Charter Arms


April 12, 2007, 11:15 AM
Do any of the members know how good the quality is of charter Arms revolvers?

I'm thinking of getting their Undercover Southpaw revolver since I'm a left-hander. And I thought I ought to avail myself of the wisdom of the members here to help me decide.

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April 12, 2007, 11:35 AM
I have had Charter revolvers made by the original Charter Arms.
They aren't as finely finished as Smith & Wessons but worked pretty well.

The Pathfinder .22 I have now was reworked by the current company before I bought it. It has a pretty good trigger in both single and double-action and is accurate out to 50 feet.

I have yet to see one of the lefty Charters.

April 12, 2007, 11:56 AM
Well here's what it looks like.

It's in .38 Spl. and can handle +P rounds and carries 5 shots.

April 12, 2007, 12:13 PM
Charter Arms had 3 "incarnations, IIRC.

The first one produced some nice little guns, I have an older .38 Undercover Special snubbie with an older unshrouded ejector rod. Affordable, Made in America, (Stanford Connecticut?) 5 round revolvers, mostly snubbies. Quite a bit less $ than the comparable S&W.

They produced .22, .32, .38 spl and a .44 spl (not .44 Mag!) (most notoriously used by the Son of Sam for his murders.)

I hear that the Charter 2000 guns, second incarnation, were not too good as far as quality control and consistency went.

The latest version of CA seems to have it's act together, with their new Undecover .38 for lefties introduced at this years Shot show and well reviewed by a number of folks that are supposed to know these things.

I picked up mine lightly used, with the original Charter Arms belt holster for less than $135 as a cheap, small gun for the daughter. I put a set of Pachymar Compac grips on it to get a better handle on it.

You'll get a lot of "Junk Gun" comments from folks that never owned or shot one, but read about it here and there. There are clearly also some folks that bought CA lemons and were glad to be rid of them.

My personal experience is the older model I have is a good reliable gun that I didn't have to save up to buy.

For more Charter Arms feddback, including a good write up by Jim March on his CA .38 and ammo choices for a snubbie, use the Search function in revolvers.

April 12, 2007, 12:26 PM

I am left handed and have carried a S&W Model 42 airweight centennial every day for many years.

In my opinion the so called "right handed" models are ideal for left handed persons. Just operate the cylinder release with your trigger finger then insert your right hand thumb thru the open window and use your right index finger to operate the ejector rod. Close the cylinder by pushing it closed with your other right hand fingers wrapped around the frame from below.

While the cylinder is open you can rotate it by using the thumb that is stuck through the window and the fingers that are under the frame.

This is as quick or quicker than a right hander can do it.


April 12, 2007, 06:00 PM

The Second incarnation was Charco. The third is Charter 2000. It is the Charco made guns that have a somewhat dubious reputation.


April 12, 2007, 07:05 PM
Ho-hum. Charter Arms make good guns for dresser drawers, but shooting them, in my experience, causes them to wear and then bind. Someone here put their finger on it when he said that Ruger overbuilt their guns for strength and that CA underbuilt their guns for concealment. They're not shooters. I've sold every one I ever owned because of binding problems.

If I could still get their little .44s for under two hundred bucks, I'd go for one. But I wouldn't pay what they're going for now.

April 12, 2007, 08:18 PM
I was very interested in a charter arms 2000 off-duty model and was close to buying it until I went and looked at the s&w 642. I changed my mind right away. It was just the feel of the s&w to me, it felt like I thought it should. The ca off-duty seemed ok at the time but I have handled a few lately and I am happy I chose the s&w. I can understand you desire for a left handed action and the undercover is more than likely a servicable gun based on what I have read. But you should look around a little. You have put up with right handed things so far.....

April 13, 2007, 01:18 AM
I don't put up with using right handed things if I can help it. My hunting rifle is a Remington model 700 left hand bolt in 30-06.

