Charter Arms Undercover 38 Special - Help!


December 23, 2007, 10:01 PM
I have just aquired an older model Charter Arms Undercover 38 Special w/ 2 1/2 inch barrel for removing a few viruses from a computer. The number on the gun is 45496 and was made in Bridgeport, Conn. I would like to know how old the gun is, etc, but so far I have found no info on it. The old guy I got the gun from said he's had it around 20 to 25 years and he got it used. I cleaned and tested the gun and it works perfectly. If anyone could help me with some info about this model I would be greatfull.

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December 23, 2007, 10:14 PM
Good score!

My Undercover's serial # is 4308xx. I figured out that it was manufactured about 1976. Mine is one of my favorite everyday carries and a fine shooter.

FYI J-frame holsters and Tyler T-Grips work fine on the little snub. Be sure to check the end of the ejector rod routinely for proper adjustment.

Have fun with it!


Harley Quinn
December 23, 2007, 10:27 PM
Probably a pre 80 which makes it one of the better ones around.
Charter arms is back in business now.:uhoh:

December 24, 2007, 12:14 AM
My recollection is that your 38 is not rated for +P.

It is a fine little pistol as is.

One shooting bud, he is a Wildlife Officer, ex Vietnam Vet. He carried one. If you don't know, the animals in the woods are pretty peaceful, it is the meth labs that are dangerous. So bud is carrying a Charter Arms Undercover, and when I looked at it, the crane screw was missing!. To reload you popped the whole cylinder and crane out. Bud knew that and had been carrying it that way for a long while.

He felt secure with this thing. I guess compared to some of the firefights he had been in, my bud considered a slow reload a minor issue.

December 24, 2007, 01:44 AM
barami hip-grip works, too.

Jim March
December 24, 2007, 01:04 PM
I have one of these, same era. Here's the scoop:

The gun's design is a good one, and in a lot of ways similar to a Ruger:

* No side-plate, as the action "forks up" into the back of the primary frame, and the grip frame is separate.

* It locks up at both the crane and rear of the cylinder.

* The transfer bar safety is very "Rugerish".

The primary frame is steel, the grip frame is aluminum. The barrel core is steel with an aluminum wrapping.

They made only one questionable decision: they set the gun up for "tight lockup" similar to most Colt DAs. When you run "The Checkout" (see sticky this forum) the cylinder is supposed to feel "welded to the frame" at full lockup, trigger back. You MUST then check cylinder alignment with the flashlight trick on the unloaded gun. If the alignment is perfect and the lockup is tight, the gun will shoot REAL well unless that ever gets "off" later.

If the cylinder-to-barrel alignment is off and the gun has a tight lockup (zero rotational play), things will go to hell real fast. DO NOT SHOOT IT IN THIS CONDITION. Get it fixed.

Rugers and S&Ws are set up for a bit of deliberate "rotational slop" so that the gun can do it's final cylinder-to-barrel alignment via the bullet. This system doesn't have the peak accuracy the Colt/Charter system has, but it's far more tolerant of wear.

And this is also why we say "no hot loads in a Charter Undercover". Unlike it's 44cal cousin the Bulldog, the Undercover isn't weak - but it isn't tolerant of wear either.

There's good news on the ammo front though.

First, not everything "+P" is all that nasty. Avoid Cor-Bon and Buffalo Bore +P at all cost. The mildest +P you can get, and it's damned effective defense ammo too, is the Remington 158gr plain lead hollowpoint +P. Winchester sells the same load, same shape, same performance but the lead is harder and expansion is unlikely from a snub. Stick with the Remingtons, and do almost all of your practice with standard-pressure stuff.

Buffalo Bore recently came out with a line of standard pressure (not +P) defensive ammo that's as effective as most other company's +P. Very good but a bit expensive. Still might be worth considering a couple of boxes, esp. their 158 which will perform like the Remmie 158s.

December 24, 2007, 03:36 PM
A few more tidbits from Charter's 1978 ad for the Undercover.

Weight Only 16 Ounces
Yet here's real durability, for the frame, cylinder, barrel and all critical moving parts are made of chrome-moly machined steel. Weight saving alloys are used only for non-critical parts.

