Many handguns are available for concealed carry. You have a choice of make, model, caliber, capacity and actions. The great majority of them shoot relatively standard pistol loads, that being a single projectile fired from a standard casing and from a few different platforms: revolver or semiautomatic, single or double action, hammer or striker-fired actions. Most of them are solid, well made and effective in the hands of a reasonably trained shooter. The "reasonably trained shooter" is where the potential issues lie. It is my opinion that the majority of civilians carrying a concealed handgun for self defense are not reasonably trained. In my state, for example, one may qualify to process an application for a concealed carry permit by attending a class recognized by the state to provide sufficient education in handgun safety and the law. No range or shooting qualifications are specified or required. In other words, a person may never have fired a handgun, take the class and with the certificate one gets from that, apply for, and probably get, a concealed carry permit. Now, would any reasonable person consider that to be a good thing? I don't. Even to get licensed to drive a car, one must pass an actual basic driving class. Given this situation, I wanted to see if there are any advantages or liabilities in which handgun might be best both for the shooter and any unfortunate and innocent individuals who might happen to be on the scene if an untrained concealed carry person actually had to fire their weapon in self defense or the legal defense of others. The two criteria that became quickly obvious were to 1.) hit what is being aimed at, and, 2.) greatly reduce the chances of injuring innocent people.
Combining these criteria with the established fact that even trained individuals, such as law enforcement and military personnel are poor marksmen especially in highly volatile, high pressure shooting incidents (yes, you can look this stuff up and get actual but not encouraging statistics), led me to the notion that for most people, a short range, but widely effective type of weapon would be preferred over those that shoot a long distance and are difficult to aim and shoot accurately under self defense shooting conditions would be ideal. In other words, a shotgun would be the best gun to have in these circumstances. A handheld, easily carried and concealable shotgun that would be effective at close ranges but not threatening to anyone at longer ranges and didn't have to be aimed with pinpoint accuracy.
These considerations led me to look closely at the Bond Arms offerings. I chose one of their pistols with a 3 /1/2" barrel because it will shoot 3" .410 shotgun shells loaded with five pellets of 00 Buck, each of which is roughly equivalent to having five .38 special rounds in two barrels. Bond Arms was kind enough to agree to my request for one of their pistols to use in my evaluations and sent me one of their new Patriot models.
I have been carrying that Bond Arms Patriot model derringer since mid-2015. My intention has been to determine if this small but substantial gun can be used for concealed carry, and if it might be feasible to rely on it as one's primary concealed carry gun (CCG). I won't go into the Patriot's detailed specifications here, that information is readily available on the Bond Arms website. The Patriot, like all Bond Arms derringers can be easily and quickly fitted with different barrels in different lengths and calibers. I prefer the .45 Colt/.410 Gauge barrels for self defense, and the .410 gauge 00 Buck or one of the self-defense shells made specifically for pistols. Being able to launch the equivalent of five .38 Special rounds with one shot from 3 1/2" barrels is a significant persuader in my opinion, especially since those five balls will spread out quickly to cover a man-sized area at short distances.
I plan a future article focused on the shot patterns and shooting experiences with the 3" and 3 1/2" barrel sets using different .410 loads as well as .38 Special rounds. But for now, I want to address using the Bond Arms Patriot in a concealed carry, self defense role.
Carrying the Bond Arms Patriot
Many of the Patriot's attributes seems to have been designed for concealed carry. It is small and smooth, with few sharp angles that might cause printing. The grip is substantial, yet subtle, providing a quick and secure grip for the draw from a proper holster. The front sight, which is not functional for a pistol like this one in a quick, self defense mode, although large, is well rounded and doesn't get in the way of a smooth, quick draw. I suppose if the pistol was equipped with a different caliber barrel set, like a .38 Special or 9mm, and used primarily in a non-concealed carry mode, having front and rear sights might make some sense. Otherwise, having sights on a 3 1/2" hand-held shotgun isn't necessary.
When I received the Patriot for T&E, I contacted Paul G., owner, designer and chief bottle washer of pjholster.com and asked for one of his excellent kydex IWB holsters for it. Paul acquired the necessary molds and went to work, quickly producing two nice holsters for the gun, one with a hammer shroud, and one without. Like all of Paul's holsters these are light, secure, easy to clip on and take off and conceal the Patriot so that it disappears under a light T-shirt. Paul also put together a light, two round kydex holder for the .45 Colt and .410 rounds. Bond Arms asked to see his work and after looking them over decided to recommend his holsters to their customers. I second that recommendation.
So, the Patriot with either 3" or 3 1/2" barrels is a concealable, high-quality handgun easily carried in a quality holster like one of Paul's creations. What about utility and effectiveness in the concealed carry, self defense role?
The good: The Bond Arms Patriot, like all of their pistols, is small, but substantial. Very well made. Heavy, as it should be. Easily concealable with a good holster. High quality construction that will easily last longer than most of us will. Chambered for about any round you would reasonably shoot from such a gun and smart, quickly interchangeable barrel sets are readily available. One can attach the .45 Colt/.410 gauge set for concealed carry, or an "around the house" gun and be adequately armed. Put on a .22 cal set and go have fun without spending the month's utility bill on ammunition.
