CCW poll: Charter Arms .44 spl vs Ruger SP101 .357 mag


July 19, 2008, 09:54 PM
So I want a small frame revolver for CCW or BUG in a potent caliber. I know .357 magnum is potent, but it can over penetrate. However, it's more widely available and cheaper than .44 special.

The Ruger has a more rugged reputation, is a bit bigger (maybe harder to conceal), and costs more.

The Charter Arms is lighter, is a bit smaller, and is cheaper, but it uses more expensive and less widely available ammo (although the ammo doesn't over-penetrate).

I know the Ruger will likely last me longer, but I think Charter Arms has a lifetime warranty, so it may not matter if they'll replace the gun. Looks like about a $75 difference in price from where I've looked.

Help me decide! :confused: :D

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July 19, 2008, 11:00 PM
you forgot an option for both.they are both good guns. as you have already said the ruger will stand up to more shooting,but I carry my charter more

July 19, 2008, 11:01 PM
I've owned 2 Charter Arms 44s at various times over the last 20 years. NEITHER would group worth a crap. I mean big groups!! Never again. When I shoot 44 specials in my S&W 44, it is a most accurate cartridge, so I can't explain why the Charters were such bad guns.

I've owned 4 SP-101s....and I still have 2 of a 9mm and one a 357. All group fairly well, and only 1 shot poorly...grouped too far to the left as to be unsatisfactory. Sent that one back to the factory at Ruger's expense, and they replaced the barrel and cylinder under warranty. That fixed the problem.

The SP-101 in .357 will make you shake after about 3 cylinders of magnum it's not really a range gun unless you drop down to .38 specials. My pick goes to the a mile. By 10 miles.

July 19, 2008, 11:11 PM
I like the Ruger better- more options in ammo and a much better trigger. I really want to like the Charter, but every one that I have tried has a horrific trigger. I also don't love the ballistics of the .44 spl in that short of a barrel. Most of the loads have a hard time breaking 700fps. There is so little demand for serious loadings in.44 spl that the ammo manufacturers don't worry about it- forget trying to find a serious short barrel loading.

July 19, 2008, 11:49 PM
To me, the question is more one of quality of gun rather than effectiveness of calliber. Both calibers are ok. The Charters I have known were not good quality.


July 20, 2008, 12:24 AM
I have both. But if it came down to it, I would go with the SP101. I like to load mine with 158 gr. .38 spcl lead semi wad cutters. I also like the fact that the Ruger comes with a front blade that can be replaced much easier than the Charter.

Here are some pics of both of mine. Sorry, I don't have side by sides of them at this time.

July 20, 2008, 06:10 AM
I have owned a SP-101 for a number of years and I'm happy with it.

Only once did I pick up and fire a Pug, and in comparison, the quality didn't seem to be there.

Simply cocking the hammer had me thinking that there are a lot of parts in that handgun that don't quite fit together well enough. It was actually "noisy" when you work the action.

It did send rounds downrange, though.

July 20, 2008, 06:47 AM
Ideally I'd like to have an SP in .44 Special.

July 20, 2008, 06:59 AM
i like the concept of the C.A. .44spl snubbie, but no one has been able to produce one of a relavant size to the J frame sized guns that was worth a crap.....except Taurus who dropped the line altogether....

the C.A. .44spl snubbies ive owned were not of descent quality, and IF you get one that is it is more of the exception than the norm.

July 20, 2008, 08:46 AM
I love the .44 Special cartridge, especially in a snub, and I considered both of these guns in 2005.

In the end, far too many complaints about Charter quality and the non durability of the Bulldog led me to go with the SP101, and I'm very happy with that decision.

lee n. field
July 20, 2008, 08:56 AM
I think Charter Arms has a lifetime warranty

The manufacturer(s) have been in and out of business multiple times.

I'd be going with the Ruger, myself.

Ala Dan
July 20, 2008, 10:43 AM
Ruger SP-101 .357 Magnum, by far~! ;)

July 20, 2008, 11:19 AM
The Charter undercover I had in no way could compare in quality. I'd rather carry a Rossi, personally, than a Charter. Rossi did have a nice little .44 special for a while, but it's no longer available. The SP101 is a high quality revolver and .357 magnum is a superior caliber. I don't buy into the big/slow myth.

July 20, 2008, 12:34 PM
The manufacturer(s) have been in and out of business multiple times.

I'd be going with the Ruger, myself.

Exactly, a warranty doesn't do you any good when the company goes bankrupt/out of business.

My money would go to the Ruger.

July 20, 2008, 01:13 PM
i picked this 44spl up a long time ago ($100) it shoots great and groups good. i have just now started playing around with it more, working on a load for it.

44 BULL DOG Target

July 20, 2008, 05:59 PM had a god review of the Charter.
However, I looked at a Charter 44 Bulldog at the gunshop recently, and I could not get the cylinder open. Neither could the store clerk who just put it back in the case after I said I wasn't interested.
I have the SP101 as my main CCW.

July 20, 2008, 07:26 PM
My experience with both has convinced me that the answer to this question is:


July 20, 2008, 09:58 PM
Thanks for all the replies. Looks like this is a good and informative poll.

Dr. Snubnose
July 20, 2008, 10:09 PM
I carry a Pair of Ruger Sp101s .357 mags as an EDC..Both guns have more than 50,000 hot loads through em and never a hiccup or problem...My vote would go to Ruger for strength and dependability....Doc:D

July 20, 2008, 11:05 PM
Ideally I'd like to have an SP in .44 Special.

