By John Popham
Many new 9mm subcompacts have hit the market in the last few years, but how many are small and light enough for easy daily carry, have a full 3.35″ barrel, and hold 7+1 rounds of +P ammo? Meet the Bond Bullpup9, which weighs barely over a pound, is noticeably smaller than a J-Frame or GLOCK 43, and offers the simplicity of double-action-only operation with second-strike capability.
To really appreciate the packaging genius of the Bullpup9 you must hold one in your hand. Racking the slide is incredibly easy — your arthritic grandmother can probably cope with this slide. The trigger feels like a very smooth, light double-action revolver. Finally, it’s easy to shoot. Bond says the rotating barrel locking system reduces recoil, but all I know is it has less felt recoil than some small .380 pistols I’ve shot.
The Bullpup’s short slide provides a huge advantage for appendix carry, as there is no protruding “nose” of slide and barrel to interfere with bending over or sitting. Providing so many advances over existing pistols required a fresh approach to how a pistol can be designed to operate.
Outside the Box
On first glance, the most noticeable feature of the Bullpup9 is its small overall size, and how short the slide appears to be. In fact, the slide and barrel only barely extend beyond the front of the trigger guard, even though it has a 3.35″ barrel. This gives the Bullpup9 an unmistakably unique appearance.
In the hand, the Bullpup feels and operates much like an ordinary pistol, but with some significant differences which must be experienced in person to really appreciate. Chambering a round comes as a surprise, because the slide requires much less effort than most pistols, although it must be operated with a quick snap.
The Bullpup’s double-action-only trigger activates an unusually wide, flat spurless hammer that allows a second-strike capability.
This design was selected because it gives enough mass to ensure reliable ignition without adding length or a spur that could snag during the draw. As a side benefit, it is easy to place a thumb on the hammer while holstering to help prevent unintended discharges. Because cartridges are loaded into the magazine from the rear, the first few magazine loadings require some concentration simply because it is not like any other magazine.
The Bullpup9 uses a truly unique patented reverse-feed mechanism that extracts rounds backward out of the magazine, then raises the round to line up with the chamber before the slide moves forward, so there is no feed ramp in the usual sense. Because all the loading action occurs behind the magazine, the firing chamber sits directly above the magazine rather than in front of it. That gives the Bullpup9 an extra inch or more of barrel length within its stubby slide compared to other semi-auto pistols.
The Bullpup9 employs a rotating barrel locking system. As the slide moves rearward, either by the initial loading rack or a round being fired, the top round is extracted from the magazine by a pair of “tongs” that grip the extractor groove in the cartridge, then the “lifting block” raises the round to align with the chamber for the slide to push it into place as it moves forward.
The chambering process does not depend on contacting a feed ramp, so the shape of the bullet does not affect operation of the Bullpup. A lug on the barrel engages a slot in the “unlock block” which rotates the two locking lugs into the locked position in the slide as the gun goes into battery, and rotates to unlock after firing. There are two extractors, and fired cases are ejected with extraordinary authority.
Because the Bullpup9 has a long trigger pull like a revolver, it has no manual safety. However, the transfer bar operates a firing pin block that locks the firing pin until the trigger is pulled through about three-quarters of its travel.
All this is fine, but the real question is — how does it shoot? It comes with low-profile snag-free three dot sights, though additional sight options are sure to come soon. A +P 9mm is a powerful round for a pocket-size pistol, but recoil is manageable, and fast follow-up shots are readily made. The grip is comfortable, with a grip angle similar to a 1911.
The short slide means a shorter sight radius, but with careful aim it gives up nothing to mid-size or larger pistols, and first-round hits at common defensive ranges are easy. My average-size hands get a solid two-finger grip with the pinkie folded under, but an extended magazine is in the offing for those who can accept a little more bulk to get a longer grip. Using a solid rest and sandbags, I was able to shoot the shown five-shot group at 7 yards (yes, there are five shots on this target).
The Bullpup9 is 5.1″ long, 4.2″ tall, and 0.96″ wide, and weighs 17.5 ozs. empty. The frame is aluminum, and the slide and barrel are stainless steel. Two 7-round magazines are included, so with a round chambered the Bullpup9 holds 8 rounds.
Takedown is simple. After assuring the gun is unloaded, remove the magazine, retract the slide to align the notch in the slide with the takedown lever, then rotate the lever 180 and the slide comes right off forward. Lift off the part Bond calls the “unlock block” and the barrel tilts out. That’s about all the disassembly the average user needs to do. With the slide upside down, the tongs that pull the next round out of the magazine are visible, and the whole operational sequence is easier to understand.
The magazine is puzzling at first. The rounds face the usual way, but are inserted into the back of the magazine with a pronounced downward slant. There’s no follower in the magazine either, as the rounds rest on the top loop of the magazine spring. Because the feeding sequence begins from a closed slide position as the tongs grasp the top round in the magazine, the slide does not lock back on the last round.
Feeding the Beast
Because the Bullpup operates differently from all other pistols on the market, it is no surprise some thought must be given to the ammunition used. Extracting a cartridge backward out of the magazine after a round is fired gives it a significant tug. If the bullet isn’t properly crimped, it can move forward in the case, just as can happen with lightweight revolvers using hot loads. Virtually all 9mm defensive rounds have plenty of crimp, and there are many choices among range and target ammo that also work well.
Use of uncrimped ammo (mostly the cheapest FMJ ammo) can result in the cartridge case being pulled completely off the bullet. I have never had this happen with good defensive ammo, but just like all other pistols, you should test your gun and ammo selections thoroughly before depending on them. The Bullpup manual lists recommended rounds, and the list is updated on Bond’s website.
Many legally armed citizens either cannot, or prefer not to, make major changes in their clothing to accommodate lawful concealed carry. Women, in particular, face additional challenges in concealing a weapon due to wardrobe. People whose work requires a uniform, or a certain standard of “business dress” may find it hard to conceal a large firearm. Summer temperatures make cover garments less practical.
Thus, the solution is to find the smallest and easiest-to-conceal pistol providing sufficient power and capacity to provide true defensive protection in a package that can be incorporated into a conventional wardrobe.
What alchemy did Bond find that all the other major manufacturers missed, and how did Bond manage to cram so many features into such a small space? About a year ago, Bond bought the patent and assets of Boberg Arms, which made the Boberg XR9, the predecessor to the Bullpup. Bond made some significant changes to the Boberg design, but a Boberg owner would immediately recognize the Bullpup9.
One of the major changes that Bond made to the original Boberg design was to coat the barrel and unlock block with a permanent lubricant coating that needs no maintenance beyond normal cleaning and an occasional drop of oil. Now, after more than a year of development, the Bullpup is coming out of Bond’s Granbury, Texas facility. The Bullpup9, like all Bond products, is made entirely in the U.S., and mostly in Granbury, Texas. The MSRP is $977, but its combination of attributes can’t be duplicated at any price in my opinion.
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index