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Review: Bond Arms BullPup9

Review: Bond Arms BullPup9

Looking at the Bond Arms BullPup9, something just looks wrong. The barrel seems impossibly short (in fact, the barrel is more than 3 inches long, which is generous for a subcompact pistol). This apparent magic is made possible by the “bullpup” configuration, which means the action of the pistol is behind the trigger group. While not entirely uncommon in long guns, the concept is rather unusual for handguns.

The magazine well on the pistol is directly below the chamber, rather than behind. This shifts the rear of the chamber (or the breechface) farther to the rear of the pistol. Since the barrel length of a semi-automatic is measured from the breechface, a longer barrel can be fit into the slide assembly as compared with a traditional pistol. A longer barrel means more potential accuracy and velocity than a comparably sized, standard design.

This particular configuration was pioneered by Arne Boberg of Boberg Arms, and was originally released in 2013 as the XR9-S. The Bond Arms BullPup9 generated a lot of interest, but was pricey and produced in relatively small quantities. In 2015, the Boberg design was acquired by Bond Arms, a well-known manufacturer of high-quality, derringer-style handguns. Bond Arms spent more than a year refining the design and the manufacturing process to reintroduce the pistol.

(l.) White-dot sights are standard front and rear, although both are dovetailed should a different style of sight be desired. (ctr. & r.) More resembling a flap, the hammer sits flush at rest and reveals a wide opening when the trigger is pulled.

As you might expect, moving the chamber directly on top of the magazine introduces some additional complexity. A spring-loaded pair of tongs grasps the rim of the top round in the magazine and—together with the recoil of the slide assembly—rips the round backward from the magazine, and then shoves it forward into the chamber. There is no feed ramp in the usual sense, and the entire process used in the Bond Arms BullPup9 is strikingly different from traditional pistols. Even the magazines have only a naked spring, with no follower, because none is required for this design.

The bullpup configuration has a couple of other notable advantages. The action is smooth in all aspects. The slide assembly requires a weaker spring than other pocket-size autos, making manipulation of the slide easier than most. It also has a smooth—although long—trigger pull. All of the operations of the pistol feel easy and precise.

Unfortunately, the innovative bullpup design is not without its inherent drawbacks, as well. The round being loaded is ripped backward with such force that the bullet can actually be pulled—partially or even fully—from its casing. While this is not unsafe in itself, the resulting malfunction could be difficult to clear. The remedy is to use only high-quality ammunition that has been manufactured with a strong crimp between the bullet and the case. Although Bond Arms has done this research and provides a list of approved ammunition (currently nine self-defense loads and 22 target loads), ammo choices are limited. While the Bond Arms BullPup9 is rated for 9 mm +P, only one load is approved. (The most current list of approved ammunition is available on the Bond Arms website.)

(l.) Unique rosewood grips showcase the Bond Arms lineage. (ctr.) The trigger contains a linkage that releases the hammer, and the pull, while long, is quite smooth. (r.) Unlike most handguns, rounds are pulled out of the magazine, not pushed.

The BullPup9 also lacks a few features that are commonplace on similar guns. The slide does not lock rearward when empty, and the magazines do not fall free when released. Speed loading is obviously not a strength of this design, but is often a matter of concern with all pistols this size.

It does have a slidestop integrated with the take-down lever. Rotating the lever 90 degrees locks the slide to the rear, while rotating 180 degrees permits removal of the slide for field stripping. While I appreciate the efficiency of using one lever for both functions, I don’t like the possibility of pushing the lever too far when trying to clear a malfunction and inadvertently disassembling the gun.

At the range, the Bond Arms BullPup9 performed very well. The gun is easy to shoot and surprisingly accurate for a subcompact. I had no issues with the pistol after a reasonable break-in period. The trigger pull reminds me of a quality revolver—long and smooth. And like a revolver, the trigger reset is also quite long, essentially needing to be released to its full length of travel to fire the next shot.

In my time at the range, I could never get comfortable with the relative shortness of the pug-nosed barrel. With my large mitts, I had to be very careful not to get any part of my hand in front of the muzzle when racking the slide, or even indexing my trigger finger on the pistol frame.

Complex engineering is at play, and ammunition choices are thus constrained.

Everything about Bond Arms’ newest gun, and its first semi-automatic pistol, exhibits high quality. The Bond Arms BullPup9 has the feel of a precision watch, and does not feel overpriced at its $977 suggested retail. This is definitely a premium product for shooters who enjoy owning and shooting nice things.

Whenever you have an innovative new design, you always have to ask whether the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The BullPup9 has the advantage of a more compact size, at the cost of markedly increased complexity and limited ammunition choices. Everything about the feel and operation of this pistol is different—so you have to be prepared for an adjustment. I would not recommend this gun for a novice shooter. But, if you are ready for something outside the ordinary, this pistol is an engineering marvel. The Bond Arms BullPup9 is undoubtedly an impressive and important pistol that is not for everyone.

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