Does the Boberg/Bullpup9 Design Reduce Recoil?

If you ask Bond Arms, they will tell you that their Bullpup9 (previously the Boberg XR9S) gets multiple benefits from its unique operating mechanism. Most everyone familiar with the gun knows about the idea that it provides and extra cartridge-length worth of barrel for the same overall length as a traditionally design pistol. However, it is also claimed that the Boberg design reduces slide weight and velocity, thus imparting less felt recoil and less muzzle climb when firing.

This is an interesting question, and one that is often ignored in discussion of the design, I think. It’s easy to fixated on the more obvious strengths and weaknesses of the design, but the question of felt recoil has a lot of merit. Felt recoil is influenced by many factors, and I am curious whether Bond Arm’s claim in this matter is justified.

So, I grabbed my long-time friend Joel and we took a selection of comparable pistols out to put it to the test. We have a Bond Bullpup9, a Rohrbaugh R9, a Kahr PM9, and a Sig P365. The intent is not to judge them overall, but just to compare recoil and handling, both by shooting impression and also through high speed videography. So, let’s get down to it!

To see more of Joel and get an entertaining and educational perspective on off-grid life, check out his web site – Joel’s Gulch.

23 Comments

  1. First I have to admit – I am not pistol shooter. In past I put thru few mid size pistols couple hundreds of shots and that’s it. For many years I did not touch one. It is a difficult sport to do here in Canada anyway.

    My overwhelming impression when seeing these mini-9s is that they suck. To hit something you have to be real close, which is probably their main purpose. Btw. that fella Ian took to his aid said it right. Someone who ‘lives out of desert’ (as he said) and carries Red Hawk at his waste cannot be wrong.

  2. I’m going to assume that Boberg went out of business & Bond bought the assets on the cheap. I can’t imagine they were selling so many of them Bond thought it would be a good addition to their business umbrella. I hope that decision doesn’t bring financial ruin to them, as I’m surprised this little turd ever made it onto a production line.
    As I said about the Hudson: “Ian pre-reviews a future Forgotten Weapon!”

      • Yupp. Bond Arms has found a niche with its derringers and now added this rather unique pistol to it. Their customers are obviously okay with their pricing. And the formerly Boberg pistol is IMHO not that expensive for a small production all steel pistol /w an unusual operating system.

  3. I think “turd” is a little harsh. Complicated-expensive-unconventional, but so are Korth and Korriphila, and they’re still in business. YouTube commenters on Ia’s Boberg video claim that Boberg had to sell the company as part of a divorce decree and that the pistols were selling well enough to keep him in business. A number of satisfied Boberg and Bond Arms customers also chimed in. Like the P7, it either suits you or doesn’t. And speaking of Heckler & Koch, did Ian’s HK hat show some kind of bias?

    Does the Boberg’s longer rotating barrel do anything for accuracy?

    • I used “turd” because I didn’t want to use profanity. This pistol is being marketed as a defensive tool. This not a target or competition pistol. Let’s say I go to a match & forget my ammunition. The local gun shop only carries the brands NOT recommended. What have I lost? A $20 entry fee. What if I’m using it to defend my family and it jams up because I didn’t fully retract the slide while reloading with an injured hand? What do I lose then?
      A defense-oriented pistol that can’t perform its intended function under adverse conditions is not worth the money. The HK P7 was odd, yet fairly simple mechanically, but it worked. Korth no longer makes the pistol with the locking lug under the muzzle, but now makes 1911s. The Korriphila is a roller delayed PP – different, but based on proven designs.
      This thing reminds me of some contraption made in 1903 to get around someone else’s patent. It’s unique & expensive, so it must awesome! And I get an extra 30 fps from that 1/2″ longer barrel!
      The firearms industry, like all industries, has a lot of overpriced ‘snake oil’. It doesn’t have to be just strange things like the Boberg, but many companies churn out junk that doesn’t work and people waste their money on it.
      But whatever. If someone’s got the money & a Boberg makes them happy, by all means, buy one. Or 3. Caveat emptor!

