Older Charter Arms Undercover - Jewel or Junk??


August 22, 2005, 03:12 AM
A friend's Grandmother showed me her blued Charter Arms .38 Undercover. Serial number is in the 48XXX range.

The little revolver has been sitting in its bag for years upon years. When I opened the action a shower of black soot and grime tumbled out. But after cleaning it up the gun's deep graphite-colored luster began to show and the action smoothed out nicely.

After a cursory inspection it appears to be a solid little gun. Timing and lockup is nice. The action feels positive and functional though a little rough. The rifling is clean with no pitting or rust. The wooden grips look to be the originals and are actually very comfortable.

Nonetheless I recommended that my friends have it looked at by a gunsmith to be sure it is safe to shoot.

I assume the gun is not built for +p ammo. I suggested they get themselves some basic 158 HP ammo for it --- provided of course that it is deemed range-worthy.

I am hoping someone can give me a little background on these little snubbies and the company itself.

Perhaps someone can give me a ballpark year on when this model was manufactured based on serial number range.

What can I look for to determine if it is still safe and functional.


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August 22, 2005, 09:38 AM
Use the Search tool. There are dozens of threads dealing with the CA UC.

August 22, 2005, 09:42 AM
If it's a Charter Arms, good revolver. If it's a Charco, (incarnation number 2), it's not. If it's a Charter 2000,(incarnation number 3), it should be OK. I had a Charter Arms Off Duty 38 snub as my first centerfire handgun, because I couldn't afford the Undercover. Great wheelgun.

August 22, 2005, 10:01 AM
Amadeus, look into the Cor-Bon DPX load for .38 Special. It's not +P, but still gets about 1,000 fps out of a snubby. Stephen Camp did a review of it on his Hi-powers & Handguns site.

Henry Bowman
August 22, 2005, 10:03 AM
I have an older one in stainless steel. It is a jewel. Yes, they are not designed for +P ammo.

August 22, 2005, 12:55 PM
As long as it doesn't have the barrel shroud it might be an OK handgun.

Early guns were rough as cobs and not very accurate but they seem to work reliably.

Middle era guns with the shrouded barrels were horrible, rough as cobs, not very accurate and the barrel shrouds had a nasty habit of unscrewing and falling off after very few shots had been fired, usually less than two boxes of standard ammunition, much less if the shooter insisted on plus p ammo.

I have always felt the best Charter guns were the early unshrouded .44 Special Bulldogs and to tell the truth they were really nothing special either.

August 22, 2005, 01:49 PM
It sounds like you have done all you can do short of being a gunsmith. I've had an older Charter Arms for a few years and it is a nice, inexpensive snubbie. I'd stick with light, standard pressure rounds. I carry the Federal 110 gr HS in mine.


August 22, 2005, 03:50 PM
I have an old model Charter Arms Undercover .38, and it's the second one I've owned. I carry it a lot, and shoot it little. It's my second choice (Smith & Wesson is first) for this size of revolver. I've fired a handful of 148 gr. and 125 gr. +P ammunition. Gun probably wasn't made for +P's, but I don't think this limited quantity hurt it. I practice with standard pressure ammo and carry 158 gr. +P's. The Corbon DPX came out as a standard pressure load, but their web site now lists it as +P. In a non+P load, I'd use either the Federal Nyclad 125 gr. hollowpoint or Federal 158 gr. lead semi-wadcutter.

August 22, 2005, 08:16 PM
I had an old Undercover with a 3" barrel. It was incredibly accurate, (or maybe my eyesight has deteriorated over the last 25 years).

I wish I still had it. On a good day it would put 4 out of 5 on a quart oil can at 50 yards. On a really good day, it would put 3 out of 5 on a Coke can at the same range.

Of course, the wad cutters could usually be picked up off the ground. I don't think that they were going too fast when they hit.

I wish I had it back.

deputy tom
August 22, 2005, 09:05 PM
I owned one of the earlier Charter Arm's and out shot the non-believers in my Department with it.I did carry +P ammo in it tho they aren't rated for it.I sold it to a new recruit and he still has it after 20+years.Great little revolvers.tom.

