For everyday carry, compact is king. All pistol makers have found a way to trim the grip until it is short enough to prevent “printing” (showing under a shirt or jacket), but the barrel and slide have remained long due to the engineering constraints of the guns’ operation. It’s just the nature of things.
That is, it was the nature of things, until the Bond Arms Bullpup 9 came along. With this gun, the slide and barrel end directly in front of the trigger guard. At first glance, you’d half-expect the nose of the chambered round to be visible, poking out from the front of the slide. But, of course, it isn’t, because the barrel of the Bullpup 9 is actually over 3 inches long, just cleverly hidden. Like the Tardis in “Dr. Who,” it’s bigger on the inside.
The Bullpup 9’s unique design allows for a 3-inch barrel with an overall length of merely 5 inches.
How? Simple: The slide is not a striker-fired design, where the rear half is used just to house the striker, spring and levers; instead, it is a hammer-fired, double-action-only (DAO) pistol. And the flat plate on the back, which appears to be the plate containing the striker parts, is the hammer. The part of the slide behind the chamber needed for the firing mechanism must only be long enough to hold the firing pin, its retainer and its return spring. The barrel rotates and rides over the magazine.
I can see some of you visualizing this and wondering, With the barrel over the magazine, how does it feed? The slide, when it travels back after firing, pulls each cartridge backward out of the magazine, and then, when it goes forward, it feeds it into the chamber. Of course, this takes some getting used to, as the century-plus-old custom of stuffing cartridges base-first into a magazine must be resisted.
The Bullpup 9’s operation is simple: Load the magazine (each round nose-first) and insert it. Pull the slide back and release, chambering a round; and then aim and stroke through the trigger, which will cock and release the hammer/rear plate of the slide, firing the pistol.
The slide will retract (slightly delayed by unlocking the rotating barrel). It will pull the next cartridge in sequence backward out of the magazine, lift it, present it to the chamber and, when going forward, chamber it, rotate the barrel and lock closed. The slide will not lock open when the last round has been fired, so count your shots or act when you get a click instead of a bang.
Now, since pistols have been feeding cartridges by pushing them forward for well over a century, ammunition manufacturers have ensured bullets will not set back into the case under recoil and when feeding. They have not spent time preventing the opposite. Bond Arms had to test loads to see which presented a problem and inform those manufacturers. When I first tested this gun, the list of approved cartridges was not large, but at last check, the defensive loads totaled 34, from many ammunition makers, and the practice/range loads came to 25. So, even in this era of ammunition anxiety, you can usually count on finding some.
The Bullpup 9 also requires new habits in unloading. When the slide moves forward to chamber a round, or when you insert a loaded magazine, the feed claw engages the top round in the magazine. To unload, you first drop the magazine and then cycle the slide twice. The first extracts the chambered round and chambers the round held by the feed claw. The second cycling of the slide extracts that round. No problem for me, as I typically rack any slide two or three times after the chambered round comes out, just to be sure.
Now, since the barrel is just over 3 inches long, despite appearances, velocity does not suffer. The barrel offers as much length for powder burn as any other compact; however, you are losing sight radius. A standard pistol with the same-length barrel is going to offer an extra inch and a half. Couple that with the DAO trigger, and you’ll have to work harder for accuracy. Still, an everyday-carry pistol is not a target pistol, and group size at 25 yards is not the be-all and end-all of a carry gun’s worth. With a little practice, a falling plate rack at 10 yards is easy to hammer down—that’s a long distance for most defensive situations.
The Bond Arms Bullpup 9 is an ultra-compact, ultra-flat single-stack 9 mm pistol that has a lot going for it as an everyday-carry choice. The trigger is very good for DAO, much like that of a tuned revolver. The gun, however, is unforgiving of bad technique and will punish your mistakes. Additionally, the barrel ending directly in front of the trigger guard presents a need for hypervigilance to ensure you don’t cover the muzzle with your hands. So, if this is your choice, get in plenty of practice. But if you’re looking for a super-compact gun, you really can’t beat the Bullpup 9 in size.