      • Ok, I get that you’re skeptical, but there’s real mechanical advantages here, not fake, misrepresented advantages like the Hudson;
        It’s got a different mag layout, but which comes with distinct advantages in the subcompact carry niche (an extra 25% of barrel length, and an extra round since there is no mag follower). The feed system is long-proven in belt fed guns, just not in 9mm’s.
        It’s got an axially-recoiling barrel lockup design, which helps reduce bore axis as well as smooth out the felt recoil of the barrel unlocking –feels nicer to manually cycle, fewer mid-recoil jars of the weapon, slightly more reliable to go back into battery
        It’s got gain-twist rifling that increases muzzle velocity and reduces wrist torsion since it operates opposite the barrel unlock direction. Neither the barrel cam nor rifling instantaneously try to rotate the barrel or bullet; this means the instantaneous torque applied to the shooter’s hand is much less than for a linear cam geometry.
        The locking & feed systems are quite strong; Arne Boberg chambered one in 460 Rowland (or was it 45 Super?) toward the end as an experiment…the gun held, and was apparently halfway pleasant to shoot (though maybe his threshold is much higher than mine).

        Folks present the Boberg pistol as the problem simply because it is different from the accepted pattern, when nearly all (perpetually exaggerated) problems have been solely the fault of ammunition –the one part of the system the gun can’t even control, and which is equally the case for push-feed designs. Push-feed designs are finicky about ammunition overall length, bullet profile, and even case material…yet working around those limitations is generally accepted once it’s a known issue; “the gun doesn’t like flat-nose.” The Boberg is no different, except the only variable is the presence/absence of sufficient case crimp, and is easily identified & remedied with only minimal ‘proving’ required on the range to be assured of proper function; “the gun doesn’t like uncrimped ammunition.”

        Every review I’ve seen that encountered a bullet-separation failure, either recklessly disregarded the clear warnings and company-provided list of dozens of known-good ammo options, or –as Ian did in his review– intentionally used known-bad ammo to force a malfunction. No pistol will run correctly when you feed it ammo known to make it malfunction; it’s circular logic. And yet the shock & outrage when the Boberg fails to cycle ammo known to cause failures, even when it is easily avoided; nothing but an expensive turd, right? Every review I’ve seen that forced this malfunction did so simply because of the novelty of the failure; a double-feed or stove-pipe isn’t very interesting, but spraying gun powder all over while bullet & case go flying in opposite directions sure gets people to watch!

        The only reason the crimp is even a variable in the first place, is because cheap ammo makers can usually get away with it in a push-feed design (except for the whole bullet-setback kaboom thing). Once the crimp is secured, it’s *more* reliable than push-feeding since it is less sensitive to subtle cartridge geometry variation…which is why it’s the preferred system for belt fed weapons.

  4. Higher muzzle velocity of a certain round means for higher recoil.

    Equal mass slide and barrel should give roughly equal recoil force at short recoil locked breech…

    Rotating barrel lock, through the mechanical disadvantage it uses, gives slower slide speed at recoil…

    lf Bond Arm’s pistol seems giving lesser muzzle rise, it should be from the cause of its using rotating barrel lock… lt would be better adding another same lock type pistol in the experiment if could be find any…

    • I agree. Rotating barrel lock poses some extra resistance. We saw it go away in some instances, but it is well proven design. Even Glock chose it for its premium pistol.

    • There’s also the effect of gain-twist rifling, which results in a similarly gentler reaction torquing the wrist. The vertical motion is what is always the most noticeable, but lightweight top-heavy guns in particular have a notable torque component, and it’s one which the wrist has a harder time resisting. Also, a tilt-barrel slams the barrel up & down, which imparts complementary forces that jar the wrist.

  5. Beretta PX4 is a rotating bbl pistol, albeit the sub-compact is a tilting bbl. The cartridge lifter, while adding mechanical complexity, is also utilizing some of the energy that would otherwise add to the slide’s velocity. It’s a fascinating design, and I hope (as I hope for all designs) that it continues in profitable production.

    The specific ammunition that the Bond Bullpup/Boberg requires is to prevent the bullet being left in the magazine while the now empty case is fed smoothly into the chamber, as most ammo manufacturers didn’t envision their cartridges being ripped backwards out of the magazine and thus their crimps are not always sufficient for the unusual action.

    • It’s a very common action in belt-feds, but like you said, isn’t seen much in pistols. Frankly, considering how well-known the concept of bullet setback is as well as the consequences, you’d think it should be considered a good practice even in handguns.

