Monday, September 20, 2021

Bond Arms Roughneck .357/.38 Special

Bond Arms Roughneck .357/.38 Special

If you talk to Gordon Bond, founder of Bond Arms, he notes “We are not selling derringers, we are selling double-barreled handguns”. His clarification really is that derringers have very often been associated with cheap & low quality guns and what Bond Arms is manufacturing is an outstanding bomb proof 100% American Made stainless firearm that just happens to be double barreled. Once you hold a Bond Arms you understand, can feel the heft of the stainless steel and see all the finishing steps that Bond is taking for an incredibly fine quality firearm. The Bond Arms firearms also have a lot of focus on safety including features that are rarely found on “typical derringer style” firearms. Most of the Bond Arms handguns range from just over $500 to over $1300 which brings us to the insanely inexpensive $269 .357/.38 Special, 9mm or .45 ACP Roughneck. 

Barrel swap to optional 4-inch barrel
The raw wax lost 100% stainless castings are precision CNC milled to exacting dimensions, bored and chambered, and then the standard polished models required a huge amount of sanding, grinding and polishing which adds significant cost. There was so much hand work involved, that Bond arms employed the use of two high tier automotive finishing robots nicknamed the “yellow robot twins”.  Gordon wanted to leverage robotics to deliver about 60% of the frame and barrel’s precision grinding, finishing, polishing. The main drive to robotics for Bond Arms was an otherwise risky reliance on a very high-skilled one-year apprenticed person to reach the level of speed, precision, and accuracy that the robots can achieve with 100% precision.  According to Gordon Bond, it was such a sophisticated use of robots, he was told many times it could not even be done. The twins are presented trays of precision CNC milled and chambered casings, and they systematically pick each one up and perform all the finish steps against various grinding machines and belt sanders. It really is almost magical to watch.

As a “toss it in your pocket” gun, there is no gun I feel more comfortable with backing around potentially with my keys, tac light, and/or knife all just four inches from my family jewels. Any other gun with a round in the chamber presents a substantial accidental discharge risk where just the right condition could occur where any number of items in my pocket could accidentally pull the trigger. With the Bond Arm firearms, the garbage in my pocket would need to manually cock the 10-lb hammer and then reposition and pull on the rather hefty 8-lb trigger which is just not going to happen even on my tight pants days. 

The Roughneck, Rowdy and Grizzly models all represent an incredibly high quality, extremely high tier of handgun safety, and are simple to use options for defense or for a bit of range time fun. The only quality gap customers might see are some swirly tool marks, tiny casting imperfections, and rough areas that would never be acceptable on Bond’s current line of products. On my Roughneck, I could see some casting marks on the frame bridge and trigger guard. For $269, the Roughneck is one heck of a quality gun considering really any other alternative. Where else can you get a solid stainless gun, with bomb-proof construction and reliability with the ability to convert to another caliber or barrel length in under a minute. Extra barrels of any caliber and length range from $130 up $230 with other custom barrel options available and are 100% cross compatible with any of the frames.  As a base to start custom laser engraving, hand engraving, or just some insane cerakote, these are clearly the choice I would make and a fantastic option for very little money. My only want on this little gun is some fancy grips which serve no other purpose other than make me stare at my gun more. A word of caution, these are pretty addicting to buy and add barrels to, so I would caution buyers that your first Bond Arms gun will be the beginning not the end of the journey.


The Bond Arms Roughneck is based on the “Backup” model which is one of Bond’s most popular 2.5-inch barreled models with a removable trigger guard. Like all Bond double barreled firearms, the Roughneck is fully compatible with all accessories, barrel lengths and all sixteen caliber options Bond offers and you can even remove the trigger guard. If you want to customize your Roughneck, it is just a grip or barrel swap away from supporting another configuration or caliber. So why is the Roughneck nearly $200 less than other comparable Bond Arms models? The simple answer is using all the same parts but with drastically reduced finishing and polishing, the full answer is a bit longer.

Having toured Bond Arms, you start to realize that there is way more to all the finishing and almost insane amount of QC that goes into such a deceptively simple firearm. You forget at first that these are 100% stainless firearms with lots of hard to sand, polish and inspect curves vs the much simpler and less expensive injection molded lowers with blocky nitrided slides found on most guns today.  What Bond Arms faces is a double barreled handgun with all the finishing requirements of a fine quality revolver.

Before the robot twins, everything was at a stand still until the highly skilled human could get back on the production line after unforeseen sickness, personal schedules, vacations, turnover, and personnel issues. The human risk to business was too high for the critical finishing step and robotics allowed an even higher level of consistency. They could also run 24x7 lights out if needed with the same precision on every frame and barrel. There is still a cost per hour to cover with robots and the human tray sequencing and staging required which means Bond Arms had to figure out a way to not use the yellow robot twins for the Roughneck. 

