubby 2.5" ported barrels, keep the following points in mind. It was ear-poppingly loud, so be sure to double up on your hearing protection (foam plugs and muffs) at the range. For those shooters who like to straighten both thumbs along the side of the frame, you'll need to use a different grip with this barrel. Straightening your thumbs could lead to unintentionally covering one of the Mag-Na-Ports with a thumb tip, resulting in some serious damage to your hand. Just pay attention to your finger placement and you’ll be fine (touching the ports was not an issue with the longer barrels).
The 6" barrels were checked for accuracy with the .45 Colt loads by firing a total of 10 rounds (5 from each barrel) at 7 yards. The 5 shot upper and lower barrel groups averaged 1.5" in size, making them much tighter than the 2" to 3.5" groups typically produced by shorter barrels. The ported barrel produced upper and lower groups closer to each other. The non-ported barrel had nearly a 4" spread while the ported barrel's groups were just over 2" apart.
Winchester Ammunition’s Super Speed Extra Game loads, 2½" shells topped with ½ oz. of #6 lead shot, were used to cover the .410 birdshot category. As mentioned in previous articles (see the IFG Howdah Double-Barrel Pistol), rifled barrels cause .410 birdshot to spread very quickly. The 6" Bond Barrels were no exception. Shot patterns were between 15" to covering the entire 12"x18" target at just 10 feet. There was no appreciable difference in shot patterns between the non-ported and ported barrels but recoil reduction was between 20 to 30 percent depending on the barrel used.
I'm a fan of Federal Premium .410 Handgun Personal Defense 000 buckshot loads. They've operated reliably in every gun I've fed them to and the extended flight control wad causes the copper-plated shot to form tight groups. Available in either a 2½" long 4-pellet or 3" 5-pellet configuration, I opted to run with the hotter 3" version to put the Mag-Na-Porting through its paces. The non-ported barrel and ported barrel formed groups that averaged 1.10" at 10 feet which is around and 1" tighter than the 4.25" Snakeslayer. There was no measurable difference in group sizes between the two test barrels. Recoil was still stout when firing this load through the ported barrels but around 20 percent less intense than the non-ported barrels.
The last .410 shell tested was something of a wild card which I lovingly dubbed 'The Black Mamba' when testing it in the Snake Slayer for the 410Handguns.com website a while back. Officially known as the 3" Winchester PDX1 Defender, this round is one of the heaviest (if not the heaviest) available on the commercial market. It pushes 410 gr. of copper-plated lead (~15/16 oz.) at a listed velocity of 750 fps. The payload consists of four pre-flattened 'defense discs' backed by 16 pieces of BB size shot. When fired from anything smaller than a .410 shotgun or a Magnum Research BFR , these devastating shells produce a monumental level of felt recoil. But I had to know; could the 6" long 8-port barrel tame The Black Mamba? There was only one way to find out.
As with the rest of the testing process, I fired the first PDX1 round in the non-ported 6" barrel before using the ported barrel. While the 6” barrels are heavier, the added length gave the powder more time to burn. The result was a level of felt recoil that passed intense and went directly to painful. I had to stop for a minute to collect my wits before continuing. How hot was it? That single shot not only rocked me back but caused a 1" hairline crack to form in the Texan's laminated Rosewood grip. I have extended grips I've been shooting with for years and this is the first time I've ever cracked one. So, it seemed prudent not to shoot that barrel and ammunition combination again. The good news is that I kept shooting with that grip and it's still intact and useable. That's a testament to how strong these grips really are.
Firing the Winchester PDX1 shell though the ported 6" barrel was a bit less daunting. The recoil impulse shifted down a bit from painful to intense, meaning that it was better but by no means pleasant. I settled for just one shot from that barrel too. For what it's worth, the defense disks formed 1.5" central groups with the BB shot spreading to form 12" to 15" groups at 10 feet. The lesson I have to pass along is this: Save the heavy-duty 3" PDX1 shells for your shotguns and stick to the 2½” version for the .410 handguns.
The new Texan .45 Colt/.410 Bore is another in a long line of finely crafted, exceptionally strong double-barrel pistols from Bond Arms. The decorative engravings, custom grip and 6" barrel make it one of the most unique offerings yet. The pricing is not nailed down just yet but it looks like adding ports will increase barrel prices by $150 or so.
But what's got me smiling the most is the arrival of Mag-Na-Port barrel porting in conjunction with the 6" barrel. Once upon a time, Bond Arms offered a .44 Mag barrel. While the pistols easily stood up to the recoil this cartridge produces, the customers did not. There were complaints about the barrel hurting hands and wrists so it was pulled from production. The 6" ported barrel could neatly solve this problem.
I can see this barrel configuration making .357 Mag, 10 mm, .41 Rem Mag and even the mighty .44 Mag. comfortable enough to shoot from this compact platform. This year I got the 6" barrel and porting I was hoping for so I'm re-crossing my fingers for more ported barrel caliber options in the year to come.