First Look: Bond Arms Bullpup 9mm Semi-Automatic

The Bullpup 9 is not a new design, but one that has been reworked to enhance reliability and reduce price.

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One of the great things about being a gunwriter is getting a chance to test new products before they are fully released to the public-and then getting to tell the public about your impressions.

I have just had that opportunity with a new handgun from Bond Arms called the Bullpup 9.

If you are familiar with Bond Arms, you know that up until this point they have been the manufacturers of an extensive lineup of very fine two-shot stainless steel derringer handguns with interchangeable barrels. Now Bond can add a semi-automatic handgun to their list.

The Bullpup 9 is not a new design, but one that has been reworked to enhance reliability and reduce price. Last year Bond bought the Boberg Company, which had developed a reverse feed, locked breech, bullpup 9mm handgun called the XR-9. A bullpup handgun (or rifle) places the chamber/breech farther to the rear of the handgun while retaining the same length barrel. This makes for a more compact firearm that retains the same or greater barrel length than competing traditional designs and thus a "full size" ballistic advantage.

The design of the Bullpup 9 places the rear of the breech in line with the center of the grip rather than ahead of it, which necessitates a variety of design innovations to pull the concept off. One of those is the reverse feed system.

The Bullpup 9 has no feed ramp. The rounds are fed into the chamber much like an artillery shell is fed in a straight line into a cannon breech. The term "reverse feed" is used to describe the magazine operation.

Instead of loading and unloading the rounds from the front of a traditional magazine, 9mm rounds are loaded into the Bullpup 9 from the rear, and extracted and chambered from that direction as well. Bond Bullpup 9 magazines don't use a traditional plastic follower-the rounds are loaded directly on top of the spring. So if you buy a Bullpup 9 don't call Bond and say the magazines are missing parts. Magazines are stainless steel single stack, and hold seven rounds. They are easy to load capacity.

The Bond Bullpup 9 barrel and slide is constructed of 415 stainless steel, while the frame is aircraft grade 7075 aluminum. The slide features beveled edges for close carry comfort. The slide is silver in color while the frame is black making for a nice contrast. Bond replaced the plastic grips of the original Boberg XR-9 with the signature Rosewood grips used on their derringers enhancing the appearance of the Bullpup 9 and improving the grip feel. The frame has horizontal grooves cut into the frontstrap to insure control while firing. The curved backstrap and grip angle makes the Bullpup 9 "melt" into the shooters hand. Overall length of the Bullpup 9 is only 5.1 inches. Weight is 17.5 ounces, width is .96 inches and height is 4.2 inches-which is very compact for a 9mm pistol. Even with this small size, the barrel length is 3.35 inches-longer than pistols of similar dimensions. This gives the Bullpup 9 a ballistic advantage over other compact/micro 9mm handguns.

The Bullpup 9's controls are very simple-trigger, standard magazine release button, and combination takedown/slidelock lever on the left side of the frame.

The Bullpup 9's slide does not lock back on the last shot, which helps keep the design simpler. However, like the original Ruger LCP, the slide can be locked open to show safe and clear. To do this pull the slide all the way to the rear and rotate the lever down 90 degrees. Rotating the lever all the way forward initiates takedown. The current sights are three dot "Novak Style" combat sights adjustable for windage. I am sure that night sights will soon be available as well.

The stainless steel trigger is nicely curved and is double action only. Reset happens when the trigger is all the way forward. There is almost no slack. The resetting trigger is very smooth and easily managed at 7.5 lbs. The surprisingly small recoil spring means that retracting the slide is easier than standard compact/micro 9mm's, which brings up an important point when you are charging the chamber with a live round-retract the slide FULLY to the rear.

Remember that the Bullpup 9's reverse feed pulls the cartridges from the rear. You will need to pull the slide all the way back, and I mean all the way, to feed the first round. Reaching over the top of the slide in a Hollywood style charging technique is going to result in jamming the gun. You need to use the original charging method for semi-automatics to get the first round set up correctly-using the thumb and index finger in a "slingshot" grip, pulling the slide all the way back and letting it go, making sure you do not inhibit the slides forward motion. This is a good practice for operating any semi-auto.

The chamber of the Bullpup 9 features a large viewing port to make sure you have a chambered a live cartridge and that you didn't short stroke the slide when charging. I also found during live firing that charging the pistol by releasing the slide from lockback will not properly insure the first round is chambered. The lever serves only as a chamber inspection device.

At the range I fired the Bullpup with two rounds from the approved list, which currently consists of 31 practice and defensive rounds, and one which wasn't approved at that time-Winchester's "white box" 147 grain FMJ ammo. The other rounds I had on hand from the current approved list were the American Eagle 124 FMJ load and SIG Sauer's 124 grain Crown Elite JHP self-defense loads.

This is a very comfortable pistol to shoot! Firing at 30 feet two hand standing, I was able to obtain six-shot groups in the 1.5 to 2 inch range with the various loads. Feeding and cycling was flawless with all the rounds tested. However I did initially experience some light hammer strikes. At the 50 round point I added a drop of oil to the firing pin channel, which immediately fixed the problem, and the pistol fired through the 100 round mark without further issues. It appears that a short break in time was needed in addition to the drop of oil, and I have been comfortable with daily carry of the Bullpup 9.

I brought along a SCCY 9mm pistol to compare ballistics. The SCCY 9mm has an OAL of 5.7 inches with a barrel length of 3.1 inches. I ran the velocity of the Sig Elite 124 grain V-Crown over my chronograph at 15 feet in both guns. Velocity from the SCCY averaged 1048 FPS and 302 FPE. Velocity from the Bullpup 9 averaged 1094 FPS and 330 FPE-an additional boost of 28 foot pounds from a gun that is .6 inches shorter overall than the similar sized SCCY. I will take all the extra KE I can get.

Bond Arms was able to improve the interior workings of the Bullpup 9 over the original XR-9 by eliminating the need for a special anti-seize grease, which was troublesome. Just as importantly they were able to reduce the MSRP from $1349 for the original Boberg XR-9 down to $977 for the Bullpup 9-a savings of $372!

You won't see the Bullpup 9 on the Vance Outdoors shelves just yet, but you can order one from Bond Arms to be transferred to you by Vance's. There is a lot more information about the Bond Bullpup 9 on the Bond Arms website including informational videos and a computer animation that shows how he pistol cycles. If you are looking for a distinctly different carry pistol which wring's out the most ballistic potential possible from the 9mm cartridge, consider the Bond Arms Bullpup 9.