The Bond Arm Roughneck uses all the same quality stainless castings but instead are finished with a very abbreviated process that is just minimal hand deburring of the frame and barrel after CNC casting clean up and then are heavily bead blast plus minor surface milling boring, rifling and chambering of the barrel. The normal inspection, testing and QC processes remains, but overall a lot of time is saved. According to Gordon, omitting all that sanding and polishing is such a significant time savings that four or five RoughNeck’s can be made in the same time as it takes to build just one $543 Texas Defender. Obviously, that savings allows Bond Arms to still offer a very high quality $269 hand cannon that anyone can afford with no cuts in material or functional quality. In fact Bond Arms offers three firearms in this less finished and less expensive format including this Roughneck .357Mag/.38Spl, 45ACP, or 9mm and .45 Colt/.410 Rowdy & another larger gripped Grizzly model.


Frankly, the first time I passed by the Bond Arms booth at SHOT show, I just did not get it.  As a tactical handgun shooter with a fairly significant amount of training, it really did not check a lot of my tactical boxes, that is, until Gordon handed one to me at the show. I would bet Gordon Bond sells the high majority of his guns by putting them in peoples hands. The nostalgic design certainly sucks you in, but the heft and quality makes you take notice. If your mindset is that derringer style guns are light and cheap feeling, then you have never handled anything from Bond Arms. After you suddenly realize these guns also happen to have various length barrel options for all your favorite defensive calibers in only a tiny 4.5-inch length which is shorter than a Ruger LCP .380, you start to see them as a strong backup option. What made me a believer in the design was my first time shooting .357, 9mm, .45ACP and 45 Colt/.410 models, it not being a scary experience and the ability to swap between all those barrels in under a minute each. 

All of these calibers are no joke from a power perspective in a 4.5-inch format. Defensive .410 rounds from my larger gripped Ranger 2 is stout and the power is obvious and seeing what .410 defense rounds can do out of one of these is impressive.  For the handgun rounds, I saw groups that were really very close to what a lot of snub nose revolvers delivered. The followup “shot” was surprisingly fast and reloads are actually pretty quick. I do think rimmed cartridges are a bit faster to extract and reload. With statically the chance of having to use a gun being low and most defensive shooting occuring in an “average” of 1.5 shots, two shots is doable and loaded with hot .357 Magnum rounds they pack far more punch than a comparably sized .380 that may require four rounds to do the same job. The .38 Special/.357 Magnum chambering is really flexible, consuming everything from low recoil rounds, to hot .357 Magnum, to birdshot snake rounds, and some of my home brew gallery and triple .38 lead ball reload rounds.  For me, these Bond Arms have been fantastic little backup guns typically shoved in a pocket or a Galco tuckable holster, usually used for my Ruger LCR, or a custom pocket holster. Bond Arms BAJ - In WaistBand Holster is another quality and simple option.

Obviously there are not target guns and are not going to replace your competition S&W R8, but they do deliver accuracy much better than you would expect. The reality is that you have two barrels which inherently are going to both have marginally different points of impact even when manufacturers with the tier of CNC equipment Bond Arms is using. At normal 7-yard distances, two round 1-inch groups are certainly doable with some attention to a consistent grip and a stable shot. The net is this is a very serious gun and after dozen rounds, the design and performance is confidence inspiring when you start to stretch out to distances you would not believe were possible with a 2.5-inch double barrel firearm. I was banging on silhouette sized steel even at 50-yard which is way beyond nearly any normal defensive distance. 


From a safety perspective the Roughneck and all other Bond Arms firearms are super safe with the ability to assure it is unloaded by swinging the barrel completely open and stare down both barrels from the safe breach end. They have also included an adjustable safety detent on the hammer blocking safety which can increase or lower the safety selector tension. My preference is to lock it in “fire”. In practice, I did find a few draws where I accidentally clicked the safety on during the reload and pulled the trigger only to have the hammer fall on the cross bolt safety. My carry method is the hammer down, so the safety could be an issue for me, however the safety is extremely safe and allows for cocked safety-on carry as well. Bond also includes a rebounding hammer which blocks the hammer from touching the firing pins unless the trigger is held and retracting firing pins to assure the firing pins can never be out during a reload. The rebounding hammer also works as a trigger decocker safety which allows you to hold back the hammer, trip and release the trigger while you ease the hammer forward until it rests in the rebounded position - decocking the gun safety. If your finger is not on the trigger and your thumb slips during that decocking, it will not fire. Would you expect anything less for a premier quality handgun?



  • Stainless steel double-barrel and frame

  • Compatible with all standard Bond Arms barrels

  • Patented rebounding hammer

  • Retracting firing pins

  • Cross-bolt safety

  • Spring-loaded, cammed locking lever

Model #: BARN

MSRP: $269.00

Caliber .357Mag/.38Spl, .45ACP, 9mm

Barrel Length 2.5"

Grip Material Rubber

Grip Size Standard

Sights Front blade, fixed rear

Length 4.5"

Weight 19 ounces

Trigger Guard Yes