The not so good: Two shots, then reload. Obviously, if you have a derringer you will understand the capacity limitation. In a self defense role, it might become significant. I think it is important but not a totally constraining factor. Let's consider a few arguments that are both pro and con.
Most self defense gunfights are over after one or two shots. This is a story that just won't die. I suspect that its proponents have cherry-picked the data to support this contention. However, looking at statistics from law enforcement gunfights and from all self-defense type incidents, this argument doesn't hold up. Sometimes assailants are shot numerous times before being neutralized. Often, multiple shots are fired before effective rounds hit the target. People miss. The cops miss. Well trained veterans miss. Two shots may well be all that are necessary in some situations, but evidence says that is not sufficient in all situations. What are the options with a two-shot self defense gun?
Getting enough practice to enable very rapid ejection of the spent shells followed by reloading to get back into the fight would be one answer. I've seen videos of a Bond Arms shooter who reloaded his derringer faster than I can drop a magazine and reload my Shield. But, he is certainly the big exception to this rule. I wonder how many rounds that person sent downrange during his many practice sessions to be able to do that. Most of us don't have the time, opportunity, inclination or money to get to that level of expertise. I'm more concerned about the ordinary person who is carrying a weapon for self defense and does not have the time or interest to become an expert. For most of us, two shots with a derringer and the game changes if the bad guy, or guys, are still a threat.
Another option is to have another gun. Many experienced individuals advocate carrying two guns. They have various reasons, most of which are really good. I sometimes follow their advice, but not always. I'm not in law enforcement and don't expect to get into situations where two guns may be necessary, and, frankly, it is a pain to carry more than one gun most of the time. However, when going to towns, cities and places where I think the likelihood of danger is higher, I have carried two guns and the Bond Arms is an excellent choice for a second gun. I don't call it a "backup" gun because I may carry it in a position in which, circumstances depending, it might actually become the main, or first gun I resort to. I may have an SR9c riding on my strong side, with the Patriot at the appendix or cross-draw position because sitting in my car or at a restaurant for example the Patriot will be much easier to draw, and far less obvious to get my hand on if I need to do so without drawing attention.
Not all situations are the same, and it might well be the case in some of them that one can fire off two rounds, then have the time and opportunity to reload. Not all incidents happen and are over within a couple of seconds, though most street incidents do, according to many law enforcement speakers I have heard. Even so, these quick-fire actions do not always revolve around a fast draw contest. Often, if one is aware of what is happening as we should be, one knows that the situation is turning bad and has time to bring a gun into play first and get off an effective well-aimed shot.
There are no hard and fast rules except to carry your gun legally all of the time. You will have to make the call about which gun or guns you are most comfortable with. Away from home I have carried only the Patriot with two rounds in one of Paul's mag carriers on my belt, and two more in my pocket, just in case. I didn't feel under gunned or particularly vulnerable, but I don't live in a very dangerous place, so I think that was appropriate.
Continuing this line of thought, it is my opinion that the Patriot is an excellent choice for what I call an "around the house gun". I am a believer in the philosophy that if one decides to go to the trouble to carry, one should carry whenever possible, and that means around the house as well as around town. Now, I live in a pretty peaceful place. We've had the rare assault, break-ins, and a couple of years ago, one drunk young man stabbed another, killing him. Is this a crime wave? No. But, I also know that unbalanced individuals have, and will continue to go about killing people at random, robbing civilians on the street for drug money, or for more gas to get out of town. The reasons people kill other people are many and some are not easy to believe until you understand that some individuals just don't care if they kill another person. They don't think or feel as most of us do, and they make up a certain percentage of our population. It's not out of the realm of possibility that a couple of meth-heads, looking for money or to satisfy their strange logic, will crash into someone's house at night and go to work. That is not likely to happen where I live, but it is not impossible either.
It is very unlikely that I will be involved in a traffic crash, but I still wear my seat belt, make sure my airbag systems work and keep my car insurance up to date. I also carry a gun for much the same reason.
So, around the house, where we spend much time, is a good place to carry. Many people, perhaps most, who have a gun around the house keep it somewhere not on their person. This makes little sense to me. I'm in the kitchen. My gun is in a drawer in the bedroom. Some idiots crash into my house, waving guns, knives, baseball bats and decide to quickly take care of me and my wife and get what they want. I'm probably not going to make it back to the bedroom, retrieve my gun and start shooting. I'm probably going to be dead first. This is where the Bond Arms can come into it's own around the house.
If I shoot one of these individuals with a load of five 00 Buck pellets accompanied buy one of the loudest explosions they have ever heard going off in their face, the other(s) will likely run. If not, I've got another round to shoot again and increase my odds of getting to the other gun. While some might note that this situation is far from ideal (ideal would be to have a fully loaded semi-automatic 12-gauge loaded with 00 buck at hand) it is certainly better than not having a gun at all.
The Patriot being an easily carried, comfortable and concealable gun with a devastating punch is an ideal choice for an around the house, and out in the yard gun.