6 Inches Long, 4 Inches High
The Undercover is a pleasure to carry. The silhouette is thin and the butt nicely rounded.

Unbreakable Firing Pin
The pin is made of indestructible beryllium copper. Add to that the flame
hardened breech face.

Hammer Blocked For Safety
This feature means absolute assurance against firing unless the trigger is in full rear position. It won't fire even if it's dropped.

8 Groove Rifled Barrel
Instead of the conventional 6, 8 grooves help achieve an unusually high degree of accuracy.

Rapid Fire Capability
A very short double and single action aided by a 55 degree hammer arc plus a minimum travel trigger pull are distinctive features.


December 26, 2007, 09:53 AM
I obviously chose the right forum out of the many I glanced through. What a great response! Thank you all for the information on the gun and the ammo. It's nice to know that a made a good deal for the gun, I have only had it a few weeks and I really like it. I have no experience with handguns, the only guns I have owned before the Charter Arms are shotguns and rifles. Thanks to all of you again. By the way, rdrancher, where can I pick up the grips for this gun? I like the ones you have pictured

December 26, 2007, 10:52 AM
I have one of the brand new ones.2 months old,reguard less of what you might here,the new ones are great too after they get broke in.They have the same design as the older models.There is just somthing about an older gun thats been well maintained that has that charm though.Mabe 25 yrs from now the new ones might share that category also.

December 26, 2007, 11:24 AM
Here is my little specimen

Jim March
December 26, 2007, 02:58 PM
Definitely run "the checkout", the stickied post in this sub-forum.

December 26, 2007, 04:50 PM
Serial no. 12xxx

December 27, 2007, 11:44 AM
By the way, rdrancher, where can I pick up the grips for this gun? I like the ones you have pictured

The grips themselves are standard issue Charters that I located by posting a WTB (want to buy) ad here in the classifieds. I recently picked up another set of checkered stockers off of ebay. The hole for the pin had to be redrilled in the correct location for both sets of grips, but the fit is perfect after that slight mod.

The Tyler T-Grips (shown in flat black) are available from The J-Frame size fits well. Installation is as simple as loosening the grip screw and slipping the T-Grip's copper tab under the grips.


Phil DeGraves
December 27, 2007, 01:01 PM
The thing I don't like about it is the very flimsy cylinder yoke and ejection rod set up.

December 28, 2007, 12:35 PM
I do not mean to get to far off topic but I have a question regarding the hammer on these guns. I received a used undercover .38 as a gift with a much discolored hammer. I assumed it was an after market part and was planning on having it replaced. Then I noticed mostly on LWC's pic the hammer appears to be discolored a bit too. Then I looked closer to other 2 pic's in this thread and saw a little discolor on them too. So is this normal on these guns? Thanks.

December 28, 2007, 02:08 PM
Philmccan - First of all, welcome to the forum!

And to answer your question. The discoloring of the hammer is perfectly normal.


December 28, 2007, 04:22 PM
rdrancher, Thanks for welcoming me and thanks to answering my question.

December 28, 2007, 04:28 PM
the hammer appears to be discolored a bit too.It's not discolored.

It's called "Color Case Hardening" and is done to make soft steel parts harder.

Folks will pay big money for "discolored" guns!

December 28, 2007, 05:01 PM
+1 on Buffalo Bore's standard pressure fodder. I use them in my Cobra. A friend of mine had an old Undercover that he will never get rid of.

December 28, 2007, 07:20 PM

Two things to watch for with your Undercover: one-even though SlamFire1's friend didn't seem to mind shooting without the crane screw in place, it's not something I would recommend doing. Always check periodically that the screw is there, the washer's there too, and that it's in there tight. Item two-keep on eye on the frame pins to make sure they don't start working there way out of the frame. Mine had a tendency to this after I had run through a box of wadcutter ammo. Other than that, check the alignment and the lock-up, and have fun with it.