August 22, 2005, 10:02 PM
Sounds like she has one of the original Charter Arms Undercovers. They were some great little guns. Although they're not +p rated an ocassional cylinder or three of +p's wouldn't really harm the gun. The original Charter Arms folded because of lack of sale when the hi capacity 9mm craze took over.

The second incarnation (Charco) was no where near the quality of the original Charter Arms. The company went under pretty quick.

The third incarnation (Charter 2000) got off to a bad start. The quality control was hit or miss. They filed chapter 11. To bad. The guns had great potential.

Between my dad and myself, we owned several of the original Charter Arms guns. We run thousands of rounds through those little guns with nary a problem.

August 23, 2005, 12:13 AM
My very first firearm was a Charter Arms Undercover Bulldog 3" blued.
It says all that on the box.
Serial # 60XXX range.

Good little gun.
Keep yours. You got a jewel! :)

August 23, 2005, 01:07 PM
Really informative thread. My "nightstand" revolver is a Charter Arms Target Bulldog 4", #626XXX, I would appreciate someone telling me about when it was made. I keep it loaded with 250 gr HP's loaded with Unique to around 950 FPS. Is it as fine a revolver as my 5 screw Military & Police? No. But it's light and has adjustable sights and is a formidable caliber It's marked on the right side "Charter Arms Corp Stratford, Conn." I sent it once back to the factory and service was excellent.

August 23, 2005, 08:02 PM
I do not have the Undercover but I have the Pathfinder 3" in 22 mag from the orginal company. It has been my backpacking pistol for 25 years and is still going strong. Stronger than I am. If it is from the orginal company I would keep it.

August 23, 2005, 09:10 PM
I have had an Off Duty model for at least 25 years. It was my first centerfire handgun. Other than the front sight falling off once (resoldered by a local smith) it has been fine. It has been accurate and reliable. I didn't use +P in mine either.

August 23, 2005, 09:12 PM
I bought a new Charter Arms Undercover around 1970 or so, for (I think) about $78.00.

It was a fine little revolver, very accurate and a pleasure to shoot. I recently gave it to an Uncle of mine who needed a small revolver for personal defense and I didn't want to part with my J-frame Smiths, or Colt snubbies.

If it's an original "Charter Arms Undercover" (as opposed to the later, Charco junk) you have a keeper.

Enjoy it, shoot non +P's for pleasure and I always kept +P's in mine when I used it for concealed carry.


Ala Dan
August 24, 2005, 09:13 AM
I tend to agree with other poster's who say that the first generation
offical Charter Arms revolvers are "keepers". Made to rival its top
competitor's Smith N' Wesson and Colt at a fraction of the cost,
these were fine little guns. I had a very early "Off Duty" Charter
Arms .38 Special that I still wish I had for my snubby collection.

August 24, 2005, 04:19 PM
My experience is much like Ala Dan's. I had an early Undercover, purchased because I couldn't afford a DS or M-36 at the time.

I didn't shoot +Ps in it, although I know those who did a certain amount of practice with them because that's what they carried in theirs. Can't say how well theirs held up to it, though.

Most of the time that I carried it, it was loaded with standard pressure 158 gr. Nyclad SWCs (then made by S&W, now by Federal) standard pressure loads. I later switched to their 125 gr. HP designed and marketed for snubbies as the "Chief's Special" load. Practice was with 158 gr. SWC reloads, and I did quite a bit of it without any unusual wear or problems.

Mine was quite accurate, and a breeze to carry at about 18 oz loaded and with Pachmayr Compac grips installed. It was still in great mechanical shape when I traded it off in a moment of weakness :(

Wish I still had it. One could do much worse in a .38 snubbie.

August 24, 2005, 10:40 PM
Similar stories here.
I tried to take mine apart, according to an NRA article, and ended up sending it back to Charter Arms... :rolleyes:
They went through it, sent it back better than when they got it, PLUS sent a bunch of window stickers and a pistol rug! GREAT service!

I also have shot many types of ammo through it.
I've tried the +P Starfires and keep it loaded with those.
Also tried the Nyclad.
Good results with both, but it IS loaded with +P as my 'nightstand gun'.
Did I mention I bought a new Gun Vault 'MULTI' to keep it in...? :D

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