Bulldog .44, 40 years in the making


Jan 9, 2003
The widening gyre
For a little over 40 years, I’ve harbored a secret affection for the 3” Charter Arms Bulldog. I remember reading the gun rag articles about it in the early ‘80’s and its numerous reputations - its infamy in the Son of Sam murders, its hit or miss quality, guns shooting themselves loose or exploding, crunchy triggers, etc. Oh, and they killed at both ends. Notwithstanding the generally negative press, what’s undeniably appealing is the idea of a lightweight, almost pocketable big bore revolver.

Well, I decided that now was the time to get one. I’d been eyeing the “classic” model in the display case at my LGS for two months and came to that “what the Hell, who cares?” moment and I laid my credit card down.

What did I buy, exactly? It’s certainly a lightweight big bore snubby! Apparently it weighs 20-21 oz unloaded but it actually feels lighter. It’s actually quite nicely finished, with a glossy anodized frame, matte finished cylinder, and matte anodized aluminum trigger guard and cylinder release. The big “BULLDOG” laser-script on the side of the barrel is a bit overdone, but go big or go home, I guess. The grips are featureless wood with a dark stain, but they fit the frame well. I’d prefer more of a palm swell so I’ll see what’s out there.

The lockup is actually super tight, Colt-like, actually. The sights are state of the art, 1973. The hammer is tastefully color-case hardened and attractive. The DA pull is heavy but actually decently smooth. Hardly a Smith or a Colt, but perfectly fine at this price point. The SA is about 6.5-7lbs but surprisingly crisp, with a little overtravel. Not a target gun, but c’mon. There is some weird white residue where the barrel mates with the frame; it looks kinda like it was Elmer’s glued on and the excess wasn’t wiped away. No idea what that is.

So what is it, exactly? It’s the Bulldog I’ve always wanted. It’s EXACTLY what I wanted. I’m happy. And I’ll be even happier if it shoots to point of aim out to 15 yards. Really happy then. And I’ll carry it in my coat pocket on cold mornings out in the woods with the dogs, loaded with 240 grain LSWCs at precisely 755 fps. And I’ll feel good about it. IMG_3560.jpeg IMG_3559.jpeg IMG_3558.jpeg
Thanks Guys. I’m hoping mine is a good shooter and I look forward to developing some loads for it. Maybe a 200 grain DEWC around 800 fps would be an effective short-range thumper to work up. I have some crazy love for the Boomer too. Targa, I’d love to find one in .45 Colt though I’ve never seen one.

I settled on Pachmayr compacs for this and I’ll order them this week.
Good deal! I've owned several over the years and could be talked into another one. They do kick. I learned the first thing to do is put those wood grips back in the box, and replace them a set of the neopreane ones Charter sells. They're basically Pachmayrs, but used to sell for about $25.00. They work on any Charter revolver, and do a great job of absorbing the recoil.

I think I loaded about six grains of Unique under a 240 grain lead SWC, but it might have been less even. I didn't carry them, just liked to make a big BOOM once in a while.
Thanks for the Bulldog love, guys! This by far the least expensive new gun I’ve bought in a long, long time but I’m really happy with it, even though I haven’t fired it yet! I carried it around in the pocket of my bathrobe last night, and felt like Hugh Hefner, packin’ heat around the Playboy mansion :). Impressive collection, Boom Vang! I’ve got plenty of Unique but no .44 bullets under 240 grains, so I have to get a bullet order together. IIRC correctly, Rim Rock offers a 180 grain hollow point with a gaping maw that would look pretty impressive on the business end of that cylinder. Loading those up to 900 fps wouldn’t seem to be too hard on the gun or the hand, and might be soft enough to expand at that velocity? They also have some hardcast 200 grain DEWCs that would be good in the ‘Dog or in my magnums.

Cajun, I checked out the Charter website and they do indeed offer rubber (or neoprene?) grips for $20 so I may try those as opposed to the Pachmayrs. Recent Pachmayrs I’ve bought have been of variable quality, anyway.
Mine wear Pachmayr’s as they are even more spongy than the rubber factory ones. Wolff sells reduced weight hammer springs that improve the heavy trigger.
Darn. Now you got me wanting another one. I remember the flutter when they came out years ago. All the gun rags were gushing over them and the return of the 44 Special.

I'll probably go by the gun store sometime today. You watch. It never fails. I think about something, and a nice one will magically appear right front and center of the used revolver case.

You don't suppose they read these forums do you? Naw...couldn't happen....:confused:
That looks great. After asking about 3" revolvers chambered in .44 special that weigh in the 20-29oz range this is what people came up with and I have added it to my to buy upon sight list.

Unfortunately it looks like charter's last run of them have been all snatched up and their current run of non 2.5" snubbies is the 6" long barrel target models. Which I have no interest in.

I am eagerly awaiting some range reviews once you get a chance.
Good luck! What is their production cycle, I wonder?

I discovered my first problem: there’s a bad burr on the extractor star that prevents one shell from seating unless it’s pressed down. Then, of course, extraction is difficult. I’ll take some sandpaper to it or a needle file.
I have guns because I like guns. I enjoy my 1970s production Bulldog.
Me as well! Although I have discovered that they come home with greater regularity if the appeal to one of my quirks. I love 70's cop movies like The Gauntlet, most of the Dirty Harry series, The Anderson Tapes, The original Walking Tall, Dog Day Afternoon, and the list goes on...

There is something about a 3" CA Bulldogs that fits right into that genre!
Very cool. Looking forward to your range report.

The white gunk around the barrel/frame joint is probably blueing salts that weren't fully cleaned out. After wiping off whatever is visible I suggest putting some penetrating oil where the barrel is screwed into the frame, to help neutralize any leftovers.