It is also a good choice to take along in the car, stowed in an accessible location, in case some idiot confronts you with deadly force while you are seated. A situation like that will be at very close range where the .410 barrels come into their effective best.
The not so good: Hammer and trigger. Derringers classically are made as single action, hammer fired weapons. Firearms technology has moved on since those early days and we now have reliable, easy to use mechanisms that are superior to single-action, hammer-fired pistols. There is nothing wrong with the early designs. They are time-tested and extremely reliable, which can not always be said about some of the newer technologies. However, in a self defense role, when speed and ease of actuation is at a premium, they are not the best choice available.
I have had conversations with Bond Arms about the hammer on their guns. I have also had conversations with other Bond Arms users and with some very knowledgeable people who are critical of the pistol for that reason. Simply put, you must cock the hammer before the gun will fire. Being that it is really not a good idea to carry a cocked single action pistol, even with the manual safety engaged, in a holster, especially a concealed carry holster, it is necessary to draw, then cock the hammer before firing the gun. This should not be an issue for a self defense gun. There are pistols with hammers that are easily and quickly cocked by the average person. The Bond Arms derringers are not among those. These hammers are controlled by springs that are strong and make them difficult to cock with one hand.
Let me emphasize here that this criticism, that the Bond Arms pistols' hammers are hard to cock one-handed is directed solely toward the pistol's use as a concealed carry self defense handgun. At this point, I have personally cocked and re-cocked my Patriot's hammer hundreds of times, perhaps as much as a thousand, in order to see if the action will smooth out and become easier. It did improve after the first 100 cycles or so, but beyond that it is essentially the same: difficult. I am over seventy years old, but I am also 6' 4", 212 pounds and in pretty good shape for an old guy. I have trouble cocking the pistol with one hand, especially after the first five or six times in a session. Of course, it is easy to cock the pistol with my non-shooting hand. When I lift my cover garment and draw the pistol my left hand is in a perfect position to fan the heel of that hand across the hammer, quickly putting it into the cocked position. This almost always works. However, as you know, you might be in a situation in which your off-hand isn't available: you are shielding someone, or moving someone out of the way. Your off-hand is injured or caught or you are using it to protect yourself from a close up assault. In these instances you must be able to draw, cock and quickly fire. This isn't always possible with the Bond Arms since the hammer is stiff and difficult to operate with one hand.
Those of us who are small, have weak grips due to size, health or age, will have a problem with the stiff hammer spring.
The trigger: Regardless of what a few people might say, the trigger on the Bond Arms guns is a fine trigger with a crisp and reasonable pull. Those who claim otherwise haven't taken the time to familiarize themselves with the pistol. The Bond Arms trigger is designed to be actuated a little differently than most. This trigger is made to be actuated with a simultaneous backward and downward motion. In other words, you roll the trigger back and downwards and, "snap", it releases the hammer. It is not meant to be pulled straight back. It is meant to accept the full joint of your index finger and is shaped to direct that finger's pull in the proper direction. From extensive experience and trials I can state that if gripped properly, with a full and secure grip, the trigger finger's first joint will naturally cover the trigger and protrude slightly out the opposite side. With this grip the trigger will easily pull with a natural squeeze. Those who have trouble with the Bond Arms trigger are almost always gripping the pistol improperly which results in only the tip of their finger riding on one edge of the trigger instead of lying fully across the trigger face as it should.
This isn't a problem with the trigger or its design but with the shooter holding the pistol improperly. A little training will easily overcome this seeming issue, which is not a gun problem but a "cockpit error".
Given the advantages and limitations of the Bond Arms derringers mapped against how you plan to use them, it should be easy to determine if one of their handguns has a place in your self defense plan. I've found where the Patriot is most useful for me and recommend it as a solid alternative when choosing handguns for self defense and concealed carry.
A final note having to do with the usefulness of the Bond Arms guns in another role. I live in Colorado and have the opportunity to spend time in the woods, mountains and on the rivers here. A few years back, the Forest Service and Park Service rangers began going about armed. My understanding of this is that escalating confrontations with campers, hikers and sometimes fishermen from the urban areas and from out of state necessitated the officials being able to protect themselves and others from increasingly outlaw behaviors. I've backpacked into some popular but wild areas and before I started carrying did, on a few occasions, feel particularly vulnerable when I encountered certain individuals. Once, fishing a high mountain lake in California, I quickly disappeared when a gang of obviously drunk and stoned jerks drove up. Now, when hiking or wading a river while fly fishing I go armed. The Bond Arms is a good choice for this activity, especially hiking or backpacking not only due to those factors, but also when considering that a small shotgun might serve to put some food into the campfire stick if one was ever put in a survival situation. So, a Bond Arms with a .410 gauge barrel set and a few 00 Buck and #6 shot shells would go a long way toward a successful outcome.
My thanks to Gordon Bond and Bob Tolar at Bond Arms for providing the Patriot and extra barrel sets for testing and evaluation and for answering my many pestering questions. The folks at Bond Arms make a superior firearm that easily takes its place among the highest quality guns produced today. The company and their handguns deserve serious and even-handed consideration. I love mine and it has earned a solid place in my collection of useful things.