What is wrong with the Charter Arms Bulldog?


April 9, 2007, 01:13 AM
Haunting the revolver boards on various forum, it seems there is a market that exists that just isn't being met by the offerings of todays manufacturers. This market wishes for a revolver that carries like a J-Frame and hits like an N-Frame. Specifically wanted is a 2-3"BBL revolver with usable fixed sights that is relatively light in weight and has frame size concealable in a pocket, chambered for a round throws a large caliber, heavy bullet with tolerable recoil, usually the .44S&W Special. Put simply, the big bore pocket revolver. There are posts on nearly every gun board wishing for a nearly identical revolver, and a whole slew of responses that suggest revolvers that at best meet 2 or 3 of these requirements.

There is one choice, particularly in its earlier guise, that meets all of these requirements, all in a budget priced gun to boot. This is the Charter Arms Bulldog. Its not much bigger than a J-Frame, lightweight at 19-22oz, and has other advanced design features such as one piece frame construction, 3 pt lock up, and an action that does not need a cylinder stud. However, as anyone who has pursued the dream of the pocket artillary knows, the BullDog is not perfect. For every thread touting it as a "carry a lot, shoot a little" dream there are many more stating that the gun went out of time, shot loose, lost parts, cracked etc.

The purpose of this thread is not to reiterate Bulldog stories of woe, or to reaffirm one's opinion that is junk, etc but to voice theories as to why these guns have a limited life span. Is it poor material, poor design, poor quality control? Is the ratchet too small, too soft? Make your claim and back it up. I don't need engineering formulas or a masters thesis (although they won't be ignored if you have them), merely hypothesis and supporting evidence. If you had a problem and had it fixed, what was the solution? If you were building one from scratch, how would you do it right?

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April 9, 2007, 01:19 AM
Bullets would keyhole at 20 yards. Manufacturing problem for the first years.
DA trigger pull was not as nice as S&W or Colt.
After serveral thousand rounds end play was a problem.
Was to big and to small at the same time.

April 9, 2007, 01:26 AM
I had shot one when I was new to pistol shooting. Didn't find it difficult at all.

However, there seems to be a drop in quality as the name and company changes hands. Lesser quality control and before that, even the skill to make the gun seems to be a problem. I think my proof is in the product that made it to the shelves.
Remember that even in its best years, the Charter Arms guns were known for being rougher, though the triggers would smooth out. The machining marks would stay though.

I think that the round itself fell out of favor for some time, though lately many gun writers have taken up the cause. It has had an effect too. A person I know at a local gun store said that sales of .44 Special hollowpoints has gone up and they actually have some demand.
Before that, the .44 Special saw more sales in the Cowboy Action shooting side, I think. There is a reason why .44 Special cartridges cost as much as .44 Magnum - demand.

Still, if the kinds have been worked out of the Kahr polymer .45 ACP I'll take that. Flatter, even smaller, same punch. I do think the Bulldog is larger than a J-frame.

April 9, 2007, 04:13 PM
My old Bulldog is very accuate. I like it a lot. I bought it for use with rat shot for snakes, but it was a pleasent suprise when I found out how accurate it was. :)

April 9, 2007, 06:08 PM
My old Bulldog is very accuate. I like it a lot.

Mine too. I don't stress it at all... it sees maybe 20 rounds a year... if that. Not that it's ever given me a problem, but they just don't have a reputation for durability.

Why not? Well, my opinion is that they are like... well, the opposite of Ruger. Ruger is overbuilt, Charter is underbuilt. Parts are skimpy and thin and dinky. If it were my show, I'd just beef everything up, 3 or 4 ounces' worth.

And of course there's the matter of QC... which is a different issue. :)

April 9, 2007, 08:21 PM
The problem with the Bulldog is very similar to the rest of Charter Arms' revolvers. Except for the solid frame, the rest of the construct was problematic. The gun was designed for carrying or storing in a dresser drawer. Shooting it on a regular basis was destructive.

The Ruger Security-Six gained great strength through a solid frame, but Ruger reinforced this strength with oversized parts. The cylinder was beefier, the hand/pawl was larger and didn't wear quickly. And the ejector rod and topstrap were robust. But on the CA's revolvers, the frame was solid, but the rest of the revolvers were undersize and subject to wear and tear.

