In the 1830s, Philadelphia gunsmith Henry Deringer designed and introduced a number of compact, large-caliber percussion pocket pistols that were very popular with both frontiersmen and even more “urban” types. By the 1860s, when these guns made the transition to rimfire cartridges, the word “Derringer” had somehow not only gained a second “R,” but also, by convention, come to be a generic term used in reference to all such-styled pocket pistols, regardless of who manufactured them. While the overwhelming majority of “Derringers” were single-shot, single-barreled pistols, a single shot was often ineffective; this gave birth to double- and triple-barreled guns, and even four-barreled “pepper-boxes.”
The reason derringers enjoyed such popularity in the 1800s and early 1900s was simple: Contrary to popular belief, open carry was far less permissible, and therefore less widespread than many of us have come to think. Even in the 1800s, folks had begun to violate the people’s Second Amendment rights with a common practice of enacting municipal ordinances prohibiting the carry of guns in East Coast cities and frontier towns alike.
Some of these towns were dangerous places, particularly the cow towns, and naturally a large number of individuals took to carrying concealed weapons—from knives to pistols. This was particularly true of gamblers. Going armed in such times required resourcefulness and innovation in weapon design, hence the success of the derringers—and it is for that very same reason that, despite the advances in both weapon and ammunition designs and materials, these guns continue to capture their niche of the firearms market.
Bond Arms of Granbury, Texas, manufactures rugged, high-quality derringers in 22 calibers. At the heart of these derringers are their frames and distinctive octagonal barrels, CNC-machined from high-grade stainless steel investment castings. Each barrel is button-rifled with a right-hand twist and a chamfer-tooled 45-degree crown. Externally, the barrels are beveled at the leading edge. The satin finish is done by hand with nylon buffing wheels. Furthermore, the barrels are interchangeable.
The Bond Arms derringer has modern design features, such as its spring-powered reloading lever on the left side of the frame, which, when turned clockwise about an eighth of a turn, snaps the barrels open. It also creates a tighter barrel-to-frame fit. The ejector also automatically extends about an eighth of an inch under spring pressure upon opening the barrels, starting the cases out of the chambers. It also features a cross-bolt safety. Bond also fits their guns with two additional safety features—retracting firing pins (the pins retract into the frame under spring tension, eliminating the possibility of an accidental discharge should the barrels be closed sharply) and a rebounding hammer. Retail is about $399; Bond Arms guns are American-made and carry a lifetime warranty. (bondarms.com; 817-573-4445)