Now we're talkin!


lee n. field
July 21, 2008, 06:58 PM
Ideally I'd like to have an SP in .44 Special.

Or in .40, with moonclips.

Tom Servo
July 21, 2008, 09:24 PM
Ideally I'd like to have an SP in .44 Special.
Or in .40, with moonclips.
Or in 9mm. Oh, wait...:p

This all depends on whether you're comparing the payload or the platform. .44 Special is a marvelous round, but I don't think the Bulldog does it justice. Recoil is stiff, the trigger is unpredictable, and certain engineering decisions make me wonder. The cylinder latch is a real weak-point in the design. It's an odd, fragile arrangement that's hard to work under stress and prone to breakage.

I find the Ruger to be easier to shoot (I was shocked how well it handles .357), has a smooth trigger and is likely more durable over the long haul. Their end-user support is also better if the gun ever needs work. Replacement parts are easier to find.

Now, onto caliber. .357 (or good .38 +P) is easy to find and cheaper than .44 Special. I've never been convinced that overpenetration is a real-world problem with .357. You have a much wider variety of factory loadings to choose from, and the Ruger can handle just about any of them.

OTOH, the Charter Bulldog is one of the reasons most manufacturers load their .44 Specials a bit on the weak side. It's an accurate cartridge with great ballistics when loaded right, but loaded too hot, it can inflict serious stress on a small frame like the Bulldog. The major companies don't want customers complaining that "your ammo blew up my gun!", so they go mild with the loadings.

There's nothing wrong with those loadings. In fact, several are quite good for self-defense, but I'd like to have a little more latitude in choice of ammo. *

In short, go with the Ruger. The SP101 is a fine gun.

(*) Which is why I carry an L-Frame .44 Special, but it's larger and heavier.

July 23, 2008, 08:22 PM
Wow, thanks for all the great replies! So I found a used, never fired SP-101 locally in .357 mag. What is a good price? Not too familiar with these.

July 23, 2008, 08:30 PM
Tom Serva - Yep, the SP is the perfect .357 Mag platform.

Juna - I traded for mine so I can't help you out there. Sorry.

July 23, 2008, 08:44 PM
I don't own any charter arms firearms, but I can't imagine that charter arms designs are better than Ruger designs. I think that Ruger designs are the best revolver designs in the industry. Others may disagree, but that is their right. I don't believe that Ruger's QC is very good, but from what I've heard this seems to be an industry-wide trend.

I would not buy a .44 special revolver unless you intend to reload. Buying factory .44 special is an excercise in futility and it will drain your wallet. I'd recommend sticking with .357 magnum in a sp101 or even a gp100. .44 special can be a great defense cartridge, but I think that .357 magnum is still more effective. I'd get the sp101 and use 110 grain .357 JHP rounds.

July 23, 2008, 09:44 PM
My "Bump in the night" handgun for the last 10 years has been a Taurus 44 Special. It has had a couple of thousand rounds through it with no problems and groups well at 25 yards with 200 gr. Speer Gold Dots and my own Oregon Trail Laser Cast 200 gr. RNFP bullets reloads.

July 23, 2008, 09:47 PM
I chose the SP101 over the Bulldog but not because of the caliber but because of the company who made the gun.

If you would have asked me to choose between the Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum or the S&W M396NG in .44 Special the choice would have been much harder to make.

July 23, 2008, 10:05 PM
I own both the Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Spl 3" (28 years) & the Ruger SP101 .357 Mag 2.25" (12 years). Both are excellent CCW weapons, but I carry the Bulldog .44 Spl more mainly due to weight considerations.

My experience with Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Spl 3" # 713xxx and Ruger SP101 .357 Mag 2.25" # 572-42xxx

Accuraccy: Equal out to 15 yards then the Ruger shines
Durability: Both have been trouble free, but the Ruger is a heavier built gun
Reliability: Both have been 100% reliable over the years
Weight: The Bulldog is lighter by approximately 4 ounces
Perceived Recoil: About equal, mainly because the Ruger has been Magna-Ported.

CCW: Both are excellent CCW weapons


July 25, 2008, 08:46 AM
Thanks for all the replies. You guys just made my decision a lot easier. :)

July 25, 2008, 10:17 AM
IMHO, the Ruger SP101 is light years ahead of the Charter Arms Bulldog.

I also vastly prefer .357 Magnum to the .44 Special.

I can shoot .38 SPL in it as well as having a much larger amount of defensive ammo available with the .357 loads.

July 25, 2008, 10:30 AM
Having owned the Bulldog for a few decades, I'd go Ruger. I've owned many Rugers and like them a whole lot more than the Charter Arms.

Recoil on the Bulldog is stout with full house 44 loads, as you may expect. Even with Pachmayr grips, it's not pleasant. Still, it's reliable, concealable, and hard to imagine yourself as being undergunned with five rounds of .44 ammo. :what:

That being said, the Ruger is a much better overall firearm, in my own opinion, and if you're worried about overpenetration, look for wildly expanding lighter bullets :eek: Some of the self defense ammo at 125 grains and under - or something like Glaser ammo - won't penetrate as much as say, a .44 Keith style bullet with a full powder charge.

I'm not saying the Bulldog is junk - I have never had a mechanical failure with mine - but I'd take a Ruger .357 if given a choice. It's a lot more fun to play with at the range with target ammo. I believe in shooting your CCW piece, even if you just play with wadcutters on a weekend.

Phil DeGraves
July 25, 2008, 04:05 PM
I really like the .44 Special cartridge, but the Charter Arms is not the gun the SP101 is. I'd opt for the Ruger. I've owned both Charters and Rugers. I still have some Rugers.

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