December 28, 2007, 07:22 PM
I recently inherited a 1981 Charter Arms Undercover .38 spcl. It is in excellent shape. Is this gun capable of shooting +p ammo? I'm not a real experienced gun owner, so should I have this checked out by a gun smith prior to shooting it? Also, any other info on this gun would be useful, such as approx value, reliability, etc.

Jim March
December 28, 2007, 10:29 PM
s2mason: everything you need to know is in this thread. The only thing to remember is, if it says "Charco" it's from a very bad period in the company's history and quality control ranged from "OK" to "ghastly". I think in '81 you'd be pre-Charco though. Any Charter should be run through "the checkout" - see stickied post this forum.

Quoting Phil:

The thing I don't like about it is the very flimsy cylinder yoke and ejection rod set up.

The Charter design is NOT flimsy. The ejector rod backs into a matching recess in the frame and locks the top of the crane in VERY firmly. It's a tighter fit than the crane latch Ruger uses in the SP/GP/SRH series. Crane-to-frame fit is one area the Charter design excels at.

White Horseradish
December 28, 2007, 10:46 PM
My mom has an Undercover just like that. Watch out for the ejector rod unscrewing, a little Loctite is nice there. Other than that, Charters are nice little guns. I have a stainless Undercover from the newer incarnation of the company (with the shrouded ejector) and I am very happy with it. As mentioned, J-frame holsters work with them. J-frame speedloaders do too, but the grips aren't conducive to their use, so speedstrips are better for carrying reloads.

December 28, 2007, 11:45 PM
Guys, thanks for all help. I'm new to this stuff. Can you tell me what a "stickied post" is so I can check it out?

December 29, 2007, 01:40 AM
Stop with the wimpy 38's Step up to the 44 spl. and enjoy shooting a good lite snub.

32 Magnum
December 29, 2007, 05:00 PM
I've just started getting into collecting Charter Arms 1st Generation (Bridgeport and Stratford barrel addresses) and I'm beginning research to fill in the serial number range/dates, if possible. I'm trying to find what serial number range the address changed from Bridgeport to Stratford. Any information is welcome - serial numbers and address. The highest number I've see, so far, with Bridgeport is 266418. Anybody have anything higher? I've found that a piece with s/n 9604xx was made in 1976. I also know that any piece chambered in .32 H&R Magnum had to be made after the intro date of that cartridge in 1984. That 's the starting points. If someone has a piece that is dated on the box, etc. that would be important.
Here's pics of some of my recent acquisitions:*0MZfh5wn6uG0A6edYlboJtv4xQp5Fd3Ig=_l.jpg*0MZfh5wn6uG6Odgz*bgNoOv4xQp5Fd3Ig=_l.jpg*0MZfh5wn6uG3ojOyE*uuLWv4xQp5Fd3Ig=_l.jpg*0MZfh5wn6uG6klveJA-AsYv4xQp5Fd3Ig=_l.jpg*0MZfh5wn6uGy18C6bwrZP2v4xQp5Fd3Ig=_l.jpg*0MZfh5wn6uG2gLoI635GZhv4xQp5Fd3Ig=_l.jpg*0MZfh5wn6uG6SZ0QMr1ZfBv4xQp5Fd3Ig=_l.jpg

Jim March
December 29, 2007, 08:49 PM
SMason: From the main "revolvers forum" page there's a post at the top titled "Revolver Checkout", has a bajillion hits. Start on page one, which in turn will link you to page one of the thread's starting point on the older "ancestor forum" on this one.

It's a complete guide to checking out a used or new revolver without actually loading or shooting it. In other words, how to "kick the tires" before buying OR make sure your gun is in decent shape.

December 30, 2007, 01:15 AM
Thanks guys. I appreciate the help.

September 27, 2011, 04:09 PM
i also would like to age serial num 466663 seems its been a while this question was asked be just wonder if their is any new news on dating these guns thank you

September 27, 2011, 04:12 PM
i also would like to age serial num 466663 seems its been a while this question was asked be just wonder if their is any new news on dating these guns thank you

September 27, 2011, 07:16 PM
I just recently got a .38 undercover Southpaw. And other than the lack of contrast between the rear and front sights I love it.