Ohio Rusty
April 14, 2007, 12:15 PM
I recently acquired a Buldog Pug in .44 special, black over stainless. It is a very nice revolver. Extremely accurate and virtually no problems so far. If it ever gets a problem, that is what the lifetime warranty is for .... Much better warranty than my $20,000 Chevy Malibu. The feeler guage registered .006 between the cylinder and forcing cone. Very little play of the cylinder in lockup position. The excellent thing about this gun is there is no internal lock.You can pay as much or more for a Smith or a Taurus and your internal lock might lock up when you need that gun. The Charter Arms guns won't do that. I'm real pleased with my .44 Bulldog. It is an excellent self defense caliber and it is a great feeling to know I bought an american made gun, made by hard working americans trying to feed american families. This is the one gun/caliber I definitely feel confident that I'll stop a bad guy or a terrorist quickly if I have to shoot him.
As a side note, there is a new Yahoo groups forum for Charter Arms owners and Charter arms discussions if you want to join another discussions list.
Ohio Rusty

April 14, 2007, 01:10 PM
Do you have the URL for that group?

April 14, 2007, 01:20 PM
As an experiment, I did a search to find the Yahoo Charter Arms group.

Opened a window for Google.

Entered Yahoo

Arrived at yahoo page and clicked on Groups

Entered Charter arms in the search box

Clicked on the charter arms group

Elapsed time 12 seconds

April 16, 2007, 12:16 AM
I too own a Charter Arms Bulldog Pug in 44 special. I have owned it for about 3 years now. I have shot around 2k rounds through it ranging from soft cowboy action factory loads to really warm handloads. I have had absolutely no problems whatsoever out of it. It is my primary carry gun every day. While it does not exhibit the same degree of fit and finish of a S&W, it is a utilitarian tool that works. Also, it does not have any silly lock built into it. Reliable, Big Bore, American made, and NOT politically correct. What else could you want.

April 18, 2007, 06:12 PM
This month's NRA magazine, American Rifleman, has a five page article by Wiley Clapp about the Charter Arms revolver offerings.

And for the first time, I saw a Charter Arms Bulldog Pug .44spl in my LGS case. I noted to the counter guy that the owner always says " I don't sell any junk", so I guess that Charter Arms may be on the upswing in terms of quality improvements or maybe just a good profit margin for the owner.

However, the Bulldog Pug I handled at this LGS had obvious milling marks left around the front sight and the extractor had a gritty feel when pushed and the gun's finish looked like spray paint.

Still, there is an odd attraction to a small framed .44spl. Too bad that S&W and Taurus discontinued their .44spl handguns.

I'll still pass on the rather rough Charter Arms offering for now.

April 18, 2007, 07:00 PM
I know there are tons of negative comments to be found for Charter Arms, but I must say I'm intrigued by the "Bulldog" (in .44 spcl) and the "Police Bulldog" (in .38 spcl +P). I'm a leftie, too, but their Southpaw offering just does not appeal to me.

One day, I'm gonna have to find out first-hand about these.

April 20, 2007, 10:16 AM
I'm a lefty,but I learned to shoot w/ all right handed stuff(like everyone else)so anything made for a lefty throws me off.I always wanted a Buldog in 44spl.I saw one a while back and didn't jump on it,when I went back it was gone.The story of my life.
I'm a sucker for cheap revolvers,if they pass the revolver check out,I'd get one,no matter what the label said.I've had Taurus's w/ no problem and smith's that needed to go back to the factory after 400 rounds....machines are not perfect.
That being said,any gun I get will be shot alot,at least in the the under-built thing may be of concern..but I have a Rossi 357 that I shot the snot out of,and it's still a shooter.

Jim March
April 20, 2007, 12:43 PM
The "Undercover" 38Spl design is actually pretty good. Execution of that design was spotty during the first period with the best being very good, almost to S&W standards. Second "Charco" period ranged from "almost as good as a Taurus" to "ghastly"...with a LOT of the latter. Including infamous attempts to "improve wound ballistics" by spitting the whole barrel downrange at least 12 feet or more.

Current period guns appear to be all-machine-made, very basic finish, but the reports I've heard say they're actually not producing "lemons" or "bad monday guns". They get the job done at a basic price. Main issue I have handling them is the trigger feel...ranges from "decent" to a very few "who poured sand in there?".