With today's materials, a Bulldog size revolver should be doable. It's just that market studies show that the consumer demand just isn't there. Although people will pay a Bulldog price, paying for a premium quality piece is another thing completely.

I think most people would prefer a .357 6-shot over a .44 Spc. 5-shot. At close range, the blast would be greater from the magnum, but so, too, would be the stopping power. Making the revolver as light as a Bulldog, but as durable as a Ruger, would also be difficult. An SP-101 would have to be larger to accomodate five .44 rounds and the frame size increased, and for what?

I've owned a number of Charter Arms before and I like the Bulldog. But the stopping power isn't necessarily greater than a +P .38. You won't get any expansion from it and so it would be like a .45 ACP round nose, but weaker. And the .45 round nose isn't known for being a good stopper. The good thing about a Ruger would be that you could load the .44s hotter, but then you'd be back with the same old problem of recoil and blast. And a .357 would still clean its clock ballistically.

The reason I bailed out of the Bulldogs and other CAs is because they all tended to bind after a certain degree of use. The guns would loosen up and they'd become unreliable. The .38s were the worse.

If I could get a .44 revolver as light as a Bulldog, I might consider getting one. But I don't know if it's feasible. Revolvers are becoming very expensive and pricewise I wonder if people would shell out big bucks for a well made .44 Spc. If you want a Bulldog, get one and after you make sure it works, don't shoot it any more. I doubt it would go to 2,000 rounds.


The Charter Arms Bulldog packs a good punch for its size, but
it probably is overestimated in terms of ballistics and stopping power.

April 9, 2007, 09:43 PM
I've got an old OFF DUTY that I had rebuilt and the hammer bobbed. Its my pocket weapon and has really been a great little wheelgun. I only shoot standard pressure loads and its very accurate out to 15 yards. Like most of well built snubbies.

I've shoot a few BULLDOGs andhad the pleasure of haveing a TARGET BULLDOD for awhile. When I got it, they were a dime a dozen and I figure I would be able to get antoher at anytime. Well It shot great also and it got sold due to me not casting or reloading at the time.

Now, last year I went and found a couple of newer BULLDOGS and PATHFINDERs. They felt cheap and very rough. I ended up buying the PATHERFINDER, but sold it off quickly. I just don't think they will last long and the they weren't accurate at all. The BULLDOGs felt cheap also and not worth the price even at half the price.

Now, Iv'e shoot a TAURUS TRACKER in 44 and the owner wouldn't take a first born male for it!


April 9, 2007, 10:15 PM
I bought an Undercover Bulldog in 1979, it was my first carry gun. It shot OK, but quickly got out of time. For someone (not a shooter) who wants a little low cost protection available, I guess they are OK. Make sure it works, then put it beside the bed.

April 10, 2007, 08:08 AM
ive had bad luck with the two bulldog .44spls i had in the 80's.

i love the concept, but i will not spend my own money on another one from charter arms.....

i would be more than willing to try one out, and if i was satisfied with it i would gladly pay the asking price....but no more blind faith, ive been burned twice and i say no more.

on the other hand, i used to have a charter arms pathfinder .22lr 3". it was a great little gun. the D/A trigger was a bit stiff, but for the puposes a .22lr snubby is for, it was more than good.
i would have bought another one of those if i hadnt found my s&w model 63.

April 10, 2007, 08:16 AM
I'm looking for something like a LadySmith 5 shot in 357.. please don't tell me to buy a taurus 605:barf:

April 10, 2007, 09:11 AM
I think most people would prefer a .357 6-shot over a .44 Spc. 5-shot.

Not me. .44 Spl rocks. :D

April 10, 2007, 09:16 AM
Taurus actually makes 5 shot revolvers in .44 special and .45lc. While their quality control has also been spotty over the years, their reputation is still better than Charter.

April 10, 2007, 12:17 PM
According to their website Taurus has discontinued those models. Do you know something I don't?

April 10, 2007, 02:57 PM
According to their website Taurus has discontinued those models. Do you know something I don't?

I guess that says alot for how they sell, much like the discontinued 696/396/296 from Smith & Wesson. It's a shame the big bore snubby isn't more popular.

April 10, 2007, 02:59 PM
Sorry, double post.