September 28, 2011, 12:24 AM
I've got a Stratford Undercover, S/N 406940. I've been told it was probably made around 1977, which is close enough for me.

With the standard wooden grips that Charter put on them "back in the day" it kicked...HARD. It beat my knuckles bloody once or twice.

I contacted Charter, and they told me then neoprene grips they put on the new generation guns would fit the old guns too. I ordered a set of them, and they made a huge difference. Maybe a little harder to conceal, but not enough for me to worry about it.

I don't care much for snubbies, but I wanted one to carry. I could have bought a Smith & Wesson or a Ruger, but I liked this one, the price was right.

32 Magnum
September 28, 2011, 11:23 AM
From my data, it appears your gun was made in mid to late 1978. S/N 500,000 was produced just prior to Aug. '79, so assuming a steady production rate, your gun, being roughly 33,000 pieces before that, would work out to my estimation. Your number sits within a cluster of UNDERCOVER 38s - is that the model? If it came with the original box - the box should be Tan and Black.

32 Magnum
September 28, 2011, 11:28 AM
I agree with you, (100%) on the neoprene grips. I've shot a "TRACKER" 2 1/2" .357mag and it was a bit more "enjoyable" with the neoprenes as opposed to the original Bulldog wooden grips. Although it looks better with the wooden grips.;)

September 28, 2011, 06:35 PM
I said I didn't care much for snubbies but this one was too nice to pass up today. It still had brown packing oil ozzing out of it. No mark on the recoil shield, and just a very slight turn line. I honestly don't think it's ever been fired.

It's a 38 Undercover, with a 3" barrel, made in Bridgeport. SN is 221XX (only 5 digits). The pictures look sort of funky, but I hadn't cleaned the oil off it. It looks much better now.

32 Magnum
September 28, 2011, 07:20 PM
As you can tell from the serial number - you have a pretty darn early example there. From my data base - it was probably made around mid 1966. The CA - "CHARTER OAK" tree medallions on the grip were later changed to the "scroll charter" medallions. Nice piece.

September 28, 2011, 07:47 PM
I have the Charter snubby too with the "discolored hammer" that is bobed from the factory.

The ejector rod unscrewing is common. I only target shoot with the standard load 158gr but carry JHP +P. Not a problem in almost 30 years, still nice and tight.

Good little pistol!

Ser no. 807xxx

32 Magnum
September 29, 2011, 12:14 PM
Is yours an UNDERCOVER or an OFF DUTY? The hammer is case color hardened and the "bobbed factory" hammer was called the POCKET HAMMER.
Serial number in the 807K range was, most likely, made sometime in 1982.

September 29, 2011, 12:31 PM
I carried a .38SPL CA Undercover as the back-up to my back-up when doing in-mufti intel work for the Army in Europe, back in the late 70's and early 80's. It was a great little snubbie. Passed it on to my side-kick when I PCSd home because the rules then prohibited me from bringing it "back" into the country. I still wish I had that gun.

September 29, 2011, 01:56 PM
I recently got a first generation (Stratford) Off Duty, which aI really, really like. What's the difference between it and an first generation Undercover? They look pretty much the same.

32 Magnum
September 29, 2011, 02:04 PM
The main (and probably only) difference was in PRICE POINT - the OFFDUTY was advertised as a lower cost alternative to the UNDERCOVER. At the time the OD was introduced, circa early 1981, CA had begun doing more internal and external polishing of the parts and exterior - raising their retail price of all their various models. The OD was introduced with either a matte black "MILITARY" finish or a brushed matte Stainless steel finish. The other noted difference is that the early OD will have a red or orange-red plastic bead set into the front sight blade. Other than those difs, I can't tell any difference in the function or action between the OD and the UC.

September 29, 2011, 02:05 PM
"I have just aquired an older model Charter Arms Undercover 38 Special w/ 2 1/2 inch barrel for removing a few viruses from a computer."

So, how well does it remove viruses from a computer?

September 29, 2011, 02:48 PM
Used properly it removes the computer.