It's the 44Spl in particular that isn't built well enough for the caliber. Bigtime. And I don't trust the 357s. The six-shot 38 built on the same slightly oversize (from a J-frame) 44Spl is a sweet little critter.

My old open-ejector original period late '70s Undercover 38 5-shot is among the best Charter guns ever made. The action is very tight, it's very accurate, hammer is case hardened, it's just a damn good gun. Only "issue" is cosmetics: because the barrel's outer layer and grip frame are aluminum (steel core barrel of course) they're different in color (black anodized) to the *brown* primary frame. Then add the case-hardened hammer and you've got quite a lot going on visually :).

April 20, 2007, 03:23 PM

I would like to tap a little more into your Charter Arms knowledge.

What do you think about the new Police Bulldog (.38 spcl +P w/ 4" barrel)? For some reason, I am drawn to the tapered barrel model.

What exactly is Charter Arms' relationship with MKS Supply?

Apparently the Ecker Family is making cowboy action firearms (SA Revolver, Double barrel coach gun, and lever action rifles) thru the company-- Chaparral Arms. This is great. I am curious, though, about what happened to the Field King. My limited research shows that Mossberg bought this design and is selling it as the 100 ATR model. Do you know anything about this?

I'm just trying to get a feel for the "health" of the company and find out all I can about their history.

You have some good posts about Charter Arms, and it sounds like your Undercover .38 is a sweet shooter and a keeper. Any info you can provide is greatly appreciated.


Jim March
April 20, 2007, 08:26 PM
>>What do you think about the new Police Bulldog (.38 spcl +P w/ 4" barrel)? For some reason, I am drawn to the tapered barrel model.<<

Yeah, actually looks pretty sweet. I would hand-pick one with a good trigger of course, if at ALL possible...

Couple of things:

The exposed ejector rod is a good idea. It used to be standard in the 2" barrel guns. On a Charter design, you can grab the ejector rod, pull it forward and swing out the cylinder without touching the rear cylinder release button at all. If things are gummed up, wonky or the rear cylinder release button falls off, you're not screwed and you're more likely to get the gun back into action.

The ejector rod backs down into a channel and forms the forwards lock point at the crane, and it's a very solid lock point - tighter than the Ruger system. If I have time later I'll take some close-up pics. My only issue was that the ejector tip could start to unscrew - a dab of blue locktite solved that.

The Charter design is actually very good. The original was built by an ex-Ruger engineer, and it shows. The primary frame doesn't have sideplates! The action is in the grip frame that forks up into the back of the primary frame. The aluminum grip frame (which includes the trigger guard) in my Undercover is one reason it's lighter than a similar period S&W 38snub...17oz vs. 19 or 20 on an S&W 36.

The lockup point at the crane was another "Rugerish touch", although it may actually pre-date Ruger's doing this with DA guns. The Undercover design actually goes back to the 60's and forking the action and grip frame into the back of the primary frame is really a Colt SAA thing, isn't it?

That's why Charter keeps coming back from the dead - it's a great design, mishandled at times. If you can cherry-pick one and then maybe take it apart and polish up the innards, you'll get a really sweet piece.

I really dig how they're willing to sell pre-bobbed hammers for customer drop-in at $25 a pop...

As to MKS, they appear to be a distributor:

I've never heard of Chapparal before today but I'd bet they're an importer and perhaps upgrader (maybe) of Italian guns - Pietta, Uberti...I think Armi San Marcos is dead? Whatever. I find it more or less impossible Chapparal could have come out of nowhere with a product line that broad. Well...unlikely at least. If they're any good, they're "stateside tuners" of Italian guns, like what Cimarron does.

April 20, 2007, 10:43 PM
Thanks for your insight, Jim! can grab the ejector rod, pull it forward and swing out the cylinder without touching the rear cylinder release button at all

I have a 9-shot snub-nose .22 LR revolver made by New England firearms and the only way to open the cylinder is by the pull-the-ejector-rod-forward method. It does not even have a rear cyl. release button.

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