April 10, 2007, 03:36 PM
I recently bought a 1984 vintage stainless steel bulldog. Mine came from an estate sale in Florida and was customized by the previous owner. Apparently the pistol was sent to a now out of business company called Personal Protection Systems. The gun was converted to DAO, the hammer was bobbed and 44spl Terminator was placed on the side of the barrel. Now that would have NOT been my choice of wording on a working gun but then again, I did not choose for it to be there. With that being said, I recently shot it and was getting light primer strikes. I attributed this to a 20+ year old gun that appeared to have never been fired when I bought it. When I was done with a second range session the pistol was out of time.

Now, this is not a bash but rather a praise in that I sent it back to Charter Arms and they had it fixed the same day they received it. It needed a few replacement parts but nothing major. I am awaiting its return so I can get back out to the range with it. All in all I am extremely pleased with it so much so I just picked up a Smith and Wesson 296Ti in 44 special for almost what I paid for the Bulldog.

April 10, 2007, 04:16 PM
According to their website Taurus has discontinued those models. Do you know something I don't?You are correct, I didn't notice the discontinued marker at the bottom of the spec block. You might be still able to find them out there somewhere though.

April 10, 2007, 05:50 PM
Well, I see statements such as "It's a POS" about the Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Spl on the Internet alot but for some reason my Charter Arms Bulldog (713xxx - Stratford, Conn.) purchased NIB in 1980 with well over 2000 rounds down range at this time does not seem to have gotten the message that it is a "Bad Dog". :what:
It is as tight today as it was back then! Yes, it is a light weight revolver not designed to shoot +P and I don't. The key to longevity with one of these is to keep your loads around 900 to 950 fps or less if you shoot alot. As to .44Spl not expanding at these velocities I would suggest taking another look at today's high tech ammo.

It is a fact The Charco Era guns earned a dubious reputation for reliability and durability. Unfortunately, this has created the perception that all Charter Products are to be avoided. This is simply not the case! I own Colt, S&W, Ruger, NAA, & Charter Arms Revolvers but choose to carry the Bulldog for CCW most of the time. :)


April 10, 2007, 08:38 PM
My wife recently purchased a new Charter Arms Bulldog. The D/A trigger pull leaves a bit to be desired. Accuracy wise (the little that I got to shoot it) it is well within the paramiters of what the gun is designed for, self defense. I found that the cylinder lock up on the Bulldog to be superior to the Rossi and Taurus snub's that we looked at. I think the problem with the .44 special is that people run hot loads through them, which the small lightweight guns will handle, but not on a regular basis.

April 11, 2007, 12:18 PM
is a very nice gun. I've shot several thousand rounds through it, including many reloads. Shoots straight and is very reliable. I keep it loaded with Glasers or 200 gr. CCI Blazers. Shoots both just fine to point of aim at 7-10 yards. Kicks a bit but it's a light gun. Carries well in a coat pocket or fanny pack.

April 11, 2007, 03:30 PM
I had a mid-70's vintage bulldog .44Spl. Decently made, shot well. At that time, though, the .44Spl ammo price was more than twice what .44Mag ammo was.

April 12, 2007, 03:14 PM
Taurus discontinued the 5 shot .44 & .45 but they list as avaiable a 2.25 inch barreled titanium 6 shot .44 magnum - you could always shoot .44 special out of it.

Larger frame but what a backpack gun. I think I'll have to look for one.

Ohio Rusty
April 14, 2007, 12:25 PM
I recently acquired a new Charter Arms Bulldog in .44 special. Mine is an excellent revolver. The more I use it, the smoother it gets and it shoots bullseyes at 22 feet with CorBon 165 grain hollow points. There is alot of talk about how Charter Arms went out and is back in business. Detonics also went bankrupt and now they are back. Does that make all Detonics Auto's trash? The new Charter Arms company is making very good products that are american made, have a lifetime warranty, and their revolvers do not have that life threatening internal lock. I'm real happy with my .44 special Bulldog Pug. It's the most concealable, large caliber man-stopping revolver I can carry. The owner of Aumiller gun shop has been carrying his Charter Arms for 20 years, and the fellow I bought my .44 from has been carring his CA .357 for many years with no problems attributed to the gun.
Ohio Rusty

April 16, 2007, 12:32 AM
Some people have reported having Charter Arms revolvers that shoot loose , I have not found this to be true in my experience. I have a Bulldog Pug that has slightly more than 2k rounds through it now, with no resulting problems. Quite a few of these rounds have been quite heavy handloads.

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