September 29, 2011, 07:18 PM
very easy to conceal and at 16oz not really all that fun to shoot.
#959XXX locks up nice and tight and is suprisingly accurate.
I was thinking of having the hammer bobbed and wonder if this would still function fine? I am guessing it shouldnt be a problem?
thanks (

Uploaded with (

Geezer Glide
September 29, 2011, 10:04 PM
I have an old Bridgeport Under Cover SN 206XXX. This old gal has been a faithful companion for many years.

September 30, 2011, 06:22 AM
That's a fine looking one you got there Geezer. It looks like the two of you have ridden the river together. The ammo in those speed strips looks like it could have come out of a box of reloads I've got.

I took the 3 incher above to the range yesterday. I shot a half box or so of reloads in it. Good shooting little gun. Maybe we need a Charter Arms "club." :D

September 30, 2011, 07:42 AM
Maybe we need a Charter Arms "club."

Great idea CB. Seems like every time one of these threads comes up, the "oldie but goody's" start showing up.

September 30, 2011, 10:56 AM
say, do they still make a Charter .38 , and if so, are they the same quality ?

September 30, 2011, 12:43 PM
thanks for the info this is an undercover.38 spl i just was looking for a general age and this seems to fit the bill . i also have an h&r md 676 .22 lr with a.22 mag cyl in the box s/n ap127695 if you have an age estimate on that thanks again rextech

32 Magnum
September 30, 2011, 07:33 PM
Your H&R Model 676 with the 'AP' prefix was made in 1976.

Cocked & Locked
September 30, 2011, 09:55 PM
I like my Undercover .38 spl...would like a .44 Bulldog too.

October 3, 2011, 08:44 PM
Nice piece cocked and locked....what kind of holster do you use with it? Is it your every day carry?

Cocked & Locked
October 3, 2011, 09:55 PM
No its not my everyday carry. I usually carry a snub .38 or .357 revolver of some type but not this one every day...some days, but not each day.

I do carry it some however. It fits in any S&W J-frame holster. I have a couple of Galco belt holsters I usually carry it in...or in a Wild Bill's horse hide pocket holster.

Geezer Glide
October 4, 2011, 07:23 PM
say, do they still make a Charter .38 , and if so, are they the same quality ?

I also have a current Shelton, CT Off Duty .38 that I picked up from a guy on a local trading site. It only weighs 12 ounces and so far it has not given any problems. I wouldn't think twice about getting a current production model.

October 4, 2011, 09:14 PM
32 Magnum, you got a date idea for one with a serial number of 982xx?

32 Magnum
October 5, 2011, 04:37 PM
Looks like 1967, probably around mid year.

October 6, 2011, 05:08 AM
As you can tell from the serial number - you have a pretty darn early example there. From my data base - it was probably made around mid 1966. The CA - "CHARTER OAK" tree medallions on the grip were later changed to the "scroll charter" medallions. Nice piece.

Say Jim. I was at the same gun store yesterday, and noticed another 3" Charter on the rack. When I looked at it, it was in the same, I'm sure unfired condition as the one I just bought, and was within three digits of the same S/N.

My guess would be someone bought a pair (or more) of them new, put them up and never fired them. I might have tried to make a "twofer" deal if I'd seen both.

October 6, 2011, 06:20 AM
Good revolver.

Of all the Smith, Ruger, choices available in the Cabinet what did wife choose as her EDC?

Her Dad's Charter Arms undercover. In the 42K range of serial #s.

Been about 10 yrs now and even with ageing eyes she she can just plain run that gun.

32 Magnum
October 6, 2011, 11:50 AM
Stranger things have happened. At the gun shop that I worked in a couple years ago, within one week we bought two S&W .38 Lemonsqueezers from two different people and they had consecutive serial numbers. Apparently the guys' fathers had bought them from the same local shop back in the '30s probably within a couple weeks of each other. One was a Lehigh Valley RR employee (they were required to own a firearm back then) and one was a courier for a local bank. The LVRR gun was mint, the bank gun was in v.good condition. Strange but true.

March 6, 2016, 12:35 AM
We are not reviving a 5 year old thread just to have arguments.

Everyone involved consider this fair warning

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