      Sadly, the perception of crimped ammo being unusual doomed this interesting handgun, even though the factory-supplied list of tested ammo was dozens of entries long, and included quite a few popular & economical offerings.

      Personally, I always hoped for a 5.7×28 model (Arne was supposedly toying with one at one point). It would have ten or so rounds despite being subcompact, would have a barrel long enough to make them as effective as 9mm, the bullet weight would be so low that this bullet-pulling phenomena would likely not be a problem, the ammo selection is limited enough that it’d be easy to prove out the gun for all available offerings, and of course the price would be competitive with the five-seven competition (while the small size would offer a distinct practical advantage)

  6. Can you imagine how many people watch it from countries that they can buy only shotguns ? More or less recoil is not a new (…new) design or a new mechanism of a FW.So, what was the conclusion, and it serves whom and what ? How many people actually in the market for a small pistol(!!!) have changed their mind ?

  7. I know the Bullpup is the focus of this video, but I find it amusing that Remington improved the Rohrbaugh R9 when they turned it into the RM380. For all the flack that Remington gets for Freedom Group dropping the ball with build quality they did a good job with the RM380.

    • I disagree, Remington made a cheap copy of the R9.
      I own an R9, yes the recoil is quite sharp, but manageable.
      The R9 was designed strictly as a close up defense weapon, not a range toy.
      I also owned the RM380 for a short while, the only change I thought useful was the side mag release. Quite frankly, they ruined the rest if the gun by using cheap stamped parts and the ill fitting grips that interfere with the trigger were enough for me to dump it.

  8. Newton’s laws of motion apply and there’s no escaping from them.

    The firer’s hand is providing the resistance to any fancy things that the slide, the locking and the feed mechanism might be doing. You are going to get the equality but opposite momentum of the bullet and escaping gas, into your hand.

    That said, felt recoil depends on things like the height of the bore axis above the hand, grip angle, finish and back strap width, and how the weight of the gun is distributed.

    It also depends on how the recoil impulse is delivered over time, is it a relatively constant push delivered over a long period of time? Or is it an initial push that compresses the flesh and joints of the hand and arm, followed by a hard jolt as the moving parts bang against the stop surfaces?

    • Very appropriate mention. Yes indeed, hand/arm are integral part of the equation. Looking at pistol alone does not explain what is going on. Where is “coefficient of attenuation” of cartilage between middle hand portion and wrist joint? Our hand/ arm is lot more sophisticated than the handgun. We should get some medical doctors involved here 🙂

    • Indeed; “second order” forces (or accelerations, I should say) are what is really ‘felt’ when it comes to mechanical function. The rate of change of forces/acceleration, or ‘jerk,’ is what makes a gun smooth vs. hitchy.

  9. I own a Bond Arms bull-pup and find I can shoot it about as well as my 4-5” barreled defensive pistols at 30’, but not farther. By *about* I mean a 2-3” group opens up to a 4-5” group if I’m trying to shoot fast with the longish DA trigger. I find recoil to be more manageable for its size due to grip and “softer” reciprocating cycle. I also use 124 gr, ammo traveling slower than 115gr where recoil feels more snappy anyway. The better control aids accuracy. Off a bag, 2-3” groups are possible, but I also get very uniform groups (a big plus) offhand. But all this only comes with a lot more trigger time. After 50 rounds of DA you want a break, so its taken a year to stop the flyers. Long trigger but you learn anything with practice. I was surprised at the relative ease of handling in recoil but only compared to other pistols that were usually narrower with a smaller grip frame. I agree with another poster that a pocket gun is a debatable defensive choice, but if you’ve already decided to use one, I don’t find the Bond handicapped vs other small guns. For me it conceals best and *for its size* gives me better on target hit percentage from draw (a whole other debate) than 380 or small 9s that I’ve tried. Alas, Sig P365 was not one I could try out at my rental range. I might not have chosen as I did. Agreed, too expensive, but for me, its “novel” features provided real benefits.

  10. When Boberg made these he offered a short trigger pull factory option. I have a few Bobergs including a couple with the short trigger pull option and it does make a nice difference.
    Obviously the test Bond pistol didn’t have that.

  11. I loved the idea and the innovation in the Boberg/Bond. Was quite tempted to get one. New is so rarely better in the gun world… 🙁 Great episode Ian & Joel.

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